Never forget your Kitchener stitch again.

Kitchener stitch is one of those things. You think you have it off pat, you sit down with your sock and your needle ready to go ..and can you remember the blessed way to work the stitches? Nope.

If you are anything like me you always have to look it up in your handy reference of choice (for me - it's Google every time) and before you know it your precious 5 minute window has disappeared and your attention is needed elsewhere..

So, let me introduce you to King Philip and you will never forget again. More precisely King Philip and his Purple Knickers - or the mnenomic Knit, Purl, Purl, Knit

K = knit (insert needle as if to knit on 1st stitch of front needle and slide off)

P = Purl (anchor next stitch on front needle - insert needle as if to purl & pull yarn through)

P = Purl (insert needle as if to purl on 1st stitch of back needle and slide off)

K = Knit (anchor next stitch on back needle - insert needle as if to knit & pull yarn through).

And there you have it. Simple, effective and slightly cheeky. The perfect mnemonic.

Incidentally, opinions vary about whether setup stitches are needed for Kitchener stitch or not. Some patterns ask you to work the 1st st on each needle in a different way, before you start sliding stitches off the needle. Personally I have tried both ways and find that I get slightly rounded and more comfortable corners by omitting the setup stitches. So in the interests of simplicity that's exactly what I do.

March Modular Challenge

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As February draws to a close (I’m not even going to think about how quickly that whooshed by) we have been pondering what our next monthly challenge will be over in the Facebook group. As we are currently in the middle of a sock yarn mini swap, many of us are either rediscovering our long-term sock yarn blankets or have been inspired to start one.

So it seemed particularly appropriate for March to be our Modular Month. Specifically a month for us to set ourselves some challenges relating to a long term modular or scrap yarn project.

In line with our group style I’m not going to set out any hard and fast rules for participation but here are a few thoughts on how you could make the challenge work for you.

  1. Knit a square per day on your sock yarn blanket...and weave in the ends (the last bit is optional but your future self will thank you for it).

  2. See how many squares you can knit or crochet in 31 days. There are no prizes for this or knitting police checking up - but you do get to give your blanket a sizeable boost.

  3. Knit/crochet a stripe per day on a blanket/afghan/scarf.

  4. Work on a modular blanket or other project. Several group members are knitting the Vivid blanket pattern from Tin Can Knits which would be ideal for this.

  5. Unearth your long-term WIP out from where it is hibernating and just show it some love. You don’t need to set yourself a challenge other than to admire it and imagine how cool it will look when it is finished.

Sock yarn blanket patterns include, but are in no way limited to:

Sock Yarn blanket by Shelley Kang

 

Memory blanket by Georgie Hallam

Knitted patchwork recipe by Martine Ellis

However you chose to take part and whatever you chose to work on I do hope you have fun with this one. Please do share your progress on the Facebook group - I can’t wait to see how you get on. If you are sharing on Instagram please use the hashtag #modularmarch so we can all follow you.

 

Sock Yarn swap

Happening over on the Facebook group.

Happening over on the Facebook group.

I've shared photos on and off of my Mitered Square sock yarn blanket in the two years or so it has been in existence but recently I felt that I didn't want to work on it at all. Then, a chance conversation with online knitting friends meant a fresh infusion of colour and yarn and suddenly my enthusiasm has reawakened. 

My blanket is back out of the corner and being given some love again  and over in the Facebook Group - Everyday Knitter - we are holding a swap for leftover sock yarn. A bunch of us are swapping 5 x 5g mini skeins of sock yarn and you are more than welcome to join in. Please do pop over to the group and say hi - we would love to see you.

Catbells - launch of a new sock design

Catbells: a unisex cuff-down sock

Catbells: a unisex cuff-down sock

I am really pleased to be able to share the launch of my new sock design - Catbells - with you today. The first of a six part sock series which chronicles the walks done by my young boys as they have grown up in the Lake District - a very special family place for us.

Catbells is one of the first 'proper' mountain walks that we ever did with our two boys when they were really very small. The youngest, aged 3 went most of the way in the backpack but the eldest at the ripe old age of 4 and half, proudly walked the whole thing - although he did the last half-mile back to the car on Daddy's shoulders.

I am really pleased to say that there is also a KAL for this design and for the whole series. You can join in either on my Ravelry group, on Instagram or on my Facebook group - Everyday Knitter. Use the hashtag #socksandsummits and #catbellssocks so we can see all of your fabulous socks.

The Catbells design and indeed all of the designs in the series use yarn from the incomparable Rusty Ferret - you can find all of Leona's amazing hand-dyed yarn at www.fluph.co.uk

To buy the pattern - just visit my Ravelry page. f you are a newsletter subscriber you will already have received your exclusive discount code. If not there is also an early bird discount for the next 2 days (until Feb 3rd, 2017) - just use code SUMMIT20 for 20% off the full purchase price.

Thank you so much for all your interest and support with this series. I hope you enjoy knitting them as much as I have and that you enjoy 'walking the Lakes' with me and my family.

I'm still here

I'm still here, just in case you thought things were a bit quiet around here.

For January I have set myself a challenge to blog every day and to save cluttering this space up - and pestering those who weren't interested in set up a separate page here.

So far I have to say that I'm really enjoying the routine of sitting down every morning to write a short piece about whatever knitting related stuff is on my mind. And I hope you are enjoying it too. 

I'm not sure whether I will continue with the daily posts next month. I'll take stock over the next few days and make a decision but I'd love to know what you think about the daily posts. 

Too much or just right?

Big plans for the year

This year sees the start of a project I am particularly excited about. A series of 6 sock designs released bimonthly celebrating my love of the English Lake District- in yarn form.

I am especially pleased to be working with one of my favourite British indie yarn dyers, Leona of Rusty Ferret yarns. If you follow me anywhere on social media I'm sure you will have seen some of her yarn in my projects and for this sock series she has kindly dyed up six fabulous skeins, each of which take their inspiration from some aspect of the Lakes.

Each sock design also tells a personal story. Our young boys have walked the fells from an early age (they were backpacked up there before they could walk) and each design chronicles a landmark in their walking journey - starting with their first peak, Catbells. They climbed this when they were aged 4 and 3, although the youngest one was carried most of the way in a backpack he insisted on being let out to climb to the 'very tippy top' on his own.

The first design, Catbells will launch on 1st February 2017 and the following 5 will be at two-monthly intervals.

I am really excited to show your more of these designs and hope that even if you are a non walker you will still appreciate the beauty and variety that the landscape of the Lakes has to offer.

Word for the year

The more I think about it, the more I think that 'Simplicity' is going to be my guiding word for this year, or at least the first quarter of it.

I have so many thoughts going through my head, so many plans to write down and so many notebooks in which to write them. I feel pretty overwhelmed right now. I feel as though as I should be doing a load of planning for next year but at the same time I feel as though I need to take a bit of a step back and have a period of calm reflection before going all gung-ho into the new year. I feel as though there are a lot of areas in my life which could do with some simplification, both personal and professional and so it is time to quietly take stock and decide what can go and what can stay.

The break over the holidays has been a great incentive to reduce my amount of online time and I have to say that I have found it to be very positive. I'm not going to say the words digital detox because I know I can't stay away from my Instagram addiction, but I going to try and limit my screen time to 30 to 40 minutes per day, and then to consciously turn the screens off and do something creative or productive instead. I'm looking forward to curling up with a book (a real, paper one) for the first time in ages. Just 15 minutes reading before bed has become something I look forward to and I hope to carry this new habit forward into the new year.

However you spent Christmas and New Year I hope you had a relaxing and peaceful time. Now it's time to sally forth into 2017 - ready or not.

Happy New Year

This New Year, as with many others sees me cosied up in a Lake District cottage. Miles from anywhere but blessed with great views and a good wifi connection this place is the perfect bolt hole for a winter break. Usually on this holiday we do very little walking and a lot of chilling and this time has been no exception. Although we are all full of the seasonal lurgy it is still nice to get out into the fresh air and enjoy the amazing (if damp) scenery). Spending time with my family as my boys grow and get more independent is a real privilege and one which I really appreciate.

However you are spending your new year I do hope you have a happy and peaceful one. Here's hoping that 2017 brings great things for us all.

Happy Knitting

 

 

My 31 day challenge

There is something about a 31 day challenge which is very appealing. There is a wealth of evidence that a minimum of 21 days is needed to fully establish a new habit but going for the full month seems more satisfying on so many more levels. At this time of year, our thoughts naturally turn to the new year just around the corner. Things we would like to do differently, things we would like to learn or even things we want to avoid.

During 2016 two of my goals were to establish an email subscription list and newsletter and also to maintain a more regular blog schedule. In large part I feel as though I have achieved that and in the course of doing so I have found that not only do I love knitting (no surprise there) but I also love writing about knitting.

I read a quote once which said something along the lines of "The more you write the more you want to write" and in my case that does really seem to be the case.

With that in mind therefore I have decided to set myself a 31 Day Challenge of my very own, and commit to writing a blog post every day in January. In order to avoid overload and to keep this separate from my main blog this will be posted on a separate page over on my website under the page called Everyday Knitter.

This is also the name of my new Facebook group and my intention is to do something every day to foster and nuture my love of this craft we all love so much.

The daily blog posts, by necessity will be short and snappy but I hope that they will reflect events in my real-life knitting-life.

How about you? Do you fancy joining me in a 31 day challenge of your own? It could be something as simple as committing to spending 15 minutes reading, or 31 days of having your 5 fruits and veggies a day. It certainly doesn't need to be knitting related, although obviously please dive in if that appeals to you.

Please click here to download my free 31 Day Challenge printable and don't forget to let me know how you get on.

Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas

This has certainly been a productive and busy year. 2016 may have been turbulent in many ways but in my own woolly corner of the internet it has been a great year for community, joy and a shared love of knitting. In fact, I'm not sure how I would have coped with all the challenges that 2016 has thrown at us, without the strong and supportive knitting community which I am proud to belong to.

I probably should round up the year with a fabulous 'best of 2016' post, but to be perfectly honest the usual seasonal overload has taken its toll, and after an endless round of school plays, advent events and family obligations all I feel capable of doing is cosying up on the sofa with mulled wine, knitting and an industrial sized box of Quality Street.

Whatever you are doing this Christmas and however you spend the holidays I hope you have a peaceful and joyful time.

Thank you for all your support during this incredible year and I will be back soon with lots of exciting things planned for 2017.

January 2017: Brioche Challenge

Do you fancy livening up your knitting in 2017?

Starting on January 1st 2017 and running until January 31st I will be hosting a Brioche Challenge. Whether you are a total brioche beginner or fancy trying your hand at something more complicated I hope you will join me (and provide virtual tea and cake) as I dive headfirst into my first challenge of 2017.

You can take part either in my Ravelry group where we have a specific thread, or you can join in with the challenge over in the brand new Everyday Knitter Facebook group.  

I hope you will find plenty of inspiration there and maybe think about joining us. 

The challenge will run until January 31st and I shall be offering a prize to a participant (chosen at random) from a Finished Object post - one from the Ravelry group and one from the Facebook group.

There has been a lot of chatter on both groups already about possible brioche projects and so we have put together a bundle of patterns to kindle your interest. There is a range there from basic-for-beginners to someday-I-will-be-good-enough, but this is by no means exclusive and if you find another project to work on that is absolutely fine. Also if you have a dormant WIP that you set aside please feel free to resurrect it and brioche-along with the rest of us.

If, like me you are a complete brioche newbie you might find this tutorial to be really useful. I know it certainly helped me. Sarah of the Crafts from the Cwtch blog post has a very clear way of explaining things which will have you brioch-ing in no time.

 

 

 

It's time for another Twitter chat

I can't believe that it is already a month since our first Twitter chat but the calendar doesn't lie, and as Christmas approaches with the speed of a freight train I'm quite looking forward to spending a cosy night in with you all tonight, talking about socks and maybe drinking a glass of mulled wine.

So, lets talk about socks and specifically the gifting of socks. Do you knit socks for gifts? D you have a list as long as your arm of willing recipients, or do you keep sock knitting purely for yourself? If you have any tips or tricks for gifting socks or any cute way ways of packaging them please pop along and join in the chat.

If you aren't sure what a twitter chat is - please see this previous blog post.

So grab, your festive tipple of choice and join us at 8pm tonight (GMT, London)

Everyday Knitter

I am really pleased to announce that the new Facebook group - Everyday Knitter - is now open for business.

It is a closed group, meaning that once a member only other members can see what you post. This also means that you need to apply to join but it isn't scary, I promise. Just click the "Join" button and I will add you as soon as I can.

I hope that the name of the group reflects what I am trying to achieve with this group. The Everyday Knitter its all about squeezing more knitting into your day. Developing your knitting skills and learning from others. I would say that it is about growing and developing along your knitting journey - but that sounds too much as though we are on the X-Factor - but you know what I mean.

You can join the group here, or if you aren't a Facebook person all the challenges will run parallel over on my Ravelry group.

And first up is our coming challenge for January: Brioche Knitting.

Please do join us for the fun.

6 Ways to Get More Knitting Done

Getting more knitting done - or how to hide from the family

For some reason my family still haven't grasped the concept that I like to knit, to relax and to craft a little time for myself at weekends. They will persist in the notion that my time is their time and that I should be happily spending my precious weekends grappling with homework, running the little darlings to various social engagements or just generally hanging out in their adorable company.

Now don't get me wrong I love a boisterous game of Pass the pigs as much as the next person and don't get me started on the fun that can be had when over-competitive siblings get stuck into a Monopoly tournament, but sometimes the modern, stressed out knitter just wants half an hour to themselves. Ideally with a hot beverage and some relaxing knitting.

After approximately 8 years of trying to combine weekend parenting and knitting (whilst living a long way from obliging and doting grandparents) here are a few winning strategies to help you craft out some valuable knitting time - you're welcome.

  1. Insist loudly that you have to have the house to yourself in order to 'clean it'. Bundle the offspring out of the door to the local park or to the shops (with an appropriate adult).Spend 5 minutes rushing around with a bin bag, do a quick hoover and the fling yourself onto the sofa, knitting in hand. For this to work it is essential to keep an alert ear out for their homecoming and to greet them, coming down the stairs - carrying a load of laundry for maximal effect.
  2. Round everyone up for a cinema trip - pack your most portable knitting project (a plain vanilla sock is ideal). Load up with snacks (and hot coffee for you) and knit away whilst everyone else follows the latest Disney/Pixlar extravaganza with enthusiasm.
  3. If nothing at the cinema appeals, employ a similar tactic and head to the local soft play area (or park if you really cannot stomach the thought of those germ-filled ball pits).
  4. Barricade yourself in your room for half an hour, with threats of dire proportions if anyone dares to disturb you. This works particularly well in the run up to Christmas.
  5. This one requires a bit of long term planning (and some moderate chaos - but bear with me). Offer to host a friends child for an afternoon for a playdate/cinema trip/park outing. The usual reciprocal rules of parenting will hopefully kick in and the parents of the lucky child will then offer to take yours for a similar date - giving you a child free house for several hours.
  6. Announce that you need to do boring grocery shopping and that you will be far faster going by yourself. Do a super quick whizz around the supermarket and then enjoy a leisurely coffee with your knitting before 'staggering' home with your bags.

 

Planning for 2017

As the end of the year approaches I often find it handy to take stock of my achievements and the progress I've made through the year. I love to tally up how much of my stash I've used (never as much as I think) and how many projects I've made. I'm not a big one for New Year Resolutions but one thing I like to do is to set myself a few main aims or challenges for the coming year.

Looking back through my journal though I am struck by how many times I say - "I must try that..." or, "I really must have a go at..."

I'm thinking specifically about brioche projects here, as I've been admiring many gorgeous cowls and shawls from afar which use this technique. I am still yet to devote the time to learning it however.

Partly this is due to the fact that I always have a few designs on the needles and often, my personal knitting is my downtime, my "I don't want to think" time. When I have a few moments to spare with needle and yarn in hand it is easy to fall back into the comfortable, the familiar and the comfortable. Just look at the number of Hitchhiker scarves I've churned out this year if you need proof of this.

So, for 2017 my goal is to extend my knitting horizons. To actually take up a few of those challenges that I have been promising myself I will try. Brioche is top of the list but I'd also like to try some new methods of sock construction and beading is something I am still yet to tackle.

With this in mind, I will be setting up a new Facebook group in the next week or two. Specifically aimed at those who want to take their knitting to the next level and set themselves some achievable goals for the coming year. My intention is to pick a theme for myself for each month. You would be more than welcome to join me with that particular challenge or to set one for yourself. The main thing is to publicly declare your intention to try something new and to have a fun and friendly space in which to share your achievements. My hope is that we can create a fun and friendly community of like minded crafters and that we can each learn something from each others creative journeys through 2017.

So, Brioche in January - if you'd like to join me? If you aren't a Facebook person, I will also be running a parallel thread over in my Ravelry group as I would hate for anyone to miss out.

Watch this space for further details of the Facebook group and how to join.

 

Advanced stashbusting - doubling up that sock yarn

If, like me, you have a well curated stash of leftover sock yarn it is only a matter of time before you find yourself contemplating it with a slightly overwhelmed expression and a distinct lack of storage space. There are, after all, only so many sock yarn blankets one can have on the needles at any one time.

If you haven't already tried it, may I suggest working with two strands of sock yarn held together - as the ultimate stashbuster.

Holding two strands together generally gives a weight of yarn somewhere between a DK and aran weight - I usually get a gauge of around 20st to 4" - making it comparable toa worsted weight, although obviously this does depend on the relative thicknesses of your chosen 4ply yarns. Working on a 4.5mm needle the two strands of yarn combine to give a pleasing bounce and loft to the fabric and the ability to play with colour and introduce gradual ombre-style effects is an added bonus. Pairing a super bright skein with a more sombre one might also be a good way to tone down some of the more exuberant skeins that we all have hiding in our stash.

Assisted Hatching baby sweater

Assisted Hatching baby sweater

For those of us with a well endowed stash of leftover sock yarn, an added highlight is that this type of project really does eat up yarn. Making a worsted weight baby sweater - here I used the Assisted Hatching sweater pattern by Elizabeth Ditchburn Dew - which used up practically all of a 400m (100g) skein of 4ply Zitron Trekking XL. Obviously you do have to take a little bit of time at the beginning of the project to wind 2 equal sized balls of yarn, and some people find that they get better results if they wind these two strands together into a single, larger ball from which to work. But this is a simple job that just needs a pair of kitchen scales and a bit of company from Netflix.

The possibilities of this type of yarn combining are endless, and I often find myself dreaming about an ombre style blanket - baby sized or bigger - starting with the lighter shades of yarn from my sock stash and progressing towards the darker ones. Maybe one day...I might just need a bit more sock yarn first though.

 

 

Can you PYOO?

My latest shawl design - Spreading The Love - is a half Pi, semi circular shawl featuring stripes, stocking stitch and a fun star shaped stitch.

Formed by passing a yarn over, over several stitches this stitch is given the rarely used, but quite amusing abbreviation PYOO. For those who share my slightly juvenile sense of humour I thought you might appreciate the explanation.

Essentially you work a yarn over and then knit several stitches before slipping that yarn over, over them. The end result is an atrractive 'bar' of yarn which sits neatly across the base of your worked stitches, adding texture without affecting your stitch count.

It works well with this Wenslydale and Shetland blend, but would also give a very interesting effect with a variegated yarn too.

I would be really interested to know what you think of it. So why not give it a go and have a PYOO today?

You can buy the pattern - which has a 50% discount until Friday 25th November - along with all my other patterns over on my Ravelry page: here

 

What exactly is a Twitter Chat?

On Monday 21st November 2016 (at 8pm GMT,London) I am going to be hosting the first of my monthly Twitter Chats aimed at everyone who loves to knit socks - and I know there are a few of you out there.

So far so good, but what exactly is a Twitter Chat, I hear you say.

Well, fear not. It isn't scary. It is just a bunch of people chatting on Twitter but instead of randomly chatting amongst ourselves we use the hashtag #KnitSockChat. This enables us to see all the conversations going on around us and to join in and hopefully make new friends who share our love of all things to do with knitting socks.

Most Twitter Chats last for an hour but don't worry - it's fine to dip in and out as you can. Most of us have other things going on in the evening - small people, pets or significant others clamoring for attention - but the beauty of Twitter is that you can join in as it suits you and no one will be offended if you bow out. Or if you are can't to join in at the time you can catch up with the conversations later and find out what you missed.

To give us something to get us started I will post 3 questions or topics during the chat:

Q1: Show us a picture of your favourite knitted socks or sock WIP. What do you love about them?

Q2: Patterned socks or plain vanilla?

Q3: Do you knit for others or just you?

To help you get the most out of the Chat it helps to remember to use the hashtag #KnitSockChat on each of your posts - this will help everyone else to find you. And also if you answering a specific question, preface your comment with Q1, 2 or 3.

With these simple guides in mind, grab a beverage of choice and join us for some serious sock chat.

I look forward to seeing you there

x

The joys of scrappy socks

If you aren't ready for the commitment of a full-on sock yarn blanket, scrappy socks can be a fabulous way to use up all those odds and ends. There is a wonderful hashtag on Instagram called #frankensocks and this is well worth a look for inspiration. Totally mismatched, fun and colourful these type of socks look amazing and are totally unique.

If, like me , your brain can't deal with totally random socks you could always strike a happy medium by knitting striped socks in brightly contrasting colours. I knit a pair recently, using them as an opportunity to showcase a range of sock yarn leftovers in my stash from some of the very talented indie dyers we have here in the UK. To make sure that the socks matched - there's my inner control freak talking - I knit them toe-up, two at a time on a long magic loop needle. This did involve a bit of extra faffing as I had to wind off enough yarn for 2 balls, but with each stripe/ball only taking 3-4g this wasn't particularly onerus.

In fact, just between me and you, it sometimes took me longer to decide on the next yarn stripe than it did to wind it and knit it.

Taking the #franskensocks theme a step further there are some very popular advent themed scrappy socks projects out there too. The Opal Sock Yarn Advent calendar is a very popular one which is almost certainly sold out by the time you read this as the kits went on sale around the beginning of October. Many thrifty-minded knitters however have decided to do their own advent socks - knitting a stripe each day on their socks - ending with a snazzy new pair of socks ready to wear on Christmas Day. Some have even gone the whole hog and have their set of little yarn balls all ready to go in individual sealed bags. With all the hectic preparations going on before the holidays, there is something very pleasing and soothing about making time to sit down each day and knock out out a stripe or two on your fun, colourful project.

 

In praise of the humble mitered square

Lets face it, after a few months (years) of knitting socks, you are going to have amassed a fairly hefty collective of leftover sock yarn. If I am knitting socks for me I normally expect to have about 30g of sock yarn left from a skein of 100g - sometimes a little less if the design features lots of yarn-eating cables.

And all those little 30g balls of yarn can soon add up.

For me, the tipping point came when I decided to reorganise my sock yarn stash and put all the leftovers together. When I realised that I had about 1.5kg of little sock yarn balls it was time to admit that a) I needed help and b) maybe I should make something with it all.

The next few weeks on the blog will therefore be devoted to ideas for using up that leftover sock yarn, starting with the epitome of thriftiness - the Sock Yarn Blanket.

If you have a few hours to spare just type in the words 'sock yarn blanket' into Google or Pinterest and prepare to be blown away by the creativity and colour you will find. One of the most popular patterns or recipes is a free pattern download: The Mitered Squares blanket by Shelley Kang. Endlessly adaptable and highly addictive, it's easy to see why there are so many versions of this on Ravelry and it's hard not to be drawn into their appeal. There is something very pleasing about how all the neat little decreases line up along the length of the blanket and bright hand-dyed yarn in garter stitch is always a real winner.

It is worth considering however that this is a large scale undertaking and because the squares are joined as you go, the project quickly becomes non-portable. Some clever knitters have got around this however by using the same principle to knit square panels of say 3x3 or 4x4 which can then be seamed together. Indeed, the very clever ScullyWully on Instagram took this principle and expanded it to create a series of monthly blocks - with the colours influenced by the seasons and the other projects she was working on at the time.

If large-scale commitment isn't your thing, you could always take this idea and adapt it to make cushion covers for example or smaller cot-sized baby blankets.

The only other caution I would issue, with my 'voice of experience' is to weave in the ends as you go - ask me how I know! With that caveat in place my only other advice is to go for it and have fun. If your enthusiasm wanes you can always curtail the project and make a cushion cover, or you can go the whole hog and make a king-sized bed masterpiece.