knitting

Ditch your fear of shawls

Facet 5

When I posted a few pictures of my Facet shawl from Knitting issue 173 (from GMC publications), there were a few people who said "lovely but I could never make something like that".

This seems to be a common response to shawl patterns - there is a fear that it going to be incredibly complicated and take a very long time plus you will have to learn fiendishly evil new stitches. In fact there is nothing more complicated in Facet than a yarnover next to a decrease  and once you are a few rows in the pattern repeat becomes clear.

The rest of the beauty comes from the choice of yarn - this is West Yorkshire Spinners Exquisite Lace in Belgravia - and the blocking (subject of an upcoming post).

The same statement about a shawl pattern being about yarn overs and decreases can also be said about these shawls.

Shawls for blogClockwise from top left: Salmon Net; Garland; Shetland Stole (from Knitting
magazine); Starry Night; Coolmore Creek; Waves on Slate

One cause of shawl fear is using fine yarns and another is the lace or fancy stitches being all over making it a slow knit. But shawls can be a fun knit in thicker yarns and they don't have to be lace all over.

The idea behind the next two selections of shawls (all Stylecraft patterns) was shawl patterns that people might choose as a first foray into patterns like this but which include the same shaping and stitches as you might find in really fine ones.

These patterns would introduce you to the fun of shawl knitting across a variety of shapes and styles in what might be regarded as fairly standard yarns (mainly DK) and making use of the yarns' qualities.

Dk selectionStylecraft patterns clockwise in pairs: Batik Elements 9411; Candy Swirl
9416; Cabaret 9424

Alpaca tweed selectionStylecraft Alpaca Tweed DK garter stitch stripe shawls  9450 and Alpaca
Tweed Chunky shawls 9454

And just to show that you can have fun with shawl patterns in all sorts of yarns, below is Rioting in Unst - a pattern using Shetland lace stitches in King Cole Riot yarn.

Riot card

Shawl knitting is no different from any other category of knitting. Pick a pattern and a yarn you like, and just take it one stitch (or yarn over) at a time and enjoy yourself. Once you take the plunge, you will create something lovely.


How to: Three needle cast off

In  my post about neat shoulders I mentioned using short rows shape shoulders and joining the seam using a three needle cast off.

When you shape shoulders using short rows you end up with a set of stitches on a holder rather than cast off stitches. You can join them using the steps below.

3 needle 1
1. Return your stitches to needles. Place the two sets of stitches from
the pieces you plan to join on separate needles. I use double pointed
or circular needles to make it ease to line up my stitches.

 

3 needle 2

2. Hold the pieces you want to join with right sides together. You want
the two sets of stitches to line up on the parallel needles.

 

3 needle 3
3. Insert your needle into a stitch  from each needle. Using a third needle
of the correct size, insert the tip into the first first stitch on the front needle
and then the first stitch on the back needle.

 

3 needle 4
4. Knit the two stitches together. Work the two stitches together like a
normal knit stitch. 

3 needle 5
5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 and cast off one stitch. Work the next two front
and back stitches together in the same way and then pass the back stitch
on the right hand needle over the front one as you would in a normal cast
off. Continue to cast off the pairs of stitches all along your seam.
(Here you can see the row of green cast off stitches along the seam line.)

 

3 needle 6
The result - wrong side. On the wrong side you will have a flat line of
cast off stitches along the seam line.

 

3 needle 6a
The result - right side. Here you can see the very neat join. Where
.you join two pieces of the colour, the join is unobtrusive.

 

Lily 7
Here you can see the final result in the Lily sweater.


The pleasure in the detail or the joy of a well fitted shoulder

I always look forward to seeing the final pictures of a pattern commission. It is often some time after I supply the sample garment when I see the eventual images from a shoot, perhaps when a magazine is published. 

It is of course interesting to see how a garment has been styled but I also look at how the garment sits and particularly around the armhole and shoulder because this is something I work a great deal on and have quite strong views about.

So I was particularly gratified to see these detail shots for the Lily Twinset in Knitting issue 173 (from GMC publications)

Lily details

They really show how the sleeves fit the two garments and a neat shoulder seam.

In my own designs I tend to write shoulders that are shaped using short-rows rather than cast off to create a slope and then join the shoulder seam using a three needle cast off. That's where the stitches from the front of the shoulder are on one needle and the ones from the back on another, as you cast off each stitch is worked through one stitch from each needle together (photo tutorial here). I like the neat flat shoulder join you get.

For the sleeve top I like quite a tall steep curve. Other designers prefer a flatter sleeve head but I personally like the way the taller sleeve top sits round the upper arm and shoulder. I also spend a lot of time using geometry to calculate the length of the curve so it  will sit in the armhole without difficult bulges. On some garments I also use decreases and increases in the upper back to have a curved rather than a straight armhole. 

This may sound very geeky and obsessive  but it pays off when the sleeve sits as well as in the centre pic above and I can know that my pattern will produce a good garment for each of you.

Lily 1

Notes: Lily Twinset in Wendy Merino 4ply and made with Knitpro symfonie needles.


Rearranging the shelves in WH Smith - new autumnal design

I came late to sharing my knitting designs let alone  receiving commissions from magazines and yarn companies.

I have had a long career as a journalist but I still remember the excitement of having a bylined piece in a major national newspaper for the first time. I had to suppress the urge to tap fellow tube passengers on the shoulder, point to the article they were reading and say "I wrote that".

The same sort of thing has happened each time I have had a design on the cover of a magazine. Right now I could happily spend time in various branches of WH Smith rearranging the hobbies shelf so that there are lots of copies of Knitting (issue 172) along the front to show off my Autumn Leaves tunic.

Autumn leaves cover

I love the editorial description that the mag team came up with. It sums the pattern up as the perfect mix of challenge and TV knitting because there is some instarsia and plenty of stocking stitch.

Autumn leaves main

It is designed to be a simple flattering piece for over leggings or a skirt that is a comfortable but striking seasonal garment.

Yarn used is Yarn Stories fine merino 4-ply - very smooth with strong colours which work well for this design.

The magazine has come up with some alternative colour combinations that make the leaves seam more like feathers.

PicMonkey Collage


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.

JamiesonSmith_Real_Shetland_Wool_Shetland_Supreme_2PLG25gC

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.

 

 


Knitting in the Tardis - why I will be watching Dr Who even more closely this year.

I am a life long Dr Who fan. I can remember watching it with my dad when I was little, and being very excited to catch a glimpse of Tom Baker at an event.

As an adult I have rewatched pretty much all the classic episodes available and followed the recent series very happily. But I don't think I will have watched any as closely as the new series.

This is because I was commissioned to knit items for the upcoming season.

IMG_20170401_162533_005
I was introduced the the show's talented costume designer, Hayley Nebauer, when she asked mutual friend about knitters who could work from a sketch and measurements.

It seemed that she needed some sweaters making and it turned out they were for the Doctor himself.

The process started with Hayley sending me some top secret sketches and one of the sweaters Peter Capaldi had worn in a previous series so I could get the shaping spot on. Then we had to decide on the yarn. The sweaters (three the same) had to be black and not too heavy, so we chose Debbie Bliss Rialto 4ply and I started work using 3mm needles (that's a lot of sweater on small needles. 

The challenge was that the sweaters had to have rips in. But the rips had to be stable and the same for all three jumpers, so I created a pattern with dropped st sections of different widths and lengths. Plus some short rows at the neck and cuff to create a worn look.

Since the trailers came out I've been peering at all them very closely whenever the Doctor is in black.

Like here...

To_the_TARDIS_Join_the_Doctor_Bill_and_Nardole_in__022

and here...

To_the_TARDIS_Join_the_Doctor_Bill_and_Nardole_in__095

So I was very pleased to see this preview interview where Capaldi is definitely wearing my work.

 

I will be looking out for how the sweater fares in next few weeks - the series starts on 15 April - as well as some other items that could show up.

Excited? Just a little 8-)

 


New pattern: Tea time sweater (and tea cosy)

I love vintage patterns and have piles of old knitting magazines from the 1940s, 50s and 60s, so I was very excited when Christine Boggis, the editor of Knitting magazine, put out a call for knits inspired by the 40s.

Even more so because for a while I had had a picture of a vintage teapot that I wanted to use as a template for a colourwork jumper and I realised this was great fit for the brief. Colourwork and stripes were popular choices for sweaters in the 1940s because rationing meant people often reused wool and only had limited supplies.

Tea collage 1I named my design sketch Tea Time and included the story of the teapot in my submission. Soon Christine cam back to me saying she like the design and could I do a tea cosy to go with it. An unusual request bit fun and one that now makes a lot of sense having seen how the magazine styled its shoot this month.

Teapot

Tea Time  comes in eight sizes and use Yarn Stories Fine Merino 4ply.

Tea collage 2


Free pattern: Reversible Cable Scarf

Another new design out this week and this one is available for free via the Designer Yarns website.

Falkland Scarf (2)

This unisex scarf is completely reversible, using ribbed cables and moss stitch, so it doesn't matter how you wrap yourself up, your knitting will still look fabulous.

And with only 44 stitches to the row it turns out to be quite a quick knit as well (or at least it felt that way to me because the other tings on the needles are large scarves or colourwork across a lot more stitches)

What really makes this a special knit is the yarn, Debbie Bliss Falkland Aran.

I am very privileged that working as a designer, tech editor and craft writer I get to try out a lot of lovely yarns - so many that sometimes it is hard to choose a favourite. But this one really stands out.

(Full disclosure: I regularly work for Designer Yarns who distribute this yarn and have worked for Debbie Bliss directly, but  promise this is not an influence on my view of this yarn except that they provided me the opportunity to use it.)

Falkland Aran is a 100% organic merino yarn produced from sheep reared on the Falkland Islands. It stands out for a number of reasons. First, the bounce, this yarn is very soft through the hands and produces a bouncy fabric that retains its feel after blocking. Then there is the "sheepy" feel by which I mean that you can feel the lanolin on your hands despite this being a commercially spun and dyed yarn yarn. This meant it moved beautifully on my wooden needles - which are really shinning after making this sample and one for myself to wear.

Falkland Scarf

The stitch definition as you can see is very clear, so great for cables and texture and finally the depth of colour and sheen from the yarn give a very attractive finish.

Ok, so I may have fallen slightly in love with this yarn. I certainly want to do more with it in the future and am  thinking about a hat and handwarmers to go with the scarf.