August Guest Speaker: Liz Gemmell

Liz started knitting when she and her family (including 2 small sons) were living on a houseboat in Sydney harbour. They had sold up everything to travel, got as far as Brisbane before deciding it was not the life for them. Liz found that she had lots of time to fill with no housework so, inspired by Jenny Kee, she taught herself to knit from a book with lots of colour. What she knitted she wrote up as books:


Liz has always been interested in textiles. Her grandmother who could manipulate any paper pattern, loved bias and talked continuously. Her mother sewed instinctively without patterns.
Most Fair Isle patterns use only two colours. Liz devised a way of getting more colour into Fair Isle by combining it with intarsia. She knits with both her hands simultaneously and the yarn at the back stays parallel without crossing (this is called parallel stranding.) It is very easy to work in the round.
Fair Isle patterns can be drawn on ordinary (square) graph paper but intarsia patterns need to be drawn on knitters graph paper which has short, fat “squares” Liz recommends the paper that has a heavier line every 5 lines.
[We have a supply of knitters graph paper in the Yarn Store for those who were inspired by Liz’s images and work.] Weaving in the yarns as you knit makes the knitting very firm and suitable for carpets. Liz showed her early efforts which were based on traditional carpets with many small, different coloured motifs. Her handsome Fair Isle inspired rug was worked outwards from a central square.
Liz was introduced to felting at a Fibre Forum in Orange. She showed a cerise jacket that started life as her husband’s cream, Aran pullover. After years of hard wear the yarn was still too good to be discarded. Liz also makes delicate jackets of spaghetti felt by floating (sometimes predyed) roving onto her felting mat. She also learned shibori from books and is currently teaching the students at COFA the delights of thermoplastics ie setting shibori pleats in polyester with heat and how to dyeing them by sublimation.
Lace knitting suits the interesting fibres that we can buy now like silk and stainless steel which has memory. But Liz found that she couldn’t get a written pattern with 84 rows of explanation to come out correctly. When she translated the words to 0’s (for yarn over) and /’s (knit 2 together) it made sense. And she found 9 mistakes in the written instructions. By adding sleeves to a lace baby shawl she made a jacket. Thick and thin knitting makes for less bulky items that drape well.
Liz’s creativity allows her to see with a fresh, unbiased eye. If anybody else put a cardigan on upside down they would take it off immediately but she discovers how nicely the bottom drapes to make a collar and develops a new type of garment.

3 Responses to August Guest Speaker: Liz Gemmell

  1. Paul Downie says:

    G’day Liz :
    Was looking for you on the net.
    Has been a long time since Brisbane 1979.
    Am pleased to see you followed your passion.
    You were always superb and so creative re ‘making ‘ things!
    Do say hello to Leigh.
    Paul

  2. Thénot Elsa says:

    Hi Liz,
    I was a French student in your texiles course in UTS in 2009. I learned so much with you. It was great to meet you. I come back in the southern hemisphere in a week, I’m going to New Zealand and then I will probably return to Australia in Sydney. I hope to see you. Thank you for teaching me and discover felt.
    Regards,
    Elsa

  3. Leo White says:

    Liz,
    I thank you for coming to the Watch House on Friday night and sharing your experiences with us. It reminded me of an Australia of my childhood where people were prepared to help those less fortunate. Your story as a refugee was inspiring to me and I am sure to the many others present. Regards Leo White