Knitting for me has been a hobby, now it's a business that still brings me much joy, it is also something that has helped with both physical and mental health challenges. It is a medium where I can reproduce ideas that reflect the image in my head.
For all those reasons I love knitting and I want other people to enjoy it as much as I do. That's why my aim is to design items you'll enjoy making and using, and to help you develop confidence in the techniques you want to use.
What I am not is someone who came through an art school design track - I came to designing much later and have worked in many spheres including the theatre, TV production and journalism. I'm also not a willowy model type, so posing one with one of my creations is challenging but I'm trying to embrace it more.
Have you noticed that I like detail? I don't tend to make plain items but that doesn't mean all over pattern.
The Hemingford sweater has a plain stocking stitch body with loose lacy sleeves which add a little glamour.
It is knitted in Cascade Yarns Heritage 4-ply which is one of my go-to fine sweater yarns and the pattern can be found in The Knitter issue 167 out now. The sample is in a very on trend Coral shade but the yarn comes in a wide range of colours so I am looking forward to seeing what people choose.
Wow what an exciting five years.
Purple Rain appeared in Knitting magazine five years ago this week.
It was my first every paid pattern for a magazine. Who knew what was going to happen next? I certainly didn't expect it to change my life but it has to some extent.
Now my tally is round about 100 patterns for magazines and growing every month. Plus other collaborations and patterns – and now I am in the midst of a book plan!
I never expected this and, to be honest, I sometimes have to be reminded I am a knitwear designer.
To celebrate I’ve knitted myself a new version of Purple Rain is a gorgeous skein of Olann Sock Lite and republished the pattern - I tucked the original sample away so carefully I can't find it now!. It is a long crescent shawlette where the lace section, featuring nuup raindrops, is knitted straight and then simple short rows in the stocking stitch section creates a curve.
You can find the pattern for half price until 24 August 2021 on Ravelry and in my pattern store plus there is 5% off all my patterns available on Ravelry and Payhip using the code PURPLEPARTY5 during the same period.
After designing, my favourite thing of the various activities and jobs I have in the yarn sector is teaching – or more precisely empowering knitters to enjoy their hobby and be able to make the project they want.
Most recently I have created my first online courses, rather than one off tutorial video. These were lace knitting classes for the fabulous Knit School. The Intro to Lace masterclass, followed by the Next Steps in Lace course, combine videos, instructions for practice swatches and patterns to take students from making their first yarn over to tackling more unusual stitches and techniques from Estonian and Shetland traditions.
It was particularly interesting to plan the courses in video sections each designed to add to the skills of the previous one so that students learned to understand what was happening in lace patterns and why a particular combination of stitches gives a certain effect. It also means that someone who is happy with yarnovers can join in at the stage explaining double decreases or reading charts, for example.
Working with Knit School also meant that when the classes launched there were also opportunities to interact with students via live Q&A sessions and through the community chat group. This is very rewarding – especially after talking to a camera by myself to create the classes in the first place.
It was fabulous to receive really positive feedback for students about how the classes had helped them or changed their knitting. Some have kindly allowed me to reproduce their feedback here.
TD: “I was a complete lace newbie. I loved to look at lace knits but couldn't even comprehend understanding a pattern never mind a chart. Now I am knitting yarnovers like no tomorrow!! I'm actually knitting a lace shawl and already planning my next 🤩"
CM: “I have made a few lace patterns before but by taking the time to work through the course it allowed me to stop and appreciate the difference in the way the stitches were worked. I'm much more confident in correcting mistakes and being able to read the knitting.”
PL: "I had worked on a couple of simple lace patterns before, but I had tried and failed numerous times to try something more adventurous. The course video was easy to follow and really informative with lots of helpful tips. There were also lace knitting swatches to try, which was so helpful. Everything had been thought through so that the patterns gradually increased in difficulty and the fb live and Knit & Natter sessions were there to support you and help you along the way. I learnt so much - I am now much more confident about trying lace patterns and I also understand the importance of practicing a new lace sequence/pattern beforehand instead of diving straight in, getting confused and giving up. Thank you!"
Following the success of these courses I will be working with Knit School to develop more classes for next year and I am also thinking about how I can do similar online courses elsewhere as well as making plans for a new YouTube channel with short videos focusing on a single stitch or technique. More on that soon but you could help by commenting below to tell me what you’d like to see.
In the meantime, there are other ways you can learn from me. Knit School is open for new members from 23 July – this will give you access to both the lace courses I’ve been talking about (and the patterns), a mini-class on adding beads to lace, the patterns I designed to go with the courses and the vast amount of other Knit School content (there are hours and hours of great lessons in there). You can find out more by clicking here and there's an online prospectus. Note I’m an affiliate of Knit School so linking from my blog or social media can help support me too.
I am also offering one-to-one Knitting Therapy sessions where I tailor a lesson/session to help you with your specific knitting needs – techniques, helping you prepare for a project (sizing, yarn choice, practising stitches), fixing something that’s gone wrong, etc. Click for more info and to start a conversation.
You can sign up to my newsletter for news on what’s happening with my plans – plus access to pattern discounts on my Payhip store (use BLOG721 for 5% off today).
It really is no sew apart from weaving in ends.
The body is knitted in one piece to the armholes and the shoulders are joined using a three needle cast off.
The sleeve stitches are picked up round the armhole and then shaped using short rows.
Finally, the lace edgings are added using a knit on technique.
The brief was for a garment with less common construction so I set out to create something without sewn seams but which wasn't a yoked sweater or a top down raglan.
It was a fun challenge and I think the result is rather pretty. But what's really important is that none of the techniques are really difficult, just take it step by step.
Find the pattern in Knitting Magazine issue 215 where you just might find another pattern and an article by me!
Be warned this is one of my hobby horses.
I often hear or read: “I have never blocked my knitting.”
Quite frankly I don’t believe this.
I don’t believe that there is anyone who has neither reshaped a damp piece of knitting nor ever washed a knitted item.
The problem is a common misconception that “blocking” always involves wires, pins and extreme stretching.
In fact, blocking is a general term for getting your knitted pieces wet – by soaking, steaming, spraying with water or covering with wet cloths – and then shaping it. The shaping could be a small adjustment to get straight edges or persuade you stocking stitch to unroll, or it could be a more aggressive process to open up a lace pattern.
There are lots of good reasons to block and they are all about getting a great finish to your project:
- Making your pieces the right shape
- Opening up or evening out your stitches – for example gentle blocking can really improve the look of colourwork
The crown of the hat has been steamed to even out the
stitches and dried over a curved surface
- Letting your cables bloom.
- Opening up lace to create the final fine fabric
Blocking changed the Firebird shawl from the top pic to the bottom
There are several ways to block:
- Wash your knitting (following ball band instructions) and lay it out flat, gently adjusting it for size.
- Pin your pieces to shape on a foam board or a folded towel and stray with water or steam (I recommend a travel steamer). Then leave to dry.
- Pin out and cover with damp cloths, letting the moisture soak into to the knitting and then leaving to dry
- Using a steam iron to steam your pieces through a damp cloth. Note, always make sure the knitting is covered by the cloth and never touch your steam iron to the cloth, let alone the knitting.
- Wet blocking by soaking your pieces and pinning out – more on this tomorrow.
Personally, I tend towards steam or wet blocking because of the fibres and projects I choose.
How you block will depend on various factors:
- Fibres – wool has lots of spring so can take some aggressive stretching and wet blocking but this would distort cotton or bamboo yarns. Acrylic yarns don’t like too much heat – so steam from a greater distance.
- Stitches – take care not to over stretch of flatten cables. On the other hand, lace stitches need opening up so take more blocking and pinning out.
- The project – how much reshaping does your project need? A lace panel in a sweater will need to be opened out but you may not need/want to stretch you piece as much as a lace shawl where you will want a very light fabric.
But, and this is important, blocking will even out stitches, it will NOT make your item fit if you’ve knitted the wrong size (well not without causing other problems).
If you are not sure what the best way to block your piece is, test various approaches on tension squares or extra swatches - may be that will convert some tension square refuseniks!
I have recently republished a number of shawls originally designed for magazines in my first Beautifully Blocked collection.
I used to work in theatre production and in theatre “blocking” refers to working out the movement of a performance. These days, for me, my designs are my performance so we had a theatrical photoshoot to put these eight designs in the spotlight.
The patterns are available individually on Ravelry and Lovecrafts plus on Ravelry you can buy any three for the price of two or select all eight patterns for the special price of £30 (add all of them to your basket and use code BB30).
The eight shawls (clockwise from top left) are:
Inspired by semi-precious gemstones and designed to show off a luxurious laceweight yarn, the Facet shawl is made up of three triangular panels featuring a small and then large diamond pattern.
The shawl is worked from the centre top, increasing outwards thanks to yarnover increases and the edge of each panel.
Don’t be alarmed by the lace in this shawl - it is all created using simple decreases and yarn overs. Just take it one stitch at a time and you will have a beautiful wrap.
Inspired by hand dyed yarns, this shawl is shaped using wedges of stocking stitch and lace created with short row shaping. This is actually quite simple and fully explained in the pattern. It is designed to show off a yarn with strong flashes of contrast colour in a yarn that is at least 50% a solid main colour.
Colourway used for the sample is Cosmic Girl on BFL Bamboo 4ply Fingering by The Wool Kitchen.
Who says a rectangular stole has to be knitted from end to end? This wrap is worked from corner to corner, using increases and decreases to create the wrap shape. This creates a bias fabric with lovely drape with the lace running in diagonal stripes. This is fun and adaptable way of making wraps and makes for an interesting knit.
This is the shawl that I imagine Bathsheba Everdene, Grace Melbury or Tess Durbeyfield
wrapping themselves in. Made with soft but robust West Country wool and richly coloured, it
features a Victorian stitch pattern for the knit on edge.
The half hexagon shawl has three triangular panels and is worked out from a garter stitch tab
and provisional cast on. It is worked in rows on a circular needle.
Graduated mini skeins and garter stitch stripes create the gentle colour change in this asymmetric shawlette which ends in a ripple pattern.
It is inspired by the Donegal sea views of my childhood where the shades of the water would subtly change as the waves came into the beach.
175g 4-ply in total
The combination of silk and seacell (seaweed sourced fibre) creates a lovely light, draping fabric that is perfect for a glamorous wrap. The stole is begun with a provisional cast-on and knit in two directions outwards. The lace pattern is presented both in charts and in written form.
This long draping stole is made is fine Shetland wool in a natural shade that will work with any colour.
The stitch patterns are adapted from traditional Shetland lace patterns. Drape it over your shoulders to combat a breeze on a summer evening or wrap it round your neck as we move into autumn.
The stole is made in two parts and grafted at the centre for symmetry.
As light as a snowflake, this shawl features wide band of zigzag lace pattern. The shawl is worked in segments, using short-row shaping with wraps and turns to show the gradient of the yarn to best effect. Each wrong side row of the segment is shorter than the previous one, to create the wedge shapes.
Some goodies came in the post and my brain is full of new shawl ideas - just need to finish 4 or 5 other things.
I bought these two skeins via the Virtual Wool Monty last weekend - despite not having a show to teach at I couldn't help some shopping.
I've been playing with some ideas about mixing more solid and variegated yarns together and these two skeins from RiverKnits really hit the spot.
When I went for my walk in the woods I started thinking about the red tile roofs and brick chimneys of various buildings that peep through the trees, so another woodland inspired shawl may be on the way.
If you fancy knitting a shawl today, check out my Ravelry shop - there is 10% off all shawl pattern until 25 June 2020 with code GOWIB.
Footnote: Chatting to Becci from River Knits online I have learned that the red brick along the canals was the inspiration for one of these colourways. Great minds and all that....
Off Kilter is a free shawlette pattern that I recently added to Ravelry.
It is written for 100g/400m of striping 4ply - the sort of thing many people will have picked up at a yarn show and have to hand in their stash during lockdown. Although I don't have picture - the shawl is on lockdown with someone else - it is a great option if you have some Zauberball Crazy.
After I put the pattern up, I was sorting my stash and noticed that I had a cake of Stylecraft Batik Swirl DK in the Coral Reef colourway and decided on an experiment - doing a version of Off Kilter in DK.
The Batik Swirl cake is 200g/550m and I used a 4mm needle. Otherwise I did the pattern as written using most of the cake.
The shawl ended up with a wingspan of 164cm and is 60cm deep at the widest point compared with 140cm and 50cm for the 4-ply version.
But if you have something in your stash that you'd like to try this pattern in that doesn't fit these quantities, don't worry, this is a very easy pattern to adapt.
- If you have at least 100g of 4ply or 150g of DK you will come up with a wearable shawl - maybe try 200g of aran or experiment with chunky.
- If you are using a thicker yarn, choose a needle size that will give your stocking stitch a little drape.
- Work the pattern repeat until you have around enough yarn for one more repeat - you may need to weigh your remain yarn at the beginning and end of a repeat near the end to estimate this. Finish the body of the shawl after row 10 of the repeat.
- The edging will work for any size as long as you have finished the body with a complete repeat.
The only other instruction is to enjoy going Off Kilter and to post pictures of your finished object by creating a project on the pattern's Ravelry page or if you are on Instagram tag me in your post @bromiskelly_lapurplepenguin
It is very lovely to be one of the designers interviewed for the 200th edition of Knitting magazine
Especially as winning a garment design competition in the magazine a few years ago was one of the big spurs to my design career. The magazine mentions a collection of shawls I was planning to get online. I had hoped to have these up my the end of October but as often the case for freelance creatives, life has intervened and I have been prioritising the work that guarantees payment rather than the ones where I hope I will get sales on Ravelry etc.
However, the Beautifully Blocked collection which makes a selection of my favourite shawls designs for magazines available as individual downloadable patterns for the first time will be ready very soon. I will reveal the 8 choosen patterns over the weekend.
I also plan to write about what how the designer aspects of my life work on a day to day basis as soon as I free up some time.