Monday, 28 April 2014

Catterick Completed!

It's finished! After lots of time and concentration, and rather a bit of frogging, I've finished the Catterick hat from Rachel Coopey's new book Toasty. See my review in a previous post. I used baa ram ewe's Titus yarn in the Bramley Baths shade and it I love the colour. I bought two skeins. Half a skein made the hat and with the other skein I knitted a snood using a Toft Alpaca lacy twist snood pattern.

With the left over half skein I'm hoping to knit a pair of gloves - again from a Toft Alpaca pattern I already have. In the January sales I bought a grey duffel coat from Gap which will go perfectly with my knitted Bramley Bath-coloured accessories.

The Catterick hat is so comfy and, importantly, is long enough to cover my ears and keep them warm. The hat can be knitted in three sizes and when I measured my head I found I'd need the small size. It's a generous, stretchy fit - any larger and it wouldn't feel snug.

Coopey's pattern is very delicate and best appreciated from above. It was tricky to knit as it takes no prisoners if you drop a stitch - there are lots of cables and yarn overs. Look closely at my hat to see a few fudges where I went wrong and tried to correct it whilst avoiding pulling out rows of knitting in the round. Thankfully, once I got going, I got the hang of pattern. I have great admiration for Coopey for thinking up the design and all its intricacies.

Titus is a lovely, warm yarn but can split, which I had to look out for. Now I'm back to continuing with Kate Davies' Catkin sweater, also knitted using a different shade of Titus. I'm getting to the point where I'll need to learn new skills where, in the round, I'll have to work out set underarm and panel stitches aside. Wish me luck ...

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Penguins And Peace: The Rise Of Craftivism

Knitters have long been known for their generosity and links with charity. Many a school fete or church fair have seen donations of knitted toys, and development charities have long relied on knitted jumpers, hats and blankets for children in Africa. We knitters love caring and creating things for others.

In the last few years this has taken on a new turn. Knitters are now using their skills not only to donate to charity but to raise awareness of social causes and generally try to make the world a better place. Betsy Greer, author of Knitting for Good!, invented the term craftivism to describe this phenomenon.

Photo courtesy of the Penguin Foundation
Facebook users couldn't help but have seen pretty pictures of penguins wearing knitted jumpers recently. Australia's Penguin Foundation's plea for donations of knitted jumpers to put on penguins affected by an oil spill, to prevent them preening and swallowing toxic oil, went viral. Millions of people around the world became aware of the effects of oil spills on wildlife, and as well as picking up their knitting needles raised their voices for environmental causes. The Penguin Foundation's appeal was so successful that it now has a good supply.

Back in the UK a relatively new charity, Knit for Peace, launched with the ambition of "encouraging women and men from different, often historically hostile, communities to come together informally to knit". The charity is aware of knitting's therapeutic properties and that it's a craft that can be enjoyed across the age spectrum. Knit for Peace's social activist policies bring people together across traditionally-divided communities.

Last year I took a trip to Richard Branson of Virgin fame's hotel in Morocco - Kasbah Tamadot. Not far from the hotel in the Atlas Mountains is a charitable foundation set up by Richard's mother, Eve Branson. The Eve Branson Foundation works with local communities where girls leave school earlier than their Western counterparts and expect to marry young and work in the home. Eve has set up a craft school where these girls can come to learn craft skills to a professional standard, including knitting, and sell their work to earn an income. The girls learn English and benefit from the camaraderie in a community that historically has placed limitations on their aspirations.

Knitting to raise awareness of a social cause is set to boom, making knitting an active, rather than passive hobby. Do you know of any craftivism projects in your locality? If so, please do let me know.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Countdown to Yarndale 2014

Yarndale, a festival of wool and craft in Skipton, North Yorkshire, had its inaugural show in 2013. Sadly I couldn't make it because of back pain on the day. My godmother went, though, and enthused about the range of stalls and sellers there; handspun and dyed yarns that you wouldn't find in your local yarn shop; and the general happy ambience that surrounded this gathering of lovely, crafty people.

This year Yarndale is back on 27 and 28th September. The date is down in my diary and I'm hoping on making an outing of it with my parents. Skipton is a town I've never been to - or at least if I went as a young child I don't remember it! I grew up in industrial South Yorkshire and we rarely had a trip to the Yorkshire Dales. Skipton is now on my radar as home to one of the best yarn shops I've never been to - Purl and Jane - and I'm hoping that local real ale pubs will keep my dad interested whilst mum accompanies me yarn shopping.

Last year Yarndale had a great achievement of receiving knitted bunting from all over the world to adorn the venue. In fact, the bunting organiser, Lucy of Attic 24 blog fame, received 582 parcels, including from St Helena island and Brunei. Not the countries that would first spring to mind when you think of knitting.

The bunting will be hanging again at this year's Yarndale to celebrate another festival of woolly delights.

Photo courtesy of the Yarndale website.
The Welcome to Yorkshire website has lots of useful information on things to do in Skipton. It would be a shame to travel all the way to Skipton without seeing all the sights it has to offer. It's also useful to have a back up plan for non-knitty friends/partners who are coming along to Yarndale for the ride. Here's my pick of what to do when your shopping bags are full:
  1. See a copy of Shakespeare's First Folio at the Craven Museum and Gallery. It's free to get into the museum, located in the town hall, where on display is one of the 50 surviving copies of Shakespeare's First Folio in the British Isles.
  2. Look round the 900-year-old Skipton Castle. No wheelchair access though so this will probably be a no-no for me, although the teashop apparently is accessible.
  3. Afternoon tea out in the Dales at the The Devonshire Arms. This hotel is on my bucket list of places to stay in the UK, with a spa treatment thrown in of course. In September I'd like to recce the joint and enjoy some Yorkshire grub before heading home after Yarndale.
Let me know if you're planning to go to Yarndale this year. 

Thursday, 10 April 2014

... And A Cuddly Toy

What's that I spy coming off my needles? I remember the 1980s television programme The Generation Game where winners had to remember prizes tootling along a conveyor belt. There was always cuddly toy, which would raise a slight cheer from the audience. If you could remember one thing it would always be the cuddly toy.

So, after a raft of hats, jumpers, blankets, cowls and baby shoes the latest item to come off my needles is a cuddly toy. Just not the one I was expecting when I sat down with yarn and a pattern! I had some lovely, snuggly, thick chunky alpaca to use up and chose smaller needles for a tighter knit. Half way through the pattern it was obvious that the yarn would soon run out.  I hunted in my stash for some other soft yarn the same thickness and the toy's legs became slate.

Then I quickly used up that yarn too. None left for arms! My cuddly toy was destined to be an amigurumi style pet, with quirky features. The toy will be a gift for my best friend's unborn baby and needs to be safe, hence the EU-standard stuffing and eyes. I love its owl-like look and can't wait to see what my friend will call him (or her).

It certainly is a cuddly toy to remember! There will be more coming off my needles for the newborn soon.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

First Self-Published Book For Marie Wallin

For the past few years I've subscribed to Rowan's Knitting and Crochet Magazine and have seen Marie Wallin's delicate patterns in there. She joined Rowan in 2005 as Head Designer and has been responsible for many a beloved pattern and was also a member of the team that introduced the Rowan Purelife yarn range. With its eco-credentials Purelife is a favourite with me.

Dill. Picture courtesy of Marie Wallin
Now, as well as still working with Rowan as a freelancer, Marie has launched her own website and released her first self-published pattern collection: Windswept. She describes the collection as "a celebration of traditional fairisle and cable patterning with a hint of crochet. The modern and classic fit garments are equally perfect to wear at home or on bracing country or seaside walks and look great styled with tartans and plaids."

I recognise the model on the front cover from a Purelife pattern book I have. Windswept's photography and styling are up to Rowan's always high standard. Believe me, you'll look at the patterns and want to knit everything. EVERYTHING. From my favourite, the cover jumper Dill, which has a pretty crochet neck trim, to the adorable fairisle sweater dress Sage, all the patterns have a timeless and slightly Scottish feel. They make me long for nippy days to throw on a wrap and beret, not the burgeoning Spring sunshine we have at the moment. Well almost anyway...

Sage. Picture courtesy of Marie Wallin
These aren't, however, patterns for beginners or those not confident with their knitting skills. Dill, using just one colour and having a cable pattern on the arms, is the most accessible pattern in the collection. My beloved sweater dress, Sage, though, uses 13 different colours. At first look the black and white schematic showing the design made me gulp with fear. Looking more closely it makes perfect sense, it just requires a lot of concentration and dedication.

As I already have a long 'to knit' list, complete with patterns and yarns, Windswept is a book I'll add lovingly to my collection and pick up in a year or so when I'm looking for a new challenge. Here's hoping by then I'll be confident enough to knit Sage. Meanwhile in July Marie is publishing Lakeland, her second collection.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Cuddly Cushion Knit

March saw the redecoration of our front room, the addition of a new sofa and the perfect knitted cushion to complement it. When I took up knitting again in my late twenties my first knits were home accessories to grace the flat I lived in then as a singleton. I bought a Debbie Bliss book - Simple Living - and knitted a simple but visually effective cushion cover design in cream that is still going strong today.

My Laura Ashley sofa and Debbie Bliss cushion
Fast forward to 2014 and for my new sofa I decided I wanted a plain purple cushion. Out went an old cushion cover to a charity shop and in came the Debbie Bliss garter stitch cushion knitted in Sublime Extra Fine Merino Wook DK bought in a three for two offer at Hobbycraft. The purple shade I used appears to have sold out now. I find that Hobbycraft is very hit and miss for yarn, although if you do find what you're looking for their offers are good.

The juxtaposition of single row garter stitch in the middle of double row garter stitch is aesthetically pleasing and calming. Plus the cushion is very cuddly and perfect for resting my head on after a hard day's writing and knitting. For people like me who love getting their money's worth, using an already-owned pattern book hits the spot.

Cushion close up
I have an article on social media coming out in the Fall/Winter edition of Debbie Bliss Knitting Magazine. One of Debbie's strengths is designing patterns aimed at varying levels of knitting ability. The pattern I used for the cushion was for beginners, yet the finished item looks professional and proves that designs don't have to have a multitude of intarsia and cables on to look good.

Now, back to the cables in the round Catterick hat and Kate Davies sweater that I've been putting off ...
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