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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Machine Knitting Handspun Yarn

Last weekend was the Sheepdog Trials event in Kingston at Grass Creek Park. It's an annual event in which I have taken part for years. I have a lovely time and my work travels back to far flung places such as the US and Australia! 
The skein I was handed.
One of my favourite parts is the Sheep to Shawl event where Handspinner/Weaver guilds race to the finish working on a woven shawl which starts with a fleece straight from the sheep. I stood watching for a while, chatting to the spinners saying that my Mum once spun be a tiny bit of yarn to work on the knitting machine and I wondered if a knitting machine would qualify for the 'shawl' part of the sheep to shawl....rules inspected - No. Anyway they would have to spin way more to compensate for the warp that it already on the handweaving looms at a Sheep to Shawl.

At the end of the day one of the spinners handed me a skein of yarn they had spun after the event especially for me to give it  a try. I brought it home and washed it in Eucalan, not a big wash so it still smelled a bit of 'sheep' but lots of 'guck' came out. Here it is hanging on my washing line.

 Here is is dried and ready to wind and knit.
Small ball.

 Here it is on the knitting machine, I had to be careful as the fluff in the yarn kept getting caught on the brushes so I had to pull it tight as the carriage came close to the work.

I used my Brother 930 with a lace pattern on Tension 5.

Here is my finished swatch using the whole skein and then steam pressing it. I may wash it again to see if I can soften it up and get the rest of the 'sheep' smell out (which I actually like!)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Summer '14 Exhibition

As a wearable art textile artist I rarely exhibit in 'art' shows that feature wall art (paintings, hangings etc) but I made an exception with this show....I took in my 'Village in Spring' felted jacket to be hung on the wall in the Summer Exhibition at the Window Art Gallery here in Kingston.

The Window Art Gallery is attached to the Kingston School of art and is a bright space which has hosted a myriad of wonderful art exhibits. This one will be fun because the call out was to all artists in Kingston or owners of art, not necessarily the artist. 

I took in my jacket after putting the buttons on it. I usually wait to fit the purchaser before I put them on but I wanted it to be complete....I love this jacket....maybe because it looks so good on me?!

Now I need to check my stock for my
Polymer Clay Workshop
here at my studio tomorrow

July 17th 10 - 4.

I still have room for one or two more.....
613-545-5986 or

So do pop down to the gallery for a peruse of fine local art.

July 16th - August 28th
647 Princess Street at Victoria, Kingston ON.

Call for hours but usually Wed - Sun 12 - 4pm

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Help!....I Have Help!

For you machine knitters doesn't this look like a fun machine....I haven't investigated but it looks like you set it up and let 'er rip! That's what the uninitiated have been saying I do for years....we know it's not so by any stretch of the imagination.

Anyway, I don't have a whiz bang machine..except for my Garter Carriage...and even then I seem to be doing short rows and shaping which means I have to sit in front of it while it knits a few stitches.....I have a STUDENT!

Years ago I had a young women from high school who used to come for about three hours a week and knit sleeves for me. This Summer I have Ella, a high school student doing a placement who requested me. My studio didn't scare her off as she had already visited a couple of years ago on a studio tour.

At 17 she is an accomplished hand knitter and I will make a machine knitter of her before too long. 

Her teacher says she is to do anything that is involved in running this business: inputting receipts for bookkeeping, setting up for a show (I have the Sheepdog Trials coming up), knitting, felting, photographing work, learning to make and design buttons, helping at workshops....the list is endless.

(Of course this means I'll have to tape General Hospital and watch it at night instead of as I knit!)

       .....I'm so excited.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Getting Personal - Work Related Health Issues.

There are many health concerns that go along with doing what we artists and artisans do on a daily basis. We have to contend with repetitive stress on various joints in our hands, elbows and arms, maybe even legs (I do alternately roll my felting with my feet).

Anyone who sits for hours at a computer designing illustrations, photoshopping photographs and so on has their back to think of and the fact that they are not doing the standing that we are told is better for us.

Having sewed, knit and now felted for most of my life and for over three decades for a living I've had my share of aches and pains. I suffered for more than a year with De Quervain syndrome in  both wrists. That was from using a Dekker comb for moving stitches on my knitting machine while using cotton....which is not forgiving! The cure was to immobilize my thumbs...yeah, right! It eventually sorted itself out, with the use of hot paraffin wax treatments and wrist braces. One of my customers gave me this test in my show booth at the One of a Kind show....just to check....Pain YES!

I just pulled a muscle in my back last week shifting my heavy outdoor mirror in my car in readiness for Artfest here in Kingston. I felt a bit of a strain and spent the rest of the day not bending in the middle! Fortunately a visit to emerge (it was a Friday and my doc couldn't see me) told me it was muscular and no injury to my spine...whew!

All I could think of was my sister who, years ago, riding the bumper cars on Toronto Islands, was bumped into as she sat partly twisted with her arm around one of her girls......she spent weeks on living on the living room floor crawling on her hands and knees to the bathroom. She had injured a disc....which she still has to take care of.

Fortunately, I believe, my practice (not often enough) of Pilates helped in that my mid section was already strong....I felt better over the weekend. I was told three weeks and after a week....much better.
Trust me, this feels good!

I've spent 32 years lugging heavy stuff and I won't stop. Weight bearing exercises helps keep my old bones strong, especially as treatment for breast cancer has reduced my numbers slightly on my bone density test. I've lugged my boxes, show booth display and glass and rocks (when I used to work for two different glass artists over the years).

                                                                                                  Now the getting personal part....for which I'm working on an Indigogo project to get myself a felt rolling machine ($4000)....when I work on my wet felting I spend most of the day standing. When I'm laying out my design, felting and fulling at my work table, which is raised up to just above my waist height, I'm on my feet....and I found I got....hemorrhoids!  Also my feet get really tired too.                Yup, sorry, fact of my life...but when I stop and go back to knitting (sitting at my knitting machine most of the time) and up and down to the ironing board they go away!                        This image is from a 'Wired' post.

I know they say it's good to stand to work as this image and article shows....but I think there can be too much and also I'm not 30 any more!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Reviving An Old Passion

Well, the only thing this has to do with knitting is that I am working with a Cotton Jersey knit fabric. With an honorarium book token I went off to Chapters to pick up a book on dyeing I had seen....but I came home with a sewing book:

'Alabama Studio Sewing + Design' 
A Guide to Hand-Sewing an Alabama Chanin Wardrobe.

Its from the company Alabama Chanin which is all about simple, stylish, quality wear made from cotton jersey knit. I love that is's 100% cotton as I only wear natural fibres (those 'personal Summers' require no synthetics)! And I love that I've been doing hand stitching which I used to do a lot when I was waaaay younger and growing up in England.

Here is my first outfit, consisting of a long sleeved T and elastic waisted skirt. Yes, every stitch is done by hand, the side seams, neck binding, top stitching, even sewing on the waistband by hand.  I started while I was on holiday by the relaxing and escapist. Using cotton jersey I got from Designer Fabrics in Toronto....and grey was the  best colour I could find, at about $6 a yard. I cut a bit and practiced some o the stitches in the book...straight and stretch.
Here you can see my stitches in the seams and around the neck.  Also, a note, none of the edges are hemmed....just left a nice raw cut edge. (So that makes it easier!)
I then went on to make the camisole. The pattern for the T was a bit small so I had to cut it a bit larger and it fits me well (not so much this size 10 form) so when I cut the cami I did the same and it came out a bit larger. I stitched two more 'darts' into the back of the cami to bring it in and it fits better now....I may do a couple in the front. There is a cami pattern with more seaming...maybe next Summer for that.

Stencil sample.
There is lots of stencilling in the book and in their work but I haven't decided how or where to embellish. I could cut some shapes out and stitch them on or just stencil. Until I decide I first did a test patch....which I might turn into a cushion, but for it's first wearing, to a friend's art opening featuring flowers, I just stencilled a long strip and wore it as a belt.

Well,  now that I have done my first three pieces I'd like to make a long dress.....

Hand stitched elastic waist band.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

May Flowers...& Art Tours.

Here is one of the yellow bicycles scattered throughout the Beaches neighbourhood of Toronto where I spent last weekend for the Beach Studio Tour's 20th Anniversary. It was quite an eventful weekend to say the least! 
I was the guest of painter Roderik Mayne and his wife Susan (who bopped around all weekend baking cookies, making coffee, offering wine, putting out cheese & grapes!! when she should have been doing her own work).  I fell in love with Rod's watercolours and their house...the back of which plunged into one of the Beaches ravines with trees, wildlife and a coyote den!

I had a lovely day for the drive down and setting up, then a bunch of the artists went on the 'whirlwind' tour from location to location to visit each others spots and see the art. We were location 12 so I hightailed it back, parked the car but as I shut the door my heart started to race! Too much running around, no lunch and stress, just a we blip...or so I thought....until it didn't stop and I started to feel light headed. Though not new to this it has been three years since I last headed to emerge to see if they could slow down my arrhythmia. I even thought I had is sussed as the three year break seems to be associated with my doc recommending I go back to taking a bit of iron. (A friend also had good results with this supplement). Anyway, poor Rod was now dealing with faint, gasping practical stranger on his sofa trying to regain oxygen and normalcy....then asking him to run her to emerg out of fear. As happened once or twice before, there was a lower heart rate after sitting in the waiting room of the Toronto East General for half an hour...with the help of  the nice lady checking on everyone in triage I decided to head back to Rod's in time to prepare for the evening opening. A huge thanks to Rod for being so calm and sweet!

You can see how I had a lovely spot in Rod & Susan's dining room and with our love and use of colour our work displayed well together. Our location at the eastern end of the Beach was well attended...even with some climbing the steep hill to get there!

After we shut up shop on Saturday evening I parked on Queen street to pick up some wine to take to my hostess where I was staying the weekend and decided to wander through my old stomping ground. Wandering down to Ends I checked it out to see if there was anything worth a bob or two for me to add to my wardrobe....yes, a white shirt dirt cheap. While paying for it I checked out all the framed clippings on the wall....then I saw this one from 1978...when I worked for Zolzz (my old friend Harold Weisfeld). I think this is the Sun or the Star. There I am working with pine factory molds which he salvaged and turned into art. I manned the Zoltzz gallery on Adelaide back in the late seventies! We even had a fashion shoot or two there! 

It was a weekend of old colleagues and clients stopping by and a couple deciding to add to their collection of CMB Designs knits! Such fun. Jennifer Cline and I even spent a little time going over the old tour brochures and Beacher articles from the '90's.

The phone rang as I packed up and old friend Marilyn Lake was asking if I had time for a  visit and a bite....though I wanted to get home I decided I needed the break and the visit.  I was subjected to a super cup of tea and a delicious dinner cooked by her other half Brian while we caught up and I looked as what they had done to their house (they are architects). Thank you Marilyn & Brian.

I'm so proud of the gang in the Beach carrying my 'baby' forward for so many years. I have participated for a number of years in to the 21st century but not for a was great!

Now I'm on to the Thousand Islands Arts Spring Art Fair in Rockport.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

One of a Kind Show Spring 2014....

G - 47,  right across from the Fashion Show stage (note my valances)! last! Famous last words you say, well my husband sold my light bar at the show to Karen Gunna, from whom I bought a commemorative (well kinda) leather if I do return it will be in the dark!

Shelly (centre) with daughter (rt) & goldsmith friend Sandy. 

I had a great time this year with my neighbour to one side being amazing goldsmith Shelly Purdy ... who I discovered is related to one of my lovely we all got chatting. On the other side was a couple of young gentlemen for whom this was their first time, however one of them had a lot of high end retail experience under his belt so I learned a few things from him.

Felted vest in the 'accessories' show.

I loved being opposite the Fashion show stage in the centre of the show, the big wide aisle where the cafe is and the exhibitions and competition. When I got my booth number it seemed to spell an omen as I was thinking that I didn't want to do this show any more....get rid of the stress and the huge booth fee.

Host Joey in one of my felted jackets....for Easter!

What is also a treat, when we go to Toronto for a show, is to see my stepdaughter and our grandsons.  Show hours are gruelling and don't allow for any outside time except for sleeping so I bring them into the show for a visit and a look around, Alana bought a bag from Karen Gunna.

Newest grandson checking out the yarn cones.
It is always great to do any show like this if only for the connection with other artists I have known for the three decades I have been in this business. There are still some of the older long time creators hanging in as it serves as a presence to our clients...we're still here, we have new work and are always pleased to  have you drop by, even just to say hello. 

There are a lot of new folk coming up, especially as there is the Etsy section, lovely young women and men (mostly women) starting our at least 10 years younger than I was when I started out....they will go far. From there they often get their designs (whatever medium) produced and manufactured, some keep the hand made work as well, which is what the 'One Of A Kind' is all about.

I don't see as much hand made one of a kind as we used to and because the show has been sold and sold and now is owned by I'm not sure who, there is no one to wander by all the booths to say hi, connect, check you out and answer questions as in the earlier years. It seemed like being vetted or spied upon sometimes but we didn't mind it and now I miss that.

All packed up and ready to head home.
Over the years I think the lugging of my stuff in and out of shows, putting everything up and such, have kept my body and bones strong (I make it a practice to lift heavy things...knees bent of course) and my mind reasonably sharp. I even remembered to dig out my valances that I made for the times I had a corner 10' x 10' booth to hide the light bars, this time I used them to hide the hooks from which I hang my wares and signs. I took so much time sewing, hemming and buttonholing my 9 drapes and my valances I should remember to use them. The drapes have always come in handy.

My 'stuff'.
Well, I'll still be lugging in and out of shows but none with the high prices of booth, electricity and parking as this show. The smaller shows and tours I also do we artists either run ourselves or have a major part in....yes we have the work to do (designing signs, logos, handing out flyers, emailing our lists etc) but we also have waaaay more control. That is why I started the Beach Studio Tour in 1994, something in the city (Beach neighbourhood of Toronto) that would be walkable, with places to eat and relax where the artists could show all of their different creations.

....that is where I will be headed next...