Previous month:
January 2011
Next month:
March 2011

February 2011

Joining the Cranford club

Knitting a pair of Cranfords - horseshoe lace fingerless mitts inspired by the BBC series based on Elizabeth Gaskell's book - has become a sort of badge of honour for supporters of the Medecins Sans Frontieres p/hop project.

P/hop or pennies per hour of pleasure is a fundraising scheme (in fact the Awards' creative fundraising project of the year) where you can download knitting patterns and donate to MSF based on what value you put on the  patterns and your experience. Knitting to bring much needed help to people in need round the world - what could be better.

As a p/hop fan and very occasional helper, Cranfords were a must do and here they are - allbeit adapted.

Glove 008

Sharing the knit - the joy of teaching

I'm a stitch stage...


That means I am a volunteer knitting teacher at Stitch London meetings.

I've just been asked why I volunteer in this way - what do I gain from teaching others - especially when I could just enjoy a chat, a drink and cake and of course some knitting. It did give me pause for thought but really it's about sharing something that makes me happy.

Being a volunteer teacher is about passing on a skill that I really value.

I love knitting for many reasons: 

  • the range of beautiful materials I can work with Knit 074
  • the delight at a project growing; in my case this is often lace where there is something really special as a cloud of delicate fabric sprouts from my needles
  • the beautiful and individual items I can create that are personal to me or others
  • the relaxing and therapeutic effects
  • the fact that it brings me into a community of creative and interesting people who want to share their passions and knowledge.

I teach because I want other people to have access to those great experiences and to show that by learning a few techniques a beginner can start to create something that is real - scarf, an iPod cover, a mini sheep.

And because I love the joy on a beginner's face when they achieve an inch or two of "actual knitting".

It's hard to pick out a best moment because so often people are excited and wave their knitting like a flag in excitement but I have been hugged by a returning learner because they'd knitted a gift for a family member since I'd first helped them.

And finally I teach because I can - I am able to introduce someone to knitting so that in a couple of hours they are beginning to find their knitting rhythm and to understand how knitting works, how the string becomes fabric.

If you want to find out more about learning in London or being a stitch sage click here

When Freakonomics met knitting

Ravelry has just found fame in the Freakonomics blog of the New York Times.

Sarah, a young woman about to finish high school in the US, has written to the blog with her extremely well crafted piece about the difficulty ratings on Ravelry. Her concern is that there are very few patterns rated 9 or 10 but she finds some rated 4 very difficult. She also points out that patterns rated difficult sometimes receive high star ratings. She therefore argues that there is oligarchy of highly skilled, craft addicts who rate patterns and skew the difficult ratings for everyone else.

I on the other hand would argue that there is no reason why a pattern can’t be difficult and fun and high quality. I would also argue that because Ravelry ratings are a subjective judgement by members who have made the patterns and remembered to rate them, they are not an exact science and that Sarah can rate the patterns herself potentially pushing up the average difficulty score.

Proj 007
Victorian Lace - complex but fun

I’ve commented on the NYT article with my thoughts on the ratings which I share here as well.

Knitting and crochet are crafts made up with a relatively small number of basic techniques that can take you a long way. Patterns are basically arrangements of those techniques, the difficult comes from the number of techniques required and how often these need to be performed. Lace items could be regarded as higher on the difficulty rating because you need to do a lot in every row – but on the other hand the pattern may be repeated very regularly allowing the knitter to become used to that arrangement of stitches (techniques) which then makes it easier as you go along.

Kelly 002
I rated this as easy because of simple stitches & shaping

When rating patterns on Ravelry I try to assess how I found them and how I would recommend them to other knitters and beginners I teach. I use the star rating (what Sarah has as the 1-5 quality rating) as a mark of the outcome of the project – did it turn out as advertised (pattern pictures can be flattering) – and the enjoyment factor – knitters do it for pleasure.

As someone who has been knitting longer than Sarah has been alive  I will have a different view to her but I try to be fair in my difficulty rating and I have yet to rate anything 9 or 10 as far as I can see. That’s because I would regard that as something that I as a v experienced – and yes, a good -knitter would struggle with, find progress difficult on and have to learn new techniques for. On the other hand I will rate a current project as a 7 or 8 – not because it is impossible or even take that long to knit but it does require concentration a lot of different stitches in every row and has a complex shaping chart. Therefore I wouldn’t recommend it to a less experienced person.

It’s all about personal judgement.


Knitting entertainment: two new finds

Either a podcast I listened to or a blog I read in the last week mentioned the Savvy Girls podast - it may have been Voolenvine's Yarngasm podcast but I'm not certain. Anyway I downloaded the last two episodes which concentrate on the recent Vogue Knitting Show in New York.

The main show on Vogue Knitting had some interesting interviews and gave a flavour of the event,but the real joy came in an interview recorded at the show but included in the next Savvy episode. This was an interview with Franklin, knitter, cartoonist, historic pattern expert, teacher and blogger at The Panoptican - as well as companion to Dolores the Sheep. Franklin was a great interviewee and I'm now a fan of his blog especially the cartoons.

And I can't help wondering if we should introduce Dolores to London's own Electric Sheep.


The Knitter 29: kitchener stitch and highlights

Firstly a big thank you to the The Knitter and Woolly Wormhead for the kitchener stitch masterclass that shows how to graft for a variety of stitches - having all this in one place is great because it is one technical area I am regularly muddled by.

As well as that invaluable guide, as always there are some tempting patterns pushing me towards breaking my yarn diet (I'm seeing how far into 2011 I can get without buying yarn! 50+ days so far).

Highlights this month.  Cable_mitts_medium2

Trethawle by Anniken Allis. The stashbuster of the month seems perfect on a cold day like this, comforting 4ply cabled fingerless mitts that go well down past the wrists. Tempted to start a pair right now.

 Lace and vintage style. Julie Ferguson's Ariel Jacket is a delicate fitted DK top with 20 tiny buttons up the front. Technically a cardie or jacket, it would almost always be worn as a top under a jacket and/or with a smart skirt. I probably wouldn't make the matching gauntlets for a set but might keep them in mind for a spot of stash busting.

More fitted lace in Nick Atkinson's Seashell T-shirt using DK yarn. It looks technically challenging in terms of the lace and shaping in pattern. The sort of pretty shortsleeved top that I love and find great with a smart skirt - definitely joining the queue.

Marco Dress and tunics can seem a bit of a risk but they can be flattering if well shapped. Marco,  a mini dress in laceweight by Rosee Woddland, looks like it should fit that bill. A mix of stocking stitch and a dropped stitch pattern it looks like an interesting knit although I'd wear it as a tunic I think.

Adena, Sarah Hatton's chunky cardigan, is knitted sideways which always adds interest. It is simply quick knit in stocking stitch with cable edgings. A snuggly temptation.


I'll also be adding Judy Furlong's cabled aran-weight Ronaldsay  to my list of men's knits my other half might find acceptable. It would also be enjoable to knit with the cable construction and a good choice for someone wanting to try this style of knitting for the first time because there is only one type of cable to learn.

I'll also give a mention to Corentin by Belinda Boaden. This loose cable tunic caught my eye with my first flick through. But then I realised it is in Rowan Demin which means it shrinks on washing, something the pattern allows for but which I don't enjoy working with and which also means it is difficult to adapt the pattern to other yarns.

And finally, Plarchie the giant knitted squid. Plarchie, an 8m squid knitted from plastic bags, is one of the stars of Lauren O'Farrell aka Deadly Knitshade's article on the art of graffiti knitting and the activities of Knit the City.

11 in 11 - two down

I've decided to take on a bit of a knitting challenge this year. I've come across a couple of groups on Ravelry where the aim is to knit 11 shawls or scarves in 2011. One #11in11 just calls for 11 pieces of neck wear while 11 shawls in 2011 has stricter rules around what constitutes a shawl and meterage.

So far I've completed two that fit both projects but I've decided to make it harder on myself. My personal challenge is to see how far I can get with my 11 with yarn that was in my stash on 1 Jan 2011.

I'll update through the year, but here are the first two - Happy Diamonds and Peacock Blue.

Lace 010
Happy Diamonds:  Scarf with the Open and Solid Diamond Lace Edging from Weldon's, 1904, from Victorian Lace Today by Jane Sowerby in Wendy Happy Bamboo sock yarn.

  Lace 011


Peacock Blue: Peacock Tail and Leaf Scarf from Nancy Bush's Knitted Lace of Estonia in UK Alpaca.





Knitting 87: French style

After a gap (blame a mixture of a skiing injury and a frail relative) I'm returning to reviewing the knitting mags that land on my doormat regularly. The reviews are useful for me to keep track of the patterns I like and I hope may be helpful for others as well.

KMCover_small And so to Knitting's Springtime in Paris issue (March 2011) - a look at summer fashion trends paired with a range of chic fitted jacket patterns which will work well over spring and summer outfits. The fashion write ups are interesting enough but I read Vogue at the hairdresser's and buy this mag for its patterns.

What's to love

Fitted Bolero by Tina Barrett -  a very simple cropped, cutaway bolero with couple of buttons and a neat collar. It is a simple DK, stocking stitch garment that should probably go in the classics file. It will work this year and in the future as a smart summer cover up.

Martin Storey's Home Cardigan (main cover pic) continues the cropped jacket styling. The front of this more box-shaped, collared   Yarn-Denim
cardie features ruffles and checked colour work. I'd probably leave the ruffles out but there is one thing that might put me off. It's knitted in Rowan Demin which shrinks on washing - it makes adapting patterns difficult.

Having a classic striped Breton Top pattern, like the one from Sian Brown, can't be a bad idea. Especially with a little shaping as in this version. A lot of DK stocking stitch but the stripes would stop it becoming too dull.

Simple and classic are words often used to describe French style. This is certainly the case here with so many plain stocking stitch designs in DK. The Classic White Shirt, also from Sian Brown, meets these criteria and is exactly what the name suggests - a shirt shaped top. It will look fab if you are tall and willowy.

Sian Brown's third pattern Moss Stitch Blazer in cotton is a smart jacket with contrast trim is smart and classic but I wonder how well it will keep its shape over time.

 Not so sure

Even as a laceaholic planning 11 shawls in 2011 I'm ambivilant about the Daisy and Drop Leaf Scarf by Amanda Jones, despite the fabulous scarlet Malabrigo Lace it's knitted in here. I like the central leaf pattern but I don't think it sits well with the daisy eyelet outer panels which have too much solid stocking stitch for me. I'll keep the pattern though and think about changing the daisy panels.

 The Fitted Jacket and Beret by Judy Furlong puzzles me. Despite being yet more plain stocking stitch, it has a complex construction with lots of shaping and facing to give the full jacket effect. Yet the picture doesn't sell it to me,  looking lumpy and shapeless. The collarless, double-breasted efect should work but somehow isn't grabbing me.

The Origin Bergere Parisienne Sweater is a real catwalk creation - unwearable in the real world. A fitted jumper with a massive cowl neck that folds back over the shoulders, it looks like the model is half mummified.

Lacy Shrug by Sirdar - this I can't find anything good to say about this. It is an odd shape with Vs at the back and front and blousing over the bust.


A vintage gem

Pic 005
Browsing in a charity bookshop while in Belfast last week I found one of the best Pic 007 knitting books I've come across. My interest was initially piqued by a number of patterns that could be updated to current trends: the ski sweater, the lace top with almost a pussy bow and the bed jacket which could become a pretty summer cardie.

Pic 004All good for a mere £2.50, I'd certainly pay more than
that for a knitting magazine with a couple of good Ravelry.

When I got home though I started taking a closer look at my find which is a copy of Odhams Knitting Encyclopaedia from 1968 (so almost the same age as me).

This is an incredible resource for any knitter. The first section is a 90-page "ABC of knitting" covering pretty much everything you may have a query about from the best approaches to blocking different types fo knitting - eg lace, fair isle, etc - the maths to work out the decreases for a beret, tables to work out sizing for basic cardigans and sweaters and using different yarns.

Pic 001 Throughout the ABC section there are also charts and instructions for classic lace designs and different types of colour knitting with some history of the techniques and  advice on how best to to work them.

Pic 006






Add to that some really useful basic glove and sock  patterns, classic jumper patterns for men, women and kids, and a stashbuster section called "from odd ounces", this is a book that, should you come across it, I'd recommend snapping it up.

And for me I now need to sit down with a notebook and work on translating weights, meterages, sizes and needles to have a go at some of these designs. Ski jumper here I come!