28 Sept 2015

It's spooky how time flies

Have you any "little people" in your family? A brand-new autumn baby or a small toddler? Then you know the excitement that this time of year brings in the build-up to Halloween. 

If they are only babes-in-arms then they might not appreciate much as they are pushed along the neighbourhood streets from one glowing house to the next. But you know that next year they will be taking their first steps up to each front door, and the year after they will be running from one place to the next. By that time you will have your hands full trying to make sure they don't either get lost or eat too much before they get home again!

And before you think: "It can't be that time already" — yes it really is. Halloween is only 1 month away! Where is the time going this year...

However, before you start planning their costumes, why not try out this week's Knitting Ahead idea — a fall coloured blanket for their stroller or toddler bed. Those October evening's can be chilly, so a Pumpkin-coloured blanket will keep them toasty warm.

The picture at the top of this page shows a new pattern, the Winsford Stroller Blanket. This is a fairly quick project so there's easily enough time to make this before the big day. In addition to a stroller size, there's also a matching blanket for a toddler bed so everyone can have a cosy evening. Please see my next blogpost for more details.

If you would like to get ready to make this pattern, then you'll need about 350 gm of the orange colour and 250 gm of the yellow. I used Knit Picks Wool of the Andes worsted wt yarn in Cols #24655 Orange and #24650 Caution (amber/yellow), but any similar yarn would work well.

Happy Knitting!


25 Sept 2015

New pattern - Joules and Joulietta Hot Water Bottle Covers

It's fun being married to a Scientist. Sharp as a tack, quick-witted and slightly random, you're never quite sure what they are going to say next. So when I asked my DH for a suggestion for a hot water bottle cover name, he immediately said "Joules!" That made me chuckle and it seemed such a great name to choose.

It's many years since I studied any physics but I still remember the confusion when at first everything was in British Thermal Units, the next year it was Calories, and then the next it was Joules. I am not sure if I ever really knew what they were but the name always made me laugh even then. 

So here is the latest pattern in the Knitting Ahead series, the Joules and Joulietta hot water bottle covers! The Joules cover fits a regular-sized hot water bottle, which is usually about 2 litre/2 quart capacity. Mine measures 35 cm/14 ins high x 20 cm/8 ins wide, which I think is a fairly standard size.

The smaller cover, Joulietta, is great for a travelling size or for a child's bottle. My mini-bottle is 25 cm/10 ins high x 15 cm/6 ins wide, and takes about 1 litre/1 quart of water. I like to use a small bottle to ease aching joints or muscles after a day gardening or when we have been on a long car journey.

Both sizes are sure to keep you warm and to make your bed super-cosy. The pattern features a beautifully textural stitch, Barley Corn from our book, Reversible Knitting Stitches. Barley Corn is an easy stitch to work so the bottle covers knit up quickly. Both covers are also worked seamlessly, so there is little finishing required after the knitting is completed.

I used Knit Picks "Wool of the Andes" worsted-weight yarn for this project. I love this yarn because it is warm and shows great stitch definition. It is also available in a huge range of colours — I believe there's about 100 shades to choose from at the current time! I used their "Calypso Heather" for the Joules cover, and a rather fine "Pumpkin" for the Joulietta size.

Click here to see my blogpost extolling the virtues of hot water bottles, and here for some timely tips on how to fill and use them. For more details about the Joules and Joulietta pattern, please click here. The pattern is available for instant download from the site. 

If you would like to read more about our book, Reversible Knitting Stitches, then please see my website. The book is available as an E-book, a Print book, or a Print and E-book package. You can also see a lookbook here so you can browse through a few sample pages. 

Enjoy your new cozy bed-time!

Happy Knitting!


. 26/7/18 W

23 Sept 2015

How to fill a hot water bottle

Thanks to everyone for your messages about this #KnittingAhead series. I am glad you are enjoying all the ideas. I had a query about filling your hot water bottle, so here's the method my mother taught me, and mother's are always right eh?... (Well, that and the manufacturer's instructions of course!)

Firstly it is important that the bottle is emptied in the morning after it is finished, so we are starting now with a hot water bottle which is out of its cover and empty. So here's what to do:

#1: Fill a kettle with freshly-drawn cold water. Do not use hot water, as the hot water pipe often contains minerals that degrade the rubber of the bottle. If you don't have a kettle, then you can heat the water in a saucepan with a pouring lip, or in a microwave.

Heat the water until it is hand-hot (about 42ºC/108ºF). You do not need it to boil, and in fact if it does you then have to wait a long time for it to cool to an acceptable heat. Bottles can leak from time to time, so it is important that the water will never scald you if the rubber gives way. 

Many modern kettles have variable temperatures which allow you to start with a lower shut-off point. If you have an older-style kettle, then wait until the water is just starting to sound "noisy" and then immediately turn it off. 

Pour the water into a jug that pours well and add cold water until the temperature is right. You should be able to briefly put your hand into it without scalding. 

#2: Now hold the hot water bottle upright over a sink. Grasp it firmly by the top and carefully pour the water in until it is about 2/3rds full. 

#3: Hold the bottle at a slight angle and then gently lower it onto a flat surface until you see the water at the top. This expels all the air. Insert the stopper and close it firmly but without too much force. Press the bottle gently, then turn it upside down to check for leaks. 

Dry the opening around the stopper and any damp patches on the outside. Feel the bottle to make sure that it is not too hot. It should be comfortably warm, not too hot to hold at this point. If it feels a little too hot for comfort, then pour a little of the hot water out and run in some cold.

#4: Place it into its cover and prepare additional bottles if more are required.

Place two in each bed, one at the top with your PJ's wrapped around, and one for your feet. If you do this about 20-30 mins before you go to bed you'll be super comfortable when you snuggle under the duvet.

It is fine to gently hug your bottle while you are still awake, but don't press it too firmly or it could burst. For a child's bed, it is best to remove the bottle before they get in. 

#5: In the morning, take the bottles out of their covers and drain them completely. Hang them upside down to store and to drain further. It is a good idea for each stopper to be attached to its own bottle by a string around the neck, as different bottles can have slightly different threads and you want your stopper to be completely water-tight.

When they are not in use, store the bottles upside down in a dark, airy place. Always buy a good rubber bottle rather than the cheaper imitations and replace them every year or two. It's also a good idea to check the bottle really well before using them for the first time each season. Filling it with cold water and squeezing gently will soon show if any areas are compromised.

Hot water bottles come in all sorts of sizes and designs. You can use the Joules and Joulietta hot water bottle cover pattern for regular size and travelling size bottles, and also for microwave packs. I am not so keen on the microwave versions as they can get hot spots, but they do suit some people. However, don't place hot wheat packs into your bed as they can go on fire. These are great for sore necks and backs, but are not a substitute for a good old-fashioned hot water bottle.

I love hot water bottles and have fond memories of watching my mother go through the routine of filling them every night. I hope you enjoy yours too!

Happy Knitting!

21 Sept 2015

How long can you wait?

 They make them tough in Boston. Yes, you really can see people dressed in shorts as they walk through the snow on Boston Common. Perhaps it's Red Sox fever flowing through their veins...  

However, even the hardiest New Englander starts to look concerned when autumn comes around. One minute it's warm and then the next — brrrrr! An icy wind suddenly comes straight down from Canada, creeping under every door and chilling the house to an uncomfortable degree.

But it's only mid-September! And you know your neighbours won't have their heating on for at least another month. So what do you do? Well here's this week's #KnittingAhead suggestion: dig your hot water bottle out of its summer hibernation and make it a brand-new cover.

Hot water bottles are great for adding an extra touch of heat just where you need it. Curl up with one as you watch TV, or put a small bottle on an aching back when you come in from gardening. Brilliant. Instant warmth and no need for the heating to be turned on just yet.

And of course, your evening will be much more pleasant if you know your PJ's are wrapped around a bottle ready for you to put on and snuggle under the duvet. Now all you need is cup of hot cocoa and an evening cookie and that north wind can howl all it likes.

In the next blogpost, I shall be posting details about a new knitting pattern for hot water bottle covers in two sizes: Joules and Joulietta. These are worked using a lovely soft, textural stitch called Barley Corn taken from our book, Reversible Knitting Stitches. This traps the air well so is great at keeping the bottle warm for ages. Joules fits a regular-sized hot water bottle and Joulietta is for a mini-size bottle — perfect when travelling or for a child's bed.

Both are quick to work so you won't have long to wait until you can have a new cosy hot water bottle to hug! The pattern is available for instant download here so you can make a start today.

You don't need a lot of yarn for each cover — about 60gm of worsted weight yarn for the mini size cover and 100gm for the larger one. I used Knit Picks Wool of the Andes but any similar yarn would work fine. You might already have just what you need in your yarn stash!

Until next time — keep warm,

Happy Knitting!


. 26/7/18 W

14 Sept 2015

New pattern - Ennismore Lap-Rug

I always love the autumn. The harvest is coming in, schoolchildren are returning to class with their fresh backpacks and crisp new uniforms, and the squirrels are chasing around gathering nuts with a frenetic energy. We were watching four of them demolishing the berries from a dogwood tree outside our window the other day. It was as though someone had fired a starting pistol to commence a berry-eating contest!

Of course, they're no fools. They know that tonight's cool evening will soon become tomorrow's snow-laden day. It really is time to prepare for the winter ahead.

So here's a new pattern to keep the first of those winter chills away, the Ennismore Lap-Rug. The pattern includes instructions for two different sizes. The smaller size is just right for someone sitting in a chair or wheelchair and is wide enough to keep the draughts at bay without being cumbersome to use. This size of blanket is also great to keep you warm when you're on a long car or plane journey.

There is also a larger size which is a little wider and is extra-long to cover your feet when you want to relax with your feet up at the end of a day.

The lap-rugs feature a wonderfully textural, reversible stitch pattern called Diagonal Furrows from our book, Reversible Knitting Stitches. The stitch puts me in mind of a freshly-ploughed field, which is so appropriate for this time of the year. 

Do you remember when all the ploughing was done by horse-drawn ploughs? Well, no, I don't either! But there is still something very nostalgic about seeing the regular pattern of ridges in a newly-ploughed field. It gives not only a sense of completion but also a promise for the year ahead. So it's good to see the echo of that feeling for this season's theme of #knittingahead!

Both versions of the lap-rug are worked in a beautifully soft superwash yarn, Cascade 220 Superwash, so are easy to launder and care for.

For more details about the Ennismore Lap-Rug pattern, please click here. The pattern is available for instant download from my website so you can start to feel warmer very soon.

Happy Knitting!


Last Blogpost: The Chill Zone
Next Up: How long can you wait?

8 Sept 2015

The Chill Zone

I spent a lot of this summer sitting. A summer 'flu was followed by bronchitis, leaving me wheezing and coughing for what seemed like weeks. When I eventually started to feel a little better, it was all I could do to just sit in a chair and watch the world go by while I recuperated.

That's when I noted something which I hadn't really appreciated before – you can get really cold when you are forced to sit for long periods of time. It was as though a chill was settling onto my lap and then spreading down into my knees and feet. Even on a warm day, I felt uncomfortably cool and I was soon reaching for an extra layer to wrap around me.

I am now fighting fit again, but it did get me thinking about this season's theme of Knitting Ahead. So here's this week's suggestion: how about knitting someone a lap-rug ready for the cooler weather. 

I am sure many of us know people who cannot move around as much as they used to. Perhaps you have an older relative who now needs to rest more than when they were younger, or a friend in a wheelchair. Or perhaps you'd even welcome a new lap-rug for yourself so that you can keep cozy when the cold, damp weather starts in earnest. Extra layers are always welcome!

The photos show a new pattern, the Ennismore Lap-Rug. I certainly found it kept my knees warm while I was working on it, so this should be a perfect choice for some autumn knitting. Please see the next blogpost for more details about this pattern. Cozy times are ahead!

Happy Knitting!



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