Hyacinth, a visually impaired knitter from Acton – Londoner #27

Introducing Hyacinth, one of my visually impaired Hand Knitting students, who is subject 27 of the fabulous 1000 Londoners film project.

She is 1 of 3 visually impaired knitting students that I currently teach at South Thames College, Tooting Broadway. The courses are Adult Education and not therapy, so they are open to all.

Hyacinth couldn’t knit at all when she started, but she had heard about another visually impaired student, Felicity, who is a bit of a star knitter and so wanted to give it a go herself. I enrolled Hyacinth on the course for the advanced knitters to give her plenty of support from more experienced knitters, including Felicity.

She fitted in perfectly – her enthusiasm and quick sense of humour soon made her a very popular member of the class. She also got started very quickly, taking instruction from my spoken words and you can see her first garment, a Paddington Bear-style jacket, in the film. You can also see some of Felicity’s exquisite work at 2:06 in the film. Felicity was too shy to be featured in the film, but she’s very proud that her beautiful silk/mohair cardigan has been given a wonderful close-up!

I couldn’t be more proud of them – Hyacinth’s journey to class involves a bus, a train and the tube to Tooting Broadway. She normally makes the journey on her own, she’s rarely late and always arrives with a smile. She’s a real inspiration to others on the course.

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Inspirational knitter makes features on Londoners’ documentary

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Extremely proud of my student, Hyacinth. She is truly inspirational. Here her success is celebrated in the Wandsworth Guardian.

Looking forward to teaching her new skills this term. I am planning to teach her Stranded Colour Work using two slightly different textures and she doesn’t know it yet, but she’ll be using a circular needle :) Before she knows it she’ll be knocking out snoods for all and sundry!

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Hand knitter Hyacinth stars in documentary project

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South Thames College hand knitting student, Hyacinth Malcolm is soon to be the focus of a short documentary film, which is being made as part of Chocolate Films social documentary project, 1000 Londoners.

The five-year digital project which aims to create a digital portrait of a city has already featured former Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, and X Factor winner turned stage actress, Alexandra Burke.

‘What’s so special about Hyacinth?’, you may ask.

Well, if you met her, you would be instantly taken with her vivacious personality and quick-witted humour. You would also notice that she loves knitting, along with many of the experienced knitters in the hand knitting class at South Thames College. But Hyacinth isn’t an experienced knitter, she took up the challenge of learning to hand knit only last year.

Okay, so she’s a quick learner, so what?

Indeed, she is a quick thinker and very intelligent, but where she stands out from the rest is that she is severely visually impaired – almost totally blind.  60-year-old Hyacinth has learned to knit virtually by feel alone, taking her instruction from her tutor’s spoken words.

Ruth Herring, Hyacinth’s hand knitting tutor approached Chocolate Films about the possibility of featuring one of her visually impaired students in the project. She said: “I picked up on the project from a news item and was really taken with the sensitivity of the film making – it’s not reality TV, it’s an important socio-documentary. Each short film is about a Londoner and the whole project is designed to be a snapshot of diversity in our wonderful city.”

Ruth emailed a short piece about working with visually impaired learners and one of the filmmakers immediately picked up on the theme. “It was the fact that Hyacinth and others with special requirements are being taught as part of a mainstream educational course, not as part of therapy”, recalls Ruth. “Despite her disability, Hyacinth is a determined woman. Her journey to my class involves a bus, a train and the Tube to Tooting Broadway. Unlike many commuters, she rarely moans about delays and just gets on with life with her wonderful permanently fixed smile. She is great fun to teach and a real inspiration to others on the course.”

“If there were a down side to teaching Hyacinth? It would be that she laughs when she drops a stitch. She knows that normally I have to step in to help her if it ladders down too far!”

To find out more about courses at South Thames College visit www.south-thames.ac.uk or call 020 8918 7777

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An Evening with…..

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Streatham WI

About twelve months ago I received an email enquiry from the Secretary of the Streatham WI in South London, who was compiling a list of speakers for the 2014 meetings.  I accepted the invitation to speak at a meeting, mainly because the members had voted for a talk on Crochet, which is one of my design specialisms and a subject that I’m passionate about, but also because I was intrigued to find out more about this long-established women’s movement post “Calendar Girls”.

Crochet has been much maligned over recent decades, mainly down to its association with badly made Granny Squares worked in bright, synthetic yarns and joined to make misshapen tops and blankets. I was pleased therefore to be offered the opportunity to assure the WI that there’s so much more to this wonderful craft than the aforementioned Granny Square motif.

Crochet is a very versatile textile form and it’s currently seeing a renaissance with young British designers like Sibling producing quirky, stunning designs, which fill top fashion pages and the catwalk alike.  Recently, designer Henry Holland paid homage to the humble Granny Square motif by digitally printing it onto fine jersey fabric to produce a collection of fun bodycon dresses and leggings. Although purists might bulk at the idea of Crochet as a printed pattern repeat, this collection also helped to revive the interest in the craft.

Digital printing aside, it’s also fun to make your own Crochet pieces and it’s relatively easy to learn ….. in a small group. My meeting with the WI was confirmed and the group requested a talk followed by a workshop, where they wanted to have a go at learning some stitches. The realisation soon set in of what I’d let myself in for – not only was Crochet going through a renaissance, but so was the WI movement. I was informed that there are regularly 60 attendees at the Streatham meetings ….. and they all wanted to “have a go” at Crochet!

The warm welcome that I received from the Streatham WI was amazing. The age range immediately struck me; from late teens to late 80s; some were mums and daughters with grandchildren in arms. It took me back to my childhood, when as a 9 year old I would sit at the back of the WI meetings attended by my mum and I’d busy myself with Crochet and Hand Knitting. Many decades on, now I was offered a seat at the front of the proceedings and a glass of wine – although tempting, I declined the latter as there was still a matter of tutoring 60 women in the art of Crochet!

My talk on Irish Crochet was well received and the fine Crochet lace samples I passed around were much admired. There was a lot of interest in my work in progress, which demonstrated how Irish Crochet motifs are made as separate items, then pinned to a backing sheet before being joined using a simple Crochet netting stitch (see photo) This technique, which was devised to replicate fine Venetian lace, was introduced to villagers by Irish nuns in 1845 as a cottage industry to provide a source of income during the potato blight. It’s popularity as a highly sought after lace product peaked in the 1880’s with much of the work being exported to the USA, where San Francisco became a major distribution centre until the 1906 earthquake.

Once I’d seduced everyone with what can be achieved with Crochet, then came the micro-teach! Looking around the group, fortunately and unexpectedly I spotted some familiar faces – fortuitously there were three members that happened to be former students of mine (it’s a small world!), along with some others that looked like they knew what they were doing, so the workshop was looking to be a lot less daunting.  It was great fun – with an experienced Crocheter on each table armed with instructions to make a simple Irish Crochet leaf, my role became that of a “speed dater” – flitting from table to table answering questions and conducting small group demos (glass of wine in hand!)

In 90 minutes I’m pleased to say that many learned the necessary stitches to complete a leaf and overall there was a real sense of achievement.

It was an evening to remember, Streatham WI.

Happy Hooking x

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Fair Isle Knitting and Curling

Keeping my knitting needles crossed for our GB Curling teams. I’ve been hand knitting a Fair Isle cardigan whilst following the Curling – both traditional Scottish pastimes.

Fair Isle Cardian

 

 

 

 

Good  luck Team GB xx

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Killers have never been this close-knit

Sightseers 2012 (Dir. Ben Wheatley)

This film has been on my “must watch” list since its release in 2012 and last night I finally got to see it! I was anticipating another quirky comedy from director Ben Wheatley and wasn’t disappointed, but what a surprise to find that I had a little something in common with one of the lead characters.

“If the caravans a rockin’, don’t come knocking.” This one liner from British movie Sightseers, written by co-stars Alice Lowe and Steve Oram is a great clue to what’s in store for the viewer. Yes, there was raunchy stuff a-plenty, but far more importantly for me; there were lots of wonderful knitting references throughout the film. Sightseers was released to fairly mixed reviews – movie bloggers either loved it or rather unfairly slated it as being very juvenile. It wasn’t perfect, but I found myself hooked once it became apparent that Tina, the female lead character, was an avid knitter!

Don’t bother seeking out this low budget British movie if you don’t like very dark comedy – think Fast Show meets Natural Born Killers, add a splash of Woman’s Weekly (circa 1968) or Elizabeth Zimmerman and you will be somewhere close to understanding what’s in store.

If you are in any way squeamish (there’s a lot of brutal killing involved), are offended by filthy language, or squirm at graphic sexual references (there’s plenty of both), then fast-forward to the knitting bits, they are worth spotting. Err, having said that, the knitting bits and the sex and violence were rather inextricably linked. The first taster came in a flash back to how Tina’s beloved dog “Poppy” met its maker – a stark warning not to leave your giant knitting needles on the sofa!

There were plenty of knitted knick-knacks in the film – both on show in their touring caravan and at Tina’s mother’s house. However, my favourite knitted piece by far had to be the wonderful woolen split crotch bikini pants, which Tina had made especially for her first holiday with new boyfriend Chris, for when they were in the mood for a “mint”.

There were moments in the film where Tina was seen knitting something featuring a yellow triangle motif, which turned out to be a sweater for her beloved Chris. She was obviously a very prolific knitter as she had it finished in time for Chris to wear in the brilliant final scene filmed at Ribblehead Viaduct, which (spoiler alert!) was a bit of a nod to road movie Thelma and Louise.

Popular literature and culture have given us many famous knitters; Madame Defarge of Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities fame has to be my all-time favourite, but this film has given us a new malevolent knitter in the shape of Alice Lowe’s character Tina.

Welcome to the knitters’ Hall of Fame, Tina. Keep the skills alive!

Come and join us for a chat on Facebook k1p1

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Knitting Masterpieces Archive 1

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I’ve been revisiting my pattern archives and yesterday came across the original, hand-drawn chart for the Mona Lisa sweater featured in my first book “Knitting masterpieces”. I’m so pleased that I have kept this piece as I love the fact that I have scribbled the calculations and notes around the pencil crayon drawing – it’s a real working drawing.

Discovering this piece also took me back to how the original idea for this sweater was borne out of a challenge from the late Paula Yates. I was invited to have dinner with Paula at my friend Karen Manner’s flat in Maida Vale; Karen was a fashion PR and wife of singer songwriter BA Robertson and since leaving fashion school I had been commissioned by BA to knit him an array of intricate intarsia sweaters for TV and film appearances. With her music biz connections, Paula fell in love with the Beatles Abbey Road album cover sweater, which I had knitted for BA – it was particularly hilarious. After a couple of glasses of wine, I found myself rising to the challenge to knit the Mona Lisa; I started working on the chart the following day (no doubt nursing a proper hangover) “Knitting Masterpieces” was great fun to write, in part because Karen organised for the knitwear to be modelled by celebrities. Paula was pregnant at the time of the photo shoot, so the Mona Lisa sweater was modelled by a friend of mine, a little known, jobbing actress called Michelle Collins…… the Mona Lisa sweater story continues.

Paula Yates 1959 -2000.  British TV presenter, writer, mother and a great laugh. RIP.

 

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The Knitted Great Escape

To mark the 50th anniversary of the original film release, K1P1.com in association with Baker-bunch present Knitted Steve McQueen in The Knitted Great Escape. You’ll be on the edge of your seat as our hero rides to the Swiss border on his trusty Crochet Triumph TR6 pursued by Airfix German soldiers. The thrilling chase takes Knitted Steve McQueen across a knitted mountainous landscape with stunning views of Switzerland scrawled in marker pen on the backdrop. Then what happens next is part of movie history………….

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K1P1 TV Feedback

I’m pleased to report that the response to the K1P1 TV videos has been really positive.

Here is just one of the comments posted for the “How to Knit Intarsia – Part 1″.

“This is the first video explaining Intarsia that I’ve actually understood. ^_^;; Very clear instructions, and I love how you show exactly what you’re doing and explain. Thank you very much for posting this! ”

Thank you for your support and look out for more technique demonstrations very soon.

Happy Knitting and Keep the Skills Alive!

 

Intarsia Sweater design by Ruth Herring

 

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How to Knit Decrease stitches Part 1 skpo k2tog p2tog p2togtbl k1p1TV

Hand knitting designer, author and lecturer Ruth Herring demonstrates how to work decreases using the skpo, k2tog, p2tog and p2togtbl stitch methods. K2tog and p2tog are used when the decreased stitches are to lean to the right and skpo and p2togtbl to lean to the left. The demonstration will help you to identify the best stitches to use for your garment shaping to create a neat and professional finish.

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