12 Jul 2018

Summer and Winter

It's Winter-time! Or at least it is if you live in the Southern hemisphere. 

At the moment is it 4:45pm in Sydney Australia and the sun has only a few more minutes before it sets behind the harbour bridge. The temperature is 11 ºC / 51 ºF but will quickly drift down lower once the sun has gone down. Of course meanwhile in the north, it is anything but mid-winter, with sweltering temperatures and heat advisories. Such a contrast.

I was musing on this the other day while I was sorting through some old weaving books and was reminded of the weave structure called "Summer and Winter". This is a technique that is often worked with simple blocks and a limited range of colours but giving stunning fabrics. 

The main feature of Summer and Winter is that the technique produces a reversible fabric, with one side usually lighter in colour and the other side darker. You can use the light side during the long summer days but then flip it over to give a second look for the winter months. 

So I thought it might be fun to contrast pairs of knitting patterns, both similar in some way, but with a very different climate in mind for each of them. Today I thought I'd start with two sideways-knitted scarves.

I enjoy knitting items sideways. It can be a lot of stitches to cast on at the start of the item, and of course each row lasts f-o-r-e-v-e-r, but I love that meditative feeling that descends on you as you work the same pattern over and over along the row. 

I have written before about the joys of knitting designs that are worked lengthwise. In that blogpost I was writing about a wrap version of the Kimpton Scarf shown above, one of my all-time favourite summer knits. 

It's perfect for throwing around your shoulders as you sit on the beach watching the sunset or in a slightly over air-conditioned restaurant. Light, airy and worked in a lovely crisp cotton mix yarn.

And here's what I'm working on right now: a super-toasty men's scarf also worked lengthwise. This is the Cambourne Scarf and I will be uploading the pattern for this very soon. I finished one of these scarves the other day and am now working on a second version.

The scarves are worked in Lang Merino+, a gorgeously soft Aran weight yarn in a wide range of colours. The one above features a deep charcoal colour with a slim dark blue band down the side. 

The second one still on my needles is a slightly slimmer version with two contrasting greys, the lighter main colour contrasting with the narrow charcoal band. 

I have used a combination of two stitch patterns from our book, Reversible Knitting Stitches, and love the way the yarn emphasises the textural appearance of the stitches. The yarn has just enough sheen to catch the light and bring out the stitch definition. 

I'll put some more details about this new scarf pattern in my next blogpost.

I hope you have enjoyed the first of these Summer and Winter pairings! The next pair of patterns will be two blankets, one just right for a summer beach hut and the other for snuggling under when the snow is falling outside.

Meanwhile, if you would like more details about the Kimpton Scarf and Wrap pattern, please click here

Until next time,

Happy Knitting!


Last Blogpost: Hiking Socks

. 13/7/18-K

29 May 2018

Hiking socks

I have always enjoyed hill-walking and although I would never venture to walk the whole length of the Appalachian Trail, I do like a brisk walk along a mountain track. 

We don't have many mountains down here on the Florida gulf coast, but we used to live near the wonderful White Mountains in New Hampshire. It was great living so close to such a wonderful location. You would often find my husband, Tim, and I happily scrambling around the woodland paths to the next waterfall or viewpoint. There I would sit, gaze at the wonderful scenery and knit while he framed up his photographs.

And that's where comfy socks come in. Having the right shoes for walking is an absolute must, but even the most comfy shoes won't work without a good pair of socks. 

The pattern I have used here is the Mentmore Socks, one of my favourite sock patterns. I have worked many different versions of this sock but I am especially pleased with the most recent pair. 

The socks feature a textured slipped stitch pattern which is soft and cushioning to wear but I think they worked especially well in the yarn I chose this time. This is Austermann Step Classic, a springy wool mix yarn in Col #1009 "Jeans", a beautiful indigo blue. 

I worked the two socks at the same time as you can read here, and they seemed to be finished in next to no time! I will definitely do that next time I have the urge to add some socks to my collection.

Originally, the Mentmore Socks pattern had just one version featuring a short stand-up cuff in a half-twisted rib. However, I have now updated the pattern to include a version with the deeper fold-over cuff that I worked here. 

I don't know if you're like me, but I feel the cold easily, especially around my ankles. So having a fold-over cuff just provides an extra layer to keep away the chilly mountain air, as well as giving some extra support and comfort while walking.

The last time we were in the mountains it was beautifully sunny but the wind still had a cold edge. However, it was lovely and warm sitting on a sheltered rock wall while Tim took photos of the river nearby. I spent most of the time casting on for a sideways-knit scarf, but I'll say more about that next time.

If you would like to read more about about the Mentmore Socks pattern, it is available in Anna's KikuKnits store and also on LoveKnitting and Etsy.

Until next time, Happy Sock Knitting!


. 13/7/18-KE

3 May 2018

Sorting the Second-Sock Syndrome

There is a wonderful feeling when you finish a knitted item. This is especially true with a sock. You admire the knitting, the skill involved in turning such a beautiful heel, the way that yarn really suits the other items in your wardrobe. You imagine wearing them tomorrow.

And then you remember — you haven't worked the second one yet....

Oh gloom. The Second-Sock Syndrome has settled over you. You have to start all over again and do another cuff, then another heel and all the way down the foot again. Or consign the first one to the Lonely Sock Basket waiting for a partner that never appears.

So here's a solution: work them at the same time! And I don't mean with two socks on the same set of needles. I don't know about you but I've never managed to make that work. At some point I forget where I am or get the yarns all tangled up. No, what I am suggesting is to work them both in tandem. 

You do need two circular needles or sets of dpn's of the same size, but if you're anything like me that won't be an issue. I always like to have back-up needles anyway, so they're on hand if I want to use them both at the same time.

So, first you cast on for one and start the cuff, then cast on for the second and get it to catch up and overtake the first. Now there is a race on: which one is going to finish the cuff first? I have some "Needle Keepers" to protect my needles so I have the green tube on one sock and the pink one on the other. Will the green sock succeed and get to the leg first or the pink?

OK, I have mentioned before that I am easily amused. And yes, I did use to play myself at chess. It's surprising how satisfying that is, if you haven't tried it!

So now they are both at the leg and before you know it you are working the heel on one and while the technique is still fresh in your mind, you can polish off the second one. Funnily enough when you work them together in this way, the second heel always seems easier than the first...

Now it's the race down the foot. Just make sure that one of them doesn't make a mad sprint to the toe before the other can catch up.

Then one toe, and now the next. Then it's time to find your tapestry needle for the dreaded graft of the toes (Kitchener Stitch as it used to be called). Once again you might be surprised at how easy the second one seems once you have done the first. It's all a matter of recalling the skills that you had last time you made a sock, isn't it. 

And there you are. Two socks finished in double quick time. 
Now you really can wear them tomorrow!

Btw, the socks here are one of favourite sock patterns, the Mentmore Socks. These are snug, comfy, cushioned socks and one of my regular go-to patterns when I want to make a new pair of socks. I'll post some more pictures of the ones I'm currently knitting next time. 

Btw #2, I have just updated the pattern with the details of the cuff I have worked here. You can read more about that in the next blogpost.

Until next time,

Happy Sock Knitting!


Last Blogpost: A Scarf for Spring
Next Up: Hiking Socks

. 25/6/18 L

22 Apr 2018

A Scarf for Spring

Has Spring finally arrived? I am keeping whole sets of fingers crossed here, but I can see the buds thickening on the cherry trees and the forsythia is showing the first flowers of the season. The lawn has reappeared from under the snow and at least the rain today is falling as rain and not the wintry mix of recent times. 

My father used to recite the Prologue from the Canterbury Tales and the first few lines are perfect for today:

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote, 
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote, 
And bathed every veyne in swich licóur 
Of which vertú engendred is the flour;
                              Geoffrey Chaucer (~1340-1400)

or in other words, the April showers are soaking deep into the dry earth, bathing the roots of the plants and awakening the Spring flowers.... 

Oh yes, I think a quiet optimism is called for. Still, Spring can be fickle. One minute it can be as warm as a June day and then the next you're back into mid-December. So here's a scarf that will take you through the transition from the colder months to the warmer times ahead.

This is the Grayswood Scarf and it's perfect for Spring-time layering. The scarf is worked in a deliciously soft wool-mix yarn, Willow and Lark 'Nest'. This includes merino and cashmere for warmth and is blended with a touch of Tencel to give a wonderful crispness and drape to the finished item.

The scarf features a beautiful reversible stitch from our book, Reversible Knitting Stitches. This is the Diagonal Openwork pattern — a most attractive stitch with a neat, geometric feel. The two sides have quite a different appearance but both are modern with an interesting texture. 

The stitch works especially well in a long project such the Grayswood Scarf as this helps to accentuate the graceful lines of the ribs separating the lace panels.

The Grayswood Scarf looks quite different depending on the colour chosen. I have shown the scarf in a rich blue shade and an eye-catching silver grey, but the yarn is available in a wide range of colours including some pretty pinks, yellows and neutrals.

For more details about the Graywood Scarf pattern, please click here. The pattern is available for instant download from the site so you can start your knitting today.

If you would like to read about our Reversible Knitting Stitches book, then please have a look at my website. The page gives more details about the book and includes a 16-page Lookbook to peruse. The E-book is available on my Etsy store here and the Print version here.

Until next time,

Happy Spring Knitting!


Many thanks to my husband Tim for his gorgeous photo of last year's cherry blossoms! Waiting impatiently for this year's to appear... To see more of his photos, please see his Instagram site.

. 3/5/18 L

21 Mar 2018

A scarf for the end of winter

The calendar might well say March 21st, the First Day of Spring, but it doesn't feel very Spring-like here. The fourth Nor'Easter in only 3 weeks has just passed through the area, adding more snow to the large volume that is already on the ground.

I suppose I should be knitting tank-tops and summer cardigans, but instead I have a pair of warm gloves on my needles and am thinking of a new scarf or cowl to follow. Winter is definitely not finished yet!

So here's a scarf that is just perfect for knitting right now. This is Anna's new pattern, the Nadine Scarf, featuring a beautiful stitch from our book, Reversible Knitting Stitches

The stitch is called Irish Squares and features short sections of a 2x2 rib bridging over wider squares of Irish Moss Stitch. The ribbed sections of the pattern draw in while the Moss Stitch expands widthwise, giving a wonderfully curving appearance to the design.

The Nadine Scarf shows this stunning surface texture to perfection and both sides have an immediate visual impact. The stitch also traps the air very well, so the scarf is cozy and warm — just perfect for this time of year.

The pattern looks complicated to knit but is surprisingly easy once you get going, so the scarf would make a good next-level design for a beginner knitter wishing to stretch their wings.

The finished scarf is 180cm/71 ins long and 24cm/9.5 ins wide and is worked in Knit Picks 'Swish DK', which is a beautifully soft 100% merino wool. 

The scarf shown has been worked in Col #24050 Bordeaux, a deep wine colour, but it would also look good in many other shades too. I have just checked the KP website and see that they have 39 different colours listed for this yarn (and before you ask, no — I don't get any commission from KnitPicks. I just like their yarns!)

To read more about this new pattern, please see Anna's website, Kiku Knits. It is also available in her Etsy store and on LoveknittingRavelry and Craftsy.

If you would like to read more about our book, Reversible Knitting Stitches, then please click here. The book includes not only this stitch but also 199 others! There's a Lookbook on the website so you can browse through a few sample pages. The book is available as a Print book, an E-book or a Print and Digital Package.

Until next time,

Happy End-of-Winter Knitting!


Last Blogpost: In an Icy Quiet
Website: www.wyndlestrawdesigns.com
Anna's Website: www.kikuknits.com

. 29/4/18 L

27 Feb 2018

In an icy quiet

Snow is a bit of a novelty for those of us who live in more Southerly climes. So it was with a child-like wonder that we woke to ice and snow coating every branch and twig this morning. The garden seemed full of ice sculptures and the gentle quiet of the snow still falling felt magical.

And unbidden, a poem came into my mind that I had learnt at junior school in the UK, "Snow" by Walter de la Mare:

No breath of wind, no gleam of sun – 
Still the white snow whirls softly down.

Twig and bough and blade and thorn
All in an icy quiet, forlorn.

Whispering, rustling, through the air
On sill and stone roof — everywhere,

It heaps its powdery crystal flakes,
Of every tree a mountain makes;

‘Til pale and faint at shut of day
Stoops from the West one wint’ry ray,

And, feathered in fire where ghosts the moon,
A robin shrills his lonely tune; 

And from her dark-gnarled Yew-tree lair
Flits she who had been in hiding there.

Happy Winter Knitting!


Last Blogpost: Snow gently falling

Many thanks to my DH, Tim, for his photos which so beautifully captured the day. If you would like to see more of his photos please visit his Instagram page.

. 21/4/18 L

22 Feb 2018

Snow gently falling

I am sitting in front of a cosy fire right now while the snow is gently falling outside. I have a cup of tea on the table next to me along with a rather fine gluten-free cookie and my knitting basket is close at hand, so I am contented for the next little while. 

However, since I have only just come in from 4 hours spent chipping ice off the driveway I am not sure if I am going to manage much knitting anytime soon. I should perhaps have been sensible and stopped about two hours ago!

I was nice and warm though, working steadily and wrapped up against the elements. That's the beauty of being a knitter: that you usually have the perfect item to help you keep warm, no matter what the elements throw at you. I find I don't usually even need a jacket once I have donned my favourite gardening sweater and woolly hat.

However, one item I don't have right now and could do with is some fingerless mitts. I realised this the other day when Anna sent me some photos of her latest knitting pattern, the Frost Fighters - Headband and Mittens. These look perfect for this time of year, when the temperatures can change from balmy to f-f-freezing overnight.

Fingerless mitts are so useful when you are cycling or texting, as the main part of your hands are kept warm but without restricting your movements. They are also great when you are working outside, such as on a market stall. A friend of mine always says it helps her rheumatic thumb keep warm if she wears fingerless mitts, too.

Anna has used a reversible cable stitch from our book, Reversible Knitting Stitches. This is the Ribbed Cable pattern, which is a wonderfully graphic stitch. On one side, single rib columns meet and divide giving a dynamic look, while the other face has soft flowing cables of stitches twisting together with a lovely padded texture.

The Frost Fighters mitts can use either side as the one on show, giving two quite different looks. 

The set includes both the mitts and a headband so you can keep your ears warm at the same time. For more details about the Frost Fighters set, please click here.

And now it's time for that cup of tea and for me to finish off the scarf I was talking about in my last blogpost.

Until next time — Keep warm!


Last Blogpost: Projects rediscovered
Next Up: In an icy quiet

Website: www.wyndlestrawdesigns.com

Our Book: Reversible Knitting Stitches

. 21/4/18 L


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