winding yarn

Okay, let me show you the good old fashioned skill of winding yarn by hand. If you’ve ever admired beautiful hank of yarn but didn’t know how to wind it without some kind of contraption – or if you’ve wondered how your yarn was organised into a skein in the first place, the second part of the “Cabled Handwarmers” set, in The Knitting Series, might please you. Have a look at how I wind yarn into a ball by hand. (It’s 2.22 minutes.)

Such a meditative process. Particularly if you find yourself falling in love with spinning your own! I prefer to pull yarn from the center of a skein, so that it needn’t roll around to unravel. Then I can knit or crochet freely, with the yarn in a handbag, which makes it easy to pick up my knitting at violin lessons, at the park, on the bus, at a café. I’ll also wind yarn like this when a store-bought ball gets knotted up, or is half gone and getting a bit messy. Yarn is happiest loose ’til you’re ready to use it, without tension to stretch it, I’ve been told, and is also easier to send through the post. (Like the appleturnovershop does, naturally.) You might like to watch the other movies in the “Cabled Handwarmers” set, over at the old schoolhouse (in the column to your left).

spring.yarn

cabled handwarmers movie

With great joy, I present the first homemade picture in The Knitting Series. (Did you catch the one-minute preview?) “Cabled Handwarmers” is divided into a set of nine tutorials to take you through the project, step-by-step. You can watch each part, on the left in the sidebar. We made it just for traditional studies, to help you to work along with the movies to make the knitting projects and the quilting projects.

I want to show you the first of the nine parts, the introduction to the “Cabled Handwarmers” project, gathering up and laying out all the materials you’ll assemble for the project. (It’s just 1.5 minutes.) My sweetheart and I had some fun animating the text to follow me. A little loveletter to Stranger than Fiction. I wish lists like this would follow me around in real life, my head is usually full of them. You might recognise my re-upholstery project? One day I will finish it, complete with gimp-braid. I do hope you enjoy all of the movies.

Get the pattern at the appleturnovershop.

knitting preview

Things have been deceptively quiet on appleturnover lately. Behind the scenes my sweetheart and I have been working flat out, shooting four new homemade pictures for the old schoolhouse. We filmed the Knitting Series in my mother’s bright studio in Deep Cove, and like the Quilting Series, the camera looks over my shoulder as I work, to help you see, step-by-step, every method needed to cable-knit and honeycomb-stitch your own handwarmers and mittens.

There were many props to prepare, and organise, diagrams, storyboards, patterns and notes to draw up. Then we began editing (though my sweetheart is in England just now, so we are using high technology to collaborate!) returning to the intertitles that we loved using in the Quilting Series. For these movies we’ve added the dimension of animation, so another aspect of my art practice has reappeared. Lovely. We’re not drawing so much as writing on the screen, to help illustrate the old techniques clearly. As ever my work is a strange mixture of traditions and technology. I’ve designed printable patterns to take you through each step.

short & sweet heather green handwarmer kit

short & sweet heather green handwarmer kit

short & sweet heather blue handwarmer kit

short & sweet heather blue handwarmer kit

short & sweet heather pink handwarmer kit

short & sweet heather pink handwarmer kit

long & elegant smoke grey handwarmer kit

long & elegant smoke grey handwarmer kit

What do you think of the knitting preview? Watch all the tutorials, free, you’ll find them in the schoolhouse in the column to your left.

beekeeping

Early in October, when autumn was convinced it was summer, we visited my dear friend Sarah and her children in the city. In her beautiful kitchen I stumbled upon the most beautiful and unexpected object.

honey frame

A frame from their beehive, thoroughly sculpted with honeycomb, heavy with honey. I had no idea Sarah kept a hive in the garden! I fell over. Such an astonishing, amazing thing. How much would I love to do this! Like keeping chickens, beekeeping takes some studying, a well-designed structure, a good spot in the garden and a bit of bravery – and learning from watching someone else helps so much. Now I have a beekeeping friend to watch, with keen interest.

honeycomb

I’ve admired the hives on Old Plawhatch Farm near our old cottage in Sussex, and listened to a fascinating talk there by the Natural Beekeeping Trust. Sarah and I talked about how she’s caring for the bees, instinctively following principles I’ve become so interested in. What if the hive isn’t opened often, so it stays warmer, the way the bees need it? What if honey is only taken when the hive is particularly heavy, so the bees have their natural food through winter?

<beehive

The hive strikes me as an unimaginable treasure. The intoxicating scent of beeswax, and so many wonderful uses for the beautiful stuff; the exquisite particularity of flavours of a local honey, and its extraordinary healing benefits; the tremendous contribution a beehive imparts to the health of the neighbourhood’s flora; the utter delight of watching the grace and beauty of bees at work. I love it, I am completely inspired. Thank you, Sarah.

kite flying

To celebrate our younger child’s birthday, we took her into the city to choose a strong and pretty kite, then wandered along a lane together to the best kite-flying park. The rest of the world can be quite still, yet this trusty spot will bluster enough to launch your kite, if anything is bound to.

kite-flying

Simple, joyful stuff. Physics, magic, as you like it.

flying kites

I’d have liked to have constructed a kite with my little girl, perhaps out of bamboo and silk as the first ones were in China, over 2800 years ago! But traditional games are such a pleasure, even if you don’t make the piece yourself.

kite flying

In fact, I once made a kite in art school, and flew it in this very spot. I built a large, transparent kite, and printed it with a life-sized image of me on it, as if I were flying. After three failed kite flying attempts and much consultation with our local, famous, 80-year old stunt-kitesman, who would talk to me about my kite/performance piece whilst flying three kites at once, I finally flew my kite/myself, high in the air. Pure joy! Where have those images gone? Hmm. The piece later informed my street banners, which lined Vancouver’s streets for the millennium.

Kiting has a long and varied history across the world:

The kite was said to be the invention of the famous 5th century BC Chinese philosophers Mozi and Lu Ban. By at least 549 AD paper kites were being flown, as it was recorded in that year a paper kite was used as a message for a rescue mission. Ancient and medieval Chinese sources list other uses of kites for measuring distances, testing the wind, lifting men, signaling, and communication for military operations. The earliest known Chinese kites were flat (not bowed) and often rectangular. Later, tailless kites incorporated a stabilizing bowline. Kites were decorated with mythological motifs and legendary figures; some were fitted with strings and whistles to make musical sounds while flying.

After its introduction into India, the kite further evolved into the fighter kite known as the patang in India where thousands are flown every year on festivals such as Makar Sankranti.
Kites were known throughout Polynesia, as far as New Zealand, with the assumption being that the knowledge diffused from China along with the people. Anthropomorphic kites made from cloth and wood were used in religious ceremonies to send prayers to the gods. Polynesian kite traditions are used by anthropologists get an idea of early “primitive” Asian traditions that are believed to have at one time existed in Asia.

Kites were late to arrive in Europe, although windsock-like banners were known and used by the Romans. Stories of kites were first brought to Europe by Marco Polo towards the end of the 13th century, and kites were brought back by sailors from Japan and Malaysia in the 16th and 17th centuries. Although they were initially regarded as mere curiosities, by the 18th and 19th centuries kites were being used as vehicles for scientific research.
In 1750, Benjamin Franklin published a proposal for an experiment to prove that lightning is electricity by flying a kite in a storm that appeared capable of becoming a lightning storm. It is not known whether Franklin ever performed his experiment, but on May 10, 1752, Thomas-Francois Dalibard of France conducted a similar experiment (using a 40-foot (12 m) iron rod instead of a kite) and extracted electrical sparks from a cloud.

Kites were also instrumental in the research and development of the Wright brothers when building the first airplane in the late 1800s. Over the next 70 years, many new kite designs were developed, and often patented. These included Eddy’s tail-less diamond kite, the tetrahedral kite, the flexible kite, the sled kite, and the parafoil kite, which helped to develop the modern hang-gliders. In fact, the period from 1860 to about 1910 became the “golden age of kiting”. Kites started to be used for scientific purposes, especially in meteorology, aeronautics, wireless communications and photography; many different designs of man-lifting kite were developed as well as power kites.

In other words, pure joy.

cakestand

We put the homemade cakestand to work at a double-birthday, bearing one of a pair angel cakes to a crowd of finger-puppet-making children. I threw the cakestand on the wheel in England last spring. With pleasure.

handmade cakestand

First I threw a large plate onto a wooden bat, which is stuck to the wheel with clay. The plate is wired off but left on the bat to dry to leather-hard. I cut and played with the edges to scallop them, I love it! Then I centered the plate upside-down on the wheel. I scored a circle, and made a coil of new clay to fit, then threw the pedestal up off the plate with that clay. If you use too much water the plate will turn to mush, so it is a tricky business.

hand-thrown cakestand

I ought to have let the piece dry upside down as well; it fell somewhat, but is still charming.

scalloped cakestand

The children and I made spelt angel cakes, using my grandmother’s trusty sifter to get it as light as possible. I couldn’t find any icing sugar that was certain to be pure, so we decided to use whipped cream, sweetened with stevia to ice it. I coloured some of the cream pink with a bit of juice from raspberries. This is my first rather squishy experiment with a cake-decorating tool. Rosettes, how nice!

homemade cake & cakestand

My grandmother’s old cake stand carried one cake, and mine the other. I’m quite pleased with how the stands act like a plinth to a sculpture, adding a bit of ceremony to match such a treat as a birthday cake. Served with homemade raspberry lemonade in my grandmother’s extraordinarily fancy collection of china, it was a proper tea-party!

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p>(Update:Now you can special order a cakestand from appleturnover’s lakeside studio – just write me a note!)