Friday, 29 August 2008

Prick Your Finger, East London

Down a little side road to the busy Roman Road in E2 is the happy universe of Prick your Finger, the joyous creation of Rachel Matthews and Louise Harries, both originally from woolly parts of the country bringing their inspiration to the city and to all who visit. The entire shop is their collective imagination and the fruit of their respective work in fashion and through Rachel's creation of Cast Off (remember that wedding??). I was so transported by the creations and creativity - dressers subsiding under the weight of yarns and notions, objects in crochet and knit and all with their own twist. The wonder of the whole thing is that the entire place has been re-created using panelling and wood trim from just about anywhere to give the rooms a lived in, cosy feel. Even the facia of the shop was re-modelled. Grand Designs can go eat it's hat.

Lovely Rachel made me feel completely at home and ready to get involved in the buying process! The yarns are wonderful and sourced from the UK which is very much a delight. Hooray for local markets!!! More please! Some is produced from Louise's Welsh sheep and some come from the fleece's on Rachel's parents farm in Cumbria. Doesn't that all sound luscious. There are many others and I had to stop myself before getting involved in the whole Tait and Style thing. I don't need many reasons to go back! The window design is changed every month and during August it's been Pompom time, raising awareness for peace and reconciliation (interestingly the Buddhist Centre is right opposite the shop) which gives a whole new dimension to community spirit! Next month is Corsets (hence my excitement) which might not be quite so responsible but might lead to very responsible moments of creativity!!
Also with Rachel today is Rosemary, fresh from her knitwear degree and beginning her career in the best way possible in designing for yarn brands and her own line about to be launched at the Hoxton Boutique. I loved her hairband which is being sent there shortly.
I also spotted the crochet hat (she adores crochet - smart girl) which was a Lion Brand pattern. it's a free pattern so this can be an inspiration for you.
Now listen up, Lion Brand is doing great things at the moment and I'm going to be featuring it more fully in just a few weeks. We need it to keep up the good work and to come to jolly old England.
Rosemary was also responsible for the fabulous outside sign for the shop which she also crocheted and which is the inspiring image that I came away with.

I haven't even had enough time to go into further flights of fancy with the rest of the tour - Liberty and, of course, my wonderful Loop but I'll save those for another day.

Just to say - if you're in London, go everywhere, do everything and under no circumstances miss anything out (that means going to all these palaces of yarn!!).

My kind of town - London is

I cannot believe how difficult it is to find a picture that doesn't stereotype London but I felt there was enough 'reality' here in this picture from Flikr. A little old, a little new (even the buses!) and, hey, some sunshine. Well, maybe not everything is that real all the time!!

Yes, chaincreative is back in the country and with a bag jam-packed full of ideas and pictures of this brilliant place to tell you about.

As promised, I've gathered a glittering assortment of delectable yarny places to tantalise you into visiting. I truly believe they represent the spirit of the place - colourful, lively, different, edgy and just down-right interesting. I haven't covered the complete waterfront on this; there are many, many others but these are my super faves at the moment. I could go on and on but I'll leave that to later when I go on and on about my new discoveries. Spitting Yarn gives a comprehensive list for you to browse.
You can really spend a day criss-crossing the city to find probably the widest variety of yarns on offer anywhere on the globe. Of course, there's cross-over but each of the shops I've chosen offer unique samples of wools of the world for you to choose. In addition, there is expert advise on offer and a comfortable atmosphere that's really conducive to creating. All of them organise classes in every aspect of the yarn process and in one case (more later!!!) even venturing into the world of corsetry!!!! Eeeek, I've so wanted to try that one out.

Off on the Tube to East Putney station where I found such delightful touches like the flowery platform and the station's art deco entrance ways. The flower theme was beautifully picked up in the flower shop just at the entrance to the ticket hall. Then it was the start of the hunt.

First to visit is Stash on Upper Richmond Road in leafy South West London. Michelle Lieberson wrote to say, 'I have always wanted to own a yarn shop since I was a teenager, when I used to go to a shop where the ladies sat around the table and knit together. They would even write patterns for you. I loved that place, and hope that Stash is sort of like that, we encourage people to stay and knit with us, making it a sort of hang out as well as retail shop. After I started the knitting group, Nathalie and I (I had known her as a mom at school, but not that well) became very good friends, and spent many hours knitting together. Two plus years on in business, we still love the shop, and wouldn't have it any other way. Nathalie loves reading blogs and trying to find the next great yarn, and then I hunt it down and deal with the ordering. We have found many fantastic yarns that way as we are both really passionate about fiber and colour, and of course, knitting. '
They have a carefully chosen palette of yarns that beautifully compliment the shop and are so helpful with colour and texture queries that we all seem to have...even after years and rooms full of yarn. Will we never learn!!! I bet these wonderful emporiums hope not! Sadly my picture of the shop was made when Michelle was out and was just not up to my usual standards. Suffice to say, the street is busy but with pretty corners and shops - and this one really caught my eye.

Off next to the other side of the city and a world away from the open airs of South-West London. Now the mood is busier and more intense. I couldn't resist a walk around and I absolutely loved it all. Bethnal Green and Stepney. I don't think alot of people would immediately choose those two as a destination for a visit to London. But that's where they're wrong; there's sooo much to see and do. I'm not going to list on and on but there are shops, restaurants, galleries, boutiques and all in the East London vibe of variety and creativity. Love it. Here are my brief impressions.
Hidden squares and perfectly kept homes around Carlton Square were such a find but none of that prepared me for my next destination in Globe Road - Prick your Finger.
A whole new post is needed for that one!!!

Friday, 22 August 2008

Hotter than July

Chaincreative's luggage is in the arrival's lounge of a country which many of us have a hundred conflicting images of, but little or no experience of. Israel. The main image of the Dome of the Rock creates so many impressions of diverse religions and races and this must be a metaphor for the country itself. On a much more superficial note; I'm loving the whole crochet inspiration theme that tiles and tracery create. That better be a post all of it's own!!!

This picture, below, I've chosen to tell my story I hope represents the possiblilities of that country and the diversity. No frontiers, no names. Just jacaranda trees and a blue door to wherever you want.

Yarn shopping in Israel is obviously a preoccupation for the population as much as anywhere. You could do no better than to go to Woolworks (great for anyone, anywhere as shop locator!) and check this list out. On a grander scale, design in Israel is alive and well and really interesting. An exhibition in 2006, admittedly in the US, called designboom, was given over to design from Israel. The images I've chosen are 'combination bowls’ by alon meron, 2005- porcelain, polyurethane rubber and ‘zit up’ chair by zivia, 2003.

My particular favourite is Pini Leibovich whose use of unique materials and wit really appealed to me. Here we have experiments in wood and cellophane chair with balloons.

My friend on this journey is Veeek, a jewellery designer, using crochet as her medium. Like many in this vast country, she has 'fallen far from the tree' and comes from a very different place. Veeek uses crochet as a means to illustrate the world around her and push herself to learn more about the skill. I'll let her tell you her story in her own words.
"My name is Viktoria . I was born in Kishinev (Soviet Union). Now I live and work in Israel. I learned to crochet about 4 years ago during my university lessons , I have BA in education. In 2006 I made my first hats collection for my designer friend Frau Blau (unfortunately the images no longer appear)that collection most of the hats was knitted. I really prefer to crochet, but at that moment I wasn`t good in crocheting. All the techniques I use now in my designs was taken from different sites in Internet. I am self taught designer. Crocheting allows all kind of wishes and inspirations to be possible. For example freeform tehnique. I do like to use different tehniques in my work. A lot of inspiration in my work comes from nature: the colours, the flowers, the leaves. Sometime the inspiration comes from movies. Sometime from another artist. Sometime it takes 10 minutes to decide what to do, sometime a few weeks. But in the end when my design comes true and people like it -it's worth all the time that I spent on it."
Don't you think we could all agree with that??!!! The image I've used here is Veeek's turquoise pendant which you can find on her Etsy site.
Of course, no visit to Israel should be attempted without calling in on the atelier of the talented Yoola who we've featured before in our Visual Arts stream. Yoola's work shows so clearly the wonderful juxtaposition of nature and creativity, bound up with the mathematical principles of crochet. She is already established as an industrial designer through her partnership with Baribuaand she has extended her philosophy to crochet.

See, told you so, there are supremely talented designers in this field and I hope through chaincreative's travels I've gone some way to prove this. Next week, we're back here in dear old London town where chaincreative will have found all the treasures of the world in the best yarn shops in town. Can't wait!!!

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Vera Joao Espinha

As a postscript to Friday's visit to Portugal, I had to add a new discovery I've made through an excellent list I found of Made in Portugal. The artist concerned is Vera Joao Espinha and she works out of Lisbon and makes the most interesting pins and accessories. The blog she curates is in Portugese but the pictures tell so many stories for the none-speaker. I've contacted her in the hope that we can feature her more fully on chaincreative. So, in hope...

Friday, 15 August 2008

Set the controls for the heart of the sun

Chaincreative has arrived in Lisbon, Portugal sparkling in a southern sunshine (the atmospheric picture is from the Flikr photostream of Marcin Gorski). As we heard from Karlita last week, there's much to appreciate of design from the Iberian Peninsula (check Karlita's blog) and her trip to Seville. Still, today we're in the westward facing Portugal. Like many catholic countries there's a strong religious aspect to much of the crochet you'll find there - altar cloths etc but our interest at the moment is in contemporary design and what the designers are thinking at the moment round the world.
Let's get our bearings and pop into a picturesque bar before truly enjoying the vibrant street-scene and beautifully preserved architecture and storefronts. It's such a pleasure to see so many historic buildings preserved and still commercially functioning.

Once we've enjoyed some liquid refreshment, let's find out a little bit about what cultural offerings we design fans can find here.
I've made a new discovery in the virtual world, Vanda Sousa, and her blog has given me some pointers to where a design hungry crocheter might find some inspiration. The blog and shop, Pedra de Toque, looks a positive treasure trove and chaincreative can't wait to mooch around it's discoveries! I love these tiles, which remind me alot of little jewels of crochet. Lots of ideas to go rummaging through my store-box of yarns and colours. Ooo, looking forward to getting back to my crochet hook when I at last return home!!!
Vanda also suggests that a good time to visit for the craft markets, July, for the Feira do Principe Real and the Craft and Design Show in the Jardim da Estrela and this takes place the first Saturday and Sunday of each month during the summer! That must be beautiful, in the gardens everyone sets up their stalls and it's party time!
Well, that's all very satisfying and it's great to find that the creative scene is thriving and that, again as with Belgium, the age spread is huge. There's life there to carry on the traditions. Hurray.
Now is a great time to check out a chaincreative friend that has impressed many more than just me - Karlita name-checked her last week and I know that her work is well-known and appreciated. We've mentioned her before and I'm glad we now have the opportunity to introduce you more fully. Maria at kjoo. Maria is a graphic designer by trade but expresses herself most beautifully through crochet and felt. We caught up with her for a short chat about her creativity and inspiration. Maria apologises for her English (not necessary) and asks us to make our corrections (again not necessary)!!!
My name is Maria João Ribeiro from Palmela, Portugal. You can see my work at Flikr. (Beautiful pictures, Maria!!) I learn crochet with my grandmother when I was very young. In my childhood I use to make some dresses for my doll! I rediscover crochet in 2006 after many years of pause. (I think alot of us would sympathise with that - life has a habit of coming in the way of our love for crafts) I love the diversity of shapes and textures crochet allow. Also, since the process of crocheting take some time, it´s possible to slowly figure it out new ways to finish the piece in progress. I love to start a piece with a final result in mind and be surprised with the unexpected final result. That is pure fun, but not necessarily always good surprises. :) (Ha ha, I know just what you mean. How many of us have started something only to undo it a hundred times over, before finally we're satisfied with it. Then never pick it up again!)
I write the word kjo randomly wile making some font type tests for a graphic design work. At the moment I find the word attractive, and keep it in mind. So when I opened my etsy shop I just added one more -o-.Doesen´t have any special meaning but I think it´s a catchy and pretty name.
Inspirations? Influences?Those are really difficult questions...I got inspired by everything I see, I feel or I experment.Colors inspire me the most I think, a good color combination is most of the time the begging of a new piece. I can figure it out just by myself, or see on someone clothes, on some websites even on some dish... Traveling usually get me very inspired, I would love to traveling all the time. :) (We know JUST what you mean!!!)Also new supplies, ready to use get me always inspired.
Detail, detail, detail. I love details.Also I try hard to give to my pieces impeccable finish. (Wow, that's fantastic. So much in the shops today is sooo badly finished) My favourites are hard to chose, because I always have new faves. I love the berber inspiration choker: (necklace #141) The necklace #172 was the greatest challenge I face in crochet and was a pleasant surprise when I finish it.Finally the brooch ##261, was one of my all time faves. When I start a project I have in mind and final result came out prettier then I expected, make me really happy.Generally working make me happy. Receiving positive feedback from others make me more then happy. (I looooove it - it's stunning) Thanks so much*smiles* Maria!

And thank you, Maria!

Now chaincreative must pack up and head off for the next exciting destination in the tour of countries, their crochet and creativity!!!

Friday, 8 August 2008

First stop

First stop on chaincreative's first crochet trip around various countries in the world!!!
And we're in Belgium!!! Actually not very far from chaincreative's home in England. So not much change in the weather, huh?!
Actually, the beautiful light, space (I think jucanils picture supremely reflects this) and sense of history makes up alot for the distinct damp feel we sometimes experience! Many of the cities in these Northern European countries are so picturesque and of course, there's alot of creativity here too. Our guide today is Karlita who is a fellow blogger so let's jump into a cosy coffee shop (without looking too longingly at the pastries) and get right down to chatting about the cultural creative life of Belgium.
Hi Karlita!! Where in Belgium are you from? Hi Bee!! I live in Hasselt, a small but charming and fun city to live in.
I love small towns, you're more likely to find the quirky and interesting, don't you think? But sometimes it's nice to get away from home. What is your favourite town for shops and design and good galleries and so on? Many places, but I guess the most inspirational cities are Antwerp and Ghent. In Antwerp I get some of my supplies from wholesale shops and it's just a fun and beautiful city to walk around in and shop. I also like the fashion museum, MOMU, (and especially the shop) there, it is in the same building as the famous fashion designerschool. I've chosen these images of Antwerp (michah on Flikr) which I think sum up that feeling of history and creativity which make for such an energetic mix in European cities, don't you think?
Ghent has a more relaxed atmosphere and the MIAT, a textile museum, is one of my favourites. I'm not a regular gallery person but I love going to exhibitions.
I usually post about them too on my blog.
I know that there has been a long textile tradition in Belgium, as in England, which needs to be preserved before it's completely wiped out. Exhibitions and museums are great resources for this.
A recent favourite was the Triennale Européenne DU BIJOU contemporain in Mons - it's still there until august 17th. I've gots lots of pictures and info on my blog.
I am a very regular visitor of the fashion museum in my city. They had some wonderful exhibitions in the past, f.e. Kaffe Fasset or the one with all the button creations (see bloglink). How important is design in Belgium and is it valued by the people?
I find this a hard question to answer, because the word design covers so much. It is definitely very much appreciated by a number of people and there is more and more attention for belgian design. I think recently (and very slowly) people are becoming more aware of the value of handmade and buying direct from the artist.
That sounds familiar to me in England too. Is it only the old people who still use the old crafts like knitting and crochet or are the young beginning to want to learn? Handcrafting things is also becoming very popular in Belgium these days - you can tell by the number of workshops that are given by craftspeople. As opposed to a couple of years ago, you see many young professional women getting together to learn to make things - it is an excellent way to relax and to meet new friends. And there is of course nothing so rewarding to say 'i made it myself' when you get a compliment on something you wear :)
Ooo, I agree. My crochet classes are always full of lawyers, media professionals, working mums and people who just want to meet up with like-minded ones.
Do you have wonderful shops to buy your supplies? I love the Hexagoon in Leuven (i blogged about it as well), and i get some supplies on and, but it is only for professionals (and so is the website). And than I find some of my supplies all over the world.
Tell me a little about your business on the internet. I started a wholesale jewelry line 11 years ago - selling my jewelry to stores here in Belgium, as a second profession. But the thing with that is that you have to make each necklace a number of times, and I was so sick of that. I had no inspiration left. I actually had decided to stop doing this and than i accidentaly stumbled on Etsy and the rest is history as they say. Now, through my shop on Etsy I can focus more on my felting and one making creatings only in limited numbers - that is so much more rewarding!
I also opened a website in dutch last month, for my belgian customers. Needless to say I'm really enjoying myself these days (and actually started working only part-time in spring so I could devote more time to crafting).
Those websites combine two of my favourite things: handcrafting items and selling directly to people. I'm a 'peoplesperson' and I hold my customers in very high regard. The people on Etsy are so lovable and nice. The atmosphere on Etsy all together is just excellent!
That's so great to hear and should give lots of people inspiration to start up their own businesses!
I know some people say you should choose one (craft)medium and stay with it. I just cannot do that - there are so many things I love to learn and make that I just mix it: making felt scarves, silver jewelry, enamel jewelry. I'm very excited to start a textile arts training in September, where we will learn to work with many different media in textiles.
Finally, who are your favourite designers?
Lotta jansdotter: I love her simple designs
- the bold designs by marimekko:
- Maria at Kjoo with her crochet and felted wearable art on Etsy: that's interesting, we're visiting her this month!!!
- the gorgeous designs by this nice lady, Veerle (hah hah, we're chatting to her too about fashion in the autumn!!) at nevousinstallezpas And i get very much inspired by travelling around the world and seeing what is happening everywhere - i usually blog about that too. Maybe that is my greatest inspiration: looking at the world - it's colours, materials and vibes and trying to translate that in the things I make.
Karlita, thank you so much for chatting about your country, it's lively creative scene at museums, galleries, shops and so on. Your work is fantastic and inspiring and I look forward to maybe featuring your work more fully on chaincreative in the future. Until then, have a great summer and make lots and lots of beautiful things.
Now I must leave these wonderful chocolates and pastries and pack my bags for the next chaincreative destination.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Bon Voyage

For the next 4 weeks chaincreative is going to hit the road so our usual number of blogs will be a little fewer! Every Friday there will be a post from a far-flung part of the globe with news, views and design with chaincreative's special emphasis on crochet. We've got our bags packed and notebooks at the ready. We've made some dates with special crochet friends and we know you'll just love what we find. The last week will be devoted to one of my favourite cities, London, with a selection and review of some of the most happening yarn shops in the city. So make a date in your diary for every Friday to hit the deck and listen to our travelling yarns! You never know, you might be buying your place on your own voyage of discovery.