22 Apr 2017

Thinking about the sea

It's Earth Day today, so perhaps it seems odd to be thinking about the sea. However, I was drawn to the problem of plastic in the sea just the other day.

We were walking on South Venice beach in FL and my husband Tim's photo shows the beautiful calm Gulf waters alongside us. The sun was shining in a clear blue sky, and at the horizon it just seemed to melt into the turquoise water. It just seemed so clear, so calm, so perfect.

But further down the coast there were three plastic bottles washed up on the sand dunes, and a plastic bag wrapped around a twig. We have all seen something similar but after that perfect vision of sea and sky, it just seemed so jarring.

The problem is that plastic is a brilliant material. It is light, flexible, can be formed into an endless variety of shapes and doesn't break easily. It would seem to be one of the best inventions in our modern world, but like many things there are some real downsides to this wonder material and it is the ocean that is suffering. 

We didn't even have plastics when I was young. You purchased milk or soft drinks in a glass bottle and returned the bottles to the shop for a refund. You took your own bags to the greengrocers or the corner store, and covered foods in the larder with a damp cloth. Now, it's all plastic. Cling-wrap to keep the food fresh, plastic bottles, plastic bags. And all of this is just a few decades.

However, I saw a statement the other day which struck a chord with me:

"Behind each and every piece of littered plastic debris there is a human face. At a critical decision point, someone, somewhere, mishandled it, either thoughtlessly or deliberately."

The water bottle someone left when they stopped to take a photo, the plastic bag that blew away as you were getting into the car, the fishing line you can see snagged around a rock. We've all made decisions about these things, haven't we. It's only one plastic bag after all and it's too hard to chase it, especially as the car is open and the baby's inside... It's depressingly easy to cause one more piece of plastic pollution.

Knitted Bags. Top  Left: Nokomis Beach Bag, Right: Sarasota Shopper,
Lower Left: BYOB Market Bag, Right: BYOB - Bring Your Own Bag!
However, I like to keep positive and see the pluses rather than the negatives with issues such as this. So the positive side of this issue is that we don't have to go back far in our history to see solutions! Take plastic bags. My mother or grandmother would use a string bag or basket for all their shopping, so that's what we can do too! Not that this will sort out all the issues of past pollution, but it's a way of at least reducing some future problems.

So, here's a resolution for this year's Earth Day: "No plastic bags for me!"

Let's make this the year in which no single plastic bag comes home with us! Instead, we can delight in knitting or making bags to make our shopping trips plastic free.

The photo above shows just some of the many knitted bag patterns that are available to choose from. At the top L is Anna's Nokomis Beach Bag, a lovely pattern worked in Cascade 200 wool.

The photo at the top R is the Sarasota Shopper, a lovely bright linen-lined bag - super strong and cute too! This pattern can either be purchased on its own or in the Southampton Collection, which includes three other styles.

Then the two lower bags are free patterns for all those lighter-weight or awkwardly shaped items that we need to carry home. On the right is the BYOB -Bring Your Own Bag! pattern, with 4 sizes of bag to choose from, and on the left is the BYOB Market Bag, a long-handled bag with a tutorial series that you can follow as you knit your bag.

Happy Plastic-free knitting!


Last Blogpost: Zen Knitting

Website: www.wyndlestrawdesigns.com

Photo credits:
Top: Tim Ravenscroft, "Where the sky meets the sea"
Centre: Ferdi Rizkiyanto "What lies under"

. 22/4/17

11 Apr 2017

Zen knitting

There is something delightful about Spring. The long still evenings, the scent of flowers in the air, the quiet buzzing of insects and a gentle glow in the sky as the sun goes down at the end of a warm day. 

Even in Florida, where daffodils and tulips never appear (except in other people's Facebook photos), we have the same feeling of change. The oaks are greener and the palm trees are bedecked with heavy fronds of waxy yellow flowers. Bright orange butterflies flit past and the sun is noticeably further round before it finally fades away.

It's evenings like this that call for some Zen knitting. Something where your hands can do all the work while your mind is somewhere else. You can even let your hands be still for a moment and pick up the work again without forgetting where you are.

I was musing on this the other day as I sipped a perfectly chilled glass of wine, my knitting waiting patiently for me to resume. I had decided to knit another Kimpton Scarf in a beautifully soft cotton/bamboo yarn. A cool breeze suddenly blew into the courtyard where we were sitting and I wrapped the previous Kimpton Scarf around myself. Aha! Now I knew what I wanted to knit - a wrap!

I dived indoors and counted the number of balls of yarn I had left and calculated what I would need. 
Yes, I had enough - whew.

I returned outside and continued to cast on. The sun filtered through the palm fronds and it didn't take long for the zen feeling to resume. The breeze had settled down as fast as it had come and I relaxed, knowing that I now have enough knitting for a few more glorious Spring evenings.

I'll post some pictures here when I have a bit more done on this. In the meantime, here are some photos from the newly renamed Kimpton Scarf and Wrap pattern. I have updated the pattern already so if you'd like to knit a summer wrap, then please join me! 

Until then, enjoy your Zen Knitting!


. 22/4/17

25 Mar 2017

Reversible Knitting Stitches E-Book - An update and a request

Exciting news about our E-Book, Reversible Knitting Stitches - we are now working on a print version of this book and hope to have that available by the end of the summer! 

We have almost finished reformatting this ready for printing and hope to get everything through the various editing stages soon. 

We are also releasing a new update for the E-Book today. This includes a new sample, Textured Knot Stitch, in Chapter 1. This is one of my new favourite stitches and we just had to include it in the book. 

We have also added Anna's beautiful Nokomis Beach Bag as an extra project idea in Chapter 4. I am totally in love with this bag so we wanted to squeeze it in. 

There are also some new sample photos, including Wide Mistake Rib on Pg 158. Mistake Rib is such a versatile stitch and gives a lovely warm result. I love both the original version and the wider one which has an even more pronounced textural finish, so we wanted to include an extra sample to show the differences.

We also managed to pick up some extra typos and errata that we missed in the previous version. It's amazing how those slip through, isn't it. You can see the list of updates here.

And here's our request: Have you seen anything else that needs to be updated before we go to print? Please do let us know if anything is not clear or if you think there may be an error in the pattern information. We have loved all your suggestions so far, so please keep them coming in. 

And one final piece of news: We will be offering a print + digital package on both of our websites when the print version is released. Printed books are great when you're at home, but it's hard to carry them with you when you're travelling. This way, you'll be able to access the book on the go or at your desk!

We'll have more details about that closer to the time and will be contacting everyone who has already purchased the E-Book through our on-line stores.

Updates coming: If you have purchased the E-Book from my website, Anna's website, Craftsy or Etsy, then please look out for an update e-mail in the next few days. Please bear with us while we work through getting those out to everyone, but let us know if you haven't received an update by the end of March.

If you purchased a Kindle Fire version on Amazon, then please go to Manage Your Kindle on your device and you'll be able to see the latest version.

On the iBookstore, the next time you open the iBook you will be advised that there is a new version available with links to follow for the new update.

For more details about this innovative stitch book, and the different versions available, please www.wyndlestrawdesigns.com (US) or www.annaravenscroft.com (UK).

Happy Reversible Knitting! 


Last Blogpost: First Day of Spring

Next Up: Zen Knitting

. 11/4/17

21 Mar 2017

First Day of Spring!

I remember laughing as a child listening to the UK comedian Spike Milligan reciting a short poem about Spring:

Spring has sprung
The grass has ris
I wonder where the birdies is?

They say the bird is on the wing
But that's absurd - 
The wing is on the bird!

I'm sure he didn't write it, but I was thinking about that the other day when an absolute flock of American Robins came into our back garden and filled the trees with song. They flew industriously backwards and forwards to three large palm trees that were laden with ripe palm nuts. Two were in our neighbour's garden and one high up in the woodlands behind us.

They would fly rapidly towards the low flower heads dripping with their tasty morsels, then grab a palm nut and zoom back to the original perch, singing at the tops of their voices all the time. How they did that with their beaks full of palm nuts beats me! 

This continued for about an hour until a hawk appeared nearby and they all left in one dense cloud, with just one or two gentle peep-peep sounds as they continued on their migration north.

And that's about as close as we get to seeing Spring here in Florida. I'm afraid it's not the right climate for daffodils, and even cherry trees have a hard time here. However, we did manage to see some beautiful azaleas at Bok Gardens near Orlando the other day.

I hope you are lucky enough to have daffodils in your back garden today to welcome the First day of Spring. If you haven't, then here's a couple of photos to bring a touch of Spring to you!

Happy Spring knitting!


Many thanks again to DH Tim for his great photos. If you'd like to see more of his work, then please visit his Flick page.

Last blogpost: Is it a bird or is it a plane?

. 25/3/17

20 Mar 2017

Is it a bird or is it a plane?

I'm back! Sorry that I have been away from my blog for so long. I needed a small operation which kept me away from my computer for a while and completely zapped me of energy. However it all went very well, I am very pleased to report.

Fortunately, it didn't stop me knitting for long and I have been having fun finishing up some projects that just needed a bit more love and attention. The first of these was a scarf made from the Hamilton Table Runner pattern.

Yes, I hear you - a pattern for a table runner? But when you think about it, there's not much difference between them, is there. They are both long rectangular objects and the size might only need a little bit of adjusting to get it to work well for a scarf instead. 

The real difference comes from the yarn being used. For a table runner you want the yarn to be fairly firm and crisp to hold its shape well and provide some insulation to the table. A matte finish is also preferable so the runner is quietly present without dominating the look of the room. So the ideal yarn would probably be a cotton or a cotton/linen mix such as the KnitPicks CotLin yarn I used for the original pattern.

Knit Picks yarns. L: Cotlin in Pomegranate, R: Galileo in Quartz.
But a scarf? Well almost the opposite! This needs to be soft and draping so it can flow easily around your neck without chafing. When I was purchasing the yarn for the original Hamilton Table Runner, I was also drawn to another KnitPicks yarn, Galileo, in a deep red colour called Quartz. This is a beautifully soft yarn with a lovely combination of merino wool and bamboo. 

I don't like using silk itself because I always feel so sorry for the silkworms but this yarn just feels, well, silky! It's buttery soft with a beautiful depth of colour - perfect for an evening shawl. (And no, I don't get any commission from KnitPicks - I just like their yarns!)

I started this about a year ago before consigning it to the knitting basket waiting to be finished. Well, I decided that it had sat and languished for long enough, so I picked it up again and happily knitted away until it was done.

In fact, I was actually enjoying the pattern so much that I only stopped when I ran out of yarn. Fortunately the finished scarf is not too long! Thank heavens I didn't buy extra yarn or I might have regretted it. 

Have you ever done that? Been so enjoying knitting a pattern that you continued on too long? I found I wanted to "just knit one more diamond shape" and was quite disappointed when the yarn supply failed on me. This is the Elongated Diamond Pattern from our new E-Book, Reversible Knitting Stitches, and is a lovely double-sided stitch. 

Well, now I can see I will need to knit another scarf. Hmmm, I could see this in a beautiful silver-grey colour....

If you'd like to see more details about the Hamilton Table Runner pattern, then please visit my website

Until next time,

Happy Knitting!

. 21/3/17

5 Jan 2017

Love these colours

I love seeing hanks of yarn ready washed and waiting to be swatched! This is Knit Picks Cotlin yarn, which is a great blend of (you guessed it!) cotton and linen. 

I used this yarn in the Hamilton Table Runner pattern last year and loved the way it came out. The yarn really showed the stitch definition beautifully. 

For the table runner I used a deep red colour, Pomegranate.

However, this time I have chosen a pretty set of fresh Spring colours to try.

They are (L to R): Swan, Linen, Conch, Sagebrush, Hydrangea and Surf.

I'll post some more photos once I have wound them up and made a start! And if you'd like to know why I always pre-wash my yarns, then have a look at this blogpost from the BYOB Market Bag Knit-along.

Happy Knitting!


. 20/3/17

24 Dec 2016

Winter Light

There's something magical about the light at this time of the year. Perhaps it's the angle at which it falls, or the fact that you can already detect that the evenings are starting to get a little longer.

Today, there's been a wonderful mix of sun and cloud. Bright blue skies one minute, scudding clouds the next.

Then as the sun began to set, the yellows and reds bathed everything in a warm amber glow, picking out the edges of the leaves along the shoreline.

The clouds returned in time for a wonderful sunset with reds, yellows and oranges reflected in the waters of Little Sarasota Bay.

We walked back through Spanish Point and took the side path to Mary's Chapel which was beautifully decorated both inside and out.

I sat and knitted on a bench in front of the chapel while Tim took photos, the lights twinkling brighter as the sunset faded behind me.

The end of a beautiful walk in this magical part of the world.

Wishing everyone a very Happy Christmas!


Many thanks once again to my husband Tim for his wonderful photos. See more of his work on his Flickr site. Photos taken in and around Historic Spanish Point, Sarasota.

. 24/12/16


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