Creative Inkwells

I’m back to personal knits again – in fact, making in general.  I have some sewing projects on the go and will share those in a few weeks; the pile is growing and I need to slot in some time at the sewing machine!  Luckily the knitting is under control – relatively speaking – and in the last weeks of October I was inspired by several exhibitions, notably Quentin Blake’s in London, and seeing what illustrators have been creating for Inktober.

First things first: knitting.  As of last night, the green Drew cardigan was finished.  It should’ve been done by now, but I ran out of the laceweight ten rows before the end of the second sleeve.  Never mind!  I’m just glad it’s off the needles.  Here it is, pre-sewing up:

DrewCardigan4 DrewCardigan5I know that many knitters dislike sewing up, but I usually enjoy it because it gives my fingers a break and it’s the closest I get to doing any needlework!  There’s something soothing about hand sewing.  Plus, if cast-off projects are piling up (ahem), sewing up several knits in one go is very satisfying and I like to imagine that it’s like having THE best shopping trip ever!  I may never have one in real life but I’ll take this instead!

My latest is a Christmas/birthday present for a lovely friend of mine.  She’s been wanting a cosy something to wear as a yoga cardigan and I immediately thought of her when I saw the Darkness coat in Still.  The only concern was whether her delicate skin would be irritated by the Brushed Fleece; happily it wasn’t, and after deciding on the purple I cast on over the weekend.  As I write, 1.5 sleeves have been knitted – and amazingly, I managed to complete the first sleeve in the space of eight hours on Sunday!  Definitely a personal record, helped by the fact that Brushed Fleece is GORGEOUSLY SOFT.  It goes on for miles and knits up beautifully.  I think it’s my favourite new yarn, and I hope it’s around for a long time to come.  Rowan have hit the spot with this one.  I haven’t been crazy about their new yarns lately, but this one’s a winner.

DarknessCoat0 DarknessCoat1You can see in the photo on the right that Brushed Fleece makes a lovely, mottled or marled kind of fabric.  My friend was leaning towards the pink in the range, which we also liked – bright and cheerful without being garish – but she gets the best of both with the purple.  It’s shot through with a pink and is lovely on the eyes.  I can’t wait to see her in it and how she likes it.  As ever, I’ll be posting progress updates on Instagram (username: berylliantknits, or follow the link in the right sidebar).  Sadly my work rate for the second sleeve hasn’t equalled that of the first…

The last project I’m hoping to have time for is the Heart cardigan.  Brokenhearted is more like it; it’s been put to one side for some time now.  I took it out of my project bag this morning to remind myself of how it looks and why I need to give it some attention!

HeartCardigan1Lastly, Inktober has been wonderful viewing.  It’s new to me, and if it’s also new to you, do have a look.  If it’s not, apologies…and bear with me!  It’s an annual drawing challenge, and artists/illustrators create one ink drawing every day throughout the month of October.  As you might guess, there’s been so much to see on the internet and social media, but thankfully there are hashtags!  Search for it on Instagram, Twitter, etc (or just Google ‘inktober’) to see the incredible range of artwork that people have created; it is truly marvellous.  And as you might guess, there are plenty of Halloween-themed illustrations – here are some cats by Emla and spooky faces by Maritza Lugo.

On a similar note, I went to see the Quentin Blake exhibition at the House of Illustration a few weeks ago.  Like many children of a generation or two, he has a special place in my childhood as a result of illustrating Roald Dahl books.  My souvenir from the exhibition was the Matilda mug below, but an answer to one of the questions in the Twitter Q&A Blake did with the House of Illustration really struck me on a personal level (you can read it here on Storify); it was a question about how long it took him to define his style:

I think I found it when I was 20-something, when I stopped worrying and it became like a form of handwriting (my emphasis)

That is so true, in so many ways.  When I left my old job in academia and took the plunge into knitwear, one of the first things I did was a year-long foundation course at the London College of Fashion in 2010, just to see if I could draw and whether I had talent worth bothering with.  I hadn’t taken art as a GCSE option, and drawing within the context of fashion seemed like a safer option than plain Art and Design; I could utilise my home-schooled knowledge of needlecrafts and dressmaking and gain credits there if art didn’t work out as I hoped.  And one of the things I remember thinking – bearing in mind that I’m a English postgraduate – was whether I’d ever be able to draw or express myself visually as well as I do verbally or in writing.  Watching the other students pick up their materials with ease and (relative) in life drawing classes and the like really struck me.  They didn’t have to think about HOW they were going to draw or capture something; they made marks on the paper and they created images bursting with individuality, fluency and poetry.

I might have a few knitwear designs published now, but I am still figuring out how this all works.  Visual creative expression seems to be as much in seeing as it is in doing, and it reminded me of how I was drawn to English as a subject: growing up, I loved reading and writing, and by reading voraciously, absorbing many styles of writing and types of literature, my own personal style developed.  It happened without my realising it and without being aware of having made an effort (would a child realise this anyway?), but choosing a new mode, switching from word to image, made me think about the effort, refinement and application needed to carve out a clear channel for creative self-expression.  And it is like learning how to write, or even use a pen.  Eventually, the marks you make become recognisable as your own handwriting, and you don’t have to think about how to write individual letters or words.  You pick up your tools, put them to paper, and there they appear.  The method isn’t really magical, but the creative results are.


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