Wednesday, 30 November 2016

The Knitters' Gift Guide 2016

Christmas is fast approaching, and if you are a knitter who wants to add a few more things to their Christmas list, or someone who needs to buy a gift for a knitter, look no further. Here is a selection of knitting-related items that I would love to find under the Christmas tree.

Background image from PublicDomainPictures on Pixabay

An animal head: I had heard about Sincerely Louise's animal heads through social media and very nearly came home from Yarndale with her unicorn head. Louise has a large selection of kits in her Etsy shop. Knitted in super chunky weight yarn, these are definitely a talking point.

Sincerely Louise's Unicorn head

Some woolly jewellery: Another shop I discovered while at Yarndale, Max's World sells jewellery with a yarny-theme, from acrylic necklaces that shout 'KNITTER' to earrings made from tiny balls of wool. I love them all.

A selection of the gifts available from Max's World. Images copyright Max's World

Funky stitch markers: Can't remember what type of decrease to do when? Yarnistry's laser cut stitch markers are there to help. Brightly, coloured and hard to ignore, these stitch markers feature common knitting abbreviations to make it easier to keep track of what you're doing. Yarnsitry also make fab needle gauges that have a slot you slide the needle tip into to work out the size, rather than having to guess which hole your needle will fit in.

Something for the home: If you feel your love of yarn should spread beyond the yarn basket, this mug from Debbie Bliss might fit the bill - it has garter stitch on the outside and knitting instructions on the inside.

Some pretty yarn: plenty of recommendations on this front:

Anything by Mothy and the Squid. Mothy and the Squid's yarns are hand-dyed in Glasgow and come in a huge variety of bright colours, with rainbows, stripes and mini skeins a speciality. I have never managed to look at her shop without adding something to my wishlist.

Beautiful yarns from Mothy and the Squid. Images copyright Mothy and the Squid

Malabrigo Worsted is wonderful to work with, it's soft and comes in amazing colours. One skein would comfortably make a hat, two will make a good-sized crescent shawl (Susan Ashcroft has lots of designs that can be made in any weight with around 400 m of yarn). I am coveting the Purple Mystery.

Fyberspates Vivacious 4ply; made by a British company, Fyberspates yarn has a beautiful shimmer to it, and comes in intense jewel-like colours. I have a skein that I bought a couple of years ago that I have been known to pet; it might be too beautiful to actually make into anything! One skein will make a pair of socks, or a crescent shawl; I made Helen Stewart's Spindrift shawl in the summer, and this yarn would be perfect for it.

Spindrift shawl, which would look great in Fyberspates Vivacious 4ply

Hope this gift guide has given you a few ideas; do you have any other suggestions of must-have items that I should be adding to my list?

*This post conatins affiliate links, see the Disclaimers and policies page for more information. All items are subjecvt to availability.*

Monday, 28 November 2016

#GAL2016: Meet Dana Gervais

As part of the Indie Design GAL, I have interviewed some of my favourite participating designers. Here's the second in the series, an interview with Dana Gervais.


Dana Gervais is based in Ontario, Canada, and specialises in designing bright, beautiful, eye catching socks that feature an abundance of colour and texture. Many of Dana’s designs reference popular culture, such as Dr Who, Sherlock Holmes and My Little Pony; I especially love her Rainbow Dash socks, with their bright rainbow stripes.

Sherlock Holmes inspired Moriarty Socks; image copyright Dana Gervais
Dr Who inspired Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey Socks; image copyright Dana Gervais
My Little Pony inspired Rainbow Dash; image copyright Dana Gervais

When did you learn to knit?

I learned to knit when I was about 7 or 8 years old from my Grandmother. She was an incredibly talented knitter and has always been my knitting inspiration.

How did you getting into designing and pattern writing?

Designing and pattern writing was an evolution for me. I started by heavily modifying existing patterns to suit my needs, then I started making my own designs from scratch. After many compliments and knitters asking me where they could find the pattern for something I made, I decided to start writing and publishing my designs. I started slowly at first, about 2 years ago I decided to treat it like a business.

What designs do you have in the pipeline?

I have so many projects on the go! I have partnered up with 2 subscription services and will be designing for them next year, I have two sock designs that will be featured in a book that is scheduled to be published in May and 2 other designs that will be featured in a book that is scheduled to be published in August. I also have 5 sock designs in various stages of production. I’m hoping to release at least 2 patterns per month in 2017.

What’s your favourite knitting technique?

I’m a fan of any kind of colourwork that doesn’t require me to knit with 2 different yarns at the same time. I’ve just discovered Roositud and I love it! It’s also known as Estonian inlay and it’s a knitting technique that allows you to embroider on the surface of the fabric as you knit it while only knitting with one colour of yarn. I have a couple of designs in the works that use this technique.

What knitting techniques would you like to try in 2017?

I have a few types of heels that I’m eager to try and maybe some unique gusset construction.

Which other GAL designers have caught your eye?

I’m lucky because I’m on the Pinterest team for the GAL, so I get a sneak peak at some of the designers and the patterns that will be featured. I’ve favourited some designs by Jane Richmond, Catherine Knutsson, Ambah O’Brien, Andrea Rangel, Virginia Sattler-Reimer – I feel very honoured and humbled to be in such talented company.

Do you knit Christmas gifts? What are your favourite gift knits?

I don’t usually knit Christmas gifts because the pressure of the deadline takes the fun out of it for me. Also, if I knit a Christmas gift for one person I feel obligated to knit for everyone. I do love to give the gift of knitting; I just prefer to do it for no reason and throughout the year instead of on one day. I often gift people socks (big surprise!), hats, mitts, shawls, cowls, dishcloths, and scarves.

Diagon Alley; image copyright Dana Gervais

Dana Gervais can be found as knitalot924 on Ravelry, Instagram and Twitter and at

If you want to find out more about the Indie Design GAL, start by reading my blog post on the event, or head straight to the GAL group on Ravelry.*

*Note that you will have to signed in to Ravelry for this link to work. Joining Ravelry is free and Ravelry is an excellent resource for knitters and crocheters.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

#knit1000g: It's cold outside

Friday, 25 November 2016

#GAL2016: Meet Susan Ashcroft

As part of the Indie Design GAL, I decided it would be nice to learn a bit more about some of the designers taking part, so over the course of the GAL, I will be posting interviews with some of my favourite designers. First up, we have Susan Ashcroft.


Susan Ashcroft is a well-established designer, having designed patterns for over five years (you may have seen her TGV shawl, Quaker Yarn Stretcher and Hogwart's Express shawl, which have been popular on Ravelry for years). Her approach is often mathematical, using a percentage system to design shawls that can be knitted in any yarn weight and at any gauge, with the aim of making the most of the yarn you have; last Christmas I knitted her Love Train shawl in some beautiful worsted weight yarn and it is now my most worn hand-knitted item. Susan's knits are simple and relaxed, and let the yarn do the talking; her blog is also an excellent source of tutorials and knitting tips and tricks.

TGV; image copyright Susan Ashcroft

Quaker Yarn Stretcher; image copyright Susan Ashcroft

Hogwart's Express; image copyright Susan Ashcroft

When did you learn to knit?

Not until I was about 13 - I taught myself from a book I got from the library.

How did you getting into designing and pattern writing?

I’ve been modifying patterns as long as I’ve been knitting - with TGV I came up with a slightly different construction so I thought share it and it all took off from there.

What designs do you have in the pipeline?

A collection inspired by my recent trip to Murano.

What’s your favourite knitting technique?

Mosaic knitting because it’s such an easy way to get colour effects. 
Often a specific yarn is my starting point and I try to find what will work best for that yarn to “do right by the yarn”.

Do you knit Christmas gifts? What are your favourite gift knits?

I give knitted items to friends/family throughout the year. If you come to dinner at my house, you’ll probably go home with a knitted item, so usually people get something different at Christmas.
But when I do make presents I tend to make smaller items like hats and gloves (I never have any of those “in stock”; they always seem to get adopted as soon as they’re finished).
Image copyright Susan Ashcroft
Susan Ashcroft can be found on Ravelry as stitchnerd, and blogs at

If you want to find out more about the Indie Design GAL, start by reading my blog post on the event, or head straight to the GAL group on Ravelry.*

*Note that you will have to signed in to Ravelry for this link to work. Joining Ravelry is free and Ravelry is an excellent resource for knitters and crocheters.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Knitty things to be thankful for

Today is Thanksgiving in the US, traditionally a celebration of harvest, it's now (at least in its portrayal in films and television) a celebration of everything you can be thankful for. Here in the UK we don't have such an event, but I feel that it's important to stop once in a while and take note of the things that we are thankful for. So here are five (knitty) things that I am thankful for.

1. Community
Through knitting I have found a wonderful community of very generous people, including some of my very best friends in real life, as well as connections across the globe.

2. Socks (and never a wasted moment)
Since I learnt to knit socks I have always had knitting in my handbag. Socks projects are portable, can be knitted anywhere, and can be knitted in colourways too crazy to be considered for an item of clothing that is worn more openly. I also wear all my handmade socks, while other knitted items have been known to hide at the back of the wardrobe. I really do love knitting socks!

3. Five minutes peace
When I'm feeling wound up after a long day, knitting calms me down and helps me to relax, which, let's face it, is probably beneficial to the people around me as well.

4. Feeling cosy
It's November, and every morning on the school run I am reminded of quite how cold it can get in the UK. As a knitter, cold weather is an excellent excuse to show off all the winter woollies what we've been stockpiling since the spring. Yes, on cold days I am pretty smug about my handknitted socks hidden inside my boots!

Happy Thanksgiving to those who are celebrating today and this weekend. And to everyone else, what do you have to be thankful for today?

Today's knitting (socks) with my favourite project bag and the book that inspired it. I only realised today that the book featured knitting!

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

#GAL2016: The launch

For the past four years, a group of independent knit and crochet designers have joined forces on Ravelry for the Indie Design GAL: a great big knit and crochet along aimed at supporting and promoting the work of independent designers, as well as kickstarting your festive gift crafting. And the event is back! Starting at 20.00 (EST, for other time zones, you can use this converter) until the end of the year, the Indie Design GAL group on Ravelry will be a hive of activity.*
The GAL starts with a sale. Every designer participating in the event (the full list can be found here) is offering 25% off a selection of their designers using the code giftalong2016. Simply add the patterns you want to you Ravelry cart, add the code and get a bargain! To see which patterns a designer has included, head to their designer profile and look for the bundle labelled Gift-A-Long 2016, this bundle will feature all the patterns the designer has chosen to include in the sale (here's my sale bundle as an example). Do note that you will have to checkout separately for each designer you wish to buy from. The sale lasts until 23.59 (EST) on Thursday 30th November 2016.
The second portion of the GAL is a massive knit and crochet along. Any design by a participating designer is eligible for inclusion in the craft along, just head to the Ravelry group* and get crafting. If you finish an item before the end of the GAL (23.59 EST, Saturday 31st December 2016), post it to the finished objects thread for the appropriate category and at the end of the GAL, you could win a prize (there are some great prizes on offer*).
Part three of the GAL is the quizzes. Throughout the GAL, there will be several fast-moving quiz threads, with lots of opportunities for winning free patterns from the designers taking part in the GAL. The quizzes are a lot of fun, with all the answers relating in some way to the designers or patterns involved in the GAL.
This year the event is huge, with 335 designers taking part, 5106 patterns included in the sale, more than 100 physical prizes and 2200 electronic prizes. So head to the Ravelry group* and join in.
I am one of the participating designers in the GAL. All the patterns in this bundle are in the sale, and any of my paid for patterns can be knitted as part of the knit and crochet along portion of the event.
A selection of my patterns that will be eligible for 25% off during the sale portion of the GAL
*Note that you will have to signed in to Ravelry for these links to work. Joining Ravelry is free and Ravelry is an excellent resource for knitters and crocheters.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Antler cardigan: Quitting while you're ahead

A few weeks ago I posted a progress shot for my Antler cardigan, and it was going well. I had very nearly a whole sleeve and was looking forward to speeding through the whole cardigan as fast as I could. And then I stopped, and then I thought. In the summer I wear a lot of cardigans, and they're all lovely, but they're all lightweight, shop-purchased cardigans (mostly from Debenhams and H&M) that I throw on over little tops when it's a bit cool for bare shoulders. And in the winter, I throw on heavier weight jumpers, nothing too crazy, but a DK or aran weight jumper is always welcome. The Antler cardigan is going to fall somewhere between the two camps: it's a cardigan, perfect for summer, but too heavy to wear in the summer months, and it's the perfect weight for winter, but I never wear cardigans in the winter as I find them a little draughty.

The progress so far: almost a whole sleeve

I'd also been having doubts about the fit. I had gone for the size closest to my chest size, which had 1 inch of negative ease. But having worn my winter jumpers in the past couple of weeks, I realised that I like my winter garments to have a bit of positive ease, so the cardigan is going to be a bit small. And even while knitting the sleeve I was questioning the rate of increase in the sleeves - every 6 rows is great on a baby-sized sweater, but I kept thinking it was a little fast for an adult cardigan (and yet still I carried on to the end of the sleeve; one day I will learn).

And so my conclusion is to rip it out and start again. A size bigger, with slower sleeve increases (every 8 or 10 rounds, I'm still undecided on that one), and I might try and convert the body to a jumper (which no one in the first 20 pages of projects on Ravelry has tried; how hard can it be?!). And then I think it will be a garment I love. But for now it can sit on the naughty step for a bit; selfish knitting can wait until after Christmas.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

My DIY yarn advent calendar

Monday, 14 November 2016

My sock yarn blanket

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Hope, not hate

I do not usually write about politics on this blog; there are plenty of other writers on the internet and elsewhere who can write about it much more eloquently. But this morning, when I woke up to the news that Donald Trump would be the next US president, my heart sank. Coming a few months after the UK voted to leave the EU, I don't like the idea of both the US and UK pulling up their drawbridges, in both cases because of campaigns that were driven by fear and hatred.

So today I am living by the motto 'Hope, not hate', and have seen that many people are doing the same, with my Facebook and Instagram feeds full of acts of kindness. I have started crocheting a rainbow ripple blanket to donate to charity (I will be sending it to Knit for Peace, who are happy to find worthy homes for any item you wish to knit or crochet, from blankets for premature babies, to hats for refugees), because there are people in need all around the world who are more than just pawns in the game of politics, and I feel that with the current course that politics is following, the number of people in need is only set to increase. So today, and for the future, share a smile, help where you can, and remember, 'hope, not hate'.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

The Flock: the launch party

This weekend I went to London to catch up with my siblings, an event that doesn't happen very often as we are rather spread out across the country. I'd had the date in the calendar for a couple of months, but hadn't made any fixed plans, so when an email came through from Love Knitting inviting me to the launch of their blogger ambassador programme, The Flock, I jumped at the chance - I would be in London anyway, so it would be rude not to!

The event started at 17.30, at Love Knitting's very shiny new office. It's in Holborn, not an area I know well, so I allowed plenty of time to find the building, and ended up arriving a few minutes early and being the first one there. I wasn't totally sure what to expect, the invite had said there would be nibbles, networking and a couple of presentations, and I was a little nervous when I arrived. I needn't have worried though, there was plenty to do, and everyone there was happy to talk about yarn, knitting and crochet all day!

Tiny cupcakes
There was a pom pom making station, and I duly added a neon pink and yellow pom pom to a cardboard sheep (whilst chatting to Justyna Lokowska, a huge knitting name, about her pattern, Maya's scarf, which I am currently knitting); I chatted to Karie Westermann, who knew who I was, which totally made my day; there was a table of delicious and very cute snack food; I met lots of people, including a few familiar faces and lots I hadn't come across before (and a few really big names that I was too shy to talk to), who were all as enthusiastic as me about all things knitting; and we got to squish a lot of yarn: every table in the room had baskets of yarn on them, which we were allowed to play with, stroke, cast on, take home; obviously all there for promotional purposes, but it was paradise.

This was even brighter in real life!
There were indeed some talks about Love Knitting and the rest of the Love Crafts family, as promised, and a little quiz, which had prizes: I came away with a Paintbox yarns advent calendar, containing lots of little balls of yarn that will become some form of (as yet undecided) bunting over the course of December.

I am so excited about this advent calendar
The whole event was only two and a half hours long, and the time whizzed by. When we left, we were each given a goody bag containing some more yarn (I also had some pom pom makers in mine; I think everyone got something different), which my sister and I pawed at on the train back to hers. Huge thanks to Love Crafts for hosting the event; and if you ever get a chance to go and visit their office, go, it really is a little yarny paradise!

I did come home with a *little bit* of yarn
*This post is about a promotional event hosted by Love Knitting and Love Crafts; all yarns shown were donated for PR purposes; the post contains affiliate links, see the Disclaimers and policies page for more information.*

Thursday, 3 November 2016

New design: Winter garden gate throw

The clocks went back last week, and the nights are definitely drawing in, so now is the perfect time to cast on a cosy cabled blanket. My latest design, Winter garden gate throw, is just the thing.

Winter garden gate throw, image copyright I Like Knitting

The throw is inspired by the twisted lines and spirals of wrought iron ornamental work, which are replicated in intricate cables. The throw measures 131 x 141 cm (51¾ x 55½ in) and can be used ornamentally but is also an excellent size for snuggling in on a sofa. Winter garden gate throw is knitted in one piece with a moss stitch border surrounding the cabled panel. The cable work is intricate, but as the design is knitted in chunky weight yarn you can start to see the pattern develop really quickly; I strongly recommend learning how to cable without a needle for this design, as there are cables every few stitches, and losing the cable needle would be pretty frustrating!

Cable details, image copyright I Like Knitting

The throw is knitted in King Cole New Magnum Chunky, which is one of my favourite chunky yarns: the yarn is soft and warm, but also hard wearing, easy care and economical.

Winter garden gate throw is available exclusively in the December 2016 edition of I Like Knitting magazine, a subscription-only e-zine. For more detials about how to access the pattern, head to their website.

Warm and cosy, image copyright I Like Knitting

Thanks to King Cole for providing yarn support for this design.

*This post contains affiliate links, see the Disclaimers and policies page for more information.*