We like to boogie…here it is then, design number two for February: Jitterbug Boogie. The pattern appears in this month’s issue of Knit Now, having been chosen for the ‘Designer Challenge’ feature using Araucania Botany Lace.
Inspiration comes from all sorts of places and this one’s heritage was a proper mish-mash. It started with some Colinette Jitterbug that I had in my stash. Now I love the idea of sock yarn- with all those gorgeous colours, that section of a yarn shop is always like the sweetie counter- but I just can’t get on with knitting larger things in that weight and have chronic ‘second sock syndrome’ which means I’ve never really got on with them. In part because of this situation, I was quite attracted to the viral knitting phenomenon of The Beekeepers Quilt, presenting as it does a chance to use up pretty lighter weight yarn. Beekeeping introduced me to knitting tubes that are joined at either end (by using Judy’s Magic Cast On or similar) and then a slightly random Twitter conversation about dyeing hair pink got me thinking about cartoony, rockabilly hair and the possibilities of knitting around a hairband…and Jitterbug Boogie was born.
A small amount of sock yarn, along with a store-bought hairband and some stuffing means you can knock out a hairband in an evening, and once I’d made one, I wanted to try a larger-bow version. This time I tried a different yarn: Rowan Kidsilk Haze held double, which, with its fuzzy halo gave even more of a retro effect. I think you could have a lot of fun messing with the basic concept like this- use different yarns, add buttons or bits of netting to go for more of a cocktail hat effect or do full on matching by choosing a colour that’s the same as your shoes, bag or gloves.
Introducing my new mitten pattern- Treacle Toffee. Of the two designs I have out this month this one is a bit special. By this I’m not being self-congratulatory about the idea- they’re relatively simple mittens in toddler, child and medium adult size with a thumb gusset and a stitch pattern found on a vintage pattern leaflet. It’s not even because the Maya DK from Eden Cottage Yarns I used for these samples was heavenly. No, the reason they’re special is down to what they’re part of.
We’re incredibly fortunate in that we have two lovely young children who’ve so far rarely given us cause to worry, healthwise. However, we are ever aware of how lucky we are in this, knowing as we do parents whose children have been suddenly and seriously ill, or whose problems have meant their little lives so far have seen far too much of hospital wards.
Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity raises money to help individuals and organisations that care for very sick children, aiming to provide quality of life no matter how ill they are. Definitely a pretty marvellous idea, which is why it’s great that Knit Now has begun a campaign to raise money for the charity by asking designers to donate mitten patterns which are then published and sold for a minimum donation.
Treacle Toffee is the second design to be released as part of the Knit Now Marvellous Mittens campaign. The first was Patricia Clift Martin’s beautiful Flapjack Mitts, which is still available, along with my pattern, by donating at JustGiving.com. It’s worth knowing that if you buy the pattern you have the right not only to make them for yourself or as a gift, but you can also make them to sell for charity- either this one or another of your choice. Warm fingers and a warm glow of doing good, what more could you ask in the cold of February?
Not for a moment would I complain about the huge good fortune that has meant me spending most of the last few months designing, knitting and writing up patterns for my own designs. As I’ve said here before, it’s a very exciting new aspect to my knitterly life. However, now that things are just a bit quieter on that front, it’s been wonderful to have a go at knitting someone else’s patterns for a change.
The someone else is the humblingly fantastic Kate Davies, who inspires not only with her designs and her writing, but her whole approach to life and the particular challenges it throws at her.
One of her recent designs is Sheep Heid, a fairisle Tam which uses 9 natural sheep shades of Shetland wool to depict…sheep! It’s not my first time doing fairisle as you can see, but it is my first time using proper Shetland yarn and I’m also using the opportunity to teach myself to hold one colour in each hand and ‘pick’ as well as ‘throw’ the yarn doing colour work. Considering how much colourwork I’ve done on other projects, it’s about blooming time I did this.I’ve already found that I can get a decent speed up doing it, not to mention the time saved with not having to stop and unravel every row or two.
It’s certainly a different feeling, having to follow a pattern rather than worry about whether I’m writing up instructions properly. This, in addition to not having a fixed time when I need it finished, has made the project quite a relaxed one so far. However, it’s not been plain sailing. My initial crazy enthusiasm to get going, coupled with a fair few sessions when I should have realised I was too tired to attempt chart following, has meant rather a lot of ripping back. A couple of times the mistakes were so small that I could maybe have left them…but I knew I couldn’t live with them so back I went. I guess having knit almost twice as many rounds as I’ve kept has all been good practise for my colourwork tensioning and that yarn-in-each-hand method. I’m actually a little further on than this picture shows, but haven’t had either the time or the light to get any more recent ones. For those who know this pattern, I’m halfway up the ewes!
After the flurry of activity to meet my end of January deadlines, it’s been pleasing to have a bit of a change of knitting pace. I’ve been able to make a start on knitting something from someone else’s pattern for a change- more on that another day- and get swatches done for summer edition submissions.
I find the concept of summer knits tricky- for me it’s a bit like when you try to cook vegetarian food by finding meat ‘substitutes’ instead of concentrating on what is intrinsically valuable in the ingredients you are using. To me, knitting is about wool and warmth and winter, even if I knit all year round. But whatever I might think, magazines keep coming out and other people who keep knitting in the summer months don’t all want to stick to stocking up on woolies for the upcoming winter. I’ve therefore been embracing the possibilities of cotton and bamboo.
Okay, so I’ve been mostly embracing cotton and bamboo. The acorn motif swatch shown is, admittedly, wool. There’s a legitimate reason for this, which will become apparent if one way or another the pattern comes to fruition. The seashore colour mix yarn, however, is Patons Mirage DK, a cotton/bamboo blend, while the bright colours at the top are Patons 100% Cotton DK. Now I’m not much of a fan of knitting with cotton, as I often find it stiff and/or splitty, but I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised by knitting these swatches, as I’ve enjoyed working with the yarns much more than I expected.
I’ve also, thankfully, found myself falling in love with the designs I’m working on for my proposals. It must be something to do with their being all about being outdoors enjoying the warm weather, while at the moment outdoors is a bit less hospitable. This falling in love is fortunate, as in my limited experience of successful submissions, it seems to be a vital element for success. It’s as if a lack of commitment and joy in a design somehow shows through in the sketches and swatches, in the same way someone desperate to be in a relationship is somehow very unattractive.
Sketching, scanning and putting together of proposals is on the list for this weekend, then it’s out of my hands- which by then will be on to other things…