Posts tagged ‘knitting’

Think Again: Being Human 2016

An exciting opportunity came my way and luckily I had the spoons to respond! [Viva Oxygen Therapy!!] Have you heard of Theodore Zeldin? He’s a very special person ๐Ÿ™‚


sorry this is such a rubbish photo, but it was taken by candlelight ๐Ÿ˜€ that’s a commissioned cowl in his hand, made by Singing Bird Artist ๐Ÿ˜‰ oh my, what an honour. You can find lots about Theodore Zeldin online, his short biography is here:

and his books are available from all good bookstores, as they say. Personally I think he has contributed so much to intersectional thinking by extending the way ‘respectable’ history researchers and professors can expand into political zones and make the voices of ‘ordinary’ people shine through. That he then champions a method of peace-making through conversation, an unfolding of understanding by breaking down stereotypes and having people respond not react to the person in front of them, perhaps from a group they had biased thoughts about, oh, this is Nobel Peace Prize stuff in my book…

He is here in Nottingham both to launch the Being Human Festival 2016 [many other venues across Britain, see for the event where the photo was taken, many events also took place at Contemporary, where some Black History events took pride of place โค ] and the Nottingham Portraits project, where a city will be revealed by the views of its citizens, many more events planned for that!

So, what was Singing Bird doing there? Well, you know I’m a textile and fibre artist and work as a process artist, incorporating time and site specific details… Amber Forrest contacted me through Knit Nottingham, who suggested me as a knitter, who though disabled, would be very comfortable knitting during an event to commemorate it in some way. Thanks Eleanor, I owe you ๐Ÿ˜‰ After an excited phone conversation and meet up with the lovely Amber who did so much [thanks again Amber] to make sure I was comfortable and my agoraphobia and fibromyalgic needs were met on the night, I was primed. Knit a hat, no a cowl, for a man who has pioneered such exciting techniques to open people’s minds and show them more is possible! This is my joy in action ๐Ÿ™‚


This is a man who wears suits a lot – that’s what professionally active historians of 80+ wear, but I noticed in photos often has his shirt collar open, no hat and no tie. Aha! A cowl might be useful then, particularly when travelling. Amber had found the yarn above, a navy with white thread running through, which turns out to be recycled glass fibres, and get this, it glows in the dark!! How cool is that! I immediately felt how like a pin stripe it looked, like those suits… and having thought about how he has worked to bring out hidden sides of people, I thought of natural colours, a rainbow maybe, no, better, a sunset, with colours reflected in the sea, all the ripples he has made in the world, shimmering reflections taken on their own wave out into the world and the waves he has met and with which he has rolled, how much further he goes than you’d expect from the pinstripe… So I prepared for the event by knitting the ‘pinstripe’ side and starting the sea and sunset, with short lengths of yarns prepped to allow many elements, reflecting the diverse and various people expected to the event at Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant.



I arrived at the event and was seated with some help [bar stools and sticks don’t go!] introduced to some lovely people, then escorted upstairs [plenty of disabled people came to the event, but they all had to be ambulatory, and those stairs with cold brass handrails were no fun to come down]ย  to be able to choose where I wanted to sit. I smiled, remembering my late husband, as I chose the back corner where you could see 4 doors, but hide a weapon at my right side – yes, classic ninja/agoraphobic out but stressed!! He always knew where I would sit, and as a martial artist found it very funny, because I’m also a pacifist. ๐Ÿ˜‰

There were speeches, from the head of Humanities at the University of Nottingham, about the Being Human Festivals and their intentions [improving community integration and access] and from Amber introducing the Nottingham Portraits and MUSE project, and Theodore Zeldin then spoke on how to use the Menu of Conversation we were offered to guide the process. He advised how to avoid traumatic topics if you needed to, but still speak of things important to your life.. it was an amazing list and very interesting… only one thing jarred.. the use of “both sexes”. Theodore has written some great stuff on improving communication between men and women and works with his wife [they have joint copyright on some ideas/processes] so understands the huge need there is for this work.

However, it is 2016, and we do now know there are far more sexes/gender orientations present in our communities, I have several trans friends, some happily transitioned, some at the beginning of their process, but most of my closest trans friends are non-binary, and I have 2 cis friends who also feel they identify more with genderfluid orientations. What is commonplace to me doesn’t seem to have reached Theodore, but I hope someone will draw his intention to this lapse in language, because I don’t feel any lack of diversity in his approach… I will include it in feedback to the Menu process forms and if I am part of the spinoff events MUSE intends, I will definitely raise it, and suggest sticking an amendment over the top. [I am torn between eco awareness and trans ally on that, far better to have new forms, but how many have been printed already??]



Overall I was very pleased to see a diversity of people there in terms of race and culture and disability, I met at least 2 gay men, spotted some lesbians and doubt I was the only bi person there… there were a lot of white academic types, but then they were there as helpers, so like the wait staff created another group making it slightly hard to get a sense of true proportions. One University guy made a gaffe, but it turned out well, as he casually said he had been hoping to meet some homeless people – silence from 4 of us, and then a refuge project guy spoke up about varieties of homelessness and to support him I said, hmm, yes, I had been 20 minutes away from having no key to a place of my own, flat sitting for a friend while unsafe at my own place [house sharer was letting in violent neighbour angry I had helped her partner leave… sigh] was this close enough to give him an idea? Lovely project guy immediately says ‘Twinnies!’ and goes for a fistbump and handshake! The other two joined in and it turned out we had all been in precarious positions, the woman next to me making that very good point about how many paycheques most people are away from the street if they lose their home. The Uni guy looked a bit embarrassed but got over it and joined in and heard about the project in Beeston. Sorry I didn’t get people’sย  names, but knitting takes two hands, actually it takes three when you get your work out and find you have lost a long needle in the taxi!!! I spent a flustered time figuring out how to knit in smaller sections at a time with many dropped stitches being sorted by candlelight [omg] as every other row took all 3 of the short needles from my mitts project… and then some… and BREATHE!!


My main conversation partner of the evening was a joy to meet! She was full of anger and righteous indignation and an edge of despair about Trump and Brexit and we talked non-stop!! I told her I am a possibilitarian and relentless optimist [at least when I have the right painkillers!!] and how I felt the working class had been abandoned when the first Council houses were sold off, and then when things like the Trade Unions, which had begun to diversify, black leaders in the TGWU [Transport General Workers] and women getting senior positions in the FireFighter’s Union, were pushed out of the Labour Party and the spin doctors let in, and the training and development side of the unions and the Labour Party stopped. I was never a Labour Party member, but I knew loads of Labour and various flavour Communists from being a socialist feminist with the National Assembly of Women… well I was the token anarcha-feminist ๐Ÿ˜€ [some of the working class women were very doubtful when I joined, but were won over by my ability to make profits on the catering to fund speakers for International Women’s Day] These were mainly women who had become politicized by the Miner’s Strike, strikes over working conditions, by meeting or being refugees and feminists in teaching or Council work. It makes for a different energy, less despair, more backbone when the shit hit the fan, and because this ISN’T the pit collapsing on 200 men in your village/town, a relief it isn’t worse. Although it is very very frightening…


The rise of the alt-right/ white supremacists seems to have started with Brexit, risen with Trump and if Marine Le Pen gets in in France… ffs… the recent event in Spain with Franco praised and the Nazi salute being offered to a Catholic priest – omg, omg… this is very, very frightening. Or is it? This was here before, but underground.. now it has surfaced and like a particularly bulging spot, it can be tackled and all that pus can run away. Before, Britain First and other despicables could deny their Nazi roots, now they are gloating, out and proud. And they are sickening the middle way-ers who very naively thought they could vote Ukip and it would only be black suits, not blood on the streets… if the second referendum comes through, I think enough lies have been proved, enough nastiness has been shown that with more canvassing and talking to lost-in-the-muddle types, we could get a very different result.

There is a pause in which we have time to organize against white supremacism, already Muslims and Jews have acted to make a joint organization to defend religious rights, which is amazing.. I have seen Jewish Voices for Peace making common cause with Black Muslims via Facebook through supporting Black Lives Matter demos over the summer and a couple of days after Trump’s election, this amazing announcement of the new organization. I had tears of joy… may this feed back, may this help those American Jews who do support the sending of military aid to Israel stop and instead build a programme of mutual understanding and send peacemaking volunteers to Israel/Palestine…



But back to the event, celebrating thinking again, meeting and talking and responding, not reacting… there was such a buzz, such good energy in the room… I woke up the next day early and full of positivity, and managed to start clutterclearing my studio! That’s a win! I am meeting Amaya for a cuppa at the weekend and we will talk more about the ideas thrown up, she has great energy, skills and education and empowerment and I hope we will be able to come up with some ideas to help gather the resources of our individual networks and enrol them in creating more connections…at the least, hanging out with likeminded friends is good for your mental health! more win, more hope, more possibility webs spreading into the world! It has to be good.



taking a yarn trip

STA45198STA45202embellished yarn 086 So, I was supposed to take a trip into my overdraft at a fancy yarn supplier, but life had other plans…instead I have been upcycling more factory yarn into hand work friendly balls… some yummy landscape mixes are coming through, very Cornish heath and autumn woodland, the holiday I want to have is happening in the winding ๐Ÿ˜‰ Nonie gets mesmerised by not just watching me wind, but the long dreadlocks of freeform crochet as they accumulate on the floor. The next mix is sand, blues and browns, driftwood on the beach and white horses on the North Sea colours…mmmm….

But first a trip down memory of yarn usedย  lane ๐Ÿ˜‰




embellished yarn 079




sea change

I am so tired! Keith came round and we had a photoshoot of gaia’s guardians, renamed to SEA CHANGE…

This is a huge win, as he took a photo I could easily turn into promotion posters and flyers. We took turns slumping in the wicker chair I dragged out, and it was so nice to sit in the sun in a Tshirt! I still had woolly socks on butย  basking while he scrambled up and down the bank I could imagine summer…and as we had snow till what feels like two minutes ago, oh, what luxury!

We were both shaking with tiredness by the time it was done, even though we took breaks. He takes lovely pictures though, so here is some eyecandy till I get the slideshow sorted:


skip for joy: a yarn winding tutorial

So, nature abhors a vacuum…

About to remove about 140litres of quilt from my studio, and wondering what I would do with all that space (so beyond the final frontier in my list of wants…) my question was no sooner framed than answered by a friend texting that the knitwear factory near him had just had its monthly clearout of cone ends. When factories have an order for larger items like jumpers, and the yarn on the cone is less than the amount needed for the pattern, it is cheaper to throw out the remainder than to store it in case it could be used in a different order, and because they have to show responsible disposal, they need their waste to be collected by industrial collection, so it’s hard for them to give to charities, even if they want to. However, they can leave their bins unlocked…

And the eagle-eyed and shamelessly green can skip for multi-coloured joy ๐Ÿ˜‰

My intrepid friends climbed inside the bin to empty it, and when we had filled 4 large ikea bags and a canvas shopping bag, we could now fit all the cardboard that had beenย  stacked beside the bin, getting sodden in the rain, inside the bin, with some thread tangles that were potentially hazardous to wildlife.

So that would be a big all round win…

We took a cab back to mine, one roll of canvas webbing paid for that, never mind the wide elastic, shirring elastic and yarn…

So, what did we do with it all? 1 bag is going to children for streetplay projects, 1 bag of the fattest cones has gone to the refugee forum as some women there have knitting machine skills and many enjoy embroidery and embellishing. 1 bag will go to a friend for making rainbow cords with her daughter and friends.

How much left, oh lots of short ends…. I had an art idea a few weeks back that involved making scrolls, so I bagsed all the supershort ends and wound multi-strand balls for knitting projects, liberating, in less than a week, 35 cardboard cones…

I’ve discovered a lot of peeps have no idea that there is an art to winding yarn, so I thought I’d post some tips for all my fellow upcyclers.

So, assemble your cones. Most fine yarns you find on cones are 1 or 2ply, this is for socks and textiles. You might find 4ply or double knit on cones in charity shops, donated at the end of projects or when old ladies move into nursing homes and there is a giant clear out of their stash. You can mix and match, though it is easier to knit when the individual threads are similar.

If you are going to make sewing machine cords, the main constraint is what will go through your foot, and if you don’t have a piping foot, safe is better than sorry, wind a maximum of 6ply.

For knitting, 4ply is fine sock, 8/10ply is aran/double knit and 12/14 chunky, though these are all approximate, because if some are nylon finishing thread, that’s much finer…but if you knit a tension square, you can adapt any pattern really.

Apologies for blurry pix, have you ever tried photographing your other hand?

So, start with a simple granny knot. Wind around your fingers, then when you have a bundle, release your fingers, but replace with your thumb/finger on the outside,and continue winding. Wind clockwise and swivel round, so the ball has a navel. Wind to what your hands can cope with, for me that’s about 125g (just over 4oz) and a nice satisfying size to make a dishcloth/loopy lace stitch scarf, with a little left over for cording.

Why all the stuff about fingers? It keeps the natural tension of the spun yarn, wind too tight, and you ‘tire’ the yarn and it always seems tight, with no spring to it.

If you want to upcycle the yarn from a hand knitted garment, carefully unpick the seams, and find the end of the yarn. Most garments are knitted bottom up, but a lot of round neck jumpers are top down. Wind the yarn round your elbows or the back of a dining chair. Tie the loops together in at least 3 places. You now have a skein, and it’s a good idea to wash it if the garment had any stains.

If the yarn is pure wool/mohair/alpaca etc HANDWASH ONLY!ย  To test if it’s an animal fibre, burn an end, it will smell sooty and feel soft. Polyester/acrylic yarns have a very plastickyย  smellย  and make a hard plasticky end.

Once clean, wind into balls, and keep those fingers in place, it’s so worth it for the difference in springiness in the yarn and end fabric of your garment.

To make very pretty (and strong) machine cords, take a few metres of multistranded yarn and some tail ends of thread. Set your sewing machine to the widest and longest zigzag. Tie a knot at the end and pull clear. Now drop the needle and start stitching, slowly till you feel confident and then speed up. I put the cord through at least twice, and shorten the zigzag on the second run. If you want super pretty, use metallic threads in the bobbin on the final run ๐Ÿ˜‰ Gently guide the cord by pulling the finished end away from the foot, but DO NOT DRAG or you may break a needle or even worse, break the timing. Also, DO NOT let your fingers TOO CLOSE to the needle, they should be 10cm/4inches behind! These cords are fabulous for embellishing, making bunting or swags, yarntagging, gift tag cord…crochet possibilities are enormous…here are some things I used as part of the Gaia’s Guardians installation:

For added fun, watch the frustration on your furry friend’s face as you wind… ๐Ÿ˜‰

yarn feast

after all that theory at contemporary conversations, i felt really in need of some material pleasure ๐Ÿ˜‰

mmmm, sequins, mmm, multi strand variegated yarns

better now… ๐Ÿ˜‰



i’m not really supposed to be adding to my fabulous collection of yarn by spending money i owe the bank…but sometimes, sometimes you see something really special… ๐Ÿ˜‰

this isn’t dear, it’s ยฃ4 for 4 balls at lidl cheap-o-mart, and easily passed over, but, having done some reading on the eco garments course, i recognise its wonderfulness…it’s a yarn made from upcycled fibres, either pre n post fabric industry waste, or hopefully post consumer rag and garment recycling. it’s super soft, like teased fleece, the recycled pop bottle kind, not sheepses, and if you are ok with synthetic fibres, oh, so lovely!

which reminds me, when in doubt about how to recycle clean but really sad garments, put them in a binbag marked rags and give them to your favourite charity shop to send to the raggers, they get 50p a sack, the fibres have another life, everybody wins.

i then set to and made a scarf in dishcloth stitch (has many names, very simply, when you knit, wrap 2 or 3 times instead of once, repeat for the whole row, turn and knit off, makes a lovely loopy stitch, i just knitted a fake lattice lace shawl stitch for one of knit nottingham’s lovely ladies in purple sequin yarn and it does look nice…

this inspired me to put my stashbusting cap on and dig out some lovely leftovers, wind them into multi strand balls and make scarves. these will all be embellished with the machine cords i make for the sheer joy of putting colours together, usually the cords have a lot of upcycled factory waste cone ends in, those 1 and 2plyย  nylons and cottons really add a pop of colour when you need it…