Substance and Story

The selected textiles are all constructed from double knit 100% acrylic yarn. The yarn choice purely for its durability and ease when washing. Acrylic yarn can be washed at 40 degrees and tumble dried if necessary. Pressing garments made from acyrilc yarn is discouraged as the heat damage to the fibres affects the life of the garment.

Hand-knitted, the garments lack labels, however the yarn skein labels provide much of the information that would be included.

The chosen textiles, all knitted garments, the fair isle sweater differs slightly, as when viewed from the reverse, shows the stranding technique adopted when producing the colour-work embellishment. This technique involves weaving the different colour yarns across the reverse of the work to create smooth changes in colour, avoiding creating holes in the fabric. Loose ends are woven in when constructing the garments and fasteners are applied in the form of Bakelite buttons, an early form of plastic made from Formaldehyde and Phenol, crocheted loops created to secure them. The buttons are attached with cotton thread.

Being handmade, the chosen textiles were made by me, the yarn from a personal archive, adding to a personal archive of knitwear.

Both the fair isle sweater and the fan and feather stitch sweater are embellished with colour-work. A traditional fair isle OXO pattern with its crosses and lozenge shaped hexagons adorns the child’s sweater, the colours true to the pattern. The ladies sweater embellished with a textured stitch “fan and feather” a form of lace work. The removal and addition of stitches in every forth row creating the form of a fan/feather and a highly textured surface. The addition of colour in the form of bands, emphasising the textured stitch. During Wartime, colour could be relied on to brighten an outfit. As long as there was enough neutral wool for a main colour, oddments could be used for the pattern.

The ” Joan Crawford” sweater lacks embellishment. Instead it has a subtle change from the traditional knit stitch (Garter stitch), knitting into the stitch below on every other stitch on alternate rows. Thus creating the effect of a woven garment as opposed to a knitted one. The resulting honeycomb effect providing scope for mark making in fine detail.

The chosen yarn, 100% premium acrylic is made in Turkey for both Premier Skipton UK and Hayfield, Wakefield. Acrylic is a synthetic fibre. Double knit referring to the number of strands that are twisted together to form the yarn. In this case, double 4 ply so 8 strands twisted together. The diameter of the plies determines the weight of the yarn. Double knit is classified as a light weight yarn.

It is rather hypocritical using acrylic yarn to produce garments from wartime patterns, however when knitting for children and in my case with children and the vast amount of family washing, acrylic is a practical choice due to its ease when washing and its durability.

It has proven difficult to glean information on the origin of the yarn used, this would be less of a challenge if locally sourced natural wool was used or if wool was self spun and dyed.

Lack of damage to the garments is evidence of their lack of use, having only been made recently and in the case of the ladies sweaters, still in construction.

The child’s fair isle sweater produced from a 1940’s Bairnswear pattern is embellished with a traditional fair isle OXO pattern. Fair isle patterns were popular in children’s knitwear at this time due to the fact that an unpicked adults jumper could provide the main colour and an oddments bag could yield the fair isle pattern. “Little figures might edge a cardigan, or flecks of different colours, cunningly patterned together would make the most expensive looking outfit.” (Knitting Fashions of the 1940’s. Jane Waller. 2006.)

The fan and feather stitch sweater pattern, doesn’t provide colour recommendations, the principle being the same as that of the child’s fair isle sweater. However drawing inspiration from the “Your Victory Jumper” pattern from “Home Notes” publication 2 June 1945, I have used red, white and blue to embellish this sweater. Red white and blue were colours prominent in patterns produced during 1952 in celebration of the queens coronation.

The “Joan Crawford” sweater is a pattern published in a book by designer Bill Gibb entitled “Vintage Hollywood Knits.” During the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s pattern books were published with patterns inspired by the knitwear worn by Hollywood starts of the time. the idea being “Knit what the starts are wearing!” This particular pattern is inspired by an iconic shot of screen star Joan Crawford. She was known for her sophistication and independence. Her outfits suggesting a freedom and independence, during wartime counteracting the potential for a feeling of lacking femininity.

These garments were traditionally made in 3 ply wool and although more time consuming, they would last longer. The complex stitching making a denser texture. The lack of natural wool in my finished garments and the use of the thicker yarn is more suited to my lifestyle, being a quicker knit and easer to maintain. Synthetic yarns are more economical, I factor I have to consider with a young family.

Nostalgia is a recurring theme in all my work.

I lost my Nanna when she was still young,  she died before she should have done. My memories are starting to fade after 20 years. However objects that I associate with her provide great comfort.. My Gramps would wear grey sleeveless pullovers at home with his white shirt sleeves neatly rolled up. Her handmade pullovers I imagine she had always made for him. I strive to be like her in so many ways. Our lives are very different, generations apart, but by knitting, I feel I connect with her. My knitwear therefore tells a story. Not so much to the viewer but the same story is behind all my knitwear. My interest in patterns from the 1940’s – the 1940’s being the decade in which they met, got married and started their family. Id like to think that we could have been producing knitwear from the same patterns. These emotions I hope will be reflected in mark making I produce as a response to these chosen textiles.





Selected textiles from an archive.

Chosen textiles

Selected – Three examples of knitwear.

A personal archive of 1940’s knitting patterns. The chosen textiles, generated from the said patterns.

An area of which I have great interest and considerable knowledge, I have selected knitted  items for their history and their form.

A ladies “fan and feather” sweater, a ladies short sleeved sweater as worn by Joan Crawford and a child’s fair isle sweater.

Initial thoughts.

Chosen for their stitch pattern and colour-work, The fair isle providing further potential for mark making when considering the stranding of the yarn on the reverse of the fabric.

The incomplete ladies sweaters, chosen for their textured stitch patterns, common with wartime and post war patterns. A means of embellishing garments to help make up for the lack of femininity felt as a result yarn and fabric rationing. The unfinished state, (uneven edging and loose yarn) creating more scope for mark making.

Initial concerns.

Limited information to glean regarding yarn history.


How textiles tell a story.

When considering the next part of the course, my archive of knitwear at home was the obvious choice. Knitwear being a subject I am both passionate about and as a result, of which I have quite an extensive knowledge.

I have amassed overtime both knitwear given to or made for me and knitwear made by me.

Knitwear often tells a story. Items of clothing or blankets – Heirlooms – that have been handed down through generations of a family, who have worn them, who have made them. Stitches, hand made, still existing when the maker may have long gone.

Christening gowns and wedding dresses. Wartime wedding dresses made of parachute silk, due to rationing.

A primary school tea towel. A piece of history documenting hand drawn portraits and the names of all the children and staff at a school at a given point in time. In this case summer 2016. A time capsule. A moment in time. A memory for a school full of children. A memory of a time at home with young children, for a parent.

A modern day fabric design that is reminiscent of a curtain fabric from a childhood.

When considering Scandinavian knitting designs, the Selbu mitten whose origin is attributed to a girl Marit Emstad who wore mittens to a church service in 1857, the original pattern of which, (a vertical column of two snowflakes on the front side of the mitten) tells the story its now attributed to.


Mittens became popular locally, with attempts to out do one another with beautiful design variations. Daily life being one of many influences on their pattern designs.

The Selbu mitten is a masterpiece and at one time was even a form of currency, being held in such high regard.

Norwegian fishermen and sailors were great knitters, their ropes and anchors translated into cable patterns incorporated into their knitted garments – telling us something of their lives.

The Story of the Selbu Mitten – Selbuvotten

Project 1 – Selecting and Identifying – Defining Textiles.

A manipulative fabric is what I believe a textile to be. Endless possibilities.

Everything has a textural quality.

Working with textiles to me is all about manipulation. Therefore something that can be manipulated to me defines a textile.

Everything can be manipulated with the right processes, artists and designers are experimenting and developing manipulation techniques all the time. Therefore everything has the potential be a textile.

As a traditionalist, I have always considered textiles to be fabrics that can be manipulated. Yarns – cloth – thread. Naturally I will always consider these first and imagine they will feature heavily in my coursework. However, already this course is opening up my mind to other possibilities hence my response when asked to  define “textiles.”


Reflection on the introductory project.

A strong start to the course and a thoroughly enjoyable one!

The theme “Tropical Tourist” was well considered and thought through. The idea to interpret the theme as plastic objects washed up onto the strandline was pushing the interpretation of the theme. The randomness of the objects providing me with lots of interesting shapes and textures to reflect on, observe and draw.

To vary the mark making, I considered manipulating the thread of the fishing twine and observing the objects from a variety of angles. Manipulating the paper to suggest qualities of the objects was another well considered concept.

I am really pleased with the strong body of work I have produced. The mark making is diverse and will serve me well as I proceed with the course.

For someone who can find pushing the boundaries challenging, I embraced it here. Experimenting with different papers and processes, the results are a credit to the effort I put in and have given me food for thought going forward.

I allowed plenty of time to conduct the research into the recommended artists. I found the process came naturally to me, (I hadn’t thought it would) and it was very insightful. I can see why these artists were chosen. My findings gave a clear message on how to view drawings as part of any art/design making process. The basis of all things. You can’t produce too many!

Considerable sketchbook work was produced to add to the drawings that I could work with going forward. I hadn’t felt I’d exhausted this subject.

The decision to add some observational sketches of marbles to my sketchbook is an interesting one, but something happened that made me think this to be appropriate.

Marbles have a habit of being found in gardens. They are turned out when beds are being turned over for planting. Popular with children growing up certainly in the 1950’s and before, these little glass gems have travelled through time, to be discovered by us decades later. A little battered, but otherwise beautiful and bright, with their colour emanating through the grubby exterior.

“A Tropical Tourist.”

A new polished marble would have limited textural quality to observe and capture in a drawing. What interests me is the battered exterior of an old , well played with marble, the dirt it may have collected on its travels and the beautiful form of the coloured glass – swirling – twisting – undulating – meandering – All qualities that mark making could capture and which excite me when considering the potential for thread work and fabric manipulation.


Miche Follano


A successful ceramicist and friend of mine, Miche Follano is someone I have always found inspiring.

Since meeting her in 2012, I have been fascinated by her work and her process. Mark making being an important component in her work.

She creates ceramic objects that “represent the psychological response to hidden emotional locations.” (Miche Follano)

I see similarities between the work of both Miche Follano and Roanna Wells. Both I believe use mark making in their work as a response to a psychological state of mind.

Sarah Midda – South of France – A Sketchbook

A journal of a year in the South of France.

A sketchbook is used with the purpose of collecting ideas in order to develop these ideas at a later date.

Often though, a good sketch book is a work of art in its own right. A successful ceramicist and former studio buddy of mine, Miche Follano, produced such beautiful sketchbooks that I remember thinking that they were pieces of art in their own right. They were functional at the same time. Serving their purpose.

Sarah Midda’s South of France sketchbook is an example of  a sketchbook being a complete work of art as opposed to a sketchbook, created with the purpose of developing ideas for a finished piece. It is the finished piece.

One citisism of Sarah Midda’s sketchbook though, I don’t feel it to be very expressive. I prefer a messy sketchbook, as you are literally pushing the boundaries, going off the page. I think this is particularly the case with a textile based sketchbook. Expressive mark making creates movement and more scope for developing work from the images or sections of the images.