Nana Ordie’s knitting

by Frances Prowse

My Nana Ordie was an expert knitter. I was fascinated with the process growing up. I think watching her knit inspired me to start myself. She knitted by hand, on the machine and later spun wool herself. We worked on some projects together when I was a young adult. She would spin for me to knit.

Ordie and her husband John McComb raised 5 children in North Yorkshire in the 1940’s to 1970’s. North Yorkshire is bitterly cold in the winter and Ordie always had something on the knitting needles and a queue of people wanting to be next to have something made. Her knitting was really beautiful. She made heaps of jumpers, and no doubt all the other accessories as well – back in England.

In 1977 Ordie and John and the two youngest teenage sons (my uncles) emigrated to Auckland, New Zealand. My parents and me, had arrived here in 1972. Other family members had also followed. I was at primary school at the time and was so glad to have my grandparents, and extended family in my life, all living a short walk from our house. I was also fascinated by all the cake decorating, baking and knitting. My aunty Penny was also a keen knitter.

My mum taught me the basics of hand knitting but didn’t enjoy it herself- being left handed it was awkward. Mum said thankfully there was less knitting needed in Auckland as the weather was warm most of the time. I made my first scarf at about 10 year old in a vermillon colour. It was terrible but I was so proud of it. No Pattern, stocking stitch and the edges curled, a few little holes with dropped stitches along the way and was narrower at the top, but I guess we all have to start somewhere.

When we went visiting, Nana would give me the job of winding the wool from balls on the wool winder so it could go onto the knitting machine from the centre of the ball easily. I really enjoyed doing the winding and handling the yarn. Nana later gave me the knitting machine and showed me how to use it. I never really mastered it and passed in on to another aunt. I preferred the hand knitting. I also found the knitting really helpful to keep my hands busy when I gave up smoking.

Here are a couple of Nana’s tips that helped me a lot:

Twisted rib – When knitting a ribbed band do the knit stitches into the back of the stitch. (purl stitches don’t need to go into the back of the stitch) This makes a more stretchy band that springs back better. Here is a video of the twisted rib.

When knitting sleeves, for a neater more edge add the increase stitches two or three stitches in from the edge. The edge is straighter and easier to sew up. You can see some great sleeve tips here, including what I mean on this one.

Some other tips I have picked up along the way

Audrey (our founding member) gave me a solution for shoulder pain caused by too much knitting. All it takes is a switch to circular needles (going back and forth, or in a circle) and there was such an improvement. I have really enjoyed being able to knit for longer.

Take time to sew up garments carefully. I think it’s the most fun and enjoy the challenge of making the seam almost invisible. Although I hear a lot of people dislike the making up part the most!

All the best with your knitting during the lock-down.

I’m interested to hear your tips. Please note in the comments.

Here she is, my Nana Ordie, and the baby in her arms is me.

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SHOW & TELL 10 March 2020

  • Flo went to a Felting Weekend – some of her results: warm felted mitts, a lovely rose and ……..

  • ….. a flower on driftwood.
  • Maureen has produced a softly draping merino-silk shawl.
  • a merino-possum wrap…..
  • ….and a smart cardigan!
  • Marilyn has been knitting too. Rachel models her shrug/shawl in one of the versatile ways in which it can be worn.
  • A closer detail of the stitch.
  • Some of Caroline’s early felting and embroidery. Frances has recently sewn the blocks into a bag for Caroline.
  • Caroline also attended the Felting Weekend and produced these nearly completed slipper
  • Caroline attended Sandra’s Paper-felting Workshop and brought this interesting piece to show.
  • Elizabeth has been quilting and made this child’s cute quilt.
  • Rachel wove the fabric for this jacket when she was learning to weave, and she has sewn it up also.
  • Esther’s bag has been first patch-worked with recycled denim, then sashiko embroidered.
  • Frances has knitted a beret with her hand-spun yarn.

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25 February 2020

Romain took a workshop on ‘Boundaries’. She got us thinking about how we can go outside our usual ways of thinking when creating our fibre projects.
We created a circular boundary with yarn.
Creating alternative shapes
Having fun discussing the shapes we’ve created.
Romain showed us examples from her own work.
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Dyeing Day – by Frances

Yes, I lived to tell the tale!

Rachel and David welcomed us into their home yesterday to do some dyeing. Very brave indeed considering we were carrying dyes to and fro from the kitchen and laundry and into the craft room. We had 3 dye pots going in the kitchen – purple, blue and a blend. Also in the craft room there was dyeing wrapped with drops on skeins – wrapped in gladwrap going in the microwave.

I popped into Audreys on the way as she had some old dyes that “needed using up” surprised to find Flo there as well, as Audrey obviously wanted to make doubly sure we picked them up!

Tomoko, Kay, Esther, Alison and I were dyeing skeins. There were many others who came along to join in the fun doing other crafts and watching the dyeing.

I had about 2kg of beige woollen yarn ($5 for the whole big cone from the op shop) to dye and used some of Audreys dyes, I made purple and blue (no surprises there I’m afraid) – the skeins came out in a variety of shades of the colours I chose. I was pretty happy with the results and am keen to see them knitted up.

Some of the things I learned were :

  • Yarn needs to be soaked for at least half in hour in a preparation of warm water with some soap and vinegar
  • Both of the dye colours I used soaked into the wool leaving only light traces in the water.
  • The wool has a saturation point and can only take up so much colour.
  • The pot mustn’t be too hot in case the wool at the bottom scorches
  • The wool can be left in the dye pot to cool down as some colours in the dye are taken up at different temperatures.
  • The wool must be cooled before rinsing in cold in case it gets shocked and then felts
  • Food colouring dyes produce bright results, and are easy to clean up – although I didn’t try this method yet.
  • I should have tied my skeins more securely as some came undone when I was stirring them in the pot.
  • It’s never too late to re-tie the skeins.
  • Use a stick to remove skeins and hang to cool – they can be really hot.
  • Smaller skeins are easier to manage than the big skeins I made and quicker to dry
  • When big quantities are airing in the house they give off a farmyard smell!
This was later in the day when there were only about half of us left. From left Rachel, Tomoko, Esther and Alison
Kay rinsing

Some of the finished results
My massive skeins that I’m not looking forward to untangling. They look lighter in the photo.

It was so much fun working on this together. I’m looking forward to learning more about dying in the future and trying some different ways.

Thanks so much for having us Rachel.

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Four Seasons Exhibition – by Frances Prowse

Creative Fibre Wellington – Biannual Exhibition

at Bottlecreek Community Gallery, Pataka Art + Museum, Porirua until 1 March 2020

Sandra, Fiona, Caroline, Glenis, Florence, Caroline and myself have entered peices. There were nine entries in all from OFG with Caroline and Sandra entering multiple items. There are over 90 peices in a beautiful display. Such a lot of effort by so many people.

The exhibition had it’s official opening on Sunday. Fiona, Sandra, Audrey, Florence, Esther and myself attended the award ceremony on behalf of OFG.

Congratulations to Caroline for winning the Nancys Stitch Studio award, and to Glenis for winning the NZ Felters Award 3D. Glenis is also a first time entrant. Well done both of you! I accepted these awards on your behalf in your absence and will present at the next meeting (unless you’d like to collect prior.)

Audrey and her sister Edna at the Four Season’s Exhibition
Edna won an award for her large felted vessel.

Glenis’s exquisite “A scoop of Winter” won the NZ Felters award 3d

Caroline’s gorgeous art dolls the “In-betweens” won Nancy’s stitch Studio Award
Sandra’s Seasonal Variations hand woven bag
Fiona’s Summer Myvatn Iceland small format hand woven tapestry. Sorry the photo isn’t better.
Florence’s Seasons of life Hand felted sculpture

My traditional crochet granny square blanket “Summer Ocean” (top left)

There are over 90 items on display until 1 March.

If you get a chance, please go along and check it out.

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Presidents Report 2019


We’ve had another stimulating and interesting year at OFG, with 2nd and 4th Tuesday morning meetings at Johnsonville Community Centre in the Trust room, and Thursday nights on the weeks in between at my home.

We have strong membership and are financially in good shape going forward.

Our Committee

Elizabeth has done a sterling job in her first year as secretary. Fiona has been vice president and managed the blog. Florence has been a great support as treasurer for several years, and Sandra has been helping us organise education for our group. It has been my first year as president and I have enjoyed it immensely.

Gallery visits

We started the year with an outing to Dowse to see weaving by Anne McKenzie and onto Expressions where we took in the quilting display and Mt Felix tapestry. Other visits included another trip to Dowse in September to see work by Lakiloko Keakea.

Suffrage in Stitches was on in September at Wellington Museum and we were represented by works from Caroline and Winifred. We visited Pataka in October to see work by Val Griffith-Jones, and most recently a group of us visited the Massey University Exposure exhibition in November. These visits are always fun and sociable and we always manage to visit a cafe for some good coffee and refreshments, either before, after or both!

Creative Fibre Gold challenge

In April we were represented by our team “Oh for Gold” in the runway challenge at the Creative Fibre National Festival held in Palmerston North. Tomoko modeled a maroon and gold daywear ensemble. Our team included Nan, Tomoko, Sandra, Esther, Rachel, Marilyn, Maureen, Fiona, Flo, Glenis, Heather, Caroline and Romain. Included in the ensemble was a hand woven embellished skirt, hand felted and embellished jacket and handspun handknitted top in gold. The process of design to completion was journaled by Fiona. Our team did us proud with their wonderful work.

Anniversary Lunch

In July we celebrated our 25th Anniversary in style with a lunch at the Khandallah Trading Co. We had our own area and speeches from life members Audrey Sangster and Mary Knox were a highlight for me. Esther made the celebration cake, Caroline and Elizabeth researched and made a memory board display. I brought along the mic and amp from our band for the speeches and sang a silly song about knitting.

Flo and I presented Life membership to Nan MacDougall, who has been a long standing member, past president, wonderful weaver and great support and mentor for many years.


Fiona showed us how to needle felt little dogs.

We had an introduction to tapestry weaving led by Esther and Fiona.

Mary Knox came over from the Wairarapa and taught us all about the different parts of the spinning wheel, a bit about the history, and how to maintain it. We brought wheels for this.

We worked on a wet felted cowl with instruction from Flo.

Anne and Sandra ran an introduction to Kumihimo, where we learned how to braid.

Jo Reeve from Tawa Group visited and taught us how to do drop spindling.

Hat Challenge

We had an in-house challenge to make a hat any way we like for the October meeting. There were 23 entries. Some were hand spun and knitted crochet, some felted and some a combination of different methods. It was interesting to see what people came up with. Romain’s felted pill-box hat won the main prize.

Operation Brighten

Early this year we participated in the Creative Fibre Wellington challenge to make items for the women at the Women’s refuge. The items were to be either for the women to wear or decorative items to cheer up the bedrooms at the refuge. There was a formal handover at Pataka where the items were very well received. At the area meeting yesterday we decided this would continue and there would be a delivery every six months to the refuge of items any members would like to make to brighten up the lives of the women at the refuge. The next collection time will be July 2020.

Evening Group.

I have continued to host an evening group twice a month on Thursday nights (3 years now) so we can include people who are unable to attend in the day-time and also for some of us who like get together and craft more often than twice a month. There are normally from 3 to 9 people attending. It is a social time with supper and a casual atmosphere, people show their work get advice and help one to one. It’s also good setting to introduce friends to the group.

We end the year with the AGM and Christmas destash, and a Christmas party at my home in December.

We look forward to a Creative Fibre Bi-annual Exhibition entitled Four Seasons at Pataka in January. Some of us are working on pieces for it and I am really looking forward to seeing what people make.

I’d like to thank everyone in group for their contributions and support this year.

Frances Prowse

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Hat Challenge 22 October 2019

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