Monday, 19 October 2015

Showtime… my favourite time of year!

As my friends and family know, I spend most of September (and part of August) panicking about preparing for the Autumn shows but when they actually come around, although they are incredibly hard work,  I love it!  Getting out and meeting other exhibitors and the lovely knitters that visit is a real pleasure.

This year I have been lucky enough to exhibit at Yarndale in Skipton and The Knitting and Stitching show at Alexandra Palace.  I spend a lot of time planning the stand and trying to make it look as lovely as possible and this year my major purchases were my sparkly trees.  I was told at Yarndale that you could spot the tree from the other side of the Auction Mart which was great.  The reindeer and Santa in his sleigh looked fab hanging from the branches.

For Alexandra Palace I splashed out on two more trees (don't tell my husband) and WOW was it worth it, the stand looked fabulous (in my opinion) and the trees showed off all the mini Christmas projects beautifully!

We were really channelling Christmas this year with a new book, Mini Knitted Christmas, a yarn kit to accompany it and two new kits.  The Yarn Starter Kit was a real success and worth the hours of planning what to pop in the lovely brown box.  The kit contains seventeen different yarns, toy filling and two pipe cleaners (or their more politically correct title - chenille sticks) and gives you a really good start on the projects in the book.

The new kits this year were also Christmas themed (apologies to those of you that didn't want to think about Christmas in September)…

The Chunky Robin was a sell-out success at both the shows, closely followed by the Chunky Holly Kit and it was lovely to hear from people what they had planned for their holly leaf garland.

Of course, visiting the shows gives me an opportunity to catch up with my knitty friends.  It was great to see the wonderful Erika Knight and her gorgeous daughter Bella.  The knitters we meet are fabulous, one lovely lady came to show me the gorgeous little polar bears she had knitted for friends, here they are looking so cute!

I did manage to take a bit of time off the stand to make some purchases… but that's a whole new story!

Friday, 31 October 2014

Christmas Sweaters, Save the Children and Deramores

Earlier this year I was asked by Deramores to design an exclusive pattern which would be available as a free download in support of Save The Children's Christmas Jumper day on Friday 12th December. This was a great opportunity for me to publish the extra designs I had done for Merry Christmas Sweaters which didn't make it into the book.
The front of the FREE Christmas Sweater . . .

I sent a selection of three over to the Deramores team and we all decided that the Christmas Tree and Dog was the most striking design. At the time I wrote the book I thought that this design would have been the one to go in if there had been more room.
. . . and the back!

When I start working on the designs for a book like this, I chart out them out on actual size knitted graph paper so I can see exactly where the design sits and how it works. Sometimes if I do it in a smaller scale it just doesn't look right. With this sweater design, once I was happy with the angle of the dog's head (which was really important to give him the right character!) and the shape and size of the tree I transferred the design, square by square onto the computer and printed it out ready to start.

The next decision was what yarn to use? There were a few alternatives but at the time of starting the sweater the new Naturally Soft Aran yarn from Millamia had just been launched and I was yearning to use it! I love the feel of Millamia Naturally Soft Merino and have used the sportweight in a lot of my designs. The girls at Millamia kindly agreed to send me the yarn for the sweater and I eagerly anticipated the parcel arriving. I wasn't disappointed, the colours were perfect (I used Cherry Red for the main body, Emerald for the tree, the dog is in Latte and the garland and star are all in Ochre) and the yarn feels as luxurious as the finer yarn I had used in the past.

I managed to catch Katarina from MillaMia trying on the Christmas Sweater!

As the design uses Aran yarn (all the designs in Merry Christmas Sweaters do) it knitted up really quickly, and it looks as good on as it did on the needles. The sweater was a work in progress during The Handmade Fair, Yarndale and was finally finished and on display at The Knitting and Stitching Show, I am so pleased with it and I can't wait to see everyone else's versions!

If you want to download a FREE copy for yourself, then head over to Deramores! They are also very generously donating £2.50 from the sale of every copy of Merry Christmas Sweaters to Save The Children - there's still plenty of time to get knitting your own Christmas Sweater!

Friday, 29 August 2014

Lavender Bunches

The summer holidays are always a little bit challenging for a working mum, and I often find striking the balance between work, entertaining the kids (and myself!) quite a challenge. With this in mind - and definitely more for me than the girls - I took them to Hitchin Lavender Farm on a gorgeous sunny day a few weeks ago.

I think they were rather dubious about a trip to a flower farm but when we got there they had a great time. It was such a beautiful setting - the air was full of busy bees flying over the lavender and the glorious field of sunflowers that was just next to it - the smell was amazing!

We picked lavender to bring home and a few of the sunflowers too. It was a really lovely way to spend a few fragrant hours! I remember as a child, my Mum showing little lavender bunches wound with ribbon which we did have a go at making at the time. So I decided to pick the lavender with good long stems so that I could have a go. You can see my attempts below, with a little tutorial on 'how to' if you fancy having a go yourself. I'm thinking that I might save a few and pop them in with knitted Christmas gifts . . .

1) You will need nine stems of lavender with all the leaves taken off the stems, just over a metre of 6mm ribbon and some strong string (or yarn) to tie them together.

2) Tie the nine stems together with the string, making sure you have slid the ribbon between the stems and the string to secure it. Slip one end of the ribbon through the lavender heads to keep it out of the way, leaving a ‘tail’ which you will use later to make a bow. The longer end will be used to wrap the stems.
3) Make sure the string is tied tightly around the stems and pull each stem to ensure the flower head sits tight onto the knot. Fold the stems back on themselves, this is why it is essential to use fresh lavender so that the stems are still flexible. Start weaving the ribbon in and out of the stems, under and over, the first couple of rounds are a bit tricky!
4) Keep weaving the ribbon rounds until you have covered all the flower heads. Every now and again stop to tighten the ribbon, this makes it look better at the end.
5) When you have wrapped the flower head use the two ends of the ribbon (one is threaded through the inside) to tie a knot and a bow. Trim the ends of the ribbon.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

A summer of fibre festival fun!

Over the last few weeks I have been lucky enough to visit two fibre and knitting shows, one as a visitor which for me is a real luxury.

The first of these was Unwind Brighton - an event that had received lots of social media coverage and promised to be one of the 'must-go-to' shows of the year. I knew that there were going to be some really exceptional vendors in the marketplace, but I was completely blown away by it anyway -  it took me a while to get going and actually buy something!

After a good amount of browsing I went for a lovely project bag from L'Oisive The (who had come over from France) by Le Chat Qui Tricote and then another project bag which is beautifully lined and big enough for a sweater project from knitrundig.

My finished Pebble Beach Shawlette, project bags and yarn from Unwind

Next, over to one of my favourites . . . Skein Queen where I managed to come away with three hanks of a beautiful merino/cashmere sportweight mix ‘Blush’ - which I have big plans for! I also bought a skein of gorgeous yellow from The Uncommon Thread in colour ‘Capsicum’ to knit the Pebble Beach Shawlette by Curious Handmade aka Helen Stewart, which was published in the Unwind programme as winner of the design competition.  As you can see from the picture . . . I have finished it! Mine is called ‘Acid on a Pebble Beach’.

Ann Kingstone
I'm very proud of this two-handed stranded colourwork!

my Brioche knitting
Amy Singer
As well as the fabulous marketplace, there were some very high quality workshops running throughout the weekend. Hosted by some incredible international knitwear designers, I managed to get myself booked into three classes which were so informative as well as being great fun. I took Brioche Knitting with Bristol Ivy, Stranded Colourwork with Ann Kingstone and Digital Photography with Amy Singer. All brilliant but I have to say my eyes were opened to two-handed stranded colourwork with Ann Kingstone and I am a convert! As well as all the knitty marvelousness I went with some good friends and between us we managed to down quite a few cocktails, including a delicious Brighton Cooler which was mainly gin I think!

Last weekend was Fibre East - an event in Ampthill near Beford which is local to me. I had a stand in one of the (very warm) marquees which happily turned out as the very first chance to showcase some of my new knitting kits (more about that next time!)  I managed to sneak away from the stand and buy . . . (oops) this fabulous gradient yarn from Five Moons which I am going to use for a shawl and some mitts and then somehow found myself at the Kettle Yarn Co stand buying this fabulous Purple Reign ‘Islington’ yarn to knit a Waterlily from PomPom Quarterly Magazine. This is going to be my treat knitting while I am on holiday and I am working hard to finish a few things before I start next week!

Lots of lovely new kits!
Fabulous yarn from Five Moons and Kettle Yarn Co
Over the last couple of months I have been interviewed for articles in Crafts Beautiful and Let's Knit! Magazine. I felt very privileged to be asked and reading the results makes me realise how lucky I am to do what I do. Playing with yarn and letting my imagination take me where I want, not bad for a day job!

I was so thrilled to be featured in two of my favourite magazines

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

UNWIND BRIGHTON . . . here we come!

This week I am eagerly anticipating my upcoming trip to Unwind Brighton, I have classes booked with Bristol Ivy, Ann Kingstone and Amy Singer and I can't wait! These are just a few of the incredibly talented designers who are all converging on Brighton for what promises to be a stupendous adventure in yarn and knitting! If you're going along to Unwind and you see me stalking all the beautiful yarn in the marketplace or at the Seaside Shindig hosted by the lovely girls from Pom Pom Magazine, do come and say Hi - I'm always thrilled to meet fellow knitters. And while I'm talking about the marketplace (link here to see the full list of amazing vendors) . . it looks fantabulous. I'm going to find it very hard not to come home with a boot full of new yarn . . .

Thinking about Unwind has reminded me about the other knitty trips I have planned this year with The Knitting Hut which is starting to look like a bit of a grand tour:
We start with The Handmade Fair at Hampton Court Palace (19th - 21st September)

swiftly followed by a trip up the M1 to Yarndale in Skipton (27 & 28th September)

a few days respite and then a mega five days at The Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace (8th - 12th October)

I may be flagging slightly by then so if you are coming please bring chocolate! Having said that I'm really excited  just to have the opportunity to exhibit at two new shows this year, and I will be bringing along some brand new kits - but more about that very soon!

Friday, 4 July 2014

Festival Fever

It is hard to imagine that this time last week I was in that other world more commonly known as Glastonbury. It was the first time I had been to a festival and I had no idea what to expect. I had A LOT of preconceived ideas about festival life and a fairly comprehensive list of things I was worried about . . .

How would I cope with:
1) the toilets (not well it turned out)
2) dirty hair (absolutely fine with dry shampoo)
3) the weather (awful)
4) the crowds (not a problem)
5) food (fantastic)
6) getting in and out of the site (also not a problem)

I have to say as well as all my concerns I was SO excited from the moment we knew we had tickets and my excitement was off the scale as we walked through Glastonbury to reach our camp. I couldn't believe how huge the site is (seven miles across) and just how much is crammed in.

With a site as huge as Glastonbury has now become, there is almost too much to see and do. I learned fairly early on that you simply can't go to Glastonbury Festival and see everything - it just isn't possible, even though I tried!

The vast Glastonbury site that tested my endurance

Of course, the music was amazing. Glastonbury has become so much more than just a music festival, but with so many huge acts performing there every year now, you can't fail to be overwhelmed by the variety and quality of the music. I must have seen over twenty acts including Kaiser Chiefs, Kodaline, Ellie Goulding, London Grammar, Dolly Parton, Ed Sheeran . . . and the list goes on.

Ellie Goulding

All around 'The Other Stage' there were rows of beautiful flags which I couldn't stop looking at and photographing. The colours were amazing and I'm now thinking about how I can use them in a design. I understand that after Glastonbury the flags will be travelling around to other festivals, so if you're going to a festival this Summer keep your eyes open for them (and watch this space for something special inspired by them in the coming months!)

So many memorable images, but the flags will stay with me for a very long time

Despite the horrendous weather and at some points trying not to cry because I was just so miserable I wouldn't have missed Glastonbury for the world. Unbelievably I came home wanting to go again next year! It was an incredible experience and one I that shared with my eighteen year old son which made it even more memorable and special. Glastonbury 2014 is certainly one huge life experience I will never forget.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Deramores love

A few months ago the lovely folk over at Deramores asked me if I would like to become one of their featured designers and list my patterns on the website. I, of course, jumped at the chance and I was super excited to see them go live on their website this week! Although I sell my patterns independently on my own website, Ravelry and in the shop I knew that being able to sell through Deramores would introduce me to a very much wider audience (plus the Deramores team are all so nice I couldn't resist!)

So I began to get these patterns up to scratch a couple of weeks ago - working on a layout that I was happy with and redesigning the logo. It's actually quite tricky to work out the best way to layout a pattern - as a knitter myself I am really fussy about how the pattern looks and reads. I spent lots of time looking at how other patterns that I like are laid out, and talking to knitters about their expectations and requirements.

The one thing that we all agreed on is that all of the information relating to the pattern should be included on the front page. So as well as yarn and tool requirements, any techniques needed to complete the project will also feature. This ensures that any knitter selecting a pattern from me will have some idea of what it involves and be able to decide whether it's for them or not. I'm sure we've all made the mistake of buying a pattern based on how the finished item looks, only to find out that every row has nupps or bobbles or somesuch thing that you absolutely HATE to knit!

I'm also really keen to add value to these pattern in the form of video tutorials. I am a big fan of Youtube as it's such an amazing resource for us knitters. If I want to learn how to do a Channel Island Cast on, a Latvian Braid, Shadow Wraps or just teach myself a simple technique with the ease of watching somebody else do it - Youtube is always my first stop.

Just 2 of the patterns that are now available to purchase in digital form from Deramores

Luckily for me, my teenage son is studying Film Making and Media and has agreed to help me to film some tutorials. I am working out which techniques are relevant to my patterns and fingers crossed, will find some time to work on these over the summer. As soon as they're available they will appear on Youtube - so watch this space!!