Monday, September 19

Knitting and Crochet Guild Convention 2022

TLDR: a review of this year's KCG AGM and some thoughts on the funeral of the Queen. 

Well, it was a long wait to attend my first KCG convention, but it was definitely worth it. The Guild of Machine Knitters merged with the KCG before their convention in 2019, but too late for many of us to be able to attend I think as it was mostly sold out (I ended up leading a class in machine knitting). Luckily for me that year was at Warwick uni, so I didn't need to find accomodation. We were to convene in Leeds in 2020 and had to cancel our hotel bookings when COVID started to close everything down, and last year everything was done online for the same reason. 

I spent the morning packing what felt like the kitchen sink into the car - in reality, one knitting machine, one stand, a box of patterns and machine parts to donate, a big bag of garments. I think I might sell the Toyota stand on, the legs are in exactly the wrong place for the Brother clamp positions - we nearly ended up with the machine in our laps at one point! A few items I've popped onto the UK KM sales group on Facebook (which ended up not being taken out of the boot). I also packed several projects to knit on or sew up, correspondance to catch up on, the laptop, a toolbox, the DSLR which I ended up not using and my suitcase of course. Phew! I left immediately after a quick lunch and got to the venue in good time. I do need to start ignoring Mrs Garmin, the smallest amount of slower traffic and she has a tizzy and advises me to leave at the next exit, very often quite some way from the destination. The M1 was fine traffic-wise for a Friday, I wasn't in any hurry!

The convention was at the Hayes Conference Centre, which was a large country house converted into a fairly extensive conference campus. It was a German POW camp at one point, and someone commented that perhaps they were still the same beds? They were a little firm but fine by me - I was surprised there wasn't a tv in my room, but then again I had the laptop and no time nor need for tv anyway! I never sleep well in strange places for the first few nights, so holidays are always fun but exhausting and short weekends even more so. Dunno why I thought I'd need things to do, apart from knitting a few more rows on the purple poncho, I spent most of my time catching up with friends old and new. 

We all got a little goody bag containing a skein of beautiful yarn from Knit McIntosh, the proprietor James giving us a moving and passionate talk about his past issues with mental health and how knitting and colours brought him out of it on the Saturday, alongside some interesting medical information from his partner Dr Thomas Ernst FRCP. They were lovely chaps and were both wearing very lovely coloured sweaters, I never got a chance to ask what colourways as they left straight after their talk to go home, but they were gorgeous raspberry and burgundy respectively. There was also a hardback notebook to launch the KCG's new branding (the website is next apparently). We started with a lovely welcome talk and most of us got to examine the Gladys Jeskin sampler, a strip of 899 handknit samples which is so long we only managed to unwind it across four rows of the room before we had to start winding it back - it's kept on a garden hose reel and the Guild have been examining and cataloguing it based on her notes. 

I won't go into a blow by blow account of the weekend because I'm not the best witness - I was assisting Alison teaching machine knitting for both workshop slots, so I can't comment on the other workshops. Suffice to say I wish I could have temporarily cloned myself for the weekend, because they all sound amazing - 3D granny squares, tunisian crochet, cables, latvian mittens, shetland lace knitting, visible mending (we taught a tuck lace scarf using mohair, more on that later) were just day one, beginner's crochet, double filet crochet, crochet mandalas, fearless steeks, lace knitting for beginners, how to teach a craft (we taught hand manipulated techniques on the machine) were day two. My sneaky plan is to create enough machine knitters so that one day I get to attend as a punter, not a tutor! Hey, I can dream eh?

We also had a talk by Lorna Hamilton-Brown MBE, the creator of amazing magazine covers with fine gauge machine knitted intarsia - 3 rows a day for months! What patience! The closing talk was by Professor Sandy Black who did a lovely slideshow based on her new book, Classic Knits of the 80s. I do wish the days of colour would come back, we need some cheerfulness in the world right now!

Our first class went quite well - at least two students came away with mohair tuck lace scarves, and because we weren't sure about the end needle selection setting, they both got a slightly different scarf because the pattern was worked over a group of 5 needles and a single one, which would be treated as an end needle if end needle selection was activated. Some weren't quite so lucky as the mohair snapped. I think they got the idea, and the goody bag yarn would be perfect for this with more time and less pressure. The hand-manipulation class went ok but there was more to get through than we had time for. Well, there are so many techniques you COULD teach for that class, that could be a week on its own really, which is why I love machine knitting so much. 

The venue was good, the food was good (but I learnt to snaffle dessert early after missing out on chocolate orange cake) but the wonderful company and the amazing show and tells (some of which later went on to be displayed in one of the rooms) were my highlight I think. Lots of money was raised by the yarn amnesty (I resisted!) and there were lots of lovely raffle prizes, though I didn't win anything. Someone brought an entire shop's worth of crochet tools and books, so I did pick up three books on tunisian crochet (the Annie's Crochet / Annie's Attic range) because it's a technique I'd like to explore more. 

It was so lovely talking to fellow knitters after such a long time apart, and there were so many inspiring garments on display. I was quite sorry to pack up and go really, I'm sure I could happily have enjoyed a few more days in the company of such creative people. Well done to all at the Guild for a well organised event. I've uploaded my pictures here, hope you enjoy them!

Today has been more subdued, as we have been watching the funeral and committal services for her late majesty Queen Elizabeth II. I'll admit I was grateful for an unexpected extra day to decompress after the weekend, and during some of the procession bits between the two services, I did have a bit of a sort out of the craft room looking for some Designaknit notes. I didn't find them, but I did establish a bit more order in there than before and found lots of things I'd forgotten I'd acquired. The weather in London and Windsor appeared clement on the tv, it's turned cold and damp here since lunchtime. I got a bit tearful, watching the coffin sinking slowly in St George's chapel. I'm glad the royals get a private burial afterwards - all of the public events must be very wearing on them at this sad time. Most of us just get 45 minutes at a church, then 20 minutes at the crematorium, and the latter feels somewhat of a production line. 

Next week's job is to start tackling all the knitting stuff stored in the attic, and to get rid of things or sell them on to someone who will use them. 

Current mood: inspired yet subdued

Monday, September 12

Heritage open day and a chapter closes...


Received this lovely fat quarter from a swap I participated in. Lovely colours - sad to think these stamps will soon become a thing of the past though. The Queen has always just been around for most of us, strange to think we now have a King instead. I had quietly suspected something was amiss already this week, as new pms are always met at the palace normally - good for her to welcome her last prime minister before she left us. I'm not sure how I feel about things right now - the switching around of the television and radio programming is getting a bit wearying now but apparently (according to an Irish colleague) in the past we did royal funerals very badly (he mentioned drunken pallbearers) and we were the laughing stock of Europe so now it seems we must be the other way for a bit.

Because of the last minute nature of the news, and the fact it was a "free to attend" event (ie no prebooking required), my friend Chris still ran her Heritage Open Day exhibition, where lots of local craftspeople set up mini stalls and working areas in her Alexandra Arts cafe. We had weaving, cross stitch, lacemaking, bow drill jewellery making, woodcut printmaking going on. I was sequestered in the old brewery building on the Saturday, and made one pair of socks on the CSM whilst Liz knitted two fairisle hats on the Brother KH881. We had a few visitors, but mostly fellow artists and people who we'd invited personally. There was a short interview on BBC CWR and I may have been photographed by the local newspaper fixing a dropped stitch. The Leamington Food and Drink festival also went ahead I believe (the CWR reporter having just come from there) - probably too hard to cancel at short notice, again as it's a free-to-attend annual event.

Incidentally, the Alexandra Arts cafe is open next weekend with different crafts - I'm away at the KCG AGM so cannot attend. If you're in the Rugby area it's worth a look!

Sunday was much quieter, as Heritage pulled any active promotion on Friday owing to the death of the monarch. I moved my machines into the garden room, alongside the weavers, so at least I had company! I made a second pair of CSM socks and managed to squeeze a matching pair of fingerless gloves out of the leftover yarn (Malabrigo sock I guess!).


And finally, a fellow Raveller from the "Love of Letters" group sent me this lovely suncatcher kit, which I started as news was breaking about the late Queen. You can't tell now but it had numbered positions for the diamantes, on a sticky base, and it's double-sided. It's very pretty and surprisingly Zen to make one of these up, though I've yet to figure out where to hang it!


Current mood: thoughtful

Wednesday, August 31

Calculating gauge from a swatch

I'm teaching a few machine knitting beginners at the moment, and I think the maths can be a bit daunting, so I figured it was high time I did a post about how to calculate gauge from a swatch. This also works for handknitting or crochet!

First you should make some swatches, using your desired yarn, stitch pattern and tension. For example, if I was knitting with 4ply acrylic on a standard 4.5mm knitting machine, I'd knit a tension swatch of 40 sts wide by 60 rows in tensions 5, 6 and 7, seperating each one with 6 rows of contrast yarn. I would actually cast on 50 stitches in waste yarn, and then transfer needle 21 on both sides and leave that needle out of work, to give an easily visible "gutter" to measure from. I mark what tension I've used by making 6 holes above the T6 section in the waste yarn - if you knitted T6 and one dot, mark this with six holes on the right and 1 hole on the left. The swatch should be cast off and washed/treated in the way you would treat the finished garment. Marking the swatch with holes is useful - you think you'll remember what tension you used, but believe me you'll probably forget!

Top tip: If you are knitting a tuck pattern, the bigger the swatch the better - for the Passap I knitted 100 sts by 100 rows. Note what you did for future reference, I keep a notebook for this!

The next step is to measure your swatches, top to bottom and left to right. I'll use the Passap sample mentioned above, the maths works the same no matter how you worked your swatch.

100 stitches = 32.5 cm wide

We want the amount of stitches per 1 cm, and to get that we divide the width by itself on both sides of the equation:

100/32.5 = 1 cm wide

3.076 sts = 1 cm wide

Knitting patterns tend to give the gauge per 10cm, so then you divide both sides by 10:

30.76 sts = 10 cm

You do exactly the same for the rows:

100 R = 15 cm

100/15 R = 1 cm

6.666R = 1 cm

66.6R = 10 cm

So 31 sts x 67 rows equals 10cm by 10cm (I round down if it's .4 or less, up if it's .5 or more). As this is a tuck fabric, it's a lot of rows to 10 cm. You can now check this against your pattern and see if you are close to the desired gauge. Personally I'd try and match stitch gauge over row gauge - it's much easier to add or lose a row every 10 rows, for example, than to try and recalculate stitch counts, especially around necks and armscyes.

You can also work this out another way - you can calculate the width and height of one stitch. This is useful as a double check. In this case, you start as before, but rearrange for stitches/rows not cm. I think this was known as "literal equations" in GCSE maths when I learned it, but I could be wrong! The pattern I was following called for 30 s x 67 r = 10cm square

100 stitches = 32.5 cm wide

1 s = 32.5/100

30 s = 30 x (32.5 / 100)

30 s = 9.75cm

100 R = 15 cm

1 R = 15/100

67 R = 67 x (15/100)

67 R = 10.05cm

I decided 9.75 cm x 10.05 cm was close enough to 10 cm square to go ahead with the pattern as written.

I hope this post helps with your calculations!

Monday, August 29

Marbling fun


Well, I had my first ever go at marbling yesterday - the stall holder kindly gave me a big bunch of ready cut paper. Alas I didn't realise I had to prepare the "floater" liquid the night before - and in this case it wouldn't have helped anyway, because we had planned to go to the beach yesterday but changed our minds that morning. Also I had trouble getting the lid off the red and had to use a steak knife - am I the only person who overthinks those plastic "rip strips" and ends up snapping them in the wrong place?! Also I don't have any small containers for making up different colours, and I need to figure out how to be a bit more scientific making the paint up (it's 1:1 water: paint) to get the solution correct. But, a lot of fun! I have a larger container I can see being useful for bigger sheets of paper. There is sizing (alum) for treating other surfaces eg wood, pottery and cotton included in the pack. I ended up with quite a lot of paint sitting at the bottom of the pan (I probably used too much!) and of course we never have kitchen roll anymore, and my supply of rags was zero. I'm not clear if it's possible to re-use the floater liquid between sessions, the next attempt may have had a blue cast so I disposed of it. But anyway, a lot of fun! Not bad for a first attempt I think! You're supposed to curl the paper into the water so as not to get ripples / air bubbles, something to remember for next time.

Current mood: impressed

Monday, August 22

Festival of quilts 2022


I had a lovely day visiting the festival of quilts yesterday, despite a minor hitch with the trains on the way there. Far too many quilts to show and smartphone photographs do NOT do them justice - click on the one above to see a few others I took pictures of. If anybody wants me to delete a shot I'm happy to do so. Lots of folks were taking pictures and I realised I didn't always remember to include the maker in the shot (which would probably be hard to read anyway at this scale). My personal tastes run to the rainbow and loud colours - if it's colourful, it feels "balanced" to me if it includes all colours. I really liked the layout at the NEC too - the whole show was spread out over three halls, with the exhibition quilts mostly in one hall but with some others in lines elsewhere. It felt busy but less cramped, possibly thanks to COVID and there were plenty of places to sit not necessarily attached to cafes, which has been a previous gripe if you decide to take your own lunch in these cash-squeezed times (I did sample the coffee and the cake, very nice!). Amazing work, these are works of arts not something to throw on the bed! Well, not in my house anyway! I am in awe of all the makers, so much time and effort goes into these. I was very good and didn't go mad on the spending - bought some lovely batik fabric from Bombay Stores Fabrics and a marbling kit from Marbling 4 fun. I always try to buy something because exhibition stands aren't free, though quilting isn't something I've ever tried to do as yet. Dressmaking is more my thing really, maybe when I retire I'll have more time! Hoping to attend "Crafts for Christmas" if I'm around, which is in November. That's more general crafts. I managed just shy of 8000 steps yesterday, which shows you what an old crock that 10k steps a day thing is - impossible for any desk-bound worker to achieve!

This month's NeedlesofSteel machine knitting club meeting got cancelled at very short notice due to the owner of our new venue having a family emergency. Apologies to the person who turned up to find us not there - I had been in town all morning so went home early because I only had one confirmed attendee who already knew we were cancelling. We've started a whatsapp group so that I can inform everyone if it happens again - we may go back to meeting at my place if things don't work out anyway. If the establishment takes off then children running around knitting machines is a safety concern. Anyway, we shall see! Next month coincides with the annual Heritage open day weekends, so I will be taking my CSM as well as a flatbed machine.

As for my own crafting, I've started the right front of the Pauline cardigan and am onto the "long slog" of the straight bit before the armholes. I really ought to maybe finish some of the simple projects just to stop feeling "stuck" - there's a poncho and a crochet scarf that are both not far off being finished. We've been having a heatwave, and I'm very surprised the local county isn't quite officially in drought yet - but it's also meant the thought of yarny projects sat in my lap hasn't been an inviting one. Not to mention, being out and about more making the most of the summer while we can - last weekend we visited Leamington Spa's annual arts festival, which takes up all of Jephsons gardens and then some. We could easily have made a weekend out of that, with the live music and many food stalls around. Maybe next year!

Current mood: inspired

Wednesday, August 3

Pootling about on the Passap

Well, well, August already! The good news is I was given clearance by my neurologist to drive again at the beginning of last month. The down side is I'm out and about already (and £964 poorer, ouch!) so there's less time to craft. It's so nice to have my independance back, and the car is now squeaky clean too, inside and out. It cost £55 for two thirds of a tank of petrol, £55 never used to even fit in the tank before. Yikes! The only positive is it will take longer to run down as we're still WFH a lot.


100 stitches by 100 rows, ss5/5. Bottom swatch is 1066/149, top is tech 166.

Anyway, there was a Passap pattern called "Tangerine Dream" in MKM a few months ago, a very simple Tshirt type top. The pattern asks you to program in a simple checkerboard tuck stitch pattern, but I decided to be lazy and swatch two likely candidates from the pre-programmed ones instead, using a cone of red 4ply I happened to have hanging around. As luck would have it, the first swatch is pretty much to tension, the second was pretty close but I liked the first better in terms of texture. The tension was close enough anyway - I doubt I'll be wearing this as acrylic isn't my most favourite fibre to wear. So far I've managed to knit the back, with only a few oopsies. When you program the Passap at the start, you tell it to pattern over (for example) 70 stitches. Totally forgot that once I'd started the armhole increases that the pattern width would need to be expanded. Also I'm a bit vague on the needle rule - this pattern does alternate tucking EON on the front bed, and the back bed always knits, so I added an extra needle on the back. Actually I'm not sure that it made much difference, but there are a few dropped stitches on one edge to rectify when I seam it. The front is a bit trickier, because you have to cast off the front neck, and remove one shoulder from the machine whilst knitting the other one and then rehang and reset the pattern. No holding position on a Passap! That's a task for next weekend. I will edit this post when I've checked my notes and tell you which two techniques I swatched. They are lovely and squooshy and perfect for blankets. The top will be sewn up and the edges finished with crochet.

Next weekend (Saturday 13th) we're running our second, and possibly last, machine knitting event at the Alexandra Arts cafe in Rugby, 2pm 'til 4pm. £1 to park next door in the multi storey carpark (which is alas cash only). COVID seems to have made lots of folks reticent to travel, and I can quite understand that - it's such a pity though, it was a fun group. We're not going to attract younger people to the craft of machine knitting if we can only meet during working hours alas. If I didn't work I'd be attending the Long Buckby group, they are much better organised than I am! So I am not sure if it has "legs" any more. Ditto the Coventry knit wits - there are only four regulars now, two of us live in a different town, and we all struggle to get there after work sometimes. I do still get interest via Facebook, but the people rarely show up. I *think* there is still a Sunday afternoon group at the same venue (Golden Cross pub) but I am not certain.

Alas, some local oiks had already vandalised the postbox topper within a day of my taking the photos in the last post. I had to reseat the athletes - they actually have large bolts up their legs to help them stay upright, with big plastic "washers" on the underside of the main part, and luckily they are also sewn down in places. What anyone wanted with kebab skewers and a tiny tennis racquet is beyond me. I never went around destroying things as a teenager, I was too busy listening to music, climbing trees, making things and studying. Mental note, don't add props, the local kids can't resist them. I think the next theme is harvest festival, so props may be a moot point.

Current mood: happy

Monday, July 18

Holiday and some finished objects

We had a short break in Yorkshire, as the not-driving meant a road trip to Belgium was a bit unfair on the Cog! We had two nights at a spa, three in Skipton, then two in Leeds.


Skipton Castle


Skipton woods falls - I found the huntress, the horse and the deer, of Attic24 fame!

PXL_20220713_140714345 PXL_20220713_140725389

Settle were having a flowerpot festival, flowerpot characters were everywhere!


This chap seemed determined to make us his new friends where we were staying!


A gymnast for the next local postbox topper, the theme is the Commonwealth games


Another sewn top, nice and light for the current heatwave. Feel like I am being baked alive currently!

Current mood: hot