Wednesday 26 March 2014

Kate Davies Tea Towel: Too Good For Washing Up

I am now the proud owner of a Kate Davies tea towel, which, I may add, will NOT be used for drying up greasy lasagne dishes. I first discovered Kate's wonderful knitwear designs a couple of years ago. Indeed her owls jumper, which became a Ravelry sensation, is on my 'to knit' list with the correct yarn carefully stored in my knitting basket alongside the pattern.

Photo courtesy of Kate Davies Designs
The tea towel shows Kate's most delectable designs drawn as concept sketches. For starting-out designers like me it's helpful to see how the experts put their design and stitch ideas down on paper (or cotton in this case).

For me the tea towel is a motivator to keep on knitting my work in progresses. As I've mentioned in a previous post I'm about a third of the way through knitting Kate's Catkin design. It's a challenging knit for me becaue it entails both cables and working in the round. Subsequently I took a break from Catkin to knit a few quicker projects that pass the EastEnders test *. Currently I'm knitting a purple Debbie Bliss cushion cover for my new sofa, a project that uses variations of knit and purl rows to create a clean, calming aesthetic.

For now my Kate Davies tea towel will remain pristine, untouched by fairy liquid or last night's dishes. It's a covetable reminder for me to up my knitting ante and carry on making the designs that I so desire to wear.

* A project passes the EastEnders test if I can knit it at the same time as watching EastEnders and not go wrong.

Sunday 23 March 2014

Passing Knitting Skills On

I don't remember actually learning to knit. I know we had a few lessons at school and my mum could knit, so she probably helped me carry on at home. My two grandmas were both prolific knitters. One, Grandma H, knitted out of necessity. She was a wartime bride and knitting and sewing then were the only affordable ways to clothe your family. When a hole appeared at the elbow you darned it. When a child grew out of a jumper you took it apart for the reusable wool and knitted something else with it. As an adult I inherited her needles and knitting accessories lovingly stored in a well-used corset box.

Grandma H's knitting box
My other grandma, Granny B, had a few more pennies in the bank. I remember her knitting a multitude of dolls for charity. As her only granddaughter I had the pleasure of requesting knitted toys - something that her seven grandsons weren't interested in when they were out of infanthood. My beloved snowman, a copy of the famous cartoon character, stayed with me right up until the end of teenage years. Granny B had run out of white wool near the top and so he had a cream forehead instead, which added to his individuality.

When I was 12 she knitted me a black jumper with white sheep on. How I wish I'd kept it - I'd love to see now how the intarsia looked at the back!

When I took up knitting again as a serious hobby in my late twenties sadly there wasn't anyone for me to learn from in the family. Grandma H had died and Granny B was no longer able to knit due to the ravages of age in her hands. My mum had forgotten her skills. She had been taught by her mum to knit and sew, yet when the mass consumer age reached us and it was cheaper to buy a jumper from M&S than buy the wool and spend the time knitting your own, that's exactly what she did.

That's why I'm so thankful for the internet and the use of short videos to explain knitting skills. Explanations in books can be very confusing: first you have to work out the abbreviations and then try and follow the moves. Even something as seemingly simple as an increase can be done in different ways.

Recently I had a 'brain freeze' when it came to SSK. I tried and tried, pulling it out a few times as I'd obviously done it wrong. There was no-one to ask to remind me. So I logged on to the Deramores knitting tutorials to see how exactly to do SSK. Straight away I realised what I'd been doing wrong. The voiceover was in English and there was no confusion with American-styles of knitting like there can be when I randomly google knitting instructions.

My birthday knitting bag
Whilst I prefer to buy my yarn from independent wool shops where possible, Deramores is great for ordering online, particularly when I need a bulk order. Their frequently-changing special offers are an incentive to increase my 'to knit' list and line up new projects before I've cast-off the item I'm working on!

It was my birthday last week and one friend bought me a comedy knitting needle storage bag. That's what I'll be bequeathing to a relative or friend far ahead in the future. Far sooner than that I'll be pestering my goddaughters to learn to knit so I can show them the ropes. I'm already indoctrinating them by knitting clothes and toys for birthdays and Christmas.

Passing on skills to the next generation is vital to keep the joy of knitting alive - I only wish that I'd kept up knitting when I was a child and had been able to ask my grandmas for their tips and advice. blog entry is my submission to the Deramores Blog Awards 2014. Deramores is the UK’s number one online retailer of knitting and crochet supplies. 

Tuesday 18 March 2014

Knit Now Magazine's Best of British Special

Knit Now magazine's March edition is one close to my heart - dedicated to the best of British yarns and designers. In a crowded knitting magazine market Knit Now is targeted at readers who mainly want quick and easy makes such as gloves, scarves, cushion covers and shawls, with the latest knitting news thrown in.

Image courtesy of Knit Now
As readers of this blog know, the UK knitting industry has a wealth of talent, with independent designers and yarn spinners bringing much originality and creativity to the fore. 

My pattern highlights of the Best of British special are the soaring swallows cowl and the thousand tides tunic

The background of the cowl is knitted with Artesano British Wool Blue Faced Blend DK in a jade green colour called Beryl (a good omen as it's my mother's name). The swallows are cream. It is knitted on two circular needles and is cast on and off in the tubular method. That's a new one to me but there are comprehensive instructions with the pattern. 

The tunic is designed by the magazine's editor, Kate Heppell, and she says it's inspired by the ripple pattern of waves on the shore. The tunic is dark blue with a yellow 'wave' stripes around the yoke. Knitted in the round, it's a challenge for knitters who usually use two needles, but is worth it for the lack of sewing up that's needed. It is knitted in Susan Crawford's Excelena yarn and has a row of six small buttons from the neck down. I'll probably shorten this to make it a t-shirt rather than a tunic, as tunics tend to swap my short frame.

The Yorkshire designer Ann Kingstone is interviewed in the issue, with a focus on her latest book Stranded Knits. She explains why she likes working with British wool and talks about her favourite British yarns. In my very long 'to knit' list is the hooded jumper Hild from her Born & Bred pattern book, knitted with pink Aran British yarn I bought a few years ago from Woolyknit after seeing them at the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show. 

The best of new British yarns are featured in the 'Spring has Sprung' feature. I've not seen the Brigantia Luxury Aran skein before - it's one to check out. Over the page real knitters text six different British yarn. Four of them score 100% on the 'would buy' test.

My one complaint about the issue is that as I turned the magazine's front cover over I saw a full page advert for Bergere de France! 

Sunday 9 March 2014

Ten Toasty Designs in Rachel Coopey's New Book

I mentioned in a previous post that baa ram ewe had brought out some new shades of their Titus wool. I
treated myself to a couple of skeins of Bramley Baths, and it's new being put to good use to knit a hat from Rachel Coopey, aka Coopknit's, latest book of designs - Toasty.

Extraordinarily-talented Rachel arouses in me both great admiration and envy. Her Ravelry entry mentions that she's only been knitting for four years. I'm hoping that text was written about ten years ago otherwise I can't get my head around how she can design such fine designs with cables and colourwork with only a few years' experience, unless she was born a knitting genius!

Rachel is best known for her sock patterns, but in Toasty she has branched out to hats, scarves and mitts. All the patterns use Titus yarn.

None of the patterns are for beginners. All require skill in cables, stranded colourwork or knitting in the round - or a mixture of the three. The book is lovingly photographed by baa ram ewe's Verity Britton and it's the sort of tome that's a pleasure to browse and look at again and again.

I've started so I'll finish ...
My favourite design to challenge my needle skills is the wonderful, slouchy hat Catterick. In the book it's knitted in Filey, a yellow yarn, but on my needles is the lovely Bramley Baths. I've cast on using a 2.5mm circular needle. For me the first couple of rows on a round needle are always the hardest part. Once I've made sure the stitches aren't twisted, the ends are joined together properly and the marker is in the correct place it's all systems go!

Toasty costs £12 and is worth every penny. The ten projects are all delightful and for me this will be a 'go to' pattern book when I'm looking for a shorter project to knit for a gift. It's worth mentioning that this is Volume 1 of Toasty. Please Rachel, give me enough time to finish my hat before you tempt me with Volume 2!

Tuesday 4 March 2014

Two Articles Of Mine in The Knitter 69

The Knitter issue 69
I have two articles published in the latest The Knitter magazine, issue 69. It's a real privilege to be published in such a well-respected international magazine, and I always get a thrill when I see my finished work in print.

My first feature is a guest column on the importance of knitting shows both for vendors and knitters. Secondly I have a piece on the history of Ruddington's Framework Knitters whose industry was a way of community life back in the 19th century. I visited the museum back in December 2013 and met the lovely team who keep the area's history alive. What I was particularly impressed with was the manager, Paul Baker's, commitment to current artisan makers, seeing supporting local designer-makers as a way of celebrating and upholding the area's heritage.

I have a few more features commissioned for future issues of The Knitter - coming to a magazine stand near you soon!
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