A visit to Bridget. And Vogue 8864

Last weekend we had a Jordanian adventure holiday meet-up at the beautiful home of Bridget and Julian in Mile End, East London. What fun.

On our trip to the River Jordan, we sat behind the couple, who amused us as they were so well prepared for the long coach journey. They had detailed, specialist map of the area! They had crosswords and various other well thought through and relevant reading material. And Bridget had some knitting. She was making a complicated Kate Davies design. I found it, and the knitter, quite fascinating: “Inspired by the dusk flight of a huge flock of starlings shortly before they roost, the scarf features a Turkish cast-on and is knitted using stranded colourwork.” The scarf is knitted in the round in two halves which are cleverly joined together so that you have a gorgeous graduated pattern, a double thickness scarf and no visible joins. She showed me the finished piece which is almost as good as Kate’s original, and features the same colour scheme.

Bridget had produced a wonderful array of Middle Eastern Meze, plus lamb. Nick made a huge Couronne loaf and some sweet pastries. Around 10 of us enjoyed sharing what the expedition had inspired – two amazing books of photographs, plus  some beautiful camels. Professional artist and sculptor Charlotte Morton had joined the trip and sketched and sculpted during our week away,  so we were really excited to see some of the work it had inspired.

In addition we got to see Bridget’s home and some of the art works she had made herself. A life-long textile enthusiast she worked on the costumes for opening and closing ceremonies of the London Olympics.”Most of the volunteers were recruited from the colleges and it was a real treat to be shown the latest project that the various students were working on and wanting help/advice encouragement.   One of the sadnesses is that none of us took photos as we were all keeping it secret!”

As well as being an ace knitter Bridget weaves.

She showed me a lovely green and blue scarf she had woven as well as the gorgeous orange and navy wall hanging (below). She even gave me a glimpse of her loom behind a screen in her marvellous second floor workroom, but she needs some help with threading it up. She took us around the bedrooms, complete with quilts. As you can see she likes colour (so do I). The stories are nice too. The quilt in the blue walled room is made from a large collection of gorgeous handkerchiefs, most from the 1930s and 1940s I would say. Bridget inherited these from a neighbour, backed each one, and mounted it on a complementary silk background. Unfortunately the handkerchiefs are not the same size so putting the jigsaw together was rather challenging. I loved this quilt. I remember getting a few old handkerchiefs when my great aunts died and they were just like this. Although many of Bridgets were made from silk whereas most of mine were cotton. My Mum said that a silk handkerchief will not make your nose sore if you have a cold, whereas cotton makes it red. I am not sure if this is true. Then Bridget took me to have a look at her other quilt made mainly from leftover fabrics, most of which are Liberty prints, and most of which had a story associated with them.

Inspired by Bridget and bloggers like Stephanie and Sue Stoney, one day I will learn to

  • weave,
  • machine knit (Bridget says it is terribly boring),
  • knit complicated patterns and garments (again Bridget says its fine to watch TV but avoid the Scando detectives as there is a lot of reading involved), and
  • make patchwork quilts.

But at the moment I am too busy. Bridget feels the same as me but the other way round – she used to make clothes but hasn’t for years. She pulled out a pair of trousers her mother was making before she died (a decade ago). She gave them to me to think about finishing. I didn’t commit in advance, but will examine them closely. Also I borrowed a paper pattern Bridget had in her store. Her dressmaking had more or less stopped by the 1980s but she had some real classics from that decade. I took a liking to this one. I traced over the three pieces and made it up very quickly. I like this look, but I also liked the button finish and the sleeves. So I may make it again – perhaps in a sandwashed silk.

I have experimented with block printing, screen printing, digital and painting on fabric. But the yarn crafts are another story. Do you fear getting interested in another craft, or do you embrace the diversity of creating textiles as well as garments?

16 Responses

  1. Bridget

    Dear Kate – such kind comments and you make the pattern look much better than I ever remember it. Once the loom is up you can come and have a go.

  2. Stephanie

    What a fun weekend visit. I love her quilts. I would also like to learn to weave.

    My own view is that nothing is very complicated in knitting although some techniques look so from the outside. Things that are cleverly constructed can often be fairly easy to execute in practise. For example grafting to get a seamless edge is straightforward (used a lot in sock knitting at the toes for example). The great thing about knitting too is that it’s usually very easy to undo mistakes and knit over, unless the yarn has a lot of halo, eg mohair silk which can be a pain to unravel. I think you just have to pick a project you like, dive in, and be prepared that it will take some time before you will have a finished object. There are tons of youtube videos for every technique that you might encounter. After that first project you will have confidence to knit whatever you like. Just like in sewing designing well and getting a perfect fit on the other hand take more time, patience and experience that builds on itself.

    • Stephanie

      PS I would say that you could start a project and do a little bit each week. Who cares if it takes six months to finish! 🙂

  3. What an amazing person to know, and what a lovely way to spend the weekend! I adore the pattern you chose to make, a classic ’80s look without being too ’80s, if you know what I mean! Thank you for the mention, I quite enjoy machine knitting – I go into a sort of zen state, although if it’s complicated I do have to stay alert.

  4. I rarely like an 80’s pattern, but the blouse is lovely! What an interesting spin off from your trip, so much to see and think about. Machine knitting is not necessarily boring, there’s quite a lot of interesting stuff you can do apart from sitting there dragging the carriage across. I’ve done some of most of the crafts you mention, and would love to have a few more lifetimes with the leisure to pick them up again. I found hand weaving a bit boring, but I was still in my teens and impatient to get to the cloth I could make up. Spinning (on a wheel) was very relaxing. These two together do get you cloth which is unbeatable in quality. I made a jacket and a coat from mine. The jacket, hand spun, could be washed without any shrinkage problem and was beautifully warm and soft. Did you catch the bit on the tv coverage of the Chelsea Flower Show, showing yarn being spun on a spindle from goat hair?

    • Yes, spinning, that too would be another possible area of interest. And your feedback on how it produces such a fine yarn is very interesting.

  5. Thanks for sharing your very fun sounding catch-up. I love that (as always) the textile-tragics (as I call myself) bonded over some crafty ‘show and tell’ projects! That 80’s pattern is a winner and a great style for you, Kate.

    In answer to your question, I have evolved my textile skills from making dolls’ clothes as a child, to making my own clothes as an adult (too much attention to detail for me), knitting (still can’t manage to crochet), making numerous practical items like curtains and cushion covers, to (in the last 10 years) quilt making. School lessons put me off many activities such as spinning, weaving, textile printing, even dressmaking, with all the rules that couldn’t be broken and the constant fear of making a mistake. Which is why I love making quilts because it’s fun, mistakes can be fixed or discarded and the rules can be broken. Projects can sit for weeks…months…love it.

    • Thank Kerry for your nice insight and feedback. The idea of having a project on the go, like a quilt, that you can pick up or leave for a while is an attractive proposition. I am meeting with a crazy quilter this week, so hope to do an interview for the blog.

  6. So nice of Bridget to let you delve into her pattern collection. I love seeing other people’s crafts. When it comes to textiles I think I’ve tried everything except spinning.
    I think handknitting is something that can be fitted into little chunks if time…I try to bring some on car journeys – when I’m not driving, I knit in waiting rooms…. at the sideline of hurling matches (no one ever pays much attention!).
    Machine knitting requires more concentration and planning, as well as being noisier! I have a machine which isn’t getting enough use, but just yesterday found a better table and have set up my machine again so fingers crossed 🙂

  7. I have tried knitting, but after four years am still just making simple scarves. My one attempt at a sweater was a dismal failure. My daughter lives in Chicago, with really cold winters, and she always loses her scarves–so I simply knit her new ones. Sewing is really enough for me.

  8. What an amazing weekend! Now I imagine you traveling all over, visiting artist friends and having artist weekends. 😀

    Those wire camels are amazing — I especially love the little one. It’s so neat how she made the same camel in different mediums!

    That scarf is gorgeous! I actually went over to ravelry to look for it and found that I’d already favorited it a while ago. :D:D

    I love trying out new crafts! The latest one I want to try is needle felting — I bought a kit, but I haven’t used it yet because it’s so cute and I’m a little afraid of messing it up. hah!

    • Needle felting! Yes, of course Alli! Some of the animals look so lifelike – using natural wools in variegated colours seems to impart a special liveliness to the models. Your craft skills are amazing – toy making, quilts, dressing up outfits, handbags, as well as clothes.

      Charlotte really is a talented woman. She started the small camel with a piece of electrical wire she found on the floor of the Bedouin tent we spent New Years’ Eve in. She actually measured up a real camel when we were there so she could get the proportions just right (I wondered why she travelled with a tape measure).

  9. Lovely post and thought provoking.
    Since taking up knitting again I’ve only knitted socks and have found that I just cannot do patterns especially the type with holes in them although I do like to do cable and I have visions of making a cable sweater, I have one I made 25 years ago which is now only fit for wearing around the house.
    Every so often I get over enthused about patchwork. I borrowed some books from the library earlier this year and spent ages browsing over fabrics online. I was tidying fabrics at the weekend and I now have a cotton scrap bag earmarked for that future quilt.

    • I want to do both patchwork and knitting, and I am tempted by machine knitting and weaving too. All in aid of creating textiles for dressmaking really. The painting on silk, and screen printing appeal as a quicker means to an end.

  10. I like a lot of the Kate Davies designs and I am going to knit her Harriet’s Hap in the summer holidays. I used to knit a lot as a pupil and student. I made this Patricia Roberts sweater with lots of cable work in the 80s and it took me forever.Then I went more into sewing. Two years ago I bought a vinage knitting machine from the 50s and I quite like this primitive not automated style, where you have to calculate your increases and decreases much like when knitting by hand. But I lack the time to do it on a regular basis. Maybe I do knit and cut, that is create my own jerseys and then sew them up.
    I also have my own leather sewing machine from the 1930s, it weighs a ton and I had to clean it and sand some parts to make it work again. So far I have only done some repair work but I would like to make leather items such as bags.

  11. What an inspiration these people are. I also love the camels – so novel.
    I love knitting(by hand)for relaxation as sewing is largely for clients. However, The Management has a big birthday coming up and I have promised him a large, and new to me, project as a gift. I will be revealing more on my blog in mid June.

Leave a Reply