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Who will get their knit on?

November 27, 2016

My giveaway for the Wool and the Gang Snood Giveaway knitting kit closed yesterday and as I was in the middle of cooking a chicken dinner, I thought it would be a good time to pick a winner! 😀

Having written the names on pieces of paper and got him indoors to pick one out, I'm delighted to announce that the winner is Ellen Cheetham!  Ellen is going to be knitting the easy version of the pattern in the Green Lagoon colour, for her daughter.

Thank you to everyone who entered and congratulations to Ellen – I'll email you for your address shortly xxx

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Wanna get your knit on?

November 19, 2016

It's always nice when someone says "thank you", but even nicer when they offer you a lovely gift!

To thank me for trying out their new Take Care Mohair yarn and doing a review, the lovely people at Wool and the Gang are going to gift one of their wonderful kits to one of you.

I must admit that it took me quite some time to choose exactly what I'd like them to give you dear reader – they have a lot of lovely yarns and kits… Given my personal love affair with them, a cowl seemed like just the right thing.  I also wanted something that was quick to knit, would suit anyone, came in lots of colours and would be suitable for all knitting abilities (don't want much, do I?).

As it turned out, the Snood Operator cowl had to be the one!  It's perfect for women:

And for men:

The pattern that comes with the kit is available in English, French, German and Japanese and comes in 3 difficulty levels, starting with absolute beginner, so anyone can make it.

Using their super chunky Crazy Sexy Wool, you can knit one of these cowls up in next to no time – all you need is a pair of 15mm (US19) needles.  I personally love the Midnight Blue and Moss Green colourways, but there are a whopping 38 colours to choose from:

So, if you'd like to win this fabulous kit, just comment below and tell me who you'd be making your cowl for, which colour wool you'd choose, and which language you'd like your pattern in.

This giveaway will close one week from now, at noon GMT on Saturday 26th November 2016.  One winner will be chosen from the entries at random shortly thereafter.  I'll email the winner to let them know and ask for their full name and address.  If I haven't been able to verify the winner within 48hours, another winner will be chosen.  The kit will be sent to the final winner direct from Wool and the Gang and I'll announce the name of the winner by edit to this post, once verified.

Good luck! 🙂

Closed to new entries – winner to be announced shortly!

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Gangsta knit!

October 29, 2016

I suspect that I'm now too old and uncool to ever be gangsta, but I truly believe I'll never be too old to try something new.

When I was offered the opportunity to play with a new Wool and the Gang yarn called Take Care Mohair, I jumped at the chance. As you'll know if you know me and my work, I have a long running love affair with mohair and regularly use it, although I haven't had that much experience of the various brands of mohairs out there – I do tend to stick with a brand I know and trust, which is why I'm not really very gangsta like the Wool and the Gang knitty dudes…

Having selected the very pretty Blue Chalk colourway, I very quickly received my parcel.  Don't you love their packaging?  The potty kits very quickly jumped on board – literally 😀

The yarn is pretty nice too!

When I first handled it, I thought that this yarn was going to be trouble – it is very fluffy.  I immediately started having flashbacks to my worst ever mohair frogging experiences (there have been a few…) and decided that whatever I made with this stuff, I had to make sure I was concentrating hard to avoid mistakes I might have to unpick!  

I also decided that investing a bit of yarn into a few swatches would be worthwhile so that I could see how it behaved when knit up at various gauges, so I set to with some 6mm needles.  The result was quite a dense fabric – denser than I'd expected to be honest.  I then decided to have a laugh and try to frog the swatch – imagine my surprise when it ripped back really easily – probably more easily than any other mohair I've used!  I did treat it gently, as I would with any hairy yarn, but it behaved beautifully.

The next swatch I knit was with 10mm needles and this was much airier.  I've knit my 3 Rib Cowl with several different types of yarn and at various tensions, so I decided that would be the perfect one to try out this yarn with, as I was also confident that I'd have plenty of yarn to knit a decent sized version.  I started with 96 stitches and worked to the standard pattern until I'd used about one and a half skeins – you can find full details here. What I got was a pretty big and floppy cowl that permanently looks like it's in soft focus 😀

In fact, it's so large that you can wrap it around your neck a couple of times, if you want to be extra cosy:

I reckon that Take Care Mohair would be a great choice for anyone who loves to knit chunky and wants to try out mohair for the first time, given its relatively good manners on frogging.  You can find a free scarf pattern on Wool and the Gang's website, or you could have a go at my 3 Rib Cowl pattern with it too, which is free on Ravelry. I think I might try it again with the yarn I have left over with slightly smaller needles and see how that one looks.

You can sign up to Wool and the Gang's newsletter here to hear about their yarns, kits and patterns.

 

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Stitching for stichers

August 4, 2016

As you'll know if you read my blog, I do make quite a lot of sewing cases…  I also make quite a lot of project bags these days, and there's nothing I like better than making matching sets of sewing cases and project bags; like these two Liberty sets that I recently made for mother and daughter stitchers in Japan:

The purple set using Liberty tana lawn print, 'Queue for the zoo' was Madoka's choice, and the turquoise set using 'Susannah' was for her mom.  They were both a complete treat for me to make, as most things are for me that involve Liberty lawn, but never more so when there's a reasonable amount of hand stitched detail involved, as there is with these sewing cases.  There's the applique of the hearts to the outer front and back, and the applique of the scissor keep on the inside front:

Then there's the quilting around the heart appliques and the embroidery on the back slip pockets, all of which I did with gold metallic thread:

I couldn't resist doing the top stitching of the zip ends with a little of the gold thread too – no; there's no such thing as too much bling.  Of course I added a bit more bling with the crochet metallic closure loops and the pretty domed shank buttons that are so perfect for these larger sewing cases:

I line the zip pockets of the sewing cases with the Liberty prints too:

And add a press stud closure to the big slip pocket at the back – as modelled by foxy:

The project bags are made to my own design, as are all the project bags in my shop.  I like to think that they're the perfect size to be totally adaptable – they're perfect for small knit projects, crochet projects or sewing projects, but are also great for lots of other uses – large make up bags or tool bags – whatever you like really:

When I'm making things like this for sewists though, I am very conscious of the fact and can become a bit obsessive over the quality of my stitching.  I admit that I am already rather obsessive about trying to make everything as perfect as possible all the time, but this is particularly the case when you're making things for other stitchers, who you know will be just as focussed on the detail as you are 😀

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Liberty Rations

July 4, 2016

I have a small but perfectly formed collection of Liberty Tana Lawn.  If I could buy as much of it as I would like to, I would a) be bankrupt and b) not have enough room in the house to keep it all.

When it comes to buying Liberty lawn for my stash (as opposed to a commission or a planned product, when it's totally legal – yay!), the rule I make for myself is that I can buy it if I truly love it.  The way I know if I truly love it is that I can't get it out of my mind until I actually buy a piece of it.  It then also has to be either available at a great price, or I can only have a very small piece, and this can't happen more than four times a year.  I am very strict.

Amongst my collection, there are a few very precious pieces which, I admit, I love more than others.  Cutting into these pieces to make something is very difficult and doesn't happen very often.  But what fun is it for them if they hide away in their storage box and are never seen by other Liberty lovers?  So last week I decided it was time for one of my vintage favourites to have a little outing and metamorphose into a sewing case:

I feel quite sad that I don't know the name of this very pretty print.  I bought it years ago as part of a bundle from Sunflower Fabrics but have never seen any of it since.  I made it using my usual 'basic' case pattern with a slip pocket on the inside front:

And a scissor keep on the back:

When it came to the usual little hand stitched pocket embroidery detail, I felt that it deserved a little more bling so used a little gold metallic thread to echo the golden colour in the print:

I rooted through my button collection and settled on this metal Rowan button with a little heart detail, which felt perfect for it:

For the lining, I broke out another favourite fabric and used a little navy coloured Brussels Washer Linen by Robert Kaufman, interfaced for strength as it's quite an open weave, although beautifully soft.  

Of course, I couldn't just make one Liberty case, could I?  Two more of my favourite but less rarified prints also had a little outing alongside hearts and flowers.  This is Wild Flowers, with a painted wooden bunny button:

And June's Meadow in blue, although this isn't lawn, but the 'craft' cotton that feels very much like brushed cotton in quite a comforting way:

I do love this way of using my Liberty fabrics – they're centre stage and yet I don't have to use much of them – perfect! 😀

You can find all my sewing cases in my Etsy shop and I'm always happy to make a custom case to your particular preferences – bigger, more pockets, different pockets – whatever your heart desires…

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I’m just a needlewoman, with needles on her mind

May 12, 2016

I've been making sewing cases for several years now.  It started with simple needlebooks and I developed several designs from there.  In the beginning, they were a favourite way of celebrating a particular fabric – whether it was a fabric print I really liked, or a piece of English Paper Piecing I'd made:

There's something captivating about a sewing case to a needlewoman I think.  Let's face it, we know how to celebrate the aesthetic and tactile aspects of fabric, but we also like to have a good reason to use and enjoy it, not to mention a reason to cut into it!  We also seem to have a penchant for having specially made things connected to our needlework, many of which are made with fabric.  There's the undeniably practical aspect to having the right tool or accessory to 'do the job', but I think it also has an awful lot to do with being able to surround ourselves with lovely fabric things, whilst we create lots more fabric things – what could be better?!

As much as I've enjoyed creating sewing cases just for the pure enjoyment of it, I've found over the years that I've also been constantly striving towards creating pieces that are the 'right' answer to every needlewoman's needs.  I get a lot of pleasure from thinking that I might be making something that someone really needs – something that is their 'just so' – a certain size, a particular closure, a certain number and type of pockets – and that's before you even get to the fabric it's made with, or the embellishments that might be added, all of which are very personal choices.  The lovely thing is that I'll never create just the right case for every needlewoman as we're all so individual, but it really is fun trying.

Recently, I've been making some larger sewing cases with a range of features, starting with this understated linen one that I added a small flower applique to and quilted with gold thread:

And more recently this one, which was a commission for an Etsy client:

This brought together the design of the original large linen one above, and another of my smaller cases that features Liberty applique hearts:

My client loved the features of the large linen case, but it wasn't her style – she wanted something with a stronger look and loved the rich colours of a print from Bari J's Emmy Grace collection.  This also gave me an opportunity to play about with how I built the case with the zippers inside, which also introduced a little more colour to the inside of the case, by using more of the featured Bari J print to edge the zips:

It's really surprising how much you can get into this case – you can even slip a 5 inch embroidery frame into the slip pocket at the back:

For those who have a little more to carry around, I can also make co-ordinating zipped project bags to go with any of my sewing cases, which I think are perfect for travelling stitchers since you can organise your sharps into the safety of the case, and carry your actual projects and larger items in the bag:

From the time I made the first supersized case, I've been mulling over the idea of the traditional needlewoman's workbox and had almost seduced myself into the idea of making one, but I wasn't convinced that today's needlewoman really wanted that.  Well, no, not entirely – I think most would love a beautiful handbuilt work box with lots of matching pieces to go in it, but that's something that they may well want to make for themselves as a kind of right of stitching passage maybe?  What most sewers seem to want is something more portable than that, something that helps them to fit their stitching around their busy lives, as they carry their work around with them and snatch 10 minutes here and there to add a few stitches to their current project.  

And while that may well be the profile of the modern needlewoman, I don't think she's changed all that much at heart – she still wants to enjoy her tools and accroutrements – they still need to be pretty and individual, so that they can enhance her enjoyment while stitching. So, this is the direction I found myself heading in when I sat down to design my next generation sewing case, which is more of a mobile work box.  I've brought together my love of the purse frame and the sewing case to design the Needlewoman's Clutch and I've used two of my favourite sewing case fabric combos for first two I've made:

The first features Liberty's 'Hesketh' tana lawn and a zingy green Essex linen by Robert Kaufman, with a pretty silver coloured clasp frame, decorated with birds.  I purposely made the bag a little too large for the frame so that the sides would be super puffy and a bit like a Gladstone bag.  At this point, I'm still playing with the shapes and working out what I like best:

Next came a pairing of pretty mustard and pink Tilda cotton prints, with a slightly larger bronze colour frame and a more classically clutch shape:

Both have a zipped pocket inside, and both have co-ordinating stitching accessories – a small pincushion, a mini needlebook with traditional wool flannel pages, and a padded scissor case:

For practical reasons, I wanted to use an undyed wool flannel cloth for the mini needle books, which is a lovely thin, drapey and soft cloth.  This was what used to be used, before we all got into using wool felt and I think I prefer it really – although both have their advantages and disadvantages.  I was also really happy to find a use for the pewter colour Edelweiss hook fasteners I've had in my stash for a few years now – I knew there would be a perfect project to use them on!  It was also nice to break out some buttons from my collection to make the little pumpkin shaped pincushions.  And as if it's not enough fun to carry your needlework and tools along in a pretty clutch bag, there's also the added attraction of being able to remove the needlework tools and using the clutch on its own too!

It's really a bit of a relief to have got the idea for the Needlewoman's Clutch out of my head and into form – my unrealised ideas seem to become a maddening voice in my head until they can come into being.  And as it turns out, my timing in completing this newest design is pretty fortuitous because one of my sewing cases is mentioned in Cross Stitch Crazy magazine today – what a great way to celebrate my needlecase evolution!

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There once was an ugly duckling…

March 9, 2016

I've raved about the benefits of wet blocking knits before, but I've never seen such a transformation from ugly duckling to swan as this one after two days on the blocking wires.

This is a very lovely and super simple lace knit shawl designed by Janina Kallio, called Interlude.  It was a total breeze to knit and very quick – if you've never tried a lace knit before, I'd highly recommend it as a first timer's project.  The yarn I chose to use was a polwarth wool by Eden Cottage Yarns called 'Oakworth' (colourway is 'Steel), which they describe as "smooth and crisp" – very accurate, in my experience of it.  As anyone who follows my knit and crochet exploits knows, I'm a serious lux yarn lover, never far from a bit of super soft merino, cashmere or silk, and I wasn't sure about choosing a yarn like this for a knit shawl, but it really is perfect for a design that relies so heavily on the post knit process for it's finished look.  Smooth and crisp indeed 🙂

This is how the shawl looked straight off the needles:

Not terribly pretty…  I was promised in the pattern though that it would transform on blocking and that I needed to block it hard!

This was truly a project of firsts for me – my first Janina Kallio pattern, my first time using an Eden Cottage yarn (and indeed, a Polwarth wool) and my first time using Twig & Horn's Lanolin wool wash, which him indoors got for my birthday from Loop.  They currently seem to be out of the Lemongrass scented one that I have, which smells divine.  It did soften up the wool and was a delight to use – really silky.  After threading my Eden Cottage Interlude onto the blocking wires and leaving it in situ for a couple of days, it really did turn out to be something of a swan:

I've bought a range of different yarns from Eden Cottage Yarns to try out this year, all quite different.  Looking forward to trying out the next one – quite possibly with another Janina Kallio pattern, as I have a few more of those too 🙂

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Quilt Love

March 2, 2016

I do love making quilts.  I love the designing, the fabric selection, the planning, the cutting (okay, don't like that bit quite so much!), the sewing back together, the basting, quilting, squaring, binding, labelling and finishing, but most of all, I love the whole idea of making a quilt – especially when it's intended to commemorate something special.

The top of my latest quilt finish (Window on the Forest MKII) was made some time ago and had been languishing in my unfinished quilt drawer.  Then, a few weeks ago, the owner of my original Window on the Forest quilt asked me to make a quilt to mark the birth of her grand niece and she said this one would be perfect!  I was very happy to be asked and had spent the most enjoyable week finishing the quilt:

The feature panel central squares with the foxes, deer and bears were fussy cut in the same way as the original quilt, but I couldn't centralise all the animals because I didn't have enough of the fabric left to be able to waste any of it!  While I used some different prints from the Sarah Watts' Timber and Leaf collection for the quilt top and binding, I backed it with the same pretty floral print as the original quilt:

The original quilt was utility stitched with perle cottons, but I hand quilted this new version with quilting cotton, which will be more suited to a baby and more regular washing:

I also added a hand embroidered quilt label to memoralise the commission, why it was made, who for and who by.  To record everything in such a small space, my lettering stitches needed to be a bit too teeny to get them as perfect as I'd like to have got them, but it was at least legible.

There's something very special about a quilt with a particular purpose that will probably stay with a person, and in a family for a long time – I feel so honoured to have been a part of that:

You can read about my original Window on the Forest quilt here and here and here and finally, here – gosh I do go on 😀

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Mini Me

February 9, 2016

Well, we're already in February and this is my first post of 2016 – oops!  Having said that, I'd rather be a less frequent blogger than just blog twaddle when I've really not got much to say.

It does seem that I have a bit of a thing for minimising generally…  As well as minimising my number of blog posts, I tend to minimise my knitting designs too (tenuous link? Mmm, maybe!).  My latest minimised pattern is for my Versace Cowl, which I blogged about here.  I was sorting my yarn stash the other day, wondering what I felt like knitting next, when I came across my collection of Rowan Creative Focus Worsted yarn and there it was – the idea to do a new Versace Cowl in a mini me size 😀  This is the original:

And this was my inspiration Versace dress for the cowl design:

So dreamy, so pink and creamy and grey and sparkly.  Sigh…  

The Mini Me version of the cowl sticks pretty closely to my original design, with a few tweaks.  As well as changing the dimensions a bit (you can't go mini without getting a bit smaller after all!), I omitted the stripes between colour changes to simplify things.  I also minimised the silver thread and used a much finer silver and white lurex thread on the grey sections – still sparkly though:

Mini Me Versace is almost as long as the grown up version, but a little over half the width maybe.  I also kept the colour sections to about the same kind of ratios as the original:

I'm not sure I should admt to this, but because of the colour and the hairy nature of the yarn, I always think about pigs when I'm knitting the paler pink section of this cowl, so now think of this as piggy knitting – silly, but it makes me giggle 😀

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My Knitting Patterns? Just Like Buses

November 8, 2015

Seriously – they all come along at once! Yes, two knitting patterns in two weeks; I was so successful at getting myself moving with the capelet pattern last week that some of the motivation stuck with me up to this weekend.  I was also motivated by the amazing interest shown in last week's pattern for The Hug on Ravelry – as at right now, it's been favourited 513 times and downloaded by 1,081 people.  Gulp.  Amazeballs!  Of course it is free, so that always helps… 😉

Quite honestly, with today's pattern, I do feel like a bit of a fraud because all I've really done is turn a Purl Soho free scarf pattern into a cowl pattern and change the yarn.  I would love to be knitting with Purl Soho yarn but the shipping and customs costs to get it in the UK are prohibitive. I keep hoping that Love Knitting will one day become a stockist for them…  Meanwhile, my favourite Malabrigo Merino Worsted runs on as a fabulous sub!

So this week's pattern is for my quilted lattice cowl.  The one pictured below is the very first one I made that went to keep the lovely Emma of Hole House warm (she makes fabulous bags – do check out her work). This is the 'Simply Taupe' colourway; such a gorgeous shade and with the added benefit of being the same colour as Baileys, which gives me a nice warm feeling – when I think of it, and when I drink it 😀

As I've said before, I'm not great at getting my head down and writing patterns generally but, with this one, I put it off more because it felt like I might be stating the obvious.  This is because, if you have a bit of knitting experience, you really don't need my pattern – just use the original one on Purl Soho's fab site (where they frequently post fab free patterns), start with a provisional cast on, knit until it's somewhere between 55 and 57 inches long and graft the ends together.  However, over the last year or so, I've got my thick head around the fact that lots of less experienced knitters really like the confidence that a pattern to make a specific item gives them, so I decided that it is worthwhile to put it out there.

You can find and download the pattern for free right here on Ravelry.  You can also see the other colourways I've made on my Ravelry project page, but I thought I'd show them to you here too.  This one is knitted in the 'Pearl' shade and went to live with Kirsti in Washington:

This one is in the Prink Frost shade and is in my Etsy shop at the moment:

And this is currently on my needles and is a commission for Susannah.  The colour is Moss – not one I would have necessarily chosen myself because I usually prefer a semi solid to a solid colour, but I love it:

My next commission for this one is to knit it with Rowan Kidsilk Haze Eclipse in the beautiful blue 'Pisces' shade for the lovely cowl addicted Sara.  I made the scarf with this yarn last year in the silver shade and whilst I loved the scarf, it wasn't a lot of fun to knit – it took an age to do and this yarn is not great for knitting as the metallic thread in it separates out as you tension it through your fingers.  This doesn't happen at all when I crochet with it, which is strange…  Anyway, this was the beginnings of that scarf – how sparkly? 😀

When I first read the Purl Soho instructions for the lattice or trellis stitch, I will admit that I was a bit stumped at first, although I am a bit slow…  Because of this, I thought it would be worthwhile to put together a few photos to help anyone who, like me, doesn't immediately 'get' the written instructions – some of us are just more visual, aren't we?!

Judging by the comments on the Purl Soho scarf pattern page, you might not immediately see how to get those strands laying across the front of the work.  It really is as simple as it sounds – rather than having the yarn at the back of the work as you usually do when doing the knit stitch, you bring it to the front, before you start slipping the stitches and then take it back to the back before you knit the next stitch in the pattern, which fixes the strand in place at 6 stitch intervals, like this:

In the beginning, take your time on the rows where you add the strands to the work (rows 2 and 6) and make sure that you're adjusting the stitches and the strands sitting on the right hand needle so that the strands are at the same tension as the stitches in the Goldilocks fashion – not too tight, not too loose, but just right 🙂

Row 4 was the first time I felt a bit stumped, so these photos will walk you through the things that could be confusing.  So here we are, coming up to a stitch that we have to knit 'under' (in the pattern, abbreviated as k1uls):

So we slip our right needle under the strand / thread:

Push the right needle into the stitch as usual:

Then knit it and take it off the left needle as usual:

And carry on knitting:

The beginning and end of row 6 was also less than straitforward at first.  After you've made the purl at the beginning, keep the yarn to the front and slip the next 3 stitches before taking the yarn to the back of the work, ready to knit the next stitch:

Then when you get to the last 6 stitches, slip 3 with the yarn in front and keeping it there, purl the purl stitch:

This is how it looks after you've purled:

Next, how were you supposed to work those beginning and end strands you'd laid down in row 6 when you got to row 8?  The answer is: in exactly the same way as any other 'knit under' stitch, you just need to knit under the last knit stitch before the purl, like this:

So it looks like this:

I hope that this mini photo tutorial will be useful to someone and that anyone who decides to download the pattern has fun knitting it.  Feel free to comment or message me here, on Ravelry or on Facebook if you have any questions about the pattern or techniques 🙂

That might be it for knitting patterns for a little while, although I've still got plenty on my list to get finished off.  My next will hopefully be a full booklet for my Shaded English Rose Tweed cowl in several different versions, although that's not likely to be free since it is taking a lot of work to perfect! 😀