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October 2010

The Knitter 25: Bah Humbug! (well almost)

As I said in yesterday's blog, knitting mags make me nervous at this time of year. All gifts  and novelties that just aren't my thing.

Now I've known for some time that the Knitter 25 would be a gift issue. I chatted to the editor about is few weeks back when she was quite clear that it was a "gift issue not a Christmas gift issue" but the cover now has the words festive and Christmas on the cover.  

Feeling a bit too Ebeneezer-like therefore I'm not going to do my usual breakdown of the patterns. I'm not the right person the review lacy men's scarves, fair isle cafetiere covers or hat and glove sets.

Instead I'll just mention the two things I absolutely love.

Teva Durham's article on making bags and her pattern for the lacy Marianne Purse are inspiring and fascinating.  A very useful primer on bag shapes and what patterns work, this is a real keeper for anyone who is keen to design. I plan on some bag designing in the near future following this because these are manageable creative projects.

But what make this issue worthwhile by itself is Carmine by Belinda Boaden in Fyberspates Scrumptious DK. Top down construction, v-neck, cable rib, fitted - to me it is just perfect. And I may have some suitable alternate yarn stashed.

My only sadness is that I can't find a pic to share at the moment.



Knitting issue 83: Glamour & Gifts

I open the December issues of knitting magazines with some trepidation. If  I'm plan to knit gifts, they will be long planned and generally not involved knitted tree decorations, nativity sets, items with reindeers or robins on, or things like tea cosies which may clog drawers rather than be useful.

Knitting83001_small So it was pleasing to see a cover line offering theatrical glamour rather than overtly Christmas options and even the accompanying gift guide's patterns are more generic clothing items (but of course lovely ones) rather than super-festive novelties.

Plus the gift guide is filled with book, accessory and haberdashery ideas for presents so I should probably leave it lying around with one or two inked circles.

As for the glamour in the patterns - well some more than others upheld the theme.

Taking the glamour prizes for me are:

Snood by Judy Furlong, AKA Jayne in Manos del Uruguay pattern     JAYNE-ENGLISH_large_email_medium
leaflet form. In a 75% Alpaca, 20% Silk, 5% Cashmere laceweight, it 
drapes beautifully over the model's head and shoulders.

It is knitted in the round to avoid having to join the tube up. But the top
edging is knitted as a strip and then grafted on. I think I would experiment 
with adapting the edging to a knit on version, because I'd always rather
knit than graft. 

It is no secret that I'm such a fan of the vintage styling of Susan Crawford
that I have publicly denied been a stalker. So I was delighted to see an on
trend Cabled Cape in aran that maintains that golden age of Hollywood glamour.

My only problem is working out how to get the best of one as a London commuter rather than someone who needs warmth between the taxi and the party.

Also glamorous in my book, is a second snood which appears in the gift supplement. It may be the styling but the much chunkier Most Luxurious Winter Snood in Sublime W0olly Merino looks fabulous even if it is in gray and all ribbing.

Bags add to glamour and there are two great ones this month. An actual knitted Gold Kelly Bag by Sandra Hamilton is pure genius. If that's too big for you, the gift guide include a pretty Beaded Clutch by Laura Zukaite with a delicate butterfly motif in both knitting and beaded versions. Requiring no more than a couple of skeins of alpaca silk it is something that prove that ultimate stash buster for that small amount of luxury yarn you can't bear to give up.

Rowena by Erika Knight, which has already been seen in Rowan , fits the glamour mode by being a classic piece of simple vintage style - waist shaping and puffed shoulders - that could easily be dressed up by a diamante brooch or pearl choker. It does require an awful lot stocking stitch in 4ply on 3.25mm needles.

After that the selection loses its glamour for me. I can see why Sian Brown's Lace Cloak was included but this thigh-length, hooded black kidsilk cape edged in pink makes be think Halloween or panto.

I'm in two minds about Frill Nack Jacket by Suzie Lee. Lots of stocking stitch again, this time on 6mm pins using a merino/alpaca/silk blend chunky yarn, to create simple close fitting jacket with a deep V front. The V is surrounded by a wide ruffle which looks dramatic on the model but would likely have a less good effect on those of us with larger frontages.

But I can't add a fairly plain stocking stitch jumper in Artesano silk blend with cuffs and bottom frill in kidsilk haze to any list of good things. The photography doesn't help making it look shapeless and lumpy and hiding any stitch detail. A Party Sweater this is not.

And although this month's magazine tells us Norwegian knitwear is a  big current trend chunky aran knits are for a different edition.

 So one or two things I love and a million miles of stocking stitch. But there is one more pattern that rates a mention - there is Penguin Pete. A new blog mascot coming soon.



Wire, beads and how the pointy sticks nearly let me down

Last Saturday as I sat in The Make Lounge surrounded by beads, wire bits, other findings and several pairs of pliers my love of pointy stick hobbies left me all at sea.

Wwbeads 003

I was at a wire wrapped jewellery workshop, part one of a plan to learn jewellery making techniques over the next year or so.

The first poor decision may have been to choose a seat near the window. It did mean I could see the beads and wire well, but turned out to be at the furthest point from the teacher. 

The first instruction was ok - I had the skewer a bead with an i-wire and then bend wire to about 90degrees. So far, so good.

Then the teacher told us to hold our pliers in what she described as the "fencing position" (she even lunged) and make a further bend in our wires.  

Still couldn't see her demo well but I persevered. I held my pliers as close to how I would my fencing sabre and bent the wire,  so it was away from me (as if attacking).

Teacher did her rounds: "Why are you holding your pliers like that?"

"Because that's the fencing position"

"No more like this, and your wire is bent the wrong direction."

So everyone waited while I held my pliers in the "About to get my wrist slashed with a sabre" position and bent my wire correctly.

"Right, now we're going to hold the pliers in the archery position and use a second pair the manipulate the wire."

This didn't bode well. I'm not an archer, but I hope to be one day and have had some beginner's instruction about launching those pointy sticks. So archery suggested either having my pliers by my right ear or swapping them to my left hand angled so my little finger was at the bottom.

Teacher appeared: "Are you left-handed?"


"So why are they in your left hand."

"Well, because I've no idea what your instructions mean." This was going from bad to worse.

But, then some pointy stick experience did come to my rescue. I sometimes teach people to knit and have realised that some people can learn by following instructions and some need to understand how knitting works - how the fabric grows in other words. 

So I suggested I just looked at how she was working with other people and the various stages of the wrap so I could see what we needed to achieve. And assured her I'd catch up.

Luckily ten minutes later and I'd completed my first bead wraps and could even join them together. Wwbeads 001


I'd worked how to make my hands achieve the necessary stages - and strangely it did involve working one stage left-handed. And although my wraps were by no means perfect, I understood the principles and could have fun.


A first go


Wwbeads 007







Starting to improve


Once we'd managed the basics we were given the run of an Aladdin's cave of beads and findings to create our own pieces. It's suggested you try a bracelet or earrings to start. But inspiration struck and I started creating multiple bead links and suddenly had enough for a choker. It's not perfect but it is wearable and I've learnt a lot - time to buy some left-handed pliers, perhaps.

Wwbeads 005


Knit your own fashion on TV - what we can learn from 1976

I suspect  most  knitters will enjoy this archive BBC show on knitting currently on the BBC website.

Bbc crop1

 There is much still of value from what was apparently the first part of a series intended to help experienced knitters to develop and allow novice knitters to create fashionable garments on a budget.

The excellent section on tension squares and types of knitting needles  from expert Pam Dawson would be useful for anyone learning today but we might all baulk at presenter Jan Leeming waxing lyrical over rayon yarn. 

My favourite part, apart from the assertion that "shawls are important" (well of course),  is Pam's sniffy reference to the metricisation of knitting needles.

Watch and enjoy.


The Knitter 24: a lot to like in a minimalist way

Who says knitting can't be fashionable or on trend? This issue with its monochrome palettes, texture and subtle designs is straight out of the fashion mags I found myself flicking through at the hairdresser this weekend.

Now I'm not necessarily a fan of this winters' fashion selection - personally I'm using the selection of black, grey and navy tailoring to offset pretty cardies, shawls, etc in brighter colours - but there is a lot to like here. And indeed you don't have to stick to the greys, some pieces here would be beautiful in jewel colours or stronger shades.

Theknitter24_small Talia,  from Jeni Hewlett is the cover image. The texture and tailoring make this aran jacket a draping joy. The Fybrespates silk/merino yarn gives it a lovely finish. I could imagine it in soft colours or a chic shiny black. It looks an attractive knit but beware there is a warning that the recommended yarn  grows on washing.

One of my favourites this month is the Quinton Chadwick Smocked Cardigan but I note it isn't appealing to everyone. It is a fairly classic style but the textured smocking efffect at the waist is a clever shaping technique and the use of a contrast colour contains tiny surprises adding to the fashion effect. In terms of colourway I might go for camel with turquoise for the contrast detail or grey with violet.

 As usual The Knitter offers another beautiful lace shawl to give me a case of startitis. This time it's Anniken Allis's Lazuli shawl with a fir cone pattern. If you love lace this is another for the list how many shawls can a girl have?

I also love the simple cabled sleeveless shrug Ombre, Sarah Hatton which would be fab over a long sleeve t-shirt and jeans in a bright colour.  It looks like a quick fun knit in a chunky yarn but beware it does contain short row shaping (something I need to practice).

Eyelets and fair isle can sound a strange combination but in  Belinda Boaden's Aspen the eyelets form another stripe in the subtle grey fair isle pattern. This pattern would work in a variety of colours but always in shades on one colour. My problem here is the photography doesn't give me a clear view of how the sweater would work on different body shapes.

Talking of body shape - I would love to be tall enough to be able to wear Martin Storey's fabulous long-line cardigan Anjelica but I suspect I'd look like a Jedi. But on someone taller this checker-board affect of cables and moss stitch would drape beautifully. I imagine it in a rich "velvet" blue.

There's a his and hers double whammy from Storey. Amos is a catwalk influenced rippling ribbed classic of a man's jumper in Rowan Lima. It's younger style could make it - dare I say it - a boyfriend jumper winner.

 And  then there are two that I don't really take to and its very personal dislike:

Madeline mittens  by Rosee Woodland is this month's stashbuster but I  can't imagine CC21309--0300_square
myself with colourwork mitts and as for Mary Scott Huff's  The Bees Knees (right) I just find the honeycomb and bee motif overpowering.