Hanging out to dry

The last few weeks have been a bit of a blur............ there's a chill in the air and people have started to think about knitwear again - I love this time of year!  I am preparing orders, knitting commissions and trying to think about my stand at the forthcoming Farnham Maltings fair at the end of November.  I've not done a fair before so this is new territory for me and I want to make sure I have products that will appeal to everyone at different price points.  For a long time now I have been thinking of ways I can use up my scraps of knitting - these tend to be pieces that have gone wrong, not felted evenly or fallen off the machine too early; all rather annoying scenarios.  The beauty of these little pieces of lightly felted lambswool is that I have them in abundance, they are delicious in colour and they are all completely original ...............so why not use them?!  Well I have.......read on! 

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This project was rather fiddly in nature but once I got going I remembered how much fun there is to be had in cutting and sticking.  

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It also meant I could use copious amounts of double sided sellotape a luxury denied in childhood due to the cost!  

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It's still all about knitwear.......... 

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and knitted bunting.  

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Cards! Washing lines with freshly laundered knitted outfits. These ones have just been stitched and await tying off. 

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I got quite carried away in the end and I still have a huge amount of scraps left so no doubt I will make more.  

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Here are the finished cards in their cellophane wrappers - it's amazing how a cellophane wrapper can transform a card!  

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Fronts and backs!  

So all these cards will be coming with me to the Farnham Maltings Fair on the 30th November and 1st December. Please do come and visit and say hello! 

 

P.s - did you notice I managed to do the whole of that blog post without mentioning the 'C' word?!  

Summer

I'm slightly horrified to discover that it's nearly 2 months since my last post, summer has got in the way. There has been much going on over the last 8 weeks but unfortunately little design work and of that, not much to write about! I took heed of advice given by friends who have older children to relax and enjoy the children whilst they are small, so this summer that is mainly what I did with a few days (and rather more evenings) spent at the knitting machine. 

Here is a slice of our holiday to give you a taste of what we've been up to.

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Ventnor beach. We caught the early ferry to the Isle of Wight, we were there by 10am. 

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We stayed in a small caravan park (just 6 caravans) in Niton, on the southern most point of the Island. Unadvertised and hidden down a narrow but winding man made track it was a bit of a trek to get there but the views were certainly worth it........

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Even a pretty toilet block for those eating at the cafe!  

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A trip to Chessell pottery was something we did 8 years ago and we all wanted to revisit and create some more souvenirs. I managed to resist painting anything myself but the children created some lovely pieces to be treasured.

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A fossil tour from Brook chine beach lead by the amazing paleontologist Felicity who knew everything there was to know about fossils. One little boy on our tour did actually find some dinosaur bone! It was a great activity which made little difference whether you were an adult or child.

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Fuelling up at the Piano Cafe at Freshwater before our walk up Tennyson down, a childhood tradition I am now inflicting upon my own children!

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 The climb up Tennyson down.  

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Views from the top. 

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This little grocers was outside the Piano cafe at Freshwater - it seemed almost unchanged and was thoroughly charming. Unfortunately it was closed so I couldn't venture further in for a nose around. 

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Later on in the week we went to collect the fired pottery pieces - Ta dah!  

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On our last day, after a failed attempt to visit the beach, we ended up at Mottistone Gardens owned by the National Trust. 

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Views in the background to the sea, obscured by cloud.  

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The gardens were beautiful and there was a trail which kept the youngest members of the party happy.  

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However, the highlight for me was........The Shack! Designed in the 1930s by architects John Seely (2nd Lord Mottistone) and Paul Paget as their country retreat and rural office.

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I loved this fireplace.  

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It had a little kitchenette, shower room, two cabin beds and desks, much like our caravan. Home from home!

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It used revolutionary materials for the time, such as insulation board, hardboard and tubular metal. Every little space was used well and the overall look was not at all dated - in fact I would have moved my knitting machine straight in given a chance.

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On our return home we found a jungle had grown in our back garden. Including this bronze sunflower, which definitely reached a record height for us! 

Unfortunately despite the good weather continuing next week the summer break is now well and truly over and I will be found mainly sitting at a knitting machine for the next 4-5 months fondly remembering days on the Isle of Wight. I hope you all enjoyed the summer. 

Knitting on!

Last week life returned to normal and for most of the week my view was very much like this........ 

or like this.  

I'm not complaining as this is life as I love it best - the making. I was working on a private commission for a lady who had specific colours in mind and I enjoyed the challenge of making the colours work together in a way that appealed to me too.  I finished this wrap on Wednesday and tried really hard to photograph the finished piece 'on me' but the selfie style photos in front of the mirror just didn't do it justice so I'll have to make do with these work in progress shots. 

In other news having had little opportunity to make it out into the garden due to the heavy downpours, everything has grown enormously in just the past week! The self sown fox gloves are almost on their way out now but still provide lovely accents of colour and the dark leaves of the Sambucus Nigra showcase the delicate flowers so beautifully.  

No shortage of colour inspiration for the forthcoming weeks! 

From Swinging Monkeys to Dachshunds.........

Having spent almost a month sitting at the kitchen table creating a website, and then a 'half term' week spent thinking up every indoor, wet play game imaginable, meant that on Tuesday, I awarded myself the day off and top of the list was a trip to Pallant House Gallery in Chichester to see the John Piper exhibition.  

Headed straight to the cafe for a cappuccino you can imagine my delight when I found out that the exhibitions currently on show extended to the cafe courtyard too AND they were knitted!

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I've always felt there is something quite magical about putting pieces that are normally reserved for inside - on the outside.......and vice versa. I love bringing in a real Christmas tree for this very same wonderful reason. This yarn bombing was a real treat, titled The Octopus' Garden by Julia Oak, it was very pleasant to share half an hour with a swinging knitted monkey and copious brightly coloured Pom Poms. It felt like sitting within children's story book and confirmed that life in an art gallery is never dull. 

After coffee I ventured upstairs to the John Piper exhibition. John Piper was one of the leading Modern British artists/designers of the 20th Century, best known for his paintings but also noted for his work as an accomplished designer of theatre sets, stained glass windows and textiles.* It was the textiles work I was so keen to see, especially the tapestries of which I have dabbled and am aware of the complexities and painstaking labour involved!

This group of tapestries were commissioned for the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford by a group of surgeons in 1986. Aren't the colours so vibrant? Most of the weaving work was executed at West Dean Tapestry Studios near Chichester. All these places are so familiar it seemed wonderful to think of John Piper wandering around West Dean gardens perhaps.  

This piece of fabric, screen printed cotton satin, designed in 1955 for David Whitehead Limited would seem very at home in any house today. I particularly liked this design. 

It was a small exhibition, just 3 rooms but well executed and displayed and such a treat not to have to go to London to see work of this quality. 

Ever since childhood the 'shop' at the end of an exhibition visit has always been something to look forward to and the Pallant House Gallery shop did not disappoint. It is a real treasure trove of amazing books, cards and interesting gifts.  This year my New Years resolution was not to leave all my Christmas shopping until the last minute and so upon seeing these quirky kits to 'make your own pet'  I swiftly purchased two for my own little monkeys. ;) 

So now,  'knitted work' at Kate Box HQ cannot be put off any longer - I have no more excuses and it will be hands to the needles for the foreseeable future! 

*Pallant House Gallery website. 

 

A silver lining....

Last week I mentioned that in this blog post I would talk about my friend and tutor Kay Cosserat, unfortunately there a sad ending to this tale but there is also a 'silver lining' so keep reading to the end...............

Kay as a student at the Royal College of Art  

Kay as a student at the Royal College of Art  

As a student, Kay Cosserat (nee Macklam) attended Goldsmiths College London where she achieved a 1st class hons degree and then completed her MA at the Royal College of Art. Upon graduating from the RCA she set up her own business Cosserat Design Partnership in 1974 with her husband Christopher Cosserat whom she had met at the Royal College. Specialising in knitwear and well known for her beautiful colour choices, combinations and use of texture, Kay was quickly noticed for her ability to be creative and commercial.  In 1986 this was recognised and she became a Royal Designer for Industry.  She was always passionate about education and this lead her to have many, many roles within academic institutions across the country, St Martins school of art, the Royal College and Chelsea college of art to name just a few in London. 

Kay as I first met her.  

Kay as I first met her.  

I met Kay at Chelsea College of Art in 1997 where she became my tutor in the 2nd and 3rd years of my degree. As a tutor, Kay could be fairly terrifying and she certainly let you know if she didn't like something but all this aided in creating a healthy competition amongst her students and a real desire for her approval.  Kay's standards were always very high and she had an ability to see a glimmer of something promising in every student's work and draw it out into the most marvellous project.  Kay was a much loved tutor.

At the end of my course at Chelsea and with a lot of encouragement from Kay,  I applied for an MA place at the Royal College of Art. Although I was offered a place, without funds and much forethought about how I was going to finance myself through the 2 year course, I reluctantly had to turn the place down. Kay, always supportive, was quick to offer me a job for a year to raise money for my MA course and give me invaluable experience working within the textiles industry. A year later, with money in my pocket, I applied again to the RCA. I started my MA in 2000. 

This is where the story starts to sadden..............after returning from a holiday in Vietnam,  Kay complained of her back hurting. Further investigation revealed that she had breast cancer. Ever determined,  Kay carried on as much as possible and continued to be as supportive as ever to her students and dedicated to her business. During that year Kay put me forward for the coveted position of design assistant at Orla Kiely, Kay having taught Orla herself. Very sadly I had only been in that post for a week when Kay died in December 2003. 

A silver lining............before Kay died she set up a trust fund to help knitwear and knitted textile students at the Royal College of Art.  There are 5 trustees, of which I am one, and we award an amount to a promising RCA student who would have otherwise found it difficult financially to continue on the course. Every May/June I travel to the Royal College of Art and meet with the other trustees to look at the work of selected candidates and make a final decision about who will be awarded the money.  It is always a fantastic day where we meet dedicated, talented students and we reminisce about Kay in all her creative glory. 

Julia Pines, Matthew Cosserat and Mary Restieaux discussing student's work.

Julia Pines, Matthew Cosserat and Mary Restieaux discussing student's work.

This year was no exception, the students work was of a very high standard and they all remained passionate and positive despite hearing their heart-breaking financial stories of hardship. One student had five part time jobs and others admitted to having nearly £45,000 of debt! We saw 14 students in all and the decision of who to award to, was as always, so difficult to make. We awarded 2 scholarships this year, one to Matthew Duffy and the other to Rose Danford-Phillips, both very deserving knitwear candidates who showed us real talent, determination and passion in their work; all qualities Kay possessed. Keep your eyes out for these two names, we joked this year that all the Kay Cosserat Scholarship winners go on to be very successful!

Each year, as I walk away from this inspiring day of judging, it always delights me that even in Kay's absence, her dedication to both the textile industry and design education lives on through the students we see.

Drum roll please........

Today is the day of my very first blog post! Having been an avid reader of blogs for quite some time now and in preparation for writing my first post, I started to think about what makes a good blog..........

The ones I like to read and stay faithful to show a real snippet of the author's life, not just work, but hobbies, travel, family and interests. I'm hoping that in this little space you will be able to discover all about what is going on at Kate Box Knit HQ and a little bit about Kate Box herself! 

As an introduction I thought I would take you on a little tour of my workroom, the place I spend a lot of my time and where it all happens. This space has taken on many forms in the past few years but for now it is based at our house and is the perfect, tranquil hideaway from a busy family life. 

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This is me at my hand powered knitting machine, bought for me from eBay by my then boyfriend and now husband, after I finished my MA at the Royal College of Art back in 2002.  They've both been very faithful!

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And this is where everything gets stitched up!

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Whilst at the RCA I did a lot of knitting with sewing thread and as a result I have A LOT of colours to choose from. This photo only really shows some of them. The little peg doll in the distance, perched on the overlocker, was a present from a past colleague.

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Keeping me company from her bench on the windowsill is Maggie Rabbit.  I made Maggie for my daughter from a kit by the very talented Alicia Paulson over at Posie Gets Cosy. I'm not quite sure why she has come to join me in my work room but I suspect she won't be allowed to visit for very long. She has a great view out of the window over to Butser Hill and the South Downs.

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These three little characters sit on my yarn shelves, guarding the yarns from little fingers needing  "string" for their junk modelling projects. They are all Julie Arkell dolls, the larger one of the three I made on a Julie Arkell workshop in late February this year. The other two were a gift from a very dear friend and talented textile designer called Kay Cosserat. Kay was my tutor at Chelsea College of Art and has probably had the most influence over my style and my love for knitted textiles than anyone else.  There will be more about Kay in my next post............. but until then, thank you for reading and I hope you pop back.