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
The theme for the new issue of Knitting magazine (no 192) is British Yarn and British Landscape. Because of the way my mind works this cardigan developed from seemingly disparate sources. The construction of the two part fronts to create a waistcoat effect is an idea I have been playing with since looking at the clever ways AlexanderMcQueen played with traditional tailoring.
The landscape theme made me think of the famous Gainsborough picture of a couple surveying their land. So the "Mrs Andrews" cardigan has a textured "waistcoat section joined the the over jacket with the join embellished by small buttons to recall C18th style.
Mr and Mrs Andrews
I hope that you agree that it is both unusual and wearable - there are back darts to help shaping.
The yarns are 100% wool DK and Wool/Silk DK from New Lanark so there are plenty of possible colour combinations plus it is very affordable.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
For 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.
I found myself in an interesting chat about so-called yarn bombing on Twitter this week prompted by Louise Scollay of the Knit British podcast. It started with whether we were comfortable with the use of "bombing" to describe activities where people decorate a space with knitted and crocheted items often as a unsanctioned "flash" event, but the discussion has prompted me to think harder about the whole phenomenon.
I have a specific reason from finding the term yarn bombing uncomfortable. Bombing is an unredeemably negative term for someone who grew up in Belfast in the 70s and 80s and who has experienced being in a bomb explosion. (If you are having trouble getting past the last sentence, I have written a little note about reacting to that statement at the bottom of this post but for now I want to focus on the topic**).
Bomb is a negative word. On the other hand, yarn is a very positive aspect of my life. Not only is it central to my working and creative life, but I have used knitting, crochet and braidmaking to help me with pain and anxiety.
My personal distaste for putting the two words together may not be enough to argue for the term yarn bombing to be done away with but thinking about it brought me to some wider issues with the term and to some extent the activity.
If you think about the word bombing, it suggests an out of control and destructive event. Event the common alternative yarn storming has a destructive element. Surely this is not the message we want to get across with a collaborative creative happening.
What it does do is sum up the problematic side of yarn bombing activities. Major reasons that some people feel negative towards it is that yarn bombing can seem random and have a poor environmental impact. Explosions of knitting and crochet without a discernible purpose or theme, that are just left resulting in limp rags of indestructible acrylic yarn hanging from trees.
When done well, a community yarn art event can be life enhancing - bringing connections to those who participate and enjoyment to those who experience results. But part of that process should be a planning and responsibility from those undertaking the knitting and installation. To me that means a clear reason for the event and a plan for removing the pieces when they no longer serve the purpose or begin to look less attractive, enjoyable or useful.
With this in mind. I am proposing using new term "yarnstallation". The idea is to move away from negative language to a word that links with craft with art and which I hope conveys a more planned and responsible approach. Perhaps ten as a community we could talk about how we approach yarnstallations to ensure they are seen as positive happenings that benefit communities and how to avoid accusations of polluting the environment.
**I find that people struggle with how to react if I mention that I have been in a bomb. The thing is, it is part of what makes me me. It happened. I am fortunate that I avoided much more serious injury, but I do have long term physical and mental health issues as a result (not always obvious). If I am telling you in a calm way (as here) to explain or give context, please take it calmly in the way it has been offered but don't prod for specific details. If I think it relevant or I am comfortable to do so I will share more but I may not want to, please respect that. At times, as here it is relevant to share that it happened but the details have nothing to do with the point I am making above.
The other time someone might find out about this, is if something triggers an anxiety attack or flashback - in which case take the information as background to helping me through the episode.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One interesting aspect of knitting is that looking at something sideways can give you a new way to create something.
This is the case with the Wayward Paths scarf – a flat fringed scarf that is actually knitted in the round and cut – yes cut.
This means the width of the stitch pattern repeats down the long side of the scarf – that is the rows go right along the scarf. This means you can use stitch patterns in a different way.
I was intrigued by the method but am more of a texture and lace person so started wondering how else it could be used. I happened to have received two sample balls of Debbie Bliss Iris, a chunky wool/cashmere roving yarn, that were crying out to be a soft, comforting scarf. So I decided to experiment.
I chose a garter stitch chevron pattern and worked a section of stocking stitch at the beginning and end of each round. Then I worked until I had used much of my yarn. When I cast off I had a basic cowl with a zigzag lace pattern round the majority of the loop with a shorter section of plain stocking stitch stripes.
The stocking stitch section or “steek” is where the fringes come from. All you do is cut straight up the centre of the steek and unravel the stocking stitch section to create the fringe.
You can see from this picture that when you pin out a piece of stocking stitch there are “ladders” between the column of stitches and in the case of the Wayward Path scarf you cut up the centre ladder of the steek section (here I have used an unneeded swatch).
Once the stitches are cut, unravelling makes a lovely fringe – your knitting won’t unravel but I knot the strands in pairs to feel secure.
I am involved with UK Hand Knitting which this year is encouraging people to share knitting and crochet skills. Because of this, at the moment the Wayward Path pattern is free because a steek fringe using chunky yarn is a fairly non-threatening way to take scissors to your knitting for the first time.
The pattern contains some suggestions for other yarns but any nice chunky will work – so why not step off your regular end to end scarf path and give it a go.
I have been doing a spot of emergency knitting this week.
I have a couple of Christmas dinners coming up and decided on a sleeveless red, grey and black dress. Perfect as the room warms up, but what about the early evening chill and having enough layers to deal with the Baltic weather outside?
Apparently I have worn out a couple of cropped cardies over the past few months and no longer had something that was smart enough and warm enough.
So there was a combined search of the yarn shop sites, Ravelry and my large knitting pattern and book collection. I eventually hit on a combination of Sarah Hatton's Bacall bolero, Drops Air (baby alpaca and merino) and some vintage buttons.
This gave the advantages of a quick knit in an aranweight yarn, a soft warm fluffy fabric and a practical charcoal shade.
Admittedly there was a spot of maths involved to adapt the pattern for the yarn. Plus I went for a knit on rather than sewn border and the original didn't include buttons. But this still proved to be something I could rustle up in a few days and I am looking forward to wearing my new outfit (here modeled by Ethel).