28 Dec 2015

Keep warm this winter

Large projects are perfect for this time of the year. You can add an extra log onto the fire, curl up with the cat beside you and just knit all through the afternoon if you like. There's no gardening to do, especially if the snow is falling gently outside. It's a quiet time. The holidays are over and you can sit and take your ease with an audiobook playing along. Your knitting will grow steadily as the story unfolds. 

So here's a new pattern that will give you many happy hours of knitting and also help make some real inroads into your yarn stash, the Ocean Currents Blanket. What's great about this blanket is that it's designed to use any kind of yarn you have to hand. If the yarns have a similar weight and composition and you think you can make the colours work, then feel free to use them! 

I have always loved American pieced quilts — they just have a charm and a character all of their own. You can find quilts from early settlers where many different materials have been incorporated: old shirts, dresses, left-over scraps etc. So this blanket emulates this idea and is made more beautiful by using a variety of yarns and colours. 

I chose to use a range of complementary blue yarns, but you could work a multi-coloured version for a lively look, or choose a series of natural yarns instead. Let your bedroom decor dictate your starting point and see what yarns you have to suit. The blanket here started with left-over hand-spun yarns from the Ocean Currents Rug, but then I added in all kinds of other wool yarns that were languishing in my yarn basket and teamed these with some new Cascade Yarns "Cascade 220"

There are different dyelots in there too, just for good measure. Have you noticed that you can often get really good bargains at the local yarn stores if you just want a ball or two of a different dyelot? Well, here's you chance to raid those sale bins! The slight change of tone or colour will just add to the charm of the final piece. 

The pattern includes three different sizes for a Single/Twin bed, a Double/Queen size and a King-sized blanket. 

You can find the pattern for the Ocean Currents blanket here and if you'd like to see a natural-coloured version of this blanket, please see my blogpost: "Without the Ocean"

Thank you for all the great messages about this #KnittingAhead series — I am glad that you enjoyed the blogposts and the 12 new patterns! If you'd like to go back to the start of the series and read them in sequence, then please see the first blogpost here and follow the links through. 

You can find links to all the patterns in the the series on my website.

I'll be back in the New Year but until then, keep warm.

Happy Knitting!


Last Blogpost: So now what?

26 Dec 2015

So now what?


The apr├Ęs Christmas time can be a bit disquieting for a knitter. There has been such a buzz about getting knitted presents finished, timelines seemingly getting shorter and shorter, what to pack, what to leave behind, whether they'll like it, whether it will fit.... It can all be a bit stressful. 

But then the next day comes. 
And you feel like saying, "So now what...?"

Well, this #KnittingAhead series has been all about planning for the whole season, so here's the final suggestion: start two projects that will be useful as soon as they come off the needles. 

Why two projects? Because you want one design that will be finished quickly, and one larger one to work on steadily through the long winter chill. Then when you finish the smaller item, start yet another one. 

Soon, you will have a large project growing steadily and impressively, plus a pleasingly large pile of finished objects keeping you and everyone around you warm through the winter.

The projects can either be well within your comfort zone, or a step ahead to develop your skills for the New Year — you decide. Do you feel like some easy knitting to de-stress, or do you want to challenge yourself and try something you've never tried before? This is "You" knitting, so even if it goes wrong no-one else is going to be wearing it, so now's the time to experiment if you fancy.

It has been remarkably warm on the East coast of the USA so far this winter, but cooler weather is coming very soon and I am going to suggest two projects to start your post-Christmas knitting: one is a great Beanie-style hat and the other is a bedspread / blanket. You couldn't get much smaller or much larger than that! I'll start with the hat and then post about the blanket next time.

The Delamere Hat has a pleasing rounded shape and features a wide turn-back brim to keep your ears warm. The hat is worked in Pinnacle Chevron pattern from our book, Reversible Knitting StitchesPinnacle Chevron gives a deep texture to hold the heat well. The shaping around the crown provides a wonderfully symmetrical pattern like a Spirograph star design.

There are 3 different sizes in the instructions but as the hats can be worked on either slightly smaller or slightly larger needles, there are actually 6 possible sizes from 45-60cm/18-24 ins. You'll only need 2-3 balls of a Worsted-weight yarn, so have a dig through your stash and see what you have already then you can make a start right away. 

For more information about the Delamere Hat pattern, please click here.

Back next time with the last blogpost of the year, and also the last in this #KnittingAhead series!

Happy Knitting!


. 26/7/18 W

24 Dec 2015

No time to knit him a scarf.....

OK, let's not be sexist about this. There's no time to knit anyone a scarf for this Christmas. It's Christmas Eve and unless you're Miriam Tegels (the current record holder for the faster knitter in the Guinness Book of Records), then there isn't even the faintest chance this will get done in time. 

So, what to do? Well, here's this week's #KnittingAhead idea: package up your Work in Progress! It will still be a wonderful surprise and now they can watch the item taking shape.

So here's what you need:

#1 — A colourful paper carrier bag or box: You can find these at the Post Office or supermarket, and pharmacies often have a great selection too. And if you can't find a ready-made container, then you can ask for a box at the supermarket and wrap it with some colourful paper.

#2 — Tissue paper / Lining paper: Place a couple of sheets of lining paper in the bottom of your box or bag and then scrunch another piece to add some volume. Loosely place a couple of sheets of tissue paper on top so that the sides of the bag are covered and you have made a "nest" in the middle.

#3 — Your yarn or work so far: If you have already made a start on the project, then place several unknit skeins or balls of yarn into your tissue paper nest. Now take your knitting needles and put an end-stopper on the open end(s) — you don't want some troublesome nephew to pull your precious work off the needles! Fold it up artistically and place it on top of the yarn. If you are working with straight needles then you can have the rounded ends showing at the top of the bag. 

Add another piece of tissue paper or two to cover the contents with a decorative flourish at the top.

#4 — A large envelope and your pattern: Print out a copy of your pattern, or at least just the first page showing what you are working on. If you have already left home, then you can find many places where you can print a page or two, such as hotels, pharmacies and stationery stores. Add a colourful sticky note or write on it: "Work in Progress" or "Some construction required." You'll be sure to get a smile when they read that!

Fold and place it inside the envelope then put that into the top of your bag, and you're good to go! Deadlines met and a touch of fun added as well.

Have a wonderful day tomorrow, full of good knitterly cheer all round.

Oh and if you want to know: Miriam Tegels hand-knitted 118 stitches in one minute in Swalmen, Netherlands on 26th August 2006. Amazing!

Happy Knitting!


10 Dec 2015

Cushions for the deep mid-winter

Since ancient times, people have been decorating their homes with greenery in the mid-winter. In the UK, we tend to think that the tradition started with Prince Albert in the 1840's, but in fact the practice of decorating our homes with fir branches goes back several millennia before that.

The German tradition probably came from earlier Scandinavian pagan cultures who decorated their homes and barns with evergreens to ward off evil spirits. However, we can trace the idea even further back than that because evergreen wreaths and garlands were used by the ancient Egyptians and Chinese to symbolise eternal life.

Whatever the origin of the custom, it is true that we can't think of winter-time without also thinking about the deep green of fir and spruce. The branches bring in a sense of long life and well-being from the world outside. Amidst the snow and the cold, they seem to promise the return of Spring and warmer times ahead.

Now we just need to add some extra touches to bring that revitalising theme into the whole room. 

Yes, it's time for some mid-winter cushions!

The Verwood Cushions are worked in a beautiful deep-green bulky yarn so they knit up quickly. The cushions feature a cabled design called Crossed Rib from our book, Reversible Knitting Stitches. The cable design sits neatly embedded in deep textural ribs. The final result is squidgy and huggable — perfect for the time of year.

There are two different sizes so you can choose whichever suits your chairs and sofa best. The smaller size will fit a 40x40 cm/16x16 ins cushion insert or pillow form, while the larger is 45x45 cm/18x18 ins.

For more details about the Verwood Cushions pattern, please click here.

Make lots so that everyone has their own cushion to hug this mid-winter!

Happy Knitting!


. 26/7/18 W

2 Dec 2015

New reversible pattern - the Scottswood Stole

This week I find myself at the cutting edge of fashion. Yes I know that's hard to believe. I usually stick with what I like and wait for it to come around again, which it does with surprising rapidity. I usually find myself "fashionable" about every 5 or 6 years and in-between times I adopt the look of a mild eccentric in her long flowing skirts.

So I was quite intrigued when I completed the Scottswood Stole recently to be told that stoles and wraps are the key fashion accessory this year! And not only that, but the colour choice is also perfect too, with Pantone "Amethyst Orchid" being one of this season's highlights. How's that for being fashion forward?

I started working on this stole when we were visiting Japan recently and the first rows were cast on sitting on the wooden step where the poet Matsuo Basho wrote some of his most famous poems. Since he lived in the 17th C and here we are in the 21st, that's quite a timespan this project has seen!

The stole is worked in baby alpaca, and there's really nothing like it for pure luxury and warmth. It feels gentle to the touch and adds just the right degree of warmth just when you need it. As soon as you place an alpaca shawl or wrap around your shoulders you feel sophisticated and elegant. You just can't help it. 

I used Knit Picks "Andean Treasure" for this but there's many different alpaca yarns available these days, so I'm sure you can find something suitable nearby. 

The pattern features a reversible stitch called "Square Lattice" from our book, Reversible Knitting Stitches. The stitch has two contrasting looks: one face has echoes of a traditional woven cloth while the other has a modern cubist feel, giving it great versatility. 

So who do you know who deserves some extra luxury this season (yourself included)? The instructions include three different sizes so you can choose just the right one for the person you have in mind. For more information about the Scottswood Stole pattern, please click here.

If you've been following all of these #KnittingAhead projects, then this is the ninth one in the series and only 3 more to go! If you would like to see the start of the series and review them all, then please click this link to take you to the first blogpost. 

Next time, we'll turn our attention back to the home to get ready for mid-winter, but in the meantime I'll let Matsuo Basho have the last words:

Winter solitude — 
in a world of one colour,
the sound of wind.

                                                               Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)

Happy Knitting!


. 26/7/18 W

28 Nov 2015

For him - the Grantchester Scarf

 There's a BBC production called The Cambridge Spies which shows the recruitment of some of the UK's most notorious spies from the last century. In this there's a scene where one of the future spies, Guy Burgess, is in college but permanently attired in a heavy wool duffle coat. One of his friends asks him why he is wearing the coat and his reply is one of the classic lines from the series:

"Vladivostok, Moscow, the Kuznets Basin and Cambridge — coldest places on earth. And of the four, Cambridge... permanently the 19th of February."

I expect we could all name a few other places that Mr Burgess should have included in that list — I'd vote for Boston, for sure. The temperatures there are already down below freezing overnight and we're not even into December yet.

So here's this week's #KnittingAhead idea: think of someone you know who lives in a cold climate and knit them something to keep them warm in the deep cold of January and February. This doesn't have to be a Christmas present of course, although that's always a good pretext for a gift. Cozy comforts are always welcome no matter what the occasion. 

I'll focus on the chaps in this blogpost and then suggest ideas for ladies next time. Men generally like simple, muted colours in their scarves but with a lot of textural interest. I have a couple of men's scarves already in my pattern store and have just added a new one, the Grantchester Scarf.

The scarf is worked in a reversible pattern, Ribbon Basket Pattern, from our book, Reversible Knitting StitchesThis is a reversible pattern with a deep, rugged texture that traps the air and keep you warm even when the temperatures really start to fall. I used Knit Picks "Wool of the Andes" for this but any worsted weight, aran or similar yarn would work well. 

There are two different widths, a 20cm/8 ins size and a larger 28cm/11 ins version. I have also suggested three different lengths from a short neckwarmer-style to a long wrapping version as a real wind-stopper. Have a look at my earlier blogpost for ideas on scarf lengths to see what might suit you best.

So grab your needles and send some instant warmth to someone you know living in Vladivostok, Cambridge or somewhere equally cold!!

For more information about the Grantchester Scarf pattern, please click here. The pattern is available for instant download from the site.

Happy Knitting!


Last Blogpost: Home for the holidays

. 26/7/18 W

23 Nov 2015

Home for the holidays

Do you have children or teenagers coming for the holidays? If so, you know that when the adults are sitting in a slight stupour digesting their meal, the younger members of the family will be asking what's going to happen next. It's almost as inevitable as the question that came the day before: "Are we there yet?"

And even if you don't have little people arriving, then it's fun to have some activities planned for everyone to join in. So here's a great idea for a project that's fun and easy — make some bracelets out of yarn!

Getting the various items together can be the first fun expedition, and then turning the yarn first into I-cord and then into bracelets will help occupy many a happy hour together.

I have just posted the new Ryedale Bracelet pattern into my pattern store. The pattern includes detailed notes and step-by-step photos so even if you have not made these type of Paracord bracelets before, you'll soon be braiding like a pro.

I found all the items I needed for this project in the same craft-store, including the yarn. I used Patons Grace yarn in bright zingy colours of Aquifer/Turquoise, Ginger/Green and Lotus/Hot Pink. However, this 100% cotton yarn comes in all kinds of shades and there are some strong masculine colours too, so you can select whatever colour combinations you fancy. Purchase 1 ball of yarn in each of 3 or more colours to give you lots of options.

Then to make the I-cord, you'll either need some double-pointed needles, a Knitting Nancy (such as my old faithful above), or an automated cord-maker. I tried the Caron Embellish-Knit cord maker and found it very good. You do need to give it your full attention to watch that the stitches are forming correctly. However, using one of these devices can produce lengths of I-cord in a very short space of time.

While you're at the craft store, you'll also need to pick up a pack of "paracord buckles". These are side-release buckles with a slight curve on them to fit your wrist. I purchased black ones but they also come in some wonderfully colourful versions too.

I also purchased an "Ezzzy" bracelet-making jig (yes, there really are that number of zzz's in the middle of the name)! I suppose this is not strictly necessary, but it does seem to make the braiding easier. I like the way you can set the jig to the exact size you require and it certainly keeps everything good and tight while braiding.

You've probably already got the other items you'll need such as a tapestry needle, a crochet hook, measuring tape and a pair of scissors, so with these few new items you'll be good to go.

Once you have the I-cord prepared, you can set it up on the jig and you (or your small helpers) can start knotting away. Before you know it, they'll be finishing off the ends and showing off their brand-new bracelet. (Then probably having orders from everyone else in the room!)

For more information about the Ryedale Bracelet pattern, please click here.

Have a wonderful holiday and enjoy your bracelet-making!


. 23/12/18 W

14 Nov 2015

New pattern - Hamilton Table Runner

Although we may not relish the approach of winter, it does provide us all with a perfect excuse for some indoor entertaining and parties. Barbecues and picnics at the park are rapidly become a fading memory with the cooler temperatures outside. However, what could be better than a welcoming fire, a glass of mulled wine and a gathering of friendly faces to help celebrate Thanksgiving or your other seasonal events.

So make it an occasion everyone will remember with a brand new table runner! A table runner acts to set the scene for the whole room and brings a wonderful sense of elegance and tradition to any event. Add accessories, flowers and decorations to match your colour theme and you will have the perfect setting for the day. 

There are lots of ways to use table runners but they work especially well with wooden tables because they bring out the beauty of the wood. You can also drape them over the top of a simple tablecloth for a stunning effect or use a narrow runner on your favourite sideboard.

The Hamilton Table Runner pictured here is the latest pattern in my #KnittingAhead series. This features a wonderful reversible stitch, Elongated Diamond Pattern, from our book, Reversible Knitting Stitches

This is an absolutely beautiful stitch, with an embossed diamond pattern set between garter stitch ridges. The pattern really catches the light and gives a wonderful sense of proportion to a table setting — perfect for all those winter festivities coming very soon!

The runner is worked in Knit Picks "Cotlin" which is a crisp cotton/linen mixture, but if you can't get hold of that then Rowan's "Creative Linen" would be a good alternative.

For more information about the Hamilton Table Runner pattern, please click here. Good wishes for your next winter event!

Happy Knitting!


Last Blogpost: So it begins

. 23/12/18 W

6 Nov 2015

So it begins

One of the things I loved when we moved to the States about 20 years ago was that you could tell which month it was by looking at everyone's front gardens! In September, colourful yellow leaves festoon door wreaths and mailboxes, then in October white ghosts float from the trees while fake tombstones sit nestled in the long grass. 

In November, the ghosts have been replaced by garlands of red leaves and colourful gourds ready for Thanksgiving at the end of the month. Then in December, Christmas lights and berry-laden door decorations appear. It's magical.

It's a wonderful build-up to the end of year celebrations but more than that, the changing of the decorations gives us all a good "Heads Up!" that the Festive Season is well and truly on its way. 

So this week's #KnittingAhead idea is all about getting ready for your next big family event by making a brand-new table runner. These are always an elegant way to dress up your table, whether it is a small centrepiece for a display of fruits and vegetables or a lovely long runner falling gracefully over the ends of the table-top.

The photograph shows a new pattern, the Hamilton Table Runnerand I'll post more details about that in my next blogpost.

Until then, enjoy decorating the outside of your home in readiness!

Happy Knitting!


. 26/7/18 W

22 Oct 2015

New pattern - Tromso Rug

When I was a child, our house was unheated and there was a lino floor in my bedroom. I can remember the shock of cold every morning if my feet touched the floor rather than my bedside rug. However, since the rug was where my cat used to sleep I often didn't have much of a choice about this. There really wasn't much square-footage of rug left after she had claimed it as her own! 

Of course, with the perversity of a cat she would then stretch, wake up and follow me out of the door ever-hopeful for an extra saucer of milk.

That memory of cold has always stayed with me and even though we now have the luxury of central heating I still like to have a rug by my bedside. So I suppose it's no surprise that I have a couple of rugs already in my pattern collection, namely the Rare Earth Rug above and the Ocean Currents Rug below.

However, this time I wanted to make an extra-thick rug, quick to work up and just a nice small size so you could use it in many situations. 

Do you have a place in the house where your feet feel chilly in the winter? Standing by the counter peeling potatoes...? Sitting knitting by the window so you can catch the last of the winter light...? Me, too! Wooden floors can be very cold when the temperatures dip.

So that's where the Tromso Rug comes in. There are three different sizes included in the pattern:
Small: 50 x 75 cm / 20 x 30 ins.
Medium (pictured above): 60 x 90 cm / 24 x 36 ins.
and Large: 70 x 105 cm / 28 x 42 ins.

Another great feature of this rug is that it's reversible. If you have a look at the top photo you'll see the "right side" featured, and the photo I put in last week's blogpost and reprised above shows the "wrong side". You actually don't need to decide which side you're going to use until the very end, and then if you're careful about finishing off the ends invisibly you can always turn it over later on. 

The Tromso Rug is worked in a reversible stitch taken from our new book, Reversible Knitting Stitches. This is Rib and Garter Stitch, which is an easily-worked pattern with a clean, modern look.

I used Patons Classic Wool bulky yarn for the rug. This is 100% wool and super-thick so it works up quickly. You'll need just 5 balls for the small size, 6 for the medium and 8 for the largest size, so it won't be long until you have a new rug or two in readiness for the next cold snap.

The pattern is available for instant download from my website – please click here for more details.

Happy Knitting!


Last Blogpost: Norwegian Wood
Next Up: So it begins

. 24/7/18 W

15 Oct 2015

Norwegian Wood

Wooden floors are such a feature of Scandinavian homes and are easy to sweep clean, which is a real bonus when you have a spinner in the house. I have a constant circle of fluff around my wheel when I am spinning yarn, but a quick whisk around afterwards and it's all clean and tidy again (or so my husband tells me — housework is not one of my strong points...)

In the summer-time wooden floors are cool to the touch and wonderfully pleasing to look at. However, when the winter comes along then you see one of the drawbacks of this type of flooring — it can be very chilly underfoot. You can wear socks and slippers in the house to keep a bit cozier, but even that doesn't seem to really help. 

What you need is an extra layer underfoot such as a lovely thick rug. Of course you could go out and buy all the rugs you need from a carpet store. However, it is much more satisfying to make your own so you can choose your own colours and sizes. So here's this week's #KnittingAhead idea: make some extra rugs to keep you warm as the winter weather really starts to take hold.

There are lots of areas where a rug or two would make a big impact:

Kitchen: Make one rug so you can stand on it while stirring a steaming pot of winter vegetables, then another in front of the sink.

Bedroom: I've written before about the joys of stepping onto a cozy rug as you get out of bed first thing in the morning. It really does allow you to wake up slowly rather than with a shock of cold as your feet touch the chilly floor. It would be great to have another right by your dressing table, too.

Basement: A large rug by the sofa would be so welcoming when the men in your life settle down to watch the next big football game.

Sitting Room: And don't neglect yourself! Make another rug to keep you comfortable when you sit in your favourite chair. Now your feet will stay warm while you knit your next creation, gazing out at the beautiful fall foliage outside (aren't those colours wonderful right now...)

Did you also know that if you have lots of nice rugs around your home you can reduce your winter heating bills? Yes it's true — you feel warmer so you can turn your thermostat down a degree of two. I read that every 3 degrees less on the thermostat saves you about 10% on your heating bills, so that's a really good incentive.

I have just uploaded a pattern for a new rug, the Tromso Rug, which includes three different sizes so you can make a good selection of rugs for the whole house. I will put all the size and yarn info into the next blogpost.

Until then, wrap yourself up warm — some places have already had their first snows of the year!

Happy Knitting!


. 26/7/18 W


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