Wednesday 26 April 2017

Yarning along: Stop the bus, I'd like to get off

Rachell over at The Little Room of Rachell has started up Yarning Along to replace the Yarn Along that was run by Ginny until a few weeks ago; every week Rachelle will be sharing her current work in progress and whatever she is reading, and I thought I'd join in.

This week has been racing by. The Easter holidays are over, and the kids are back to their usual routine, but I still seem to have far too much to do. Most of my knitting is for deadlines (which are looming - May starts next week, and I am absolutely not ready for that), so I can't share it here, and my pleasure knitting is largely being limited to Sundays, so progress is rather slow. As a result, today's WIP I'm going to share is a bit of a halfway house: my Lynda socks for the Knit Night Collection KAL that I'm running in my Ravelry group*. The socks are being knitted in yarn I picked up at the opening of Lucy Locket Land a few weeks ago (which I will eventually write a blog post about); it's a Bluefaced Leicester/Nylon blend and is dyed by Lucy's daughter Penny. The colours are wonderful and the yarn is really soft. I wasn't totally sure about knitting the pattern in a variegated yarn, but the variegation is really subtle and well blended, so I'm happy with the socks so far.

Having finished Me Before You (which I thoroughly recommend; I came to the book via the film, and the book has subtleties that vanished entirely when condensed into a film. The basic plot is that Louisa is employed on a six month contract as a carer for a quadriplegic, but soon realises her role is much more significant. While she tries to change his life, he manages to change hers), I have moved on to the sequel, After You, and while I'm only a few chapters in I think I should get through this pretty quickly (for me, so it'll probably take a month!).

What are you reading and crafting on at the minute?

*Ravelry link: you must be logged into Ravelry for this link to work; membership is free.

Saturday 22 April 2017

Easter holiday slowdown

My kids have been off school and nursery for the past couple of weeks for the Easter holidays, and while it's been lovely having them around, going for days out and generally spending time in each other's company, I think we're all getting to the stage where we're excited for the return to routine. While the kids are off I don't generally get much time for knitting paperwork, but I do still get knitting done -  before the end of term I purposefully got three patterns to the stage where all I had to do was knit them so I had something I could work on easily and nothing would stagnate. As a result, this week I have been working almost exclusively on the sleeves of small children's jumpers (stocking stitch is as much as I can manage while supervising children!), and now I fancy a bit more variety!

Needles vs. days out. The needles lost

So next week I will be clearing the toys from my desk and spending a few solid hours moving things along, doing some pattern layout, getting a pattern to my tech editor, charting some lace and some intarsia and generally getting back into the swing of things. Long may the enthusiasm continue!

Wednesday 19 April 2017

Socks in five days!

After I posted on Saturday, the bank holiday weekend continued to be a bit damp. We did manage to get out at least once (to a chick hunt at the botanical garden; we walked round the whole ten hectare site, even though it rained throughout - it turns out hunting chicks is very motivational!), but otherwise entertained ourselves at home. We also ate our way through plenty of Easter eggs and had fun having an Easter egg hunt in the garden.

While I had plenty of time for knitting, I didn't quite get my socks finished by the end of the weekend (I did try to do some dressmaking too, which used up more time than I had anticipated; it always does). I finally cast them off yesterday evening, with just two tiny scraps of yarn to spare. They're a tiny bit shorter than I would usually make socks, but by under an inch and I am really pleased with them. I might even make concurrent socks again as I liked casting them off back to back. The yarn was from Cuddlebums and is really soft. Everything about these socks is a delight!

Another thing I was excited about this weekend is Bank Holiday TV. Doctor Who returned on Saturday evening, and while I haven't enjoyed the past couple of series (I didn't feel any chemistry between Clara Oswald and Peter Capaldi's Doctor) I was excited for a new series with a new assistant. And I loved it. It started with a charm that had been missing for a while, and the 'monster' genuinely had me scared (as ever with Doctor Who, it is always the monsters based on innocuous things (this time it was water) that give me shivers; the Weeping Angels are my all-time favourite). I like the new assistant, and she and the Doctor seem to gel well, so I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.

I am a huge fan of the rebooted Robot Wars, having said that I didn't want to watch it when it stated last year (I didn't watch it as a child), then falling in love with it. The teams are so passionate about their robots and about the competition, as well as being an excellent starting point for discussions about engineering with our five year old. I had thought the final would be aired last week, but apparently the golf was more important, but the Robot Wars final did make excellent viewing while we are our Easter Sunday roast dinner (and the team I had been supporting from the start of last series won, hooray!).

The other thing I am really enjoying on TV at the minute is Top Gear. After the last, disastrous series with Chris Evans (which I gave up watching after a couple of episodes), I was a little trepidatious about the new series, but I've found it very entertaining. The new mix of presenters is friendly and fun, and the guests have been amazing (David Tennant, James McAvoy and Tamsin Greig have been highlights, especially the banter between Tamsin and Matt Le Blanc, who worked together on Episodes, which is another favourite of mine). All in all, excellent bank holiday TV!

Hope you had an excellent Easter weekend and that the return to work wasn't too much of a shock to the system.


There's still time to purchase my Knit Night Collection of toe up socks with 10% discount using the code KNITNIGHT and the KAL is in full swing over in my Ravelry group. It would be lovely if you could join us.

Saturday 15 April 2017

The joys of a bank holiday weekend

In the U.K. Good Friday and Easter Monday are classed as bank holidays, which means many people get a four day weekend. Most of the time I give myself Sundays off from knitting work, but I decided that this weekend I would take the whole four days off, and I am having a lovely time doing things with my family. But for me, time off never means no knitting, and this weekend I am knitting away on a Cuddlebums sock set that was sold as an Easter Sock KAL. The set contains 50g of variegated yarn and a 20g mini skeins for the heels and toes, as well as a few little extra goodies (a chocolate bunny and some stitch markers).

I have large feet and know that 70g is going to be pushing it, so this is my first pair of socks to be knitted concurrently (two sets of needles, one sock on each set). I wound the ball into two centre pull balls, and am knitting one sock from the outside and the other from the inside. I have got into a bit of a tangle a couple of times, but am enjoying it, and the colours are amazing! How far do you think I'll manage to get by the end of Monday? I'm really hoping I can get the whole lot done...

I'm not just knitting this weekend. Yesterday was spent at soft play (along with the rest of Durham - it was a bit cold and miserable!), along with some hot cross bun baking (with chocolate chips to appease the five year old), and I managed to finish off a couple of project bags that have been on the to do list for ages! We're just back from the supermarket to buy food for tomorrow (all but the smallest shops are shut on Easter Sunday), and the eggs for the egg hunt (I almost left that too late - we have the only eggs Sainsbury's had that would be easy to hide; a foot tall Lindt egg would be a little conspicuous, and less than ideal as I had promised we could each find 3-4 eggs). I'm hoping the weather tomorrow is better so we can get out and about.

Hot cross buns!
Project bags

Egg hunt eggs 

What's everyone else up to this bank holiday weekend?

Thursday 13 April 2017

New designs: Knit Night Collection

Today I am very, very excited to launch my first ever collection of sock patterns: the Knit Night Collection.

The Knit Night Collection features three different sock designs, and each of the patterns has been named after a special knitty friend.


Each of the socks is knitted from the toe up using a gusset and heel flap construction, shaped with short rows. The socks have a pattern on the instep and around the leg, while the sole is knitted in stocking stitch. The gusset length is affected by your row/round gauge, so a small amount of optional maths is included to achieve the perfect fit (the maths is completely optional; I know some people really don't like maths!).
All the socks in the collection come in three sizes (finished sock circumferences, 17.5 (20, 22.5) cm [7 (8, 9) in]), with the different sizes being created by scaling the pattern, so larger socks have larger motifs. The patterns in the collection are written to be needle-neutral and can be knitted on any of DPNs, short circulars or long circulars using the magic loop technique.


All the socks shown are knitted in West Yorkshire Spinners Siganture 4ply**, which is my favourite sock yarn. The yarn is 75% wool and 25% nylon, but any sock yarn can be used. I would recommend using a solid or semi-solid to really let the pattern shine.

If you want to get hold of the collection, head to my Ravelry store. The patterns are available individually for £3.50 each, or you can buy the ebook containing all three patterns for £7. If you buy them before 11.59pm BST, April 30th 2017, you can get 10% off with the code KNITNIGHT

I am hosting a knitalong for the collection in my Ravelry group.* The KAL will run from now until the end of May, I would love it if you could join in (and there are prizes to be won!). Head over to my Ravelry group* for more information.

One of the pairs of socks in this collection may look familiar: the Lynda socks were first included in Knit Now Issue 66.

*You will need to be logged into Ravelry for this link to work.

**This is an affiliate link. See my Disclaimers and policies page for more information.

Sunday 9 April 2017

World Craft Week 2017: Knitting

Over the course of the week, for World Craft Week, I have been exploring the various crafts I have done over the years, from cross stitch to sewing to crochet, and today we get on to my favourite: knitting.

I have been knitting for a very long time! I clearly remember knitting during my break times when I was 7, with my best friend at the time who had learnt to knit around the same time. But knitting did not click immediately with me.

My mum (who is an excellent knitter) first tried teaching me to knit when I was about 5, and, while I was interested, I did not get the hang of it at all. My attempts did result in a small (think tiny, like child's purse size) stripy bag made up of all sorts of oddments, which I loved, but I didn't enjoy the knitting enough to continue with it.

When I was 7 a babysitter (an old lady who lived round the corner from us; she was probably only in her fifties, but she seemed old when I was 7) offered to teach me, and sat me on her knee, using her hands to control my arms and direct my fingers. This time it clicked, but my technique was far from perfect. I clearly remember the babysitter casting on 15 sts for me in pale turquoise yarn, and within 50 rows of garter stitch all my odd yarnovers had resulted in well over 100 stitches! But I enjoyed it! With the confidence of a small child, my knitting knew no bounds. My first 'proper' knitted piece was a Baby Sunshine doll from the Jean Greenhowe scarecrow collection. The doll had many loose stitches, and the whole thing was knitted very loosely, but I loved her, and the sense of achievement in finishing her.

With time and practise my knitting improved vastly, and by the time I was 11 or 12 I was knitting intarsia jumpers for my little sister (there's a photo of her wearing a Little Miss Giggles one at my parents house). I knitted theraputically, and whenever I was ill it would give my hands something to do; I worked my way through books of Jean Greenhow patterns. Unfortunately all these early items are now long gone, but they live on in my memories of them.

I have knitted on and off ever since I learnt, and started to get really serious about knitting when I was pregnant with my son, and a lot of my friends were pregnant with their first children as well. I knitted several beautiful shawls as newborn gifts, my favourite being this one in red DK acrylic. No, this is not what I would choose to use now, but I loved the process of knitting it, and the final blanket was beautiful.

With every item I knitted I learnt something new, and would happily improvise when something wasn't to my taste. When my son was 18 months old I wanted to knit him a Christmas pudding hat and couldn't find a pattern with 3D sauce, so made up my own and decided to make a leap into the unknown and publish it. That was, as you know, the first of many.

My first design, the Christmas pudding hat
And a more recent design, Busy Buzzy Bumble Bee (one of my favourites!)

How did you get into knitting? What's the knitted item you're most proud of?

Friday 7 April 2017

World Craft Week 2017: Crochet

This week is World Craft Week, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to tell you about some of my non-knitting crafting adventures. So far I have written about cross stitch and sewing, today is the turn of crochet.

I had been interested in crochet for many years before I actually got round to doing any. As a child I had been played with yarn a lot, seeing what I could do with yarn using just my fingers, mostly plaiting, twisted cords and knotting, but also creating what I now realise were long crochet chains. The only trouble was that I didn't know anyone who could teach me.

Fast forward to my final year at university, when I was working in industry and finally had enough disposable income that I could afford to buy my own craft materials. That Christmas I asked for a beginners book on crocheting (Start Crochet by Jan Eaton) and sat down over the holidays and taught myself. I've never been one to start with something simple, and after crocheting a ripple scarf I decided that I would crochet a double bed sized blanket for some friends as a wedding present.

And so I made my first project, a join as you go granny hexagon blanket in all the colours! The house I lived in that year was very close a branch of Boyes (a shop that sells everything, and each branch has its own haberdashery department) so I picked up another ball of yarn whenever I fancied. The blanket went down well with my friends and I have since made several more crocheted blankets as wedding presents.

A crocheted wedding blanket

I really like crochet for homewares; crochet grows faster than knitting, and is generally a bit denser, making it really cosy. But I'm not keen on it for garments, so I don't do it that often. I have also used crochet for toys; I love the way that there is only one stitch on the hook at any time, so you can always see the shape you have created, which makes it much easier to improvise a shape than with knitting. Every time I go to a yarn festival and see the TOFT stall I have a little longing to crochet some animals, but the fast-growing nature of crochet means I'd run out of homes pretty quickly! My daughter has recently started requesting unicorns though, so maybe I do have an excuse to make one.

Silly, but I had a lot of fun making this skirt!

My proudest crochet moment: a dragon hat

Can you crochet? What's your favourite thing to make?

Thursday 6 April 2017

World Craft Week 2017: Sewing

This week, for World Craft Week, I'm having a look at the crafts I have done over the years. Today it's sewing.

When I was little my mum had a sewing machine in one of our main living rooms, housed in its own special work table. The sewing machine collapsed into the table and the workspace folded over to take up less space when it wasn't being used. I assumed this was normal and am very disappointed that my living arrangements do not have enough space for such a thing - my sewing machine is kept in a sewing machine bag in a corner of the living room and if I want to sew I have to clear the dining table, and as a consequence I don't do very much sewing!

I learnt to use a sewing machine when I was very young. My mum was always happy to let me play with her scraps and I was constantly improvising bags for me and clothes for my toys. Over the years I learnt to do appliqué, which I loved, quilting, which I didn't love and eventually moved on to making garments for myself.

Applique curtains for my son

I'm pretty tall (5 foot 10) and one of the joys of making things for yourself is that you can adjust the proportions so that the item actually fits! I made evening dresses to wear for my prom and balls at university, and several day dresses; I made my bridesmaids dresses and even considered making my own wedding dress (until I realised quite how long that would take!). These days my sewing is limited to curtains and project bags, although I do have plans to sew a summer dress for myself this year. As soon as I had children finding the floor space for pattern and fabric cutting became a bit of a battle and I still haven't found a solution to that, but when I do (probably when my children are bigger) I will spend a lot more time sewing.

Project bags in quirky fabrics

Do you like to sew? Do you have a solution to my lack of cutting space?

Wednesday 5 April 2017

World Craft Week 2017: Cross stitch

This week for World Craft Week I am looking back at all the crafting activities I have enjoyed over the years. Today it's cross stitch.

The walls of my parents' house is evidence of my love of cross stitch: most walls feature a design stitched by me. I started cross stitch very early, possibly as young as three or four, using binca (aida cloth with 6 stitches to the inch), brightly coloured embroidery threads and no pattern. My Mum really encouraged me in this - she has always been creative and has a huge stash of craft materials, which I had pretty free access to. At this point my sewing was more crazy freehand embroidery than cross stitch, but my skills and patience developed quickly and I was soon following charts and creating little pictures.

I carried on cross stitching (and raiding my mum's craft supplies) for many years, with the fabrics getting finer and my ambition increasing. Every year I would request a cross stitch kit, often Country Companions hedgehogs, which I loved doing in spite of their slightly faffy variegated spines. My favourite designs required using only whole stitches - I never really enjoyed making quarter and three quarter stitches as they slowed me down - and I never enjoyed backstitch. I did try evenweave (around 28 strands per inch, with crosses worked over two strands), but it made my eyes hurt!

My mum used to buy a lot of cross stitch magazines, and each one came with a small kit for a card, needle case, or gift tag and I worked my way through all of those, enjoying the speed at which I could create a finished object. I didn't always have uses for the items, so we occasionally had a stand at a craft fair to sell some of the items on.

Once I'd exhausted the supply of kits I started designing my own cross stitch charts. My favourite images were based on the Bang on the Door characters, whose bold black outlines suited the pixilated nature of cross stitch. Had it been as easy to create and sell cross stitch designs as it is now, I may have gone down the cross stitch route over the knitting route for longer, but one day I stopped as I had run out of wall space!

I haven't done any cross stitch in well over ten years. While I enjoy it - the repeated motions are very therapeutic - there really are only so many ways to use the items you've stitched, and my parents have enough of my cross stitch cushion covers and pictures to last a lifetime. I have a few pieces that still need framing (I stitched the Winnie the Pooh picture at least ten years ago!), which I might get round to one day.

To be framed, ten years on...

Last year while I was in Hobbycraft I did briefly entertain the idea of doing some more cross stitch and bought a kit for a festive design to be mounted in a hoop. I ran out of time to do it before last Christmas, but think I probably will of it for this year. 

A nice quick project when I fancy it

Have you ever done cross stitch? What have you done with the finished pieces?

Monday 3 April 2017

World Craft Week 2017: Introduction

This week is World Craft Week, a new event hosted on Facebook by Immediate Media, who publish a large array of crating magazines, including Simply Knitting, Mollie Makes and Simply Crochet. I'm always enthusiasic about a new crafting event, so have decided that this week I will tell you about my adventures in crafting over the years.

While knitting is now my primary craft, I have tried many! Cross stitch, crochet, sewing, colouring and many more have all made an appearance, some with more success than others! I'm really looking forward to taking you through my crafting adventures this week.

Immediate Media are giving away a free digimag featuring 25 craft projects, as well as a collection of discount vouchers to use over World Craft Week. If you fancy downloading a copy, follow this link.

Are you a crafter? What is your favourite craft and what would you like to try next?