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.

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19 Dec 2016

What's on the other side?

Yesterday, I blogged about three patterns, all quick to knit and all using the same chunky yarn, DMC Natura XL. However, there was something else that was the same about all of them: all the stitches were drawn from our new book, Reversible Knitting StitchesSo I thought I would talk about these three stitch patterns and why we chose them for these projects.

The first pattern I showed yesterday was the Malvern Spa Pillow and Mitt. These are worked in a variation of Hatfield Check, one of my favourite reversible knit stitches. The stitch is an easy one to work and gives a wonderfully textural result. It has a good amount of stretch, which is important for something like a tightly-fitting spa pillow cover. 

It also has a most interesting surface texture which produces a very good massaging effect in the spa mitt, so is a good combination for the set.

The second pattern featured in the blogpost was the Malvern Bath Mat, a soft and luxurious bath mat which just soaks up the water when you step onto it after a relaxing bath or shower. The softness comes partly from the yarn, of course, but is also due to the qualities of the stitch, Quaker Ridging. This alternates thick and thin ridged stripes giving a lovely depth to the fabric, so it is soft and squidgy to step onto.

It can look great when worked in a striped pattern, as in the bath mat here, but I like it also in a single colour which seems to emphasise the dynamic nature of the pattern. 

The last of the three featured patterns was Anna's Shelbourne Spa Towels. These are worked in an intriguing reversible stitch called Diamond Brocade, which has an interesting interplay of different-sized diamonds. This gives the design a very modern feel. 

I like the fact that the two sides look so different. The right side has strongly accented diamond shapes and the wrong side has a lovely honey-comb appearance. Apart from just appearances, though, this deep texture makes the towels absorbent and soft to use.

If you would like to read more about the Reversible Knitting Stitches Book, then please click here. The book features 200 different reversible stitch patterns and also includes over 50 project photos to illustrate how the stitches can be used for your next project.

The book is available as an E-Book, a Print Book or a Print and E-Book Package.
Please click here for more information.

Good luck with your last-minute Christmas knitting!


Next Up: Winter Light

Anna's Website: www.kikuknits.com

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18 Dec 2016

Mission Impossible Knitting

You wake and see the calendar on the wall — how can it be only 1 week before Christmas? You sit at your favourite table and gaze blankly into space. You have been knitting like crazy for ages and there's a lovely scarf for your Dad and even Uncle Bertie has a hat with a rather interesting pom-pom on the top. But, there's still Aunt Winnie and your Mum... And now there's only 1 week to go.

You rest your head in your hands then idly pick up a knitting needle. But there's something odd about it — it's larger than you usually use. And now your fingerprint has activated it, sending a beam of light towards the wall. You watch as flashing images show first the calendar you spotted earlier, then a series of photos of knitted items being finished in a flash and wrapped just in time. Then you hear the Secretary's voice:

"Agent Knitter — your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to complete all your knitting projects in only 1 week! This message will self-destruct in 5 seconds."

The knitting needle smoulders and vanishes and you realise the answer. 
You have the ultimate secret weapon — chunky yarn.

You dive into your stash and find some fabulous chunky cotton yarn you purchased a year ago and you're off. Shortly afterwards, you watch astonished as first one item then another is completed.

Your other half gingerly steps into the knitting room with a cup of tea and a reinforcing mince pie on a plate and stands in awe at the growing pile of items waiting to be blocked and finished. 

Then as the clock strikes midnight on Christmas Eve, you tie the ribbon around the wrapped presents and retire to bed. You were successful! You are, indeed, a member of the Impossible Knitting Force, the IKF.

And yes, I have just been watching the whole series of Mission Impossible, how can you tell!

The patterns shown in the photographs are:

Top: A new pattern, the Malvern Spa Pillow and Mitt. These are quick to make and easy to finish. They would make a great present by themselves or packaged together with some herbal soaps or bath essences.

Middle: Another new pattern, the Malvern Bath Mat. This comes in 3 sizes for a shower/wash basin, bath tub or larger dressing room size. The small size only uses 2 balls of each colour and works up very quickly.

Lower Photo: These are wonderfully soft and absorbent towels, the Shelbourne Spa Towels by Anna Ravenscroft. These also use only 2 balls of yarn each, so are quick to make and have a lovely texture on each side.

And a second secret weapon you can use here — these are all from the same yarn! This is DMC Natura XL "Just Cotton", an absolutely fabulous yarn that is soft, easy to knit and available in a wonderful range of colours (30 at the time of writing!) Of course, any chunky cotton yarn would work for this mission, but if you can get the Natura XL you won't be disappointed.

So go for it, Agent Knitter! You can still do it!

Happy Knitting!


[and by the way, all of these knitting design use reversible stitch patterns taken from this book!]

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1 Dec 2016

Tick, tick, tick...

December is upon us! I can't believe how this year is speeding past. If that makes you fret because you haven't finished all the items you want to make for presents, then don't worry — there is still plenty of time for some great Holiday knitting. 

So I am going to write a couple of blogposts with some ideas for items you can start right away. Today, I'm going to feature three small items that are quick to make and light to post.

The first one is one of Anna's patterns, the Apple Pocket. I use these knitted phone covers all the time and find that they really hug your phone well. 

There are two versions included in the pattern — a slim-line case that easily fits into your pocket or a slightly thicker version which gives some extra padding. 

For more details about the Apple Pocket pattern, please see Anna's website.

The second idea is for some bracelets made in i-Cord in a zingy cotton yarn. The Ryedale Bracelet is worked in the style of the ever-popular paracord bracelet and is fastened with easy-to-use side release buckles. They would make wonderful presents for teenagers but are also useful for medical alert bracelets.

I also use mine as a holder for my spare double-pointed needle when I am knitting socks. It's always useful to have an easy place to store your spare needle while you count stitches!

The i-Cord can even be produced using a cord knitter, so this is a quick project to complete. For more details about the Ryedale Bracelet, please click here.

And the last idea today are these super-cute lavender sachets. This is another of Anna's patterns, Lavender Fish. They can be worked in a single colour or with bands or stripes, as in the photo above. Make a few to hang on clothes hangers or slip into a clothes drawer. These would make a lovely gift by themselves but could also be paired with a block of hand-made lavender soap or lotion for a gift set.

To see more details of the Lavender Fish pattern, please see Anna's website.

Have fun making some of these lovely gift ideas. Next time, I'll have a look at some fun ideas for knitted bathroom accessories.

Happy Knitting!

27 Nov 2016

Brrrr - that's a cold draught!

I've written about my flat in Beckenham, Kent before. I don't think I've ever felt so cold and been inside at the time! It wasn't just that the floor was icy, the chairs felt damp and the window rattled with the bitter wind that blew incessantly. It was the draught that came under the door. 

It whistled across the floor taking out every last degree of temperature the coin meter had just put in. I would sit down in the evening with my knitting and feel first cold, then colder, then frozen.

It was at that point that I started knitting a draught excluder. My fingers worked stiffly to complete the item, but on the first evening after it was finished I felt warmer! It was remarkable that something so small could make such a big difference! My heating bills were much lower afterwards, too. 

I have been wanting to make a new version of that life-saver for some time, and when I felt the first cool draughts of winter creeping under the door in Massachusetts, I decided that the time had come. The pattern for the Rothay Draught Excluder is now available in my pattern store, so please go and have a look at it there.

The draught excluder is worked in an Aran weight / Heavy Worsted yarn in Valley Yarns 'Amherst'. I love this yarn as it is so soft yet with a great stitch definition. The yarn is 100% merino wool and with a recommended gauge of 18 sts per 10cm/4ins using 5.0mm/US #8 needles. However, if you can't get that yarn, then you could use any other yarn with a similar gauge.

The pattern features Olive Stitch, another stitch from our new Book Reversible Knitting Stitches. This is an easy stitch to work but the results look quite complex, with waving undulations running down the length of the fabric.

The Rothay Draught Excluder can be worked for both inset doors and flush doors so that every cold draught is kept at bay. Tailor one to fit your draughty door and you will be cozy in no time!

Happy Knitting!


23 Nov 2016

A big thank you!

Perhaps it's because I'm a Sagittarius, but I love transition times in the year — trying to catch the last of the previous season before it slips into the next.

In the woodlands right now, the autumn leaves are ablaze with colour and a riot of red, yellow and orange is carpeting the forest floor. 

Soon, the leaves still on the trees will also drift down to join the others on the path, then perhaps the first few flakes of snow will arrive shortly afterwards.

I suppose it could feel a sad time, but to me there is always a lot of excitement surrounding this change to winter. 

For a start, there are so many events lined up for the next few weeks. It was our anniversary two days ago, and then in only a few days it will be my birthday. And in-between those two dates there are major holidays in both the USA and Japan.

In Japan, today is Labor Thanksgiving Day which replaced the earlier Harvest festival held at this time. Then in the USA tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. Both celebrate the harvest, the work of the last year and peaceful times.

These festivals give all of us a great opportunity to say thank you to the people who matter — those who have worked hard to make our last year happy and healthy.

So may I take this opportunity to thank all of you! To everyone who has read this blog, connected with me on Twitter, Instagram or elsewhere, to all the lovely folk who have purchased or downloaded a pattern and to the many, many people who have sent both Anna and I such great messages about our new book, Reversible Knitting Stitches — a most heart-felt "Thank you". You have all made 2016 such a memorable year.

And I need to add one last thank you — and that is to my husband Tim for his wonderful photos. I know many of you enjoy his photos too and I am always happy to be able to share them with everyone here.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!


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18 Nov 2016

Keep them warm this winter

 It's a funny thing but when you feel cold, you tend to grab a scarf or a thick pair of socks to protect your extremities. However, most country folk know that what you really need to do is think about your core temperature — keeping your head, heart and lungs warm. 

As children, we would all be firmly layered up with a warm wool vest, shirt, sweater and gilet jacket as we set out to play in the snow. The hat and scarf added as an after-thought might end up on the snowman but the other items did the job of keeping us the right temperature.

A gilet jacket is great for this as it protects the shoulders and mid-section while leaving your arms free to move — essential for a decent snow-ball fight! 

So here's a gilet jacket that you could make now to keep little boys and girls warm during their winter play-time or when they are walking to school. This is the Hebden Gilet Jacket and is sized for kiddies aged 2-8. 

The essential of a good bodywarmer or gilet is that the fabric should trap pockets of air. These air pockets insulate the body, keeping the warm air inside and the cold where it belongs.

The gilet here features a lovely double-sided stitch from our new book, Reversible Knitting StitchesThe stitch is called Imitation Lattice and produces an almost quilted effect, with rugged diamond motifs standing out against a purl background. 

The photo above shows the Right Side/RS of the stitch pattern on the left and the Wrong Side/WS on the right. The WS photo shows the deep texture in this stitch pattern, and it is this that gives the fabric its warmth and insulating properties.

The Hebden Gilet Jacket is made from a soft and cozy merino yarn, Lang Merino 120, and features large snap-fasteners for an authentic gilet look.

If you would like to see more information about this knitting pattern, then please click here

Until next time - Keep warm!


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10 Nov 2016

Lazy summer days now just a memory

We were in Cambridge a couple of months ago. It was one of those lazy summer days when the most energetic thing we wanted to do was walk down from the restaurant through the Grantchester Meadows to the river below. 

The sun was shining and the punts were meandering slowly along the river, picnickers were feeding the ducks, or just sitting with their feet dabbling in the slowly-moving stream.

Ah, if only one could bottle days like that... The gentle breeze rhythmically blowing the tops of the grasses into waves of movement, the buzzing insects busily visiting the nodding purple heads of clover.

Pink Floyd wrote a song about this very place:

See the splashing of the kingfisher flashing to the water. 
And a river of green is sliding unseen beneath the trees 
Laughing as it passes through the endless summer 
Making for the sea. 

and before them, Rupert Brooke wrote his poem, The Old Vicarage, Grantchester in nostalgic mood from his sick bed in Berlin. It ends: 

Yet stands the clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?

But, no. Summer has gone and a chill east wind has been bringing down the last of the autumn leaves. The snow that has been in the north this week hasn't arrived in Grantchester yet, but it certainly looks as though it might arrive soon. 

About this time last year, I was knitting a stitch pattern from our new book, Reversible Knitting Stitches, and made what proved to be a super-cozy scarf. As soon as I put it on, I felt warmer and my mind immediately went to the cold, swirling winds of Cambridgeshire. So I named it the Grantchester Scarf.

The stitch pattern is called Ribbon Basket Pattern and is one of my favourite reversible stitches from the book. I love the way the rib and garter patterning make the design move so that the surface becomes covered with deep rugged folds. 

If you would like to see more details about the Grantchester Scarf, then please click here.

Many thanks once again to Tim for his photos. I wouldn't get half as much knitting done without being able to sit and knit while he is taking his great photos! If you'd like to see some more of his work, then please have a look at his Flickr site.

Until next time — Happy Autumn Knitting!


Last Blogpost: Vera calling

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4 Nov 2016

Vera calling

This time of year is all about layering — adding an extra something to keep you warm when it is a little chilly. This is especially important now that the clocks are going back, and your journeys home suddenly seem darker and colder than they were before. 

So here's a great idea to brighten those gloomy waits at the train station while the November winds swirl around — a scarf with a hood attached! Pull the hood over your ears when you are out in the cold, then drop it neatly back onto your shoulders when you get to somewhere marginally warmer.

This is Anna's Vera Hooded Scarfa quick and easy pattern that will have you wrapped up in no time. 

The scarf was inspired by a most fortunate swap shop find some years ago and has been keeping both Anna and myself warm ever since. 

The pattern is worked in a lightweight yet chunky yarn which really highlights the texture of the stitch. There are some wonderful bulky yarns around right now and each year sees new ones being featured in the shops, so it would be easy to find something in your local yarn store to get knitting straight away.

The great thing about this scarf is the way it sits so comfortably around the neck. That's partly down to the reversible stitch that Anna has used for the design, Irish Moss Stitch, which is one of the stitches in our new book, Reversible Knitting Stitches.

This is an old and well-loved stitch pattern but it works especially well for the Vera Hooded Scarf because it gives such a pleasing weight and texture. The scarf just nestles around the neck and keeps out every last puff of breeze. 

If you would like to see more details about Anna's Vera Hooded Scarf knitting pattern, then please visit her website, www.KikuKnits.com. By the way, if you're needing a scarf right now and don't want to wait to knit it, then Anna has a couple of hand-knit scarves for sale on her website too!

To read about our new Reversible Knitting Stitches book, please click here. The book is available as an E-Book, a Print Book or a Print and E-Book Package. 

Happy Autumn Knitting!


Last Blogpost: Time to wrap up
Next Up: Lazy summer days now just a memory

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