Welcome: Knitting and fencing but rarely together

Blueshawl (12 of 29)Hello, I'm Bronagh aka Lapurplepenguin a Northern Irish born, London-based knitting designer, tech editor and journalist 

I love my pointy sticks and when I occasionally put down my knitting, I am sometimes known to pick up a sword - or at the very least help others indulge in some sabre fencing by helping my club organise competitions and events.

Although superficially different knitting and sabre fencing share some surprising common traits (apart from getting you odd looks on the train) - storage requirements, specialist kit, strange languages and of course the pointy objects.

The blog is mainly about adventures in yarn and jewellery but will occasionally feature a spot of swashbuckling.

One thing I should explain is the name. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter and Ravelry as lapurplepenguin and on Instagram it is bromiskelly_lapurplepenguin so this blog belongs to a penguin with pointy sticks (knitting needles and swords). There's lots of knitting on all these feeds so do please follow me.

Purple Penguin has been an all purpose name I've used for years - long before I started a second career as a knitwear designer. It first started I think when I needed a name for a quiz team or the like. Someone said think of a couple of things you like: obviously purple and penguins.

But it then came in handy as a code in relation to knitting and dressmaking. If you are wearing a garment you made and someone compliments it, and you admit you made it, there are sometimes odd reactions. But if I say "it's a purple penguin" they nod or say really. And so my knitting superhero identity was born.

You can find more about my work and designs at lapurplepenguin.com

Shawls collection collage

Tip of the week: Knitting with double pointed needles

22 hedgehog
"It looks like wrestling a hedgehog" - probably my favourite description of knitting with double-pointed needles from someone nervous of trying it.

There is a misconception that you have to hold all your DPNs all the time. In fact, once you get into your rhythm the needles will stay put unless your accidently pull out the wrong one. 

When I am teaching in person I wave my sock knitting round my head to demonstrate how secure the needles are - try it! If you were at the Knitting and Stitching Show last week, you may even have seen me do this.

This means there is no wrestling involved. Just concentrate on knitting across the stitches on the next needle, and only holding the two needles involved in that. Then when you free up a DPN, rotate your work and start across the next needle, ignoring the others. That way you are only ever holding on to and worrying about your active needles. The others will just sit in your work. If you look at the picture, I'm only holding two needles. 

The only way to get over that hedgehog wrestling feeling is to practice with your DPNs, after a few rounds it will feel much easier.

October magazine patterns - part one

My two patterns in  Knitting Magazine this month (issue 223) are all about comfort and as I am having a sofa day today, I'm delighted to have the samples on hand so I can try to replicated the pictures in my own home.

Duality chunky

Duality is a chunky lace wrap/bedrunner with an unusual construction that I hope you will all enjoy. The lace is worked separately on either side on the central spine running along the full length. The yarn is Cascade Yarns 128 which gives a soft, cuddly finish.


Slouchy small

The Slouchy Sofa Socks are intended to be indoor socks for relaxing in and feature cables and ribs as well as a ribbed short row feel. For extra squishyness, they're knitted in #SocksYeah DK.



Tip of the week: Casting on with double pointed needles

21 dpn cast on

Hand knit sock season is definitely on the way so the next few tips are intended to help.

Your preference for what needles you use to work on on small items in the round, like socks, will depend on your knitting style. Some people like using magic loop with a long circular, some small circulars and some like me will be more comfortable with double pointed needles. 

However, the idea of having more than two needles on the go can be off-putting.

Casting on is no different to any other piece of knitting - you cast all your stitches on to a single needle. There is no need to try to hold extra needles before you're ready to start your first round. 

Next divide your stitches evenly between three (or four) needles by slipping the stitches from one to another.

Dpn 3

Arrange your needles into a triangle (or square for four needles) so that your first cast on stitch is the first one on the left needle. The last cast on stitch is at the tip of the right needle. Slip the last cast on stitch to your left needle. Lift the first cast on stitch over the first one and slip to the right needle. Your stitches are now joined in the round. Now pick up your fourth (or fifth) needle and start knitting along the left needle from your join.

Then keep going in the round.

Dpn 6

Tip of the week: Knitting in the Round

20 in the round

This is probably the simplest tip I can give you. Knitting in the round is just knitting.

You make your stitches in exactly the same way, you just go round and round in a spiral rather than back and forward in rows. But you don't put your needle in a different place or put the yarn round in a different way.

In the picture you can see the other side of my hat on a circular needle but it is just there, I am still concentrating on the next stitch on my needle and using the same flicking technique as I normally use with the yarn in my right hand.

The only thing to remember - and it is the same on circular needles or double pointed onse - when working in the round you are always knitting the right side of your work. So to make stocking stitch you knit every round and garter stitch is knit one round, purl one round.

Tip of the week: There's no shame in ripping back


OK, I'm going to say it: Some times the best thing to do is rip your knitting back.

I know it may seem painful, but it's true.

Sometimes a mistake can't be fixed by dropping a stitch down a couple of rows and using a crochet hook to work it back up and it may be easier (or less time consuming) to rip back a few rows. For example, if you look at the centre top of the swatch pictured above, you will see an extra column of stitches created by an accidental yarnover. In a case like this you'll never get the tension right if you just drop the extra stitch so it is best to rip back.

In the case of a wrongly crossed cable or a lace repeat that has gone askew, it may be possible to drop a few stitches down and rework them. But you need to weigh up which will be more time consuming or stressful, making this repair or ripping back and reknitting a few rows.

In these cases, rather than feeling fed up about wasted time, try and think of this as an opportunity for some more knitting, and you do like to knit, don't you? 8-)

Becoming a knitting evangelist

Portrait 1
Hello my name is Bronagh and I'm a knitting evangelist.
Knitting for me has been a hobby, now it's a business that still brings me much joy, it is also something that has helped with both physical and mental health challenges. It is a medium where I can reproduce ideas that reflect the image in my head.
For all those reasons I love knitting and I want other people to enjoy it as much as I do. That's why my aim is to design items you'll enjoy making and using, and to help you develop confidence in the techniques you want to use.
What I am not is someone who came through an art school design track - I came to designing much later and have worked in many spheres including the theatre, TV production and journalism. I'm also not a willowy model type, so posing one with one of my creations is challenging but I'm trying to embrace it more.
Picture taken by Chiara Mac Call Photography featuring the Electric Storm shawl (using yarn from The Wool Kitchen ). 

Tip of the week: Catching a dropped stitch

11)crochet hook

If you notice a dropped stitch a couple of rows down, don't panic. If you are armed with a stitch marker and a crochet hook, all will be well.

First grab a removeable stitch marker or a safety pin and feed the stitch on to it so it doesn't unravel any more and work until you reach the point in the row where the stitch should be.

Use a crochet hook to work up the column of stitches by inserting the hook into the stitch loop and pulling the bar of the yarn though the loop. Then repeat for the next row until you reach the top.

If you have to bring it up several rows it may feel quite tight towards the top, especially if it is a couple of rows since you dropped the stitch but your yarn should even out in your repaired rows when you block your work.

Keep a close eye on what direction your stitch should be, ie knit or purl. I usually turn my work over so that the knit side of the stitch is facing me when I use this method for what would be a purl stitch on the right side.

You can also use this method the fix a knit stitch that should be a purl and vice versa. Consciously drop the stitch down to the mistake and use your crochet hook to work it back up correctly.

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Tip of the week: Write out a line of pattern to decode it

8)write out

Did you know you read code?

Knitting patterns are coded instructions on how to do something - a programme for our hands. But between abbreviations, brackets and repeats, sometimes our code breaking skills can let us down.

If that happens, just  grab a pen and paper and write out the line you are stuck on in full, stitch-by-stitch, and it will start to make sense.

As with so many things with knitting, just take your time.

New Pattern: Hemingford lace sleeve sweater

Have you noticed that I like detail? I don't tend to make plain items but that doesn't mean all over pattern.

The Hemingford sweater has a plain stocking stitch body with loose lacy sleeves which add a little glamour.

Hem 2

It is knitted in Cascade Yarns Heritage 4-ply which is one of my go-to fine sweater yarns and the pattern can be found in The Knitter issue 167 out now. The sample is in a very on trend Coral shade but the yarn comes in a wide range of colours so I am looking forward to seeing what people choose.


Tip of the week: Wrangling long cast-ons

7) caston

A quick tip today.

Do the words "cast on 150 stitches" fill you with horror?

Once I get over a certain number of stitches I can lose count as easily as blinking. But there is a simple solution.

As you cast on, pop a stitchmarker or a loop of contrast yarn every 20, 30 or 50 stitches (whatever suits you). Then you only need to count the stitches from the last marker each time. You can take out the markers as you knit your first row. 

If you need any advice or any other help with building your knitting skills or confidence check out my knitting therapy service