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


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.

Description

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.

Contents

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

BOOK NOW:

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.
 
P7170845v1
 
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:

Facet

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

Isblomma

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.
 
P6190762
 
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.
 
P6190748
P6190748
P6190748
P6190748
P6190748
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....

Adapting the Off Kilter shawl

Off Kilter is a free shawlette pattern that I recently added to Ravelry.

P6155146

It is written for 100g/400m of striping 4ply - the sort of thing many people will have picked up at a yarn show and have to hand in their stash during lockdown. Although I don't have picture - the shawl is on lockdown with someone else - it is a great option if you have some Zauberball Crazy.

After I put the pattern up, I was sorting my stash and noticed that I had a cake of Stylecraft Batik Swirl DK in the Coral Reef colourway and decided on an experiment - doing a version of Off Kilter in DK.

P4100639

The Batik Swirl cake is 200g/550m and I used a 4mm needle. Otherwise I did the pattern as written using most of the cake. 

The shawl ended up with a wingspan of 164cm and is 60cm deep at the widest point compared with 140cm and 50cm for the 4-ply version.

P4100640

But if you have something in your stash that you'd like to try this pattern in that doesn't fit these quantities, don't worry, this is a very easy pattern to adapt.

  • If you have at least 100g of 4ply or 150g of DK you will come up with a wearable shawl - maybe try 200g of aran or experiment with chunky.
  • If you are using a thicker yarn, choose a needle size that will give your stocking stitch a little drape.
  • Work the pattern repeat until you have around enough yarn for one more repeat - you may need to weigh your remain yarn at the beginning and end of a repeat near the end to estimate this. Finish the body of the shawl after row 10 of the repeat.
  • The edging will work for any size as long as you have finished the body with a complete repeat.

The only other instruction is to enjoy going Off Kilter and to post pictures of your finished object by creating a project on the pattern's Ravelry page or if you are on Instagram tag me in your post @bromiskelly_lapurplepenguin 


Privileged to be one of Knitting magazine's featured designers

It is very lovely to be one of the designers interviewed for the 200th edition of Knitting magazine

011_KNIT_200

Especially as winning a garment design competition in the magazine a few years ago was one of the big spurs to my design career.  The magazine mentions a collection of shawls I was planning to get online. I had hoped to have these up my the end of October but as often the case for freelance creatives, life has intervened and I have been prioritising the work that guarantees payment rather than the ones where I hope I will get sales on Ravelry etc.

However, the Beautifully Blocked collection which makes a selection of my favourite shawls designs for magazines available as individual downloadable patterns for the first time will be ready very soon. I will reveal the 8 choosen patterns over the weekend.

I also plan to write about what how the designer aspects of my life work on a day to day basis as soon as I free up some time.

OFC_KNIT_200

 

Inspiration from Gainsborough to McQueen

 

030_KNIT_192-1

The theme for the new issue of Knitting magazine (no 192) is British Yarn and British Landscape. Because of the way my mind works this cardigan developed from seemingly disparate sources. The construction of the two part fronts to create a waistcoat effect is an idea I have been playing with since looking at the clever ways AlexanderMcQueen played with traditional tailoring.

The landscape theme made me think of the famous Gainsborough picture of a couple surveying their land. So the "Mrs Andrews" cardigan has a textured "waistcoat section joined the the over jacket with the join embellished by small buttons to recall C18th style.

 

image from upload.wikimedia.org

Mr and Mrs Andrews


I hope that you agree that it is both unusual and wearable - there are back darts to help shaping.


The yarns are 100% wool DK and Wool/Silk DK from New Lanark so there are plenty of possible colour combinations plus it is very affordable.


Happy knitting

OFC_KNIT_192


Learning from designing a knit-a-long shawl

Betwixtmas kal

I have recently had my first experience of one of my designs being used in a knit-a-long.

Having been involved, I would recommend the experience to other designers.

It came about through chats about shawls and shawl patterns with Sara Geraghty of Black Sheep Wools. She had an idea for a Betwixtmas knit-a-long that would start after Christmas days and give people a project for the period between then and the New Year.

She asked me to come up with a shawl that wouldn’t be too complicated for that hazy, lazy part of the year and be something that a first time shawl knitter could tackle, but which would still offer a little bit of a challenge.

With a shawl design, finding the right yarn can be crucial. In this case, it needed to both be right for the shawl and something that would suit Black Sheep’s retail offering.

We settled on Fyberspates Vivacious 4-ply a 100% merino yarn that comes in a range of delicious semi-solid shades. It is perfect for shawl knitting because it blocks well and has a lovely drape.

I swatched and sketched and we finalised on this design for the shawl.

Betwixt hanger PA241071My original Betwixtmas sample

A classic centre out triangle that is about three quarters stocking stitch with a diamond lace edging. This means knitters can get used to the shaping (and in the case of the KAL, recover from Christmas) before tackling the lace pattern.

With the pattern and samples done, my role was to sit back, enjoy the launch and wait for the knitting to start.

The launch was a big hit with 1000s of copies of the pattern being downloaded for free from Black Sheep  and many people falling in love with our yarn choice.

And then people started to cast on and share their experiences to the Black Sheep make-a-long Facebook group.

As a designer and pattern writer it was interesting to see the parts that knitters found harder and as a teacher it was enjoyable to offer advice and help to get the through those problems. It will make me think about the notes and support I can provide for future patterns.

But the most pleasure came from seeing pictures of people’s progress and then the finished shawls. And there have been so many, I have lost track a little. Especially when some people cast on their third versions.

Here are just a small selection.

Betwixtmas Collage

Thanks to Sandy Brown, Alison Locke, Anita Pearson, Chris Clark, Roberta Couchman, Carole Rigby, Sarah Aston, Rita Lee, Hilary Shepherd, Alison Neave, Loraine Walker, Jane Holt, and Marion Beet.

And yes I am now mulling over future knit-a-longs.