6 Apr 2019

Of tree branches and baby blankets


About four weeks ago a large branch fell on me while I was gardening, hitting the top of my head hard. I didn't black out but I felt like my head was ringing with the impact and I now know people don't jest when they say they are "seeing stars". After several weeks and large numbers of paracetamol tablets the headaches have started to ease, but for the last few weeks it has seemed that all I wanted to do was to sit in one place and gaze vaguely at a piece of knitting that hardly seemed to grow. 

Well, the body knows what it is doing and I did find myself just resting in my favourite chair gently dozing and doodling with stitch charts and that seemed to do the trick. Then one day this week, I woke and felt better. Isn't it funny when that happens?


So I looked at the few inches of baby blanket I had completed in several weeks and two days later it was done and a second smaller dolly blanket was well on its way. I had fun when I came to finishing the blanket though, as I had a large fluffy helper! Our grandson has a little monkey, Michael, who waits patiently for his next visit. He is a helpful monkey and tried to assist with sewing in the ends but I had to redo them as he got bits of fluff sewn in.


Then he examined various boxes to see which would make a good bed before settling down in a medium-sized Amazon box which was just the right size.


The stitch pattern is one that I "designed" during my long sessions sitting in my La-Z-Boy chair recuperating. I love doing this – just starting with a blank sheet of graph paper and noodling around with stitches. Many of the stitches in our Reversible Knitting Stitches book resulted from just such a process. Of course, if I go hunting I will often come across very similar ones in some stitch book or other. It's hard to invent anything new in knitting isn't it!

Well, one of the ones that I drew up really excited me as soon as I was working it. The front face has a very modern feel with sharply-defined lines and the fabric had a pleasing weight. So I tried it in some PaintBox cotton aran yarn and I really liked the way it came. Just perfect for Spring-time babies.


The back of the stitch is like an undulating garter stitch with a regular repeating diagonal pattern. Of course, it's those undulations that make a blanket cozy and warm as they really trap the air and give a lovely warmth to the final design. Spring can be very fickle. One minute it's warm like summer and the next you have to bundle up because there's another flurry of snow. So this is perfect for these changeable conditions. Warm enough for a bit of a chilly day but not stifling like a heavy wool blanket would be.

This is the Caela Baby Blanket and Dolly Blanket and the pattern is now available on my website. In addition to Michael's cute little dolly/teddy blanket, the baby blanket comes in three sizes for a Moses Basket, a stroller or pram, plus a large square blanket which would be good for a playpen or playmat.


By the way, did you know that the new advice is for babies not to be left unattended in cots with a blanket or soft toys? This is quite different from when I was a young Mum, of course. Then you had to put a rolled-up blanket behind baby to keep them on their side, plus quilted bumpers on every side of the cot. Such a change to the bare cots you see today.

However, when they're out and about with you in attendance, then they definitely need a blanket and this one is great for those times. Sitting in the garden with baby in a Moses basket beside you, strolling through the leafy lanes for a morning walk in their pram or tucked up in the car seat when you are heading to the shops.

Read more about the Caela Baby Blanket and Dolly Blanket here, and if you have a new little baby arriving in your family soon – many congratulations!

Happy Knitting!

Moira




Last Blogpost: Glorious Garter Stitch




17 Mar 2019

Glorious Garter Stitch


A question for you: what is the first stitch every knitter learns? Well that's a bit of a trick question since there are only two possible answers, a knit or a purl, but if I was to answer that I suppose I'd say most people learn the knit stitch first. 

And now a 2nd question: can you name two stitch patterns using only knit stitches? This time there would be a few options to choose from, but here are two: if you were working in the round, you would probably be working in Stocking Stitch (or as they call it over here, Stockinette Stitch). 

However, if you were working back-and-forth on straight needles, then that would most likely be Garter Stitch. 
Every Row: Knit to end. Simple, easy, yet so versatile.


Garter Stitch is a dense, compact stitch which produces deep areas of colour with a wonderful stitch definition and texture. It can be worked all in one colour, but I think it really comes into its own when sections of Garter Stitch in different yarns are worked side-by-side. For example, in Anna's Patchwork Cushion, blocks of Garter Stitch in different colours co-ordinate to give a dynamic, modern result. 


Garter Stitch is also absolutely gorgeous when worked in stripes. For example, in the Winsford Stroller Blanket above, the pattern features bands in solid and two-colour stripes. This is a variation of Garter Stitch called Wide Garter Columns from our book, Reversible Knitting Stitchesand it gives a wonderful blending of the two colours used in the pattern. 


However, you don't need to work any variation of Garter Stitch for a striped pattern. At the top of this blogpost and in the photo above, you can see how well stripes work in the basic stitch. This is Anna's Ugly Blanket which has been worked in a variety of colours. 

I love that name! It stems from an initial impression of some left-over yarns as they looked so unpromising when all mixed together in their basket. However, Garter Stitch came to the rescue and blended them perfectly in the finished blanket!


Garter Stitch has several other qualities too. Firstly, it is a reversible pattern, meaning that both sides look good so you don't have to choose which side is the "Right Side". In fact, it is one of those rare species: a truly reversible stitch, so both faces are identical. 

One result of this reversibility is that Garter Stitch lies flat. I have written about this here and here, but to recap: knitwear has a tendency to curl when one side has more purl "bumps" than the other. The purl stitches push outwards and the result is a curl in the finished item. Sometimes this is desirable, such as when you want to make an easy roll-necked sweater. However, usually it is not a good feature. 


Garter Stitch is perfectly balanced with exactly the same number of purl "bumps" on both sides, so lays absolutely flat. This quality can be used for items that need to be level, such as rugs and hot pads. For example, in Anna's Quilted Hot Pads above, a T-shirting yarn has been used to make a pad with raised stitches over a Garter Stitch base giving a perfectly flat, insulated layer for your saucepans.

Another quality of Garter Stitch is that it tends to push out widthwise so can hold other designs open. In the Quilted Hot Pads, this is important so that the insulating ribs of the stitch are held securely in place. 

In other patterns, small sections of Garter Stitch can be used to give warmth and texture to a design. I will come back to that next time and see how panels of Garter Stitch can be used in a baby blanket.


Meanwhile, if you have enjoyed seeing some of Anna's wonderful explorations of Garter Stitch, then please visit her website and read more about her new E-Book, Glorious Garter Stitch.

And if you would like to have your own copy of our book, Reversible Knitting Stitches, then please click here.

Until next time - Happy Knitting!

Moira



Anna's Website: www.kikuknits.com

Anna's new E-Book: Glorious Garter Stitch

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5 Mar 2019

A return to winter and a new scarf



It’s been an odd year for weather. Last week in the UK people were sitting in the parks surrounded by daffodils and basking in the warm Spring sun. This week, Storm Freya has blown that wonderful sunshine away with freezing temperatures returning alongside the strong winds and rain. 


Meanwhile in Boston, there has been so much snow in this first week of March! Over a foot of snow arrived yesterday and for a time 2-4 inches of snow were falling every hour. A real return to winter. 


We had just the same last year, when our arrival back in the North-East saw the start of four storms, one coming right after the next until there were walls of snow on all the roads and driveways. As one of the commentators on CBS said,

“Call it what you want but suddenly March is becoming the new February.”


He may well be right there. Well, I for one am not going to stop my winter knitting just yet! So I have just finished up another winter scarf and I can see this is going to be needed straight away. 


This is the Karlskrona Scarf, a strongly textured man’s scarf with a really interesting reversible stitch pattern. This features a dynamic zig-zag design on the front and a well-defined vertical stripe on the reverse. 

Both sides show a classic symmetry that is both pleasing to knit and to wear. The stitch is also easily memorised so is a great fire-side pattern to work. What could be better after a morning shovelling snow than to sit in front of the fire, a cup of tea to hand and a new project on your needles. Sounds a perfect combination to me!


For more details about the Karlskrona Scarf please click here. The pattern includes three different sizes and is available for instant download from my website. 

The stitch pattern is taken from our book, Reversible Knitting Stitches and you can find more details about ordering your own copy of the book here.

Until next time - keep warm!

Moira



Last Blogpost: Love this time of year

Thanks to Tim for his great photos! If you would like to see more of his work, please find him on Instagram: @xidman


7 Feb 2019

Love this time of year


It's been so cold outside this year that I think most of us have felt like hibernating in front of a warm fire and not emerging until Spring! However I don't know about you, but I always find there's something about the chilly weather that really makes me want to take up my knitting needles and start work.

There's a sense of purpose.
An acknowledgement that every stitch will soon be keeping someone warm. 

So one of my favourite activities at this time of the year is to look through stitch books and design lots of new things to knit in the days ahead. Then comes the equally fun part of deciding on yarns – warm yarns to take you from the icy blasts of winter through to the Spring, then some airy cottons for those first warm days. 

So that's what I have been doing for the last couple of weeks, and now I am just waiting for the yarn to arrive! In the meantime, I have been having a dig through my WIP (Work In Progress) basket. I don't know why I am always surprised at how many items are in there but it always seems to be a goodly number. I had a bit of an archeological dig last year, but the collection seems larger than ever now. 


A number of them are waiting for just one seam to be sewn up, or a button to be added, or to finish that row where the needle broke and I put the scarf down. Hmmm, that last project only needed a few more rows! I continually astound myself with my weak excuses.

Also in that same basket are projects needing a little bit of care. The photo at the top of this post, for example, shows a small repair needed on a scarf I made a few years ago, the Elizabeth Scarf. This is a reversible scarf using a stitch pattern from our book, Reversible Knitting Stitches, and you can read more about the book here.

I caught the scarf on a fence post a while ago and made a small hole, but then put it aside to make sure it didn't start to unravel. So, I am going to make myself a cup of tea then sit in front of the fire and finish that off. It will be good to have it back and useable again...

Until next time,

Happy Knitting!

Moira







28 Jan 2019

New pattern – Westernesse Bag


I have a new bag pattern! This is the Westernesse Bag and it's a duffle-bag style with lots of space to take everything you need for a day in the country.

The colour was inspired by a walk we took around a lake in Sweden last autumn-time. The leaves had just started turning colour but already they were carpeting the walkways and drifting slowly past us as we walked. By the time we returned to our car, the sun was low in the skies and just set the colours aflame.


I was carrying one of my favourite bags at the time, a roomy canvas hold-all with a single shoulder strap. This seemed like the perfect model for a new knitted bag. 

I like the ease of a single shoulder strap. Easy to pick up, easy to throw over your shoulder, simple to slip off when you get to the far side of the lake and want to sit for a while. The one here is worked in Moss Stitch and is a tube with a fabric band inside for extra strength.


For the body of the bag, I chose the Double Moss Stitch pattern from our book, Reversible Knitting Stitches, adding an extra repeat to enhance the textural qualities of the stitch. This really emphasised the colour bands, giving a strongly graphical result.


I then lined the bag with a Waverley cotton fabric. I had forgotten how much I enjoy sewing! I don't sew much these days but it was fun getting the sewing machine out again, and even more fun getting the fluff out of the mechanism so it would actually work. You can read all about that incredible feat here!

The cotton liner was simple to make and I love the fabric I found. This one has words scripted in French – just perfect for a bag I'm going to use when exploring new places.


I finished the bag by adding a plaited drawstring which runs through the top section to draw it together. I had intended adding a cord lock to keep the cords closed, but in the end I liked it just with a simple tie so left it like that. 

Then as a final touch I sewed on a large button made from coconut, with a simple cord loop closure. Perfect. Now, where shall we go for a walk next.... I'm thinking maybe it's time to go back to the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. It's ages since we were last there.

If you would like more details about the Westernesse Bag, then please click here

The pattern is also available on Loveknitting, where you can also find the yarn that I used, Lang Merino+.

Until next time - Happy Knitting!

Moira



Last Blogpost: Astonishing Day

14 Jan 2019

Astonishing day



There are days when I truly astonish myself.

What did I do that was so amazing, you ask? Well... drum roll... I fixed a sewing machine!!! OK, you can stop laughing now, but this happens to be the first time I have ever accomplished this feat. 

I had recently finished making a skirt and all had gone well. Even a dreaded buttonhole or two had gone without a hitch. However, today was different. I started the machine only to be greeted by a horrible clattering noise! The thread was firmly jammed under the feeder plate. 

I snipped away at the tangle until I managed to pull it free and remove the small cut threads. I started again, very gently, only to be greeted by another loud clunking sound and another jam... This time I could not remove the trapped fabric without cutting it away. Thank goodness I was working with an oddment and not the final fabric!


OK, I thought. I’ll lift off the feeder plate and then I can get to the trapped threads. I’ve done that before so didn’t feel phased by the prospect. However, it became clear that the culprit was a large build-up of fluff in what the handbook told me was the “spool holder”. 

Apparently I was supposed to clean this on a regular basis! Well, dust bunnies and I are old friends and the idea of stripping down a sewing machine to remove fluff build-up had never occurred to me before. 

Did you know you were supposed to do this? It was certainly news to me but then I suppose I can’t actually remember ever reading the instructions so it’s not surprising I hadn’t stumbled upon this piece of information before...



The manual talked about turning the handle until various rotating parts lined up, then removing the spool holder assembly and cleaning underneath. I gulped, then started removing parts until there seemed quite a collection. 

By now, I was feeling alarmed and wondering just how many of these would go back where they came from! 


However, 15 minutes later the spool holder was removed to reveal a good-sized pile of fluff inside. That was quickly removed so all I had to do now was reassemble it all...

I took a deep breath and before much longer all parts were back in again. Phew! 


Well, I expect by now those folks with an engineering bent will be laughing themselves silly, but it felt like a major step for me! My first (successful) taking apart of a sewing machine.


I plugged it in, turned it on and prepared to sew the sample again. A quiet purr came from my new happy machine and a perfect seam formed without a single snag or clunk.

Mission accomplished! Let the sewing commence!

Until next time,

Happy Knitting,

Moira


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