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I can’t tell you how excited I am to show you this book. Look, this a big, vulnerable thing to do. Each time I start with an idea. Each time a draw, design and crochet a new project for a book…it’s a wonderful and scary day.

Since the first book was published, lovely makers started contacting me and asking…’Can you make an Elephant?’, ‘What about a Monkey?’ I started making a few notes and collecting a few ideas.

So after a lot of chatting my gorgeous editor, Wendy we narrowed down our family of friends. Let me introduce you.

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Our cover stars are Barbara and Cyril Elephant, cosy in their nightwear. Barbara is a fan of Ballroom dancing (I’m a Strictly fan!) and Cyril is also passionate about the foxtrot but also his garden. Both toys have little accessories, a blanket, a hotwater bottle and even a mini teddy bear. Cute!

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The Zebras are Peggy and Jeff, Peggy is and adventurer who loves to climb mountains and Jeff is like a fair few of my male friends – always first on the dance floor creating some great shapes.

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Monkeys Molly and Billy are lots of fun, Billy loves the rain and skateboarding and Molly is an aspiring actress – both have outfits which I designed to appeal to my younger readership so that you can create a toy which is all matchy-matchy.

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Pandas Maisie and Sidney are ready for the Beach. Their outfits are fun and colourful, but they also have loads of beach accessories which will be fun to create for any toy taken on holiday.

Finally the Lions are Roger and Ada. Ada is based on one of my oldest friends; organised, funny and fashionable. Then Roger the Lion is also a fun loving joyful chap based on a good friend.

If you made the toys in my the first book, you will be delighted to know that the clothes will fit your creations. This book expands the wardrobe options and I have also listened to some of the queries and advice you have given me since writing Cute Crocheted Animals. I have written more about creating features and added in my top toy making tips.

The photos of each of these little friends just fill me with joy. I have Jonathan, Wendy, Rebecca and Martin at GMC to thank for the time and dedication they put into each and every book. Jude Roust patiently does all the pattern checking – thank heavens for her. The funniest thing is that these little character come to life on the page. Even I read some of the text and giggle – Wendy adds in some surprises for me…

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To celebrate its publication – I would like to do a small giveaway. If you would like a chance of winning a signed copy of my this book, please comment below and tell me about the most toy you ever owned. I will be choosing a winner at random on 29 February – Leap Day! I do hope you like it – Happy Weekend x

Congratulations Wendy – you have won the giveaway – so thrilled!

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I was thinking about Easter…I know, I know, but when you work on designs the seasons are always out of kilter. I have a huge collection of soft toys I have designed over the years and I was looking at some chunky yarn in my stash and it occurred to me, wouldn’t it be fun to see quite how large my Harris Hare pattern would become worked in chunky yarn? When we have children around at Easter, we love an egg hunt and for added fun it is quite delightful to find an Easter Bunny in the hedgerow. This bunny is a perfect cuddly companion for any young treasure hunter.

I created 4 Woodland Animal toy designs for Stylecraft yarns last year. The designs use Life DK and are published in the leaflet format, (pattern 9666) The original Harris Hare has beautiful mottled fur using, Stone Nepp. You need just 2 x 100g balls. You will also need a little cream dk yarn from your stash for his pom-pom tail. He measures 46 cm (18 in) tall.

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I have got to admit to you – Harris is a bit of favourite. I really couldn’t part with him. Unlike some of my other designs he has a round base at his bottom, which means he sits rather nicely and his legs dangle down.

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Sometimes people who see my patterns feel they must use the specified yarn in the original design. I totally understand that, I can be very much the same. But don’t be afraid to create something new by using the pattern but with a much finer yarn or a chunky wool. The only thing you must remember is to choose a hook or a needle which suits the gauge of your yarn. If you are looking for pointers, just have a quick look at the ball band and there is always a suggestion of the ideal hook/needle size for that yarn.

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For my very large Hare – I used 4 x balls of Stylecraft Bellissima Chunky in Paper Parchment.

I chose to use a 5mm hook and our cute bunny is now a mahoosive….66cm (26in) – his tail alone is 10cm (4in) wide. I have to be honest he is joyful to cuddle. I also designed him a little neckerchief if Bellissima Chunky Double Denim. I am thinking of making my godson a version – to be honest this bunny is much larger than my baby godson so it would fit.

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Why not look through your yarn collection and see which yarns you could use for different purposes – don’t be scared – just have fun and scale things up or down.

My plan is to send Chunky Bunny off to my pal Helen Kurtz for her Fibres for Fibres Fundraiser. She is raising money to support research into Myositis – it is a rare muscles disease which is very debilitating and causes muscle inflammation and weakness. I’ll keep you updated of when the Bunny will be available and perhaps you can give him a good home.

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At the weekend I was telling you about a lovely neckerchief/scarf I made. Well what I forgot to share was another newly finished item. A quick little Hitchiker Scarf which I have just cast off.

There are patterns that you wish you had invented – the Hitchhiker by Martina Behm is one of those. On the face of it so simple and yet so effective. I was in my local yarn store at the weekend and spotted a glorious version which used little seed beads.

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I made this scarf using the new Stylecraft Bambino Print in Skittles. This colourway has only just been released this week. I got a sneak preview last summer and my friends at Stylecraft forwarded this colourway to me as they knew it would appeal. The variegated printing of this yarn gives a soft fairisle look. I used just one ball of the Bambino Print and kept on knitting until I had finished. It is a much thicker gauge of yarn than used in the original pattern – so I used 4mm needles.

I have used Bellissima and Bambino yarn quite a bit in my design work and I genuinely like it. It is soft and has a great colour range. Now I have finished this scarf I am on to my second – this time I’m using ‘Rocking Horse’. I could see myself making quite a few of these scarves throughout the year. They always get admiring comments and are the perfect commute project for my needles.

As Stylecraft Blogstar, I get to see and preview new yarns by Stylecraft ahead of the season. I can road test the yarn and I am gifted samples to trial with my patterns. As a rule I only recommend the products on this blog that I like, enjoy using and will purchase in future.

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I don’t know about you, but I have favourite patterns. There are things you make that you just like; it might be the colour, the technique, the fact that it is ‘just the thing’ to make at the moment. But then in everyday life there are patterns we just find so useful.

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For me I have loved wearing the Arabian Nights pattern which I completed a couple of years ago. I admired this scarf on a very chic lady I met at a workshop. The story is here on the blog. I loved the look and cleverly she steered me to using a plain and pattern sock yarn in alternate rows.

The yellow and blue colour is so useful with my day-to-day wardrobe. The added bonus is the triangle shape of the scarf works best as a neckerchief. I am sure there is some logic behind it but the basic fact is that wearing this scarf provides me with warmth and at the same time no ends get in your way.

Last summer my folks visited the Isle of Skye and generously found me some exquisite hand-spun and hand-dyed yarn. It is a beautiful pinky/maroon hank from ‘On the Croft’. A beautifully soft blend of pure wool and silk.

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After a few months as staring at this glorious yarn I was inspired to make a second Arabian Nights scarf. This time it would have a pink hue. I found a ball of West Yorkshire Spinners 4ply in Sarsaparilla. If you look at the original pattern on Ravelry (which is published by Drops yarn) the scarf is much bigger. I chose to use a fairly fine needle to work the garter stitch and so the scarf was very slow growing. However it does make a lovely neck warmer.

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I wonder what your go-to pattern is? I don’t think this latest pink version will be my last. But in all honesty I might opt for a thicker yarn and a more chunky needle for my neck Arabian Knight adventure. Happy Weekend!

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‘Have you seen Little Women?’ said one of my best friends. ‘You just have to! I watched it and just kept thinking of you. If you want to go Emma, I’ll see it again?’

With such a ringing endorsement and an invitation for a jolly trip out, the arrangements were made immediately. I wonder if you have had a chance to see the new Little Women Film. I think both audiences and critics have absolutely loved it.

Like many generations I have always loved the book. This film is a joyful and clever adaptation of the book. A cinematic treat. But for the yarn obsessed there is an added bonus. Throughout the film I would nudge my film and say – ‘Oh, look at that shawl….’, ‘Look at that hat…’, ‘What a gorgeous waistcoat’. As a knitter it was impossible not to be inspired.

As I drove away from the cinema I said to my friend; ‘You wait, those patterns will be on Ravelry very soon’. I was not wrong.

That night, as I drifted off to sleep my mind was dreaming of new projects.

Within a week I had discovered that the glorious shawl designs worn by Jo and Beth were designed and made by Norfolk knitter Jenn Monahan She has made up to seven garments for the film. Hundreds of hours of work. Jenn has released the shawl patterns via her website; Fibreworkshop and on Ravelry and even for a basic knitter this is a useful and achievable project which would end up being an heirloom project. Over Christmas I have finished two small gauge garter stitch shawls, so I wasn’t so keen to commit to another.

I did however feel inspired by Jo’s Grey Tam o’shanter. Co-incidentally this month’s Knitter magazine (issue 145) has published a fairisle beret. It is designed by Outi Kater and is called Firefly Beret. I quite like wearing a beret during the winter working week. Just to spice up the wardrobe I thought it might be fun to see how it would be to make a traditional tam o’shanter. Traditionally this type of hat tends to use the tweedy pure Shetland wool. I decided as I was looking at an experiment I would use some 4ply Merino I already have in my stash. I tend to wear brighter hues rather than softer heathery tones, so the colour I have used align better with my wardrobe. All in all it took me about 5 evenings to knit.

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Whilst Jo Marsh wears a plain grey wool tam it does have a pom-pom. The fairisle tam in the Knitter magazine has no flamboyant topper. I wanted to add something in between the two. I remembered a design that Kate Davies had done for her Richard the Roundhead Tam. She created a lovely covered button and generously put a tutorial on her website. This lovely detail just adds something special to the hat. The covered button is not difficult to create either. I’m sure I will use this detail again soon.

Thinking about it, I find so much knitting inspiration from historical films or costume drama. If I watch, a Marple, a Poirot, Maigret, Gentleman Jack, Cranford, Call the Midwife… my husband will get a nudge in the ribs…’Look at the knitwear!’ Historical drama in its most authentic form, mirrors the fact that until only recently the majority of clothes were handmade. This means that costumes are a fertile resource for hand-knitters and crocheters. We have a cinematic menu to inspire our crafty finger.s

I wonder what you favourite programmes or films are for knitwear envy? Any suggestions are gratefully received.

I know there are awards for costume design at the Oscars and Bafta, could we have a subgroup for services to yarn?

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You have just got to find the joy of yarn in the Winter. Perhaps being a winter baby I don’t really mind the colder months. I’ll be honest I actually prefer wearing lots of layers and get a bit stressed by the idea of summer holiday clothes. My husband says I have a two degree tolerance level. Around the 18-20 degrees mark – not too hot, not too cold…is that called the Goldilocks effect?

Anyway if you are hating the dark days – one sure fire way to try and combat the evening blues is the plan and make a cosy scarf or hat. Full disclosure; I currently have in progress, 2 hats and one shawl on knitting needles…naughty…but nice.

I designed the Zesty Scarf for Inside Crochet Magazine back in the early Autumn. There are Granny Squares, pom-poms, tassels and lovely colour block colours in linen stitch.

Linen stitch is my current big favourite crochet stitch at the moment. It does a good job in replicating a knitted moss stitch. The texture and the drape is that perfect in-between softness. Not as stiff as a double crochet stitch and not too floppy for a triple. The design is not a total beginners project. You need to have the confidence to pick up stitches in a new direction. But I think you would find it fine as a transition from beginner to intermediate.

Using the aran weight Paintbox yarn makes is very fashionable and I would have play with the colours and see if you can match your winter coat and other accessories you are currently wearing.

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Here is my version that I made for myself in a DK yarn. I’m loving wearing it at the moment. Here is the Ravelry link: Zesty Scarf

I would love to hear what you are making at the moment or indeed the kind of accessories you crave in the Winter.

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Sometimes you just have to finish a project…3 years sat in a basket…moved from room to room, is too long for a bunch of yarn to sit about in my house.

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I know that my Mitred Square Blanket has been hanging around for 3 years – firstly due to the photographic evidence on my phone and secondly I know that the beautiful Angie – Lemon De Sucrette started hers at the same time. She inspired me. You should really stop by her instagram account. I love seeing her colourful creations.

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The knitted mitred square is not a difficult make. Well there is simplicity in every stitch being a knitted stitch, but then the complexity is in the even decreasing to make the square and then the picking up stitches to start a new square.

There are plenty of tutorials online – if you are looking for a blog have a look here at the Knitted Squirrel or on Youtube why not look here.

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The beautiful thing about the mitred square blanket is that it gradually grows. It has a habit which is perhaps most aligned to a crochet blanket project. The more you work, the more you have a gorgeous snuggly project to cover your knees.

If you look at Angie’s project she created a striped mitred square which is really gorgeous. Her blanket has a chunkier finish and

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I went with a plain square and my intention was to use up yarn in my stash and create a different colour combination which complimented my crocheted Vintage Granny Square Blanket but didn’t replicate it.

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If you are interested to know what the yarn is – I am using the squiggy Stylecraft Special DK and have chosed, Duck Egg, Cream, Matador, Pistachio and Fondant. I used 4mm short circular needles and this seemed particularly helpful as you appear to knit round the corner. You can have a look at my previous blog post here.

When do you know to call it a day….? I am not sure but in November I decided that this Christmas I would finish. I looked at my son’s single bed and decided that it would work to have the blanket being 16 x 13 squares. That is a humongous 176 squares… oh my, oh my. No wonder I called a halt. Perhaps the strongest factor was that I had come to the end of most of the yarn. More squares would mean starting another 4 or 5 balls of yarn.

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You can worry and procrastinate over the choice of edging stitch. Don’t. A purist will knit an edge for a knitted blanket… because I can I crocheted the edge – a pretty linen stitch in red and white. Very Christmassy to suit the time of year. Let’s be honest, I’m faster at crochet and I had the end it sight.

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I’ve got to admit I am thrilled with the end result. So is another family member…. It was only about 5 minutes, seriously 5 minutes before his Lordship, Sir Stanley Cat christened this finished beauty. For the purposes of photographs I laid the blanket on the spare bed – he jumped on. He is always invested in woolly pursuits. A few weeks on, the blanker remains in situ.

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Good blankets need heft. Real weight. I’m talking about blankets which provide warmth in winter. These are not just for decoration. Draped like a mean ribbon at the end of the bed. Argh, who had time to arrange those?

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In recent years we have been using blankets more and more in our house and outdoor living. A few years ago we stayed in holiday cottage in North Norfolk. The cottage was stylish but most significantly there was thought in every aspect of the furnishing. The owners had a blanket on each chair and sofa. As we sat together in the evening, we all grabbed the nearest blanket and snuggled underneath. From then on I made sure that we always had snuggly blankets in the living room, even in summer.

I have observed that in many Italian and Spanish restaurants the waiters provide a blanket on your chair. Why not? In Britain we have a habit of declaring…’ooo its getting a bit parky, shall we go in?’. No! let’s get cosy and stay out in the evening air. If you come to our house on summer evenings – the basket of blankets will appear and you can delve in and take your pick. In fact some of my friends now know of its existence and demand that the basket makes it appearance. Our evenings by the fire are extended.

The most important blankets though are those that we use in winter on our beds. I have my favourites. The Vintage Chic blanket that I designed for Granny Squares Home is very large and pretty. The weight of it on top of the duvet seems to bring added comfort on cold winter nights.

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In recent weeks we have long stretches without any heating (….I know… not fun). We have never been more delighted to have a huge stock of blankets to pile on top of us. During the summer I made my recent design for Inside Crochet, Bloma Blanket. I do love the patchwork pattern and I knew that it would have great Scandi-chic look. It’s not hard to make – you just need to make plain granny squares and perfect your half and half square. The magic is all done in the arranging.

Now I’m going to be honest – I love beautiful fine yarn. I love the purest fleece. But there is a reason why Stylecraft Special DK is beloved by the crocheters…. the texture is soft, the wash is reliable and finally the price point is manageable. This beauty uses just 7 ball of 100g yarn which currently works out at under £14. Not bad.

What am I making now? Well I have just finished a few Christmas gifts and I have promised myself that I am going to finish my mitred square blanket over the holiday period. I don’t usually like to have projects that stay in the basket over many years, but this little beauty has taken a while. So I will commit to knit and finish.

If you are looking for a project for the colder months – go with a blanket. The most wonderful thing is that while it grows it warms the lap of the maker. What’s not to love?

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My Christmas making is often done right in the middle of summer. This causes absolute hilarity if I am caught designing by my friends. The simple fact is that in order to be photographed for magazines I need to finish the actual items in about July. Over the years I have made stockings, angels and mug cozies…all in the warmest weather.

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This year I was inspired to create a series of Christmas Tree Decorations based on the festive classic song – ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’. The lovely folk at Let’s Get Crafting Magazine asked me to deliver a colourful ‘Crochet-a-long’ which would be a fun addition to any tree.

The brilliant news is that you can download for FREE all three of the pattern collections. I reckon if you start now you might just get them all completed!

But what just occurred to me is that – your might have a partridge in the first pattern collection…but no pear!

NO PEAR?! don’t despair! I can come to your rescue.

Below is my quick and easy pattern for a pear to pair with your partridge for FREE Obviously please feel free to share with me your makes but please do not sell or reproduce the pattern for sale. Originally this pattern was used for a keyring but it suits just as well as a tree decoration.

Pear Pattern

Using 3.75mm hook and yellow/green yarn make a magic ring and work 8dc into ring. 8sts.

Rnd 1: 2dc into each st. 16 sts.

Rnd 2: (1dc in first st, 2dc in next st) to end. 24sts.

Rnds 3-4: 1dc in each st. 24sts.

Rnd 5: (5dc, 2dc in next st) to end. 28sts.

Rnds 6-8: 1dc in each st. 28sts.

Rnd 9: (5dc, dc2tog in next st) to end. 24sts.

Rnd 10: 1dc in each st. 24sts.

Rnd 11: (2dc, dc2tog, 4dc, dc2tog, 2dc) rep to end. 20sts.

Rnd 12: (3dc, dc2tog) to end. 16sts.

Rnds 13-15: 1dc in each st. 16sts.

At this point stuff firmly with polyester stuffing.

Rnd 16: (2dc in next st, dc2tog) to end. 12sts.

Rnd 17: (1dc in next st, dc2tog) to end. 8sts.

Cut yarn and fasten off.

Leaf Using 3.75mm hook and green yarn make 7ch.

Row 1: 1dc in second ch from hook, 1dc 2htr, 1dc, 1sl st last ch, 1ch, then work along the underside of the ch, 1sl st , 1dc,  2htr, 2dc, sl st in turning ch. Cut yarn and fasten off.

Loop Stem

Using 3.75mm hook and green yarn make 25ch.

Row 1: 1sl st in second ch from hook, sl st in each ch to end. Cut yarn and Fasten off.

To make up

Sew the leaf and the loop to the top of the pear. Then using the long tail of yarn for the stem attach stem to the top of the pear and stew through to the base of the pear to create pear shape. Fasten off and weave in ends.

I hope you enjoy making and as usual I love to hear all your fun makes. Happy weekend and Happy Making!

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I knew I wanted to make the aran cardigan the minute I saw it. In January, following my fashion fast, we made a plan to have a bit of shopping fun in London. Visiting the ‘mothership’ of Liberty is a must. The shop is always in my heart. The mad, unique and eclectic collection of fashion, stationary, crockery… it goes on. To not visit would be disloyal to my childhood and identity.

On the top floor there is a discreet and rather rarefied haberdashery. Back in January they had a large and well displayed collection of Rowan yarns with a vast array of patterns. It was there that I spotted it. Gloriously laid out on a fine oak table. Heavy – detailed and luxurious. A creation worthy of heirloom status.

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I knew then I would make the Defuse Cardigan, designed by Kim Hargreaves – featured in her Pale Collection. Now this is not a design for the novice, the many cable stitches which repeat on different rows require concentration. It was not a mistake or a foolish ambition to add this design to my long ‘to-do’ list. But right then I made my first of two enormous mistakes. I should have chosen the yarn when I could see the shades in person. Instead I bought the pattern book and resolved to order the yarn online at a later stage.

It was weeks later that I chose the colour and made my purchase. It was quite an investment and the small shades samples online didn’t give me the correct impression of what I bought. Don’t get me wrong – the dusty mauve ‘Enchanted’, is very pretty. But the tone is way to muddy for my skin tone. I should have gone for a brighter tone.

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Ah well….silly girl. Undeterred I resolved to enjoy the start of knitting on our Lake District holiday in February. The gorgeous Alpaca is perfect for soft snugly knitting. Curled up, sat in a window seat with a hot cup of coffee by my side I began the fancy cable rib – stitching bliss.

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The whole project came and went over the next few months according to my commission commitments. It was only until I had finished the back, both sides and was mid-way through the second sleeve that I realised my catastrophic mistake. I had not read the pattern properly!!!!

Yes my friends…..even though I design patterns, even though I sometimes guide my followers to read the full pattern before you embark on the project…I didn’t heed my own advice.

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If you want to know how bad it was – basically I had done a rib on the sides of the garment instead of a moss stitch. What was I thinking! It made the whole garment far too narrow and failed to have all the pretty and traditional detail which moss stitch gives an aran design.

What would you have done? At this moment it is easy to give up. Pure frustration with your own stupidity can start to prick tears behind the eyes.

No…rip it back. The pattern was too pretty. The yarn too valuable. This won’t be, can’t be a discarded crumpled mess to be found by others in years to come. Plus, I enjoy the process, the physical stitching…if I can get past the private irritation of my own carelessness – why not enjoy the making process another time? So I pulled it right back. I finished the first sleeve. Went on to the second and then unraveled the back…..Oh the heartbreak. By the October half term I was on the home straight. The weather was getting cold again, which is a final consolation.

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This weekend I have finally completed this humongous task. The cable design is so so pretty, the yarn so soft….it is still not my colour. But I will wear it with pride (with a white blouse) a failed attempt, a rushed mistake, a lack to attention to detail, ripped back, re-set and redeemed. Its only a cardigan – but then knitting is never really about the finished item it always more than that – its what it teaches us – how to fail.

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