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!
This design is quite special to me. I originally came up with the idea to showcase stitch patterns from a wartime book, the philosophy of which I find both moving and inspiring. I designed it to have in my home and while the colours I chose might not be obvious ones to put together, I love the way they work side by side. The yarn (Rowan’s Felted Tweed DK) is one I’ve always enjoyed working with.
What makes it really special, though, is that this is the pattern that really marks the beginning of what I’d hesitate to call a ‘career’ as a designer, but maybe could instead call the designer phase my knitting life has entered into. Entered on a whim into the first call for submissions for Knit Now magazine, I was amazed when I heard it had been accepted for publication in Issue 2.
The idea of being published was ridiculously exciting and I assumed it would be a one off. Little did I know that I’d go on to have more designs accepted and find myself spending so much of my knitting time designing and making samples that I’d barely have time left to make other people’s designs or indeed anything for myself!
‘Make Do and Mend’ turned out to have more legs than I expected too. When it was on the Knit Now stand at the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show someone from the Woolsack project spotted it. Woolsack is part of the Cultural Olympiad and has persuaded knitters to make some 14,000 cushions to give as gifts to visiting athletes competing in the Olympics and Paralympics. Made in British wool and stuffed with British wool, they are intended to represent the proud tradition of the wool industry here, as well as giving a warm, comforting and homely welcome to the visitors.
The project needed patterns and they wondered if I minded letting them use mine. I didn’t mind, but the pattern needed some editing to make it suitable for their size and stuffing requirements. Here’s where I learned an important designing lesson. Rushing to get the edited version sorted out and posted, I didn’t take enough care over the details and ended up with some proper howlers in terms of numbers that didn’t add up. I blush even to think of it and cringed when I was (very politely) told that it wasn’t quite right. Thankfully it didn’t take too long to sort out and I don’t think too many people had to put up with the frustration of trying to knit from my dodgy version. Lesson learned, I check and check again when I’m giving a pattern to someone else now- all the designers and tech-editors I know assure me that all designers make mistakes, but I still felt terrible!
This month, finally, I’ve put Make Do and Mend (in its original, button back incarnation) up for sale on Ravelry. Just in time for the patriotic fever we’re all having at least a dabble in for the Jubilee and Olympics! To commemorate the Jubilee and celebrate the release of the pattern, I’ve added a bonus chart, for the coronet square shown left. It could be used as substitute for the Union Jack square (with a bit of shuffling of the other coloured squares) or as an additional colourwork square instead of a triangle stitch patch. The pattern includes a whole new set of photographs of the cushion, including detail shots for each of the stitch patterns.
The pattern is available to buy on Ravelry here .
What’s more exciting than having a design published in a magazine? Having two designs published in a magazine! Knit Now Issue 7 is due to hit the shops on 5th April and I’m delighted to say that you’ll be able to find both my Starry, Starry Night stole and Elfine pixie hood patterns included.
This happy situation had the added bonus of giving me the opportunity to work with some of my favourite yarny people. In the case of Starry, Starry Night it was Vikki at Eden Cottage Yarns. I first came across her hand-dyed yarns when I was looking for something suitable to make my Treacle Toffee mittens (still available through Just Giving to raise money for Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity, folks!). I’d seen her work mentioned in a magazine and liked the idea of using a fairly local business, as she’s based a little way North of where I am in Cumbria. The Maya yarn in ‘Autumn’ that she sent me lived up to all expectations, with its gorgeous colour and amazing softness and as a result I kept an eye on her website to see what else she came up with. When the ‘Purple Iris’ colourway appeared I knew I wanted to work with it- beautiful deep purples highlighted with soft pink and grey and in BFL yarn produced very close to us in the Forest of Bowland.
The rich hues of Purple Iris somehow made me want to design something with a bit more of a glamorous, romantic feel than some of my other pieces. It made me think of Elizabeth Taylor with her violet eyes and diamonds, of proper grown up party dresses and the night skies above the sort of evening soirees I rarely get to attend these days! What I came up with is a wide stole with an asymmetric hem trimmed in feather stitchlace. Scattered across the stole at the whim of the knitter- charts are provided so you can decide where you want to place them- is a constellation of stars. Formed in eyelets, these allow flashes of whatever fabric is worn underneath the stole to be glimpsed. I had in mind summer wedding guest outfits and the like, but if you aren’t likely to get many opportunities to wear it in this way, the DK yarn means that while it’s a warm cover-up, it’s light and drapey enough to wear round your neck as a scarf. I’ve loved working with Vikki’s yarns and hope to do so again in the future.
The second pattern I have in this issue is the Elfine pixie hood. It forms part of the ‘Designer Challenge’, where three designers
are given the same yarn to see what they can come up with. This time the yarn was provided by a good friend of mine who’s recently become the sole UK importer of Lion Brand yarns. You’ll see these yarns all over the place on Ravelry, as they are well known and widely distributed in the US. As a knitter, Loraine had enjoyed using the yarns when she got the chance and wanted to let more UK knitters get hold of them. Woolly Madly Deeply is the result, and it’s well worth checking out, not just for the mail order yarns but also for the free patterns, offers and blog.
The yarn used in the challenge was Superwash Merino Cashmere and that, along with the delicate pink colour, said ‘baby’ to me. The pixie hood combines my fondness for vintage styles with my knowledge as a mother of young children. Most babies quickly master the art of removing hats and flinging them out of their buggy so pixie hoods offer an advantage in that they can be gently and comfortably tied under the chin. This might not stop the removal and flinging, but it at least slows things down. The scarf part also provides additional cosiness, since the ends can be tucked into the front of a jacket or wrapped around the neck. A textured stitch in the border is interesting to knit up, but the project grows quickly in this aran yarn, so it would do for a last minute present- there are three sizes for baby up to young child- plus it looks so cute!
Images and information on all the patterns in the magazine are available on Ravelry.
One of the areas where I think I’ve done some learning since starting out as a designer last year is that of photography. Previously, taking snaps of my work was just about having something to stick on my blog and share on my Ravelry page. Now I think a lot more about how well the photographs show off my designs, whether they do their job as part of a pattern to help knitters making my designs and whether they reflect my aesthetic in a way that could tempt knitters to seek out and buy my patterns.
What I’ve learned so far has mainly been gleaned from reading threads on good old Rav about the subject, along with starting to take proper notice of the photography for patterns that draw my eye as a knitter. I’ve started using an SLR camera rather than my phone camera, only taking shots in natural light, thinking carefully about getting appropriate backgrounds (preferably complimentary but not distracting) and probably most importantly spending time- time setting up shots, trying out angles, thinking about which details I need to have close-ups of and doing some basic editing.
Sometimes it’s also been about waiting for the right opportunity. This weekend I’ve been taking shots of my Make Do and Mend Cushion, previously published in Knit Now magazine and due for individual pattern release at the end of May. I waited until I was visiting the farm my in-laws live on because, in addition to the fact that the house is hundreds of years old, it has several rooms full of what my father-in-law terms ‘kelter’ (junk to the rest of us), but what I see as treasure. The forgotten trinkets and ornaments of several generations lie gathering dust on any number of dressing tables and wash stands just waiting to provide the backdrop for a vintage-style photo. The results represent quite an improvement on the one I’d taken in haste with a phone camera before, for example:
Getting new shots for my Coniston Sweater was another case of finding the right location- I have to admit it ended up being Windermere, rather than Coniston, but I loved this jetty and on the day it was taken the colours of the lake and sky were perfectly picked up by the colours in the knit. The only problem with getting some decent shots was the fact I’ve managed to raise a hand-knit hater in my three year old son. Whatever yarn I use, however carefully I choose the design, if he knows it was hand-knitted he just won’t wear it. The only photos I’d been able get before were therefore not only hasty phone shots, but featured the grumpiest model imaginable- you can see an example at the top of this page!
So how did I get some wholly better shots, like this?
Reader, I bribed him. My children very rarely get chocolate. The main reason for this is to preserve their little teeth, but an extra advantage is that it makes it such a treat for them that when I offered my wee boy one a chocolate bar in exchange for his cooperation on the shoot he was as good as gold and twice as gorgeous. Needs must, and the new shots make the pattern- the first I’ve independently published for sale- look so much better.
More examples can be seen on my Ravelry pages.
Way back in the summer I started using up some odds and ends of Rowan Felted Tweed DK to make a cushion cover. I wanted the chance to try out some stitch patterns from a lovely old World War II book I had and I posted some of the pics on this blog.
Who would have thought that an idle wander through the Ravelry forums would lead me to stumble across a call for submissions for a new knitting magazine. My cushion idea seemed like the sort of thing they were after- picking up on trends (vintage/mid century interiors) and portable (the front is a patchwork of squares that make good ‘take along’ projects).
With nothing to lose, I drew my sketch, wrote my proposal, scanned some samples (which don’t exactly look promising do they? Imagination was needed evidently!) and waited. Next thing I knew the email came to say ‘yes please’ and there I was with my first commission. So today I went into one of my local supermarkets (here, in the back of beyond!) and bought a copy of ‘Knit Now’ magazine with my very own pattern in it. More (very lovely) pics are on Ravelry here.
There’s a baby shower happening this weekend that I can’t be at, so it was time to get the needles out so that I could at least send some handmade love by post. I fell back on what’s becoming an old favourite, ‘Aviatrix’, a free pattern on Ravelry. An evening or so’s knitting in Rowan Handknit Cotton and a vintage button adds up to a bit of old-fashioned loveliness for eagerly awaited baby girl.
>I’m currently in the throws of having a pattern tested on Ravelry’s ‘Free Pattern Testers’ Forum for the first time. It’s for this sweater:
It’s called ‘Baby Queen Bess’ and I’m hoping to make it my first ‘for sale’ pattern. Obviously wanted to get any glitches out before I start asking people to part with cash and the testing process is certainly doing its job. The only problem was, a few testers pointed out an issue I’d been rather avoiding looking at, mainly because I didn’t know how to solve it- namely one of achieving symmetry through the raglan section, technical knitting fans!
The good news is, with input from the forum and a fresh look at the issue, I’ve worked out how to solve it. The bad news is, with the knowledge that symmetry could be achieved, I wasn’t sure I could cope with M wearing the less symmetrical version I made for her, using lovely and expensive wool, in a size she’ll fit into for the whole of next winter. So….
Big. Fat. Frog. This was a properly finished article, even had to find the ends I’d neatly woven in. Oh well, at least my mind will be at peace when she grows into it. Plus I suppose in a way I’m saving money, as I’m getting to knit two sweaters for the price of one- sort of!
A little more apple cookery today- only one product, but after finely chopping 1.5kg of apples can you blame me?! The product in question is Apple, Cinnamon and Raisin Compote from The Women’s Institute Book of Preserves and although it doesn’t look terribly tempting, it tastes yummy. Yesterday’s Blackberry and Apple jam set fine, by the way.
Little bit more work done on the ‘High Tea’ collection of teacosies for my Folksy shop- finished one and begun another, but I’m going to keep them more or less under wraps for now. I also took a deep breath today and braved putting one of my teacosy designs up as a free download on Ravelry. The Union Jack cosy was one of the first ones I did for the Folksy shop and was the first one I sold- it led to a couple more on commission and I got very sick of intarsia as a result! It’s scary to think that other people will be trying to follow the instructions I wrote, even though its a pretty simple pattern. Last time I looked it had been added as a favourite by quite a few people, with a few also downloading it or adding it to their queue- eep! If you’re interested, you can find it here.
Happy St Nicholas Day! The joys of childhood illness have made the weekend a bit tough, but the festive spirit is not beaten yet- we’re just getting the bugs out of the way early, that’s all. Taking a break from meeting the ongoing demand for Union Jack teacosies (!) by knitting these little stockings, from a free pattern on Ravelry. I’m planning on making a half dozen or so to make a garland for our mantlepiece. They knit up gratifyingly quickly (e.g. in an evening in front of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’), even when the knitter is struggling to keep her eyes open due to baby-related sleep deprivation!
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?