Monday, 31 October 2016

Panic stations!

Tomorrow is the first of November, and yet another month has disappeared. I have no idea where this year has gone, but Christmas is rapidly approaching.

As a knitwear designer, a lot of my Christmas knitting is done in mid-summer, but those Christmas knits are for magazines, and I don't necessarily have them back in time for me to use them for Christmas, which is fine, but it does mean that every year I hit November 1st and have a little panic about the fact that I have not started the Christmas knitting, and that seven weeks isn't long to get all the things (including three pairs of socks, a jumper for each of my children, and Christmas decorations for friends, which have rolled over from last year, plus several other things that will crop up along the way) that I have in my head actually knitted.
Waddle, one of this summer's Christmas knits

So tomorrow the Christmas knitting begins in earnest. I'm starting with socks for me (in the fab Elf strips from Unbelievawool). That'll help the panic, right?!

Christmas knit, number one

Does anyone else knit for Christmas? What are your go-to present knits?

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Half term hiatus

This week is half term (mid-term break), so knitting has taken a bit of back seat as I am distracted by other things. I do have two projects on the go though, both straightforward stocking stitch that can be done while entertaining children/being driven to events/whilst shattered and winding down in the evening.

The first project is a cardigan for me that I cast on last weekend, the Antler cardigan by Tin Can Knits. The cardigan is knitted bottom up, so I have a lot of stocking stitch to do before I get onto the cables. I've almost got to the end of the first sleeve, and once I've measured my arm and worked out how long I want the sleeve to be, I'll cast on the second as a few days of portable knitting.
The second project is, somewhat predictably, a pair of socks. I always have a pair of vanilla (non-patterned) socks with me that can be worked on whenever I am held up somewhere or have a few spare minutes. The current pair are knitted in Halloween striped yarn that I bought from Rosie's Moments at Yarndale. Purple is my favourite colour (you couldn't have guessed from the colour of the cardigan), and while I don't generally do anything Halloween-related, I couldn't resist these stripes when I saw them (going against my policy of looking at everything available at a big event, then making a decision). The yarn is lovely to work with, and I've used a Fish Lips Kiss heel (which I recommend, it's nice and easy to memorise) to avoid disrupting the stripes with a gusset. I'm at the very end of the first sock, and am about to cast on the second, so I doubt these will be done in time for Halloween, but really don't mind as these will get a lot of wear as soon as they're off the needles.

Do you also find that knitting with children around requires simpler projects? Let me see your current projects.

Monday, 24 October 2016

#knit1000g: Where does all the dark red chunky yarn come from?

Most of my yarn stash is there for sensible reasons: a toddler jumper, a baby blanket, a jumper for me, sock yarn in assorted colours and weights for socks (obviously), baby yarn for gifts when people announce they're expecting, a lot of DK oddments that are leftovers from blankets and are destined for toys, blanket squares, intarsia and children's crafts; but there's also quite a lot of dark red chunky weight yarn. To my knowledge, I have never knitted anything is burgundy chunky, so when I decided earlier in week that I was going to make a pair of Bella's mittens in chunky weight yarn for a friend's birthday (having seen my friend Sam's pair) and went to hunt in my stash I was a little surprised to find 500g of dark red chunky weight yarn. It's not the same brand, fibre or dye lot, so it's not as though it can all be used in one project, and I suspect has been purchased on impulse when visiting little yarn shops (although at least one ball was a gift), added to the stash and forgotten about.

The mittens require two balls of chunky weight yarn (chunky yarn doesn't go far), and the recipient loves dark red, so I finally have a use for some of this collection in my stash. Fortunately I did have two balls of Hayfield Bonus Chunky in the same shade (876, which I believe is called Firecracker, but is discontinued, and may have been for some time) and dye lot, and I know the person these mittens are for would prefer something machine washable and easy care, so I cast on immediately.

The pattern is not the best written: the instructions are all there, and in the right order, but some stitch counts occasionally would be nice, and it's a freebie, so I can't complain too much. I whizzed through the first mitten, getting the whole thing (minus the thumb) done in one evening. I started off working the cables without a cable needle, but for the second half of the first mitten, when I was a bit tired, it was much easier to use a cable needle.

Chunky yarn is speedy to knit with!

The second mitten took a rather longer as I misread an instruction, missing a decrease, so had to pull back 6 rows (not the easiest thing to do when you're working in ribbing with cables), and when I went to thread the yarn through the final stitches to fasten the tip of the mitten, I somehow managed to get in a tangle and had to unravel another 12 rows to get it to a point where I could easily fix it (at which point it got put firmly to one side and I went to do something else for a bit), but both mittens were done over the course of three days, and they look great (so much so that I might knit another pair in the future, but I will annotate the pattern with stitch counts and highlight the decreases before I do). They're a tad snug on me, but my friend is smaller than me, so I'm sure they'll be fine on her.

And that's two balls of the dark red chunky gone; I wonder what I'll do with the rest of it... If you ever see me in a yarn shop clutching a ball or two of dark red chunky weight yarn, remind me that I already have plenty! Does anyone else have a blind spot in their stash?

Saturday, 22 October 2016

New design: Snowflake cushion

I showed you a preview of this design last week, and here it is in more detail: my Snowflake cushion.

I have always been fascinated by snowflakes, with their perfect six-fold symmetry, and each one being unique. In keeping with this, the snowflake on this cushion cover has six long arms, which was something of a challenge, as the shape of knitted stitches is better suited to shapes with two- and four-fold symmetry, but I'm pleased with how the design turned out.

Snowflakes have six-fold symmetry. Image from Splash on Pixabay, used under Creative Commons CC0.

The Snowflake cushion is knitted using the intarsia technique, as it features long stretches of the stitches in the same colour, but if you wanted to save yourself a few ends you could strand the regions where the colour changes are frequent (in general, I'd work sections with colour changes up to every 3-4 stitches using stranded colourwork). I would strongly advise using yarn bobbins for this design - in some rows I required 18 bobbins - otherwise you'll get in a tangle. Remember to keep the bobbins close to your work, only unwinding yarn as you need it. But intarsia is not a complex technique if you take it slowly.

Take it slowly and yarn bobbins will stop you getting in a tangle

The cushion cover is knitted in Drops Alaska, a rustic, aran weight 100% wool yarn that is very good value (and Drops often have 25% discount deals, which are worth looking out for), and perfect for intarsia as the yarn is quite grippy, making for neat colour changes and ends that stay put when they are darned in. The Snowflake cushion could also be knitted in any plied wool or wool/acrylic blend yarn, such as Stylecraft Life Aran, which is one of my favourite yarns for homewares. The cushion cover is knitted in an envelope style, fastened with four 4cm wooden buttons.

If you wish to make your own Snowflake cushion, the pattern can be purchased via Ravelry or Love Knitting.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

#knit1000g: The first 1000g

A few weeks ago my friend Leigh said that she had decided some stashbusting was in order, and that she wasn't going to buy any more yarn until she had knitted 1000g from her stash. What an excellent idea, I thought; stashbusting has been on my mind recently as I have what could be considered too much wool (is there such a thing? I am almost out of cupboard space). So I decided that I would join Leigh in her challenge. Leigh put up the call on both Instagram (using the hashtag #knit1000g) and on her podcast and pretty soon we were joined by a small group of knitters all eager to make the most of their stash.

The #knit1000g challenge is very much a personal one, where everyone involved has decided what they want their rules to be; I decided that WIPs would count, and that I would only be counting personal projects, not third party commissions, although self-published projects would count (there is a backlog!). And with those rules set out, I started knitting.

The first project was easy - a baby cardigan for a friend's new baby, which was on the needles and very nearly finished. The cardigan is a slightly scaled up version of the Barley Twist cardigan published in issue 65 of Knit Now, and I'm aiming to have the pattern available in ages 3 months to 12 years early next year. 87g

The second project was another WIP - socks for my son in the wonderful West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4 ply. The yarn is from their cocktails range and this colourway is called Mojito. WYS 4 ply is one of my favourite sock yarns; it's excellent value and I love all the colourways in the cocktail stripes range that was launched this summer. 47g

One final WIP made up project three: a baby blanket featuring buttons. This is a project that has been in my head for a long time, and I was delighted to finally get it committed to yarn! I'm in the process of getting the pattern finalised, and hope to have it published in the next few weeks. 603g

My fourth project was an urgent one: a hat for my daughter. In the past week the weather has turned from late summer to proper autumn. I decided on a cute seasonal hat, Harvest's Bounty, and the finished hat is adorable (it's getting lots of compliments on the school run too)! 40g

Project five was something new, and rather festive: a cushion featuring a large intarsia snowflake. Another project that I'd been planning for a while, and the #knit1000g  challenge was the impetus I needed to get it on the needles. I was really cutting the amount of yarn fine on this one, and had only a scrap of blue yarn left at the end. The pattern is now available in my Ravelry store, allowing anyone else who wants a go plenty of time to knit one in time for Christmas. 307g

And there we have it, 1084g of yarn used! I'm not stopping there though. I mostly use heavier weight yarns, so my personal challenge will be to use 3000g, ideally by Christmas. This may even include a cardigan for me! Do you want to join in the #knit1000g challenge? Set your own targets and join the fun! And as a reward, you can buy some more yarn when you reach your target!

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

New design: Lynda socks

Yesterday I told you about one of the two designs I have in issue 66 of Knit Now magazine, my Waddle children's jumper, and today I'm going to tell you about the second design: Lynda socks.

Lynda socks. Image copyright Practical Publishing

This design is very special to me for several reasons: firstly, it's my first sock design! I have been knitting socks pretty constantly since I learnt to knit them at the start of 2015, trying out all sorts of different heel types and both top-down and toe-up variations, and in the spring I finally felt sufficiently confident in my sock-knitting ability to work out a design from scratch. And secondly, the design is named after my friend Lynda, who was the person who encouraged me to knit socks in the first place - I had been watching her knitting socks every week at our Monday night knitting group for months, and she encouraged me to give it a go in spite of the fact that I had vowed never to knit socks. Lynda is a truly inspirational knitter, as well as being one of the kindest people I know. When I get the sample back in a few months I will be giving them to her as a gift; I hope she loves wearing them! Finally, the Lynda socks are knitted in West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4ply, which is my favourite sock yarn. It comes in a wide array of bright, soft and rustic colours, so there's something for everyone, and its 75% wool, 25% nylon composition makes for good hard-wearing socks, but the yarn is not rough to the touch, and the socks will soften with wear, making them even better over time, and the yarn is machine washable.

The socks are knitted from the toe-up (my favourite technique) and feature a gusset and heel flap for an excellent fit. The instep is patterned while the sole is left plain, then the pattern extends round the leg after the heel is complete. The pattern looks complex, but is actually a simple lace pattern, which should be intuitive once you've done the first couple of repeats. The pattern is written in three sizes, so you can knit these socks whether your recipient's feet are big or small.

Knit Now magazine is available from newsagents and supermarkets in the UK, or can be purchased digitally via

Monday, 17 October 2016

New design: Waddle jumper

I have two new designs in this month's Knit Now magazine (issue 66), which went on sale in the UK last Thursday (13th October). The first is a classic Vikki Bird Designs item: Waddle: a children's jumper featuring an intarsia penguin; perfect for the festive season.

Waddle jumper, image copyright Practical Publishing

I love Christmas, and Christmas jumpers are one of my favourite things to knit: Waddle is my third Christmas jumper design, following Rudi (which stars a reindeer head), designed when my son was a toddler, and Can't Catch Me, a jumper featuring a gingerbread man, so designing a penguin jumper this year seemed obvious. And handily the sample will be back in time for my daughter to wear it for Christmas next year, which is a bonus!

Can't catch me! Image copyright Practical Publishing

The jumper is knitted flat with the penguin knitted into the front using the intarsia technique. The garment is then seamed and the neckline knitted in the round once the rest of the jumper is complete. The pattern is written for sizes 2-10 years, and is worked in MillaMia Naturally Soft Aran, a 100% merino wool aran which is wonderfully soft and very luxurious, and comes in a fantastic range of colours.

The second pattern in the issue is a special one, and deserves its own post, so I'll tell you about that tomorrow.

Knit Now magazine is available from newsagents and supermarkets in the UK, or can be purchased digitally via

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Welcome to my new website

Hello, and welcome to my new website: I've been writing knitwear patterns for some time and thought it was time that my knitting had its own dedicated home. On this site you will find details of my new designs, works in progress, general chatter about knitting, the occasional offer and event, and definitely lots of yarny goodness!

A selection of my designs

My knitting can also be found on Ravelry and Love Knitting.

My bestseller: Fluffy white clouds