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


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