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: Decoding cable patterns

14 cable decode

When I talk to people about why they are intimidated by starting a cable project the answers is often that the terminology or abbreviations seem so complicated. They seem surprised when I say that all cables use the same basic steps:

  1. Put a given number of stitches on cable needle.
  2. Hold the cable needle to the back or front of the work as instructed.
  3. Knit or purl a given number of stitches from your main needle.
  4. Knit or purl the stitches from your cable needle.


The result is a set of stitches that cross each other.

 

P1061437

The key to cable knitting is understanding the number of stitches that go on the cable needle, whether it goes to the back or front and what you knit or purl for each type of cable in the pattern. This can seem like a massive puzzle because there are so many different ways that cables are written in patterns.


However, whatever coding system has been used the pattern abbreviation key should tell you what to do for each one. To be honest, it there isn't a key telling you that, I would be inclined to find a new pattern.

There are lots of cable notation systems. My preferences is for the version that includes writing the abbreviations for example as C8B and Tw4F. Here the the "C" generally indicates that you are working all the stitches in your cable in the same way, the number is how many stitches in total are used in the cable and the B means the cable needle is used to the back. Tw means you will knit some stitches and purl others and F is holding the cable needle to the front.

So C8B could be written as "place 4 stitches on cable needle and hold to the back, knit 4 sts, knit 4 from cable needle". BUT even if you think it means that double check - it could mean place 5 stitches on cable needle and hold to the back, knit 3 sts, etc.

Tw3F is likely to be "place 2 stitches on cable needle and hold to the front, purl 1, knit 2 from cable needle. You can see this type of cable on the upper right of the diamond in the picture above. As you can see it slopes to the left which is why you may see it abbreviated to Tw3L.

If your pattern uses a notation you don't like, it is worth writing out a translation list where you note down how you would think of each cable so you can refer to it until you are sure you are getting your pattern right. 


16 kinked cable needle

My cable knitting used to regularly be accompanied by what we might call "strong language" as I dropped or realised I'd lost my cable needle for the hundredth time..

I love cable patterns, but I was driven to distraction by how easy it was to lose a cable needle or for it to drop out of my stitches at just the wrong moment.

Then I found my first kinked cable needle.

The bend in the middle means you can let it angle from your stitches if necessary when working your cable and it doesn't escape. No more manipulating your other needles while grasping the the cable needle in a death grip.

It will also stay firmly in whatever piece of knitting you poke it through. I have come home from a supermarket shop and discovered one still securely sitting in the shoulder of the sweater I was wearing. I'd only stuck it there for a moment while I answered the phone earlier!

Sometimes there are really simple solutions that make a big difference.
 


If you want to practice your cables, you could try the Low Tide Scarf


16 kinked cable needle

My cable knitting used to regularly be accompanied by what we might call "strong language" as I dropped or realised I'd lost my cable needle for the hundredth time..

I love cable patterns, but I was driven to distraction by how easy it was to lose a cable needle or for it to drop out of my stitches at just the wrong moment.

Then I found my first kinked cable needle.

The bend in the middle means you can let it angle from your stitches if necessary when working your cable and it doesn't escape. No more manipulating your other needles while grasping the the cable needle in a death grip.

It will also stay firmly in whatever piece of knitting you poke it through. I have come home from a supermarket shop and discovered one still securely sitting in the shoulder of the sweater I was wearing. I'd only stuck it there for a moment while I answered the phone earlier!

Sometimes there are really simple solutions that make a big difference.
 


If you want to practice your cables, you could try the Low Tide Scarf


Farewell to Penguins – changing my business name.

 

New year new name

Today marks the first step in changing my business identity. As of today, my social media and Payhip pattern store are all changing to BronaghKnits.

When I started designing, I didn’t expect it to become such a large part of my life so I relied on my existing Ravelry and social media tag of LaPurplePenguin – a name that was partly a personal joke.

However, as I have increased my designing portfolio and working more and more for magazines, teaching in person and online all under my actual name this doesn’t really make sense. Over the past year I have noticed that I have been referred to simply as “Bronagh” on other people’s feeds, sites and podcasts. With that in mind, I have decided to step out from the penguin’s shadow and use my real name.

I chose BronaghKnits because it sums up what I do – I knit to create patterns, I knit for my health and write about it some times like in Knitting issue 226, I knit to create class and video tutorials (more coming this year) and I knit to help with your specific skill needs.

The first step is to change the social media, then there will be a new logo, a new blog (though I’ll probably run two in parallel for a bit), a new YouTube channel and a new website over the next few months.

I thought about holding off on any changes until everything is ready but that would allow me to procrastinate for every and this was I can start introduce the changes and take you with me on the journey.

And yes, there are worries about some people losing track of me temporarily but I think overall having Bronagh clearly in my names will make it easier for people over all to find me. So it is a bit scary but probably worth it in the end.

So you can find me on:

Instagram - @bronaghknits

Twitter - @BronaghKnits

Facebook page - BronaghKnits 

Facebook group – Knit with Bronagh, because that’s what I hope you will do.

And my Payhip pattern store is here

Meanwhile, you can sign up for my newsletter to keep up with developments.


Farewell to Penguins – changing my business name.

 

New year new name

Today marks the first step in changing my business identity. As of today, my social media and Payhip pattern store are all changing to BronaghKnits.

When I started designing, I didn’t expect it to become such a large part of my life so I relied on my existing Ravelry and social media tag of LaPurplePenguin – a name that was partly a personal joke.

However, as I have increased my designing portfolio and working more and more for magazines, teaching in person and online all under my actual name this doesn’t really make sense. Over the past year I have noticed that I have been referred to simply as “Bronagh” on other people’s feeds, sites and podcasts. With that in mind, I have decided to step out from the penguin’s shadow and use my real name.

I chose BronaghKnits because it sums up what I do – I knit to create patterns, I knit for my health and write about it some times like in Knitting issue 226, I knit to create class and video tutorials (more coming this year) and I knit to help with your specific skill needs.

The first step is to change the social media, then there will be a new logo, a new blog (though I’ll probably run two in parallel for a bit), a new YouTube channel and a new website over the next few months.

I thought about holding off on any changes until everything is ready but that would allow me to procrastinate for every and this was I can start introduce the changes and take you with me on the journey.

And yes, there are worries about some people losing track of me temporarily but I think overall having Bronagh clearly in my names will make it easier for people over all to find me. So it is a bit scary but probably worth it in the end.

So you can find me on:

Instagram - @bronaghknits

Twitter - @BronaghKnits

Facebook page - BronaghKnits 

Facebook group – Knit with Bronagh, because that’s what I hope you will do.

And my Payhip pattern store is here

Meanwhile, you can sign up for my newsletter to keep up with developments.


Farewell to Penguins – changing my business name.

 

New year new name

Today marks the first step in changing my business identity. As of today, my social media and Payhip pattern store are all changing to BronaghKnits.

When I started designing, I didn’t expect it to become such a large part of my life so I relied on my existing Ravelry and social media tag of LaPurplePenguin – a name that was partly a personal joke.

However, as I have increased my designing portfolio and working more and more for magazines, teaching in person and online all under my actual name this doesn’t really make sense. Over the past year I have noticed that I have been referred to simply as “Bronagh” on other people’s feeds, sites and podcasts. With that in mind, I have decided to step out from the penguin’s shadow and use my real name.

I chose BronaghKnits because it sums up what I do – I knit to create patterns, I knit for my health and write about it some times like in Knitting issue 226, I knit to create class and video tutorials (more coming this year) and I knit to help with your specific skill needs.

The first step is to change the social media, then there will be a new logo, a new blog (though I’ll probably run two in parallel for a bit), a new YouTube channel and a new website over the next few months.

I thought about holding off on any changes until everything is ready but that would allow me to procrastinate for every and this was I can start introduce the changes and take you with me on the journey.

And yes, there are worries about some people losing track of me temporarily but I think overall having Bronagh clearly in my names will make it easier for people over all to find me. So it is a bit scary but probably worth it in the end.

So you can find me on:

Instagram - @bronaghknits

Twitter - @BronaghKnits

Facebook page - BronaghKnits 

Facebook group – Knit with Bronagh, because that’s what I hope you will do.

And my Payhip pattern store is here

Meanwhile, you can sign up for my newsletter to keep up with developments.


Background to my PTSD and knitting article.

PC300232

The new issue of Knitting magazine is out today and apart from some patterns by me it also contains a first person article where I talk about how knitting helps me manage bouts of anxiety caused by post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

For my own well-being I have resolved to be more open about suffering from this condition but I know that it can provoke a range of reactions. So alongside the article I thought I’d say a few things about PTSD and me. (In the future I will put a version of the article on my blog but for now you’ll only find it in the magazine)

Firstly, this revelation shouldn’t change how you see or interact with me. If you have met me as an adult, chatted via social media, emailed with me, you have almost certainly done so with someone who has PTSD. It is as much part of me as my short-sight or my hair colour.

That said as a PTSD sufferer I know from my own and other’s experiences that mention of the condition can provoke some reactions I find difficult.

Curiosity – you might want to know what caused someone’s PTSD but please don’t ask. I might tell you at a time of my own choosing but feeling obliged to think about a trauma can be triggering. Plus facing other people’s shocked reactions to some trauma stories can be a difficult experience in itself.

Judgement – there are some people who seem to want to rank trauma in some way as if some is more worthy of causing PTSD than others. Please accept that the condition exists whatever the cause. I also have arthritis in some joints but I don’t find people are nearly as curious about the causes of that chronic condition.

I would also add that there is some common ground between the sort of arthritis I have and PTSD. An accident caused long term changes to my knee joint, just as a traumatic incident caused physical changes to how my brain is wired. Physiotherapy helps my knee, talking and other mental health therapies help with my brain.

That’s what I can manage just now but I hope it is useful. And yes, knitting does help.

UPDATE 31/12/21

I don't want people to go away with the idea that my life is a constant round of nightmares, panic attacks and flashbacks - and wanting to hide under the table the whole time - although there are times when those are more regular than others. What PTSD does on a daily basis is affect how I react to my environment and how I process the stimuli around me. I am a higher level of alert most of the time and surprising things can trigger panic etc.


Celebrate the 12 days of Christmas with a discounted pattern

Christmas 12 days

 

My idea of celebrating Christmas is holing up somewhere quiet with lots of cheese and yarn.

And for many the festive period especially the “Betwixtmas” days are ones when they can grab some knitting time. So, my Christmas gift to you is a 12% discount on all my patterns until 6 January on both Ravelry and Payhip with the code 12DAYS.

Just the thing is you get some lovely yarn from Santa this year – or if you are planning a stashbusting new year.

There are one skein wonders in a range of yarn weights, and patterns for gloves, hats, cowls, shawls and socks to entertain you.

Find yourself a lovely knitting treat.

Have a the fabulous festive season that suits you.

Love

Bronagh


Tip of the week: The rule of 3/4 and picking up stitches

28 picking up stitches
 
One part of finishing that seems to ambush a lot of people is picking up stitches. 

There are two issues here. Firstly, picking up the right number of stitches evenly. Even if you place markers at the halfway and quarterway points it doesn't seem to work. Sometimes this is because your row tension is slightly different from the one the pattern. In this case, picking up the number of stitches listed in the pattern may not fit the space.

The rule of 3/4 can help here - especially on stocking stitch based patterns. To get an even edging, pick up and knit three stitches for every four row ends. This makes sense because stitch tension on stocking stitch is usually three-quarters the number for row tension, for example 21 stitches and 28 rows to 10cm is common for DK yarns. Plus by sticking to the rule missing every fourth row end you avoid bunching or uneven gapping between your picked up stitches.
 

A second bonus picking up stitches tip - put your needle under both parts of the edge stitch. In other words, your needle tip goes into the work in the same area as where you find your ladders for mattress stitch.

This gives a firm foundation to your picked up stitches. I often see people only using the outer loop pf the edge stitch which can stretch too much making your edging look sloppy.

Below you can see the firm foundation for the edging using both loops gives.
 

Guess what? You can practice on a swatch.

Tip of the Week: Mattress stitch gives you a neat finish

27 mattress stitch

Sewing up can be the thing that makes knitters reluctant to try some patterns or dissatisfied with their final product.

The answer is simple and about finding the right sewing up method. For straight seams, mattress stitch is a great choice and once you get the hang of it, an easy way to create a good finish.

Surprisingly mattress stitch in worked on the right side of your work and is easiest done over a table.

Mattress stitch is worked in the gap between the first and second column of stitches on each side of the seam. If you stretch your work slightly you will see a “ladder” between each column of stitches.

Put the pieces to be seamed side by side with the right sides facing upwards.
 


Thread your darning needle with a long length of yarn – I’ve used contrasting yarn here to help you see. Insert the needle under the first two rungs of the ladder between the first two columns of stitches on one side and pull the yarn through leaving a long tail.

Now move your needle to the other side and go under the first two rungs on the other side. Pull the yarn through but not tight.
 


Now put the needle under the next two rungs up the ladder on the first side and pull some yarn through. Repeat for the second side, and then continue working under two rungs at a time, alternating sides, until 2-3cm of the seam was been worked.
 

 
Hold the tail of yarn at the beginning of the seam and gently pull your working yarn until your seam closes neatly. Don’t pull hard because this will risk puckering the seam. Stop when you have a flat join. As you can see this creates a neat flat seam and my sewing up thread has disappeared from view.
 


Continue to work up the seam, taking in two rungs at a time as before. Pull the seam closed every few centimetres. At the end of the seam fasten off both ends of your sewing up yarn.


 Why not practice on some swatches?