The latest issue of Knit Now is in the shops today and I have a new design in it. Mooring is one of those quietly pleasing designs that grew on me more and more as I made the sample so that now I’d count it as one of my favourites.
The design brief called for a seafaring influence and as I gathered images for my Pinterest moodboard, I found myself drawn to the idea of ropes. I remember going to visit the Ropery at Chatham Dockyards when I was younger and loved the idea of how generations of sailors relied on ropes to capture the power of the wind and keep them safe from it when they were moored. Cable stitches were the obvious way to go, but I wanted them to run around the hat, rather than down it, like ropes wrapped around capstans. I achieved the effect I wanted by using a provisional cast on and knitting the cables flat before grafting them together. After that it was a simple matter of picking up stitches along either edge to create a brim and crown. I really like the way this gives the hat a slightly corrugated slouch.
The yarn I used was Erika Knight British Blue. This is a generous DK weight which has the stitch definition essential for showing of cables, but a lovely softness in both feel and appearance. It gave the hat a feeling of being a comfy, classic favourite, even when it was fresh off the needles, which was exactly what I wanted. Blue Faced Leicester wool is popular for a reason and you really can’t argue with how smooth and squashy this feels- it manages to feel warm without being too heavy, even with the volume of wool cables take up.
Normally when I write about a new design being published that’s all I’d talk about, but this time I thought I’d mention a little more about the magazine. I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with Knit Now since it launched a couple of years ago and for me, it’s issues like this one that sum up why I love working being part of it.
It’s a ‘Best of British’ issue, which means that all the yarns used for designs have been grown, spun and dyed in the British Isles. The influences and ideas are also firmly rooted in our native traditions. Now I wouldn’t for a moment deny that there are wonderful yarns and patterns to be had from all over the knitting world but it is a joyful and undeniable fact that we have long and proud history here of wool, knitting, weaving and fashion, so why not celebrate it once in a while? There’s even a ‘woolsack’ at the centre of the UK Parliament as testament to the historic influence of the fluffy stuff. I’ll stop with the flag-waving now, but suffice to say that with a lot of angst surrounding national identity and unity at the moment, it’s uplifting to think about something positive and creative that brings us together.
The nautical influence I mentioned before dictates a beautiful, and very weather appropriate, colour palette for this issue- stormy grey blues with dashes of warming ochre yellow like those rare moments the sun breaks through and promises a whisper of Spring. Knitting style influences include the colourwork of Shetland, such as the beautiful Stormy Waters hat and mittens set by Claire Neicho and twists on the traditional Gansey theme, including the wonderfully feminine Wheatcrop Jumper by Ruth Garcia Alcantund. Personally, I could absolutely see myself in editor Kate Heppell’s Thousand Tide’s Tunic. As I’m currently working on a cardigan in the same shade of Excelana Vintage Wool, I’d think about mixing it up- perhaps using Persian Grey for the main colour and Nile Green for the detailing.
Incidentally, should you wonder how they achieved such an authentically ‘windswept’ look for the photoshoots, a lot of them took place round my way on the Furness peninsular. When Kate contacted me asking if there were any suitable seaside locations near me, I was pretty doubtful as the place I live in definitely tends much more towards the industrial than pretty fishing village. However, I took up the challenge, called on the knowledge of the locals I know and went out exploring. Turns out there are more photogenic places on my doorstep (before you even reach the Lake District) than I realised, with the only catch being that when you are on the coast, there isn’t a lot between you and Greenland- or at least that’s how it feels! Thankfully the rain held off for some fabulous shots, but all the knits in the magazine couldn’t stop that onshore wind biting. It’s no wonder I spend so much time buried in wool, really.
As if all that isn’t enough to float your boat (nautical theme, geddit?!) there’s an interesting interview with Yorkshire designer Ann Kingstone and another with Magnus Holborn about Foula sheep (Foula wool is on my ‘need to investigate’ list), plus this issue also comes with a free wool needle ‘pebble’ (I constantly lose my wool needles. This may help me hang on to them a little longer) and a booklet of ‘Knitting Expert’ tutorials.
Happy knitting, everyone!
Ta-da! Yes, I know that one pair of socks is nothing for some prolific footwear knitters, but up to this point socks have been a sticking point for me. I’ve made a few pairs but I really, really struggled with the second one each time (I have one that’s been languishing on the needles for nearly a year now). I also found I couldn’t really see the point, since the socks I’d completed were baggy and too thick to wear with shoes. However, not only do I have chronically cold feet but I’m also so drawn to sock yarn. It’s those jewel bright colours that do it for me. When the Sochi Ravellinics came around there was only one thing to do- face the sock demons.
This was only the second Knit-A-Long event I’d been part of. The first was Woolly Wormhead’s Mystery KAL last autumn. While I love Woolly’s patterns, I learned from doing it that it’s not really the best sort of KAL for me. I found myself feeling jealous of those people posting about setting aside the day the first pattern installment was released to knit. That would rarely if ever be an option from me so I ended up putting pressure on myself to catch up. I think I’m just too competitive basically- give me a time limit and other people doing the same thing at the same time and I want to be the first to complete. It ended up with me giving myself wrist strain from trying to knit too much, too fast and I really didn’t get to enjoy my knitting.
The Ravellinics was a different experience. I loved the anticipation of gathering my ‘kit’ together and checking out what other members of my team (Old Maiden Aunt) were planning. Joining the mass cast on during the Opening Ceremony felt really special and as I was doing my own thing, I knew that even if there was only time to literally cast on, that was fine- no-one was ‘beating’ me. As I was making my first pair of ‘two-at-a-time’ socks every part I completed was a little victory.
The pattern I used: ‘Brother Amos Hellfire Lace Socks’ by Brenda Dayne actually uses short row shaping for the toes. I couldn’t work out how this would work for the two-at-a-time method, so I made the toes separately then fiddled about until I got them lined up for two at a time knitting on the instep. Similarly, turning the heel and tackling a lace pattern that sometimes carried over the end of a round seemed too tricky for two-at-a-time so I separated them again for this part. Thinking about it, most of these socks were knitted one then the other, so maybe I’ve cured that second sock syndrome! I had a few hiccups with stitch counts after the heels and with the lace patterns on the ankles but nothing I couldn’t handle.
Most of these socks were knitted using two short 2.5mm circulars. I found these way more easy to handle than a set of dpns. I find double pointed needles uncomfortable and awkward to work with. I get ladders at corners no matter how many tricks for tightening I try and I end up stabbing myself in the chest with them or dropping them down the side of the sofa. That spiky bunch of needle ends and yarn start to feel like an unfriendly sea creature I’m wrestling with! The pattern called for a change to 3mm needles for the tops, rather than adding ankle shaping. I ended up using 2.75mm as the gauge seemed much too loose on the larger needles. Even so, the finished socks are not as snug as I’d like around my (reasonably skinny) ankles. I think another time I’ll use 2.5mm throughout- now there’s something I never thought I’d say, usually being a ‘nothing below DK and 3.25mm’ girl.
If my love for colour is what makes sock yarn so appealing, then this yarn ticked all the boxes. The ‘Nothing To Hide’ colourway was created especially for the Sochi Games by Old Maiden Aunt and it was seeing it, and quickly snapping some up, that made my mind up about taking part in the Ravellinics. I don’t often use variegated yarn but it’s really great for keeping you going (for example on that dreaded second sock) as you think ‘I’ll just knit to that purple, because I want to see how it looks against the green’. Then you see a great orange coming up and you knit to that and before you know it, you’ve added another inch. I think the lace pattern worked really well with this yarn too. I’d been looking for something that wouldn’t be lost in the variegated colour but that wouldn’t fight with it either. I like the way the colour swirls up the socks and the lace adds interest. I should add that they feel fantastic on my feet and are fine enough to wear under boots, even if that seems a waste!
My knitting year has kicked off with a challenge, then. I’m definitely going to tackle more socks- I’m thinking a bit of a spree at Woolfest and Yarndale in preparation for a summer of sock knitting. That way by the time my tootsies start to get chilly again in the autumn I’ll have a whole drawerful of bright coloured warmth. At the moment I’m back in my comfort zone, project-wise. A number of accessory commissions in my usual groove are underway and I’m still snatching moments here and there to work on my two cardigans. The next challenge is coming up, though. A shawl. A proper, lacy shawl. With beads. For my sister’s wedding. I mean, for my sister to wear at her wedding. Eeep! I’m going to have to start it soon so that I have lots of time to deal with any difficulties that may arise but I suppose that in the inevitable moments of crisis I should look at my Sochi Socks and think ‘If I made those in less than two weeks, I can do anything!’.
Knit on with confidence and hope, through all crises
This week has brought good things in variously sized packages. News came earlier this week of the safe arrival of a third daughter for my oldest friend. I’m delighted for her and her family and now of course feel that I should be adding a baby item to my slightly ridiculous list of works-in-progress (2 cardigans, 2 pairs of socks and a hat at the moment, with more coming up fast and those unfinished dresses to sew as well!)One of the many agreeable aspects of designing for commissions, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, is yarn support. Parcels of yarn arriving at regular intervals is something I could never tire of, especially when it’s as zingy as this:
I am so totally out of my usual knitting zone at the moment, with so many projects on needles smaller than 3.25 and the use of variegated yarn. But when stocking stitch is required, the sort of long-ish colour repeats seen on this Noro Taiyo 4ply are a great motivator- you just want to go a little further to see what the next bit will look like. We were looking for sunset shades for this design and these are spot on, even in the cold winter light here.
Once the Noro design is done I’ve also got this Rennie Supersoft 4ply to knit up. Despite being a firm fan of home of other well established Scottish yarn producers, I don’t think I’ve ever worked with JC Rennie yarns before. The colour is very pretty without being sickly and on initial squidging, the feel is soft but has a reassuring, tweedy firmness. I will say more when I’ve had a chance to get it cast on.
Next, I’m assuming this was another arrival by post, unless they walked it down from Shetland to my local bookshop. I had the always-welcome Book Token amongst my birthday presents this year and decided to treat myself to Shetland Textiles: 800 BC to the present by Sarah Laurenson. Ordering it through my local indie bookshop meant that I could support their business and also use my token, so I went for that option instead of getting it over the internet. It’s turned up just in time for half term so I’m hoping that I’ll get a chance to do some reading. Larger than I expected (a nice surprise), it’s dense with essays and glorious pictures and therefore I feel I need to find some quiet, calm time to read and digest- not a bathtime read!
Finally, a Ravellinics Sock Update: After starting each toe separately, I’ve been working them two-at-a-time and have just completed the foot and gusset. I think I’ll have to separate them for the heel and possibly keep them that way for the remainder but at just under a week into the Games I’m happy with progress so far. My Ravelry project notes can be found here.
I’ve been pondering what I what write in this post for a while. These days, I mainly write about knitting , with a little bit of family and food thrown in. I’m aware that if you read this blog because you’re after those sorts of posts you wouldn’t necessarily be expecting an exposition of my thoughts on rights to sexual freedom and political expression. Nor would you necessarily care to hear a probably too personal story from me explaining how I came to believe that, love, celebration and creativity is a great way to face down hatred and destruction (I do believe that, by the way).
My pondering, in case you’re wondering where this is going, stems from the fact that during this Winter Olympics I’ve decided to take part in my first Ravellinics. So on the one hand, knitting and watching highly skilled people do impossibly dangerous stuff on snow and ice without injuring themselves (too much). On the other, all that (important, shouldn’t be ignored) stuff about freedom, hatred etc. You’re here for the knitting. Therefore I will stick to writing about the knitting and you can read what you will into the significance of choices I’ve made. Or just enjoy the knitting stuff. It’s very pretty and there are even some penguins involved…
Let’s get it out of the way straight off the bat. My chosen Ravellinics event is Sock Hockey. People who know me and my knitting, please stop laughing. I know that the point of Ravellinics is to complete your chosen project within the time frame of the Olympic Games but it’s meant to be a challenge, okay? For me, there’s not a lot more challenging than trying to complete two whole socks in…okay, in any time frame.
To try and give myself a fighting chance I’ve found a toe-up pattern so that I can complete at least some of the socks two at a time. As I’ve mentioned before, I learned how to do this recently and have used the technique successfully for sleeves since. The pattern is Brother Amos Hellfire Lace Socks by Brenda Dayne, which I think will have enough interest in the lace patterning to keep me going but doesn’t look too fiendishly complicated. The lace patterning should also hold its own against the yarn I’m using, where subtler texture would probably get lost.
Ooh, the yarn! I’m knitting for Team Old Maiden Aunt. If you aren’t aware of indie dyer Lilith’s work, you should go and have a look immediately. I’d bought some gorgeous blue/grey/purple yarn from her a while back, which is currently awaiting cast on as part of a new design once I’ve cleared my current backlog a bit. When I saw her special Olympics yarn, ‘Nothing to Hide’ with its gorgeous rainbow hues, it brought out the magpie in me and I had to have it. Pretty enough in the skein, it was one of those yarns where you squeal with joy when you wind it into a ball because it’s so lovely! I seriously cannot wait to get it on the needles and then wear it (if I keep saying things like that it will happen, yes? Positive affirmation and all that.)
With yarn and pattern in place, I needed a kit bag (imagine me standing in a sporting pose and doing some stretching at this point). Not finding anything I really wanted to buy, I ended up scouting about on Pinterest for those Japanese Knot bags you see around the place. I used a mish-mash of a couple of different patterns and how-tos and made up my own template. The fabric was some of the penguin print cotton left over from my pyjama pants and a tiny flower print I had stashed away for another purpose. The finished result is cute, if a little on the small side, possibly. I’ve got some ideas for refinements for future attempts.
Naturally, the kit bag had to include the best kit for the job. This was one of my excuses for yet another order to Meadow Yarn for Hiya-Hiya circular needles. I could also add that the pattern calls for the use of two circular needles. Or that I need to use circulars to do two-at-a-time. Or that possibly the reason I don’t get on with sock knitting is that I appear to be incapable of handling a clutch of dpns without periodically losing one of them and/or stabbing myself in the chest with them. Obviously, buying more of these silky smooth metal needles does not mean that I’ve recently developed an obsession with them. Obviously.
Details of the project are on Ravelry here. I’ll see you at the finish line. In my new socks.
Knit in Colour was the name of one of the first boards I created on Pinterest. I suppose it’s a celebration of the way that knitting with colour, or even looking at knits in colour, is a way of connecting and feeling colour so that one can push back the dreariness the rest of the world sometimes presents. I could therefore very much relate to the ‘rule’ put forward in this recent Soulemama blogpost, that “February knitting (in wintry parts of the world, anyhow) is not meant for white, grey or black“.
I present my works-in-progress as we say goodbye to a dreary, damp January and welcome a February that is looking a similar way at the moment, weather-wise. A great hit of colour, in my favourite ‘Amelie’ (as in the Audrey Tatou film) shades. The blue cardigan you saw last week, when I was discussing its second sleeve cap. Said sleeve cap is now completed and I am onto the decreases and stocking stitch of the home straight.
I’d be crossing the finish line a little bit quicker if it wasn’t for a bout of startitis that hit during the weekend. I was watching a new podcast from Joeli’s Kitchen and I entirely blame her! She was talking about how she frogged a red cardigan-in-progress to make the yarn into a sweater instead, because she’d realised that her wardrobe didn’t contain the sort of things she’d wear with a red cardigan. It got me thinking that I, on the other hand, very rarely wore the red sweater in my wardrobe (this one- an early but somewhat misguided adventure in designing) , but would absolutely find things to wear with a red cardigan. My nearly completed dress for one thing.
Thus I spent a merry few hours last weekend sitting on my bed, listening to the radio and frogging that jumper. I dutifully wound it into skeins, washed it (it was very wiggly after all that time in rib and smocking stitches) and waited as patiently as I could for it to dry. As soon as one or two skeins were ready they were on my swift. I cast on Samovar by Laura Chau- I liked the idea of a lace stitch instead of cabling for this aran-ish weight yarn (Manos Wool Clasica). The pattern calls for worsted weight, but I think the thick and thin singly ply squishiness of this yarn will mean it’s okay. So far, so good and I can almost feel the energy of that red warming my bones as I knit with it. A bonus is that, in contrast to the slow but sure progress of my 4ply Deco, this baby is growing quickly- it won’t be far behind the blue to be finished, I feel.
Finally, in the green corner, it’s the return of the socks. I’ve been working on these Lilybet socks by Rachel Coopey, in lovely Eden Cottage Yarn for far more time than is sane for a pair of socks. They must be nearly at their one year anniversary. Needless to say, one is complete and it’s my usual issue of not getting around to completing the twin. I’ve dug them out again because I’ve decided to take part in the Ravellinics for the first time this Winter Olympics. My challenge is going to be Sock Hockey so I’m seeing my work on these as a kind of warm up. I’ll say more about what I’m doing next week.
In other colour news, I was very happy to receive a belated birthday present from a very dear friend this week- a copy of Fair Isle Style by Mary Jane Mucklestone. There are all sorts of scrumptious colour combinations to be found in it- including the beautiful Mirry Dancers pullover by Cheryl Burke that features on the cover. My heart is set, however, on the Bressay Dress by Gudrun Johnston. Yes, it’s a lot of 4ply stocking stitch, but I could see myself wearing one so much over leggings or thick tights. I think I’d go for red again- something rich, dark and tweedy.
Finally, if you want more of a colour fix, you could do worse than having a look at Eden Cottage Yarn’s first venture into mill-dyed yarn- Milburn. Vicki has blogged about it here so go and admire the lovely palette of colours she has put together. Having worked with her and her other gorgeous yarns before, I’ve dropped some heavy hints and am hoping a few samples might find their way to me!
Much of my making- and thinking about making- this week has concerned sleeves. There are those who will tell you that designing is a simple business, if you consider that clothing the upper part of the body is basically about making a big tube for the torso, then two smaller tubes for the arms. Even ignoring the fact that that big tube has to accommodate and flatter a significant few lumps and bumps, this theory neatly side steps the issue of joining those small tubes to the large one. There are quite a number of ways to approach this issue, as any maker or designer is well aware. As for which is the best? Answers on a postcard please….
The first of my sleeves this week came when I finally reached the top of the Deco cardigan I’m making for myself in John Arbon Excelana. Joining the shoulder seams took me somewhere you may be surprised I haven’t been before- into the realm of the three-needle bind off. Obviously I’d read of this method for joining two sets of ‘live’ stitches before, but whenever I’d had cause to do this type of joining I’ve always used Kitchener stitch. Here, Kate Davies said to use three needle bind off so I thought it was about time I tried it- I’m nothing if not obedient when I’m following other people’s patterns. Wow. So simple, so neat- why haven’t I discovered it before?
Onward to the sleeve caps and I found myself juggling several circular needles as I picked up stitches around the armhole (I love Kate’s ingenious use of the slipped stitch pattern on the body to guide where you pick up from by the way). This done, the pattern uses short row shaping for the sleeve caps, picking up one stitch at a each end of the short rows to join the body to the sleeve. Again, I stuck with the recommended method from the pattern- in this case Carol Sunday’s short row method- for the turns and I just love the way everything comes out so neatly. You wouldn’t think the join of a sleeve could be such a thing of beauty. One sleeve is completed and I am chugging my way through that second set of sleeve cap shapings. It feels like slow work but I know I will appreciate it in the wearing.
Next it was time to (literally) dust off my sewing machine as I’m after a new dress. I’ve decided to make myself a ‘Darling Ranges’ dress by Megan Nielsen. I chose some organic woven cotton fabric from Ray Stitch and happily discovered that I had just enough to squeeze the pieces of an Oliver + S Jump Rope dress for M onto the layout. All well and good, but when I thought back to the school dresses I made using that pattern last year for M, all I could think about was wrestling with setting in the sleeves. Working back and forth on all those short rows when setting in my cardigan sleeve might take a long time, but it’s guaranteed that they’ll end up neat and even. Even on the fourth time of asking (I made two dresses last time and therefore set in four sleeves) I wasn’t quite happy with my last sewn sleeve caps.
I decided to slightly duck the issue by starting on my dress first. Darts on the bodice went okay, then I put in pockets (you have to love a dress with substantial pockets) and attached the skirt. Then it was sleeve time and as you can see, it went okay. The visible stitches are those put in to gently gather the fabric to ease the sleeve in, but I hardly needed them and will get rid of them later. The seams under the arms line up and everything! It was after this first, successful sleeve that I took the advice my mother gave me (it was about wallpapering, but the same applies to dressmaking) to whit: always stop for the day just before a difficult bit. If you try to do a difficult bit when you’re tired, you’ll mess it up. If you do it first thing on a new day, you’ll have the energy and patience to get it right. Just in case it was pure luck that got that first sleeve in, I quit while I was ahead and I’m still waiting for the opportunity to have another go. That’s the thing with sewing- things grow more quickly that with knitting, but there’s an awful lot more setting up and putting away before and afterwards.
This final sleeve is really just an armhole and proves that sometimes this whole area can be approached with simplicity. This knit is a ‘Milo’ sleeveless pullover, from the pattern by Georgie Hallam. The armhole is formed with a neat little cast off after working some mitred corners. This Milo has been made to replace the rainbow version I made my nephew when he was born, as he’s now grown out of that one.
This time I used some West Yorkshire Spinners Aran Prints from their ‘Country Birds’ collection- this colourway is called ‘Pheasant’. I’ve been impressed in the past with the quality of WYS yarn for the money but I have to say when I was given this yarn to play with I didn’t really fall in love with it in the ball. However, when I began knitting it absolutely grew on me. I particularly like the way the muted shades work together in garter stitch and it’s very soft. On the subject of not appreciating things on first sight, ‘Milo’ is one of those patterns that may not be appreciated by the recipient (or rather, their parents) when it’s first made as a gift. It doesn’t have the cute or pretty factor of a little cardigan in a lacy pattern. However, my sister is like a number of others I know in that she grew to love the Milo I made for her little one. It’s easy to put on, with no fiddly buttons; it works in any number of non-sickly sweet ‘baby’ colours and it keeps baby’s tummy warm without them grumping about having their arms restricted. It’s also worth mentioning that the pattern is very clear and well written.
Sleeves will continue to be on my mind into the coming week and not just because I’m hoping to get a few more of them finished. Having been recently reunited with my yarn swift (long story, don’t ask) I’m positively itching to wind more yarn and cast on, even though I know I should finish the other projects first. But look at this bundle of loveliness:
Could you resist getting that on your needles? I have plans for this which will require me to work out what I do regarding sleeves and their joining (I’m intrigued but slightly scared, by this for example), but that is thankfully not the case with this:
A month or so ago I had one of those days when my chronic failure to achieve a work/life balance with my day job got to me. I decided to write off the marking and planning and spend the afternoon with my little girl, just going with the flow.
We started off eating our lunch while watching the Cbeebies adaptation of the ‘Katie Morag’ books. That led us to go and find our book of Katie Morag stories for a snuggle and a read. Before long we had hatched a plan to make the ‘porridgeys’ Katie’s Granny Island makes- the recipe being included in the book.
A sweet little baking session ensued, with the results being a something like a supercharged flapjack- rich with syrup and supremely comforting. Feeling a lot more peaceful in general I decided that my own little girl needed a jumper just like Katie Morag.
Studying pics from the TV series, I reverse engineered the yoke using my trusty Stitchmastery. Then it was back to good old Elizabeth Zimmermann to use her formula for a yoked sweater. Having made a gauge swatch and taken measurements, it was a case of doing some fairly simple maths to make sure that once the arms and body were joined I had a multiple of 17 to accommodate the pattern.
As you can see, the body and arms are simple stocking stitch with a 2×2 rib border, knitted in the round from the bottom up. Having recently learned the art of knitting two socks at a time (what do you mean, have I managed to complete a pair of socks? Of course not! Maybe this year…) I used the technique to make the two sleeves simultaneously. It doesn’t make any logical sense, but I could swear that it takes less time to make two sleeves this way than doing one after the other, even though there are the same amount of stitches being worked. Perhaps it’s just psychological, but I heartily recommend learning this skill.
I used the super-soft and very reasonably priced West Yorkshire Spinners DK for this sweater. It’s lovely to work with and seems very comfy to wear. The dark blue colourwork is Blacker Yarns Blacker Swan DK- another buttery soft yarn. M is far more up for wearing knits than her brother, but it still helps to make sure things feel good against her skin.
The hawk-eyed amongst you might notice some pilling on the elbow in this shot. This isn’t a reflection of the quality of the yarn, as it has no more tendency to pill than any other pure wool yarn, but rather a reflection of just how long it’s taken me to get a shot of the jumper. While it hasn’t been very cold, the winter weather up here has been incredibly dull and drear these last few months- although thankfully the sun is actually shining today. Trying to find a day when madam and I were both available and there was enough light for photos seemed almost impossible, but meanwhile she was wearing- and growing out of- her jumper. As you can see, it wasn’t ideal even on the day we took these shots at her Granny’s farmhouse but at least I have a record of her wearing it before it gets too small. With luck they will also remind me that every now and again it’s important to take the day off and make porridgeys.
Project Ravelled here.
I just gasped to see how long it’s been since my last post. The festive season flew in and past so quickly and somehow all my good intentions to write during my time off got lost among the present exchanging, travelling, cooking and catching up with friends and family. All at once a new term has begun and another issue of Knit Now is out with one of my designs in.
Polska was an idea that took a while to come to fruition. I started this Pinterest board a good while ago, inspired by the gorgeous costumes worn on special occasions by the little Polish girls at the school where I teach. I loved the floral headbands and the way the bright colours of the ribbons sang against the black of their embroidered bodices and skirts.
How to capture that in a wearable, modern knit though? It took the boot up the backside of the subs call for the ‘Folk Song’ collection to get me really thinking. In the end I thought a cowl and mitts was the best plan- it means knitting in the round, which is so much easier for stranded colourwork, and also means that anyone slightly phobic of the busy patterns and bright colours of folk style could add just a flash of it above a plainer outfit.
Much as I love using Shetland yarns for colourwork, in this case I chose something a lot smoother- Debbie Bliss Rialto 4ply. I wanted the colours to be really vivid and crisp, like those ribbons I mentioned, and this yarn is perfect for that. It also came in exactly the colours I wanted- a deep fuschia pink, bright turquoise and pea green. Just as I hoped, they do sing against the black background and although this isn’t the traditional ‘sticky’ yarn you’d associate with colourwork, it’s soft enough to be quite forgiving so that after blocking the colourwork settled well without the lumps and gaps you can sometimes get with smoother yarns and stranded colours.
The final touch was the Latvian Braid edging. I’d fancied having a go at this after seeing it on Emma Welford’s Wallpaper Cowl for Holla Knits Accessories. It seemed like a great choice for finishing my cowl too and it’s a lot easier than it looks. Emma made a great ‘how to’ video for it as part of the KAL for her design- you can find it here.
As for the rest of 2014, well I started the year sending off a couple more samples of new patterns I’ve written. They’ll be published in Spring and I’ve another one coming up in a month or so. I’ve still got some other patterns in the pipeline for independent release but I’m currently seized by the desire to knit a whole load of garments for myself- could this cold and wet weather have something to do with it?! How about you? What’s on your needles to get you through January?
This post is already a week overdue and it’s going to be a short one as I’ve strained my wrists moving our chickens’ house (!) which is making typing really uncomfortable. However, I just wanted to write a few lines about the two designs I have in the current issue of Knit Now.
Ziggy was all about the yarn really, or more specifically the colours. There’s been a huge amount of (well deserved) fuss about the launch of Baa Ram Ewe’s Titus yarn, not to mention some lovely designs using it. When I got to handle the real deal at Woolfest it was the Parkin and Aire colourways that really caught my attention. Not the most obvious colour combination, I know, but I think that subconsciously I’d been absorbing all the Bowie fever that was around this year. The red/orange of his Ziggy-era hair, the blue of his eyes…and of course the colourwork had to include that lightening flash zig-zag. The headband of the Ziggy set is a sort of Spirograph #2, as it has slight shaping at the top so you can wear it as a lidless hat over tied up long hair if you want. The wrist warmers are just a little bit rock ‘n’ roll really, but super warm in the double layering of colourwork and this cosy yarn.
Porthmeor (above) is maybe a less assuming and out-there design, but I still have a lot of affection for it. Knit Now always has a mixture of beginner’s patterns as well as more challenging designs. You might assume that designing for beginners is easy, but coming up with something that will be achievable to a novice but still produces a stylish and interesting result is a challenge. I hope that the Porthmeor stole fits this bill as its pattern is formed entirely from knit and purl stitches and would be a good introduction to using a simple chart. Despite the simplicity, the texture and rhythm created is really satisfying. The textured pattern was inspired by the St Ives artists I love- Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson and Wilhelmina Barnes-Graham. I loved the way these painters and sculptors explored line and form, hence the circular forms and lines and the name, which comes from the beautiful beach in St Ives overlooked by the Tate gallery there. I originally envisioned this in a sea-foam green, although I do like it in the warm terracotta I used for the sample- maybe someone out there will make it in a green/blue colour so I can see how it looks!
Knit Now Issue 29 is in the shops now.
It may be that someone else already uses the word ‘knittivation’ to mean something else, but I’ve decided to use it to describe how I’ve used knitting to innovate and tittivate something. The ‘something’ in question here was my new winter coat. I’ve needed one for several years and somehow never got around to finding one. I was reluctant to spend too little on something cheap and nasty but never got around to saving up at the right time of year to get something decent. I’ve therefore survived with a mixture of the old and the charity shop.
This year I actually did manage to put money aside for something nice. I had my heart set on a parka-style Barbour waxed jacket so that I had a combination of weatherproofing, warmth and style, but when it came to the crunch they were either too short for what I wanted or beyond my budget. Then it occurred to me that it didn’t have to be a Barbour, so I searched around and came across another, much smaller, British brand: Peregrine. More specifically, I came across their Pensford Waxed Cotton Jacket. It was almost perfect except that I really fancied a fur trim for the hood.
With the money burning a hole in my pocket and the cold wind blowing down my neck on playground duty, I decided I would go ahead and order the coat. Surely it couldn’t be beyond me to fashion some sort of trim myself? I’d seen recent ads for Louisa Harding Luzia yarn- definitely not my usual choice as there’s nothing natural about it! It looked as if it had some shades that knitted up into very realistic-looking fake fur with the only disadvantage being that it couldn’t get wet- not great when trimming a waxed jacket intended as a very practical garment!
Determined that this was an idea that would work, I ordered the yarn in the shade called ‘Otter’ and soon both it and the coat arrived. The yarn is slightly unnerving in ball form- slightly heavy for its size and therefore bearing more than a passing resemblance to a small rodent wearing a ball band. However, it’s actually surprisingly easy to work with- so long as you don’t drop a stitch. I cast on about a dozen stitches and worked in garter stitch back and forth until I had the right length. The fur fibres fluff outwards so profusely that you can’t see any of the knitting underneath so you are left with a piece of double sided fur fabric.
I tested a small piece of the yarn to see what happened when it got wet and although it looked very bedraggled at first, it seemed to recover pretty well on drying. However, to be on the safe side I attached the doubled-over trim to a piece of cotton tape along one edge, then used snap fasteners on this and the inside edge of the hood to attach the trim. This way I can quickly remove the trim if the weather is very wet or alternatively, I can get rid of the trim altogether if it starts to look tired, without leaving any lasting trace on the coat.
I’m really pleased with my ‘knittivation’ but it’s only part one of what I’ve got planned for this coat (which, I must point out, was fantastic in the first place and is likely to appear in a lot of future pattern shots). The next knittivation is rather more ambitious and likely to take a lot longer than the couple of hours this first effort took. As for the Luzia yarn, I’m really pleased I stepped out of my comfort zone and tried it, as I think it could work really well as a trim on vintage-style cardigans, for example.
As for what’s been on my needles since then- well, I’m back in my usual habits, with pure wool British breeds and colourwork loveliness…