It is always exciting when I can finally share a design. For magazines I work so far ahead that I can have finished something for a few months before I can show it off. But then you get wonderful images like this in the magazines.
The brief was Bitish yarns and British literature, and so I came up with a shawl using Victorian stitch patterns that could have graced any of Thomas Hardy's female protagonists from Tess to Bathsheba.
It uses a yarn from pretty much Hardy country, Devonia from John Arbon Textiles in the Bleeding Heart colourway (also perfect for the theme) - this is the 4-ply version of this recently launched yarn (there is a DK as well) and as with all the Arbon yarns I really enjoyed working with this soft blend of Exmoor Bluefaced, Bluefaced Leciester and Wensleydale wools.
The shawl is made of three triangular panels with a knit on edge and is one of those lace patterns that looks more complex than it really is to knit. The main body has a short lace repeat and once you get started with the edging it flows along.
The shape is easy to wear and drape.
One interesting aspect of knitting is that looking at something sideways can give you a new way to create something.
This is the case with the Wayward Paths scarf – a flat fringed scarf that is actually knitted in the round and cut – yes cut.
This means the width of the stitch pattern repeats down the long side of the scarf – that is the rows go right along the scarf. This means you can use stitch patterns in a different way.
I was intrigued by the method but am more of a texture and lace person so started wondering how else it could be used. I happened to have received two sample balls of Debbie Bliss Iris, a chunky wool/cashmere roving yarn, that were crying out to be a soft, comforting scarf. So I decided to experiment.
I chose a garter stitch chevron pattern and worked a section of stocking stitch at the beginning and end of each round. Then I worked until I had used much of my yarn. When I cast off I had a basic cowl with a zigzag lace pattern round the majority of the loop with a shorter section of plain stocking stitch stripes.
The stocking stitch section or “steek” is where the fringes come from. All you do is cut straight up the centre of the steek and unravel the stocking stitch section to create the fringe.
You can see from this picture that when you pin out a piece of stocking stitch there are “ladders” between the column of stitches and in the case of the Wayward Path scarf you cut up the centre ladder of the steek section (here I have used an unneeded swatch).
Once the stitches are cut, unravelling makes a lovely fringe – your knitting won’t unravel but I knot the strands in pairs to feel secure.
I am involved with UK Hand Knitting which this year is encouraging people to share knitting and crochet skills. Because of this, at the moment the Wayward Path pattern is free because a steek fringe using chunky yarn is a fairly non-threatening way to take scissors to your knitting for the first time.
The pattern contains some suggestions for other yarns but any nice chunky will work – so why not step off your regular end to end scarf path and give it a go.
I have been doing a spot of emergency knitting this week.
I have a couple of Christmas dinners coming up and decided on a sleeveless red, grey and black dress. Perfect as the room warms up, but what about the early evening chill and having enough layers to deal with the Baltic weather outside?
Apparently I have worn out a couple of cropped cardies over the past few months and no longer had something that was smart enough and warm enough.
So there was a combined search of the yarn shop sites, Ravelry and my large knitting pattern and book collection. I eventually hit on a combination of Sarah Hatton's Bacall bolero, Drops Air (baby alpaca and merino) and some vintage buttons.
This gave the advantages of a quick knit in an aranweight yarn, a soft warm fluffy fabric and a practical charcoal shade.
Admittedly there was a spot of maths involved to adapt the pattern for the yarn. Plus I went for a knit on rather than sewn border and the original didn't include buttons. But this still proved to be something I could rustle up in a few days and I am looking forward to wearing my new outfit (here modeled by Ethel).
When I posted a few pictures of my Facet shawl from Knitting issue 173 (from GMC publications), there were a few people who said "lovely but I could never make something like that".
This seems to be a common response to shawl patterns - there is a fear that it going to be incredibly complicated and take a very long time plus you will have to learn fiendishly evil new stitches. In fact there is nothing more complicated in Facet than a yarnover next to a decrease and once you are a few rows in the pattern repeat becomes clear.
The rest of the beauty comes from the choice of yarn - this is West Yorkshire Spinners Exquisite Lace in Belgravia - and the blocking (subject of an upcoming post).
The same statement about a shawl pattern being about yarn overs and decreases can also be said about these shawls.
One cause of shawl fear is using fine yarns and another is the lace or fancy stitches being all over making it a slow knit. But shawls can be a fun knit in thicker yarns and they don't have to be lace all over.
The idea behind the next two selections of shawls (all Stylecraft patterns) was shawl patterns that people might choose as a first foray into patterns like this but which include the same shaping and stitches as you might find in really fine ones.
These patterns would introduce you to the fun of shawl knitting across a variety of shapes and styles in what might be regarded as fairly standard yarns (mainly DK) and making use of the yarns' qualities.
Shawl knitting is no different from any other category of knitting. Pick a pattern and a yarn you like, and just take it one stitch (or yarn over) at a time and enjoy yourself. Once you take the plunge, you will create something lovely.
I always look forward to seeing the final pictures of a pattern commission. It is often some time after I supply the sample garment when I see the eventual images from a shoot, perhaps when a magazine is published.
It is of course interesting to see how a garment has been styled but I also look at how the garment sits and particularly around the armhole and shoulder because this is something I work a great deal on and have quite strong views about.
So I was particularly gratified to see these detail shots for the Lily Twinset in Knitting issue 173 (from GMC publications)
They really show how the sleeves fit the two garments and a neat shoulder seam.
In my own designs I tend to write shoulders that are shaped using short-rows rather than cast off to create a slope and then join the shoulder seam using a three needle cast off. That's where the stitches from the front of the shoulder are on one needle and the ones from the back on another, as you cast off each stitch is worked through one stitch from each needle together (photo tutorial here). I like the neat flat shoulder join you get.
For the sleeve top I like quite a tall steep curve. Other designers prefer a flatter sleeve head but I personally like the way the taller sleeve top sits round the upper arm and shoulder. I also spend a lot of time using geometry to calculate the length of the curve so it will sit in the armhole without difficult bulges. On some garments I also use decreases and increases in the upper back to have a curved rather than a straight armhole.
This may sound very geeky and obsessive but it pays off when the sleeve sits as well as in the centre pic above and I can know that my pattern will produce a good garment for each of you.
I came late to sharing my knitting designs let alone receiving commissions from magazines and yarn companies.
I have had a long career as a journalist but I still remember the excitement of having a bylined piece in a major national newspaper for the first time. I had to suppress the urge to tap fellow tube passengers on the shoulder, point to the article they were reading and say "I wrote that".
The same sort of thing has happened each time I have had a design on the cover of a magazine. Right now I could happily spend time in various branches of WH Smith rearranging the hobbies shelf so that there are lots of copies of Knitting (issue 172) along the front to show off my Autumn Leaves tunic.
I love the editorial description that the mag team came up with. It sums the pattern up as the perfect mix of challenge and TV knitting because there is some instarsia and plenty of stocking stitch.
It is designed to be a simple flattering piece for over leggings or a skirt that is a comfortable but striking seasonal garment.
Yarn used is Yarn Stories fine merino 4-ply - very smooth with strong colours which work well for this design.
The magazine has come up with some alternative colour combinations that make the leaves seam more like feathers.
Meet Joan a very versatile knitted T-shirt that you can find in the latest issue of Knitting magazine (issue 171).
Joan was inspired by Lucy Liu's character Joan Watson in the Elementary TV series. The character has a fabulous selection of knitwear and favours layers with long-sleeved t-shirts under knits, stripes and colour blocks. So I wanted to create an easy wear top that would look good on its own or over a long-sleeved tee and a design that would allow knitters to have a lot of colour options.
For that reason it is knitted in Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino. This sportweight yarn comes in a vast range of colours giving everyone the opportunity to choose their ultimate stripe combo.
The choice for the sample was to fit with the magazine's Americas theme and I was very pleased how the two blues worked with the red but I am planning a couple of alternatives for myself - one with turquoise and purple and one with orange where the red features in the sample.
What colours would you choose? I'd love to see your choices
A call for pattern designs using British yarns recently gave me the opportunity to work in a yarn I had been admiring for a while - Shetland Supreme Lace Weight 2ply from Jamieson & Smith.
I was interested in working with the natural colours and fine sheepiness of this pure wool lace yarn that comes in 25g balls, as well as 500g cones if you are planning a couple of large shawls.
This is one of those magical laceweights that looks rather unexciting as you work (especially as I had chosen the natural grey) but once blocked turns into a delicate, wisp of a fabric with a beautiful sheen. In the case of the Summer Stole, I guarantee it also lives up the the legendary idea of your shawl passing through a wedding ring.
I chose to create a stole for Knitting magazine (issue 170) because I find this one of the most versatile shapes to take a lace knit through the year. As a summer pattern, the Shetland Summer Stole is perfect for creating glamorous cover up in an evening chill or over a dress at a wedding or summer party. In autumn it can be draped over a smart outfit to add an extra layer. And a lace stole can even be wrapped round your neck a couple of times with a winter coat to keep out the cold in January.
The lace motifs come from tradition Shetland patterns, although I have adapted them a little and the stole is less traditional using a stocking stitch ground rather than garter stitch in this case.
It is made in two sections which are grafted together to give the pattern symmetry. If you drape the shawl round your shoulders, the pattern will fall the same way on each of the falling ends.
This shawl is described as an advanced knit but don't be afraid of having a go. The pattern repeat in the main body is actually very straight forward and while the end sections are more complicated, they are only a small proportion of the knitting.
And if it helps I am planning a few how to posts over the summer around lace knitting.
I love vintage patterns and have piles of old knitting magazines from the 1940s, 50s and 60s, so I was very excited when Christine Boggis, the editor of Knitting magazine, put out a call for knits inspired by the 40s.
Even more so because for a while I had had a picture of a vintage teapot that I wanted to use as a template for a colourwork jumper and I realised this was great fit for the brief. Colourwork and stripes were popular choices for sweaters in the 1940s because rationing meant people often reused wool and only had limited supplies.
I named my design sketch Tea Time and included the story of the teapot in my submission. Soon Christine cam back to me saying she like the design and could I do a tea cosy to go with it. An unusual request bit fun and one that now makes a lot of sense having seen how the magazine styled its shoot this month.
Another new design out this week and this one is available for free via the Designer Yarns website.
This unisex scarf is completely reversible, using ribbed cables and moss stitch, so it doesn't matter how you wrap yourself up, your knitting will still look fabulous.
And with only 44 stitches to the row it turns out to be quite a quick knit as well (or at least it felt that way to me because the other tings on the needles are large scarves or colourwork across a lot more stitches)
What really makes this a special knit is the yarn, Debbie Bliss Falkland Aran.
I am very privileged that working as a designer, tech editor and craft writer I get to try out a lot of lovely yarns - so many that sometimes it is hard to choose a favourite. But this one really stands out.
(Full disclosure: I regularly work for Designer Yarns who distribute this yarn and have worked for Debbie Bliss directly, but promise this is not an influence on my view of this yarn except that they provided me the opportunity to use it.)
Falkland Aran is a 100% organic merino yarn produced from sheep reared on the Falkland Islands. It stands out for a number of reasons. First, the bounce, this yarn is very soft through the hands and produces a bouncy fabric that retains its feel after blocking. Then there is the "sheepy" feel by which I mean that you can feel the lanolin on your hands despite this being a commercially spun and dyed yarn yarn. This meant it moved beautifully on my wooden needles - which are really shinning after making this sample and one for myself to wear.
The stitch definition as you can see is very clear, so great for cables and texture and finally the depth of colour and sheen from the yarn give a very attractive finish.
Ok, so I may have fallen slightly in love with this yarn. I certainly want to do more with it in the future and am thinking about a hat and handwarmers to go with the scarf.