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!!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Woolly Moo Day

Our annual Woolly Moo Day got off to a great start on Saturday, with Florence leading the way up the High Street from the shop to the Memorial Hall. She stood just inside the door ready to welcome all the crafters with a smile and a quick chat about classes and cake!

I am so pleased to say that this years event was a great success with the 3 classes all better attended than last year, and most importantly lots of lovely positive feedback from all who came along. There really is nothing so nice as learning a new skill and crafting along with people who all have the same interests - we knitters and crocheters just seem to love the fellowship that this sort of event brings.

We started the day with coffee and homemade cakes (yes, I was VERY busy the day before baking lots of lovely treats!) and then settled into a morning of crafting. Each of the classes brought something different - with Bekky teaching Continental (or 'Funny') Knitting, Phyl teaching crochet and me showing my ladies how to embellish their knitting. I know that my group went away with some new skills and as I looked around the room, there seemed to be a lot of bowed heads and concentrated faces so I'm sure that everyone learned something to add to their crafters toolkit.

Phyl with her class who all look very happy!

My class studiously learning how to embroider onto their knitting

Bekky helping Liz and Jill with their 'funny knitting' and Daimen looks on as the crochet class is in full swing

After the classes we indulged in a delicious lunch (I definitely had something to do with this too!), and then many people carried on with their projects from the morning while we listened to some really informative talks. The Alpaca Boys were incredibly entertaining as usual, telling us all about their alpaca farming and yarn business, Bekky unravelled the mysteries of Ravelry, and Babs gave a very comprehensive talk on the history of knitting.

Daimen loves to talk! He was happy to answer all sorts of questions and help some of the ladies make their purchases

Beautiful yarn from The Alpaca Boys, Du Prem Alpacas

As the afternoon wore on it was time to say a final farewell to the Knitting Hut Chickens, who were raffled off to raise money for Willen Hospice. The flew the coop one by one, well actually two went to a very good home, and we raised a splendid £72.50 for this amazing charity. Thanks to all who purchased tickets and a special thanks to those who now find themselves with chickens to look after . . .

The Knitting Hut Chickens were excited to be flying off to new coops

Our day finished later than expected, and after a quick tidy up of the hall, we wound our way back down the High Street to the shop. Heather had done a marvellous job of womanning the shop while we were enjoying ourselves at the hall and was then greeted by a hoard of knitters eager to indulge in some retail therapy before the day was done. Most of my lovely customers bought my latest book, Knitted Dogs and Puppies and as I signed the last one, I finally sat down - exhausted but super happy that the day had been such a woolly success!