Don’t forget, next Friday is Christmas Jumper Day, the long-awaited climax of Save the Children’s massive campaign. Wear your Christmas jumper with pride (or display a mini one like this one, knitted from the Debbie Bliss pattern on Save the Children’s website) and donate to the cause. You can download special posters to put up around the workplace to encourage a group effort, and donations can be made via text, so no collections to faff around with. I’ll be wearing my Boreal sweater to support the Team Aceville effort. If you’re anywhere near Westfield Stratford City then pop into their Woolly Wonderland this week where Debbie Bliss and Sue Stratford will be appearing – more details here.
I’ve always loved it when designers give their patterns intriguing names. It’s almost become essential in this Ravelry age – how else could you navigate through upwards of 15,000 cowls if it weren’t for names like ‘Hitchhiker’, ‘Wingspan’ and ‘Ishbel’? I doubt that 37.5 thousand Ravellers would have favourited the Gap-tastic cowl if it were just called ‘Chunky Cowl’. My personal favourite purveyor of pattern names has always been knitty.com, from whose stable come familiar legends such as ‘Clapotis’, ‘Calorimetry’ and ‘Tubey’; these names have a currency of their own, like a masonic handshake of knitting: “Is that a Clapotis you’re wearing?” (sly wink – you’re one of us).
In true secret-language style, in the best cases the relationship between name and item seems delightfully obscure. Say the name ‘Monkey’ and a populace of knitters know precisely which sock you mean. And it doesn’t look much like a monkey.
Inspired by Knitty et al, we christen all the makes that appear in Let’s Knit, although after six years it can sometimes be a struggle to come up with something new. People do occasionally say to me ‘Why do you give all the patterns names – it’s daft!’, which makes me a little sad. After all, we’re not dealing with tins of beans here! A designer has lovingly toiled over that pattern to bring it into being, nurturing it from swatch and sketch to final, fabulous creation; it deserves to have a life of its own and be sent off into the world with an appropriate moniker. It doesn’t always go to plan though; we once featured a bag designed by the wonderful Debbie Abrahams, and we gave it the name Candida. I thought this was fine as I knew of a writer called Candida Crewe, so I thought nothing of it. Next time I heard from Debbie she said “Thanks for my copy of the mag, but why did you name my pattern after a yeast infection?”
Anyway, here are the finished gloves I’ve been working on, and they’re called Grayson.
This is the first time I’ve given a name to something I’ve designed – I copped out with my previous effort and just called it Wool Week Hat! Not very imaginative. The name, as you might have guessed, is in honour of this year’s Reith lecturer and all round good egg Grayson Perry, whose lectures on contemporary art provided the soundtrack to most of the knitting of this pattern. And very interesting lectures they were too, although I have to say they did reinforce some of my misgivings about modern art. Emperors new clothes and all that…
By the way, I’m not making any claims that my Grayson gloves are art, just in case you were wondering. Admittedly I do get an aesthetic kick from the way the cables snake away from the rib cuff and twist up to a point just below the fingers…but what with beauty being a construct and of no relevance in the modern art world and all that, I’ll just have to settle for them being a really cosy pair of gloves in a lush yarn.
The pattern will soon be available for free and I’ll write more about the actual gloves when that happens. Watch this space!
At the start of this year I didn’t get much knitting done; instead, my time was spent helping to edit my DP’s latest ‘magnum opus’, aka the third in the series of Detective Frost prequels. And this week it hit the shops!
Doesn’t it look fine? We’re pleased with the look of the hardback, and with the great review that’s already popped up on Amazon. I figure most people in the UK must be familiar with Detective Frost, as played by David Jason on the telly, but may not be aware that Frost was originally a series of books, written by the now-deceased RD Wingfield. These books have a large following, although they are perhaps a little less PC than tends to be acceptable today. Anyway, three years ago, with the blessing of the author’s estate, my OH James (in collaboration with an author friend Henry Sutton for the first book, although not the following two) embarked on this series of prequels, which have proved a great success.
If you like the TV show then you definitely should like the books as it’s easy to imagine a young David Jason darting around as the prequel Frost – in fact, there’s arguably something of the Del-Boy about him!
I’m incredibly proud of James and what he’s managed to achieve. Writing a complete book is no mean feat, but to turn out three in three years when you also have a full-time job is verging on extraordinary. As I mentioned, I did help out with read-throughs and edits, which was also a lot of work, but nothing compared to coming up with plot lines, twists and witty dialogue whilst commuting on the 8.05 to Liverpool Street!
Last weekend, in between fireworks and visitors, I worked on a new design for some gloves. It began when I dug a skein of Malabrigo Rastita out of my stash.
The yarn is 100% merino and slightly felted, which is wonderful for gloves. Knitting in wool and then gently felting to create a plush, cosy fabric was how I made my favourite ever pair of gloves, (now sadly more hole than glove) so this seemed the perfect project for a pre-felted yarn. The colours are so beautiful that I’m sticking with one shade and have been working on creating some texture for the top of the hand. I’m pleased with how it’s looking so far.
If all goes well with the pattern then it will be available as a free download, so watch this space.
Last week in the Co-op I had an awful moment of weakness, letting Katie persuade me to buy her a neon pink acrylic hat! Clearly it offends every knitters’ principles to purchase such a thing, but she wore me down with endless begging and I gave in – the shame! (It was only £1.50) However, I was quite pleased that no sooner was she home than she hunted out a pompom she’d made and stitched it on. A great improvement!
Of course, the boys at school couldn’t resist nicking and playing catch with the hat and consequently pulling off the pompom, but she was unruffled and calmly stitched it back on.
This was a much modified Sirdar pattern that I started back in August. Not modified in the sense of changing the shaping or design – as you can see from the original below it looks much the same – but the yarn I chose (Manos Serena) had a tension vastly different to the specified yarn (Sirdar Calico), which meant recalculating every last stitch and row count. Oh joy! Actually, this was easier than it sounds – a simple case of saying OK, this bit of the pattern calls for this many stitches, which according to the tension equals this length, so all I need to do is work out how many stitches will create that measurement in my yarn. And so on throughout. I was particularly pleased to find that my sleeves fitted perfectly into my armhole shapings purely by following this formula!
Having said that, my version came out bigger than intended. I was hoping for something a bit closer fitting, a bit more clingy. It could be the drape of the yarn, or it could be my dodgy measuring. A bit of both I think. Despite this slight disappointment I shall certainly still wear it. Something I love to do whilst knitting an item is to visualise the perfect occasion when it might be worn, and in this case I see myself sat on some moonlit Mediterranean terrace, a cold beer before me, slipping on my lacy Manos cardigan as the sea air gets a bit nippy. Bring it on!
The other change I made to the original pattern was to knit the body all in one piece and the sleeves in the round. This is an excellent ploy if, like me, you take pains wherever possible to minimise making up. For the body, the right front, back and left front were simply cast on together in that order and then worked in one piece to the start of armhole shaping, at which point I divided and completed each bit separately. The advantages of doing this are manifold; as well as saving time by dispensing with the need to sew up, it’s nice to know that your knitted pieces are guaranteed to be the same size – no vagaries of measuring or tedious row counting required! However, I’m not suggesting that every garment body should be knitted like this, as I appreciate that seams can provide a certain structure and stability.
On the other hand, I can see no argument for not knitting sleeves in the round, always! Seams on sleeves are simply horrible and serve no purpose whatsoever. That’s my contention anyway. On lacy patterns like this, when sleeves are knitted flat it can be really tricky to incorporate all those increases neatly into the pattern. Now, I’m certainly not casting aspersions on Sirdar’s excellent knitters, at all, but here’s what can result when a lacy sleeve is knitted flat and then sewn up:
Given the technical proficiency of your average Sirdar knitter its unlikely that this flat-knitted sleeve could have been executed any better. Thankfully, knit the sleeve in the round and you can avoid that varicose vein of a seam completely!
Now, I don’t think my version is right, as I foolishly did both increases at the end of the round instead of doing one at the start and one at the end. I figured (and I can’t quite believe I was so stupid!) that the beginning and end of the round were both pretty much the same place so it wouldn’t make much difference but of course it does – my pattern, as you can see, slopes off at an angle. Doh! But that mistake aside, it still looks quite a bit neater.
Finally, I didn’t like the way the button pulled on the knitted fabric or how fiddly it was to do up so I replaced it with what is actually a hair clip!
This pattern is now available as a free download from the Let’s Knit website here
The weekend has been wet and grey, so the perfect opportunity for Katie and I to contribute to The Big Knit. As I’m sure you know, this is innocent drinks’ annual autumn campaign, with every purchase of a woolly hat-adorned smoothie raising 25p for Age Action. Given that I’m always persuaded to buy one whenever Katie sees them on the shelves I can vouch for the effectiveness of these eye-catching woolly chuggers.
As I discovered this weekend they’re a great way of getting kids to knit (Katie, aged 10, did the pink with blue bobble and the pink and turquoise stripes, and is keen to do another one with three colours). They’re also quite addictive! We rattled off nine in a few hours.
The basic pattern is here, and with the deadline extended to 31st October there’s still plenty of time to join in.
On Monday I decided I would celebrate Wool Week by designing and knitting a hat. And here it is:
The pattern took one 100g hank of Artesano British Wool and barely an evening to knit up – once I’d overcome the urge to create, in the space of one design, every hat I’d ever wanted. That’s my problem with creating something from scratch – too many possibilities! However, once I’d honed things down to the beautiful simplicity of wide, repeating cables it was all plain sailing.
I cast on yesterday at our lunchtime Pic-Knit, which we held (indoors!) in support of Wool Week. We invited members of the craft department and beyond to join us for knitting and snacking, and in between the sausage roll scoffing we had staffers knitting innocent smoothie hats, doing tapestry (with wool!) and learning to knit from scratch. This was all dutifully live-tweeted of course!
I finished the hat last night and conducted what, for me, is the only true measure of success in a knitted hat – the slouchiness test. I knit a lot of hats – my OH can regularly be heard saying ‘Another hat – how many heads have you got?’ – but what I don’t do is knit a variety of hats. They all tend to be the same shape. Tight brimmed and slouchy, that’s the hat for me, and it has to be the right degree of slouch, enough so it belies the shape of the head but not so much that it droops down like something off Embarrassing Bodies. I’m delighted to report that this hat has exactly the right degree of slouch.
Katie’s school was closed for ‘non-pupil’ day today, so we took a trip to Framlingham Castle in Suffolk, where this photo was taken. The castle is well worth a visit on a sunny day, with beautiful grounds. It turned out to have a relevance to Wool Week, since the wool trade was the source of East Anglia’s vast wealth in Tudor times, when the castle was most splendid. Unfortunately it was also the wool trade, specifically the transfer of land from agricultural to grazing use, that brought about the poverty epidemic amongst peasants in the 17th century, at which point the castle found a new use as a poorhouse. Such is life.
If you’d like to knit an easy cabled hat from a skein of British Wool then the pattern will be made available soon – watch this space!
Yes indeed, this week is officially Wool Week. To celebrate it, my plan is to create a hat from a skein of pure British wool. And here is my chosen skein:
This, as you can see from the label, is Artesano British Wool. Although the sheep breed isn’t specified it certainly feels nice, with all the softness and sheen of a premium blend. In the glare of the flash it looks blue, but it is in fact more an iridescent shade of turquoise, which is truly delightful. The prospect of overseeing its transformation into autumn headwear is exciting, although I don’t have an actual pattern. All I have is an idea, plus a vague notion that a hat can’t be that hard, can it? Hmmm, this could go very wrong…
Just returned home from a fun day at the Knitting & Stitching Show. Each year we make the pilgrimage from Colchester to Alexandra Palace and are quietly comforted to find everything much as we left it. Like a tune you know off by heart, you know it’s the Colinette stand that will greet you as you enter the Great Hall. If it wasn’t there I’d be completely thrown!
This year, visitors were welcomed to the show by the spectacle of the knitted taxi, which I think you’ll agree is rather wonderful.
I would’ve loved to have seen the reactions as it drove around the capital.
My day was spent wandering around the vast show squishing alpaca and stroking merino, chatting with many people including LK designer Jane Burns, whose blog is here, and drinking champagne with Debbie Bliss at the reception for the British Knitting Awards. There were some truly lovely yarns on show today. Just look at this wall of hand-dyed baby camel on the Shilasdair stand.
There were also lots of british yarns, which is a great thing to see. As usual I’ve come away full of inspiration, but with sore feet!
Well I must confess, I didn’t get much knitting done on holiday. Just too many lovely distractions! I’m not normally much of a swimmer, but one dip in the cool, clear Adriatic and I was hooked. The water was as refreshing as a plunge pool after a sauna.
Being someone who inches into tepid swimming pools with much wincing I could hardly believe my eagerness to leap into the sea before breakfast. What’s more I’ve previously been reluctant, if not incapable, of getting out of my depth, but after being taught how to actually do breast stroke by my honourary mermaid daughter I was swimming all the way to a nearby island! (We won’t dwell on the fact that the current got the better of me on the way back and I had to exit at the nudist beach…)
Another distraction was, of course, beautiful Dubrovnik, which we visited three times.
And then there were the books. We take our holiday reading quite seriously and spend weeks planning exactly which books to take, and then swap around and discuss them while we’re there. Nothing is more enjoyable to me than sitting in the warm shade with a cold beer and becoming engrossed in a book. Even knitting has to take a back seat to some things!
But now I’m back home and there are no more excuses, so I’d better go and get on with it!