Friday, 16 December 2011

And the winner is...changing - maybe

I've not heard from Anastacia yet so if I don't hear anything by Monday 19th I'll use the random number generator to select someone else to win the Diamond of the First Water kit

ETA: the new winner was Marthamay0_0 and her parcel will hopefully be with her by Christmas

Thursday, 15 December 2011

New Pattern: Flapjack Mitts

I have been AWOL for far too long - pressures of work and publication deadlines. Also I've not had much to share as I've mostly been knitting magazine samples. I do intend to do some yarn reviews over the next few weeks as I've had the chance to knit with lots of different yarns - almost all wools or wool blends though.

One of the publications that I've been working on with the lovely folks at Knit Now magazine is a pattern supporting Roald Dahl's Marvellous Children Charity. Knit Now are co-ordinating Marvellous Mittens which will is a collection of patterns for mittens, gloves, arm warmers etc which will be released over the forthcoming months. I am lucky enough to be the designer of the first release:

The Flapjack Mitts are simple and quick with a cabled pattern that splits to form the thumb. They are knit with 1 skein of Colinette Cadenza (shade shown: Cumin) but other standard wool yarns at approximately 130yds/50g would also work. My original prototype was in Rowan Silky Tweed which is a very light aran (really a dk) and gave a more rustic look.

You can download the pattern via Ravelry here and there is a link on the pattern page to a JustGiving site for honesty box donations to the Roald Dahl Marvellous Children Charity. You can also go straight to the JustGiving page by clicking here.

These gorgeous photos were taken on a beautiful late Autumn day using one of our last dahlias as a prop. I can only take credit for the hands - the photos are the work of my very talented husband.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

And the winner of the shawl kit is...


This will be in the post once I have an address and I hope you enjoy working with the gorgeous yarn from Eden Cottage

Saturday, 19 November 2011

To do lists

I posted on Twitter a few days ago about my knitting 'to do' list which needs to be completed before the end of the year. Here's what I had:

Finish my Fugue hat in handspun wool/silk
Knit another Fugue in Koigu KPPPM
Find my pattern notes for Audrey in Unst and finish it
Knit a February Fitted Pullover
Knit 4 samples and write 4 patterns

And here's my progress:

Finish my Fugue hat in handspun wool/silk (no progress)
Knit another Fugue in Koigu KPPPM (no progress)
Find my pattern notes for Audrey in Unst and finish it (still can't find my notes)
Knit a February Fitted Pullover (started)
Knit 4 samples and write 4 patterns (1 sample finished, 2 patterns written, waiting on yarn for 2 of the samples)

However despite these well laid plans I had forgotten I was supposed to be finishing repairing my Mum's cardigan which is a size 22 slightly felted (not by design) pure wool cable rib loose fit item with damage to one elbow. The damage is such that I need to reknit that sleeve from just above the elbow down to the cuff. I have frogged the section and bought the yarn but have been procrastinating because it's going to be an absolute pig of a job.

I've also started sketching and swatching for six new designs which doesn't help with the procrastinating (3 pairs of fingerless mitts, 2 cowls and a hat)

I may have been over ambitious in my plan for the end of the year!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011


Having shown you my button collection I thought you might like to see the rest of the shiny things in my craft stash. Although I'm not a very bling person I do quite like beaded knitting and from time to time I add some beads to my stash. Unlike the buttons these are normally bought with a plan in mind although I don't always get round to putting the plan into action and sometimes the plan doesn't work out anyway. Here's my small bead collection:

As you can see some of tubes are nearly empty - the gold ones on my Pergola shawl and the silver ones on a hat that I still haven't finished writing up. Of these I think I actually have a vague plan for the multi-coloured tube at the front - I'm thinking of a shawl in a silver grey or a grey/lilac smoky colour yarn. I have the yarn and the beads but I've not got further than that as I keep getting distracted. I also think they would look lovely on long lace cuffs on a lightweight cardigan, possibly with the body in 4ply and the cuffs in laceweight...decisions, decisions

Monday, 14 November 2011

Never the right buttons to hand

I have a small(ish) button collection. It only runs to three tins...

Accumulating buttons is something of a family tradition. My mum had a battered cream tin that I think she got from her mum filled to bursting with all sorts of buttons. And a separate collection of buttons on cards which lived in her sewing box (a repurposed plastic 1960s baby changing box). This tin lived in the top of the coat cupboard and was used for a variety of purposes including gambling chips for playing Pontoon and 21, learning about colours and venn diagrams, and very occasionally for sewing onto things as fastening devices. I think all my sisters have some sort of button stash ranging - in at least one case the button stash would put any specialist button retailer to shame.

This is my collection (from left to right) - general odds and ends, sets, and vintage

And here are some highlights:

The little metal whales were part of a set and the rest are on my niece's Through the Woods hood, the black and white ones are a set bought at my very first Knitting and Stitching Show (the last one held at the NEC), the three candy coloured ones also came from the show and I think might inspire some colourwork on a hat in the near future, and finally the mice also came from a show and are just adorable. I have no idea what I will use them from but I had to have them when I saw them.

So this is my button stash. It's not massive but it's not tiny either and you'd think that if I needed to find 9 cream/pearl buttons at about 13mm diameter that don't even need to match then I wouldn't have a problem. Turns out that's not the case. A search  through the tins yesterday brings me to the conclusion that I have a great many buttons that are tiny, quite a few that are huge and all the ones in-between are impractical or the wrong colour for the project at hand. There are a lot that I don't imagine will ever reach their potential as fastening devices (or even as embellishments) but I can't bring myself to cull them. Even these buttons can one day become gambling chips!

PS: I bought the buttons I needed from JosyRose which has a lovely button selection

Saturday, 12 November 2011

WIPs and the frog pond

This little collection is my current pile of WIPs and half worked ideas - not including himself's socks which have half a sock to go and have been that way for about 8 months:

A sketch and yarn for a new design, already frogged due to the joining in the round looking weird

Another version of a design that's being published. I started knitting a third mitt to check gauge before submitting the pattern and then never finished it. I did confirm the gauge though. To the frog pond and then to become a hat possibly

My endless Audrey in Unst which needs half a sleeve, button bands and finishing. And I need this for work really. To be finished

An idea in progress for fingerless gloves. The pattern works but I'm not enjoying it much and my colour dominance isn't quite right. To the frog pond and then to become a colour work shawl although I will go back to this pattern idea.

Frogging WIPs is quite cathartic, freeing yourself from failed or failing projects that look at you unhappily from your knitting box, use up your needles, and stop you knitting other things. It also has a side benefit of returning lovely yarn to your stash for use in other projects. So that's my task for this morning after so I can clear the decks before starting samples for publication since I have quite a few to do.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Still celebrating

Now Knit Now is in the shops and seems to be doing quite well I thought I'd spread the love a little further with another giveaway. This time I'm giving away a pristine copy of Knit Now Issue 1 which has my Diamond of the First Water shawl pattern in it, a skein of the recommended yarn from Wild Fire Fibres (soon to become Eden Farm Yarns I hear) and a set of stitch markers that have come all the way from Sweden.

To win this yarn leave a comment recommending a pattern that you think I might like. I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner on November 23 at about midday GMT

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

And the winner is...

AmyBamy for her suggestion of Irene Adler. I like the Irene Adler character in the Sherlock Holmes story - a woman of honour and cunning without that being contradictory. I can see some long fingerless gloves with delicate lace and possibly ribbon laces from wrist to elbow.

Amy - I'll pm you on Ravelry for your address

I also really liked Squiggi's suggestion of Howard Roark with all those art deco shapes and individual drive so Squiggi wins a runner's up prize of one of my Ravelry patterns (if you'd like one) - I'll pm you

There will be a new competition soon to win a kit to make Diamond of the First Water (the pattern I was celebrating with this competition) but I need to take some pictures and decide on some rules

Friday, 28 October 2011

Don't forget...

Two things:

  1. It's the end of British Summer Time this weekend and therefore the clocks change and we all get a bit confused. Remember it's Autumn so the clocks go BACK by an hour. If you're in other parts of the world that mess with time then I think you've already done this for the year
  2. This blog giveaway ends on November 1st at 12pm BST. Yes, I did say BST because I forgot about the clocks when I set the time. So that's 11am GMT. I just checked that with my husband who gave me SUCH a look of disdain for my complete inability to get my head around time changes and zones and so on
And a sort of third thing...I do have another blog giveaway to follow this one. It's a shawl kit with stitch markers, pattern and truly stunning yarn so watch this space

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Sometime you have to frog

I started making a hat a while back in beautiful Knitting Goddess sock yarn (Silver and Jace shades) using a colourwork pattern I'd designed myself (inspired by Etruscan metalwork) and that worked really well and it was all going really well until I fell over the maths. Knitting from the brim up and wanting to do decreases based on Pi, whilst maintaining the colourwork is easier said than done especially when the doer is numerically challenged me.

My head is not cone shaped ergo the hat should not be cone shaped. Even with the addition of a bobble (and yes I did consider a bobble and I am not a bobbly person) it would have looked lumpy, misshapen and weird. Not stylish, slightly Deco and generally fab. Definitely not that.

And so it sat on top of the stereo speaker (where my hats live until photographed) finished, with the ends woven in, some of my best and more even stranded colourwork on display knowing that it wouldn't fulfil it's destiny to warm a head this winter.

At least it sat there until this morning when I realised that if I frogged the hat I would have enough yarn easily for fingerless gloves and the beautiful Etruscan inspired colourwork would work on gloves too. And so, on my morning commute I frogged the hat (whilst standing by the bike storage area and probaly getting some funny looks). This is what is looks like now, ready to take the next step in towards becoming a fully functioning piece of knitwear:

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The importance of swatches

Guilty confession time...I know I should swatch every time I knit something but I tend to have even tension and usually hit the gauge without needing to change up or down so when I'm knitting from a pattern I tend to wing it. I will swatch if it has a weird gauge for the type of yarn, or it's in an unusual stitch pattern but even then only if it's for something that needs to fit. I don't think I've ever swatched for a shawl pattern even though I know there are lots of reasons why it's useful to spend that time swatching and blocking. Here are some of the reasons:

  1. It lets you know if the stitch pattern will make you lose the will to live (with frustration or boredom)
  2. It lets you know if your tension is wonky or if you need to make adjustments to the pattern or pick a different size to meet your gauge
  3. It can be an outward sign of inward stress that you've been ignoring
  4. It's an opportunity to practice the stitch pattern/s, see how they flow together, and find out if they block differently
  5. It lets you know if your yarn will work with the pattern which is particularly helpful when you're substituting yarns which I normally am
All that being said I still rarely swatch. The only time I remember swatching was as a relatively new knitter making a cardigan in Jaeger Roma. I swatched, came out bang on gauge, and then I picked up the wrong needle and before you know it I had a gauge square with perfect tension and a cardigan that was a size too small (also I learnt my lesson about knitting in pieces and not being able to try as you go). That cardigan has looked at me reproachfully for the last couple of years until I sent it to a new life with a smaller knitter in Sweden.

Even when I started designing I would do all the maths, sketches, pattern write-up and then knit the whole piece with much frogging, note making, and re-knitting. This state of affairs continued until the last few weeks when trying to put together multiple pattern submissions meant there was simply not enough time in the day to knit the whole piece and I rediscovered the joy of the swatch. As you can see I now have a small and growing collection:
The yarns here are (clockwise from top left) Wollmeise 100% Superwash, some generic 4ply wool of unknown provenance, I think DB Rialto 4ply striped with Noro Kureyon Sock, Rowan Creative Focus Worsted, RYC Cashsoft Aran and on the top Yarn Yarn Crannog

This little heap tells me a few things:
  1. I don't have an extensive palette of colours
  2. I need to find something to do with the swatches
  3. I seem to be on a texture binge at the moment
  4. I really don't like knitting with alpaca
Closer examination of two of the swatches reveals more about my 4th point. 

I had in my head a very clear idea of a design - shape, pattern, what to wear it with (even the shoes) and colour. For some reason, even though alpaca makes me sneeze and sheds so much that my knitting chair looks like it's been attacked by a moulting Fraggle, I thought and alpaca blend would be perfect. I'm not sure what I was think but it definitely had something to do with the alpaca sales pitch of warm, light and soft yarn. So I hunted on the great plains of the internet for an alpaca blend in the perfect colour and found the yarn on the right which is Rowan Creative Focus Worsted in New Fern. Now it turns out that I have knit with this yarn before under a previous name (Nashua Creative Focus) but I didn't realise it at the time. So I knit a swatch full of lovely cables and moss stitch and it didn't look too bad...and then I blocked it and like my hair on a humid day it fluffed up and obscured the pattern. It is soft and light and looks like a bowling green with a moss problem but it's not going to work for this pattern. Back to the hunt which took me all the way to a part ball of RYC Cashsoft Aran - smooth, plied, bouncy, round, soft and full of woolly goodness and look at the difference in the pattern definition - perfect! The colour is all wrong for my mental image but since I also don't own the right shoes I can come to terms with that. 

And the lesson of the day is...know your yarns and pick the right yarn for the right job, and don't forget to swatch and check. I'm not sure what the Creative Focus is right for but there must be something...any suggestions?

Monday, 17 October 2011

I print!

Those of you who have subscribed to Knit Now, the newest knitting magazine in the UK market, will have seen this blog featured as well as my very first 'in print' pattern. I am bouncing off the ceiling having seen what an amazing job Kate Heppell, Joeli Caparco and the rest of the team at Knit Now have done with this issue and I'm incredibly proud that this magazine hosts my first 'in print' pattern - not least because I'm in company with some amazing designers showcasing their talents and skills.

The magazine will be in the shops on Thursday and I understand it's being stocked at Tesco, WHSmith and Morrisons amongst others and can be ordered through local newsagents.

So to celebrate my first 'in print' pattern being in print I thought I'd do a competition with this being the prize:

This is a skein of Fyberspates Sparkle Lace in greens and purples (75% Merino, 25% Silk, 5% Metallic and 875 yards) in shades of green and purple

To win this lovely skein all you need to do is comment on this post suggesting a literary or historical character that could inspire a pattern and give me a few words that you associate with that character before November 1st (12pm BST which is GMT+1). I will pick the one that I think I can turn into a pattern and the person who suggested it will win the skein (and if I actually do sort out the pattern I'll send you a copy). I will post worldwide and feel free to enter as many times as you like

I've been talking about...

...all these things

Wordle: Unwinding Slowly
 Isn't Wordle clever? If you click on the image it will take you to Wordle to see a larger version

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Autumn draws in...

I've noticed of late that I've been mainly knitting in autumnal colours - lovely rusty coloured tweeds and copper cashmere blends. There's a skein of dark brown merino dk looking at me from the 'planned projects' box and some stunning Crannog in the same colours as Lime trees as the leaves turn with the changing season just arrived.

I've never really noticed this seasonality in my knitting before. I'll quite happily knit mittens in July and floaty lacy shawls in January with a varied palette through the year but this year Autumn seems to have had quite an impact.Maybe it's the very wet and grey few weeks that we've had in Manchester that makes me want to have the wonderful Autumn colours on my needles even I can't see them on the trees through the drizzle.

Today though the sun is shining and it's one of those crisp, cold Autumn days that are perfect for walking up hills and ending up in a pub although sadly other duties call instead.

Some knitty Autumn colours for you...

On the top there is a new design in progress and one that I'm so far very pleased with. I saw a woman in the post office in a beautiful machine knit lace cardigan so when I got home I started trying to swatch it out. One thing led to another and I started to design a new pair of fingerless gloves. So far this has involved me learning how to do a no seam picot edge as show in SillyLittleLady's blog tutorial here and unventing a no lean central double decrease (I'm sure it exists properly but I worked it out without referencing anything). I don't have a name for this yet so if you have any thoughts...

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Flapjack knitting

I posted a while back about mojo knitting - the sort of thing you do when you've lost your spark and need to regain it. This was another such project I recently completed.

These simple cabled fingerless gloves are made from less than 50g of Rowan Silky Tweed (colourway Flamenco). I don't always enjoy knitting with tweedy yarns as they can be a little rough until they're blocked but this was fine to work with.

I'm about to put the pattern out for testing so this should be released fairly soon. I can knit an entire glove in one RWC test match (England vs Scotland last Saturday for Glove 2) so it's a quick knit and might be good for Christmas gifts

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Hexipuffs and Jitterbug

Here are my first few Hexipuffs for the Beekeepers Quilt by Tiny Owl Knits. My puffs are made with Colinette Jitterbug in 3.75mm needles and stuffed with polyester stuffing. This is a long term project (himself wants it to be 6' x 4'!) and will be quilt tied. I'm not doing the crochet bind off, just an ordinary three needle bind off and then threading the ends through the stuffed puffs. In the picture they are skewered on a 4 dpn - they don't actually stand on end!

I don't normally knit 'trending patterns' - I've not made a February Lady Sweater or a Clapotis. My BSJ, Fetchings and Monkey socks were done long after the trends seemed to be over - but the Beekeepers Quilt taps into a deep seated need to snuggle under sofa blankets and the days shorten and the temperatures drop. There's something comforting about snuggly blankets big enough for two

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Third shawl and first sister

My eldest sister turned 50 this year - and you'd never know it so I hope the youth genes run in the family - and so I started her entry in my sisterly shawls series. Except it's not a shawl. It could be a shawl, and when I write it up it will have a shawl option but at the moment it's a very long (82" x 8") shaped scarf. My other sisters named it so it's definitely a family affair.

Presenting Rosehip:

Knit in Posh Arabella (Cashmere/Merino) in Souffle, Rosehip has subtle cables and simple undulating lace resulting in a restrained piece of elegance. Perfect (I hope) for my classy eldest sister!

So, a very belated Happy Birthday to her (just over a month late) and this is going in the post.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Secrecy and Science

I'm struggling to blog at the moment as most of what I'm knitting is either samples for publication (yay!) or things that I'm hoping to submit for publication in the near future - hence the secrecy. I'm also really busy at work and in life generally which isn't helping!

That being said there are a few things I can talk about:

The Manchester Science Festival is coming up in October and the knitting group that I go to is knitting a solar system (as you do...). If you're local and interested then you can join in - more details here.

My Audrey has made precisely no progress and is making me feel guilty.

I have just downloaded the Bee-keepers Quilt pattern from Tiny Owl Knits  because I need a long term project like I need a hole in the head. I've also ordered a Colinette Jitterbug Creative Pack for all those hexipuffs.

I have nearly finished the third of my Sisterly Shawls - it's provisionally called Rosehip and is in lovely Posh Arabella cashmere

And really that's all although perhaps I should provide a teaser...

In posts to come I will be talking about Lanaloft Sport, Etruscan inspired hats and thinking about jumpers...

Monday, 12 September 2011

In Print

I may have mentioned that a couple of my patterns are being published in a new print magazine in the next few months. Whilst I don't want to ruin the surprise by saying which ones they are I can tell you about the magazine.

Knit Now is a brand new magazine focussing on accessories and homeware. It's being edited by the gorgeous Kate Heppell (indie yarn dyer and designer) and will be distributed nationwide. You can subscribe here for a truly bargainous price. The first issue is out on or around October 20th and I'm not sure if I'm in Issue 1 or 2 but one or the other...

I'm very, very excited - I've never been in print before!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Knitting for a good cause

After putting my colourwork mitts on the back burner for ages I can now very proudly announce that the pattern is available via p/hop in return for an honesty box donation to Medicins Sans Frontieres.

P/hop is a fantastic programme and I'm very proud to be contributing to it. If the mitts aren't for you then there a plenty of great patterns for all tastes and you get the extra pleasure of knowing you're supporting a very worthy cause.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Yarn shopping in Florence

I wasn't really intending to do much yarn shopping in Florence which is a good thing as we arrived towards the end of Ferragosto so lots of places were shut. Using this blog post from Knitting Tidbits and the comments I only went to Campolmi Roberto Filati but that was quite enough. This is a treasure trove of a shop staffed by very nice people and with some wonderful wool winding machinery turning cones into skeins in the middle of the shop. I bought 390g of a lovely wool/acrylic in navy blue (incredibly soft) and 140g of pale gold silk bourette for the princely sum of E15. They had baby alpaca for E7.50/100g which is about half the price of Rowan

Wall of cotton and cotton blends at E2/100g

Table of English Merino at E2/100g

Odds and sods table at E2/100g

One third of the non-sale stock part of the shop

FO Friday - Mojo knitting

I finished the hat without needing to buy more yarn!

Here it is blocking over the lid of a cake tin. I had about 7 yards left of the yarn which is lots really...

And this is the detail of the centre which has more accurate colours:

Simple cabled hat (improv.pattern)
Colinette Art (0.6 of a skein) in Ischia (I think)
3.25mm and 4mm needles

I don't think it's worth writing up but I might change my mind. Some things I improvise are just 'mojo' knits - I'm in a slump and need to get my knitting mojo back with something simple but lovely.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

WIP Wednesday

I rarely remember to participate in blog memes but since it's Wednesday and I have a WIP I thought I'd give WIP Wednesdays a try. This is a new design (possibly - I might not right it up) - a simple cabled slouchy hat in Colinette Art. I bought this yarn unlabelled at Ally Pally and in my head had decided it was Tao (despite not being very silky and definitely not a DK) so I'm knitting this far too tight and will run out of yarn. Still it's very nice yarn and knitting up into a lovely and very warm looking hat so if I can work out which colour it is I'll get another skein and carry on. It's a good colour on me and I need a decent winter hat given the cold damp weather in NW England and the prediction of another hard winter. I'm already in my winter coat and woolly jumpers...

You can see other WIPs via the links here

Postcards from Florence

And some photos from a very hot Florence...

A column detail in the Museo del'Opera del Duomo - potential for colourwork

Art in the very surreal Butterfly House in the Giardinaro Horticulturo (a butterfly house/ cocktail bar hence the surreality...)

Santa Maria Fiore (the Duomo)

Santa Maria Fiore 2

Santa Maria Fiore 3 - I was trying to capture details in the marble design but failing

Santa Maria Fiore 4

Bapistery - floor detail

Bapistery - details above arches

Russian Orthodox Church

View from the top of the Boboli Gardens near the Porcelain Museum

Sculpture in the Boboli Gardens

Boboli Gardens

Sculpture in the Boboli Gardens
I don't tend to take many pictures on holiday but I have lots of sketches of details that might make it into patterns at some point

Monday, 5 September 2011

Postcards from Scotland

As promised here are some photos from the beautiful west coast of Scotland...

A spectacular mountain in Glen Coe

The view driving through the Vale of Glen Coe

The view from the Corran Ferry queue

The view from Lochaline with the white sandy beaches, Ardtornish Point straight ahead and Mull to the right

The very clear waters at Lochaline

Interesting hairy lichen in the Sunart Woods

A heffalump in the Sunart Woods?

Loch Tearnait, near Ardtornish

The ruins of Ardtornish Castle looking over to Mull
Alpaca/Silk Dk from Loch Sunart Yarns and Buttons