Freddies handmade jewellery

Friday, 7 July 2017

How to dye yarn - a guest blog from Heike Gittins of madewithloops.co.uk

Colour at my fingertips!


My love for all things textile began when I was a little girl in Germany and I was taught to knit and crochet by my grandmother’s. Ever since then I have had a close relationship with yarn and colour, and in recent years I have been lucky enough to fulfil a long dream turning my passion into a small business madewithloops.co.uk

Living in Wales has meant being surrounded by sheep and I have watched them being shorn, the fleeces being washed and carded and I have been on a spinning course learning how to transform fibre into yarn.

There was only one thing missing: Learning how to dye!

 

My chance to go full circle came when a friend of mine invited me to accompany her to Denmark where she was teaching a three-day workshop on dyeing yarn using natural and synthetic dyes. Of course I jumped at the chance!

The Baltic coast holds a special place in my heart having spent many childhood holidays there with my family. To this day I favour simple design lines that are often influenced by Scandinavian styles and I was looking forward to the trip with joy in my heart.

The venue for the week was high up in northern Denmark in a beautiful setting, with a specially planted dyeing garden, which was in full bloom during the workshop, and even had it’s own dragon spewing water!

Beautiful flowers in Denmark gardens


During the next few days we were given an overview of dyeing with natural materials such as logwood chips, walnut and cochineal beetles, as well as using some ready made synthetic powders.

We were taught the importance of setting up the workspace, dye baths and preparation of yarn ready for dyeing.

How to set up a dye bath


The importance of choosing dyestuff and yarn carefully became clear to us very quickly as we learned that it is comparable with choosing ingredients for a favourite recipe: everything must be in harmony with each other in order to get the result you hope for and end up with beautifully coloured yarn that you will want to work with.

As I prefer working with natural fibres so I chose two different yarns to dye: 100% Baby Alpaca and an 80% Wool/20% Silk Mix.

I tried various techniques of dyeing, some more messy (walnut bath) than others, and I also used some of the dye baths more than once achieving strong to faded colours perfect for ombre knitting.

Planning colours for yarn dyes


After working with natural as well as synthetic dyestuff, practising anything from circus bright’s to subdued and tonal colours, the icing on the cake was trying our hands at indigo dying.

For this exercise I chose to dye a beautiful lofty Kid Mohair yarn, and not only was the playing with tie-dyeing indigo immense fun.

The end result was stunning!

Beautiful yarns dyed by Heike Gittins
As always when you are having so much fun time flies by and before we knew it we had to tidy and wrap it all up.

During these few days I made new friends, laughed a lot and learned a lot, and by the end of it I came away with a suitcase full of yarn all hand-dyed by me and now waiting to be made into beautiful items.
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I better get to it!

Heike x

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Using Long Exposure Photography at The Ingleton Waterfall Trail

I love The Lake District - I've been about three times and can't soak in those amazing views anywhere else in the UK. It's incredibly special. On my last trip I was lucky enough to see some of the geological beauts of the area, notably at the Ingleton Waterfall Trail.

Slow exposure photography of Hollybush Spout waterfall
Hollybush Spout - just getting the hang of the slow exposure here
I've been banging on for ages now about my misgivings with switching from film to digital photography, so on this trip I was really torn. 

On a long hike (about 8km, not huge but long enough) - I didn't want to be bogged down with loads of gear, so my Minolta Dynax 9, although perfect for the journey - couldn't come with me. It's a mammoth amount of weight to carry. 

I had a nice little travel Manfrotto Compact Action tripod which was perfect. It's the lightest I own and fits snugly into my rucksack.

Instead, I went for my trusty shoot-from-the-hip Minolta Dynax 60 (it's super light!), my Sony a77ii digital SLR and quite a large selection of lenses including a super-wide and a wide angle Sigma lens. Retrospectively, I probably didn't need both. I ended up using my 12-24mm nearly all of the time.

River rapids approaching Thornton Force Ingleston Waterfalls Trail
Quite a few of these pictures were achieved without the use of a tripod
So I was set! The difficulty with places like these though, and you will see it if you go - is that on such a busy walk (it's very popular), you're very nearly always in someone's way when you stop to set up for a photo.

I in fact, didn't find anywhere to stop where I wasn't in anyone's way - until nearly halfway round the walk (it's a circuit) that I found the space to put my tripod up.
Ingleston waterfall trail Thornton Force taken with slow exposure
Thornton Force was another great place to stop - had a fabulous time playing with both film and digital here

So adjusting my ND filter and faffing about with my tripod (which, TBH - probably should have practiced using before arriving here) became very tricky. All of a sudden I found myself reserving the use of my precious camera film and shooting willy nilly, utilizing the Sony A77ii's automatic long exposure settings.

I now feel like a big chicken. The Thornton Force waterfall, above - had great space. And I'd had plenty of other waterfalls where I'd had time to practice the long exposure settings on the digital camera. So by the time I got here, I felt like I was in a good place to start putting exposures on my Ektar 100 film which I'd purchased specifically for this trip.

Thornton Force waterfall with slow exposure
It was very freeing to not need the use of my tripod
I took so few, in fact - that I'm now stuck with half a roll of Ektar 100 still in my camera.

Having read the exposure from my Sony, I was simply copying the settings on my film camera to achieve what I'm hoping are very successful photos. In truth, I have no idea. And now won't until I find another set of green things or landscapes, on which to use up the rest of my film.

Snow Falls Ingleston Waterfall Trail long exposure
Snow Falls - my favourite of all the shots. Again, no tripod.
 My favourite shot was taken leaning my camera on the edge of the bridge we happenned to be crossing. I only had a minute or two to stop before I would have started holing up the other walkers, but by this point I'd become the laziest ever - and had just the Sony on the go.

What I really felt I was missing though, was my The Pod, which, like a total numpty I'd left at home.

Short of space and on the go, It's a great alternative if you don't have room for putting up a tripod. I could have used it all day.

Ingleston Waterfalls Trail long exposure
This was just a trickle - one of my fella's favourites of all of my shots
My overall opinion is that the Sony a77ii's long exposure setting is pretty darn lazy. You do need to have some knowledge of how to use your polariser and ND filters before you go at it though, so I don't feel like a total dummy.

Take a beanbag tripod with you - it does need a certain amount of stability. But the ability to preview how your exposure will look, means that swapping over to manual settings becomes incredibly psychic.

Yes, I have a bit of colour distortion from the long stops I was using. I don't mind it, I think they're pretty moody. But please please please don't give up on film completely. It would break my heart!

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Freddie Patmore - the Harrow photographer

Although my speciality has and always will be, knitting and crochet, those of you who know me well will know that I've been photographing in and around Harrow in NW London for decades.

Ever since I studied photography at Harrow College, I have had periods of total obsession with my camera. It's my second set of eyes.

How the fella ever put up with me following him around poking a Minolta Dynax 60 in his face when we first met, I'll never know. But 12 years later he's still here, and I've got some great shots of him from back in the day. Mostly in and around Harrow.

My favourites were one of my first shoots with him, a kick around in Byron Park.

They're pretty basic. I went armed with a nice roll of Ilford HP5 400 B&W film (the bestest in the business), my cheapo'beercan'  zoom lens purchased at a second hand camera shop in Rayners Lane and a fast shutter speed. That's all it took.
playing football in byron park man with ball
One of my favourite ever shots of Ben. I love the look of film photography and always have.
All that remained was to find a good view point.

By the by, I acknowledge the vignetting in the above shot - know that I was 18/19 and had no idea how to handle this extremely long lens. I like how it frames it, actually.
man dives for football save
Ant was always landing in interesting positions, they made for fab pics.
I won't lie - there were times when I feared for the safety of my camera. One swift hit of a ball on my gear could have all been the end. But my was it worth it.
man playing keepy uppy in the park with football
I recently rediscovered the scanned negatives on disc - so glad I thought to do it back then.
I have recently made the swap to digital and although I was trepidacious at first, the expensive cost of film developing recently really has left me with no option.

I can't ditch film completely, it's what I know and love. I know how to handle it. But it's about time I stepped into this century and kept up with the game.

man falls down in goal byron parkgoal keeper throws ball in byron park harrow
Since then I've gone on to do weddings (good fun, actually) and the occasional portrait shot. But the camera did have a few years of sitting in a dusty box until I could musterf the budget to pay for pro film developing.

A recent play around with Kodak Portra 800 left me with an eye-watering bill of over £60 to develop two rolls with an extra set of each. It's an awful lot to pay if you're not even sure you're happy with the final outcome.

professional photograph of two men playing football in the park
Getting a low viewpoint lends a more dramatic composition
But luckily with these, I was. Harrow is a great town and I love to call myself a Harrow photographer. I've had a great many opportunities to capture the beauty of the place I grew up in, and relish any opportunity to go on doing so.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Knitting and crochet workshops I'm teaching 2017


I'm very excited. starting in April I've got a whole bunch of upcoming knitting and crochet workshops running in conjunction with The Knitting Network and Woman's Weekly Magazine.

All held at our sparkly new headquarters at Marsh Wall, Canary Wharf - do drop in for a fun workshop if the mood strikes you, it would be great to see you. Details below (links to book are on the dates, or you can ring 0800 024 1212 and book over the phone).

Learn To Crochet

Fridays 28th April and 23rd June (10.30 - 4.00)

I really love teaching these - it's so rewarding watching people who have never crocheted before learn to tame a hook and create fabric.
 This jam-packed day is a start-to-finish introduction to crochet for those who have never held a crochet hook before, or who’ve tried but need to check their technique or get a refresher. Join our experts for our most popular workshop – places fill up fast – so book your spot before they’re all gone.

Arm Knitting Afternooner

Wednesday 9 August (12-4pm)

I was totally not convinced by arm knitting at first but it has it's place for super speedy, humongous projects. It's certainly a fun and very sociable activity, many people come as a group for this one. 

Join me to ditch the needles and go all arms for this fun new technique for giant and super speedy knitting. Be prepared to get your upper body moving with many people preferring to stand while their giant pieces of fabric, form. Make yourself a snood and try your hand at some other shapes and sizes. No knitting experience required!

Professional Finishing For Knitters (Intermediate)

Friday 14th July (10.30am – 4.00pm)

This is a classic rehash of an old favourite. Professional Finishing is a great course if you've started knitting garments but they're looking a bit wonky. This day tends to shape itself around the questions posed by those attending so it's quite flexible.


Aimed at those of you who know the basic knit and purl and can read and understand a pattern, this is a great day out to sort out any niggles you’ve come across at the final stages of a project. Learn to pick up stitches without forming any gaps, banish bizarre buttonholes, master invisible seaming and get your teeth into some spectacular shaping exercises. Participants will need to bring 3 x DK 10cm knitted squares in stocking stitch.


First Steps In Crochet (Total Beginners)

Friday 11th August (10.30am – 4.00pm)

Similar to my Learn To Crochet day, this full-day course is also aimed at total beginners. But there's some bonus things if you fancy doing both this and the following course.



Get to grips with how to handle your crochet hook and yarn, master a variety of stitches and tackle reading patterns with a selection of projects to try in the afternoon. Those attending the course on the following Monday (see below) will be assigned some bonus activities (yes, there's homework) to take away with them and practice over the weekend.

Motifs, Mandalas and Granny Squares (Beginner to Intermediate)

Monday 14 August (10.30am – 4.00pm)

An ideal next step from First Steps In Crochet day (above), join our experts to put the basic stitches which you already know into practice with some stylish circular projects to develop those pattern reading skills.

Add a flourish of colour and texture to a variety of granny squares, circular mandalas and pretty motifs. A perfect day to pop along to if you’re partaking in our current Collect and Create series in the WW Knit and Crochet Monthly.






Knitting With Colour – Fair Isle and Intarsia (Intermediate)

Friday 6 October (10.30am – 4.00pm) 

Last time I taught this course we had a ball! No pun intended, of course.

The day kicks off with a comprehensive morning of Fair Isle techniques (it's tricky, so best to do this while you're fresh!). There are three main ways to hold your yarn while working and I like to let everyone try all three, and then move on to pick one which suits them.


In the afternoon, we ease off into Instarsia country. Starting with knitting an initial of your choice, and hopefully finishing it when you leave.

Never be bothered by a complex looking picture knit or complex colour project, ever again. I always think this day is pretty fun.

First Steps In Crochet (Total Beginners)

Thursday 9th November (10.30am – 4.00pm)
  
Similar to our Learn To Crochet workshop, this full-day course is aimed at total beginners. 

Get to grips with how to handle your crochet hook and yarn, master a variety of stitches and tackle reading patterns with a selection of projects to try in the afternoon.  

Those attending the course on the following day will be assigned some bonus activities to take away with them and practice overnight, if they wish.

 

Poppy Brooch Crochet Workshop (Beginner to Intermediate)

Friday 10th November (10.30am – 4.00pm)

An ideal next step from our First Steps In Crochet day , join our experts to put the basic stitches which you already know into practice with some very special flower brooches to develop those pattern reading skills. 

Proudly wear your WW Poppy in memoriam for Armistice Day, (the following day). 

Those who finish their poppy during the day will have the opportunity to make more than one, or choose from a variety of other pretty flowers to make.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Reconnect or cut off from film photography?

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I studied film photography at A level and LOVED it. So in my teens I got hooked on manual photography controls and developing film by hand.

rainy night in harrow photographed by frederica patmore bhs
One of my first prints was of Harrow Town Centre (BHS on the right)

It was empowering to have such immense control over an exposure.

Some of my earliest stuff is still my favourite – with many shots being of total strangers. I really loved learning on Ilford black and white films.

man and boy walk holding hands in hyde park by frederica patmore
Taken at Regents Park, these chaps were out for a stroll

Having cut my teeth with manual photos, my dad treated me to a cheapo automatic film SLR which I later upgraded to a Minolta Dynax 60, which has now been on my hip for a solid 15 years.

football in byron park wealdstone by frederica patmore
My partner must have got fed up of me carrying my camera all the time.
 
Armed with a few basic lenses, including a 75-300mm Minolta Tele Zoom (used in the football shot, above), my trusty 35-70mm Macro zoom and a couple of others, I’ve recently invested in some wide angle lenses to keep my kit versatile. 

The Eden Project by Frederica Patmore
The Eden Project, Cornwall

I've never been good with landscapes and now I know I just needed a wider frame. As much as I love the above, it's quite close in.

Rowing team on the thames in Hammersmith by Frederica Patmore
Landscapes were fine if I'm far away but now when I'm much closer.
 
It's started to dawn on me though, that in order to be versatile, I really ought to be considering making the digital switch to a digital SLR.

Hammersmith bridge sunny afternoon by frederica parmoreHammersmith by the thames by Frederica Patmore

  Above: pictures from a sunny stroll along the Thames when I lived in Hammersmith 
I’ve really struggled in the past without the ability to change ISOs at the flick of a switch, so that prospect does tempt me over to the shiny electronic side. But the throwaway disposable nature of digital images fills me with real disgust.

Red and white flags in bari Italy by Frederica Patmore
Bari, Italy
It’s just made everything too easy which has made the art, is in my opinion, dismissive and lazy.

However.

When I recently took some Kodak Portra 800 for developing at Snappy Snaps I was in for a whopper of a developing bill. It struck me that recently offering to photograph a close friend’s wedding was perhaps a higher bill than I was willing to pay.

Bee on lavender Hammersmith London by Frederica Patmore
My macro lens would occasionally come in handy

But at least they’d have had prints.

 Then again, a recent trip to meet my new baby nephew (the photos I took to Snappy Snaps), I ran into another whirlwind of problems.

Horse riding at Bushey riding school on a misty morning
My kit lens was fine for portraits
 
The first, not anticipating the fluorescent light at the hospital (silly error really – I should have packed my FL-D filter) so my nephew’s pics are twinged with green, sadly. Don't worry though, I've fixed them in post. Got them put on a disc so I could do some manipulations.

Baby portrait FL-W fluorescent light Portra 800
Upped the magenta and downed the green in photoshop to achieve this balance
And then my far of shoving a flashgun in his adorable, very very new face – meant that all the other photos that day have come out either blurred (too lazy to carry a tripod, I am – I won’t be making that mistake any more) or too dark. A high price to pay for dodgy prints. 

But for the most part, there are some beautiful ones in there.

I’m not totally pleased to hand over my prints to the happy couple to be honest, I’m embarrassed as a photographer to have been so thoughtless with such basic rules.

Maybe my new found laziness means I ought to switch to digital?

Or maybe I should be working harder to rekindle my love for film photography, and just, y’know, do it right? Like I used to...

Climbing a tree harrow on the hill
Whatever happens, I am still a good old fashioned cheap photographer in Harrow, London. Happy to take on events and portraits, get in touch if you fancy a shoot and I'd be happy to consider it. I do it for the love of film.