Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Flying the flag - From Britain with Love

In my other life as a Mender at makedomend I am so pleased to say that we are listed amongst the wonderful new design-gathering at From Britain with Love. You really can't better their mission statement "Hello and welcome to - the brand new online guide to all things beautiful and British made.
Our mission is very simple... we want to let people know that there are beautiful things being made in studios, workshops, factories and farms across Britain every day, and our aim is to help you find them." and I heartily raise a cheer to that!! There is so much talent churning around in field and backstreet and we do need to nurture that. Amazingly, despite the growth and decline of the high street this country still keeps a strong design heart beating but we do need lovely websites like this to keep it in good health. Hurrah.

I thought I'd make a little personal selection from their comprehensive list and this is what I found in a very unmethodical 5 minute survey!!

Smith & Coates - handmade, recycled clothes for adults and children with cute crochet trims and embellishments.

Andrea Williamson - colourful and cosy knitted accessories
Jennifer Collier - innovative textiles and craft pieces

Of course, that is a random and small selection. If you're a design and handmade freak like me then you're going to love visiting From Britain. God save that!!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Leanda Xavian - crochet and colour

With all the crochet going on here at chaincreative I should be beginning to look like a crochet hook. Preparations for the makedomend are going apace and the granny square workshop is full to bursting and waiting for all the lovely patterns we've devised for them. I wanted to introduce the workshop, not only to the more simple methods of making squares, but to the more challenging and interesting. I felt it was important that we introduced everyone as to how to make the designs really zing. As you know, Sarah London is a big favourite here so we shall certainly be checking out her work. Emma Lamb is another new discovery and we shall be definitely exploring all her beautiful crochet. In addition, we'll take a peek at the designs of a good crochet friend of chaincreative, Leanda Xavian, of One Loop Short and her new persona, One Little Bird. Her inspirations are beautifully illustrated in one of her many lovely mosaics above. Leanda certainly knows how to photograph her work to make it really leap out from the screen and drive you to the yarns you've been saving and get going on yet another blanket.
She very kindly agreed to jot down some thoughts on crochet and her inspirations which I think you'll find very instructive and may ring some bells for you. How many of us learnt some of our skills from a member of the family only to find that there were more things to learn and not enough time.

'I’ve wanted to be able to crochet since I can’t remember. Both my grandmothers crocheted, but they lived too far away for me to sit down with them and watch. My mother taught me to knit a bit. But I always wanted to learn crochet, but thought it was just too difficult.'

Teaching yourself crochet is a minefield. Alot of the students I teach are refugees from their own attempts to learn on their own. Doing so can lead to disappointment and a sense of failure and frustration.
'Every time I picked up a ‘learn-to-crochet’ book I was throwing my hook down in frustration after 5 minutes. That’s because a lot of these ‘teach yourself’ books start with a foundation chain, which you are then supposed to build on with single crochets and double crochets and so on. Not only is working back along a chain one of the hardest things to do in crochet, it’s also boring to work row upon row of the same stitch.'
So using a book or having tuition are one way into the craft. The starting point can be in a variety of ways but Leanda has some suggestions for that.
'If you are learning to crochet you must start with a granny square, as a child would. Working in the round is so much easier than row work and if you end up with something pretty after half an hour you feel like you’ve really achieved something. And this is good news if you have always hankered to make a doily. It’s a lot easier than it looks. Crochet is easier than knitting full stop.'

Now for some design tips. Listen up and really get some inspiration.
'The other advantages of crochet are the amount of yarn you use compared to knitting. Much less that’s for sure. You can make something beautiful from the merest scrap of yarn. And what is particularly exciting about crochet is that there are absolutely no rules when it comes to colour combinations. Just go for it! Just look at all those amazing vintage blankets that your grannies made. They used anything that was to hand. And it just works. So experiment, go wild. You will be pleasantly surprised!'
The next few tips are straight out of chaincreative wish-list. Thank you, Leanda, you've listed all the most important advise I would offer any serious student of crochet. Look and learn!!! I've italicised the bits I particularly love.

'I don’t have any particular method when I’m starting a project. I just remember wanting to be able to do everything at first, so I pushed myself to use a tiny hook very early on. I thought if I could make a vintage doily I could make anything. So I’m very into thread crochet and how beautiful and delicate it is. But I equally love big chunky yarns so it just depends on my mood. I discovered Japanese pattern books, which are simply amazing and they’ve inspired me greatly. And if you can I would advise you to learn to read symbol charts early on. They really are so much easier to follow than written instructions so persevere if they seem alien at first.'
Thank you again, Leanda, for your kind words and help on writing this blog and for the use of all your beautiful images.
I love these designer interviews as they open up a windown on how people go about a skill that I think can give endless possiblilities to your creative instincts. I never thought that after so many years of writing this blog I would still be discovering new designers and ideas. I'm hooked!!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Alexander McQueen - Designer

I heard with such sadness of the death of Alexander McQueen today. The circumstances and the loss are endlessly sad for his friends and family. For anyone involved with design and the arts, it is a huge cultural loss as he was a supremely talented designer and engineer of fabric and garments. To die and leave the future of his work unfinished is a terribly sad thought for me as I really admired his work. His past archive is a wealth of inspiration and I do urge you to look and explore the many resources he has left.
There will be many obituaries written but I liked this short and simple tribute to him on
Too often fashion design is dismissed as meaningless and irrelevant to the many other aspects of life. That is not something I subscribe to. Respect to the legacy of Alexander McQueen, 1969-2010.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Waste not!! - 'Handemadeness is an antidepressant'

I love yarn. Texture, weight (or lack of it as I love fine yarns more than chunky), colour and all it's wonderful variety. I've got a confession though. I've never really been attracted to the possibilities of undoing long-lost garments. Well-worn and well-loved jumpers and sweaters just get more well-worn until they're a rather threadbare wisp of a garment. There are alternatives and I stumbled on them thanks to a new friend on Twitter (I know, it's got it's critics but there are little gems there), Joyce Crochets, and she passes on some great little crochet links and I've followed many a tip-off from her tweets.This week's trail was to the methods of undoing woollen fabric and I never realised what an art there was to it. There are two really informative resources from two favourites of chaincreative, crafty stylish and craftzine. Different seams pose different problems and then there's prepping involved before you can wind up and get working. It's all worth it in the name of wasting not a precious resource and that's a big deal right now. While you're feeling virtuous hanging your freshly laundered yarn on the line (hmm) just think what a saving you've made. Enough to maybe treat yourself with some gorgeous little gem from Loop!
Once you've finished all the processes to turn that sad sack to crochet gold then you need some inspiration and I followed some more trails to a recycling diva called Cecile whose philosophy is very much of the moment and is the quote in the title of this post. Calling her business Recycled by Hyena and quoting her from her Etsy profile, 'My work is infused with my ethic and each of my creations is the result of passion and dedication. My clothes are made from scratch but not from new materials. They are made with fabric from clothes I purchased in Goodwill stores and non-profit thrift stores.

I "believe" in the craft revolution and I think it is our future. The handmade and eco-friendly life is the only alternative to the consumerism destroying our planet and the living beings surrounding us.'I must say I love her designs and the twist she puts on them. Of course, the fact that they're made from the sad, lost and forgotten makes them even more precious. Above is an example of how she encorporates crochet into many of her designs called Empire and below is the patchwork of fine fabrics that she combines in her work which she calls Comie.

As a little postscript, I've been frantically preparing for makedomend's first outing to Stoke Newington's Tea Rooms for our granny squares workshop. I've been making up samples and patterns for the event and I'm very excited with Sarah London's Wooleater Blanket which is worked as a square and which uses as much scrips and scraps of yarn as you would wish to see the back of!!! It's not quite recycling but is certainly not waste!!!
Here's my humble offering of the pattern but I would suggest you go to Sarah's blog for the definitive example.