Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Back in the house

Phew!!! That was fun! I've been having a jolly 6 week roller-coaster ride with orders from notonthehighstreet and just couldn't tear myself away to write about, let alone do, any crochet. Now the Christmas rush has fled to the Sales, I'm able to return to much more creative pastures. Mind you, I haven't ignored stitchy stuff and I thought, as we approach a fairly calm time for us creative types, you might enjoy a few suggestions of how to fill your time! Ha!!
With this in mind, I've come across a very nice website, Crafty Crafty. Having a variety of columnists means that it is very rich in source material and their posts are about everything from knitting and crochet to beauty products.
In my trawling through the crochet pages (well, what would you expect) I came across this post about the Woodland Cuckoo Clock. I adore this as it has the look of something out of Grimm's Fairy Tales and northern forests. Very seasonal!
I'm finding it hard to research this as the site where the pictures are taken from is in Japanese. Not my strongest language. So I appeal for help from any of my readers with a greater knowledge than me.
For a taster of what we're missing in our lack of knowledge take a look at the hyperbolic craziness of the clock and it's maker. It's as if Arthur Rackham had taken up a crochet hook instead of a pencil.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Happy Arrival of MakeDoMend

Just a quick post to urge you to pop over nextdoor to makedomend and their latest adventures, We're at last off the starting blocks and we're launched on the world, bringing creative workshops to a clamouring crowd of creativists. We've got beginners' knitting classes, corsage classes and crochetforward which is a step up for the chain gang. So off you go!

Friday, 20 November 2009

Just take a peek

I know I've been rather absent from blogging but I'm a bit inundated in orders for Christmas so...until we're past that important date, I'm going to send you off to my other home of makedomend. We're very excited about our plans at the moment as we're launching on Thursday at the gorgeous venue of 40 Winks in Stepney. I visited this wonderful hotel and was completely transported to another fantastical world. I hope that we could organise some workshops to take place in this unique location.
Anyway, please visit makedomend and maybe think of booking a workshop. There's heaps to choose from beginning with crochet, knitting and sewing to beading, customising and, I like this one, bunting making. Go on, treat yourself for 2010.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

The backroom bites back

I loved this story when I read it last week in the Guardian. Carmen Colle is a supplier of fabric and crochet to, among others, Chanel and is taking the company to the courts to sue for 2.5 million euro damages for copyright infringement on a crochet pattern. Chanel is counter-sueing and the case is in appeal at the moment.
Carmen Colle is not a woman to be messed with. The fashion houses depend on such people to produce the garments and materials that will best express the designer's vision. The 'petits mains' are the mainstay of any company and are overlooked and undervalued in many cases. Many of these people have years of experience and skill which cannot be easily replaced and to know that such talent goes into couture clothes makes them the valuable artifacts they are.
Colle is unique in that she began the business after a career as a social worker in order to employ deprived and immigrant workers and offer them opportunities not often found. The company, World Tricot Designs employing women from poor neighbourhoods, is on the brink of closure if the counter-claim from Chanel is upheld. Listen to the interesting and at time's depressingly familiar story of David and Goliath at World Vision . I wish Carmen all the luck with her fight for her company and her reputation.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

If you go down to the woods - Amelia's Magazine

Some love it, some hate it. Twitter. Been in the news a bit this week, what with the spat over Stephen Fry and so on. Aside from that, I like it for the occasional little pearl for chaincreative.
Today's little gem is courtesy of lovely Claire at Monty (you need to go there to see her new A/W designs anyway) and her tweet about Amelia's Magazine. As an online resource it's wonderful for paths less visited. As their editor says, ' Amelia’s Magazine online is now the place to come for exclusive articles on the best underground creative projects in the worlds of art, fashion, music, illustration, photography, craft and design.' The issue I was particularly struck by was the fashion designs of knitwear designer, Marie-Louise Vogt. I cannot perfect further on the article at Amelia's so a visit there is essential. Suffice to say, I'll give you some picture tasters to set you on your way. As you probably know by now, here at chaincreative we love crochet and fashion and to see Marie-Louise use it so effectively gives us a reason to smile. Next time you hear someone say they don't know where to go next with their crochet, tell them to visit Amelia's and Marie-Louise Vogt.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Shauna Richardson - Designer Interview

Many of you will have seen in the UK press the announcement of the awards, Artists taking the lead, which is one of the major projects of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad and is being developed by Arts Council England in partnership with London 2012 and the arts councils of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The project was launched in March 2009 with a call to artists to submit their big ideas in just 400 words. Over 2,000 artists applied, spanning a huge range of artforms and incorporating some spectacular ideas. All were competing for the award of up to £500,000 to produce their designs to be launched in 2012 in a unifying ceremony before the opening of the games.
Chaincreative's interest is in the artist, Shauna Richardson, based in the East Midlands and her plans for three 30 ft crochet lions to be encased in glass and installed in a as-yet-undisclosed location in the heart of England.
Peter Knott, director of arts and development with Arts Council England, East Midlands, said: "We considered Lionheart to be the best proposal as it is unique and on a grand scale. This monumental work will be striking and engaging. Its sheer audacity as an object of art will make it stand out and create considerable interest.

"It will celebrate the region's cultural, industrial and historical heritage."

Shauna, who studied art at De Montfort University in Leicester, said: "I was absolutely delighted to be selected, but I was a bit astounded really because of the calibre of the submissions alongside mine.

"This is the biggest project of my life and it is going to consume my daily life for the next two and a half years.

"I have estimated approximately two years to do the crocheting though I have built in some contingency time.

"This is something I have never done before. I am much more familiar working on a small scale. This is clearly going to be the largest piece I have ever made." (quoted with thanks to thisisnottingham.co.uk)

As soon as I heard that there was a crocheter, in fact Shauna terms herself a crochetdermist, in the short-lists, I contacted her for an interview on the blog and she kindly accepted despite being a pretty busy person at the moment. The fact that she's won is the cherry on the cake as far as chaincreative is concerned. It's a real honour. So here is the interview which I hope will give some insight into how crochet can be used as an art form. Let's have more of that, please!!

Has crochet always been a part of your artistic expression? If so, when and how did you to get to the point where you wanted to create using that medium?
I was taught to crochet at an early age, in fact I can't remember a time when I wasn't free-styling with wool and hook. It was a long time before I utilized crochet in my artwork however - I took the long route via a very enjoyable conceptual art practice

What was the first project that you first used crochet and how challenging was that? Can you just quickly describe the processes that you go through on your crochet work.
For me crochet is the most natural medium to sculpt with. The first Crochetdermy piece I made was a hare head quickly followed by a two metre brown bear. I like a big challenge.If I have a technique at all it could be described as free-style. I use a single colour and one stitch to trace the
different directions dictated by anatomy.
(The lions' bodies will be created by a professional polystyrene sculptor. Each will be positioned in a different pose – one on its rear legs, in a leaping position. As sections are produced they will receive crochet skins which will be created by Ms Richardson using wool and hook.)

Many of the animals aren't small!!! How long does a project, on average, take? How much yarn do you use and where do you source your materials? You're in 'knit' land up there in the Midlands so you must be quite a celebrity!
I estimate that the upcoming Lionheart project will take approximately 2 years to complete and will require 1 tonne of wool. The project celebrates the textile industry heritage of the East Midlands UK, and I am hoping to use the wool of local sheep in the making.It is my aim to promote and involve people from all walks of life in this project - it is an ideal opportunity to make a real crochet impact. As well as workshops across the East Midlands I would like to make this a worldwide affair and intend to utilize the internet to this end. Early days yet but in due course I will be sending a call out to crochet practitioners everywhere to join in with the fun. Watch this space...

Tell us about the paths you took to apply for the award - your decisions and inspirations etc. Can you give another brief description of the lions and how they'll look in situ in 2012?
Each Artists Taking the Lead commission relates to it's location. Both the wool and the three lions symbol are inspired by the East Midlands. Richard the Lionheart has strong connections with Nottingham not only in the Legend of Robin Hood but also in history. Richard's crest was the three lions, a widely used strong symbol to this day
The piece will be three 30ft life-like lions in different dynamic poses, housed in a walk-in taxidermy style display 'case'. I hope to start crocheting early 2010 and progress can be followed via webcam link up and studio visits.
Finally, from where do you draw inspiration and is crochet always an expression of your work or is it also something intrinsic to your artistic instincts?
Crochet is intrinsic to my work. I enjoy mixing crochet with realism and presenting it as contemporary art.Maybe anything can be art, and anything includes traditional craft.

I wish to extend my thanks to Shauna for taking time out of an already busy schedule to answer the questions. Her website is fantastic as follow up and for more images so leap like a lion over there and check out her other crochet creativity.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Wonders never cease

Whilst on my wonderful trip to California we visited the fabulous Joshua Tree National Park. I really didn't know what to expect but what we found was beyond marvellous. I'm a bit of a fan as far as 'high' deserts go - I love the nature! Joshua Tree did not disappoint and we stayed in the most delicious guest house, The Desert Lily, owned and run by Carrie and her husband.

Surrounded by mountains and, of course, joshua trees and watched over by red tail hawk, coyotes and mountain lion, this is the place to be to get away from it all.
Over a bottle of wine on our arrival, Carrie asked what I get up to and I had to confess to the crochet. Well, you've got to go to the World Famous Crochet Museum, she said. That stopped me in my tracks. But not for long.
Next day, it was down to Joshua Tree town and the extraordinary creation of Shari Elf. Despite being closed I was able to snoop about and take some pictures but couldn't delve into it's dusty depths!

I'll have to tip a nod of thanks to Cathy of California (another adorable blog) for the interior shot with poodles. The 'building' itself is a former photomat booth neatly recycled into this petite homage to all things crochet.

Shari Elf (above with her museum) is interesting in her own right and her website, Good and Sturdy Art reveals a creator of art through found things, a singer and traveller. Take time to listen to her songs which some how sum up my time in that wonderful and surprising part of the world.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Hook Heaven

Well, I'm back and today the weather is a lovely Autumnal glow. The trip away was divine and restful. I know when people go away some like to go shopping too but I certainly lose my shopping mojo - and a good thing too, I hear you say.

I didn't completely go off the radar, however, and found myself back in my old home town of Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula and just happened to drift into Monarch Knitting and Quilts. Sadly I didn't have too much space for yarn but I could easily slip in a crochet hook and the one I chose is proving to be a bit of a find. I don't think it's stocked here in the UK (anyone know?). The hook in question comes from Laurel Hill handmade needles and hooks with the tag-line Exotic, Handmade and Sustainable. All at Reasonable Prices. I like the sound of that and certainly the hook I bought was all of that. Mine was made of palmwood which I couldn't find on the online store but they are such a nice bunch at the end of an e-mail that I'm sure I could track down more.

The hooks are so smooth and are light and comfortable to hold with it's special finger hold. I still love my Clover Soft Touch but this lovely natural alternative is coming into the favourite's paddock as a close second.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Not a granny

There's been some tedious words written about Cate Blanchett's red carpet moment this week. I can't be bothered to repeat where such nonsense has been published or said. Suffice to say, anything the gal wore would look fabulous and this is such an interesting choice. It certainly puts crochet at centre stage and brought it out from under the blanket. For too long it's languished as the choice for people using up scraps and dismissed as knitting's sad sister.
Now it's got a pair of killer heels and an attitude. Hurrah.
The designers, Romance Was Born, are an Australian duo and they're wonderfully boosted by the criticism of the dress being too reminiscent of something made by a senior, "That's exactly what it is," said Luke Sales, one half of Sydney design duo, Romance Was Born.
"We cut it up and it was hand-crocheted by my mother, so how could we be offended?" he laughed.'
'Sales said Blanchett specifically requested the dress herself and took the star's new moniker, "Cate Blanket", as a compliment. "There is no one else I would rather see wear it than Cate, I just knew it would be amazing on her," he said.

"There's a sense of humour to everything we do, so no one can really offend us.

"At the end of the day Cate Blanchett is wearing our dress and she is who she is."


Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Silence is golden

Yes, silence is indeed golden and so is California and this beautiful bridge. That's where I'll be for the next few weeks fulfilling my annual pilgrimage to see my brother and check out all my old haunts and pretend I have a cute cottage by the sea. Sigh.
Now, while I'm away, instead of twiddling your thumbs and staring at all the unfinished projects, how about keeping up the enthusiasm for crochet by reading some back copies of posts. Let me make some suggestions:
Several designers all wrapped up in a post!! Guro from Hobbykroken, Maria from Kjoo, Yael from Yoola, Toutes a nos crochets and much, much more!!!
Something completely different. Many love to scumble. Find out more right here!
Now for the finale. Fffff-fashion. The wondrous Sarah Backlund.
Happy reading!

Monday, 7 September 2009

Stand by your crochet hooks

I was contacted by the nice folks at Craftzine, an online craft blog magaziney type of thing, that has alot of projects in various craft mediums. I like to dip in for tips and links and I'm pretty sure I've pointed you in that direction before. Anyway, do visit because I do feel you'll find something of interest there. Before you reach for the link button, let me just tell you of a plan they've got afoot to get everyone to muster to their stash bag and hook supply.

Starting on Tuesday 8 September, the first lesson to create a wee amigurumi Fuzzy Panda is being featured and I think it could be the easiest-peasiest ways of learning to amigurumi (can it be a verb?). I do know that many people would love to get to grips with amigurumi and make some well-crafted critters and this might be the chance they need. The secret of good amigurumi is in the stitch marker. You really do need to keep an eye on those stitches and that they don't increase or otherwise - well, without being told to. A good eye to the markers is the answer. The pattern, by Tamie Snow, is lovely and clear (but remember, English makers, it's North American terms).

Good luck with that one, my dears, but all I ask is maybe lay off the bubble-gum pink! Unless it's a petit cadeau for a Barbie.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

As you may already know, I've now embarked on another page of the story with the set-up of MakeDoMend with Claire Montgomerie. We're looking forward to organising either tailored tutorial events in creative crafts or being more ambitious and helping in the organisation of hen parties to baby showers. We know that it's going to be quite a mission to let everyone know that we're ready and waiting for lovely ideas so we're booked to 'appear' at MakeLondon's Autumn Fair in Stoke Newington on 5 and 6 September. We'll be offering beginners' workshops in knitting and crochet and some wonderful cake decorating workshops too. If you go to the Make London website you'll get an idea of when the workshops are starting.Many of those able to visit can already knit, crochet and all manner of things but maybe you have a friend who's been badgering you to learn. If so, then bring them along and enjoy their happy face!!!!!

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Shauna Richardson - the exhibition

I overheard last week on the radio a feature about art and the Olympics. There was a mention of a series of installations planned in the East Midlands and among them was to be three crochet lions. That stopped me in my tracks and I vowed that once the dust of last week had settled I would investigate.
The artist involved is Shauna Richardson and she has very kindly agreed to submit herself to a chaincreative interview in the near future. However, before that I'll give you a little sneak preview of her work and an open invitation to her latest exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London. "Taking inspiration from Victorian taxidermy and travelling menageries in order to create life-size animal sculptures - crochet pieces using directional stitches to highlight anatomical features." Brown Bear is a powerful presence (at nearly 2 metres high, that's powerful) and still manages to retain the almost animal quality of his pelt and at the same time representing the movement of muscle and bone.

The exhibition is from the 2-19 September 2009 and is part of the Threadneedle Prize for painting and sculpture, so best wishes and good luck go to Shauna.
For the competition for 2012 run by the Arts Council, Shauna has designed three 30 ft tall lions. 'If successful her work would be visible for miles around from its as-yet unspecified East Midlands location with the three lions, reminiscent of Richard the Lionheart's heraldic crest, housed inside a purpose built glass structure.
Shauna, 41, who first learned to crochet at school before going on to study fine art at De Montfort University, said the inspiration for her enormous artwork came after months of research.
She said: "I was researching symbolism that would represent the area, the nation and the Olympics.
"The medium itself will reflect the textile industry of Leicestershire.
"This is a unique opportunity to create something extraordinary here in the East Midlands and if selected, I aim to leave a lasting legacy."' (Leicester Mercury)
Chaincreative is very honoured to be featuring a UK artist of such quality taking a domestic skill and using it in such a public forum.

Monday, 17 August 2009

The Solomon's Knot

On my recent trip to Belgium I went to the Antwerp Museum of Fashion, MOMU for a fascinating exhibition on the paper dress. It doesn't sound desperately relevant to a crochet blog but you would be surprised!! Displayed were 19th centuryJapanese Samurai underwear (yes, even they need knickers!!!) made from knotted paper. As you can imagine it was the knotted stitch they used that caught my attention.

The Solomon's knot is as much macrame as crochet but students are still intrigued as to how to make the stitch. Created by lengthening a chain stitch and then crocheting into the back of the chain, this is a simple stitch and a lovely way to create an airy and open-work piece. But don't take my crass description as gospel. Nexstitch offers a very clear, visual tutorial of this and many other stitches.

It has been popular for use in quite utilitarian items (such as underwear) and bags and this little pouch from the 1920's is a lovely example.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

New workshops go live

You may have noticed a few things going on in the next-door sidebar. Creative workshops with Bee!! This has really flowed from all the work I've been doing over the last few years on a group and individual basis and I thought it would be fun to extend it. Workshops will be available in London and the South East at either a location that I can arrange or in your own choice of suitable premises!! Craft is really having a wonderful moment and it would be so good to jump aboard if you haven't already. Give it a go!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

More of a good thing

You know I'm a huge fan of Japanese crochet and knit books and I know many of you are too!! This fires up my research antennae and I'm always on the look-out for new suppliers and sources for our obsession.

Yesterday, while browsing the lovely French crochet blogs that I have listed on the right side of the blog, I came across these lovely bags. I particularly loved the zing of citrus colours that these were made up with. The patterns were, of course, Japanese and that got me thinking that I needed to feed the addiction and see if I could track down some more supplies.

There are certainly plenty of shops on Etsy who have lovely selections. All you have to do is pop Japanese craft books in the Search window and away you go. I wanted to see what else was out there and Bingo! up came Select Yarn and how pleased I was. As well as patterns Norie (the founder) also stocks Japanese yarns and many are the selections for the patterns. I love the way you can 'look' in the books to see the patterns. It all helps with the choice.

At the moment, I'm enjoying crocheting a vintage 30's sweater but as soon as that's finished I'm going Japanese!!!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

A lot has happened

Last week was so buzzy with creative stuff that I'm not quite prepared to not go steaming off with a bag packed full of patterns and crochet hooks instead of boring old shopping!
It all kicked off by Tower Bridge on Sunday with Claire Montgomerie at Kioskiosk. It wasn't the best weather that Doctor London could have ordered but we tied down the table and stopped a few crochet hooks from blowing away on the breeze!! It began to warm up pretty soon with some lovely familiar faces from our classes who started to crochet up a storm that quickly brought out the sunshine.
This began to tempt a few of the curious to try their turn with hook and yarn and by early afternoon we'd managed to inspire quite a number novices and others who had fun showing us how to knit Romania style.
This guy was certainly loving the attention his skill with the needles created! Hmmm.Next step was over to west London for a lovely day of sewing (I'll have some pics soon to post on Sewing Bee). I'm absolutely loving these workshops and really look forward to developing them
through Make & Bake. I'll be featuring contact pages for all the different workshops on offer and would love to see any of you there!!
The week finished with the Felt Workshop held here in Kent.

I tried to bring in some crochet by using the ever reliable felting yarn of Cascade 220. There are so many fab shades but we were going to use a neat little pattern from knotsewcute for a pear doorstop. After that, things got a bit messy in a fun kind of way. Out came the yarn rovings and a bottle of warm water and dish wash liquid! Wet felting is such a magical thing. One minute you have some very sheepy looking wool and then next minute it's fabric!

We certainly had a very amusing time with it, despite some slight mishaps as you can see above, and everyone was able to tuck some nicely felted fabric away to take home.

The big success of the day was the needle-felting as we were able to satisfy our inner child by making some cute little critters.

I'd supplied some lovely goodie bags of needles and holders from Blooming Felt and foam pads so the team was able to create to their heart's content.

Workshops are continuing with a beaded crochet course in London and more sewing tuition. It's such a pleasure to settle into a day of really productive teaching and helping people get to grips with their creativity. If you're keen to brush up your skills then do contact me through the blog.