Lace

Learning from designing a knit-a-long shawl

Betwixtmas kal

I have recently had my first experience of one of my designs being used in a knit-a-long.

Having been involved, I would recommend the experience to other designers.

It came about through chats about shawls and shawl patterns with Sara Geraghty of Black Sheep Wools. She had an idea for a Betwixtmas knit-a-long that would start after Christmas days and give people a project for the period between then and the New Year.

She asked me to come up with a shawl that wouldn’t be too complicated for that hazy, lazy part of the year and be something that a first time shawl knitter could tackle, but which would still offer a little bit of a challenge.

With a shawl design, finding the right yarn can be crucial. In this case, it needed to both be right for the shawl and something that would suit Black Sheep’s retail offering.

We settled on Fyberspates Vivacious 4-ply a 100% merino yarn that comes in a range of delicious semi-solid shades. It is perfect for shawl knitting because it blocks well and has a lovely drape.

I swatched and sketched and we finalised on this design for the shawl.

Betwixt hanger PA241071My original Betwixtmas sample

A classic centre out triangle that is about three quarters stocking stitch with a diamond lace edging. This means knitters can get used to the shaping (and in the case of the KAL, recover from Christmas) before tackling the lace pattern.

With the pattern and samples done, my role was to sit back, enjoy the launch and wait for the knitting to start.

The launch was a big hit with 1000s of copies of the pattern being downloaded for free from Black Sheep  and many people falling in love with our yarn choice.

And then people started to cast on and share their experiences to the Black Sheep make-a-long Facebook group.

As a designer and pattern writer it was interesting to see the parts that knitters found harder and as a teacher it was enjoyable to offer advice and help to get the through those problems. It will make me think about the notes and support I can provide for future patterns.

But the most pleasure came from seeing pictures of people’s progress and then the finished shawls. And there have been so many, I have lost track a little. Especially when some people cast on their third versions.

Here are just a small selection.

Betwixtmas Collage

Thanks to Sandy Brown, Alison Locke, Anita Pearson, Chris Clark, Roberta Couchman, Carole Rigby, Sarah Aston, Rita Lee, Hilary Shepherd, Alison Neave, Loraine Walker, Jane Holt, and Marion Beet.

And yes I am now mulling over future knit-a-longs.


Looking back at my 2018 design journey

2018 was a very busy year for me in many ways but one of them was as a knitwear designer.

How busy didn’t really strike me until I started looking back at the patterns published last year with a view to consider which magazine patterns I might relaunch on my own sites in due course. I doubled by design output last year and worked with four big magazines, Knitting, The Knitter, Simply Knitting and Knit Now.

It was also the year when I was able to walk into WH Smith and see three of my designs in a row on the covers of three of these magazines.

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I am always very chuffed when my work makes the cover of anything so this was rather overwhelming. I wrote something about this at the time.

So when I started looking back though the 2018 designs I thought I would pull them together in a series of collages.

Sweaters, cardigans and a dress

Sweater Collage

These were all created to a design brief for a particular magazine issue with a theme. Sometimes a theme just shouts at me and garment sketches flow from my pencil at speed. other times it is more difficult. But looking at these I think my interest in construction, shaping and stitch patterns come through. The one thing I tend not to do is plain stocking stitch in one colour. That doesn't mean difficult knits - but it does mean there will be something to keep your interest and add a little variety.

Shawls, wraps and scarves

Shawl Collage

These allow me to let loose with lace, cables and texture as well as providing the opportunity to play with construction as with the two signature "radial" semi-circular shawls and the green wraps in rows and three which are worked on the bias from corner to corner. 

I also love the drama you can create with colour and large pieces of lace, so even when people tell me shawls are less popular, I won't be walking away from them.

Socks

Sock CollageFor most of my knitting life (well, my life, there isn't much of a time difference) I didn't knit socks and had no interest in them. Then I set myself a new year challenge of doing something new and made a pair. Definitely a life changing moment, as five years on I regularly design and make them. I have taught sock knitting and as I type am thinking of getting a pair out of the drawer because by toes are cold in a high street pair.

My preference I will go for a cuff down sock with a heel flap. But I will do a short row heel or and after-thought one (as in the colourwork socks) if the design would work better.

So what will 2019 bring? This January I have already finished four samples and have the yarn for several more to hand. I am planning a number of pattern relaunches and have a special big project in the works. I am also going to try to post more and revive this blog.

 


Of shawls and serendipity

It's no secret that I have  a bit of a hand-dyed yarn habit. I am drawn to rich and deep colours and unusual combinations but to control myself I try to focus on choosing yarns where I can see an outcome for the skein.

For a while now I have been admiring, and occasionally buying. the work of Helen Reed of The Wool Kitchen. I like the yarn bases she uses and her strong colourful dyeing style.

Twk cosmic girl

I particularly like skeins such as these in the Cosmic Girl colourway with a saturated main colour with flashes of contrast. And for a while I had been contemplating a "radial shawl" using this or a similar colourway. A radial shawl is a style I have adapted for myself with wedges of short row shaping and a wide lace edge section creating a semicircle. They work with yarns with long colour changes and I thought that the short runs of contrast colours in these skeins would also create an interesting effect.

Then Christine Boggis, the editor of The Knitter, told me she was planning an issue based on hand-dyed yarns. I immediately started a list of my favourite dyers and pulling out notes about ideas I'd had for different yarns. Top of the list was a shawl in Helen's yarn.

While I was pulling my ideas together, Christine was in touch again to ask if I knew of The Wool Kitchen and would I be interested in working with Helen. 

Don't you just love it when a plan comes together?

Electric storm 2

It was delightful to work with Helen to get her advice on what colourways work in what bases and then to come up with the Electric Storm shawl complete with lightening flashes of neon on a deep blue ground. This is a shawl that brought me a lot of pleasure to create and I think it really shows off Helen's colour sense and her dyeing style. And I'm really looking forward to seeing other people's versions.

Electric storm 1

This is unlikely to be the last time I work with Helen's yarns. I have some more sitting here and why writing this post I had to pop over to her Etsy shop which means I have been tempted by some new colourways.

  Electric storm 3Photographs by Laurel Guilfoyle for Knitting, GMC Publications


A shawl fit for a literary heroine

Hardy heroine span

It is always exciting when I can finally share a design. For magazines I work so far ahead that I can have finished something for a few months before I can show it off. But then you get wonderful images like this in the magazines.
 
This is my Hardy Heroine shawl in the new issue (86)  of Knit Now that came out a couple of days ago.
The brief was Bitish yarns and British literature, and so I came up with a shawl using Victorian stitch patterns that could have graced any of Thomas Hardy's female protagonists from Tess to Bathsheba.
 
BRONAGH MISKELLY - HARDY HEROINE SHAWL-1
 
It uses a yarn from pretty much Hardy country, Devonia from John Arbon Textiles in the Bleeding Heart colourway (also perfect for the theme) - this is the 4-ply version of this recently launched yarn (there is a DK as well) and as with all the Arbon yarns I really enjoyed working with this soft blend of Exmoor Bluefaced, Bluefaced Leciester and Wensleydale wools.
 
The shawl is made of three triangular panels with a knit on edge and is one of those lace patterns that looks more complex than it really is to knit. The main body has a short lace repeat and once you get started with the edging it flows along.
 
The shape is easy to wear and drape.

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.


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.

 

 


New pattern: Spring Leaf cardigan

The new issue of Knitting magazine is out and it includes my Spring Leaf cardigan. A simple draping cardigan for over a light top or dress.

_MG_7558

It has a bolero shape with a curved hem line and the leaf edging is knitted on so the leaves grow up the front symmetrically. The leaf pattern is based on a Victorian edging from the Knitting and Crochet Guild archive.

Spring leaf scan collage

It is one of those knits that is much easier than it might a appear at first glance at the pattern.

The yarn is Lotus Yarns Tibetan Cloud Worsted - my first time using 100% Yak - which is lovely and soft and very rich colourwise with the right drape for this project. 


All about the swatch

Today I'm surrounded by swatches because I'm testing a range of yarns, shapes and stitches for a new commission involving a set of patterns.

It is interesting to see how things come out and sometimes that means deciding a stitch might work better in another of the yarn choices.

I'm now contemplating these and a couple more before the final sketches and submission.

Swatch collage


New Pattern: The ZigZag cardie

_MG_7060

Introducing ZigZag, my new cardigan design in Knitting issue 164.

This longish, empire line cardigan is a flattering shape with a lovely drape thanks to the yarn which is Yarn Stories fine merino 4-ply. 

I'd wanted to make something in this yarn since I'd first come across it and especially in this colour combination of dove and french navy. So the Knitting "Winter Blues" issue was the perfect opportunity, especially as I think 4-ply cardigans are very useful layering garments in winter (in particular one as changeable as this).

The graduate stripes keep the interest when knitting and create shape, especially at the back.

Zigzag 5I enjoyed creating this pattern a lot and am thinking of making one for myself in another colourway - perhaps chocolate and burnt sienna or bottle and taupe.

In the meantime I am working on another design in this yarn that I can't reveal yet but again I'm enjoying the colour combinations

_MG_7058


The three stages of knit – or my motivation for design

As part of the Indie Spotlight section of Yarnporium, I had the opportunity to talk to lots and lots of knitters which is always a lovely experience.

Because we were in a separate room from the main stands, I often asked them about the yarn they’d bought so I could do a bit of vicarious shopping. It also gave me a great overview of the wide range of beautiful yarns, colours and fibres on offer.

20161105_112954The lovely Elaine wearing her version of my Ardmore dress
from
Knitting magazine in front of an array of my samples
at Yarnporium

Chatting to people made me realise that something about my attitude to knitting and why I create patterns.

For me there are three stages to a great knit.

  1. Finding a yarn I want to work with. That could be a matter of feel or colour, it could be to do with a  combination of fibres or some other aspect of the yarn.

    _MG_6386The yarns I came home from Yarnporium with destined for new
    designs. 
    Top from Whimzy is intended for a shawlette, the other
    from Third
    Vault Yarns will be socks

  2. The pleasure of the knit. I want to enjoy making the object. For me that means there is always some colourwork, texture or interesting shaping in my patterns. I like challenges and I don’t like doing exactly the same thing on every row. I also enjoy seeing lace patterns and shaping develop or ticking of progress cable twist by cable twist.

    Wingspan1 Salmon Net shawl combines lace and cables -typical of my ideal knit

  3. Wearing a finished item. The aim is a finished object that is loved and worn/used lots showing off the yarn, the pattern and the work. Something that makes you happy on an ongoing basis.

That’s why my patterns are designed to be enjoyable to knit and lovely to wear, they are intended to share the joy of that lovely yarn and our individual skills.

Of course that will always be based on what I think it is enjoyable but I home at least some of you share those tastes.

Accessory collage

 

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