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.
I’m a wee bit late with this one, my only excuse being that, with two children’s birthdays, it’s been a busy month! Issue 9 of Knit Now magazine has been in the shops for a few weeks now and, self promotion aside, it’s well worth a look. The theme is ‘Best of British’ , given that this year is a celebration year, with the Jubilee and the London Olympics. What this means for the issue is that all the designers are British (Hoorah! Not that we don’t love the international world of knitting designers under normal circumstances) and all the yarns featured in the designs are produced right here in the UK.
My contribution to the collection are these Perambulator Mitts. The yarn I used was Erika Knight’s Vintage Wool, which comes in some lovely muted tones that work beautifully together. It’s a springy, aran weight, plied pure wool which creates a soft, well defined fabric. I used one skein each of Leighton- the green- and Flax- the natural colour to make these, using a smaller than usual needle to make them denser and more robust- I’ll explain why next…
So, the thinking behind these was that I ask quite a lot of a pair of gloves. With two active young children, I need them to keep my hands warm when I’m out pushing the buggy, especially on walks in the Lakes. But at the same time, I need my fingers free to do up coat buttons, peel bananas for members of the party too small to manage that themselves and extract wipes to clean up afterwards. Other times I’m carrying bags full of books or food shopping and what I really want is a bit of extra protection on my palms to stop them getting chafed by the handles.
My solution is a pair of gloves made using needles that are small for the yarn and with colourwork to produce a thick, cosy, hardwearing fabric to cushion and protect your hands, but leave the fingertips and thumbs free for when dexterity is needed. For extra warmth when the backs of your hands need it, there is an extra flap of basket stitch, secured in place with a loop around the thumb and a button.
This idea was taken from cycling gloves, which often have extra padding for warmth on the backs. If, on the other hand (no pun intended!) it’s your palms that need protection, you simply undo the button, unhook the loop and flip the flap onto the palm of the hand, securing it in the same way.
The images shown on the left are of the prototype I made, which is why they are a wee bit scruffy, but I hope they give an idea of how the mitts work. Hardworking mittens for hardworking hands- if you use your hands to create lovely things, don’t you think you deserve some?!
The next issue of Knit Now will be in the shops on 28th June, but if you hurry you might just find a copy of this issue on the shelves still. If not, back issues are often available via their website . The design will also be available as an individual pattern in my Ravelry Shop later this year.
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!
I signed up on Ravelry quite a while back (I’m on there as Annabanna in case you want to look me up), but had never really got into it. I went back on to find a pattern for an earflap hat (the boy just won’t keep hats or hoods on so I need one I can tie under his chin!) and got drawn into it- oh, it’s an easy addiction to get!
Of course, all this knitting inspiration only led to one thing…more yarn buying.
Like I reeeaaaallly needed more yarn. Okay, no I really didn’t, but I couldn’t help it- it’s cold! I’m cracking on with the Fair Isle and have nearly finished the back, but I also have chilly fingers (when I’m out and about) and chilly toes.
I found this lovely pattern from Ysolda for flip top mittens. I had some flip top mittens before and found them so useful, especially out with the buggy, that I wore through the thumbs! The Artesano is a lovely pinky red and soooo soft, I can hardly wait to make the mittens, but I’m going to make myself wait until the Fair Isle is finished before I allow myself to buy the pattern- it’s the only way.
As for the socks- well the last picture shows the result of hours of squinting at a horrendously complicated pattern full of travelling stitches. They were going to be the Diamond Socks from Yarn Forward magazine September issue, but by the time I’d knitted, unpicked and reknitted myself down to the heel, turned the heel and embarked on the foot, I’d had enough! If I even made it to the end of one sock, I’d never have the patience to make the other. So all that work has now been frogged, and this yarn, and the lovely pinky stuff above is going to be made into nice, plain, easy to knit without concentrating socks, hopefully quickly so I can get these toes warm.
And yes, I know those are yet more Brittany Birch needles- but you know, if I’m going to make all these socks, I think it’s about time I had some gorgeous feeling needles rather than the nasty metal ones I’ve used in the past. In fact that might be why the Diamond socks went wrong. Ummm…am I protesting too much?