…or how sometimes what seems like the worst thing can turn out for the best.
My working relationship with Victoria at Eden Cottage Yarns began not long after I started designing. When Knit Now asked its designers to come up with patterns for their ‘Marvelous Mittens’ campaign I submitted Treacle Toffee and, having seen Eden Cottage Yarns featured in a magazine, I asked if I could use some for my design. I loved it so much that I kept checking back to see what other colourways Victoria was dreaming up. When ‘Purple Iris’ came along, I immediately knew I wanted to design with it, and Starry, Starry Night was the result.
One of the many things I like about this yarn company is that a lot of the wool is not only dyed locally (in the same county I live in) but also sourced locally, from sheep reared in the Bowland Forest, just a little way further east. When Victoria said she was looking for pattern support for her lovely Bowland DK yarn, then, it was no surprise that I jumped at the chance.
So…I swatched on my holiday. I sketched my ideas for a pair of cardigans and spent a lovely hour or so with Victoria when she did a trunk show in Manchester’s Purl City Yarns, choosing the perfect colour combinations. I signed up to Rock & Purl’s Grading Course to make sure I’d get the sizes and pattern writing spot on. I was all on track to get going when…I got a Christmas catalogue from one of my favourite clothing companies, People Tree. Flicking through it I was dismayed to find something that looked remarkably like my cardigan design in their range.
I was gutted, frankly, but it was just one of those things. Supportive designer friends told me that there were enough differences between the two to save me from any accusations of breaching copyright. They suggested that I could make some small changes to differentiate it even more, but the fact was, I couldn’t face the thought that I could release a design and someone could say ‘She’s just copied that from People Tree’. In addition, I didn’t feel I had either the time or the heart to make big design changes.
There was nothing for it but to have a rethink. I went back to the start, swatched again and rediscovered what I loved about the yarn. Instead of cardigans (I’m off cardigans for a while!) I’m looking at a collection of retro inspired accessories- back to what I know well, eh? I’m aiming for lots of texture and a little colourwork to work in harmony with Victoria’s lovely colours.
What’s strange but wonderful is that actually, it’s working much better than I expected. It’s maybe even working better than the blessed cardigans would have done. Apart from being on a bit of a downbeat, timewise (we’re hoping for a release date of late November) it feels so natural to be making these designs, as if they’re what the yarns want to be. Serendipity, I’d say.
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.
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!