#knitsonikcaterpillars

Some of you may remember #knitsonikpomegranates – this was a virtual swatch-a-long: folks wishing to explore the KNITSONIK system with some friendly online comrades embarked on a mission to celebrate THE POMEGRANATE in stranded colourwork with gloriously varied and exciting results.

swatches created during the #knitsonikpomegranates swatch-a-long
swatches created during the #knitsonikpomegranates swatch-a-long

We each organised our own yarns and images, began drawing patterns from our pomegranates, and shared the results of our endeavours in a big online reveal. It was astonishing to see the different ways in which the humble pomegranate appeared in our knitting, and how individual knitters tackled the restrictions and structure of the medium.

ways of breaking up pomegranates to avoid long strands on the back of the work
ways of breaking up pomegranates to avoid long strands on the back of the work

If you are on Ravelry you can see the results of this first KNITSONIK swatch-a-long by searching in projects for #knitsonikpomegranates, and you can read all about the experiment here.

With #knitsonikpomegranates there were no restrictions on the nature of one’s pomegranates. Folk worked from paintings, drawings, photos… one other knitter even worked from a real pomegranate tree in her neighbourhood. These different contexts and inspiration sources shaped the ideas we came up with; for example Labistrake photographed her pomegranates in a beautiful blue interior, and this background colour became a crucial element in her palette for celebrating pomegranates in stranded colourwork

Pomegranate swatch by Labistrake
Pomegranate swatch by Labistrake

…while other comrades chose paintings and embroidery of pomegranates as inspiration sources – the nature of which profoundly influenced their palettes and shading schemes.

Using found prints or textiles to record inspiration sources
Using found prints or textiles to record inspiration sources

Following #knitsonikpomegranates there was some exciting discussion in the KNITSONIK forum about what would happen if we worked together from the same set of images, and that a photo by Fergus Ford – my talented brother and the photographer for the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook – would provide a good jumping off point. We wanted to see if working from a narrower set of inspirations would create more similar results, or if the different ways in which knitters interpreted the source would appear more pronounced.

Frangipani Caterpillars photographed by Fergus Ford
Frangipani Caterpillars photographed by Fergus Ford

When Fergus lived in Barbados I loved reading about his daily life on his blog. This glimpse into the fauna of the Carribean was one of my favourite posts; the Frangipani Caterpillars looked utterly unlike anything here in the UK, and I loved the sense that Ferg had just stumbled on them on his way into work. So dazzling! So velvety black! So very hungry and voracious! We could work from the Frangipani Caterpillars! A rough deadline was set (end of June), rules were drawn up, and the new #knitsonikcaterpillars swatch-a-long commenced!

This photo above is the one from the post with which I was most captivated, however the rules for the #knitsonikcaterpillars swatch-a-long were that you could work with ANY of the photos from the blog post, and in the end I think I looked at this one more than any others while coming up with my designs.

Frangipani caterpillar, photographed by Fergus Ford in Barbados
Frangipani caterpillar, photographed by Fergus Ford in Barbados

For my #knitsonikcaterpillars swatch I used mostly Jamieson & Smith 2-ply Jumper Weight Yarn, but my palette was augmented by some beautiful mini-skeins of Elemental Affects Shetland Fingering Weight which were a gift from Brenda at the wondrous Gwlana retreat in May. These mini skeins work very well with Jamieson & Smith 2-ply and included a fluorescent yellow, an acidic lemon yellow and a fresh lime green – all of which proved useful in my knitterly explorations of caterpillar stripes.

The beauteous black of shade 77 in the Jamieson & Smith range is the most commonly used colour throughout my swatch, and I LOVE how the luminous reds, greens and yellows sing against its inky darkness. The whole swatch is quite unlike anything I have ever knitted before, and it reminds me of a black sweater I had in the 1980s which featured a fluorescent rainbow of stripes across the chest…

The first part of my #knitsonikcaterpillars swatch
The first part of my #knitsonikcaterpillars swatch

…from left to right this portion of the swatch shows my attempts to interpret the irregular stripes on the caterpillar’s body; the jointed legs of the caterpillar; a twig detailed in another photo from Ferg’s blog post; and the non-uniform dottiness on the caterpillar’s head… these themes continue throughout the swatch.

My #knitsonikcaterpillars swatch, the second half
My #knitsonikcaterpillars swatch, the second half
Frangipani Caterpillars celebrated in stranded colourwork by KNITSONIK
Frangipani Caterpillars celebrated in stranded colourwork by KNITSONIK

I have played in Photoshop to try and show you where I found my ideas by looking at Ferg’s photos.

Explorations of irregular caterpillar stripes and leaf structures in stranded colourwork
Explorations of irregular caterpillar stripes and leaf structures in stranded colourwork
Irregular dots on the caterpillar's head, dots and greens on the branches on which the caterpillar crawls
Irregular dots on the caterpillar’s head, dots and greens on the branches on which the caterpillar crawls

The claspers were tricky; I searched for a way to show how they are jointed, pointy, thick… my initial charted pattern did not work as intended when I first knitted it and it occurred to me that it would be interesting to turn it the other way, so that the pointy little legs were organised like arrows horizontally across the knitting. However that did not work well either in my opinion, and I decided (as I often do when swatching) to park that idea and try something else. I looked at the interesting shapes of the caterpillar heads and worked with those instead. The results are a bit heart-shaped but I am pleased with this motif and will keep thinking on the clumpy little claspers and the best way to represent them in stranded colourwork.

Experimenting with the shapes of the claspers and head of the Caterpillars
Experimenting with the shapes of the claspers and heads of the caterpillars

Maybe one of my comrades joining in with this swatch-a-long has found ways of knitting the claspers with more success than me…

As with many stranded colourwork adventures, I found that sometimes the patterns which are most exciting in the knitting are the least like the original inspiration source. I don’t know about you but my eyes are drawn instinctively to the luminous curvy shapes which were meant to portray the caterpillar stripes. In reality there is much more black space between the irregular stripes than is suggested in this pattern, but I really like how it captures the neat nick in the stripes, and the beautiful transitions between yellow and green in the caterpillar’s colouring. I also think there is something plump in the juicy body of the caterpillar (don’t ask me how I know so much about caterpillars) and that this comes through in the roundness of the shapes…

Plump caterpillar with lovely curved stripes
Plump caterpillar with lovely curved stripes
Plump shapes with colours from caterpillar stripes and pleasing nick in the sides
Plump shapes with colours from caterpillar stripes and pleasing nick in the sides

…the other bit I really like on my swatch is the part near the end where I tried to put more space between the yellow stripes, and to capture something of the leaf veins on the foliage on which the caterpillars were chowing down.

Leaf foliage and widely placed caterpillar stripes
Leaf foliage and widely placed caterpillar stripes

I hope you have enjoyed exploring my KNITSONIK process a bit and that you are looking forward to seeing what was made by other comrades partaking of the swatch-a-long! I can’t wait to see how other knitters interpreted #knitsonikcaterpillars and whether working from the same photos has produced more diverse or similar results than in #knitsonikpomegranates.

There has been some stuff going on recently in my family which has disrupted the KNITSONIK podcasting schedule but fear not, I will be back soon with more sounds and more news, and hopefully with more CATERPILLARS!

YOURS IN SWATCHING,
FX

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KNITSONIK 10 – EDDIE, my beloved digital sound recorder (Part 2)

The KNITSONIK podcast is like an unreliable bus service. You wait and wait for days and then several come at once. You can find Part 1 here.

As ever, you can hear the podcast by subscribing through iTunes, listening through the player below, or downloading it directly from its page on Internet Archive.

Part 2 of the EDIROL trilogy/epic begins with some recordings made at Gwlana in May, including the industrious silence during the wonderful knitting time and a ridiculous new song on which I’m working that eulogises the Jamieson & Smith 2-ply Jumper Weight yarn palette. (If you have a good rhyme for “Strawberry” KNITSONIK wants to hear it.)

Jamieson & Smith 2-ply Jumper Weight shades: the focus of a new KNITSONIK song
Jamieson & Smith 2-ply Jumper Weight shades: the focus of a new KNITSONIK song
So happy to have been allowed to record the industrious quiet of our knitting time at Gwlana!
So happy to have been allowed to record the industrious quiet of our knitting time at Gwlana!

My new KNITSONIK commission “The Fabric of Oxford” is announced and don’t forget – if you are in Oxford this Saturday you can share your textile stories for inclusion in the project!

The Fabric of Oxford - a new KNITSONIK commission exploring the city of Oxford through textile stories
The Fabric of Oxford – a new KNITSONIK commission exploring the city of Oxford through textile stories

Old and funny field recordings made at WOOLFEST in 2009 are played with commentary and reflections on how that trip inspired me to knit with more breed-specific and local yarns. And if you want to experience the amazing soundscape on the Buttermere campsite of which I speak, you can do so here.

Layter, designed with wool purchased at Woolfest in 2009 from the Blacker Yarns stall, and celebrating shepherding and shearing traditions in Cumbria
Layter, designed with wool purchased at Woolfest in 2009 from the Blacker Yarns stall, and celebrating shepherding and shearing traditions in Cumbria

I will be at WOOLFEST on 27th and 28th June exhibiting the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook and sharing sounds from the KNITSONIK Audible Textures Resource (the album in progress) and I may even bring my accordion for entertaining visiting comrades. I have had some special fabric printed for my stand so you can’t miss KNITSONIK at WOOLFEST!

KNITSONIK fabric for the exhibition at WOOLFEST
KNITSONIK fabric for the exhibition at WOOLFEST

There is lots of talk of Shwook and Baa-ble hats in this podcast, including sheep baas recorded in Shetland. Shwook and Baa-ble are the hat patterns designed by Hazel Tindall and Donna Smith respectively for Shetland Wool Week in 2014 and 2015. I love the concept of hat patterns designed especially for Shetland Wool Week with which knitters at the event can identify one another. And I love patterns on which knitters can put an individual stamp, whether exploring personal colour ideas for Fairisle, or thinking about how best to represent one’s local sheep and landscape. Read Hazel and Donna’s posts about these wondrous, inclusive designs and download your Baa-ble hat pattern here.

Shwook hat, designed by Hazel Tindall for Shetland Wool Week 2014
The fabulous and addictive Shwook hat designed by Hazel Tindall for Shetland Wool Week 2014
The amazing Baa-ble hat by Donna Smith, designed for this year's Shetland Wool Week
The superbly sheepy Baa-ble hat designed by Donna Smith for Shetland Wool Week 2015

HURRAH FOR THE HATS!

I am knitting a new version of Baa-ble using this handspun yarn created from fibre dyed by Natural Born Dyers, and I’m also handspinning some of the Shetland fleece which we were sorting in Deborah Gray‘s workshop during Shetland Wool Week 2014 when I saw my book for the very first time.

Manx Loaghtan and Whitefaced Woodland fleece overdyed with indigo and other plant dyes, handspun by me
Manx Loaghtan and Whitefaced Woodland fleece overdyed with indigo and other plant dyes, handspun by me

KNITSONIK talks babyknits!

Tried-and-tested patterns that I really recommend include Wee Envelope by Ysolda Teague; POP! by Rachel Atkinson; Chunky Monkey by Elizabeth Smith; Easy Peasy Newborn Sock Hat by Keri McKiernan; and Quynn by Woolly Wormhead. Nephews Toby and Barnaby accompany this section, jamming on their musical toys with Mbira and listening to the sounds of nature.

From L to R: Wee Envelope, Chunky Monkey and Blayter
From L to R: Wee Envelope, Chunky Monkey and Blayter
POP! Cardigan knitted in Brenda Dayne's early handspun
POP! Cardigan knitted in Brenda’s handspun
Quynn worked in Brenda Dayne's handspun
Quynn worked in Brenda’s handspun

As I insist on giving all my relatives pure wool babyknits, I also give them SOAK to take the pain out of laundering them.

Part 2 finishes with a rousing rendition of the KNITSONIK anthem accompanied by baas, and a promise to return soon with Part 3.

YOURS IN TURBO,
FX

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KNITSONIK 10 – EDDIE, my beloved digital sound recorder (Part 1)

The latest bumper edition of the KNITSONIK podcast comes in several parts and is – as suggested by the title – rather focused on the SONIK side of things. It is dedicated to my battered old EDIROL R-09, AKA EDDIE.

EDDIE, my beloved old hand held digital sound recording device
EDDIE, my beloved old hand held digital sound recording device

EDDIE is one of the inspiration sources used in the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook and my very favourite thing with which to record THE SOUNDS.

As usual you can use the player below, subscribe via iTunes, or download the podcast directly from its page on Internet Archive.

Part 1 begins with a brief roundup of stuff that’s been going on, and I include some recordings of my beautiful little nephew Barnaby, with whom I spent some special time in May. You can hear me tinkling on the piano to entertain Barnaby, hanging out in the garden with him, and his wondrous jumparoo bouncing!

One of my two beautiful nephews - Barnaby!
One of my two beautiful nephews – Barnaby!

We hear recordings created on EDDIE during the month of May including sparrows (which are the soundtrack of this year in our garden, since we have a squadron nesting in the roof) and a wonderful cuckoo heard in the New Forest. If you are interested in having a digital recorder of your own with which to record ALL THE SOUNDS I can heavily recommend the SONY PCM-M10. Keep an ear out in later sections of this podcast featuring recordings created on this device by my dear friend Patrick McGinley.

A very fresh and under-practiced version of my newly-penned EDIROL song features in this podcast to delight fans of rubbish accordion playing.

Image nabbed from EYF in pictures - go check it out! and taken by Katie Blair Matthews subject to copyright from Edinburgh Yarn Festival
Image nabbed from EYF in pictures – go check it out! and taken by Katie Blair Matthews subject to copyright from Edinburgh Yarn Festival

In knitting news I talk about swatching from EDDIE and the process of developing stranded colourwork from such an ostensibly unpromising inspiration source.

Knitted swatch, based on digital sound recorder
Knitted swatch, based on digital sound recorder

In other knitting news, I share a very special interview with Cathy Scott about the extraordinary blanket. This blanket was knitted by Cathy while waiting during her daughter’s athletic training. It is a knitted record of parental love and support. Go give it hearts on Ravelry!

Cathy Scott's AMAZING blanket - a knitted record of time spent waiting for, and supporting, her daughter in athletics training. Go give it hearts on Ravelry, IT'S AMAZING!
Cathy Scott’s AMAZING blanket – a knitted record of time spent waiting for, and supporting, her daughter in athletics training

I also share interviews recorded at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival with Coranda and Louise, and Gemma joins us to introduce #TarmacTuesday.

Check out the many shades of tarmac being documented online with the hashtag #TarmacTuesday
Check out the many shades of tarmac being documented online with the hashtag #TarmacTuesday

Finally I share some of the beautiful garment stories shared at Gwlana by comrades at “Today’s Sweater”. Projects discussed include Brenda’s first ever sweater; my Keith Moon jumper; Alison’s amazing Hansel Hap; Chris’s wondrous glittery cardigan; Julie’s special knitting-as-memoir, and Catherine’s glorious cardigan.

Gwlana comrades, May 2015
Gwlana comrades, May 2015

Time runs out, and we are forced to close until part 2 of KNITSONIK 10.

YOURS IN KNITTING + SOUNDS,
FX

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Share your textile stories with KNITSONIK

As mentioned yesterday, I am currently working on a commission for The Museum of Oxford called The Fabric of Oxford. The project is part of the Museum’s 40th anniversary celebrations and some of the KNITSONIK activities will be running alongside those of the Museum.

For instance on Saturday the 20th June from 11am – 4pm I shall be joining my comrades at the Museum for a Collection day. At this event folk can drop in with significant objects relating in some way to the last 40 years of Oxford’s history. The object(s) can relate in any way to Oxford’s history – it’s really broad – and the Museum are setting up ways of digitising and documenting them all. As you can imagine, I shall be there especially to document textile objects.

Saxon spindles and sewing tools from the collection of The Museum of Oxford
Saxon spindles and sewing tools from the collection of The Museum of Oxford

Help KNITSONIK find The Fabric of Oxford!

Bring along textile objects – clothes, tablecloths, rugs, blankets – which relate in some way to the last 40 years in Oxford. From a hat worn at a graduation ball to a May Day parade costume to a Witney blanket to a repaired pillowcase to a knitted scarf, this item can be anything textile-related as long as it was bought, made, worn and/or repaired in the city of Oxford. KNITSONIK will record your story and digitise your object to share with visitors to museum galleries and users online. Your stories and memories make up Oxford’s history… help bring that history alive by sharing your textile objects and their stories. Some of the objects will be included in a special commemorative performance and installation in December. Just drop in with your textiles and their tales…

Document your objects and textile objects from Oxford's past 40 years or so
Document your objects and textile objects from Oxford’s past 40 years or so

I shall be at the Museum of Oxford all day with my trusty microphones and SLR camera; if you are going to come it would be brilliant to hear from you beforehand. I am very excited to see what folks bring and to find ways of sharing and celebrating the textiles that make up The Fabric of Oxford.

The amazing blanket created by the Oxford Bluestockings - surely it needs to be digitised for prosperity
The amazing blanket created by the Oxford Bluestockings – surely it needs to be digitised for prosperity

By way of an object to have digitised in the collection of The Museum of Oxford, I think I might bring the blanket which my amazing comrades in The Oxford Bluestockings made before my foot surgery in 2008; it is a superlative artefact speaking to the ingenuity and kindness of The Oxford Bluestockings and it was made in Oxford and used as a daily source of comfort during my stay at the Nuffield Orthopedic Centre; in terms of sounds to go with it, well, there is the story, the sound of the knitting itself, and the ambience of the Royal Oak Pub in which these amazing knitters still meet every Wednesday evening.

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The Fabric of Oxford

Long-term readers of this blog and followers of my personal blog The Domestic Soundscape will know that one of my long term interests involves exploring the connections between places and textiles through sound.

Previous examples include:

Recording the sounds of Cumbrian shepherds and sheep and the landscape where Herdwick and Rough Fell sheep graze, then playing recordings back through a hand-knitted soundsystem covered in wool from the Lake District. Wonder of Wool exhibition in Rheged, 2012.

speakers covered in hand-knitted Lakeland wool, conveying the sounds of the Cumbrian landscape, shepherds and sheep
speakers covered in hand-knitted Lakeland wool, conveying the sounds of the Cumbrian landscape, shepherds and sheep

Running workshops in Estonia as part of a British-council funded residency in 2012, in which participants investigated links between sound and place through the creation of sound recordings and an “instant clothes museum”.

Kadrianna in her little red jacket on her little red bicycle, attempting to capture or record the sounds of cycling through Tallinn on the cobblestones with which she associates this favourite garment
Kadrianna in her little red jacket on her little red bicycle, attempting to capture or record the sounds of cycling through Tallinn on the cobblestones with which she associates this favourite garment

Creating a knitting pattern for covering a pillow speakers in Shetland wool and an accompanying soundmap detailing the provenance of that yarn in the Shetland landscape, and researching and presenting a performance entitled “Listening to Shetland Wool”. Shetland Wool Week 2013.

Listening to Shetland Wool - an interactive map on which you can click to hear sounds relating to the history and production of Shetland wool textiles
Listening to Shetland Wool – an interactive map on which you can click to hear sounds relating to the history and production of Shetland wool textiles

Growing and recording silkworms to understand the provenance of Richard Tuttle’s silk and viscose textile sculpture for the TATE Modern. Sonic Trail series, 2014.

Self-publishing a knitting book together with a forthcoming album of sounds which draws on the idea that knitting from our everyday environments (and listening to them) can provide an endless source of inspiration and enhance our sense of connection and belonging where we live. Here is one of the swatches from that book which is based on the A4074 road in Oxfordshire – a road about which I also produced a radio feature for the BBC.

The A4074 road on which I commute, as translated into knitted stitches
The A4074 road on which I commute, as translated into knitted stitches

As you can see in my arts practice I regularly explore connections between places and textiles through sound. Therefore I’m thrilled to announce that I have been commissioned by The Museum of Oxford to work on a production entitled The Fabric of Oxford between now and December. The project has been commissioned by the Museum as part of its 40th year anniversary celebrations and is being produced by Oxford Contemporary Music and in it I will be exploring Oxford’s history through the stories of particular textiles. The end result will be some kind of SONIC WARDROBE and a live performance in which I incorporate interviews, textiles, recorded and live sounds. It’s going to be amazing.

As with most of my projects I wish to engage different communities in Oxford in my sonic explorations of everyday textiles; the stories of other comrades in the city of Oxford will form the foundation for this work. The Fabric of Oxford is about the significance of textiles in our experiences of Oxford… and about documenting and exploring that significance through creative play and (in particular) sound-recording activities. In short, I need your help!

You can help by sharing your memories of textiles with me and by permitting me to make a good quality recordings. I am especially interested in

• Memories of significant outfits bought, made or worn in Oxford
• Information about where textiles were bought, made and sold in the city
• Aspects of dress particular to Oxford
• Anything about the history of wool farming in Oxford (for example wool markets)
• Industrial textile production in Oxford
• Memories of everyday work wear for different professions and work in Oxford
• Other aspects of Oxford’s textile history

If you have relevant memories which you would like to contribute to this project, please get in touch with my by emailing felicityford@outlook.com. You can also sign up to the project mailing list by visiting the following web address: http://www.knitsonik.com/the-museum-of-oxford/

Thanks to OCM and The Museum of Oxford for this amazing opportunity to explore The Fabric of Oxford… I am excited to delve deeper into the KNIT and the SONIK of the city.

YOURS IN TEXTILES + SOUNDS,
Fx

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