Fear not! This isn’t going to be a melancholy reflection on the passing of time or the adversities we’ve faced this year. Matter of fact, I’m feeling incredibly positive about all that 2012 could bring, not least with all the creative opportunities already on the horizon. This makes me especially grateful to the lovely friend who gave me this Nicky McClure Journal- and sent me a text to say yes I blooming well should write in it, however beautiful the illustrations in it are. So I took a deep breath and made my first jotting in the Make section- there are also sections entitled Plan, Wish, Dream, Build, Explore, Learn, Grow, Give and Find. I feel determined to live up to them all.
True to form, my hands haven’t been idle over the Christmas break. I’ve been revelling in the beautiful deep blue, pink and purple tones of some Bowland DK by Eden Cottage Yarns. I can’t say much more about the project as it’s another design destined for publication (yay!) but I can say that it was the colour that originally inspired me, and that it continues to do so.
Finally, onto the big blue. My folks just went on a big trip to South America and because they are fabulous to their yarn-obsessed daughter, they found room in their suitcase to bring back this bundle of bright blue yarn from Uraguay. There’s 250g of thick and thin, bulky weight pure wool here, which has to make it one of the best holiday presents around. I haven’t worked out what I’ll make with it yet- all suggestions gratefully recieved. For one reason and another I’m not really into the idea of a scarf or hat, so I’m wondering about maybe some sort of shrug or vest. Ah, shucks, an excuse to wander along the by-ways of Ravlery, what a hardship!
Wishing you all a Happy New Year- here’s to a creative and prosperous times ahead.
Hmm. Now I recently promised that this blog would be more knit-focussed. But then, I also said (to myself) that this year I wouldn’t be doing Christmas knitting as I didn’t have enough time and didn’t want to spend the run-up frantically trying to finish projects. Read on and you’ll see that a lady (ahem!) is allowed to change her mind. Be assured though, that this non-woolly diversion is a blip and that I’ll be back to all things yarny soon. Fact is, I am inordinately proud of my Christmas cake and I wanted to share it here, although also slightly worried that I may have overdone ‘feeding’ it with sherry for the past month- it could well have quite a kick!
While I promised myself no Christmas knitting, I did persuade myself that making tutus as suggested in Oliver + S’s Little Things To Sew would be a good way to take care of the half dozen little girls we need to give Christmas presents to. It was…sort of. Suffice to say, wrestling one bundle of tulle into a tutu is bearable, wrestling six is a bit more trying. Once finished and viewed with fresh eyes after a much needed night’s sleep, they do have a certain seasonal magic, and I’m hoping the recipients will have lots of whirly, dancing fun in them.
And the Christmas knitting? Well, one is still a WIP- sigh!- for a little girl whom I think is a bit too small appreciate a tutu just yet. The other, shown above, is as much an indulgence for me as for my little M. I persuaded myself to buy the velvet dress by identifying at least three occasions in the coming weeks when she can wear it, and once bought it was just crying out for the sort of little fluffy white cardigan I remember from my own childhood party outfits. It’s another Tiny Tealeaves, made slightly shorter and with just one button to suit the A-line of the dress. The yarn is King Cole Galaxy DK in Saturn which was on at a reduced price at Deramores. This is an acrylic wool mix with sequins that are very pretty, if slightly irritating to knit with (I like my yarn smooth). It’s very soft and has a enough of a halo to give it that luxurious look. Surprisingly, when knitted up the sequins don’t feel scratchy, which is a bonus despite the fact that M won’t be wearing this against her skin.
With an alarming list of Christmas baking, shopping and wrapping to do, not to mention that last-minute bit of knitting, this will probably be the last of me until the other side of the festive weekend. So until then, may your holiday be full of sparkle and shine, and all your yuletide knitting be completed on time. Happy Christmas!
UPDATED: Jan 17th Yikes! In my hurry to get this ready for Woolsack I managed to include a number of howlers in the pdf. The link below now should take you to a (hopefully) more correct version. Sorry to anyone who’s been struggling with the previous version.
You may not think that there’s much about the London 2012 Games that’s going to have anything to do with knitters. This may be because you haven’t heard of Woolsack,which has been granted the Inspire mark and is part of the Cultural Olympiad.
The aim of the project is to encourage people- from schools and colleges, community and craft groups, smallholders and farmers, British Wool yarn producers, spinners, dyers and individuals to help to make cushions using British wool, which will then be given as welcome gifts from the people of Britain to the visiting Olympic and Paralympic athletes.
It is hoped that making the cushions will help people gain craft skills and also to learn about the production of British Wool, on which the British economy and early industry were originally founded. In this way a wide range of people can be inspired by the 2012 Games, even if not everyone is able to participate directly in sports and athletics.
The cushions are all to be 40cm square, made from British wool yarn and be suitable for stuffing with more pure British sheep’s wool before being sewn up- the latter part of this process will happen at ‘stuffing events’ which participants can either attend or send their cushions to be completed at. Special labels will be attached, along with any personal messages from the makers. The completed cushions will then be offered to the athletes, with any that are left over being donated to charities.
It’s a fascinating project that can only raise the profile of the British wool industry, so I was really happy to be asked to help out by modifying my Make Do and Mend pattern so that it will work as a Woolsack cushion. It’s available as a PDF here
for those wishing to contribute to the project, while further details and links to other patterns can be found at www.woolsack.org. Go on, be inspired!
PS Just to say that the original version of the pattern was published in Knit Now and the rights remain with them at the moment. They’ve given permission for me to reproduce it in this form to support the Woolsack project, so please only download the pattern if that’s what you want to use it for. If you’re keen to make one for another purpose, back issues of the magazine are available through Practical Publishing and after the Spring deadline for Woolsack, I’ll be making the original version of the pattern available through Ravelry. Thanks!
So here it is, my second pattern to make it into print! Appearing in Issue 3 of Knit Now magazine- out later this week, and with previews on Ravelry here, this is the Colour Pop Snood.
While the design turns out to be totally on the button for the grim weather we’re having just now, the inspiration for it came way back in those far off days of summer. I spent a few days down in London and found splashes of vivid colour amongst the city greys, which I wrote about here. I knew that I’d appreciate the energy and warming effect of a ‘pop’ of colour when the grey skies descended. This was the result.
The idea of the oversized snood came from one I made for my younger sister a few years ago, when she coveted, but couldn’t afford, those on the Burberry catwalk. Being able to have great neck coverage without the weight or trailing ends of a thick scarf was a bit of a revelation for me, so I went for similar chunky cabling in this design.
It would actually make a good project to begin with if you wanted to try cabling, as there’s no shaping to contend with- it’s basically a long rectangle knitted flat, then grafted together to form the snood.
The yarn is Artesano Aran in Meadie, which is a gorgeous purple/blue shade hard to do justice to with either photos or words. Sometimes it looks like a real ‘royal’ blue, other times it’s like the purple of my favourite chocolate brand wrapping. Whatever you want to call it, it’s a fabulous shade and the yarn is super-warm without feeling too heavy, even in chunky cables. So far it’s yet to show signs of pilling, although this sort of garment doesn’t get the pill-causing friction other might I suppose, and as the pattern is knit quite a tight gauge, it doesn’t seem to get saggy, maintaining its height and keeping those winter chills out.
Here’s hoping that lots of people like it enough to buy the magazine, so we can enjoy colour pops all over the place this winter.
Behold! You see before you my first forays into the art of mittenry (is that even a word? If not, it should be). I’d made mittens and gloves before, with varying levels of success. Ysolda Teague’s Snapdragon flip top mittens nearly broke me, I found the combination of cabling, working in the round and adding the thumb in so hard. In the event I finished one on about my fifth attempt, then had to wait a whole, cold fingered year before I could face tackling the second one. I had a few other pairs of simpler gloves and mittens under my belt but had never thought about designing them.
When I did come to making up my own mitten patterns the main psychological block was the ‘thumb gusset’. Just the sound of it, with its undertones of old-fashioned, no-nonsense technical efficiency filled my self-taught heart with fear. I am in no way a technician, either when it comes to knitting or design, and was sure I’d make a mess of it.
A bit of research into other patterns though and I got a handle on it- apologies if you know all this already, but here’s what I learned: Essentially a thumb gusset is a few stitches you reserve between the front and the back of the mitten, from which you ‘grow’ your thumb. The front of the mitten needs to be slightly narrower than the back in order that your thumb gusset sits slightly forward on the mitten for a better fit. At the appropriate point you increase stitches at the start and end of your thumb gusset so that the mitten gets wider to accomodate where the lower knuckle of the thumb sticks out. When you reach the base of the thumb you separate off your gusset, knit it up to thumb length, sew it up, rejoin the front and back and carry on up the mitten, sighing with relief that you have tackled the gusset.
Anyway, once I’d done it the first time- including managing to make the ribbing on the cuff flow smoothly into the main part of the hand- I could see how much potential there was for the fun-sized spaces of the front and back of mittens, and another pair found its way onto the sketchpad.
Great Oaks From Little Acorns Grow,shown above, and Treacle Toffee, below, are sneak previews of patterns I’m hoping to tell you more about soon. The green yarn is from Blacker Yarns. It’s their Pure Dyed British Wool, which was out of stock on the site last time I checked, but they have other, very similar options. I think I’ve mentioned the orange yarn before: Maya DK from Eden Cottage Yarns. This one was in stock last time I looked, but beware, once you visit you’ll find it very hard to resist the sweetshop of heavenly colours that Vikki creates!
The thing about knitting is that there are so many avenues to explore. I have only had the briefest of brushes with spinning, for example, dabbled a little with machine and wet felting but never tried dyeing. I’ve experimented with a number of different techniques and things to knit, but still have an extensive list of ‘must try’ possibilities.
The danger, with only so many hours in the day and the reality of having life and family beyond the sticks and string, is that new avenues of investigation distract you from actually knitting. This has certainly been the case for me since I caught the designing bug. I’m knitting or doing knitterly things for at least a few hours every day, but since most of the time this involves sketching, swatching, writing up submission proposals and patterns or making samples I end up with little that I can show here. In addition, I have cold feet and am perfectly capable of making the felted slippers I’ve been wanting for ages, but never seem to find the time for making them.
I’m not really complaining though, as having yarn support (free yarn! Even if you do have to knit it up then send it away again) dropping through the door will surely always be a joy and I love puzzling away at new ideas to fit mood boards put out by potential publishers. It’s even paying off in slightly less conventional ways, as the colourwork idea here is one I’m developing for a friend in exchange for help with what will hopefully be improvements to my online presence- watch this space.
All this said, I hope to have more projects to show here soon and in the meantime I’m going to put on an extra pair of socks and enjoy the buzz of creativity.