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


I know that not everyone is a fan of this piece of #knittingwisdom but it is rather a hill I am willing to die on.

You may have been lucky and had things come out the right size but that is a heck of a risk to take. Knitting designers, pattern writers and tech editors put a lot of time into working out all the numbers and sizing for a pattern based on a particular tension. Taking a little time to swatch makes it more likely that your project will come out well and not make that work in vain.

And it's just a little bit more knitting - and you like knitting, don't you?

If getting the right tension is your bug bear, to read about my Knitting Therapy option and we'll see if a one-to-one session would help you.



Creating video courses for lace knitting

After designing, my favourite thing of the various activities and jobs I have in the yarn sector is teaching – or more precisely empowering knitters to enjoy their hobby and be able to make the project they want.

That could be a face-to-face class, online help, in a magazine “agony aunt” column, picture tutorials or as the UK Hand Knitting Yarn Doctor solving individual problems.

Most recently I have created my first online courses, rather than one off tutorial video. These were lace knitting classes for the fabulous Knit School. The Intro to Lace masterclass, followed by the Next Steps in Lace course, combine videos, instructions for practice swatches and patterns to take students from making their first yarn over to tackling more unusual stitches and techniques from Estonian and Shetland traditions.


Ks grab

It was particularly interesting to plan the courses in video sections each designed to add to the skills of the previous one so that students learned to understand what was happening in lace patterns and why a particular combination of stitches gives a certain effect. It also means that someone who is happy with yarnovers can join in at the stage explaining double decreases or reading charts, for example.  

Working with Knit School also meant that when the classes launched there were also opportunities to interact with students via live Q&A sessions and through the community chat group. This is very rewarding – especially after talking to a camera by myself to create the classes in the first place.

P4251819Demeter's Delight beginner's shawl - now available from my pattern store

It was fabulous to receive really positive feedback for students about how the classes had helped them or changed their knitting. Some have kindly allowed me to reproduce their feedback here.

TD: “I was a complete lace newbie. I loved to look at lace knits but couldn't even comprehend understanding a pattern never mind a chart. Now I am knitting yarnovers like no tomorrow!! I'm actually knitting a lace shawl and already planning my next 🤩"

CM: “I have made a few lace patterns before but by taking the time to work through the course it allowed me to stop and appreciate the difference in the way the stitches were worked. I'm much more confident in correcting mistakes and being able to read the knitting.”

PL: "I had worked on a couple of simple lace patterns before, but I had tried and failed numerous times to try something more adventurous. The course video was easy to follow and really informative with lots of helpful tips. There were also lace knitting swatches to try, which was so helpful. Everything had been thought through so that the patterns gradually increased in difficulty and the fb live and Knit & Natter sessions were there to support you and help you along the way. I learnt so much - I am now much more confident about trying lace patterns and I also understand the importance of practicing a new lace sequence/pattern beforehand instead of diving straight in, getting confused and giving up. Thank you!"


Kelp P5271854
In the Kelp Garden wrap - a more advanced 4-ply lace pattern available now from my pattern store

Following the success of these courses I will be working with Knit School to develop more classes for next year and I am also thinking about how I can do similar online courses elsewhere as well as making plans for a new YouTube channel with short videos focusing on a single stitch or technique. More on that soon but you could help by commenting below to tell me what you’d like to see.

In the meantime, there are other ways you can learn from me. Knit School is open for new members from 23 July – this will give you access to both the lace courses I’ve been talking about (and the patterns), a mini-class on adding beads to lace, the patterns I designed to go with the courses and the vast amount of other Knit School content (there are hours and hours of great lessons in there). You can find out more by  clicking here  and there's an online prospectus. Note I’m an affiliate of Knit School so linking from my blog or social media can help support me too.

I am also offering one-to-one Knitting Therapy sessions where I tailor a lesson/session to help you with your specific knitting needs – techniques, helping you prepare for a project (sizing, yarn choice, practising stitches), fixing something that’s gone wrong, etc. Click for more info and to start a conversation.

You can sign up to my newsletter for news on what’s happening with my plans – plus access to pattern discounts on my Payhip store (use BLOG721 for 5% off today).

Tip of the week

31 knit what you want

I am going to try very hard to share some knitting wisdom with you every week.
We're starting with the most important piece of knitting advice I can think of.
It isn't about what other people knit, or the latest yarn craze. It is about enjoying the making and the result, using a yarn and a colour that make YOU happy.
I may not be very Marie Kondo when it come to clutter, but I certainly subscribe to the "does it bring you joy" principle when it comes to yarn craft.
If you think you could benefit from some one-to-one advice about your knitting, check out my Knitting Therapy sessions 

Pattern sale - just because...

Just because square

Some times you need a little boost or a treat.

After a rough week, I got a lovely boost this morning so I thought I should do something to brighten other people’s days.

So if you have treated yourself of a lovely skein or two of stunning hand-dyed or have something crying to get out of your stash, why not treat yourself to turning it into a something you’d love and use.

That’s the great thing about knitting – there’s the pleasure from knitting and the pleasure from the wearing.

So just because… here’s 15% off all the patterns in my payhip store until 25 May. Use the code JUSTBECAUSE521


Check out a selection of shawls in 4-ply, Laceweight and DK plus fun socks, scarves and more. Enjoy



Live online workshop: Learn to read your knitting with confidence

Read your knitting(1)


I know that many knitters, especially new ones, can feel held back when it comes to keeping track of rows, recognising stitch patterns and generally know where they are in a pattern.

Well, I'm here to help with a Zoom workshop full of advice and useful tips and tricks from my years as a knitter, teacher and designer,  to make your piece of knitting less of a mystery story.


A 2-hour zoom workshop to help you feel more confident with your knitting from successfully knowing how many rows you’ve worked to finding where you are in a stitch pattern or project.

I will help you understand how to count rows and stitches in a variety of stitch patterns and share tips and tricks on recognising stitch patterns and how to keep track of your place.

Suitable for anyone who finds it hard to keep track in a pattern or confidently count rows and stitches for gauge or to match two pieces of knitting together.

No more than 8 attendees per session.

Stitches covered – stocking stitch, garter stitch, moss stitch, cable and stripes.


  • Keeping count in different stitches
  • Recognising your right side
  • Finding your place in a project.
  • Matching your knitting to a stitch pattern


Saturday 24 April 11am-1pm

Monday 3 May 2.30pm-4.30pm

Price: £25 per person, a number of £20 early bird birds tickets are currently available for each session. Click here to book

Laughing square selfie

New pattern - the No Sew Bolero

It really is no sew apart from weaving in ends.
No sew
The body is knitted in one piece to the armholes and the shoulders are joined using a three needle cast off.
The sleeve stitches are picked up round the armhole and then shaped using short rows.
Finally, the lace edgings are added using a knit on technique.
The brief was for a garment with less common construction so I set out to create something without sewn seams but which wasn't a yoked sweater or a top down raglan.
It was a fun challenge and I think the result is rather pretty. But what's really important is that none of the techniques are really difficult, just take it step by step.
Bolereo style file
Find the pattern in Knitting Magazine issue 215 where you just might find another pattern and an article by me!
K215 cover

Blocking isn't all about stretching your knitting

25 blocking general

Be warned this is one of my hobby horses.

I often hear or read: “I have never blocked my knitting.”

Quite frankly I don’t believe this.

I don’t believe that there is anyone who has neither reshaped a damp piece of knitting nor ever washed a knitted item.

The problem is a common misconception that “blocking” always involves wires, pins and extreme stretching.

In fact, blocking is a general term for getting your knitted pieces wet – by soaking, steaming, spraying with water or covering with wet cloths – and then shaping it. The shaping could be a small adjustment to get straight edges or persuade you stocking stitch to unroll, or it could be a more aggressive process to open up a lace pattern.

There are lots of good reasons to block and they are all about getting a great finish to your project:

  • Making your pieces the right shape

  • Opening up or evening out your stitches – for example gentle blocking can really improve the look of colourwork

The crown of the hat has been steamed to even out  the
stitches and dried over a curved surface
  • Letting your cables bloom.

  • Opening up lace to create the final fine fabric

Blocking changed the Firebird shawl from the top pic to the bottom

There are several ways to block:

  • Wash your knitting (following ball band instructions) and lay it out flat, gently adjusting it for size.
  • Pin your pieces to shape on a foam board or a folded towel and stray with water or steam (I recommend a travel steamer). Then leave to dry.
  • Pin out and cover with damp cloths, letting the moisture soak into to the knitting and then leaving to dry
  • Using a steam iron to steam your pieces through a damp cloth. Note, always make sure the knitting is covered by the cloth and never touch your steam iron to the cloth, let alone the knitting.
  • Wet blocking by soaking your pieces and pinning out – more on this tomorrow.

Personally, I tend towards steam or wet blocking because of the fibres and projects I choose.

How you block will depend on various factors:

  • Fibres – wool has lots of spring so can take some aggressive stretching and wet blocking but this would distort cotton or bamboo yarns. Acrylic yarns don’t like too much heat – so steam from a greater distance.
  • Stitches – take care not to over stretch of flatten cables. On the other hand, lace stitches need opening up so take more blocking and pinning out.
  • The project – how much reshaping does your project need? A lace panel in a sweater will need to be opened out but you may not need/want to stretch you piece as much as a lace shawl where you will want a very light fabric.

But, and this is important, blocking will even out stitches, it will NOT make your item fit if you’ve knitted the wrong size (well not without causing other problems).

If you are not sure what the best way to block your piece is, test various approaches on tension squares or extra swatches - may be that will convert some tension square refuseniks!

New pattern: Pitter Patter Pinkies

It's definitely woolly sock weather and the good news is that the Pitter Patter Pinkies sock pattern is now available for download.
These socks feature a raindrop lace pattern and a short row rib heel. The stitch pattern uses rib, decreases and yarn overs in a simple four stitch, eight row repeat.
As you can see, it works with a striped yarn - West Yorkshire Spinners
Signature 4-ply in the Pink Flamingo colourway - but would work for a solid or semisolid yarn too.
The pattern is written for three adult foot sizes:
  • Leg circumference 18 20:22cm (7 7¾:8½in)
  • Leg length: 1616:18cm (6¼ 6¼:7in
  • Foot length is fully adjustable
You can find this on:
Note: This pattern is also available as a printed leaflet for wholesale only.

Introducing the Beautifully Blocked collection

Beautifully blocked grid

I have recently republished a number of shawls originally designed for magazines in my first Beautifully Blocked collection.

I used to work in theatre production and in theatre “blocking” refers to working out the movement of a performance. These days, for me, my designs are my performance so we had a theatrical photoshoot to put these eight designs in the spotlight.

The patterns are available individually on Ravelry and Lovecrafts plus on Ravelry you can buy any three for the price of two or select all eight patterns for the special price of £30 (add all of them to your basket and use code BB30).

The eight shawls (clockwise from top left) are:


Redshawl (7 of 59) CROP

Inspired by semi-precious gemstones and designed to show off a luxurious laceweight yarn, the Facet shawl is made up of three triangular panels featuring a small and then large diamond pattern.

The shawl is worked from the centre top, increasing outwards thanks to yarnover increases and the edge of each panel.

Don’t be alarmed by the lace in this shawl - it is all created using simple decreases and yarn overs. Just take it one stitch at a time and you will have a beautiful wrap.

100g laceweight

Electric Storm

Blueshawl (12 of 24)

Inspired by hand dyed yarns, this shawl is shaped using wedges of stocking stitch and lace created with short row shaping. This is actually quite simple and fully explained in the pattern. It is designed to show off a yarn with strong flashes of contrast colour in a yarn that is at least 50% a solid main colour.

Colourway used for the sample is Cosmic Girl on BFL Bamboo 4ply Fingering by The Wool Kitchen

200g 4ply

Leaning Diamonds

Tealshawl CROP (11 of 56)
Who says a rectangular stole has to be knitted from end to end? This wrap is worked from corner to corner, using increases and decreases to create the wrap shape. This creates a bias fabric with lovely drape with the lace running in diagonal stripes. This is fun and adaptable way of making wraps and makes for an interesting knit.

100g laceweight

Hardy’s Heroine

Russedredshawl (29 of 30)

This is the shawl that I imagine Bathsheba Everdene, Grace Melbury or Tess Durbeyfield

wrapping themselves in. Made with soft but robust West Country wool and richly coloured, it

features a Victorian stitch pattern for the knit on edge.

The half hexagon shawl has three triangular panels and is worked out from a garter stitch tab

and provisional cast on. It is worked in rows on a circular needle.

200g 4-ply

Seascape Shawlette

Seascape Collage

Graduated mini skeins and garter stitch stripes create the gentle colour change in this asymmetric shawlette which ends in a ripple pattern.

It is inspired by the Donegal sea views of my childhood where the shades of the water would subtly change as the waves came into the beach.

175g 4-ply in total

Seasilk Shawl Stole

Longblue (44 of 80)

The combination of silk and seacell (seaweed sourced fibre) creates a lovely light, draping fabric that is perfect for a glamorous wrap. The stole is begun with a provisional cast-on and knit in two directions outwards. The lace pattern is presented both in charts and in written form.

200g 4-ply


Shetland Summer wrap

Brownshawl (64 of 87)

This long draping stole is made is fine Shetland wool in a natural shade that will work with any colour.

The stitch patterns are adapted from traditional Shetland lace patterns. Drape it over your shoulders to combat a breeze on a summer evening or wrap it round your neck as we move into autumn.

The stole is made in two parts and grafted at the centre for symmetry.

125g laceweight


Aquashawl (3 of 104)

As light as a snowflake, this shawl features wide band of zigzag lace pattern. The shawl is worked in segments, using short-row shaping with wraps and turns to show the gradient of the yarn to best effect. Each wrong side row of the segment is shorter than the previous one, to create the wedge shapes.

100g laceweight


More woodland (and architectural) inspirations

Some goodies came in the post and my brain is full of new shawl ideas - just need to finish 4 or 5 other things.
I bought these two skeins via the Virtual Wool Monty last weekend - despite not having a show to teach at I couldn't help some shopping.
I've been playing with some ideas about mixing more solid and variegated yarns together and these two skeins from RiverKnits really hit the spot.
When I went for my walk in the woods I started thinking about the red tile roofs and brick chimneys of various buildings that peep through the trees, so another woodland inspired shawl may be on the way.
If you fancy knitting a shawl today, check out my Ravelry shop - there is 10% off all shawl pattern until 25 June 2020 with code GOWIB.
Footnote: Chatting to Becci from River Knits online I have learned that the red brick along the canals was the inspiration for one of these colourways. Great minds and all that....