Knitting

Forget-me-not top and Me-made May

It has been a while now since I made some clothes for me. When I say this – what I really mean is finishing clothes that I started knitting. Back in February you might remember I wrote a blog post about two cardigans I was making. One that was a complicated pink fairisle which was actually not that difficult, but requires concentration. Another a pretty blue cardigan, which is actually not that difficult – but I couldn’t get my head round the German short row shaping for the sleeve.

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Well after many commissions and secret designing I have finally come back to my cardigan. I have used the Aileas pattern by Isabell Kraemer. It is very very popular and if you search for it on Ravelry you will find lots of pretty version. Because I was unsure of how it would work out I chose to make my first version in an inexpensive yarn – I bought King Cole Subtle Drifter in Ice Blue. It’s got a nice cotton-ish finish with a little bit of a slub texture.

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When I bought it I was thinking about cold weather. There is something quite festive about the soft pastel shades in the dark days of winter. But it has taken me so long to finish – that it will be a good transitional piece for Spring.

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My good friend Christine from the Winwick Mum blog put me onto a great short row shaping tutorial and I was able to finish off the project. I love the ‘fake’ cable detail. Especially under the arm. Honestly I think I would make one size up if I made it again. I am not sure if this yarn will pill – so we will see. If I make a second, I will invest in a slightly more expensive yarn. But then I should really finish the pretty pink fairisle cardigan I began last year before I embark on another project.

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I thought I would also share a little crochet cotton tank that I have made for summer. When it was really hot in April I was inspired to make this little T-shirt that would go over a vest top. It didn’t take long to make and I know it will go with quite a few skirts and shorts in the summer. It will either look quite cool and be very useful, or look very frumpy and I won’t wear it that much. We will see. By the way…crocheting summer clothes is so much faster than knitting. But then you will want your cotton crochet to be light and lacy.

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When I finished the top it go me thinking…could I make it into a lovely beach dress? Something to throw over a swimming costume? Yes probably. So this is the project currently on the hook. I am making it in black…which is not very photogenic, but when I finished it I will share a photo. My plan is to add colourful embroidery to each square, that will make it look very tropical and summery.

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I really enjoy making my own clothes. Always these days knitted or crocheted. But I don’t have the hutzpah to make for anyone else. Today is a little bit chilly in Britain and when I go out this morning I think I will wear my new cardi. We will see how it feels. I would be fascinated to know if you crochet items of clothing for yourself in the summer? Or do you keep your garment making just to shawls and scarves?

A souvenir hat and ruining perfectly good knitting

Around this time, every year I have a yearning to make a hat. Sometimes it is for me…other times it is for our son or my husband.

I am sure it is due to a number of circumstances. The February half term is a time that we take time to be outside and frequently enjoy an outdoorsy holiday. The winter knitting designs are every where and something usually catches my eye. Finally we have a number of winter birthdays in our family – making a hat seems like a quick and easy project that provides an exciting woolly accessory gift.

It does worry me that a bit like our cat Stanley, my knitted hat making is the woolly version of marking our family territory. These hat wearers belong to me!

But the hats act as souvenirs of those holidays – there are photos of each one and they mark a year, a place, a time. Each has its memories.

In previous years on this blog I have shared my favourite makes. Fairisle wonders from Juliet Bernard or Shetland Wool week. The pink and blue hats are the Diamond Hat by Juliet Bernard and the Red hat is also by Juliet – Torshavn

This year I came upon a lovely design by the gorgeous design collective Tin Can Knits. Their Snap design is great for sock yarn stash busting. By combining 3 or 4 strands of sock yarn together you can create a marled chunky weave which knits up really quickly. I planned to make 2 hats one for my hubby – another for my nephew. I enjoyed them no end. All well and good. The pom-pom was made and sewn on.

I then decided to add a little luxury… and in doing so made one hat totally unusable for their recipient. And yes my friends I should have known better.

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You see my boys…they like a fleece hat. They are intolerant of itchy wool and previous hats have to pass a very high standard of comfort.

No matter I thought… I will sew in a fleece lining. Ha Ha…..You will be delighted. It was done neatly and successfully and I even used my sewing machine. Two hats made and lined ready for our chilly break. Alas I failed to take into account that the thickness of the fleece would really reduce the circumstance of the hat…Silly silly silly girl. One hat proved so tight it was deemed unwearable and very headache enducing. Darn.

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I don’t mind telling you that this little mistake made me really rather cross with myself. I should know better. Really should.

No new hat for walking adventures. I share this with you just to admit that even though I knit a lot of things, I design a wide range of objects – I can still make the same mistakes that everyone can make.

The consolation is that as a crafty person there is a joy in the giving, but (with a glint in our eye) the real joy is in the making. With a few weeks off doing other things I will return to this pattern. Remake it again, after taking proper measurements. The hat can have a new life and there will be a new make. Although mistakes are made, nothing is unredeemable and trying again is part of the fun.

The question is do I add in the fleece or not this time?

Have you made a last minute adjustment which you wished you hadn’t? What will you never do again to your knitting or crochet?

Catching up

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So let’s get the formalities out of the way – sorry. I have been away from this little blog for a while. Not a huge ‘I’m giving up’ amount of time, but much longer than I would have liked. The absolute ‘LAW’ of blogging is to be consistent. Blog monthly – weekly – daily if you must, but at the same time, on the same day and with regularity. Yeah… well that ship has sailed. However with all the mea culpa done and dusted – here I am.

Honestly, any absence from this little space is mostly due to busyness in other areas. Work has been…let’s say…busy. Christmas is always a time where preparations and family are a priority. But in the background I have been writing and designing my next book. I am very excited about it and I apologise in advance that I cannot do any show and tell.

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With any large design project there has to be trial and error, mostly error. Some ripping back, starting again. Some walking away from a pile of abandoned yarn. The first few designs flew off hook, my theory was to design the ‘easy’ projects to get my eye in. But like an errant student the later pieces got harder and harder. Any exponent of modern ‘to-do’ list philosophy will tell you to tick of the most difficult projects first and then the rest of your list will become a dream. All well and good – hurrah for you and all that but that’s not how it works is it? Why then would we have so many books on time-keeping and to-do lists?

So like a very pedestrian and cosy suspense movie the clock clicked towards the deadline. Luckily I got all my homework in on time. There are very few people I can celebrate that milestone with. No ‘whoop whoop’ on social media here. My yarn blogging pals are happy to accept a random picture. They are very patient.

I do wonder about what our son will say in years to come…’It was rare to see my mother without yarn and hook in her hand and I do remember that most of my childhood she would thrust a cactus/rabbit/campervan in my face and say…’Look! What do you think? Do you love it?’….it was best to say ‘Yes its wonderful!’ – in the hope she would stop obscuring the telly’. Poor lad.

Almost immediately after finishing the book project list I had an urge to make a auricula. I can’t say why. I love their graphic look and I have a few plants potted up in our garden. It was a bit of design whimsy that just had to be pursued. Then back to the commissions – a rather gorgeous soft blanket which is now being blocked before the final finishing.

But when all the designing and pattern writing is completed – what then? Well I usually have some guilty WIP’s (works in progress). First a glorious fairisle cardigan in 2ply jumper weight – and then another cardigan in a soft aran. Both are for me – one dominates in its pink tones and another in light blue. These are both colours I enjoy wearing in my silver years.

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I have fallen out with both these projects – we are not speaking to each other. Lets talk about the light blue aran first – the top of the sleeves have short row shaping. Using a the German method. If you are a knitter you might know what I am talking about – this is not a natural technique for me and I need to do more research to embed the process in my head. If you NOT a knitter reading this and you are thinking – wow that sounds complex… I’ll skip over that….YES YOU ARE CORRECT! AND YES… THAT’S WHY THE CARDIGAN IS ABANDONED.

We are still not speaking.

I have however picked the first project back up. This is a fairisle project using the glorious Wiola design by Kristin Wiola Odegard. It is so so pretty, but taxing for me. The knitting is pleasurable, but you need to keep you eye on the ball.

The main body flew off the needle. It is knitted in the round and will be steeked to create the cardigan. I began the sleeves, but combining the increases with the pattern really was a little challenging – plus I really do need a smaller circular needle – say 25mm. Annoyingly I packed this project for our half-term get-away and the lack of a good circular needle has made the progress frustrating.

We are friends again and my head is in the game. I determined that this garment will be completed for next autumn. Forward planning if ever there was.

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I have also been designing a new toy project. If you follow me on Instagram you will know that I have been playing around with a doll design. At this stage we are in the prototype phase. I am trying out limb length, yarn weight and colour range.

My thinking so far is that this will be a downloadable pattern for the basic doll with one outfit – but then I would add clothes and accessories. If you would like to get involved and suggest items I should add, please do. The comments are always welcome.

So there you go – a few knitting projects and a crochet experiment. Now were are my circular needles…. and shhhh…I’m counting.

Cheeky Christmas Cosie

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Are you getting in the festive mood yet? Even though I am a winter baby it does take me to mid-December before I am ready for the trees, the decorations and the carols. Designing for Christmas in the middle of summer, can mean that I need to get myself excited when the season actually comes round. However this year I feel more jolly.

I have written up a cheeky wee pattern for you which will be a quick and easy gift to make and will bring a smile to your mulled wine or Christmas cup of tea. This design means your mug can wear its own Christmas jumper. Make in the traditional candy stripes or perhaps just go for a plain design. I know you will able to customise this design yourself.

I have used some oddments of yarn left in my stash – Stylecraft Special DK in Lipstick, Cream and Bottle.

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Only the basic knitting skills are required. I have popped the pattern over on my shop and it will be free download for the rest of December 2021. If you do make one please do tag me into your photos – I would love to see them. Happy Christmas!

Floral Cosy Cowl

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I have no idea where the idea came from. I have no idea why I suddenly felt compelled to make a new cowl. However if you have read this blog for a few years you will know how much I love the practicality of a cowl.

Once I had finished my Knit Crochet Cardigan, I had some of the super soft aran yarn left. For years I have wanted to make the Bandana Cowl from Purl Soho. It is a free pattern and has always been in my to-do list. Before I knew it the stitches were cast on and I was enjoying the calming knit rows but also the clever construction of the short-row shaping.

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The cowl in its simplest form is lovely enough. The soft denim hue, the excellent ‘V’ of cloth which fits nicely under a coat. An excellent ‘do-er’ of a garment. But my eyes have been looking at summer clothing. Pretty embroidered patterns have been appearing in my pinterest and instagram feed. It made me think…I wonder could I stitch a little pattern to this cowl.

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I know it must have been 17 years ago that I made a beautiful little embroidered cardigan for a friend who was expecting a little girl. It was a pretty pattern from Debbie Bliss’s book – The Baby Knits Book. I dug out my old copy and used some of the flower designs to add decoration.

I went backwards and forwards thinking about what I should use to complete the embroidery. I have some old embroidery thread in my stash, but worried that the thinner strands would cut through and perhaps pucker the chunkier aran stitches. I thought about cotton yarn. But that felt quite a heavy choice against the lighter threads of the wool. In the end I chose some Stylecraft Bellisima. This has a soft silky texture but seems light enough not the out-weigh the knitted stitches. The colours I have in my stash were also in that soft pastel colour range.

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I’ll be honest I was slightly nervous about my first embroidery adventure in many years. Working on a small piece of knitting like this cowl freed me from worry about mistakes. If you are thinking about having a go there is no need to for any special equipment – you can just crack on. Saying that I did use two things which I think really help the finish. Firstly a water soluable embroidery stabliser…(oooo get me). Essentially it enabled me trace the pattern I was wanting to use on to the stablising fabric, place that onto my knitting, I then stitched through both the stabiliser and the knitting. I also used a small embroidery ring which I already had a home. I don’t think this is essential, but I think it does avoid puckering the knitted stitches below.

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I really enjoyed the stitching. The concentration and choosing of where to put the needle is very absorbing and therefore relaxing. I did brush up on my stitching techniques. A quick flick through old craft books I have in my collection and good old browse through pinterest. It was well worth the revision.

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Once I have finished the embroidery the magic could happen. I can’t tell you how excited I was. I rinsed the cowl under the cold tap and all the stabliser fabric magically disappeared! So exciting. The hardest part was waiting for it to dry so that I could put it on.

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I can’t tell you how useful this cowl is going to be. Even though Spring is coming – the air is still chilly. It will be a boon! Have a caught the embroidery bug?… I might have…. one more little embellishment project I think. I’ll keep you updated. If you have any projects you have embroidered please do share them. I am looking for inspiration and love seeing where your creativity is taking you.

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I made the Bandana Cowl using a free pattern from Purl Soho. The yarn I used was Stylecraft Special Aran with Wool in New Denim. I then used Stylecraft Bellissima DK for the embroider in Single Cream, Precious Posy, Ash Rose, Bashful Blue and Overly Olive. The water soluable embroidery stabliser and the embroidery hoop can be purchased from any online shop that supply craft materials.

The sweetest words…

‘Ooo I love your cardigan! Where did you get it from?’

There, right there…those two sentences are the sweetest words a maker can hear. Obviously substitute cardigan for; jumper…hat…scarf…or indeed blanket. But in essence there is nothing more complimentary or thrilling that can be said to a maker. Now there is one proviso… if you have made a toy for a child, there is no need for an audible response. What you want then is a grab, followed by a kiss, then a hug, followed by a determined waltz off into the distance with your homemade toy for a little play.

But if your handmade makes are admired by an adult, who assume they have been shop bought, then this my friend is the golden goal. These instances are few and far between in current times. Firstly in British lockdown it is rare to see a physical human being who can appreciate a woolly jumper. Secondly, most people who know me, know I knit and crochet, so there will be a little check in their head…’she probably made that’. In fact I manage to fake-it with a number of jumpers that have been manufactured and people think I have made. I’m saying nothing.

On Thursday night I finished my Denim Crochet Knit Cardigan. I was happy with the final result. Although it is a bit too ‘weekend-woolly’ for the formal online meetings I had on Friday, I slipped it on between zoom calls. In the middle of a very hectic afternoon someone came to our door and greeted me with the joyful, ‘Ooo I love your cardigan, where did you get it from?’ Super-stressed and late for the next meeting (it was late Friday afternoon…not cricket!) I brushed off this compliment…’Oh I made it…thanks…..how can I help?’

A bit like seeing a celebrity in the street… it was many minutes later that I thought…’Ooo wow that was a moment and I missed it!’

Not every garment I make is a success. Not all become good familiar friends. In the last few weeks I have hardly taken off a pastel pink bobble hat that I made using Little Grey Sheep wool. It is a winner. But of the larger items I go back to my Granny Square Cardigan, my chunky Pink Cardigan and my Arabian Nights scarf. Will this Denim Knit Crochet Cardigan become a staple for the wardrobe?

I was inspired by a lovely cardigan sold by Plumo (sorry I think they have sold out). The price point was at the luxury end (understatement) and if you can make your own garter stitch cardigan why wouldn’t you?

Stylecraft have just launched a new Denim Shade in their 400g Special Aran with Wool range. I used about 600g for my cardigan. Being a small person I decided to go with a shorter boxy shape. I began with 5mm needle and edged the hem with an Irish Moss Stitch for 10 rows. Moss stitch of any type will knit up tighter than a loose garter stitch. So you will need to fight your instinct and make the edge with a large needle than the body of the garment. I then went to a 4.5mm needle for the soothing garter stitch. For both fronts I cast on more stitches than I needed and once I had finished the welt left about 10 stiches on a holder for the front opening. Once the back and the fronts were finished I sewed the shoulder seam together and then knitted the front edges separately, knitting enough to fit up the front and then along the back of the neck. I then whip stitched the edges and the front opens together. I hope that make sense.

The real star of this garment are the jaunty granny square pocket. This being a home-knit I had no desire to break the ball band on new skeins. So I took some lovely Debbie Bliss Cashmerino and made each circular motif with a double strand. This pretty much replicates an aran weight.

Honestly will I wear this cardigan? Yes I think I will. The British weather being what it is, the aran weight is fine for the indoors during winter and excellent thrown over a cotton dress to take the chill of balmy outdoor summer evenings.

I know you will shout at the computer when I say. I haven’t written up the pattern. Sorry – it was just a bit of creative whimsy for me. Crochet is my design work. Knitting is my hobby. But I will point you in the direction of something similar. Have a look at this and this and just add a granny square pocket. I suppose my encouragement to you is to create what you want to wear – don’t be put off my luxury prices – make luxury pieces.

Next time you meet a crafty friend…even if you know the answer…ask them…’Where did you get that from?’ The biggest smile will come across their face. You will make their day.

Your handy Yarny Christmas Guide

If you are reading this…I hope you have found this article subtly and rather nonchalantly left open or shared your craft obsessed ‘loved one’.

Yes you could buy them something from a large retailer… but how much more delightful to shop small, bespoke and quite frankly clever. So here goes…

Gorgeous Gubbins from Beyond Meaure

These are fabulous gifts that will delight the knitter, crocheter or even sewist. Pop over to the joy that is Beyond Measure. Grace has a beautiful online shop and when I go to yarn festivals I always head to her stall to be tempted by the treasures she selects.

Winter 2020 edition of the Cohana mini snips.

These incredibly tiny scissors are so cute and are perfect for keeping in a bag, tool box or pencil case.

As always, Cohana have sought out the best manufacturers to create their vision of beautiful, high quality tools. These snips are made by Hasegawa Cutlery, a manufacturer of cutting tools established in 1933 and located in Seki, Gifu Prefecture, Japan’s foremost cutlery-making town.

The scissors work by gripping and pinching lightly to cut your thread or yarn.  Despite their small size, these cute mini-scissors have great cutting ability!

The small silk tassels are carefully handmade by Imasato, a specialist in tassels and knots founded in 1907 and located in Yame, Fukuoka Prefecture. For over 100 years, Imasato has been making tassels for Yame Chochin paper lanterns, which are a traditional handicraft. 

Available with grey, gold, blue, turquoise or pink silk tassel, plus limited edition creamy beige/metallic version for Winter 2020

Each pair comes with a little leather pouch and in a beautiful Cohana gift box. Snips measure about 3.5 cm long.

£1 from each pair sold (any colour) will be donated to the Runnymede Trust who generate intelligence to challenge race inequality in Britain through research, network building, leading debate, and policy engagement.

Wooden needle cases

These are great for DPNs and crochet hooks

Made from wood, this lovely case from Serradura of Lisbon is ideal for storing your tools. With a push on lid, it will keep your crochet hooks, DPNS, or even pencils safe and neatly stored!

Measures 7.5 inch or 19 cm long. Usable inside length 3/4 inch or 2 cm diam by 7 inch or 18 cm long. 

Maybe the advent calendar would be a nice seasonal thing too?

Create your own Advent tradition with this beautiful Advent Tree from Jurianne Matter. 

Paper and Wood advent Tree

Build the tree using the wooden pieces then every day, select one of the 24 sweet decorations to adorn the branches, adding the star on Christmas Day.  Or add them all at once if you can’t wait and enjoy the tree throughout the winter season!

The tree comes in a special A4 storage box so it can be used for many years to come and also makes a wonderful gift to post!

Everything you need is in the package; no tools or glue required:

1 easy to assemble Advent Tree comprising one beechwood trunk (33 cm high), one beechwood base, and twelve ‘branches’.

24 pre-punched ornaments of traditionally crafted heavy-duty paper plus one star for the top of the tree.

Made with FSC-certified wood and paper and printed with vegetable inks.

Tiny Tins

I fell in love with these little tins by Yorkshire artist and jeweller Leigh Shepherd.  Leigh creates the little drawings herself and they are set in resin in the lid. Perfect for your pins, buttons, needles and bits and bobs.

Available empty or add a small pack of 20 copper bulb pins (great as stitch markers).  They also work well with their beeswax thread conditioner.

In tiny tins, choose from Beehive, Fern, Acorn, Sycamore, Winter Trees or hand painted Sprig designs and also available in our natural dye collection

Tiny Tin measures 5 cm long – fits pack of two small buttons or pack 2 acorns.

Beehive and Acorn tin also available in medium size, 6 cm long – fits beeswax block and pack of large/small beeswax buttons.

Tangled Yarn

My next top shopping tip is from the glorious Tangled Yarn. Very local to me – but actually an online shop, Rachel has impeccable yarn tastes.

Just this week I have ordered some important items to keep the inspiration going.

For Knitters I would suggest, ChiaoGoo TWIST Interchangeables are possibly one of the best Stainless Steel circular needles you will find. Beautifully presented in their own case, each needle tip has it’s own labelled pocket, so you know exactly where to find it. There are pockets for storing the cables and additional accessories too.

Also on my list would be the Cocoknits Accessory Roll is comprised of an outer wrap that encloses four removable triangular envelope-style pouches attached by snaps. The elastic bands hold the roll closed, and can be customised with any of three additional colours provided. Convenient at home or on the go, the Accessory Roll organises all your little essentials. Fill up each section with your knitting notions, craft tools, makeup, jewellery, earbuds, phone charger, and bottle opener – whatever you need to have at hand. Take the whole roll, or simply unsnap one or two pouches to toss in your bag and be prepared for your active day.

I have just ordered for myself two Toft Alpaca Fur Pom Pom’s They are the perfect way to finish off a hat!

Available in a range of bright colours, each pom-pom is attached to a press stud to enable you to swap between colours easily. To wash, remove the stud with the pom-pom and re-attach once your piece is dry. They are by far the fluffiest pom-poms around!

Also I purchased the utterly beautiful Fair Isle Weekend Book. It takes you on an exciting trip to Fair Isle, a windswept island in Shetland, famous for its traditional colourwork knitting. During her many trips to Fair Isle, Mary Jane has been fascinated and inspired by the island’s rich textile traditions, learning about Fair Isle knitting by looking at old textiles and sharing stories and knowledge around a cup of tea. Now, she has created a gorgeous collection of designs which she would take with her for a weekend trip to Shetland when a carry-on bag is all you take with you.

For Crocheters….

This is not cheap but then I use mine everyday; a set of beautiful hooks. Tulip Etimo Red Crochet Hooks are not only a thing of beauty but they are great to use too! If you crochet you will love these! They are ergonomic, with a cushioned support grip that fits comfortably in the hand making it possible to crochet for longer with less fatigue. The matte red tones of the hook tip do not reflect light and are gentle on the eyes.

Socks

At this time of year, sock knitting is a wonderful thing to do in the evenings.

Exmoor Sock by John Arbon is designed to be perfect for socks, whilst still having the versatility to suit garments and accessories that relish a hard-wearing, machine washable yarn. It comes in handy 50g skeins so is ideal for knitting stripes or colourwork!

A wonderful yarn Exmoor Sock enhances the durable character and bounce of the fibre from local Exmoor Blueface sheep – a crossbreed of the Exmoor Horn (full-bodied and hard-wearing) and the Bluefaced Leicester (renowned for its softness and lustre).

Another great idea would be to buy a book on Sock making. My friend Christine is the Queen of teaching beginners how to make socks. I can testify that she taught me and I use her method every time. Pop over to her website to grab a copy of her book: Super Socks.

Kits…

Ok I’m not going to pretend… a kit at Christmas is a glorious thing! And yes I am going to suggest that you buy one of mine from my Etsy shop. Because…well I have put lots of love and care into choosing the yarn and writing the pattern and I think they make a great gift.

For a beginner why not buy a crochet cactus kit and you can combine that with my Crocheted Succulents book for a cracking gift.

To melt the heart why not choose from one of my Baby Animal kits. Perhaps Bobby Bunny, or Sam the Lamb and now very popular is Tony the Pony. In the run up to Christmas you can get 20% off a Gertie Goose Kit to ensure you have a glorious goose for the festive period.

If you are on the Etsy Shop it is worth look at my book selection. How to Crochet is perfect for beginners and the Granny Squares books are also very popular. Pop over and see what you think.

Support your local yarn shop

All of the suggestions above support small producers, authors and online shopkeepers. If you are aiming to shop small this Christmas I promise you that every order placed will thrill an individual business owner.

But also in these lockdown times please don’t forget your local yarn store. You may not even be aware of what bricks and mortar shop is near to you. Well my top tip would be to pop over to the UK Handknitters Association website. They have an excellent search facility which helps you find your nearest shop. If nothing else, you can telephone or contact the shop to buy a gorgeous gift token. I promise you one thing, there is nothing finer than having the opportunity/excuse to buy new yarn in the New Year.

This is a good list my friends! Exciting classics that will thrill and delight! But what would you suggest? If you commented on my last blog post I cannot thank you more!

The agony and ecstasy of the #WIP (work in progress)

There is a moment, perhaps half way through, more likely two thirds, when I am at my optimum project moment. For every substantial knitting or crochet project there is that terrible balance of enjoying the making and yet wanting to finish.

Do you know what I mean? I love the making but there is something really brilliant when you finally sew in the last end and hold up you finished woolly – that ‘TA-DAH’ moment.

My biggest struggle is found in knitting when I am making a garment. My latest project cast-off this week is a boxy fairisle cardigan made with Stylecraft Highland Heathers.

I have enjoyed using the yarn. The colour has a depth to it which is beautifully subtle, almost a tweed. The blue has flashes of pink and green. I also like the simple fairisle motif and the contrasting edge. Throughout I have been intrigued to see how the project will turn out. I have enjoyed the simple stocking stitch rhythms. So it is with mixed emotions that I have cast off the final sleeve. I don’t even mind the sewing up and this time I invested in using the magical mattress stitch. (FANCY).

Although I know this cardigan will be a welcome addition to my winter wardrobe, I now slightly grieve its loss.

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The crochet equivalent would be blanket making. My ‘V’ stitch Vintage Virus Blanket which I started at the beginning of lockdown has been my longest ‘WIP’ of this year. There were moments that I questioned why I started it at all. But then almost 50 rows from the end, I began to become quietly addicted. I was frequently found in a corner, secretly hooking away a few sneaky rows. When I had finished the blanket I missed its warm comfort and its familiar pattern.

In Homer’s Odyssey, the character of Penelope waits for her husband to return from war. She has many suitors in that time and she keeps them at bay by promising that she will not consider anyone until she has finished her weaving. Every night for three years she unravels the work she has done the day before. Well it might have kept the pesky chaps at bay, but perhaps she was also enjoying the simple pleasures of an excellent ‘Work in Progress’.

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As we head towards Christmas I have a number of commissions on the go and a few gifts that I want to complete. But I have yet to decide on a delicious ‘work in progress’ that tempts me into snuggle into the sofa and I cannot almost bear to finish.

The Cardigan I have made is 9794 by Stylecraft – I have used colourways Loch and Gorse and I made mine in the Medium size. I am a Stylecraft Blogstar so I am able to view and access Stylecraft yarns before they have been released.

The scarf in the photos is Arabian Nights knitted using West Yorkshire Spinners sock yarn. There is a post about that project here.

You can find my simple free pattern for the V-stitch blanket in this blog post.

Sweater Weather

Oh my, oh my it is a little bit chilly isn’t it? Never mind…sweater weather… a perfect excuse for the yarny amongst us to get out the needles and hooks and work on new cosy garments.

sweater

I was on one of the (endless) Skype meetings this week and found myself playing a brand new quiz: ‘Whose sweater game is strong?’

Being just ‘head and shoulders’ rather than a whole person, does really demonstrate who is head and shoulders in the ‘working from home’ outfit.

If you are being mean with the heating then a cosy jumper is just the thing. I’ll be honest the bright colours of a ‘top-down’ fairisle yoke will really catch the eye. How much more impressive would it be if you can admit you made it yourself? This the Birkin Sweater by Caitlin Hunter and I adore it. I finished in the Summer and it has made a few outings this week on the work meetings. I always worried that it would be too small. But surprisingly I was wrong and it has worked well.

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This week I have also delved into my drawers and found my cosy tanks. They have the advantage of keeping you body warm and yet you have the flexibility of movement. This zesty lime green tank is a design from Debbie Bliss (my darling friend) but when I make and buy her designs I pay cold hard cash for them…because I’m a discerning customer too and hey we all need to eat!

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The cardigan is always a good choice to stay warm. In a changing climate as you can take it on and off quite quickly without messing up your hair or make-up.

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Now you might think I am mad, but even in my own home I have found myself putting on a cosy scarf. Bear with me… having a colourful but thinish scarf around your neck can bring added warmth, jazzing up what is ultimately quite a boring polo neck or sweatshirt. If you use a 4ply sock yarn you can get lots of warmth without it being very bulky. Have a look at this post to see all the details of the pattern.

So what am I making at the moment? Well for a few weeks I have been making a Stylecraft pattern using their new Highland Heathers yarn. Being a Stylecraft Blogstar I am fortunate to view all the patterns ahead of the season. Annabelle and Juliet from Stylecraft always know that there will come a moment in the season preview that I will say…’ooooo I like that!’. That usually means I will will want to knit that design for myself. So I am making the romantically named 9794 in Loch and Gorse. I am a very big fan of this new yarn. It has a lovely tweedy quality and I am currently using it quite a bit for some new projects. Hopefully in a few weeks I will finish the cardigan and be able to show you.

If you have any ‘Zoom’ style tips, I would love to hear them. I think strength of colour and a little interest in the neckline is the way to go. Oh, and if you can manage it from 8 hours of screen time…a little smile.

#whyImake – Survival, Solace Solution, Sharing & …to say I love you…

I was chatting with my husband only this week and we were talking about ‘the balance of life’- no small talk there. I was sort of being a bit apologetic that along with the day-job I have other looming deadlines.

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Luckily we are both fairly comfortable with the juggling of work/life/passions in our family life.

‘The way I see it – knitting/crochet is a bit like you breathing…you need it to survive’. He said it not in a dramatic way, but quiet and understated and I don’t think he is far wrong.

Survival

I seriously don’t think there is day that goes by when I don’t pick up the hook or the needle. At the end of a busy work day – the slow meditative stitching is important to process. The stitches smooth my thoughts back in order. Long journeys are made useful and even joyful with a yarn project. I will admit in this strange isolating times, I yearn for a long train journey. The more I am under pressure, the more important my creativity. I don’t really care what people think – if you know me well and we meet at a social occasion I might get out the wool – but I am always very much present – I can hear you – nothing is lost.

Solace

At the saddest or most challenging times in my life, I have NEEDED craft. Something quiet, distracting and ordered. My hands are very practiced at the repetitive rhythms – so no concentration is required… but something good is happening. I have come along-side a number of friends who are grieving or perhaps facing some difficult health or work issue. Sometimes I feel helpless to make any positive difference but I am thrilled to teach them to knit or crochet. The craft is a gift that must be shared not just for what it produces but how it can heal and soothe.

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Solution

Most of my making is prompted by one of two things. Either finding a practical solution…. ‘Wouldn’t it be helpful to have another potholder…?’ or ‘that beanie hat is looking a bit worse for wear…’ Make-do-and-mend is a great reason to knit and crochet. Oh the satisfaction of solving a practical problem by making the solution yourself.

Sharing

My design work is really about fun. There may be a new yarn or a new colour combination that has sparked an idea. The best bit of designing is that rush…the magnetic pull to start swatching. I don’t know if it has ever been claimed that crochet is and adrenaline fueled sport – but this bit – the race from idea to first stitches definitely pumps the endorphins. Funnily enough I have some memories where I can look at a design and remember where I was and what it was that inspired the idea. Once I am happy with the final product I’m really keen to share it with you. I love writing the books because they give me an opportunity to share the tips and tricks I have learnt along the way. Sharing our craft is a huge motivator for me and when I see one of my designs on social media or even better in the flesh…well that is an incredible thrill.

…to say I love you…

There a very few adults I will make for now. The pain of re-gifting is the ultimate craft betrayal. Too many re-gifting incidents can break the heart of a crafter. Better to send a bunch of flowers or buy a bottle and let your heart remain in tact.

Without a shadow of a doubt the very best people to make for are children. When you make a toy for a child and they grab it, kiss it, hug it and then name it….that my friends is the jackpot. That is woolly gold.

Children understand the currency of craft-gifting. If you receive a beautifully crayoned portrait of yourself drawn by a four year old, you know you have made it. Perhaps being a bit of a child at heart is why I make a lot of toys. Many of them have to be kept for photographs, some go on book tours, but my favourite are those who are created for a special person. Recently I was sent a video of one of my godson’s playing with a fluffy cloud I had made for him. The joy in his face, the passionate kisses he gave the cloud, the peel of giggles. I’m an old hand – but oh my the tears might have welled up a little.

I turned my phone round to show my husband the little film…’there you go darling…that’s the reason why….’

My blog has been nominated for the Love Crafts Crafties Award – If you enjoy my blog and would be happy to, I would love it if you would vote for it here: Vote

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