Issue 12 of Knit Now magazine is in the shops this Thursday, which means that for the first time in a while I can write about a finished item, rather than works in progress- hurrah! These are my ‘Royal Oak’ cushions and as they’ve been quite a long time in the development it’s great to see them out there in the wild at last.
The origins of the textured patterns were in this acorn motif. Developed for a still yet-to-be released project, it uses a combination of simple cabling, moss and knit stitches. It occurred to me that if the motif were to be repeated over a larger space such as a cushion cover, it would create a different effect.
The result reminds me of different things- sometimes the sort of multiple arched windows you see in cathedrals, sometimes honeycomb. I’d love to see the design made up in different colours too- I think natural ‘sheep’ shades would give a different effect again, bringing the texture even more to the fore.
Colour and yarn turned out to be quite a factor in this project. When I originally envisioned the cushions, I thought of them in earthy natural greens or browns. However, working with Knit Now on finding a yarn that had the crisp stitch definition needed, but that made this a reasonably priced project, proved quite a challenge. In the end we decided on Adriafil Stella Alpina (mine was supplied by Purl City Yarns)and, looking at all the colours available, these seemed the best for a slightly vintage, autumnal feel. The stitch definition on this yarn is beautifully crisp and for an affordable wool yarn, it has a lovely feel and depth of colour.
Further development on this pattern included the addition of an oak leaf motif to make a complimentary pair with the acorn. I used a series of single cables to achieve the curves of the leaf edge and oh! the headaches I had over perfecting and charting it, even though it’s not a particularly difficult design to actually knit.
I also tried using a circular method to knit these cushions, beginning with a seamless cast on and working across the patterned front and stocking stitch back simultaneously. I loved doing it this way, as rather than having a great big square of dull stocking stitch to plough through, you get half a round of chart following, then a whizz across the back and the project seems to grow in no time. The fact that there’s no seaming is another bonus- but I’m aware that for some that would be a problem. I’ve heard interesting debates between designers about seamed versus no-seams garments, with one side arguing in favour of the structure and stability provided by seams and the other preferring the ease and clean finish of seamless items. I can therefore understand that for some knitters, seams would be preferable on a cushion to keep its shape, so for that reason there are instructions included for a knit-flat version.
I know I’m biased, but I do think that the collection of patterns in this issue of Knit Now is a real class act (see them here on Ravelry) and urge you to go and check them out!
I escaped domestic duties yesterday for a grand day out in Manchester. This included a solo train journey, always a pleasure with yarn and needles to hand and even more so when the sunset end of the trip involves the spectacular skirting around Morecambe Bay- it’s almost reason enough alone to come to the South Lakes peninsulas. My excuse for a day of yummy food , great company, knitting and yarn ogling was that it was business. Well, sort of. It’s a tough job…
The main point of my trip was a visit to Purl City Yarns where Victoria from Eden Cottage Yarns was holding a trunk show. I loved the explanation of a trunk show given beforehand by a friend of mine: ‘She brings out a load of gorgeous yarn and then we all fight over it’. I can assure you it was a little more civilised than that, even given the presence of PCY’s infamous cocktails, but it’s still a pretty good description.
I first came into contact with Eden Cottage’s hand-dyed yarns when I was designing my Treacle Toffee Mitts and decided to use Maya DK to make them. I was so impressed with the amazing quality and colour that I kept going back to ogle the site. When I saw their ‘Purple Iris’ colourway in Bowland DK it inspired the Starry, Starry Night Stole that appeared in Knit Now Issue 7. In all my contact with Victoria she is always friendly, supportive and enthusiastic so I was really excited to discuss a new, bigger project with her recently.
Yesterday was therefore a chance to discuss both the project and the yarn involved face to face, which is a rare luxury in my limited experience of designing. Normally, the details of design projects are communicated and hammered out with emails, scanned sketches and swatches and yarn sent by post. It was wonderful to see and handle the real deal, to spend time trying out and discussing different colour combinations and details. Definitely nice work if you can get it.
I came home clutching a large bag of beautiful colour in my arms and feeling quite a responsibility on my shoulders. However, one measure of my enthusiasm to get going is that, as you can see from the images above, I just had to get the swift and ball winder out as soon as I got in. It’s going to be a learning curve but I’m really keen to expand my skills and hopefully come up with something special.
Wool and silk. Garter stitch and lace. 4ply and 2.75mm needles (gasp! I’m usually a solid ‘nothing finer than DK’ girl!) Yes, there has been work in progress recently, but I can’t fully reveal the results to you just at the moment. Suffice to say it’s another new outlet for my designs, so quite exciting, to say nothing of daunting.
Thankfully, the further I’ve got into this project the less daunted I’ve felt. Seeing the gorgeous colours singing as they were knitted up helped. As did adding the finishing touches such as applied i-cord (so time-consuming, but so worth it) and the buttons. The ones shown immediately above were from Textile Garden. This site would deserve a mention just because it had a whole range of possibilities for the buttons that I needed, but also earned my affection for great customer service when I stupidly ordered exactly half the number of buttons required….
I’m never good at making things twice over -you could call it second-sock-syndrome if I ever actually made socks- so this project is a challenge to me because it requires two versions of each design- and one of those designs is a pair. That’s a lot of repeating -and also buttons, hence my mistake when ordering. I’m therefore trying out the technique of knitting both parts of a pair simultaneously on one long circular (they are knitted flat). I’m having to watch I don’t get the two working yarns tangled but so far I think they’re growing more quickly than if I’d made them back to back. Or maybe it’s just psychological.
In any case work is progressing, deadlines are nearly up, then it’s back to the mile-long ‘to do’ list for whatever’s next. DK or heavier gets my vote…
A few years ago I remember reading this post on Amanda Blake Soule’s ‘Soulemama’ blog. In it, her husband describes the great anticipation followed by excitement surrounding the arrival of a yarn swift. I have to say that, while it obviously stuck it my mind for me to recall it now, at the time I didn’t really get what the fuss was about.
It was probably because the vast majority of my yarn then came in the balls that are more traditional in this country. When I did get a yarn that came in a skein, it was enough of a novelty that I didn’t really mind the process of winding it into a ball myself. It felt quaintly old fashioned to have to persuade my husband to sit patiently with the skein looped around his hands, a link to some Dickensian-style domestic past. There was also the fact that, while not ridiculously expensive, a yarn swift and ball winder would have represented a fairly hefty non-yarn investment in my hobby.
So here we are a few years on and this week I found myself in the same state of excitement, waiting for the post to arrive, trying to calculate “If it’s 2-3 working days to deliver, then it’s first class post, the earliest it could get here would be…” all over a yarn swift and ball-winder.
I’m not sure if the tide is turning in this country with skeins versus balls (I’ve been told that it’s better for yarns to be stored in skeins as the fibre is more relaxed than when wound into balls) or whether it’s just that the kind of yarn I’m using these days has shifted more towards those you buy in skeins- indie dyers, US brands etc. Whatever the reason, I’d found myself winding enough skeins that the novelty had definitely worn off.
Not always able to find a willing pair of hands to hold them, usually the skeins were ending up being wound from round my knees, while I adopted the sort of inelegant, legs akimbo pose best suited to a maternity ward. Inevitably, on most occasions I would end up tangling the yarn, which when dealing with a skein is fatal , and could easily spend an hour cursing and picking out knots.
Now that at least some of the money I bring into the household comes from knitting, I realised that apart from anything else, I could justify a yarn swift because it would free up valuable work time. Furthermore, if I used some of the money I’d earned from designing, it was really investing it back into the business. Finally, after dithering about for far too long (because they’re not that expensive, but still…) I ended up at Loop’s gorgeous website. It’s a tribute to my self control that I only ordered the swift and the winder, as I’m sure when I finally make it to the real-life shop I can see myself going nuts and spending far too much.
Oooh, it was worth the wait! I love my new toy and, as you can see, other members of the family are quite keen too. It must be the first time I’ve had my little boy ask me when I’m going to get some more yarn, as he wants to have another go. With it now taking minutes rather than hours to wind even the 100g skeins of 4ply shown in these pictures into neat, satisfyingly weighty cakes, sanity as well as knitting time has been restored.
Oxford Concise English Dictionary
Ah, pompoms. Beloved craft of young children and a matter for debate among aesthetically-minded knitters. Some seem to be quite passionate in their hatred of the little fluffballs. Are they perhaps scarred by over-zealous application of the decorative effect on their childhood headgear? After all, there surely can’t be anyone who didn’t wear a bobble-hat at least once when they were little.
As for me, I have to say that I absolutely hate making pompoms- all that fiddling about with an ever smaller ‘doughnut’ hole to push the yarn through and trying to trim it into an even shape. But for all that I am quite fond of using them in designs, albeit with the right dash of tongue-in-cheek, retro jauntiness, as seen in my Union Jack teacosy, above.
As well as their perky and nostalgic qualities, I also think that pompoms can do an important job in balancing out and finishing some designs. This is absolutely the case with the project I’ve just completed for the Holla Knits Accessories collection. Yes, that’s right, not content with asking people to let fur/loop stitch in from the cold, I’ve also added pompoms into the mix. Well it was always going to be a love it or hate it number, so I’ll just have to see what the reaction is when it’s published!