New interactive pieces for The Sill, Northumberland.

The Sill, is a new landscape discovery centre in beautiful Northumberland, very close to many of the famous Roman sites along Hadrian’s Wall. The Sill helps visitors to look deeper into the landscape, culture, history and heritage of Northumberland.

View from The Sill roof

View from The Sill roof

Last year, whilst The Sill was still being built, I was asked by the Education Team to work with them on creating some interactive bags for schools and community groups to use whilst visiting their building and galleries.

Inside The Sill

Inside The Sill’s gallery, which explains many of the uses of the landscape, materials and habitats found in the area.

A large part of last year I spent working on the Shipley Art Galleries Centenary Quilt but as soon as that was finished, we started planning in more detail what interactive materials The Sill would benefit from first and how they would like them to look. So the first two interactive bags I worked on was the Moorland Curlew Bag and the Geology bag.

Curlew 1

Curlew Children’s mask

The Moorland Curlew bag was great fun to make. The bag itself is large enough to carry all the interactive pieces in plus room for teachers notes. I always find children love as much opportunity to dress up – so any chance to make wings and masks is great!

Curlew 2

Curlew wings, child size.

The Curlew bag also had a crochet nest, with eggs plus worms for the Curlew to eat!

Curlew eggs

Curlew nest and eggs.

Habitat bags always need a predator and what better than a fox – great fun for interactive role play!

Fox mask

Fox mask.

The Moorland Curlew bag itself had two sides, as the curlews nest in the moorland building their nests on the floor and they also spend their time at the seaside amongst the mudflats – which you may have seen, with their long, curled, distinctive beaks.

Using bags in the Sill

Moorland Curlew (mudflat side) and Geology bag being used at The Sill.

The geology bag looked at how the stone and the Whin Sill had been created over thousands of years. The bag itself illustrates very simply how the stratigraphic layers in the area have built up to create the landscape and stone in the area.

Geology bag strat layers

Geology bag cover, textile illustration of the stratigraphic layers in Northumberland.

To help illustrate to children visiting with schools and community groups, small textile panels were made to show how the local stone is used in Hadrian’s Wall, making roads, sandstone walls and limestone kilns.

This bag was also quilted so that rocks and stones, plus other materials could safely be placed inside.

Interactive 'stone' pieces

Four textile panels illustrating the use of stone in the area: top left – road building, top right – sandstone walls, bottom left – limestone kilns and how limestone enriches the ground and bottom right – Hadrian’s Wall.

These bags have now been delivered and I am now working on a ‘Dark Skies and Mythology’ bag plus a large, layered map which will be used up on the grassed roof, to assist discussions about how the landscape has changed over the last two thousand years.

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How to: Knit Socks Part 1

First finished sock.

First finished sock.

To start with, knitting socks can be tricky….but well worth the effort! AND, once you’ve grasped it, you’ll never stop! Socks make great presents for anyone and everyone, for almost every occasion. Plus, the great thing is, what you need packs away really small, so if you have a nice small bag, you can keep the contents of your sock knitting inside and take them anywhere – so hours previously wasted sitting on the bus, long car journeys, by the side of swimming pools or gym lessons etc can be put to good use!

Over the next few blog posts, I will try and talk you through, step by step, ‘how to’ knit socks, using some of the funny little tips I’ve picked up from other sock knitters to help you on your way.

For a traditional pair of socks, you will need 4 double pointed needles size 2  3/4 [12], a ball of 4 ply sock wool and a tape measure. I have used sock wool which is variegated and gives the impression of fair isle.

Part 1: cast on and rib ankle cuff.

For an adult sock, cast on 64 stitches using ‘Cable Cast-on’. (See also photos below)

Cable cast-on: take needle between the two stiches to 'cast-on' the new stitch.

Cable cast-on: take needle between the two stiches to ‘cast-on’ the new stitch.

Row of 'cast-on' stitches, ready for next step.

Row of ‘cast-on’ stitches, ready for next step.

Next, separate the 64 stitches onto 3 needles – I separate them 20, 24, and 20.

Cast-on stitches separated onto 3 needles.

Cast-on stitches separated onto 3 needles.

Before you start to knit on these stiches, one tip I was given, was to take the first stitch and place it on the last needle AND then take the last stitch and place it on the first needle (these stitches over lap each other and pull the circle together).

ALSO, ensure that you cast-on edge is not twisted and runs evenly around the base of your stitches.

Knitting in the round on 4 needles.

Knitting in the round on 4 needles, with first and last stitch ‘crossed over’.

Now you begin to work the 64 stitches on 3 needles ‘in the round’. Using the fourth needle, you knit across the first needle with 20 stitches on it. As you come to the end, this needle you have just worked is now free of stitches and will be used to knit across the next row of 24 stitches. As you come to the end, this needle you have just worked is now free of stitches and will be used to knit across the next row of 20 stitches. You have now finished knitting your first ’round/row’ of stitches.

Continue working in rounds using ‘Rib Stitch’ (knit 1, purl 1) until the cuff of your sock measures 6cm.

TIP: When knitting the last stitches on one needles and the first stitches on the next needle, keep your tension tight, to ensure you don’t get what looks like a ‘ladder’ appearing between these stitches. Elsewhere, knit with a slightly loose tension as one danger I have found is that if the cuff is too tight, some people may find it harder to pull the sock over their feet.

Completed sock rib.

Completed sock rib.

Once you have completed the ribbed cuff of your sock. Change to knitting rounds in ‘Stocking Stitch’ and complete the first section of the sock using the length guides below.

NEXT TIME: Turning the heel.

‘All We Are Saying’ Peace Squares blanket update.

Just a quick update, showing you some of the lovely new peace squares we’ve received over the last couple of weeks for the Peace Blanket which will be part of the ‘All We Are Saying’ exhibition at the Holy Biscuit, in Newcastle upon Tyne in September.

To date, we have over 40 squares (many I still haven’t shown you yet!) that have arrived to us from around the World, to be sewn into the blanket but I also know there are many more making their way to us.

There is still time, if you would like to be involved, check out the details at the below all these beautiful Peace Squares.

Maragret's craft group 2 Margaret's craft group 1 Peace 1 -Margaret's emb group Peace 2 Margaret's emb group Peace squares delivered 2 Peace squares delivered Sylvia Sinclair 1 Sylvia Sinclair 2 Victoria leeks Margery Dove 2 Margery Dove Margery Tree

Call out for squares:
We would love people to submit squares to be stitched into our blanket. These can be made in any textile media, including crocheted, knitted, embroidery, beaded, fabric painted, patchwork and quilting. They can be as detailed as you have time for and we are very happy to encourage as many young people and children to be involved in this, too. When designing your piece, please remember that this is an optimistic and positive project and we do not wish to offend anyone with the wording or imagery. The squares should be 20 x 20 cm, with an extra 1cm for seam allowance.

These squares can either be made in the gallery during the exhibition in September or can be posted to:
Blanket for Peace,
The Holy Biscuit,
1 Clarence St,
Shieldfield,
Newcastle upon Tyne.
NE2 1YH

Please send your squares before the end of September to ensure their inclusion in the ‘Blanket for Peace’.

Peace Squares update.

It has been fantastic to see the response to the call out for Peace Squares to be made as part of the Artists for Peace  ‘All We Are Saying’ exhibition at the Holy Biscuit in September. I would like to share a few of the squares which have recently arrived.

All We Are Saying Peace Squares, a selection.

All We Are Saying Peace Squares, a selection.

The squares above were made by members of the North Shields Embroidery Guild and the Tuesday Crafternoon group. They are a fabulous collection, even using found items like shells to decorate the square.

Peace Square made by Margaret Graham.

Peace Square made by Margaret Graham.

Embroidered and progged Peace Square made by Kath Price.

Embroidered and progged Peace Square made by Kath Price.

If you would like to make a Peace Square and send it to us – wherever you are in the World – then please send it to:

Peace Blanket

The Holy Biscuit
1 Clarence Street
Shieldfield
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE2 1YH

The squares can be made in any textile technique – knitting, sewing, proggy matting, fabric painting etc. If the finished design size can be 20 cm square and please allow a few more cm around the square for sewing. The only thing we ask is if the square is not to be overtly religious or political, as we would like this to be a very inclusive work.

Peace in many languages.

Peace in many languages.

The beautiful piece above was sent into us anonymously and it’s a lovely piece on pretty fabric.

Two part peace square.

Two part peace square.

Give Peace a Chance embroidered square.

Give Peace a Chance embroidered square.

I hope to share more of the squares we’ve had delivered again soon.

Birthday on a Budget/Best Present Ever!!

A Unitopian Birthday!

A Unitopian Birthday!

At the weekend my youngest daughter turned seven. For a long time now, she has been obsessed with unicorns. In fact I think many of her presents from previous birthdays and Christmases have involved unicorns. So much so, it can be very difficult to get in her room for them. When asked what she would like this year for her birthday, unicorns were once again her answer.

This year, as I work as an artist, money has been more tight than usual. There has been massive cuts in the sectors I traditionally work freelance for and I need to ensure I can still pay my studio rent, insurances etc. So spending on day to day has tightened and certainly what we would normally spend on our girls for birthday presents has cut right down.

Luckily, as you may have seen on my previous pages, I can turn my hand to most craft/making/arty thing. So, I decided to hunt out some unicorn related crochet patterns and make her seven unicorns for her seventh birthday. Which was quite time consuming, proved inexpensive. The pattern I used is Amigurumi by Lan-Anh Bui and Josephine Wan, published by GMC Books. I’ve used this book before and it has great, simple instructions for outrageously cute amigurumi creatures. I adapted the horse/zebra pattern by adding a unicorn horn, plus using very bright colours.

First crocheted unicorn, in sparkly wool.

First crocheted unicorn, in sparkly wool.

Each unicorn took about three hours to make and the wool we already had around the house or was topped up from our local Poundland. The fun part was choosing the colour combinations!

Unicorn with fairy-tale house.

Unicorn with fairy-tale house.

Over a couple of weeks, I worked on the unicorns.

Five made, two in pieces...

Five made, two in pieces…

Once the unicorns were finished, we decided it would be even more fun to make a unicorn head band! So, mixing three wools together, I crocheted a triangle shape which could be sewn into a cone shape and attached to a headband.

Crocheting the unicorn horn.

Crocheting the unicorn horn.

On her birthday, her two elder sisters had created a treasure hunt for her unicorn presents. She was given her unicorn headband to where and the first clue to find them. Then she was off, racing around the house to find all of her seven new friends. Since then, they have not left her side and great fun has been had, giving them all names.

A new uni-tastic friendship has begun!

A new uni-tastic friendship has begun!

All in all, I probably spent about £15 on buying more wool, stuffing and the headband. Not bad for the Best Present Ever’!

How to: Yarn Bomb a chair!

WARNING!! -This is a really fun one and could possibly get addictive!

Finished yarnbombed chairs.

Finished yarn bombed chairs.

You will/may need:

Knitting wool – double knitting and above in thickness, and lots of colours!

Crochet hook or knitting needles,

Wool needles,

Foam/seat pad,

Fabric for patchworking,

Webbing and webbing stretcher if there is not ‘seat’,

Tacks/small nails,

Hessian or similar fabric for underside of seat.

This is a great way to recycle an old chair you/friend may have or that you’ve found down a charity shop. Firstly, you need to clean your chair and tighten up any nut and bolts. If your seat has wicker for the ‘seat’, strip this as close to the wood as possible.

Strip wicker or any fabric/wood from the seat.

Strip wicker or any fabric/wood from the seat.

If you have a wooden seat, check there’s no nails etc sticking out, which could be dangerous. If you have a seat which was a woven wicker, which you have now stripped, then you will need to ‘web’ a seat – YouTube has many sites explaining this method.

Finished 'webbed' seat.

Finished ‘webbed’ seat.

You are now ready for the fun stuff! Using either crochet or knitting, make narrow strips according to a rough estimate of the width and length of you chair. I started with the legs. I calculated roughly by first crocheting a chain which I wrapped around the base of the leg and worked in treble crochet, making brightly coloured stripes.

Striped lengths of crochet for chair sections.

Striped lengths of crochet for chair sections.

When I had reached a ‘joint’ in the chair, I would slightly decrease the number of stitches to work around the joint, then increase again after. (When two joints meet the crocheted sections will be sewn together to cover the join.)

Once, the crocheted length was the correct size, I would cast off, then sew the section to around the leg of the chair, pulling tight to ensure the wool stitching is discreetly disguised.

Continue working this way, making lengths of crochet to wrap around the different joints of the chair.

Stitching the 'joints' together.

Stitching the ‘joints’ together.

If you have webbed the seat, stitch the lengths of crochet through the webbing. If you have a wooden seat, using small tacks, nail the crochet length around the base of the seat, ensuring your tacks will be covered over with your seat pad later. Also, ensure all tacks are safely hammered in.

Wrapping the length of crochet around the webbed seat.

Wrapping the length of crochet around the webbed seat.

Once your chair is fully yarn bombed, you will now need a foam seat pad which you can either buy pre-cut from a shop. Then, you will need to decide how to cover it. I choose to cover my seats using my daughter’s skirts and trousers they had grown out of. These were in great fabrics – ideal for upholstery – such as cord, velvets and denims. I decided to cut them and sew them into ‘crazy patchwork’. This is a traditional technique, which uses up small pieces of fabric. But, you could choose to continue with the crochet/knitting and make a cover or use a full piece of fabric to cover the cushion pad.

Chair covered in crochet yarn bombing.

Chair covered in crochet yarn bombing.

The fabric, with the pad positioned underneath, was tacked around about 1cm from the top edge of the seat. I then, made a crochet binding to cover the tacked edge, by crocheting a long length in two rows of double crochet. This was then discreetly sewn onto the patchwork and the chair.

Crazy patchwork seat cover, with crochet binding.

Crazy patchwork seat cover, with crochet binding.

You’re now almost finished! To make your chair look neat and tidy, it’s always best to cover your working, so that there’s no little wool ‘tails’ dangling from your chair. I would, therefore, recommend to now cover the underside of the seat with hessian to hide your working. This can be done with a small square of hessian, or another fabric you have at hand, and tack that to the underside of the seat.

Underside of seat, with the 'working' of your chair hidden underneath.

Underside of seat, with the ‘working’ of your chair hidden underneath.

Now, you can enjoy your most gorgeous and fabulous seat – invite your friends round and maybe make another!

My finished chairs on display at Ouseburn Open Studios this weekend.

My finished chairs on display at Ouseburn Open Studios this weekend.

Finished chair.

Finished chair.

Recent finished projects

It’s always great to report that you’ve actually finished something, as often I have many W.I.P’s (work in progress) but I thought I’d do a little catch up – mainly to make me feel better – about some of the things I’ve finished recently and a couple I didn’t blog about at the time. Like the socks below, which I had speculated about finishing in time for Christmas to be my present to myself – which I did – but I became so caught up in the fun of family Christmas stuff and my jazzy, stripy socks were left forgotten in the blogosphere.

Christmas present socks

Christmas present socks

This week, I also finished another pair of socks for my birthday! This is not like me, I hasten to add, normally every pair of socks I make are usual given to friends and family, so to have actually made myself two pairs of socks in three months is pretty good going! Sock knitting is something I do a little of, often. I have a very cute little bag a friend gave to me a couple of years ago and it always contains my current socks in progress, so that if I have to hang around for a while whilst the girls are at a party/swimming lessons, the bag is taken with me. Below are my lovely new, very bright, slouch socks.

Slouch socks, a present to myself!

Slouch socks, a present to myself!

Now, I apologise for not up dating on whether I’d finished my Stash Buster Challenge in time during February! Well, I did, literally the night it needed to be finished to complete the challenge in time, at about 30 minutes to midnight, my tank top was finished!! I had made my own pattern up for the tank top and I probably could have made it a size smaller as the lovely wool I used, ‘Click by Sirdar’, was quite stretchy and forgiving. But it’s lovely, soft and cosy!

Stash buster challenge tank top February 2015.

Stash buster challenge tank top February 2015.

Last week, I was busy preparing my studio for a visit by a local satellite TV channel Made in Tyne and Wear to discuss Ouseburn Open Studios and my work. So besides tidying, I decided to make a lovely Spring Wreath to go on the front of my studio door.  It is made using freeform crochet and has now got me in the mood for more crocheting – so I may yarn bomb the street where my studio is – or even just a few of my chairs!! My interview will be on the TV next Monday and I may – depending on the results – try and embed it into my blog… we’ll see.

Spring Wreath in Crochet.

Spring Wreath in Crochet.

Well, I said I was inspired to go a bit mad with the crocheting, and after seeing another crocheted gnome house on Facebook, my daughters have decided we need to make a village! This was last nights Gnome house and we now even have designs for the rest!! Still, when your youngest daughter is 6 years old, your allowed to not take life too seriously sometimes! And going off on a slight tangent today, I also made her a crocheted unicorn but that’s for her birthday and hopefully there will be a whole blog post infested with unicorns soon!!

Gnome house!

Gnome house!

Another future idea, developed from the mad gnome house, crocheting craziness, as we have an allotment, I may also make some gnome houses using plastic garden twine, so that they can stay down there in the vegetable beds!! Might make a spring wreath like that, too…

‘All We Are Saying’, Call out for Blanket for Peace textile squares.

As part of a very exciting series of exhibitions to be held in September, ‘All We Are Saying’ is an international “shout out” for peace with a series of exhibitions in Liverpool, Middlesbrough, Gateshead, Newcastle and Sunderland. It is the idea of Sunderland based artist Barrie West, who has co-ordinated and inspired many creative people across the World to become involved in this amazing project.

The ideology for these exhibitions is apolitical, non-religious, non partisan or nationalistic, and (as far as possible) zero budgeted and non profit making. This is not a commercial exercise but a cry from the heart.

Alongside the All We Are Saying exhibition to be held at The Holy Biscuit in Newcastle upon Tyne and leading up to it, we are also encouraging members of the worldwide community to collaborate with us in creating a ‘Blanket of Peace’: evoking the comfort, safety and security of the community by bringing together handmade textile squares to produce a blanket. The squares will visually evoke the meaning and feeling of peace; producing a blanket that becomes a collective symbol of peace. The Blanket for Peace will be on display at The Holy Biscuit when finished.

Blanket for Peace square 'Happy People'

Blanket for Peace square ‘Happy People’

Call out for squares:
We would love people to submit squares to be stitched into our blanket. These can be made in any textile media, including crocheted, knitted, embroidery, beaded, fabric painted, patchwork and quilting. They can be as detailed as you have time for and we are very happy to encourage as many young people and children to be involved in this, too. When designing your piece, please remember that this is an optimistic and positive project and we do not wish to offend anyone with the wording or imagery. The squares should be 20 x 20 cm, with an extra 1cm for seam allowance.

These squares can either be made in the gallery during the exhibition in September or can be posted to:
Blanket for Peace,
The Holy Biscuit,
1 Clarence St,
Shieldfield,
Newcastle upon Tyne.
NE2 1YH

Please send your squares before the end of September to ensure their inclusion in the ‘Blanket for Peace’.

All the squares will be posted on our All We Are Saying at The Holy Biscuit Facebook page, so please let us know, who you are and a little bit about your peace square.

Stash buster progress

On to my second ball!

On to my second ball!

Well, I love this wool!! I’ve never used Click by Sirdar before and I bought it many moons ago because it was colourful and a good price! But I would highly recommend it to knit with. I have a feeling it may have a tendency to bobble when wearing but there are devices to limit that.

As you can see, we also have a little bit of snow at the moment, which I do love.

Fabulous colours!

Fabulous colours!

The wool knits up on 5mm needles, so hopefully my tank top won’t take too much time to make and I might find more wool and projects for February’s Stash Buster Challenge.

My girls have currently been distracted by the Hama beads and are doing their own version of stash busting with them! They found the knitting looms rather ‘tight’ to work with, so I think the snake is now going to be hand knitted.

Stash busting Hama Beads!

Stash busting Hama Beads!

I finished working on my ‘Portrait of a Green Man’ last night, so I’m hoping to get him photographed tomorrow which I’ll upload as soon as I can. He’s been a very intense embroidery project but great fun.

One last picture of knitting and snow!

Stash busting birds!

Stash busting birds!

February Stash Buster Challenge!

I’d noticed all over the internet there seems to be lots of Stash Buster Challenges going on and I think in February, there is a big event on Tumblr. Now, I’m not on Tumblr – don’t know if I should be – but the girls and I decided that we will do our own anyway…

Now, the point of the exercise is to only make something with wool (or fabric etc) that you’ve had hanging around in your ‘stash’ for over a year. So, yesterday, we took a trip to the studio to have a good root around to see what wool I had which had been there for sometime. My middle daughter found the colourful acrylic wool that I always have about and she has decided she is going to make a stripy snake using a circular, knitting loom. My eldest daughter also fancied using one of the knitting looms and has started making a hat out of some chunky wool. My youngest daughter has decided that she’s stash busting the Hama beads and is making lots of lovely pictures!

I found a pack of lovely wool I bought possibly five years ago with no plan on what I was going to use it for, except that I liked the wool! The wool is Click by Sirdar in an amazing multitude of colours. I decided that I fancied making a tank top in it and although I KNOW somewhere I have a pattern, I can’t put my hand to it at the moment. So, foolishly, I have decided to try and make my own using graph paper and the suggested tension measurements to help me! Time will tell if it works!

Sirdar 'Click' wool for Stash Busting!

Sirdar ‘Click’ wool for Stash Busting!

During February, hopefully, I’ll be able to update you on mine and my daughter’s progress with our making. Fingers crossed that we get our projects finish in time and – even better – maybe bust some more wool from the stash!!