Monday, 30 March 2015

My design process

I am often asked how I design my blankets, so I thought I'd share a photo diary of my process.
I don't start out with a drawing, my inspiration comes from many varied sources, quite a few memories, the yarn and colour I use, the place I live and lots of experimentation.

I like to develop an idea and make several variations of the same design, I have been unable to do this while designing for NDS as our yarn customers want something new and exciting rather than the same old thing again and again.
But now I am about to become a full time designer/artist I can indulge myself and have promised myself I will create exactly what I want to create rather than create something that has deadlines and guidelines

The following photo's are of the development of my Kissing Circles blankets both past and present.

The very beginnings of my Kissing Circles started in 2008 when I designed my Circles blanket
It was a 3 round circle within a square.

At the beginning of 2014 I decided to re-visit circles for the first blanket of my new book, so I used the same pattern as a base for my new design, however I discovered that if I made the circles with more rounds they didn't lay flat.
So I searched the internet for crochet circles patterns and became increasingly frustrated as I couldn't make any of them lay flat.
So I ended up putting several of the patterns together and then taking bits away to make a almost flat circle.


Book blankets 1 and 2 had big circles set within a square.

I spent the next few months designing squares and triangle blankets for the book, then mid June 2014 I decided to play with the circles again, this time I wanted to just have circles on their own with no squares surrounding them.
My lovely Valerie told me circles on their own don't work as there are gaps between them which makes wonky spaces.
I hate being told I can't do something, I'm too stubborn to listen so set out to prove her wrong.
So I played around until I managed to design a filler I was happy with.

 While researching circle layouts and how to fit them together I discovered Descartes Kissing Circles theorum, even though I only understand it on a visual level I find it fascinating.
And so Kissing Circles was born, it was made in a hurry and ended up a lot smaller than I intended as I wanted to get it finished and on the wall for the Fibre East show in July.

 My next Kissing Circles design was Myrtle Scarf, its a different circles layout and was inspired by colour of the berries that grow in the East Lynn gorge.
Myrtle hasn't had much love, I blame the photo's and my issues with ancient laptops with failing screens, but I guess it might be because a scarf doesn't have the same impact as a blanket.


In November 2014 we went to see the Kaffe Fasset exhibition in Bath, I love Kaffe and have always loved Kaffe. I had a bit of an ephiphany which lead to the decision to mothball NDS.
It also made me realise that I was allowed to use the colours I wanted because even though he doesn't realise it Kaffe has told me its ok.
So I re-made Kissing Circles and the new version is called Kissing Kaffe
The photo's are a bit rubbish, so I need to take them again


I decided to make another scarf in a new layout, but didn't get very far as I couldn't get the colours right.
Even though I struggled with the colours I loved the layout, so put it to one side to come back to later.


Over the past few weeks I have been talking about adding a new colour page to my blog.
A lot of people have contacted me panicking because they won't be able to buy NDS yarn to make their blankets with in the future and I need to give them a solution.
The solution needs to be a page full of colour that makes it easy to choose which yarns to buy, so I've been playing with tiny circles.



This weekend my colour page swatches turned into a new blanket, the photo's below show how it developed over the course of a couple of days...




There was an emergency trip to John Arbon Textiles who lives just around the corner and has his shop just around the other corner when I realised that I would need a neutral colour for the fillers, my original plan was to use very pale grey, but accidentally (on purpose) bought a slightly darker shade than I wanted, so ended up using a old NDS dark purple instead.
But I did buy a very dark grey Knit by Numbers DK, which is lucky as I'm planning to use this version as a sample piece to display on my stand and to make the real blanket in John Arbon's Knit by Numbers DK.

So watch this space to see how my Kissing circles develop and whether I will ever manage to publish a colour page :-)

Colour wheel's & reminiscing

Good morning world

I feel like I didn't do much last week, except reminiscing
NDS only has 4 week's left and we still have a mountain to dye, its a race against time and I'm not sure if we are winning or not...

Although on Monday night I did take the dogs down to the Valley of Rocks for their evening walk in the rain.
We arrived just as the sun was setting, it was a small flash of orange on the horizon.
But by the time I had let the dogs off their leads and got my camera out of my pocket it had gone.
But I took this photo anyway as I love the silver (wet) road stretching off into the glowing distant sea.

And then we dyed, dyed, dyed and dyed some more.
I discovered so old jars of dyes hidden in the back of the dye room.
The dyes were all the actual plants rather than extracts, I'm fairly certain they were dyes we had brought from Suffolk and never used as the water was too acidic.
So rather than compost them I decided to give them one last try for old times sake, but this time adding lots of chalk to the dye baths to neutralise the acid.
Some of the results were amazing, the yellow is weld, we were so excited about the colour that we bought some more to use for this weeks dye session, which is for the last ever NDS update.


We also found some alkanet and brazilwood, the brazilwood dyed a pale rose colour and the alkanet dyed an amazing range of silver, I'm afraid a few of the silver skeins are due to get lost ;-)
Using these dyes again brought back some of the excitement and rekindled my love of dyeing.
For a long time I've felt we've been on an endless treadmill of update's, shows, kits and dyed to order's, dyeing the same colours over and over again, fighting with the dyes, panicking about if we'd managed to get the right colours, panicking that our customer's would be disappointed because we hadn't managed to get the exact shade they needed.

Then I fought with the stupid computers for 2 day's and we had a yarn update.
We have 2 ancient laptop's, the screen on mine is going and Photoshop is corrupted, so I have to upload my iphone photo's onto my laptop, transfer them to Dropbox, edit the photo's on Phil's laptop (which also has a failing screen, but not as bad as mine) save them in Dropbox and then go back to my laptop to add them yarn to the site as Phil's laptop moves at snails pace!!
It takes me 2 day's every week to prepare the update.
I've been saving up for a new laptop and about 6 weeks ago I almost had enough, the then stupid Beast needed a new starter motor and turbo, so all my computer money disappeared into my menopausal Land Rover and I had to start saving again.
If I was a sensible person I would sell the Beast and get a reliable cheaper to run car, but as soon as I get behind the Beast's wheel I remember why I love it so much and forgive it all its middle aged problems.
After all I'm a middle aged woman and no one has sold me because I'm a bit faulty - yet!!

By Friday I was completely physically broken, which was ok as Friday is the beginning of my designing weekend.
I was so tired and have so much to do that I couldn't work out what to do first.
So I photographed some of my stash instead :-)
The second photo is the contents of the wooden box on the second shelf down. 
Its full of the embroidery silks that I dyed in the very early NDS days before I started dyeing yarn.

After a lot of dithering I decided I'd do some work on the blog colour page I keep talking about.
Over the course of Friday and Saturday it went from colour page to blanket design.
So I'm no further forward with the blog colour page, but I do have a new blanket.
I've taken lots and lots of photo's over the weekend, but I'm saving most of them for another blog post which will be about my designing process.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Rats nests and rainbows

At the beginning of last week began with me deciding for the third time that book blanket number 8 was wrong and that I had to rethink the colours again!!
When I compared version 1 with version 2 I realised that it was the indigo rather than the other colours, it looked dirty against the other colours, like faded jeans and the darker background was what I liked best about version 1.
So more frogging ensued and then some new swatching, which I am 100% happier with.
I also added some extra colours, version 2 had 9 colours, version 3 has 19!
I'm beginning to realise removing colours from a blanket is a bad idea, when I'm not happy with a design I need to add rather than subtract colour.

I only had 3 skeins of background indigo, so I needed to dye more, which I did. 
Unfortunately I was being lazy and re-dyed some already indigo dyed skeins, I stupidly decided to just add 1 tie rather than the normal 4, the colour was perfect, but when I removed the 1 tie they ended up like this!! 
700 gms of rats nest

The rats nest is surprising satisfying to work with, luckily I make motifs, so I can just pull a strand until it stops moving, break it, make a motif and then pull another strand. I've already used one of the 100 gms nests and started the next nest.

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we dyed the next 30 kgs and Tinks guarded the wool from potential wool burglars.

On Thursday I edited about 50 wool photo's, and I looked out the office window at the sun. 
Our Exmoor internet slug was chewing up the bandwidth and it took me all day to edit and load them onto the website before the Thursday night update.

Friday was a designing day, also the eclipse day, I knew I couldn't look at it and so there for was desperate to look, so I stayed inside, Tinks guarded the window to stop me being stupid and making myself blind.

I spent all day making these tiny circles for my "colour" page.

Then we went to the pub and looked at the really high tide, the tide kind of made up for the fact
I hadn't seen the eclipse. 
Tish brought her brand new puppy for his first Friday night and so there were lots of puppy snuggles.
Orion is Rottweiler/Great Dane cross, so is going to be gigantic


On Saturday I discovered someone had taken my tiny colour circles idea and posted it as their own.
I know this kind of thing happens all the time, but I find it incredibly upsetting, I put my heart and soul into what I do and would never copy anyone else without their permission or give them credit for doing it first.
I've blogged about being copied before and had numerous comments from people saying "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery", which is probably true, but I find very difficult to accept. 
Its so difficult to explain how much it hurts, one comparison that might make sense is culture's who believe that having their photograph taken is stealing part of their soul.
I know I'm being a bit extreme, but this moment in time life is emotionally difficult for us, I am closing NDS which has been part of my life for so long and I already feel that I am losing part of myself, so losing an idea just makes it worse.

Anyway I decided to cheer myself up with a long walk up Hollerday Hill in the sun with Tinks and my Rainbow to take lots of photo's. 

Because however much you take from me I have this in my life which fills my heart and makes me happy.