Thoughts over a cup of coffee

Disclaimer: Yes, it took me a whole month to write another post. To my defense, I’ve been rather busy. With knitting, but also with volunteering/family stuff that I won’t bore you with. And yes, it is one very long post… So please, go grab a cup of coffee, and take a comfy seat.

 

Starting last weekend, an interesting discussion has been happening in the Designers* group on Ravelry, on the theme of “industry changes”, and in particular, on being an independent designer in a changing industry. Some great designers whom I admire very much have been sharing their expertise, their opinions, and their knowledge, and I am really grateful for their insight.

Since I am not a seasoned designer, I couldn’t share a lot about my experience that would be of interest to the discussion. However, I have been reflecting on a similar subject now and again with my other half, trying to see “the bigger picture”. And the truth is that, usually, we end up with rather gloomy, pessimistic discussions.

With the current economical and environmental situations in mind, it is not too much effort, sadly, to think that there may be a time when cheap clothes won’t be available anymore. Remember that easy access to clothing is recent (only in the last century), and has been governed by the expansion of machines, cheap transport, and comparatively cheap energy. But when energy becomes rarer, affordable clothing will become rarer too. And in the long(er) term, knitting (and sewing) may well (re-)become a necessity. To me, knowing how to design and knit objects that fit is important with that respect.

However, during these times of affordable clothes in our modern countries, a lot of knowledge will have been lost. While many people from the generation of my grand-parents and great-grand-parents used to knit and sew, following generations often didn’t learn to knit, sew, mend, etc. In some countries, children may still be taught some of these skills at school, but in the few countries I know of, these lessons have been withdrawn ages ago. As a result, some knowledge has been lost, as it hasn’t been transmitted from one generation to the other. Yes, one can learn from books (I did), but one would benefit a lot from being passed down knowledge and skills from other people. Learning from a master (one’s mum, dad, granny, auntie, neighbour, etc) is, in my opinion, invaluable, as one receives not only a set of skills, but also experience, and memories.

Being from a generation of “non-knitters” who became a knitter mostly thanks to books (as, sadly, I could remember very little from what my granny had tried to pass down to me when I was wee), I want to pass down the knowledge and experience I develop as a knitter. This is why, as a designer, I try to push the boundaries of the knitters who decide to knit from my patterns: I like to have them try new things, discover new techniques, little tricks, etc. And I want to add all the tools necessary to achieve this, be it with photo-tutorials of unusual techniques, written explanations of how the object is constructed, etc. Ideally in an ideal world, I would like to have passed on something to the knitting community, by spreading the knowledge of a technique, or by offering new possibilities in terms of constructions for instance.

Maybe I’m an utopian and believe a little too much in the “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day / Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” proverb. But yes, I hope I can pass down little useful tools now and again to a knitter or two, who can then pass them down, etc.

Where does this tie in with designing, you may ask? And why am I not designing simple utilitarian things? Why do I add unusual constructions, fancy stitches, and the likes? Well, I believe in knitting as a wearable art form. I also get great satisfaction from creating a unique item, where each stitch is handmade, and which only existed in my brain before that. I also believe in knitting as a tool to explore structures, forms, and I love the engineering aspect behind knitting: I find the whole process of turning a piece of string into a three-dimensional object truly fascinating. And of course, I like the idea of learning something while having fun and enjoying ourselves. So, yes, I love doing all that, with the added bonus of sharing tips, techniques, and anything I might “unvent” during my “playtime” with string and pointy sticks.

Long story short (and back to my first paragraphs): to me, the idea of transmission in knitting is essential. Trying to make the pattern more than just a pattern. But also a way to share skills.

Of course, you are very welcome to think differently and tell me off altogether. But thank you for reading this far. May I thank you by adding a few pictures? As a proof that I’m not completely talking rubbish, here is what kept me busy recently:

 

Puddle, Puddle, Splash!

Puddle, Puddle, Splash! ©Aurelie Colas - 2014-2015

Puddle, Puddle, Splash!
©Aurelie Colas – 2014-2015

Published in February, the Puddle Puddle Splash socks feature a tubular cast-on, for which I put a photo-tutorial up on the blog to support the written directions further. Featuring a lot of texture, these are an ode to the British weather, and also a nice way to get your feet wet (!) in stranded colourwork.

As a matter of fact, note that the place of the colourwork is not candid: for those with less experience at stranded knitting and/or who tend to knit stranded too tightly, there will not be the commonly seen problem of passing the stranded section over the heel; and for those who, like me, wear out their socks under the ball of the foot more quickly than everywhere else, the extra padding provided by the stranded knitting will come in handy!

As for the inspiration behind these socks…

Having lived in Scotland for a few years now, I have learned to appreciate the many types of rain the British weather has to offer. From gentle drizzle, to horizontal rain, large drops running down my jacket, and wet toes when I fail to avoid a puddle while out and about, hiking on the hills, or simply walking the dog.

Naturally, this little fondness for drizzle, rain and other puddles translated into a sock: an ode to the wet British weather.

 

 

 

And there was Photo 51…

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The second instalment of the “Great British Inventors and Scientists” Sock Club for The Knitting Goddess has just been released on March 1st. Starting with a tubular cast-on as well, these socks also feature an arch-shaping to hug the foot nicely.

As for the name and inspiration behind the design… “Photo 51” is a tribute to Rosalind Franklin, whose X-ray diffraction image of DNA has played a significant role in the discovery of the DNA double helix model by Francis Crick, James Watson and Maurice Wilkins.

What an extraordinary time it must have been at King’s College, in London, when the three dimensional structure of the DNA was not quite discovered yet.

Note: Should you want to join the sock club, have a look on  The Knitting Goddess website as the sign-ups for May have just open.

 

And soon to be published: Inside-Out Hypnosis…

Inside-Out Hypnosis ©Aurelie Colas - 2014-2015 ... this is what you knit

Inside-Out Hypnosis ©Aurelie Colas – 2014-2015
… this is what you knit, not what you wear…

Keep your eyes peeled for a fun pair of socks. Some of you know about this design already. The design works great with solid/semi-solid colours as well as the most crazy variegated colourways. You knit-knit-knit-knit… graft, tidy the ends. Turn inside-out and, …voila!, a fun pair of socks knitted from the inside!

 

 

 

My cup is empty. Time for a refill. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to your comments, either good or bad.

Woolly yours,

Aurelie/spinnygonzalez

 

 

PS: why this title? Because my (filter) coffee machine broke down (built-in obsolescence? I wouldn’t dare to think such a thing exists of course…), and I bought a new one today, and I am enjoying this just-brewed coffee very much.

 


* Note: Designers is a group/forum on Ravelry. The first line of the description for the group reads: «This is a professional group for designers of all levels! This group is a place for you to discuss your design dilemmas and questions and to share tips, tricks, and resources.»

 

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8 Responses to Thoughts over a cup of coffee

  1. Susan says:

    Dear Aurelie, Very thought provoking and very true also. While we are in the knitting/weaving/spinning/sewing community it is hard to remember how much IS lost. Then someone will ask, while I am spinning, “Are you weaving?” Yipes! Some of us try to go into schools to show how things are made. Thank you for this post.

    • spinnygonzalez says:

      Thank you, Susan. I was a bit twitchy at the idea of publishing this post. I’m so relieved to see that I’m not the only one thinking along the same lines.

      Speaking of spinning, and going into school, I just volunteered to go to my son’s playgroup to show the children some spinning, knitting, and I’m planning to bring some clean locks, and a knitted jumper, and explain the process. If/When this happens, I’ll make sure I report about it on the blog.

  2. Gillian says:

    Very thought provoking. Knitting has changed greatly in the 40 or so years that I have been knitting. I was thinking/ hoping that it was ‘making a comeback’ thanks to the internet. I think 2 or more generations ago people knitted out of necessity, now it is for different reasons. I understand what you are saying.
    Since I started knitting again 2 years ago ( after a long break) I have learnt many different techniques thanks to patterns like yours , Janices and others. And I feel confident to try them knowing I have good instructions and on line videos to help. (Just this month I did Italian cast on and bind off for the first time.) It is good to always be learning and also to have the opportunity to teach others.
    Lovely socks and happy to hear the patterns are available! I have been living in a brioche world for a few weeks now but coming up for air soon. Itching to knit some socks again soon..very soon..

    • spinnygonzalez says:

      Thank you, Gillian, for your lovely comment. And for taking the plunge and learning so many techniques. You are right, it’s a matter of feeling confident, and not being afraid of failing: learning is a process we are so familiar with when we are little, and we forget so much about it when we grow up.

      As for your trip to the brioche world, that’s unknown territory for me, and one land I’m eager to discover some time. Great that you’re having fun there. But yeah, it will be lovely to see you come back for some sock knitting when you have a chance 🙂

  3. knotrune says:

    I would be very glad to see the end of so much cheap clothing, since it mostly exploits the workers and the environment. I doubt it would end suddenly, making all clothing ten times the price overnight, but I do think it would be a good thing for the planet if we all slowed down a bit. I already have enough clothes to keep me warmly clad for the rest of my life! Not fashionably, and they may wear out, or need alterations if I got fatter or thinner, but there are simply too many shoddy, poor quality, unnecessary clothes being made. So I hope you’re right!

    I wouldn’t want to knit a plain utilitarian garment 🙂 that would bore me. I like learning new things as I knit. There are plenty of patterns around for ordinary clothes, so do please keep designing different and interesting things!

    • spinnygonzalez says:

      Well, in a way, I agree with you: I feel so sad to see all those extra-cheap clothes, and all those teenagers (and grown-ups) buying clothes that they will wear only once, etc. And to think of the work conditions of those making them, and of the environment, etc. But while I hope this situation will end, I am afraid that it will be the sweetest part of the change: sadly, I think the same will happen with food, and many necessary products and services.

      And, well, thank you for liking those ‘knitting patterns with a difference’ that come out of my silly brain. x

  4. Margaret says:

    I loved this post as it reminded me of a time not so long ago, when I was a little girl – the 1950s. In those days in N.Z. where I grew up, everyone knew how to knit and sew and my mother made all our clothes apart from shoes. All my friends of my age know how to knit and sew, but then somehow, with the advent of cheap clothes, people working more hours outside the home, the next generation weren’t as interested. I think there is a resurgence in these skills now. And I, for one, really admire the way you add new twists and skills to your designs. I hope to knit one of your original patterns very soon.

  5. Pingback: Of community, and a sock club update | The Auld (Woolly) Alliance

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