Friday, 14 June 2019

Mellow yellow (Yarn Along: June 2019)

Hello June! I'm a bit late with June's Yarn Along post, but, honestly, I'm working on the same project as last week, and reading the same book, so let's pretend I wrote this last week!

Having started work again after maternity leave, I'm restricting myself to one personal project at a time, with the general intention of casting things on, then actually finishing them. The current project is a cardigan for my smallest daughter. The weather in the UK at the minute is particularly erratic - it's pouring with rain as I write this, in spite of it being 'summer' - so layers are really helpful when dressing a small child. I'm knitting a Granny's Favourite, a cardigan that I have knitted before, several times. I'm knitting it in Bergere de France Ideal* in the colour way Jaune, which is a lovely soft buttery yellow, and will be perfect over summer dresses, assuming we ever get any sunshine. The yarn is listed as a DK weight, but I would say knits up better at 24 sts to 10 cm, so is on the lightweight side. The project is a lovely one, and I am enjoying adding a row here and there - I should be able to cast off the body in the next day or two.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi is my current read, and it is one of the best things I've read in absolutely ages. Paul is 36 and coming to the end of his surgical training, looking forward to the life he's dreamed of when he finally qualifies, when he is diagnosed with terminal cancer. He wrote the book between his diagnosis and his death at 37. Kalanithi gained a degree in English Literature before he studied medicine, and his writing style is beautiful. I've recommended this book to everyone I have spoken to in the past few weeks, and so many people have replied that it is a fantastic book that has really stuck with them, so I would definitely recommend it. I would note though, that you shouldn't give it to someone as a 36th birthday present, as it will give them a complex!

What are you currently working on? Read anything good lately?

Linking up with Ginny for Yarn Along. Head to her post to find out what other people are reading and crafting on.

*Affiliate link.

Friday, 31 May 2019

FINAL DAY: 50% off all patterns in my Ravelry store

I'm back to work after maternity leave, so, to celebrate, I'm hosting a sale in my Ravelry store.

Pattern shown is Granny's Button Jar

From now until 11.59pm BST, May 31st 2019 (that's tonight!), all the patterns in my Ravelry store have 50% off with the code BACKTOWORK

Happy knitting!

Saturday, 25 May 2019

The sale continues...

To celebrate being back to work after maternity leave, I'm hosting a sale in my Ravelry store.

Patterns shown: (top left) Waddle; (top right) Can't Catch Me!; (bottom left) Unicorn of the Sea; (bottom right) From Breton with Love

From now until 11.59pm BST, May 31st 2019, all the patterns in my Ravelry store have 50% off with the code BACKTOWORK

Happy knitting!

Monday, 20 May 2019

Back to work SALE!


Pattern shown is Fluffy White Clouds

After nine months of baby snuggles, I am back! To celebrate, I am hosting a sale in my Ravelry store. All my self-published patterns (both single patterns and ebooks) will be available with 50% off until the end of May 2019 (11.59pm BST, May 31st 2019) using the code BACKTOWORK, so if you fancy stocking up on my patterns, now is the time.

I have patterns for adults, patterns for kids, intarsia patterns and more, so why not head over to my Ravelry store now to take a look?

Happy knitting.

Friday, 17 May 2019

Welcome to the sock parade!

For the past few weeks I have knitted little but socks. To me they really are the perfect portable project: small enough to be popped into a bag for a day out, easy enough to work on while feeding a baby or holding a conversation, and quick enough that you can get to the end of the project before you lose interest. Somehow, I have finished 10 pairs of socks so far this year,* which has surprised me! So here they are, 10 pairs of socks in all their glory.

1. Fabulous Felici socks
I started these socks a long time ago (2016 to be precise), whizzed through all the sock knitting and stalled at adding the heels. I had planned on these being my first afterthought heel socks, but got intimidated and put them to one side. I've now knitted several pairs with true afterthought heels, so once I stay down to work on them, knitting the heels only took an evening or so.

2. My Christmas Eve 2018 cast-on socks
Every year I cast on a pair of socks on (or around) Christmas Eve to work on over the festive period. Last year's cast-on was a pair of sport-weight socks in yarn from the December 2018 sock crate from Knit Crate. The yarn came as a colour-blocked yarn, which I broke down into its constituent colours and knitted up as tonal stripes with contrast heels and toes. I wasn't certain I'd have enough yarn to make full-length socks, so knitted these from the toe-up having split each shade of yarn into two balls that weighed the same. The socks are the perfect length, and I had just enough of the contrast yarn left for the cast-off.

3. Little rainbow socks
I can't resist a rainbow yarn, and this lovely bright rainbow yarn is no exception, it's just beautiful! My daughter (aged 4) saw it and requested socks for her in it. She has small feet, so in theory these socks should have been quick, but I got sidetracked after I started them last summer once I had knitted the first sock, so they were finished long after they should have been! Fortunately they still fitted when I finally finished them.

4. These socks make me think of cake...
I was given the yarn for these socks in my knitting-group Secret Santa last year, and I love it! There's something so cheery and bright about it, and the combination of pink and sprinkles makes me think of cake. I hadn't used King Cole Zig Zag before, and was pleasantly surprised - the yarn is inexpensive but nice to work with and I think it'll wear really well.

5. Another pair of Felici socks
Felici sock yarn is definitely one of my favourites: it comes in lots of bright, striped colours and is wonderfully soft. Unfortunately Knit Picks release the yarn in batches, and they usually sell out pretty quickly, so I always make sure to stock up when they have some available. I bought this colourway a few years ago, and had been hoarding it. The pink and green seemed perfect for spring, and I really enjoyed knitting these socks. It took me a few attempts to get the heel to look exactly how I wanted it to - the first time I misjudged how much yarn the heel turn would take, the second I used a pink that was just wrong, but I was really pleased with the final choice of green yarn for the heel turn: unobtrusive, and it kept the stripes in order.

6. From the deeper recesses of the WIP pile
I have a collection of long-abandoned sock works in progress (WIPs), and this spring I have been focusing on clearing some of them off the needles. These socks were cast on in 2016, on cheap circulars that I kept arguing with. Inevitably I abandoned the project, and when I picked it up again I switched to some nicer needles. Having looked at the socks, I decided that I needed them to have a few more stitches, so unravelled them and started again. Obviously I was more successful this time, and the finished pair have been sent to my brother.

7. Socks for a knitworthy uncle
I knitted my uncle some socks as a surprise birthday present a couple of years ago; he liked them so much he requested another pair, and this is what I came up with. The colours are more muted than I usually choose, but I enjoyed watching the gentle, soothing stripes appear.

8. I cast on the right number of stitches this time...
Sometimes when I knit socks, I underestimate how much attention I need to pay. Last year, I was knitting these socks to go to Marie Curie to be donated to a cancer patient over the festive period. I knitted the first sock, then ploughed on with the second. I did briefly wonder why the two socks were pooling differently, and it was only when I got to the heel that I realised I had cast on the wrong number of stitches for the second sock. Just before Christmas is not the best time to add extra things to my to-do list, so I put these to one side and came back to them earlier this month. I knitted a good portion of the second sock while watching Avengers: Endgame at the cinema, and these socks seemed to knit themselves once I got past the heel.

9. I weighed the yarn, and yet...
I cast on a pair of socks for my aunt at the same time as I was knitting socks for my uncle. I thought I'd be clever and use up the leftovers from another pair of socks. I weighed the yarn and got knitting. By the time I got to the heel of the first sock, I realised that I was definitely going to run out of yarn. Oops. Rather than unravel them and start again with something else, I made some slightly smaller socks, and sent them to my sister in law instead.

10. My aunt did get socks in the end!
Having passed the socks for my aunt on to my sister in law, I had to cast on a different pair for my aunt. This Stylecraft Head Over Heels was a yarn I was quite excited about knitting up, but was a little disappointed when it was actually on the needles. The colour changes are a little messy, and there are dye splashes on some of the stripes. Not the end of the world, but not quite what I was aiming for. The finished socks do look nice though, and I didn't run out before the end.

Here's to many more pairs of socks! I'm going to carry on working through the pile of old WIPs, and start knitting through my stash of special yarns - there are quite a lot and they deserve to become socks. Remember, I'll be hosting the Marathon Sock KAL from July 1st if you fancy joining me on a sock adventure.

*Ok, I didn't start them all this year...

Details of the yarns and patterns used can be found via the Ravelry project pages for each project, which are linked in the headings for each pair of socks.

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Tips for working with fluffy yarn

On Friday I shared my latest design, a Shaun the Sheep jumper knitted in King Cole Tufty,* a super-chunky weight fluffy yarn.

Image copyright Practical Publishing

If you haven't knitted with King Cole Tufty or similar yarns before, then they might be a little intimidating, so today I'm sharing some tips and hints that might help.

What's special about these fluffy yarns?
King Cole Tufty* and other eyelash yarns are made up of a central core that has strands coming off it to make the yarn fluffy. This means that the central core is quite thin, even though the knitted fabric looks quite dense.

When you're working with the yarn...
Choosing a pattern
  • Simplicity is key with fluffy yarns; you won't be able to see any increases and decreases under the fluff, so choose simple ones, like backward loop increases and knit two together decreases, rather than anything more involved.
  • Avoid patterns that require picking up stitches as it can be hard to make sure you catch the central cord.
  • Try short rows for shaping - any holes from changing direction can be hidden by slipping the first stitch on the return journey.

  • It can be tricky to count the number of stitches and rows you've knitted in a fluffy yarn, so cast on a specific number of stitches, then work a specific number of rows before casting off (ideally twice the number of stitches/rows the gauge is given over in the pattern). Measure the piece that you've knitted and compare the measurements to those given rather than trying to count stitches.

  • Slow down! I found I needed to knit very deliberately with this yarn, making sure I caught the central cord every time I knitted a stitch.
  • These yarns are usually worked on larger needles, so you might find you don't have any stitch markers that are large enough. Try using a loop of smooth waste yarn as a stitch marker instead.
  • With fluffy yarns, it can be hard to tell the front of the work from the back, so place a removable stitch marker on the front of the work after you've worked a few rows.
  • Before you start knitting, write a list of the rows you need to work and check them off as you knit them.

Placing stitches on hold

  • If you need to place stitches on hold, work the whole item on interchangeable needles, and place the stitches you need to hold onto spare cables. This avoids having to thread stitches on and off needles.

Looking for the perfect finish?
Weaving in ends
I came up with two options for weaving in the ends of the fluffy yarn:
  • Catch the ends in place using sewing thread the same colour as the fabric you've created.
  • Trim the fluff off the central core to create a smoother yarn that is easier to thread through the eye of the needle and weave in.

  • Use oddments of thinner yarn, e.g. DK weight yarn, for seaming.
That's it! It's really not hard to knit with fluffy yarns if you take it slowly. If you found these tips helpful, comment below, or share this post via social media.

Happy knitting.

Image copyright Practical Publishing

*Affiliate link.
**Other yarns with a  similar construction include Stylecraft Eskimo* and Rico Creative Bubble*. Mohair yarns often have a similar construction as well.

Friday, 10 May 2019

New design: Shaun the Sheep jumper

You may recall that when Peter Sallis, the voice of Wallace from Wallace and Gromit, died, I wrote a post about the role Wallace and Gromit had played in my childhood. I adored Wallace and Gromit, and still do as an adult, so imagine my excitement when Kate, the editor for Knit Now Magazine, contacted me to ask if I would like to design a Shaun the Sheep jumper for kids! Of course I leapt at the chance, and the pattern is available now in issue 102 of Knit Now Magazine.

The jumper isn't my usual intarsia, instead it's a really playful appliqu├ęd design, with Shaun's head and ears sewn onto a jumper that is knitted in fluffy yarn. The ear tips are left loose so that the child can play with them while they're wearing the jumper; this is a super-tactile knit!

The basic jumper is knitted flat from the top down in one piece with minimal seaming. Simple short rows are used to create the neckline shaping. Only basic increases and decreases are required to create the face and ear pieces, and Shaun's eyes and nostrils are embroidered at the end. The whole thing is knitted in super chunky weight yarn, making for a really quick knit.

The jumper uses a combination of King Cole Tufty* for the textured sections and King Cole Big Value Super Chunky* for the hems, cuffs, neckline and face details.

The pattern is written for 6 sizes from ages 2 to 12, and covers chest sizes 59 to 84 cm.

I really enjoyed knitting the Shaun the Sheep jumper, and hope that you do too. Both my older kids were fascinated by the fluffy yarn, and have each asked me to knit something init for them, so I may be revisiting King Cole Tufty in the future...

If you haven't worked with fluffy yarn before and are unsure where to begin, I've put together some helpful hints in a blog post that will go live early next week.

Want to knit your own Shaun the Sheep jumper? The pattern can be found in issue 102 of Knit Now Magazine, which is in UK shops now. Alternatively you can get a print copy delivered to your door, or purchase the digital edition.

All images copyright Practical Publishing.

*Affiliate link.