Thursday, March 12, 2015

Change of abode!

 New things afoot folks! A new range of sewing patterns and a whole brand spanking new website. Hop on over to Maker Magpie, my new online home.
There will be birds...

...there will be foxes...

...and there will be plenty of new things, including an exhibition, opening tomorrow night in the Leitrim Sculpture Centre. I've been glad to be part of the Harnessing Creativity project and am very excited to see all the other amazing concepts at the exhibition.
But for now, get on down to!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

News and sheep

 Apologies for the silence! Juggling work/farm/children is proving somewhat busy! But new developments are afoot! There is a new website on its way in the next month...a new series of sewing patterns...and an exhibition...two sheep are hopefully pregnant, as is the goat...and one sheep has made it to the freezer. The vegetable garden is officially a weed garden and the house is officially a kip. (Don't believe me? Documentary evidence below...)

 For now I just thought I'd share some pictures from a couple of weeks back of the sheep in the snow.

And just to let you know its not all bucolic tranquility round here:

Back soon with more updates!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook

 My dear friend Felix has published her awesome book, the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook, which was funded by a Kickstarter campaign she ran earlier this year. Felix has knitted a lot of incredible swatches inspired by the landscape and objects that surround her, and this is what the book will teach you how to do - to take inspiration from the things around you that mean something to you and to translate those things into a knitted format. 

 Some of the starting points for Felix's knitting include a walnut tree in her back garden, an old biscuit tin, brickwork in Reading where she lives and her sound recorder (my personal favourite).

 Felix's knitted swatches document her search for home, and this idea of rooting yourself in your home environment through knitting it is what I love about Felix's work. Her swatches are a record of places and things Felix loves that she has knitted into glorious colourwork patterns, some of which become sleeveless mittens and some legwarmers. They become garments full of history - representing the environment she lives in and travels through and the things that inhabit her life.

Felix has broken down her process into very easy to follow stages where she teaches the reader to really look at colour, to analyse what you are seeing and work out a way to translate it into knitting. It reminds me of learning to draw and paint in art college, and Felix's approach to knitting her world is very like that - learning to look at the things around you with fresh eyes, and creating beautiful patterns from those things. The swatches are like a sketchbook for knitters and Felix' book is all about the process of creating colourwork knitting and what you learn from that process rather than the finished result.

 It is a real workbook, a textbook for knitters, with so much practical information, so many tips and so much learning! (My favourite kind of book!) So if you are interested in knitting from the things that inspire you in your world, look no further and go and grab yourself a copy!

I talked to Felix about the process of making the book. Read on to hear all about it!

 First off Felix, congratulations on publishing the book! It’s an incredible achievement to write such a detailed tome in such a short period! How did you do it? Were there gallons of coffee and very little sleep involved?

Haha! Yes there was quite a lot of coffee and several late nights involved but on the whole working on the book was very pleasurable; I don’t like it when projects linger and grow stagnant, and the goodwill and positive energy of the Kickstarter backers really energised me to keep going with it and so that is what I did. I didn’t really want to work on anything else or think about anything else while the book was in progress. The only other thing I liked doing was gardening because being with my plants broke up long stretches of sitting at the computer and helped me to think about things in peace and quiet. I am really pleased that it worked out that way because I think the actual experiences of being in my garden helped me a lot with the Plants chapter of the book.

I spent a lot of time thinking about the structure before I began work on it and the blog tour that you were part of when the Kickstarter campaign was live helped me to understand what folks expected and wanted. The thing which seemed clearest was that breaking down the creative process into little chunks – inspiration, palettes, patterns and shading – would really help to make each step manageable. Once I had some idea how many pages each bit would take up, that gave me a word count. It was a bit of a jigsaw puzzle but once the whole shape of the book was in place, finishing the job was just a case of doing everything in bite-sized chunks rather than all at once. My wonderful partner Mark is a project manager and gave me some invaluable tips for handling the workload. His advice was to get one chapter made up right away so I could see how long it would take and to go from there. This turned out to be a super way of tackling things and once I had a chapter format to stick to, it was just a case of making the writing fit to the available page space.

The best thing about the book was the amazing team of comrades I had working on it with me; they really helped to turn my vision into an actual reality. The absolute high point was going to the printers with Nic and physically seeing the covers coming off the presses. There is something just wondrous about witnessing several months of work coming together into a final and beauteous object.

 What did you enjoy most about the process of writing the book? I wonder did the knitting become tedious or whether you managed to keep your knitting mojo throughout - and if so, how!?

I honestly did not lose mojo; in truth I became more and more engaged with the swatching process as I was working on the book, and the swatches got longer and longer and more involved as I got to know the process more. Writing about a process for others really clarifies it in your own mind, and what I love about the swatches is that – towards the end – I just felt so happy and confident with each new idea. To be honest I was a bit sad when I cast off the last swatch and have already cast on another one because I miss the process so much!
I did run out of time for knitting things, though, and was saved by my two amazing comrades Claire Weaver and Liz Ashdowne who knitted the sample pairs of fingerless mitts featured in the book. They each did an amazing job and we were able to feature the mitts in the photo shoot which would never have been possible had I not had help – there was just too much knitting to do to manage it all myself! 

The Hops Legwarmers were a big task and I did get mildly fed up when it came to weaving in all those ends, however I promised myself a tasty pint to celebrate their completion which proved a fitting and appropriate incentive! Also, who can really lose mojo when there is a pair of turbo insane beer themed legwarmers to be gained at the end of a knitting mission?

What is your favourite swatch in the book and why?

The EDDIE swatch based on my little handheld recorder is my favourite one!

In searching for patterns and colours in such an unlikely place, I ended up making something which really celebrates my personal relationship with this tool. The whole designing process somehow deepened my relationship with the recorder and made me see it in new ways. For example I like that the transport buttons worked in different greys and blacks are not entirely clear, as this reflects how the real buttons on the recorder have become worn away in time; that the glowing red RECORD button is so striking against the greys and blacks, and that this reflects the little frisson of excitement I feel when amazing sounds are being captured... 

I also like that there is a pattern in there which relates to the settings I use when I am out recording. All these details offer an expanded view of what a pattern can be and how it can relate to everyday life – patterns can be based on use and habit, for example; patterns can celebrate special moments or memories like recording a beautiful sound... working on the swatch made me crave a massive hoody with all of those ideas about sound and its capture emblazoned on it in fantastic stranded colourwork!
I also really wanted to show in the book that you don’t have to start with something typically beautiful like a sunset or a snowflake; that the most unassuming objects can contain hidden beauty and be used as an inspiration source. I feel the EDDIE swatch does that well, and I was very hopeful when writing the book that readers would possess similar objects – mass-produced consumer electronics – and that reading about my little recorder and how I used it as knitting inspiration might give them new ways of seeing those devices.

 Your brother Fergus Ford took all the incredible photos for the book - they are just beautiful. What was it like to work with a sibling?

Ferg’s real passion is Wedding Photography; he makes the most amazing films of people’s weddings and photos which really capture the feelings and atmosphere of the day.
Although that may seem a weird match for a knitting book, it’s actually perfect because Ferg’s experience with photographing weddings meant he really saw how to get emotions and textures into the photos. It was important to me that the knitting looked good and clear, but also the feeling of friendliness and invitation to knit had to be there and I think he has captured that really well. I especially like the photos of me holding up a finished swatch – I hope every knitter can relate to the feeling of pride and triumph in one’s work that we were trying to show there.

I think his photos of the Things are also really great; the tin looks so tinny, the book so papery, the socks so well worn and darned... knitters think with a sense of touch and Ferg’s photos speak to that. 

He is a really sensitive photographer and I also like his photo of my hands resting on my camera, because somehow that photo tells the story of the many hours I have spent wandering this town and taking pictures of its brickwork.

As siblings I think we are remarkably similar and we share a sentimental outlook on people and places. One thing that was really interesting about our collaboration was that when I started with a very fixed picture in my head things went less smoothly than when I started out with a feeling or an idea. We had so much fun working out the best way to try and set up the creative process – an afternoon of playing with pencils and paper and photos to try and create the right atmosphere of embarking on a creative knitting project. I love what we ended up with and I think it is because Ferg sees the feelings in photos as well as he sees the light and the colours.  

Thanks for talking to me Felix! It's great to hear about the whole process and to hear how much enthusiasm and joy you had throughout the entire making of the book. I love the book, it is both an amazing resource for a way of working with wool and a beautiful object in itself, and the sense of celebration, wonder and love for your surroundings really comes through in the gorgeous photos and your great text.

If you would like to buy yourself a copy of Felix's book you can pick one up from Felix here. 

All images copyright Felicity Ford.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Autumn colour and Knitsonik

There are beautiful colours out there at the moment and we are enjoying some slow meandering walks involving much stick collection, tree bashing and pointing out the bagder holes repeatedly...(we being the wee man - I however have been mostly doing my best to coax him back to the house with raisins).

But this bramble really caught my eye - almost every colour of the rainbow on one single length of bramble...

I have been collecting leaves and photos, and thinking about colour a lot, particularly as this awesome book arrived at my house this week...

I featured Felix on the blog back in April and will be having her back here this week, so I will talk more about the book then, but I am so excited to have the book finally in my hands! In the short periods of time where the two little people are sleeping (and I am not) I have been reading bits of it and it is exactly the kind of book I love - a real workbook!

I am also extremely impressed by Felix managing to get a KNITSONIK frank on her envelopes! How great is that!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

In the perhaps ludicrous hope that my life consists of more than feeding the little people, changing nappies and dealing with offal (more on that anon), I've reopened my Etsy shop.

And to celebrate, I'm having a sale! Woohoo!!!

Just purchase 2 kits from my online shop between now and next wednesday and you get a 3rd kit for free. Whoopeee!!

Etsy cannot deal with such complicated sales, so make sure you buy 2 kits and leave me a note on the purchase to say which kit you would like as your free kit. The cheapest kit goes free so make sure that is the one you ask for in your comment.

This offer ends next Wednesday 22 October at midnight and cannot be used in conjunction with any other coupons.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Invasion of the little people...

Yes, another extremely small person has arrived into our lives. This makes the wee man seem like Gulliver in Lilliput by comparison. 

It has only taken me a month to write this post and I am typing from under a sleeping babe right now so I'll be brief. Things will be quiet around here for a while as we all welcome the new lady into the household. It's been a veritable population explosion here this year between the sheep (from 4 to 7), the goats (1 to 3) and humans (3 to 4). The cats are maintaining their numbers thankfully. Oh, and we have a neighbour's horse who has come to stay for a while. So there are plenty of creatures to look after and not much brain-power left in the adults. Dealing with the poo, be it nappies or piles of sheep and horse dung is about as far as our mental capacities can take us at the moment.

In other news, for any of you about Longford on Culture Night, my sister and father and myself along with three others will be showing some work as part of the Engage Longford group show. I'll attempt to document it here after friday. In the meantime, back to dealing with poo.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Adventures in (extremely easy) liquid soap-making

I have become a convert to liquid soap. It has its pluses - the small person enjoys squirting it out (and anything that encourages hand-washing round here is a plus); it's handy to use when your hands are very dirty - say, covered in sheep poo just for example; and thirdly, I'm hoping it will be resistant to my mother's soap destroying tendencies - as someone who always washes the bar of soap after using it, she somehow manages to turn our soap to a bowl of goopy liquid within but a few hand washes. 

So, liquid soap is the new flavour of the month round here. But jaypers* **, the stuff is expensive. 
 A quick intermediate-length internet search later and a little tweaking, and I have an easy recipe for it that works. And is really cheap, hooray!

This recipe is for making liquid soap from bar soap, but it seems that not all soaps are made equal. I used olive oil soap - cheaply available from health food shops and known as Castile soap in the States. I believe a good quality handmade soap would be good for this recipe too. And smell even nicer. 

Without further ado:

How to make liquid soap from olive oil soap.

You need:
50g olive oil soap, grated
600ml water
Some essential oils if you want a smell

 Bring the water to the boil, turn off the heat, throw in your soap and whisk or stir to melt.

 Leave for 12-24 hours.

 That's it! Yes, it is THAT easy.

This recipe makes about 2 bottles worth of soap.

I added some essential oils to half of it and popped it in an empty soap dispenser. I had to use a whisk to get the oils mixed in as it was pretty set by then, so I wonder in the future about leaving the soap to cool for a while - just until it is cool enough to pour in a bottle, and then adding the essential oils and pouring it in your bottle - it would be much easier to pour in as a liquid than a soapy gel.

Perhaps my life has been reduced to a shell of its previous excitement pre having kids, but I found this extremely satisfying. I think that is because nice liquid soap (of which I have bought 2 bottles in my entire life) is 5 or 6 euros + a bottle, and this one cost me about 50c for 2 bottles worth. 

A note on essential oils:
I added 12 drops of lavender oil, 2 drops rosewood and 1of neroli to half of this quantity of soap but could easily have doubled that as it is quite mild smelling. But use your own nose for that one.

A note on quantity:
The ratio is 1:12 soap to water, so it is easily scaled up to make lots. I just wanted to make a couple of bottles worth and stored the excess in an old jam jar.

* Project stop-cursing-in-front-of-the-child is working.
** I was going to try and explain what jaypers is for those not familiar with Irish habits of mild cursing. But I have no idea what jaypers is really. Feel free to enlighten us all if you know!