Discovering what lies beneath

A little break in service from my normal crafty blogging – but important just the same

Who knew? Who knew that under my progressively blonder hair there were the most extraordinary brunette stripes. Regular, quirky about 1 inch from the very front of my hair line. They are so very individual. This year…no, these two years have been full of surprises. Sometimes we don’t even know who we are and what lies beneath.

I have, my friends, been going grey since I was quite young – for nearly half my life. I started disguising the wisps of grey hair with highlights. It was expensive hobby which became annoyingly time consuming. As I became increasingly grey my hair was dyed lighter and lighter. True confessions; I began to be frustrated by having to touch up the roots so frequently. I could see it was damaging my hair. I also saw some photos and thought…’argh that colour just does NOT suit my face’. I am too lazy to be on-it and too vain not to care!’

I have in my adult life known some utterly fabulous grey haired women. My own grandmother has a gorgeous grey pixie cut. My closest work colleague, Cathy, has the most admired hair of any woman I have known. Salt and pepper when I first knew her 25 years ago and now a thick mane of silver. Glorious!

In the craft world I have always admired the style and chic crops of Debbie Bliss and Juliet Bernard. Natural, edgy…cool.

But lets be honest until recently, the fear has always been…grey hair ages you. You will become seen as too old, too invisible and irrelevant. But the nagging inauthenticity of how I looked started to shift something. Before lockdown I shared an open-plan office with a much younger woman who had a glorious salt and pepper bob. I never told her how much I admired her look – her hutzpah. But she gave me courage. The wonderful growing community of #silversisters and the #grombre phenomenon on Instagram showed me there was a changing mood for grey. Let’s be honest if Sarah Harris of Vogue isn’t cool – then who is?

I had always said that at my next significant birthday I would take the plunge and stop dying my hair. But then Covid and lockdown came upon us and I realised that our enforced housebound existence was the perfect opportunity. I think many women thought the same.

I really wish that I had recorded the date of my last dye. I think it was probably February 2020. Now eighteen months on I am nearly dye free with my mid-length locks. There seem to be two schools of thought. Go for the chop, have a buzz or pixie cut and then grow your hair to your favoured length. I went the more torturous route, watching the grey roots work their way down my scalp. Honestly the most painful part was not that difficult. In lockdown I barely saw anyone – and it is really hard to see people accurately on Zoom meetings.

Nearly at the full transition how do I feel? Some days I have my doubts. I think that there are friends who think my new tone ages me. Some days I care…mostly I do not. Will I be invisible? Will I be overlooked for job opportunities? Will I be seen as irrelevant? Well we will see, but luckily I don’t think with my hair. To quote a good friend and an excellent t-shirt – ‘Underestimate me…that’ll be fun’.

The good news is my hair is falling out less, my skin tone looks more like me and I have both more time and change in my pocket. The biggest delight is discovering what was always there, hidden. My quirky dark stripes. Not dyed, not placed, just naturally there. It brings a smile to my face. When I have faltered then I have found new confidence in wearing brighter colours, stronger lipstick, fun jewellery. I have never wanted to be mousy and I am not about to start now.

This is my own journey and we are all very different. Making this decision was hard but logical. The timing was right for me. For others it will be different. However if you are looking for courage to embrace the grey then I would encourage you firstly to look around. So many women have taken lockdown as an opportunity to emerge as a Silver butterfly from a Covid chrysalis. If you are on Instagram it is worth following the hashtags #silversisters and #grombre. Also check out the account of Luisa a wonderful Australian model and photographer @thesilverlining_1970. I have also been encouraged by the author Viv Groskrop, the Fashion Icon Sarah Harris and more recently actors Andie McDowell and Dawn French.


Will I keep my new silver locks? I think so – it’s such a transition that the thought of doing it again seems ridiculous. Thankfully the ‘silver fox’ concept doesn’t just belong to men and the idea of what is beautiful, trendy and chic is changing. I have found my new badger stripes, why on earth would I want to cover them up!

Make New and Mend

Sometimes the things I make don’t work out…I mean they are really not good. I see a pattern, an image and I think… ‘Oooo that would look lovely!’. My little brain starts whirring and before you know it, the hook or the needle are out and I have ferreted in the stash to find some appropriate yarn.

It tends not to happen with toy making. The projects are small enough that I can make alterations as I go. But more frequently when I am making clothing… I can fall in love with a look and a shape and right near the end I have that little niggle in the back to my mind…’is this going to look dreadful?’


We can all make a fashion mistake – entranced by a look that is very now. But when we try it on realise it does our body shape no favours at all. Don’t get me wrong…we must wear what we like…but let’s not feel uncomfortable or self conscious. In the past few weeks I have been making pastel shade granny squares. Soft hues with a pop of yellow. I have a fetching mustard coloured skirt and I thought it might be fun to match this with a little Granny Square Bolero. Pretty.

All well and good until I had sewn all the squares together, slip-stitched the seams, made the edging and sewn in all the pesky ends. As soon as I slipped the new cardigan on over a t-shirt, it wasn’t such a Tadah! moment but rather Na Naah! moment. The hems hit my figure in all the wrong places and instead of looking funky and cute, I looked quite uncomfortable and a little unhinged.

I was so unimpressed with the final garment that I cannot find even one of photo of it in its finished state. There are choices. I can either throw it away in a fit of peak. Or let it lie there languishing in a pile (that’ll teach it…or me) or … see the value of what is already there.

I cannot lie, this project really foxed me. I was so close to throwing the whole thing in the bin. But I loved the colours so much it pained me to do so. On Friday night I decided to grasp the nettle and unravel the joins and make the majority of the squares into a 6 x 6 square blanket. This needed patient work, re-stitching seams, weaving in new ends. But I so love the tones that it has been worth the dedication. Something rescued, restored and repurposed. That it the work of the artisan. Not make do and mend – but make new and mend.

Having reset the squares I am delighted that they will have a much longer life as a blanket. In fact I have decided to set them as a central motif in a much larger blanket that will fit a single bed. A happy joyful outcome from a frustrating jolly mess. I often think – my yarn hobbies teach me quite a bit about life. You can intend to make one thing, an ideal vision. But circumstances mean that the result isn’t quite right – you can throw it away – all of it – but if something can be rescued, mended, and lovingly repurposed…perhaps a new beautiful thing can be created. Worth a try don’t you think?

If you are looking for the colour recipe – many of the yarns I have used were in my stash. I am a Stylecraft Blogstar and so have access to many the Stylecraft yarns as a gift. The yarns I used are – Stylecraft Special DK – Pale Rose, Powder Pink, Denim, Cloud Blue, Cream, Duck Egg and Mustard.

Another bit of pretty – Embroidered Sweatshirt

I know, I know it isn’t crochet and it is isn’t knitting…but will you indulge me just a little while? I simply loved making my embroidered floral cowl – I have worn it most days. It fits nicely under my coat is is just the right size to be warm and snug without be claustrophobic.

The sewing of the floral detail was very relaxing. I also went down a bit of a research rabbit hole, brushing up on all my embroidery stitches, remembering old techniques from childhood crafting.

Furtling round in my craft stash led me to find my old wooden embroidery hoop and some silks. My quizzical crafty head began looking for the next doodle and before I knew it I had the idea of embellishing a basic sweatshirt. Embroidery on clothes has been a bit of a ‘thing’ for the past few summer seasons. It is not hard to find high street inspiration.

Instead of using the dissolvable transfer material I drew a design on the sweatshirt using a soluble pen. With each leaf and flower my technique has slowly, very slowly improved. I found using a herringbone stitch for the leaves provided the most even and consistent coverage.

The satin stitch I used for the flowers is in some places…dodgy. However after watching a few videos, my ‘french knots’ are nailed. I’ll be honest, this is not quick work. Slow, deliberate and steady. Plus, after a gap of decades, I have found that my eye sight is not up to threading a needle with multiple strands of silk. A needle threader is a must.


Once I had finished my last pink rose, I popped the sweatshirt in a gauze yarn bag and in it went into the washing machine for a quick rinse. It was with some trepidation that I hoicked it out of the machine. I feared all my precious stitches would have unravelled. Thankfully no such worries and the pen lines had magically disappeared.

Once dry, I used the iron to straighten out any puckering and then used an interface stabilising material on the inside of the sweatshirt to cover the wrong side of the embroidery.

I’m delighted with the effect – and I found the process really restful and meditative. I am glad I chose to extend the leaves and the flowers round the back to the sweatshirt – that feels like a little surprise and I am glad I did it.


My stitch tension needs work, but just like knitting and crochet it is just a question of practice and muscle memory. Will I do more? You know what I think I will.

Happy Mumday Funday Sunday!

Floral Cosy Cowl


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.


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.


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!

marius cardigan- emma -varnam

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.


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.

New Yarn Review – Bambino Print


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.


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.

Scarves – useful go-to patterns


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.


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.


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.


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!

How to Fail at Knitting

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Misty Morning Jacket


It’s the very earliest time in the morning, the sun is just peaking very, very tentatively above the trees. There is a chill in the air – but the promise of a bright crisp day. I’ve been awake for long enough to know that I will not drift back into slumber. So I slip silently from under the clovers and pad across the landing.

It is these kind of mornings – in the silence of a sleeping house that I reach for my favourite cosy jacket. I can’t quite decide how to name it. It’s not a bed jacket, far, far to warm to wear in bed. But it is not a dressing gown. I much prefer to wear a jacket or cardigan shaped garment over my pyjamas.

As I pull it over my shoulder and fasten the buttons – the familiarity is so very comforting. Slippers on, I sneak down the stairs. Stanley is already pawing at the glass panes in the kitchen door.

If I am clever I can open the door, scoop up the ravenous cat, and shut the door behind me. His wails of hunger can pierce even the deepest sleep.

Cat fed, the kettle is on and I stare out the kitchen window at the garden. The scent of autumn is definitely there and I plan – perhaps optimistically – to plant some bulbs later that day. ‘This year, yes this year I won’t leave it too late’

The cafetiere is now full with hot black coffee and I go to grab a mug ..which one, which one…. who am I kidding … its always the same. I pick my favourite dumpy mug with jaunty red spots and pad across to the living room.

In one seamless move I position myself in the chair in the bay window, feet tucked up and coffee in hand. I know it will be mere seconds before Stanley will arrive and he will find his familiar spot – wedged between my lap and the chair of the arm. Together we will work the yarn. Silently and joyfully – a peaceful hour – warm and cosy.

The Jacket

I’ve tried to discern when I began to favour this approach. Did I wear such a thing before our son was born? Perhaps I did. But certainly in the years of early play, you know, mornings at 7am – sat with a toddler on the floor of the living room. At these times a shorter cosy jacket was far more practical – not tripping up on impractical gowns.

I made two versions of the wonderful moss-stitch jacket by Debbie Bliss. The shape is boxy and the style is timeless. This is lounge wear before it became a ‘thing’. The pattern comes from her book – The Knitting Workbook – I still have an original copy, published in 2001. You can’t fault it, Debbie’s style is evergreen.


I have no idea what prompted me to make a new version of this jacket. Perhaps it was the approach of Autumn and I longed to be cosy ready. I also wanted to try out the new Stylecraft Bellissima Chunky. For me it either had to be a pastel blue or pink and I went for the Precious Posy.


Using the measurements of the original design by Debbie I charted out a crochet version. I have made a few designs in linen stitch recently. This is a good crochet substitute for the classic knitted moss stitch.

Like almost everyone I know (but not Jane Crowfoot – who is a crochet goddess and very well behaved) I am not a fan of the tension square. This is when you work out how many stitches and rows fit into a 10cm square. It is vital when you are designing. It tells you how many stitches you need to prepare and gives you the basis for shaping. The pattern for the back and sides was not difficult to work out. But when it came to the sleeves I needed to draft the shape using graph paper.


Crochet doesn’t always translate well from the traditional English knitting pattern. The firm fabric doesn’t have the drape of the knitted stitch. Things can get a bit bulky under the arms. But the chunky nature of the crochet rather suits the purpose of this design.

I chose enormous shell buttons which are so very easy to fasten . Bellissima has a lovely silky finish which provides excellent stitch definition. I think it will also be quite hard wearing. I have stayed true to the orignial design by replicating the double cuff. Most importantly is the inclusion of a descreet pocket. Experience tells me that come the winter months, snuffles and sneezes will mean that a well placed pocket will be an absolute boon for hankies and tissues.


When all was finished the sewing up complete – there is a tense moment when you try on the garment – will it be ok? Phew, it fits! I know this will a strong favourite in the Winter. It will become an old friend until it is so worn, and sloppy that the way it falls off my shoulder will become annoying. Then it will be time to make another….now where did I put the pattern?

The jacket used 9 balls of Stylecraft Bellissima Chunky, a 5mm hook and seven large shell buttons. I am a Stylecraft Blogstar, so the yarn was gifted to me.

Jumper Jeopardy


Oh what to make…what to make? I know if you are like me, you will see something in a magazine or instagram and think, ‘I REALLY want to make that!’ do I have the yarn already….no….ok, I’ll order some now…actually could I pop into my yarn store and start it this evening?’ We can be an impulsive lot. Hey, when the mood takes us, we just have to cast on. Having something manageable and do-able is definitely an attraction. We don’t need guilt in our hobbies and are keen to actually finish what we start. The mounting numbers of ‘WIP’s’ (works in progress) drive us to distraction.


The zeitgeist items for makers tend to be accessories or blankets. Smaller items or things you can make for the home. Don’t get me wrong, people are making garments, but they tend to be complex and heritage pieces and not made for necessity. I am perhaps part of the last generation who wore school uniform knitted by my grandma. Bottle green cardigans which swamped me in Autumn and looked tight and pilled by early summer.


The heartbreak of starting a jumper or cardigan and it looking….’all wrong’ seems to loom large in our minds. In 2018 – due to promising not to buy any new clothes, I made many more clothes than I had done in years. The experience certainly taught me a few do’ and don’ts. There is nothing worse than devoting weeks and months on a project and then just hating it when you finally try it on.

1. Measure up

I say this knowing I sometimes shy away from it. But to ensure your garment is really going to fit you, it is worth measuring yourself. I’m going to be honest. I have made a few things that have either swamped me, hanging off my shoulders. Or more likely, I have been a bit optimistic in terms of my size and the end result is unflatteringly tight. Just being honest. The big danger area is obviously the chest. You can easily measure this yourself and honestly if you have an accurate idea of what that is then you can save hundreds of pounds of woolly mistakes. Worth saying though that to get the perfect garment you should have an idea of your body and arm length. I have slightly shorter arms and torso. This means for a jumper to really work I should take a couple of centimeters of the length and it saves me rolling up the sleeves. Lots of people don’t do this…but you know why wouldn’t you make the best you can make.


2. Swatching is kinda worth it.

Seriously I know how you don’t want to make a sample square to test your tension. But for garment making it is worth it. I made a really beautiful tank top recently. It is a tad too small because my tension is a bit tighter than the pattern…silly girl. I didn’t swatch the fairisle pattern. Just a short cut too far and now I won’t wear that tank as much as I could have.


3. Have a small practice.

When I first became attracted to fairisle knitting again, I knew I need to improve my stranding technique. I actually attended a workshop with taught by my friend Juliet Bernard. Those few hours were well spent. I made quite a few hats using this technique before I embarked on a cardigan or jumper. The process helped me iron out the problems and when I did get a bit stuck, the project wasn’t too big that I felt daunted.

fairisle-teacosy-blue-yellow-emma-varnam4. Make it interesting.

Rows and rows of stocking stitch 4ply knitting look utterly glorious, but they do require commitment. Who hasn’t made a rib hem just a few rows too short, because they couldn’t bear going on any further with knit 1, purl 1?


It is no surprise that for garment knitting the complex patterns are becoming popular. Knitters need something to keep their interest. I know that even a stripe can help motivate you through the pattern. That is why fairisle can be so intoxicating. It wrings the changes to ensure that you interest is maintained. The ideal make has enough interest to keep you going, but is not so complex to incite a migraine – or indeed the urge the throw your work and needles across the room.


5. Don’t give up

Finally don’t give up making, be brave, commit to knit or crochet. There is nothing more thrilling than making a gorgeous homemade garment and someone stopping you and saying. ‘where did you get that…I love it!’ You smile and say (beaming) I made it myself. What ever you do…stay strong, so strong….when they reply, ‘Will you make me one?’ – ALWAYS – BUT ALWAYS REPLY.s

‘No, but I will teach you how….’

marius cardigan- emma -varnam

What have you planned to make this year?

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