24 Dec 2018

Happy Christmas everyone!

The year is rapidly drawing to a close! Gosh, it only seems five minutes since it started. I expect that means I've been keeping busy...

We've certainly been doing a lot of travelling recently. After a couple of years when we travelled very little, we've been catching up in a big way with trips to the UK, Sweden and Japan only a few weeks apart. It's hard to know what time-zone we're working in right now!

Still, I've been busy knitting while we've been on the road and will be getting patterns written up as soon as I can gather all the notes together. The scarf above is the Karlskrona Scarf. I designed this as a man's scarf but have to admit, I wore it a lot myself while we were in Japan. It's super cozy.

My DH Tim photographed it for me while we were there and I love this shot of his with it wrapped around a window. This is Enkō-ji temple in the North of Kyoto – a wonderfully quiet place with an open view onto the maple garden. We were there just at the start of the autumn season and the leaves were turning to amazing shades of orange and red.

I have also been working on the bag I was reporting in my last blogpost, which was inspired by the colours we saw when we were in Sweden. We have been so lucky to catch autumn in 3 different countries this year!

However, the colours in Sweden were something special, with such rich yellows and oranges everywhere. So inspiring! I have actually knitted this bag about three times over as I keep getting about 2/3 of the way up to the top and then deciding I could do something better and then ripping it out again. Well, you get more enjoyment per gm of knitting yarn that way don't you! (Ways to think positively while undoing several hours of work ....)

It's now done and I just need to add a lining and it will be completed. However, I need to put that down now and start work on making some mince pies for tomorrow!

So, here's wishing you all a very Happy Christmas/Holiday season and hope that you have a wonderful time with your families. 

Happy Knitting!


Last Blogpost: And the results are in!
Next Up: Astonishing Day

. 20/1/19

31 Oct 2018

And the results are in!

Yes, the results are in! Not of the US Mid-term elections, but of my experiments with reflective yarn. In my last blogpost, I was talking about the problems of being seen when out walking or running now that the nights are drawing in. So I have been testing some RetroGlo yarn and have been trying various techniques to incorporate some of this into my knitting. 

And the results are that it works brilliantly (pun intended...!) Or rather, when it works, it's great. I first tried using the reflective yarn by duplicate stitching it into the ends of a scarf but I found that it made the scarf a little heavy and rough where I had added the thread. 

I then tried knitting with one strand of yarn and one of the reflective thread. However, it wasn't particularly effective since the thread tended to bury itself into the soft knitting stitches and did not glow as I really wanted it to. Also, I found that did not enjoy knitting with the reflective thread running alongside my regular yarn as the yarns are so dissimilar. 

However, I was more successful using it on a pocket for a backpack. I am working this in Lang Merino+ yarn using a two-tone grey with orange and yellow highlights. The RetroGlo yarn was almost a perfect match to the lighter grey yarn and can hardly be seen when viewed in the day-time.

However, as the lights go down the thread just catches the light and bounces it back at you.

But the real test is what it looks like at night. Then it can be seen as a series of brilliant dots which shine straight back at the source of light, such as a car's headlights. As the light moves a little to the left or right, the pattern of visible dots also changes slightly so they almost seem to flash and move. Amazing!

It has certainly been an interesting experiment so far and of course there may be other reflective yarns that could be worked directly into a pattern. I saw some interesting yarn by Viking Yarns when I was in Sweden recently, for example, so I may give that a try too. 

Do let me know if you have tried reflective yarn in your knitting and what worked for you and what didn't. I'd love to hear your ideas.

Happy Knitting!


Last Blogpost: Reflecting the Light

My website: www.wyndlestrawdesigns.com
Anna's website: www.kikuknits.com

. 24/12/18

10 Oct 2018

Reflecting the light

There were two things that really made an impression upon me when we visited Sweden recently. One was just how breathtakingly beautiful it is, with pale blue skies, distant vistas and seemingly endless lakes and waterways.

The other was how quickly the nights were drawing in. You could feel it, like a blanket quietly being lowered over the landscape. Each day was just a little bit shorter than it had been the week before. 

Of course this is not surprising, since it hardly goes dark in mid-summer but there is only 4 hours of daylight in the winter! However, it does mean that almost everything you do outside will be in the dark. Your morning commute to work, a walk to the post office, an afternoon trip to the shops... Chances are you will be walking or cycling in low-light conditions for at least some or all of these excursions.

So I have been thinking about how to be visible at night. I saw a video recently with a series of runners gradually coming closer. The people with a number of reflective patches and lines almost outlining their bodies could be seen from a long distance, the reflective material glowing in the headlights of the approaching car. However, the runners just wearing light-coloured clothing were barely visible until they were only a few feet away.

And of course this applies not only runners, but anyone out at night – walkers, cyclists, children and commuters. The problem is that most Hi-Vis clothing is generally quite cumbersome and an extra item to carry. You would probably think about it if you were going on a long trek, but might not bother if you were just popping down to the shops. And that's, of course, just when accidents happen...

So I have been thinking about how we as knitters can make ourselves more visible at night without gearing up in special clothing. Clearly, bright colours can help a bit, but I am also going to experiment with some reflective tape. I have a spool of tape currently on order and when it arrives I am going to try to incorporate it into a range of knits such as scarves and backpacks. 

That might just make the difference between being safe at night or not... 

I will post back here when I have tried the reflective tape out on the scarf I am just working on now. This is the Karlskrona Scarf and I am hoping to incorporate the tape into the zig-zag patterns at each end of the scarf. I think it will be an interesting test!

Until next time,

Happy Knitting!


Last Blogpost: Autumn is upon us!

Anna's Website: www.kikuknits.com

The photo at the top is Stockholm City Hall by Werner Nystrand, & the photo of the Swedish street was taken in Storgatan, Falköping, Sweden by Nasko. Many thanks to them both.

. 6/11/18

30 Sept 2018

Autumn is upon us!

We have returned home after a wonderful trip to England and Sweden. I hope you enjoyed all the "postcards" from our trip. It was great to catch up with everyone, see the fantastic autumnal colours in Sweden and the freshly-harvested fields in the UK. The hillsides always look so clean and yellow when the wheat has just been gathered in.

Now we are back in Florida and it feels as though we have been rolling back the seasons as we have journeyed south. There was a definite crispness in the air in Sweden, then a mild summer breeze across the northern hills in England, but I have just come in from mowing the lawn here in Florida and am baking hot. No wonder since it is 33ºC / 92ºF out there, with a heat index of over 100.

So it does feel slightly unreal to be starting work on a new winter scarf, but I know that it will be needed very soon. We are visiting Boston next week and I hear dire warnings of cooler conditions setting in very soon!

However, if I need any convincing then looking at some more of Tim's photos from our travels will convince me that I need to get working on those winter warmers quickly!

Until next time,

Happy Knitting


My Website: www.wyndlestrawdesigns.com
Anna's Website: www.kikuknits.com

Many thanks again to both Tim and Anna for their photos for the last few blogposts. Find them on Instagram: Tim Ravenscroft / x1dman and Anna Ravenscroft / kikuknits

. 10/10/18

18 Sept 2018

Postcard from Sweden - Walking through history

We’re coming to the end of our stay in Sweden after an amazing week. The weather has been superb and we have taken full advantage to visit several of the nearby towns. 

We have just returned from the city of Örebro to the west of Stockholm. We found a café near the city centre, Fratelli's, where I ate a wonderful gluten-free pasta in pesto sauce. I may just have to move nearer so I could eat there again! And we only saw one of the three yarn stores in town too, so we definitely need to go back. 

However, beyond wonderful food, amazing yarns and friendly people, we have been struck by the long history of the country. The photo at the top, for example, shows one of a line of stones that a wealthy merchant placed by the side of the road for the new King to see on his procession through the countryside about 1000 years ago.

Behind this runestone, there are several large burial mounds dating from the Iron Age, along with huge stones resembling Stonehenge but arranged in the shape of stone ships. 

The village near the burial mounds used to be a situated at the edge of an inlet leading to the sea. However, the land has been rebounding since the end of the last ice age and in about AD 1200 access to the sea was cut off so the larger boats could no longer be used there. Now there is farmland where the lake used to be.

You can still see evidence of the force of the ice as a 3 Km ice sheet passed over the land, scouring the surface and depositing erratics across the landscape. The people who lived here didn't have to go far to find the stones for their monuments!

Further down the coast of the lake, a collection of actual Viking ships and boats has been assembled along with reconstructions to show the type of vessels that they would have used for transport, trade and warfare.

In Anna's photo here, two Viking rowing boats are moored by the Lake Mälaren harbour. These boats were often used to transport goods from one port to another or to take people across the lake to attend church.

Moving forward in time, several of the towns have areas where buildings from the 17th and 18th century have been preserved. The photo above shows one of the buildings in a conservation area in Anna's hometown, Eskilstuna. The area is called the Rademachersmedjorna or Rademacher's Forges after the Dutchman who established his forge here.

There is still a working forge at the site, and other buildings are used by weavers and artisans. We purchased a long woven tablerunner in blues and yellows and also saw some wonderful knitted mittens, scarves and gloves.

And this is the Wadköping area of Örebro. One small building had an information board outside saying that a poor shoemaker and 60 other people lived there! As in Eskilstuna, the area still feels very lived-in as each of the buildings houses craftsmen, puppet-makers or artists, so there is a lot to see and do as you walk around.

Well, tomorrow we start our journey back to the USA and I'm keen to try some knits incorporating the colours and sights from our trip. It is truly an inspiring country.

Many thanks to both Tim and Anna for their wonderful photographs for this blogpost. If you would like to see more of their work, you can find Tim on Instagram as @x1dman while Anna is @kikuknits. They’d love to see you there!

Until next time - Happy knitting!

13 Sept 2018

Postcard from Sweden - Collecting colours and umlauts

We have arrived in Sweden and have been greeted by clear blue skies, autumnal colours and amazingly friendly people. We are visiting our daughter Anna and her fiancé in their new home in Eskilstuna, a small town about an hour's drive to the west of Stockholm.

The town is not far from a large lake called Lake Mälaran and yesterday we visited Sundbyholm, where there is a beautiful marina and lake-side beach. We battled against a strong wind to the end of the headland and I was exceedingly glad that I had brought my Sawston Infinity Scarf with me. Gosh, that wind was chilly! Such a contrast to our usual Florida temperatures.

Tim found an impressive avenue of trees leading up to the nearby castle, with fallen leaves in oranges and reds already carpeting the path between.

Later we went into Eskilstuna, where a similar carpet lay under a Crabapple tree, only this time the colour came from hundreds of small red crabapples, with a heady aroma of sweet cider filling the air.

Today, we drove a little further away to a town called Västerås, with old cobbled streets and timber-framed buildings running alongside a small stream. The Cathedral in the centre of town was particularly striking, with bright stained-glass windows in blues and greens. I could imagine many of the colour combinations in knits!

Our visit was made complete by discovering a wonderful small yarn store, Upplings Yarn, as we were walking around the town. I particularly enjoyed exploring some yarns from Sweden and Norway that I had not seen before.

Many thanks to my DH Tim for all the great photos above – and here are a couple of fun ones to finish. "Tim" means hour in Swedish, so all the parking signs have his name on them!

And here is another fun discovery we made: a tourist destination with 4 umlauts! I'm now on the lookout for any place with more – let me know if you have seen any.

Until next time, Happy Knitting!


Anna's Website: www.kikuknits.com

Many thanks to Tim for his photos. If you would like to see more of his work, then please visit his Instagram page.

. 22/9/18

10 Sept 2018

Postcard from England - Jigsaw Colours

One of the joys of visiting relatives is being able to join in with their favourite hobbies. In the case of Tim's Mum in the UK, this is to open up the puzzle board and help out with adding more pieces to the jigsaw.

Today we had the joy of helping her start a new puzzle - always an exciting moment. We spent a happy hour or so, finding the edge pieces and corners to define the borders.

Then we went out for the afternoon and when we returned, she had sorted the remaining pieces into wonderfully colourful batches of pieces. I had never thought of doing this before but found it fascinating.

I love this pile of turquoises and blues, for example. It may be the smallest pile on the board, but I love the bright clarity of the colours.

And here are the autumn colours on the left, with daisies, leaves and pathway colours mingled together right next to a gloriously zingy pile of cerises and reds.

It is such a simple technique, but not one I have ever seen before. Let me know if that's the way you like to start a jigsaw too. I'm sure there are lots of different ways to set about the task. I'd love to hear what everyone else does.

Anyway, it's time to get back to the jigsaw now – I think I can see exactly where that bright blue piece fits!

Until next time, Happy Knitting!


. 14/9/18

27 Aug 2018

Stripes for Summer and Winter

Today is Autumn Bank Holiday in the UK, usually seen as the grand finale of the Summer Season. Up and down the country, families will be returning from their holidays and getting ready for the start of the new school term.

It can feel a little sad to see a season end, especially when it has been as exceptional as this one! However, I have to admit to liking these transition times. The summer is wonderful with bright clear skies, the feeling of the sea breezes in your hair and walking aimlessly on sandy shores. But one day along comes a slightly cooler wind and you feel that wonderful thrill of anticipation imaging knitting warm scarves and blankets ready for the winter ahead. 

So here in the last of the Summer and Winter series, I am thinking of stripes: stripes to capture those beautiful summer colours in a set of cushions, and stripes on a warm rug to step onto when you emerge from the shower.

It is one of the delights of knitting that you can be sitting one moment by a limpid pool with a set of colouring pencils in your hand, sketching the rocks or perhaps just letting the sound of the gulls wash over you. Then a short while later, you find yourself in a yarn store and the self-same colours are in your hands.

These cushions arose from just such an occurrence. There was a brief 15 minute interlude between a walk by the harbour in Venice, Florida and finding these yarns in the small yarn boutique close by. I wrote about this in a previous blogpost, but it still amazes me. The very same blues and turquoises I had just seen down by the harbour, and now they are a set of cushions

A memory of summer.

Of course, at the moment you don't need to go very far back to remember the summer-time. But now delve further back in your mind to last winter... Can you recall that cold feeling when you stepped onto the icy bathroom floor first thing in the morning? The heating hadn't fully kicked in yet and the tiles seemed to be draining away every last ounce of warmth from your morning shower... Remember that feeling – argh!

Well, here's something to help. A cozy bathroom rug with colours to chase away the chills! The rug is worked in a soft chunky wool-mix yarn and knits up quickly. You'll be able to knit this as the leaves change colour around you, then when winter sets in you'll be able to face your shower without the shock of the cold floor to follow.

The cushions are my Derwent Cove Cushions and you can read more about them here
The wonderfully colourful Loopy Rug is one of Anna's patterns, and you can find it by clicking here.

Both patterns are available for instant download from the pattern sites, and both are also graded as "Easy" – perfect for getting back into knitting after the long lazy summer.

I hope you have enjoyed this exploration of knitting patterns for Summer and Winter. See you in September!

Happy Knitting,


Anna's Website: www.kikuknits.com

. 10/9/18

17 Aug 2018

Summer at the Beach, Winter by the Fire

There's nothing quite like being by the beach, whether it's Bondi beach in Sydney or Brighton beach in Sussex. We are drawn to the gentle sounds of the lapping waves in the summer and the ferocious storms and crisp electrically-charged air in the winter. Both are exhilarating, recharging, refreshing. 

Certainly there's nothing quite so invigorating as trying to walk on the shingle shore of Brighton against a gale force wind and then retreating laughing and salt-encrusted to a local café for a most necessary cup of tea.

But when you live by the sea you get used to that clammy damp that settles as the sun goes down. Even in the height of summer, you find yourself reaching for a warm throw to place over your knees as you watch the lights coming on around the bay or to spread over the bed as an extra layer.

So, continuing my thoughts on Summer and Winter from last time, here are a pair of Anna's knitting patterns for blankets – one which would be perfect for a cool evening at the beach hut, and another for when you are sitting in front of a roaring fire in your winter log cabin.

The first blanket is Anna's brand-new pattern, the Siesta Beach Blanket, named for the world-famous beach, Siesta Key, that we are lucky enough to call our "local" beach in Florida. And yes, that's Siesta Key in the top photo!

The blanket is worked in a soft wool mix yarn and features a riot of colours, with rich blues, oranges and naturals echoing the colours of the sun shades dotting the gulf shore-line.

The blanket uses a reversible stitch, Banded Bamboo, from our book Reversible Knitting Stitches. This is a lovely stitch pattern and resembles the growing pattern on tall stalks of bamboo. The knitted fabric is flexible and warm, just perfect for a summer evening throw.

The second blanket is, in contrast, worked in a single off-white colour. Anna originally designed this for the father of one of her school friends. He was in hospital bravely fighting cancer and said that he found his hospital room rather chilly. 

Anna took up her needles, selected some soft, chunky yarn and produced a blanket that kept him warm during the remainder of his stay. The blanket is called the Laurie Blanket in his memory.

It is worked using Sirdar Denim Ultra yarn, a super-chunky cotton/wool mix which gives a lovely weight to the final item and brings out the graphical nature of the reversible stitch pattern, Wide Chevron. 

Both blankets are a good size for a handy throw to keep you toasty warm. 
The Siesta Beach Blanket is 90cm/36 ins wide and 110cm/44 ins long, while the Laurie Blanket is a little longer and slimmer, 82cm/33 ins wide x 130cm/52 ins long. 

Find both these patterns and other Homeware items on Anna's website: www.Kikuknits.com. The patterns are available for instant download so you can started knitting today!

Until next time,

Happy Knitting!


Anna's website: www.kikuknits.com

. 28/8/18


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