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July 2017

New pattern: The very adaptable Joan

Meet Joan a very versatile knitted T-shirt that you can find in the latest issue of Knitting magazine (issue 171).

Joan tee kn171 sept 2017

Joan was inspired by Lucy Liu's character Joan Watson in the Elementary TV series. The character has a fabulous selection of knitwear and favours layers with long-sleeved t-shirts under knits, stripes and colour blocks. So I wanted to create an easy wear top that would look good on its own or over a long-sleeved tee and a design that would allow knitters to have a lot of colour options.

For that reason it is knitted in Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino. This sportweight yarn comes in a vast range of colours giving everyone the opportunity to choose their ultimate stripe combo.

Baby cashThe choice for the sample was to fit with the magazine's Americas theme and I was very pleased how the two blues worked with the red but I am planning a couple of alternatives for myself - one with turquoise and purple and one with orange where the red features in the sample.

What colours would you choose? I'd love to see your choices

Craft and the art of transformation

Wearing one of my various craft and yarn industry hats, I had the opportunity to attend an interesting presentation on the state of the craft sector the other day. While I can’t reveal any detail here, except to say it is healthy and knitting is a big market, thankfully, I do want to raise an issue that came up.

Colouring craft

What do we think qualifies as a “craft activity”?

It can be hard to define what falls inside the craft sector boundaries. For example, grown up colouring books form a category that is hotly debated. Some people argue that it should be included because colouring can be a first step to craft activity but others say it doesn’t require the skills or the development opportunities that we associate with crafting.

This really made me think. My instinctive reaction was that colouring in isn’t craft but then I needed to think about why.

To me craft has a transformational element where we use learned skills and tools to change materials into something else. We take yarn, wire, beads, clay, etc and create a new item. Colouring in doesn’t offer me that same level of transformation.

Yes, there is creativity in colour choice and indeed what medium you colour in with but the change to the sheet of paper is only regarding colour or pattern.

A counter argument to me might be that someone following one of my patterns isn’t being creative so is it craft. There are a number of points here. Firstly there is creativity in choice (colour and yarn substation), then there are the skills which the knitter either already has or has to acquire and there is also the issue of any adaptations they might make as they work. Add into that the issues of knitting style and needle choice and I can make a strong argument that there is a lot more to making a pair of Hamilton Handwarmers than choosing a red pencil over a yellow felt tip.

All this doesn’t mean I am an anti-colouring in. Should I find myself with that option and, heaven forefend, no access to yarn, hooks or needles, I will happily pass the time colouring and it is this that helps me define what colouring is – a pastime like soduku and crosswords, perfectly valid activities, just not crafting.

What do you think?

A Foray into Shetland - new shawl design

A call for pattern designs using British yarns recently gave me the opportunity to work in a yarn I had been admiring for a while - Shetland Supreme Lace Weight 2ply from Jamieson & Smith.


I was interested in working with the natural colours and fine sheepiness of this pure wool lace yarn that comes in 25g balls, as well as 500g cones if you are planning a couple of large shawls.

This is one of those magical laceweights that looks rather unexciting as you work (especially as I had chosen the natural grey) but once blocked turns into a delicate, wisp of a fabric with a beautiful sheen. In the case of the Summer Stole, I guarantee it also lives up the the legendary idea of your shawl passing through a wedding ring.

Shetland scan 2

I chose to create a stole for Knitting magazine (issue 170) because I find this one of the most versatile shapes to take a lace knit through the year. As a summer pattern, the Shetland Summer Stole is perfect for creating glamorous cover up in an evening chill or over a dress at a wedding or summer party. In autumn it can be draped over a smart outfit to add an extra layer. And a lace stole can even be wrapped round your neck a couple of times with a winter coat to keep out the cold in January.

  Shetland scan 1 small

The lace motifs come from tradition Shetland patterns, although I have adapted them a little and the stole is less traditional using a stocking stitch ground rather than garter stitch in this case.

It is made in two sections which are grafted together to give the pattern symmetry. If you drape the shawl round your shoulders, the pattern will fall the same way on each of the falling ends.

  Shetland scan 4
Shetland scan 4

This shawl is described as an advanced knit but don't be afraid of having a go. The pattern repeat in the main body is actually very straight forward and while the end sections are more complicated, they are only a small proportion of the knitting.

And if it helps I am planning a few how to posts over the summer around lace knitting.