Toe increases - How do you do yours?

I recently shared a tip for toe increases in toe-up socks and there was so much interest in it and general chatter around the whole issue of sock toes that I thought it merited it's own blog post. I'm sure that non-sock knitters would be astounded at the level of interest shown in the humble sock toe, but we of course are enlightened Sock Knitters and thus, appreciate the beauty of a perfectly constructed sock toe.

Toe increases three ways.

Toe increases three ways.

 

1. kfb Increase*

Usually performed as: Kfb, k until 2st before end, kfb, k1

2. m1r and m1l

Usually performed as k1, m1r, k to 1st before end, m1l, k1.

There is a 3rd way however and this happens to be my personal favourite:

3. yo increase

Usually performed as, k1, yo, k to 1st before end, yo, k1.

On the next (non increase round these yo are worked through the back loop to give a lovely flat finish). I also like this method because it is impossible to get confused as to which round you are on - not even I can miss a glaring yarn over on what should be a plain knit row.

Which do you prefer? If you have only ever used

There are, of course many other toe options such as the asymmetric toe and the short row toe - I'll be taking a closer look at these next week.

*assuming magic loop technique

Playful colour: Berry Colorful Yarnings

The strap line for Berry Colorful Yarnings is "Where color plays" and that handily sums up everything I love about Michelle's attitude to colour and self striping yarn.

Berry Colorful Yarnings - where colour really does play

Berry Colorful Yarnings - where colour really does play

I was first introduced to the USA-based indie dyer through the wonderful Golden Skein yarn club. Three different indie dyers were asked to produce an exclusive colourway based on a given photo - for this particular collection it was a stunning Peacock Butterfly - and each dyer came up with strikingly different interpretations.

Michelle's choice was for a really bold black and red self stripe which was was initially a surprise but as I unwound the skein and started to work with it I realised just how much subtle shading there was within each band of colour. The tones in the red and black/grey bands made for really entertaining knitting and my Peacocks Revenge socks simply flew off the needles. I chose plain stocking stitch socks for these (toe-up, obviously) to let the beauty of the stripes shine through.

Peacocks Revenge: super fun stripes

Peacocks Revenge: super fun stripes

 

Since then, I have followed Michelle's work with great interest and love seeing her regular shop updates - there is always something bright and colourful to catch the eye and tempt you. Obviously I am in the UK and thus can fall prey to customs charges but I was so smitten by her exclusive Halloween theme last year that I couldn't resist. And even having my package held to ransom by UK customs for two weeks couldn't dim my joy at the fun package that awaited me.

Halloween themed socks - perfect

Halloween themed socks - perfect

 

If you are a fan of bright, fun , clear colours do go and check out Michelle's website - just don't say you weren't warned.

Afterthought heels: or the ninja skill of cutting your knitting

If you follow me on social media you will more than likely know that I'm a huge fan of the afterthought heel and indeed it is one of my favourite classes to teach. Every time I post an image on the subject though it generates a lot of comment and interest and so I thought I would do my best to summarise how I go about inserting a true afterthought heel.

There are also methods which involve knitting in a strand of waste yarn at the point where the heel is to go. This can then be removed from the sock tube and the live stitches placed onto your needles. Confusingly this may also be referred to as an afterthought heel when in fact it is really a Forethought heel - you need to know in advance where your heel is going to go. As you are merrily knitting your sock tube it isn't always possible to stop and try it on or otherwise determine where to place the heel - think crowded train carriage or dark cinema. For these and other reasons I vastly prefer the true afterthought heel.

For this you will need:

  • Your completed sock tube. I prefer to knit both socks and put in the heels at the same time.
  • 3 DPNs - I prefer wooden DPNs with sharp tips
  • 1 lockable stitch marker
  • 1 tapestry needle
  • Sharp scissors
  • Tape measure
Work out where to insert the heel

Work out where to insert the heel

1. Try the sock on and pull it firmly up the leg. Find your ankle bone on the inside of your foot and trace an imaginary line with your finger down to the sole (underside of your foot). Mark this point with a removable stitch marker. It is normally about 2-2.5" from the back of your heel.

Start to pick up stitches for one side of the heel.

Start to pick up stitches for one side of the heel.

2. Take the sock off, lay it flat being sure to have the toe flat - your heel needs to align with the toe - and starting at one side of the sock start to insert a DPN tip into the first leg of each stitch from the row you have marked with your stitch marker (self striping yarn can be helpful here as, often you can follow the line of a coour change).

Work your way across, take your time being sure to pick up the leg of each stitch until you have half the number of stitches of your total sock circumference. eg. for a 64st sock I would pick up 32st. I find that wooden DPNs are easier to use as they are more flexible but this is personal preference.

Once you have 1 line of stitches picked up repeat the process on the 2nd row below your first DPN. You will end up with stitches on 2 DPNs separated by 1 row of knitted stitches.

Identify where you are going to snip

Identify where you are going to snip

4. Insert a tapestry needle into the leg of one stitch in the middle of that row and pull it up firmly to make a loop. Take a deep breath and snip that loop. Now breathe out and slowly start to unpick the loose thread you have created on each side of the fabric.

Start to snip

Start to snip

5. Keep going all the way across until you have 2 DPNs each with 32 (or your chosen number) stitches on them and two curly strands of yarn at either end. These ends can be woven in later. I normally tie them in a knot with the working yarn to keep the tension even. I then untie them and darn them in at the end.

All neat and tidy

All neat and tidy

6. It happens to the best of us. During the picking up of stitches if you find that you have missed a stitch and you have one loose, just secure it with a lockable stitch marker and slip it back on the needle as you knit that row.

Use your locking stitch markers to capture any strays

Use your locking stitch markers to capture any strays

Now, just reattach your working yarn and start decreasing as you would for a toe. Essentially you are knitting a 2nd toe in the middle of your sock. My preferred way of doing this is:

Rnd 1: ssk (sl 1 knitwise, sl 1 purlwise, k those 2 tog tbl), k to last 3 st, k2tog, k1. Repeat on 2nd DPN

Rnd 2: k

You may come across the odd stitch which is aligned back to front on the needle, if that happens simple knit it through the back loop to correct it.

Repeat Rnds 1 and 2 until you have decreased the total number of stitches by half. For my 64st sock this would be 2 DPNs each holding 16st. Try on the sock at this point and check the fit. If you need to do a few more rounds you can continue 1 or 2 more decrease rounds.

Finally - use Kitchener stitch to graft the heel closed, exactly as you would do a toe.

Weave in all the ends and do a happy dance in your new socks! Take a photograph to show me (tag it with #louisetilbrookdesigns)  - I'd love to see your finished heels :)

 

Next time: a closer look at sock toes.

 

 

 

 

More self-stripe love from The Knitting Swede

I first met Tanja aka the Knitting Swede at Fibre East in 2015 when my two young boys spent a lively 5 (or 25)  minutes arguing over exactly which pair of stripy socks they would like me to knit for them. A decision was finally reached after much wrangling - although obviously - the actual knitting of them took much longer.

Tanja has a great eye for colour and I love that she pairs colours together that you might not have ordin arily thought of as working together.

I particularly love the fact that Tanja has a series of precise options for her self stripe - with 2-stripe, 3-stripe and 4-stripe options in a wonderful array of colours.

One of her best sellers is the 2-stripe Robin Red breast colourway and I knitted up a pair of these for DH quite recently. They are now a firm favourite of his - and really quite a bold choice for him. He normally steers away from brighter colours but the dark russet red against the steel grey really appealed to him and I was really pleased with how they turned out. A 3x1 rib on the foot and rib gave a great fit without breaking up the bold lines of stripes and I am happy to report that they are holding up well to repeated washing and wearing.

Tanja is often to be found at the main UK shows where you can get the chance to see her fabulous range in person. She also has a website and great online service. Her Etsy shop is updated regularly although if there is something you particularly have your eye on you need to be quick as she can sell out rapidly.

 

My magic formula for happiness: A Toe-up sock in self-striping yarn

I am a firm believer in not messing with perfection and the first thing I want to do when faced with an amazing skein of hand-dyed self striping sock yarn is to knit it into a perfectly plain and splendid pair of socks.

My default, stress-free option is to work a pair of stockinette, toe-up socks using the magic loop technique and my beloved Hiya Hiya sharp circular needles. If they are socks for me (I wear a UK size 6 shoe) I work on the basis of 60st and a 2.5mm needle. My husband usually gets a 72st sock with a 3x1 rib on the foot and leg.

Teaching toe-up sock knitting is one of my favourite classes to teach and I created the Have Fun Socks pattern as a freebie. Both to accompany the class and to offer as a free Ravelry download to all those thinking of trying out the wonderful world of toe-up socks. This pattern uses a standard short row heel but - full confession time - if I am knitting for myself I nearly always opt for a Fish Lips Kiss Heel. Obviously I can't infringe copyright and reproduce the pattern myself but I urge anyone who will listen to me to spend the $1 required to obtain this fabulous pattern for themselves.

I have taught some fairly resistant toe-up sock knitters in my time and one of their chief bugbears is often the fact that a "normal" short row heel doesn't fit very well. The FLK heel overcomes a lot of these difficulties and the additional information provided within the pattern gives you all the information you need to fit socks to the most challenging of feet.

If you want to preserve the continuity of those perfect stripes you can work the heel in a contrast colour - or wind off 10g yarn from the skein before you start knitting the sock, to use for the heels. The latter option involves a certain amount of prior thought however, and when faced with the giddy excitement of a new skein of yarn I admit that I often overlook this step.

The only exception to my winning formula is if I am travelling or otherwise out in public, and I'm not sure when to stop for the heel. If they are for me I can usually just measure (assuming my tape measure hasn't been pilfered out of my notions bag by small boys) but often I do prefer to try them on - just to make sure the heel goes in the correct place.

In the past I have tried on a sock WIP on public transport and I can attest to the fact that this will usually generate a fair number of curious (and sometimes even horrified) looks. To avoid public shame and embarrassment I now normally take the cowards way out and just continue up the leg to knit a long (13-14") tube and put in an afterthought heel.

If this thought fills you with horror - watch out for my mini tutorial on this - next week.

 

Purveyors of Self Striping Delights: The Knitting Goddess

As a recent newbie to the world of knitting, Joy of the Knitting Goddess was one of the first indie dyers I discovered online. The first was the lovely Amanda of the sadly missed Natural Dye Studio.

But like Amanda I was struck by Joy's subtle use of colour, the depth of tone she managed to achieve on her sock yarn bases and her fabulous attention to detail.

The Knitting Goddess' online shop is a veritable treasure trove of hand-dyed goodness and if you ever get the chance to visit her in person at one the many shows she does in the UK, they are even better when seen (and squished) in person.

Thismonth I am devoting the blog to my love of self stripe yarn and Joy has some amazing offerings in this category.

Better than a sweetie shop: a selection of Joy's hand-dyed self stripe yarns.

Better than a sweetie shop: a selection of Joy's hand-dyed self stripe yarns.

Her Britsock self-stripe is a particular favourite and was one of my first adventures into bold self-striping yarn and I haven't looked back. Britsock is a great blend of 40% British Falkland Polwarth, 20% British Wensleydale, 20% British Alpaca and 20% nylon, and it manages to be warm, luxurious, hard wearing all at once. The colours are arranged in thick stripes and I love that you can see subtle variations in the tone as you are knitting with it - one of the many joys of hand dyed yarn.

My first self-stripe: the 'Wimbledon' colourway from The Knitting Goddess

My first self-stripe: the 'Wimbledon' colourway from The Knitting Goddess

A self-striping option is also available on Joy's other, very popular  wool/nylon sock base and is well worth a look.

As well as a brilliantly stocked online shop, there is always the Knitting Goddess group on Ravelry. This is one of my favourite Ravelry haunts - a really vibrant and friendly group who love to share ideas and projects for KG yarns. If you've ever found Ravelry to be a little bit daunting - this is a great place to dip your toe into the water.

5 reasons why I love my LYS

My life would be a lot less rich without a fabulous LYS close by. Sarah opened the doors of The Sheep Shop four and a half years ago and I always look forward to a visit. Not just a place to buy yarn (although obviously that is important) a good yarn shop is so much more than that.

1. Community: Sarah has created a buzzing, vibrant community in her little corner of Cambridge. A weekly knitting group and a monthly knit night ensure that she reaches a broad section of her local knitters and the Friday morning sessions are often so popular that people arrive early to be sure of getting a seat. Events like the LYS day are invaluable for bringing new customers in but also to give existing customers a chance to show their support and celebrate their shared love of all things woolly.

The Sheep Shop: image kindly provided by Sarah Clarke

The Sheep Shop: image kindly provided by Sarah Clarke

2. Choice: It's a relatively small store but Sarah knows her market well and offers a range of yarns to suit everyone. Supporting other indie businesses is important and Sarah stocks yarns from local dyers such as the incomparable Sparkleduck, and fibre batts from Cambridge-based Louise of Spin City UK. There is a great range of sock yarn, which isn't always the case for an LYS and there is a great range of DK/aran yarn to suit all budgets. She also stocks a great range of patterns including contemporary ones such as those from Tin Can Knits and books such as those from Clare Devine and Joanne Scrace of The Crochet Project. Online shopping has the edge in sheer breadth of choice but nothing beats getting your hands on the actual thing before parting with your hard earned cash.

Teaching: always a pleasure to enable a new generation of knitters

Teaching: always a pleasure to enable a new generation of knitters

3. Classes: I have to admit to being a little biased, as I do teach here but there is a wonderful range of classes available and when I'm planning new class dates it can be a challenge to squeeze myself in among all the other exciting things going on. The full list of tutors is best accessed via the shop's website but you can take your pick from crochet, colourwork, sock knitting and needle felting, amongst others. The classes lend a really vibrant feel to the shop and I know that when customers come in and a class is on they can't help but comment on the atmosphere of fun and excitement around our little table. Whether you are a teacher or a student, there's something special about coming together as a group for 3 hours on a Saturday morning to share your love of a particular craft.

4. Cameraderie: I have been lucky enough to be able to explore a few other LYSs and have made some fabulous friends in the process. Wild and Woolly in London isn't quite local to me but a short train ride gets me to this brilliantly well stocked and colourful corner of London, E5. Like Sarah, Anna has done a great job of bringing a real sense of community to her shop and her warm and vibrant personality really shows through. Sitting around her little table with friends and sharing coffee and cake (and squishing yarn) is one of my favourite ways to spend a cheeky day off from my normal routine.

5. Colour: Beckside Yarns In Clapham, Yorkshire isn't remotely local to me but every time we head up the M6 to the Lake District we make sure to take a detour to this fabulous yarny haven. Junction 31 - in case you wanted to programme it into your SatNav for future reference. The overwhelming word here is Colour! Walls and walls of it. I have been there a lot now so I think I'm slightly immune but on my last visit I couldn't help but smile at the look on a fellow shoppers face when she saw Sandra's Wall of Noro. Sandra is incredibly knowledgable about her yarns and offers a wonderfully warm welcome - even when I'm slightly frazzled from sharing a car with 2 over-heated children for the past four hours. She tells me that she is one of the largest Noro stockists in the UK and I can certainly attest to the fact that I don't think I've ever seen quite such a range of it in one place. As well as Noro she stocks a great range of Debbie Bliss, Artesano, Rowan as well as smaller producers such as Solstice Yarns and Juniper Moon.

Next time you are on the M6 - do think about stopping in. Plonk your travelling companions in the tea shop next door and spend a happy hour browsing.

 

 

 

 

 

Milestones

It's been a bit of a busy week or two around these parts. Lots happening and lots of exciting milestones along the way.

It's no secret that I absolutely love Instagram. It's my favourite social media platform (barring Ravelry, obviously) and I love it for it's sense of community and belonging. It is a great way to connect with like minded fellow crafters and I would rather not admit to how many hours I've spent browsing perfect bullet journal spreads, or admiring perfect landscape photographs.

I was thrilled last weekend to realise that I had passed the 4000 followers milestone, without really realising it. There has been much talk about Instagram in recent weeks, and I even did a short blog post about it here. There has been much talk of strategy, of content and engagement. About scheduling your posts to optimise your reach and lots of other advice - some of it really great.

Heaven knows, I'm no social media expert, but it always seems to me that if you use a social media platform as a 'real human being', interact and share experiences with your community then you are naturally going to build up a following along the way. People like to chat with and share experiences with others - it's why most of us are using Instagram after all.

Hoar Frost: an old favourite

Hoar Frost: an old favourite

 

Anyway, before I disppear off on another IG rant, one of the fun things about this week has been the decision to revisit a few of my older sock patterns and offer each one for a 50% discount - one for each day of the week. I have really enjoyed going through the various projects on Ravelry and seeing how people have interpreted the pattern. I tend to stick to solid or very lightly variegated yarns for my designs but I loved seeing some funkier versions in variegated or even self stripe yarns.

There has been a great response to this and your supportive and encouraging comments have really helped to make my week.

 

I am also planning to expand my teaching horizons a little and this week saw the announcement that I will be running a sock knitting workshop on July 16th, hosted by Joeli of Joeli Creates. I am really excited by a day of sock knitting fun and even more excited by the chance to visit the after party at Countess Ablaze's studio.

The benefits of being odd

I recently found myself heading out of the house to take offspring to an after school sports class. Imagine my horror when I realised that I had no suitable, portable project to take with me. I had recently cast off some plain vanilla stripy socks and a garter stitch Hitchhiker - both being my default options for 'grab and go' knitting.

 

In desperation I cast about looking for something to take and for a brief moment of insanity contemplated trying to wind a skein of sock yarn in the 2 minutes I had left before departure. I contemplated taking my Kindle - it was out of charge. I contemplated not taking anything with me at all - I didn't contemplate this for very long, obviously.

 

Spending an hour seated with other restive parents on too-small chairs, watching one's children karate chop each other is one thing. Doing it without any form of occupation at all is quite another, so in desperation I grabbed my drop spindle and a handful of fibre.

 

As a knitter with a capital K, I knit anywhere and everywhere and I am accustomed to the strange sideways glances, the covert looks and the odd comments regarding "Grandmothers", "dying arts" and crochet. Can I just say for the record however that drop spindling in public takes this level of interest to a whole new level.

The assembled parents couldn't have been more astonished if I had brought in my own goat and proceeded to milk it. Starting my drop spindle off requires a certain amount of concentration (this is quite a new skill for me) but once I relaxed into it and got into my rhythm I glanced up to be met with a sea of incredulous faces. Mouths open doesn't begin to hint at the expressions that met my eyes.

Once the parent nearest to me had recovered the power of speech she asked me what I was doing. When I replied that I was making yarn she just nodded politely and then moved her chair way, just a fraction.

The children however were a source of delight and interest. They were fascinated by the process and the idea of turning candy floss-like fluff into yarn you could knit with seemed entirely reasonable. 

During the hour I got a satisfactory amount of spinning done - and I only dropped it once. And as an added bonus the bossy mum collecting 'volunteers' for sports day gave me a very wide berth. Result!

Aha...a new 'on the go' project

Aha...a new 'on the go' project

A change of routine

Don't get me wrong. I love a good routine as much as the next person - probably more so. They give my busy life structure and purpose and without routines I would probably spend all day camped out on the sofa in my PJs with a big pile of yarn.

There are some times though when it is good to change things up a little and do something completely different. For me, yesterday was one such day.

I had to drive 150 miles north (and back again) to collect my boys from a few days spent with their grandparents. We decided to turn a chore into a treat by meeting halfway at Saltaire - a Victorian village in Yorkshire ( indeed a World heritage Site no less).

It has a really fascinating history, the whole village being built by industrialist Titus Salt. He built a spinning mill after coming into possession of a warehouse full of alpaca fibre (as you do) and created a whole village around the mill for his employees. As a piece of social and economic history it is fascinating. On a slightly more superficial level it has one of the finest bookshops for miles around and a few very good coffee shops too.

Wandering the cobbled streets and exploring the canal towpaths was a great way to unwind and think different thoughts to my usual daytime pursuits. Inspiration was everywhere - as was a very cold and blustery wind. Guy Garvey, the lead singer of Elbow (Manchester based band) once famously credited his musical genius with being from Manchester. Saying that the brain functioned more creatively when it was a few degrees cooler - for non UK readers Manchester is a large city in the North of England which is well known for being cold and a little on the damp side.

Anyway, it was either the sudden burst of cold, fresh air to the brain or 7 hours of enforced non-knitting time spent behind the steering wheel but I arrived home positively fizzing with new ideas.

Rashly I dumped the laundry, the over excited children and the uneaten Easter chocolate and set about trying to cast on all the things. Being astute and sensible you will of course realise that this course of action was unwise and bound to end in tears (mine) and tantrums (also mine).

I sought refuge in my mitered square sock blanket (and a large glass of red wine) instead but this morning I was up bright and early, busily filling a (new) notebook with All The Ideas. Neatly proving of course that my purchases in the Salts Mill bookshop were of course entirely justified. For what are new notebooks for if not for storing those beautiful, shiny new ideas.

 

 

New class dates and lots of excitement

Something about the arrival of Spring and fresh new beginnings always seems to generate an urge to acquire new skills, to learn and to develop my skill sets.

It also kicks off the season for teaching schedules - nothing makes me happier than sitting down with my planner and pencilling in lots of new class dates for the forthcoming year. So many opportunities to help create and enable new sock knitters and so many chances to meet new people and to spend time talking about my favourite thing ever.

With this in mind it is with a very happy and springy heart that I can publish my new class dates at the Sheep Shop in Cambridge for the coming few months. For more information or to book either check the shop website or phone Sarah for a chat. She will be more than happy to help:

  • Sat 23rd April 10am-1:30pm: Beginner Socks
  • Sat 4th June 10am-1pm: Toe-up socks
  • Sat 4th June 1:45pm-4:45pm: Pi Shawls
  • Sat 2nd July 10am-1pm: Socks - Beyond the basics

I am also very excited to announce that I am one of four teachers who will be running classes at the Geeky Puffin Knit Palooza on 10th to 13th November 2016. The event is being held in Farnham in the UK and it promises to be a really special few days. Lots of opportunities for learning, chatting and also shopping in the pop-up marketplace.

More information will be coming out soon so be sure to check out the retreat website (link above) and sign up to the newsletter so you don't miss anything.

Instagram: Change happens...

This week has been all about the proposed changes to Instagram and how the service might look in the future. users of IG have been long used to a chronological feed when they log on, and the suggestions that this will change has sparked much discussion and debate.

I use IG for both social and business reasons and as such I can see both sides of the argument. As someone who uses IG to support and grow their business, I expect to earn money via IG and therefore have no problem with IG wanting to do the same. They are a business after all. The ability to be better able to target or direct posts is attractive, as it the potential to reach and connect with more potential customers.

One of the issues seems to be that many IG users are there, at least in part because they dislike algoryhtmn driven Facebook feeds. They resent "being shown what they like" and like the pure, simplicity which IG has offered up until now. This is a concern to me. If my potential customers are unhappy with (and consider leaving) a particular platform then I may have to seriously rethink my IG usage.

A much talked about IG alternative is Ello. It is early days with this site which is only available as a web based browser or for i-phones but I have joined up, along with a lot of other Ravelry folk and am happily exploring it.

I am LouiseTilbrookDesigns there too - yes, original I know :)

There are some functions of Ello which IG doesn't have - the ability to quickly repost an image for example, although the non-square picture format takes some getting used to.

For now, IG remains my favourite social media site and I don't necessarily think the proposed changes will have much of an impact on me, but it will be exciting to see how this new platform develops.

Do pop over and take a look - I'd be interested to know what you think.

 

Whirlwind

As I write this Edinburgh yarn Festival 2016 is receding into the past and Easter is breathing down my neck with a degree of urgency. I truly have no idea where the month has gone but I am acutely aware that in 2 days time I am required to have my whole family transported 250 miles north, with a full complement of all-weather gear (Easter in the Lake District can require either snow shovels or sunscreen - my bet is on the former this year). Not only that but we need to have sufficient supplies for an Easter egg hunt - the snow shovels may come in handy for this - and the makings of an Easter family dinner.

This post was intended to be a leisurely round-up of my Edinburgh shenanigans but to be honest, you are probably more than tired of hearing about it if you weren't there. And if you were there, you will still be wafting along on the same yarn fume high that I am.

So I will content myself with flinging some of my purchases before your eyes - metaphorically, obviously - I'm not letting these goodies out of my clutches any time soon.

A modest yarn haul from Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2016

A modest yarn haul from Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2016

 

From top left we have 3 fabulous skeins of Tamar 4ply from Blacker Yarns, a skein of Ground Control 4ply from The Wool Kitchen, a skein of yarn from La Bien Aimee that loudly declared itself to be a Hitchhiker in the making; a skein of the fabulous new 4ply yarn from The Knitting Goddess; and in the centre 2 skeins of the wondrous new yarn from Rachel Atkinson aka Daughter of a Shepherd, whose Hebridean yarn debuted in Edinburgh.

There were other purchases too - a lovely project bag from The Little Grey Girl and fibre from Porpoise Fur but you will see more of these another day.

For now, I will take this opportunity to wish you a happy Easter. May it be filled with knitting and chocolate.

 

x

 

 

What making means to me

My long-standing comfort WIP: meet SockYarnBlankie

My long-standing comfort WIP: meet SockYarnBlankie

For me, making time (ie time dedicated to making) is synonymous with 'me time'. That much sought after period of calm, free from the demands of everyday life in general, and the rigours of childcare in particular.

I was drawn back into making on a whim. As the mum of two young children I found myself one day mercifully and gratefully alone on a shopping trip. With birthday money burning a hole in my pocket I found myself staring at yarn in John Lewis and rashly decided that "I would learn to knit again".

I selected yarn (a Rowan wool/alpaca blend from memory) and needles and headed home fired with enthusiasm to make myself a stripy jumper. My making time was limited to nap times and evenings and I loved it. Picking up the needles signalled the end of adult responsibilities for a while. The ability to just sit and knit, to calm the brain, ignore the never ending laundry pile and to just create.

Making time became, literally an exercise in making time for me and helped me to remember that I was a real person and not just an extension of my family. Over time my interest in knitting increased, my horizons broadened (thank you Ravelry) and I became a Knitter, a teacher and a designer.

Now, no day is ever complete without at least a little knitting in there somewhere. Whether it be swatching for a new design or working on a simple stripy sock, time spent making grounds me, reminds me who I am and that with a little time and patience you can create anything you want.

This blog post was inspired by A Playful Day and her Maker's Year project - you can read all about it here and also by using the hashtag #themakersyear on social media

 

A yarn review - Tamar Lustre by Blacker Yarns

The clever folk at Blacker Yarns have released a real beauty of a yarn this week - the Tamar Lustre Blend - and I was thrilled to have the chance to play with a skein or two of this recently.

Blacker Yarns Tamar Lustre 4ply, Colourway Tiddy Brook

Blacker Yarns Tamar Lustre 4ply, Colourway Tiddy Brook

The yarn is a worsted spun blend of Wenslydale, Teeswater, Cotswold and Black Leicester Longwool all which add a fabulous shine and lustre. To add a suitable amount of woolly 'bounce' 30% Cornish Mule has been added and the end result is really rather wonderful.

First onto my needles was the 4ply version (a dk version is also available) and as soon as I got my paws on it Iknew it would work beautfully in garter stitch.

Knitted up at a relaxed gauge on 4mm needles the 4ply yarn had great stitch definition but also good drape and sheen too - properties that you don't often find combined in a yarn.

This yarn would be absolutely perfect for a large 2 or 3 colour shawl and the fabulous range of colours is perfect inspiration. I can see this as a large, wrappable, wearable garter stitch shawl or maybe something with a Hap-style construction.

The slight stickiness of the yarn, thanks to the Cornish Mule,  would also lend itself well to fair isle and other colourwork techniques should the fancy take you. The only difficulty might be in choosing your colours, but the handy shade card can help you with this.

I love a good shade card...

I love a good shade card...

And, the even better news is that, unlike the Cornish Tin which was such a hit last year, Tamar Lustre is going to a permanent stock yarn. So you should have ample opportunity to snag some for yourself.

All in all, a real gem of a yarn and one that I will certainly be seeking out at Edinburgh Yarn festival.


Spring Forward - an optimistic KAL

March 19th sees the start of the Spring Forward KAL running in my Ravelry group. With Spring very firmly in mind, pick a fabulous yarn from your stash and any of my self-published patterns (either free or paid). It can be a colour that reminds you of spring or the name of the pattern, yarn or dyer. Anything that links in your mind to Spring and encourages Spring-like thoughts is fine by us.
 

Or you could interpret it as 'springing forward' into a new challenge. Maybe this is the time to try toe-up socks if you've always been a die-hard cuff-down knitter? Or maybe you'd like to try cabling without a needle? In short - any way you can make it work is absolutely fine. If you've ever taken part in one of my KALs before you will know that we are not friends of the Knitting Police.

The only 'rules' are that you must be a member of my Ravelry group to join in the fun.

Sharing of posts on social media is always encouraged - please use the hashtags #springforwardkal2016 and #louisetilbrookdesigns so that we can see what you are up to.

The KAL runs until May 1st, you will have plenty of time to knit up a wonderful spring-themed pair of socks or maybe a light and airy shawl?

 

Bang out a sweater

A slightly freestyle yoke

A slightly freestyle yoke

Today I am reaping the rewards of a few finished knitting projects - one of the upsides of my recent illness was the extended time available for knitting and crafting - anything to avoid the horrors of UK daytime TV.

Today I thought I would share the Stopover sweater I recently completed as part of the Mason-Dixon ladies #bangoutasweater KAL. Knit in aran weight Lopi yarn but on larger than usual needles this is much touted as an amazingly quick (ie under 7 days) knit and I am happy to concur that this is indeed the case.

Like a few other knitters I had some trouble getting a gauge and fabric combination that I was happy with. Eventually I settled on 15st per 4" (the pattern calls for 13") on 6mm needles. I did a little maths and worked out that I could knit the M size and come up with something which would fit my UK Size 10 frame (34" bust).

I had never knit with Lopi yarn before and I was keen to give it a go. Choosing colours was the hard part though and I was very tempted by looking through the gallery of some beautiful finished sweaters.

The pattern is fabulously clear and it really did knit up very quickly. Looking at the finished sweaters I wasn't entirely convinced by the high neckline and I'm not a fan of things being tight around my neck. As it happens I tried it on once I got to round 12 of the colourwork yoke and decided that I liked the fit as it was, without doing the final set of decreases.

I went a little freestyle at this point - adjusting round 13 to work without additional decreases and then switching to smaller (5.5mm) needles. I added one round of plain grey and then worked in k2, p2 rib for 4 rounds.

I really liked the little pop of colour that the orange gave in the yoke pattern and so I decided to use this same contrast colour just to do the bind off with.

 

I am really pleased with how this turned out, and even more thrilled that I managed to bang out a sweater whilst it is still cold enough to "feel the benefit" - as my mum used to say.

You can find all the details on my ravelry page: here

Festival planning (or how big a suitcase do I need?)

With less than a month to go until I head north for Edinburgh Yarn festival, my thoughts are turning towards preparation for the big event.

I can only marvel at the preparation required for those actually vending at the show - hats off to you all in advance. The preparation required from just from a Knitters perspective is quite enough to be going on with, thank you.

First of all there is the journey and the all important question of travel knitting. I am flying this year so there are important considerations of project/needle choice to be made. I have no wish to have my lovely new Knit Pro Zings confiscated so I will be opting for the tried and tested Knit Pro wooden DPNs and interchangables. The knitting project itself needs to be small and portable - socks, obviously, but also with a garter stitch shawl on the go for a bit of variety. Note to self - remove scissors from project bag.

Once at the Festival I'm hoping to meet with and chat to considerably more people than I managed to last year. It is my cunning plan to make a list (me making a list - there's a surprise) with stall holders I'd like to see/chat to/meet as well as to note down any knitting friends from Ravelry and where they are likely to be on the Friday. Last year I completely managed to miss large chunks of the Podcaster Lounge events just because I was totally distracted by yarn in large, squishable quantities.

And of course, there is the marketplace. If you are anything like me, when faced with yarn fumes in large quantity you spend approximately 75% of the time wandering in a happy knitterly daze. Merrily squishing, planning, chatting and having a lovely time congratulating yourself on your restraint. Then you make your first purchase, the brakes are off and you spend the remainer of the day hurtling towards financial bankruptcy and more yarn than you can knit before next years festival rolls around again.

To combat this I have a cunning plan:

It sounds obvious but I am going through my queue to identify yarn I need to buy for a specific project. Then looking through the vendor list to see which ones I am most likely to have success with. Armed with a shopping list and at least a vague plan for the yarn I am less likely to end up coming home with an armful of beautiful single skeins and no idea what to make with them.

And finally - the social side. The organisers at Edinburgh Yarn Festival really have thought of everything. For those, like me who are heading up on the Thursday, they have organised an informal Knit Night at a city centre location. Perfect for meeting up with knitting friends, meeting new ones and just generally hanging out with 'your people'. All the details can be found here - they just need you to sign up using the online form. There is no charge and no committment, it is just to give the venue an idea of likely numbers.

So, are you going? If so, do let me know. It would be great to meet up with you and compare yarny purchases.

On balance...finding it and keeping it.

There is no denying that the past few weeks have been busy, chaotic and somewhat disrupted by illness. In the midst of all this I have kept my eye very firmly on Unravel - the knitting and craft festival held in Farnham on 19th and 20th February. I was planning to go on the Friday and it was to be my treat, my little bit of me time and yes, let's be honest some much needed retail therapy.

This week is also the school half term holiday in the UK and as a mother who has a day job as well as a growing design business I have to use school holiday clubs in order to meet all my obligations. And herein lies the dilemma.

My children hate the holiday club. They would much rather be hanging out at home but as they are aged 9 and 10, if I'm not home, then they can't be either. I know that they hate it but they understand it and, for the most part have accepted it and we always try to do something special on my day off, to spend time together and do something fun.

This week however, events have conspired against me and I need to work extra hours. I could still go to Unravel but then my boys would have spent all week in the holiday club without a 'mummy day'.

I am lucky that my boys are still at an age where they do want to spend time with me. In a few short years they will be teenagers - with all the moody angst that comes along with it. Right now they are smart and funny little dudes and (generally) I really do enjoy spending time with them. Quality time with them is few and far between and most of our daily interactions involve me nagging and chivving them through our daily routines. Holidays should be a time to kick back a little and let go of the routine but for me, and many other working parents that isn't really an option.

And so, I have decided this year that retail therapy can wait until Edinburgh - it isn't as if I don't have yarn in my stash already. Yes - it would have been lovely to meet up with knitting friends and make new ones but I can't do everything. And if these last few weeks have taught me one thing it is that I am not Superwoman. I could still go to Unravel but then other aspects of my life would suffer and I would probably embark on the weekend tired, frazzled, guilt-laden (and skint).

So I choose the simpler version instead: a chilled out day at home with Minecraft, country walks and an attempt to knit my way through enough stash to justify my purchases at Edinburgh Yarn Festival.

 

Love is... stripy socks

With Valentines Day fast approaching I decided to get a scoot on with some plain vanilla socks I had on the needles so that they could be pressed into service as a gift for my DH. We don't normally make a fuss on Valentines Day - we may make a special effort and cook a really nice meal with a bit of fizz to go with it, or a good bottle of wine but we don't normally go in for overpriced cards and flowers.

No second sock syndrome here...

No second sock syndrome here...

That being said he has been away from home (for work) a lot recently and I know that he likes to wear his handknit socks in his hotel room at the end of a long days travelling. On his last transatlantic flight, a British Airways steward even offered to buy his socks off him - much to the amusement of the fellow business class passengers.

It just so happened that this sock urge coincided with my recovery from the lurgy and so I completed these in record time following my tried-and-true formula for stripey socks: toe-up on 2.5mm needles, fish lips kiss heel and 1x1 rib cuff. For DH I generally use a 72st sock and for a bit of variety I worked the top of the foot and leg in a 3x1 rib (K3, p1). I like the stretchy fit it gives without breaking up the beautiful stripes too much.

Yarn: Stride sock yarn in colourway Robin Red Breast by The Knitting Swede

Just to make them a little bit more special I found a downloadable pdf design for a little wrapper - designed to be printed out and wrapped around your gift.

I found them via the Attic24 blog at a very cute creative blog called Buttons - do check it out as she has some great information there.

All ready for gifting...

All ready for gifting...

I don't normally do in for packaging my gifts very much, being something of a lazy gifter but I am really pleased with how these look. With a bit of luck he won't have to wait another year until the next pair.