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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I love a cable or two. They add interest to both design and the process of knitting and you can use them to aid construction or shaping, so I was very excited a few months ago when the editor of Knitting magazine put out a call for design submissions for a cable special.
I was even more excited when I was commissioned to produce my modern take on a traditional aran-style cable jumper in a natural off-white yarn.
It was a design I'd enjoyed coming up with and it was also a sample I really enjoyed producing (I just need the time to make one for myself).
Given how much I loved this design, it was a true pleasure to see it as the cover garment for the March 2017 issue of Knitting.
The magazine has labelled the design as "advanced" but don't be alarmed, if you have mastered basic cables, all that is happening here is and arrangement of various types, the technique is the same. Take a look at my posts on understanding cable instructions to boost your confidence (part 1, part 2, part 3)
I used New Lanark Aran for the design - an affordable, hard working yarn that I am a big fan of and one that comes in a wide colour palette. Knitting has some suggestions about other colour choices.
I am really looking forward to seeing versions of this cosy jumper.
Mum had an ulterior motive, she wanted her own Donegal jumper (it was her home county). So among other patterns from the book did make this almost infamous piece of colourwork (long before I learn two handed stranded knitting making it even more of an achievement).
The Donegal and Armagh sweaters
And I still have my Armagh jumper which is coming up on 25 years old. I was a poor student when I made it but it looked great in poundshop acrylic and is a great reminder of my first goes at "fair isle".
Over the years I have gathered a little collection of Starmore works - some bought new, some second-hand - but there is a notable gap. I don't have a copy of Tudor Roses. Copies of the original tended to be as rare as solid gold hen's teeth, then when Starmore released the updated version in a sumptuous hardback in 2014 I was mid shift to freelancing and couldn't justify buying it. So it has been on my to buy list ever since.
The book contains 14 patterns inspired by the women of the Tudor dynasty accompanied by an explanation of their influence.
For a knitter who is interested in history, this is a perfect addition to my collection. Starmore and her daughter Jade have researched each of the 14 Tudor women in terms of their life, knowledge and influence presenting us with a pen portrait and later an explanation of how the research influenced the designs. So we see the plain beginning of Elizabeth Woodvile (a founder of the dynasty) in her simple sweater, the sumptuous colours of Spanish embroidery in Katherine of Aragon's coat and regal colours in the garments of some of the queen's garments. The shaping of the period reflected in many of the sweaters.
The photography and styling by Jade Starmore creates "portraits" of each woman, emphasising the art of these pieces.
I can imagine gaining a lot of pleasure from knitting many of these pieces, but there is also much joy in reading the patterns and enjoying the clever use of colour, stitches and construction to create a stunning collection.
This book definitely shows the art and artifice of knitting and what can be achieved by simply looping yarn round needles one stitch at a time.
I will be adding a physical copy of this book to my shelves before long and hope it will inspire me for many years to come.
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.
I 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
2016 has been seen as a universally bad year and, yes, some of my friends had a dreadful time last year and yes some of my celebrity heroes died but for me it was about positive change and emergence.
On the other hand I had a tough 2015 full of bereavement and health issues for me and others. I ended that year tired, drained and in need of some change in my life.
For someone who is a freelancer, one of the problems of making changes is that the need to earn can take up all the time that you would require to find new ways of living and working. At the beginning of 2016 my working was divided between writing and creating social media content, and tech editing/pattern writing with the odd bit of teaching. Designing was something that happened in my down time (when there was some) and although my head was full of ideas, it was mainly for me because I didn't have the confidence to share my final patterns or put many submission in. Putting myself out there felt risky - especially after 2015. I had published a few patterns by the end of 2015
At the beginning of the year I had one permanent contract for work which on paper accounted for about a bit more than of my time but not necessarily 50+% of my potential income in a month. In reality it tended to take up more time than that which meant I was working well into evenings and weekends and wondering whether I could take on the growing amount of other work I was generating. It also meant I had no time to draw or transcribe pattern motes from the things I was creating - let alone time to experiment or learn.
Socks where among the notes needing turned into patterns
And to be honest, it was the least satisfying of everything I was doing. But walking away was a massive risk. That job meant regular income and stability but on the other hand my other work was growing. Yet still I held on. Then I found myself trying to meet one freelance deadline in the lunchbreak from the regular part-time job and that lunchbreak was interrupted because yet more was being added to the role. I stressed, I flailed, I panicked and then I decided to resign from the job.
Big risk number 1!
So then I was able to say yes to the new work I was offered and suddenly had time to work on my design ideas, write up some shawl patterns etc. It also meant I was working entirely from home so I could arrange my working time to suit me, fit in some rehab time from an operation I had had late in 2015 and be creative when inspiration struck.
Of course this didn't mean i was suddenly publishing patterns and submitting design ideas - I hadn't had that much of a confidence injection - but there was plenty of tech editing and writing to be done. And new work to pitch for.
Then risk number 2 happened! This one I owe to Prince.
One the day that the death of the pop legend was announced I was listening to some his music and doodling a shawl with a purple pencil.
The next morning by chance I heard that the editor of Knitting might be interested in "weekend knits" accessory patterns with a Prince theme. So the doodle became a sketch, and a submission with yarn choices and I sent it off. By the end of the day I had a commission for my Purple Rain shawlette.
Once I'd made one submission, it was at least a little bit easier to put in more submissions. I also realised I should have been doing this much earlier - the few patterns I had previous released had received good feedback and I'd actually one two knitting design competitions in 2015. And if you don't submit and share your ideas, how are you ever going to get your designs noticed.
So now I've had a series of items in Knitting with more coming up there and in other places, and the good feedback continues. Though I still feel slightly surprised when I see other people knitting my designs.
Despite this I still had lots of finished samples and patterns in various stages of completion so I decided to give myself a little jeopardy and a very definite deadline.
So for risk number 3, I applied for a stall in the Indie Spotlight section of the new Yarnporium yarn show to sell patterns and introduce myself more widely as a designer. This was as much about publishing patterns and standing up to say I really am a designer as selling on the day and even for someone like me with plenty of experience of craft shows, that was a real challenge. But I did it and you can read more about it here.
So I will always think of 2016 as a positive year for me. It may have taken a long time but I have achieved something my 10-year-old self really hoped for - I am paid to design clothes.
So going into 2017, my working life now has a three way split: writing and social media. tech editing and pattern writing, and designing. I'm happier, I'm more fulfilled and my belief in following my dreams has been revived. What happens next, who knows?
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.
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.
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.
The 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
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.
I have a stall in the Indie Spotlight section of the new Yarnporium yarn show this weekend.
As I prepare pdfs and head to my local printers, steam samples and weave in the ends of new additions, I have been thinking about why I am doing this.
The answer is about so much more than standing at a table encouraging people to try the knitted samples and hopefully selling some patterns.
It is about me pushing myself forward, forcing me to share the fruits of my teeming brain and exposing my ideas to public view.
“Exposing” is the right word.
I recently read a blog by someone who said they would find it hard to be a knitting designer because it took her time to come up with ideas. I am the opposite – if see inspiration everywhere from picking up a skein of yarn, visiting museums, to just colours or shapes I see as I am walking down the street. I have no problem (at least most of the time) of turning the inspiration into an item, I am always itching to be making. Of course, I generally want to be making a dozen items at once and would like another three days a week.
As an experienced tech editor and pattern writer putting the patterns down on paper and sorting some test knitting aren’t issues either.
My problem is getting the patterns out into the world in finished state where other people might see them and judge my creative outpouring. I will be exposing part of me.
Some patterns are inspired by memories so they can feel v personal
However, when I am working on a magazine commission the pattern gets written up and sample completed on time and oddly I don’t seem to have any anxiety about my work being seen – perhaps because the magazine staff have already liked my idea.
One thing I have realised is that I work best to deadlines, probably because of my background in journalism.
So why not set myself a massive, exposing deadline and book a stall at a yarn show to share my patterns? Hence I will be at Yarnporium.
Booking for the show meant I needed a plan both for the day and in terms of getting myself ready.
The first decision was what to focus on. Having worked at Yarn Shows of various sizes as well as visited many, I know one of the regular conversation goes along the lines of:
“Look at this wonderful skein of yarn I’ve bought”
“What are you going to make”
“I don’t know but it is beautiful.”
So I decided to concentrate on finishing (and revamping) accessory patterns that would work with those lovely skeins – so shawls, cowls, hats, gloves and mitts etc – and on the day doing something I enjoy ie chatting to people about lovely yarn and how it might be used. I believe that the ture joy of that wonderful skein is finding a pattern that is a pleasure to knit and results in an item that brings you some joy when you wear or use it.
The next stage was to look at the samples and yarn for new samples where necessary and check what would be feasible in the timescale. From that I had a list of patterns to work on, samples to complete and pictures to take – a set of deadlines that were real. And it’s worked, there many more patterns in my Ravelry shop and a bulging bag of samples at my side as I type. I did have to narrow down the plans slightly which mean I have plans for two gorgeous shawls to start soon.
I'm determined to keep everyone cosy this winter
The success of the weekend will not just be measured in whether I sell X number of patterns. I have already scored a success in terms of letting go of these designs and ideas.