Getting ready for a new twitter chat

Carrying on the Socktober theme into the coming months I am really excited to share with you the news that I am planning to start a live monthly Twitter chat. I have recently really enjoyed participating in a few such chats - most notably #makingwinter and the fabulously informative #instachat run by Sara of @meandorla fame.

There is an undeniably energy associated with lots of like minded folk coming together to share tips, tricks and a general buzz for their passion and as much as I love Instagram, for real-time conversations and banter it hard to beat Twitter.

So, put a date in your diary for Monday 21st November at 8pm (GMT). For non-UK folks,  use the handy converter here to find out what time this is in your timezone.

I will be using the blindingly original hashtag #KnitSockChat - I did honestly try to come up with something more inventive - but hey, it does what it says on the tin.

Please look out for reminders on social media and about a week in advance I will be posting a list of 5 questions to serve as prompts and a focus for our discussions in the hour long chat. If there are any burning issues to do with sock construction that you would like addressed please do get in touch. It would be great to hear from you. Similarly, please do share the news with others, I'd love to reach as many people as possible and help spread the sock love.

 

Be prepared

 Toe-up socks, two at a time on magic loop. Heaven.

Toe-up socks, two at a time on magic loop. Heaven.

Sit a group of sock knitters down in a room and I can spend ages marveling at our different techniques and materials. Basically we are all producing a circular tube of knitted fabric but very rarely are two knitters working the same way. Some are devoted DPNs fans (either using 4 or 5 needles), some love the tiny 30cm circular needles. Then we have magic loop devotees and those who prefer using two small circular needles. Of all the techniques I have tried the latter is the only one that I really can't embrace. For the others each has their time and place as far as I'm concerned.

 An on-the-go essential. Stripy sock on a tiny 30cm circular (Hiya Hiya)

An on-the-go essential. Stripy sock on a tiny 30cm circular (Hiya Hiya)

My go to favourite is a toe up sock on an 80cm magic loop needle. But there are times when a small circular needle is very handy. I do a lot of knitting at my kids sporting events and in that situation I often just need to be able to drop my knitting to attend to a particular crisis or applaud as necessary. For these times magic loop can be a bit too fiddly and more times than I care to remember, a piece of sporting kit has caught on a loop and merrily removed half the cable from my stitches. A small circular needle has much less potential for accidents and as long as you remember to push the sticthes down on the needle a bit you are usually safe from accidental unravelling.

As I do a lot of travel knitting DPNs are probably my least favourite way to work socks - simply because of the potential for loss. More times than I care to admit I have managed to lose a DPN down the side of a train seat, or I have searched my knitting bag in vain. Knowing full well that I put 4 DPNs in there, only to find that, inexplicably 1 has disappeared en route.

Whatever your preferred technique it is always good to know how to employ an alternative method should the need arise - if only to confuse the non-knitting 'Muggles'.

Weapons of choice - my favourite sock needles

 My favourites: Hiya Hiya sharp interchangeables

My favourites: Hiya Hiya sharp interchangeables

Last week I gave you a sneaky peek into my sock yarn stash. This week I thought I would share with you some of my favourite needles
Hands down favourites are my Hiya Hiya Sharps Interchangable sock set (from The Little Grey Girl). Lethally sharp, with a seamless join between cable and needle and a brilliantly flexible cable makes magic loop knitting a real pleasure. Many of my designs feature twisted stitches or small cables and a really sharp set of needle tips vastly increases speed and accuracy with these.

 Malala Socks by Louise Tilbrook Designs - pointy tips really help with the cables.

Malala Socks by Louise Tilbrook Designs - pointy tips really help with the cables.

 

From the same Hiya Hiya range I also love my tiny 30cm circular needle. If I am knitting plain vanilla self-stripe socks these are my needles of choice. Compact, portable and with the same super pointy tips, these are great for having in your emergency sock knitting bag. Being a mother of boys I spend a lot of time standing by sports pitches and the small circulars are ideal for this. I've lost cost of the times that a rugby boot stud has snagged my magic loop cable (serves me right for having a huge catch-all mummy bag I guess). A tiny circular needle is much safer.

Other favourites include my KnitPro Zings. I love that these are colour coded. The number of times I have grabbed a 2.25mm needle thinking it was a 2.5mm and only realised when the resulting sock is too small! With the colour coding this makes this particular error far less likely (although, believe me I am still capable of it on a bad day). The tips are pretty sharp and smooth and the cable, although a bit less flexible than the Hiya Hiyas is perfectly good for most types of circular knitting.

 

 

I'll show you mine....A sneaky peek into my sock yarn stash

 A recent, gorgeous addition to my stash from  The Wool Kitchen  via  The Golden Skein

A recent, gorgeous addition to my stash from The Wool Kitchen via The Golden Skein


A quick inventory of my stash, not surprisingly shows that my stash consists of approximately 80% sock yarn. Sock yarn makes the perfect 1 skein purchase at a yarn festival or shop as you can always find a use for it, if not as socks then as a shawl or cowl.

Some of my stash is for my 'work stash'. These are skeins that are earmarked for design projects - some written down and some still floating around in my head.

 Yarn from West Yorkshire Spinners features heavily in my recent FO photos

Yarn from West Yorkshire Spinners features heavily in my recent FO photos

Quite a large proportion of my stash is my 'workhorse' sock yarn. These are the skeins I reach for my DH or my sons request a new pair of handknit socks. Self striping yarn from West Yorkshire Spinners falls into this category. Both the Birds and the Cocktails range are ideal sock yarns. Machine washable, fabulous colours and everyone loves a funky pair of striped handknit socks. If I am going through a particularly organised phase I like to have a few pairs of these in the gift box, ready to be pressed into emergency service.

 Some of my most prized sock yarn possessions - I would grab these first if the house were on fire

Some of my most prized sock yarn possessions - I would grab these first if the house were on fire


The final category are my prized 'golden skeins'. Some of these are indeed from the Golden Skein (a quarterly yarn club of unbelievable awesomeness) and others have been picked up on my travels. Some of these I have very firm and definite plans for (someday) and some are just pets. On days when I feel a little blue or a bit out of sorts, a quick rootle through this section of my stash is always enough to bring a smile to my face.

There are times when I do feel a little guilty about the size of my stash - particularly when my husband asked me recently whether we should think of listing it separately on our house insurance.

But then there is the smug satisfaction of knowing you have a perfectly curated selection of yarn, just sitting there waiting for its potential to be untapped. At a moments notice you could see the perfect pattern, march upstairs and after 5 minutes with the ball winder and swift be merrily casting on for your dream project. In reality of course it doesn't always work out like that but a knitter can dream can't she?

 

Five fabulous reasons to knit socks

 Handy responses to have up your sleeve - louisetilbrookdesigns

Handy responses to have up your sleeve - louisetilbrookdesigns

Whenever you knit socks out in public, you will invariably attract attention. And at some point you will be faced with the question of "Why do you knit socks?". Here are 5 fabulous reasons why knitting socks is a most excellent idea.

  • The ultimate portable project: With just 100g yarn and needles needed you can happily occupy yourself for hours. Train journeys, doctors waiting rooms, endless kids sporting activities... My sock knitting comes with me everywhere and anywhere and I'm yet to find a situation where knitting is inappropriate (except possibly job interviews and in church). A spare pair of needles and a ball of yarn sits patiently in the glove box of my car, awaiting the day it might be needed. Yes, the AA provides wonderful roadside assistance in the event of a breakdown, but the sock yarn and needles will keep me sane and stop me stressing out during the inevitable wait. The expert sock knitter is always well prepared.
  • Everyone loves warm handknit socks: Yes, handknit socks really are warmer than commercial socks which often contain a large proportion of cotton or synthetic fibres such as nylon. Try and see if you don't believe me. I'm yet to find anyone, who after wearing handknit socks for a day would happily swap them back for a commercial pair.
  • They make ideal gifts: This is a tricky one as you could be making a rod for your own back. Obviously, the point of making beautiful, colourful handknit socks is so that you have a sock drawer to be proud of. Others, once they see your socky prowess may be keen to have some for themselves. By all means knit for gifting if it gives you pleasure, but don't forget that each sock represents hours of your hard work. So choose your giftee wisely and don't ever feel pressured in to knitting for others.
  • They make a perfect small canvas for trying out new techniques or stitches. trying out a new cable pattern for example, over a 70st sock is a lot less daunting than bravely casting on 200st for your first full-on aran sweater.If you make a mistake or find that cabling isn't for you it is a lot less ripping involved and a lot less personal drama.
  • People (ie non knitters) will think you are immensely clever. Just trying wipping out your DPNs or a magic loop needle on public transport if you don't believe me. If I had a pound for every time someone had told me how complicated my knitting looks, I would maybe not be rich but would certainly have a fabulously curated yarn stash. For extra credit, try knitting socks two at a time and watch jaws drop

Socktober is coming

 Louise Tilbrook Designs: Socktober is coming...

Louise Tilbrook Designs: Socktober is coming...

There are many reasons to get excited about autumn here in the northern hemisphere. Winter boots and black tights hide a multitude of sins and there can't be a knitter in the land that doesn't secretly relish being able to wear a handknit sweater all day without ending up as a sweaty puddle on the floor.

For the dedicated sock knitter however, these reasons pale into insignificance beside the annual event that is Socktober. A whole month devoted to knitting socks, wearing handknit socks and talking about socks. Sounds like my idea of heaven.

There are lots of KALs and events going on for this Socktober - La Bien Aimee is hosting a sock KAL for example - just search on Instagram under #socktober and you will see what I mean.

For myself I am setting a personal challenge to knit (and finish) as many pairs of socks as possible during October. A quick inventory of my projects reveals 4 pairs of socks in various stages of being finished:

 A whole lot of sock toes - and not much else

A whole lot of sock toes - and not much else

A pair of vanilla socks in yarn from Countess Ablaze (35% finished)

A pair of grey striped socks for DH (35% finished)

A pair of bright Halloween socks (90% finished)

Two pairs of striped kids socks (knit two at a time) (10% finished)

My aim is to have these finished by October so that I can start November with a few clean pairs of sock needles and lots of fabulous design ideas for 2017.

What are your plans for Socktober. Do leave a comment and let me know or share a picture over on Instagram and tag me - I'm nosy like that.

 

Blacker Yarns Cornish Tin 2: A Review

 Blacker Yarns Cornish Tin 2

Blacker Yarns Cornish Tin 2

It is no secret that I was a huge fan of the Blacker Yarns 10th birthday yarn - Cornish Tin - and I jumped at the chance to knit my "I Heart Stripes" shawl using two of the colours from the range.

This year sees another Cornish Tin custom blend (Tin II) being produced for the company's 11th birthday. Again, this is a one-off, limited edition, this time featuring a blend of amazing British fibres including Mohair, Black Welsh Mountain, Gotland, Jacob, Alpaca, and a few others for good measure. In total, this woollen spun yarn includes yarns from 9 high quality British fibres. The undyed yarn is a delightful pale grey which lends an amazing depth of colour to the dyed shades on offer.

Cornish Tin II is available in both dk (100g; 220m) and 4ply (100g; 350m) weights and I was lucky enough to road test the 4ply version in the shades Ding Dong Purple (which wins the award for coolest yarn name ever) and Gorland Grey.

Each of the yarns used adds a little something to the party and the result is a pleasingly bouncy yarn which feels wonderful through the fingers as you are working with it. There is a lustre and shine but the slightly more bulky yarns used mean that it has just the right amount of 'grip' as well.

There are 7 shades on offer as well as the undyed yarn, with the natural and slightly muted palette being perfect for colourwork. I can't help but think that all of these shades would work really well together as the most amazing blanket. With my ever bursting stash in mind though I may well have to restrict my purchase to two skeins of 4ply (for a shawl, probably) and maybe one or two of the dk weight, as my winter collection of hats and mitts is in dire need of a refresh.

Now I just need to decide on colours....tricky one.

 

 

 

The art of frogging

As a designer I have long since accepted that frogging (ie the act of ripping out one's knitting) is an essential and necessary part of the design process. There is little point in continuing along a path that you can see is doomed to design failure and it usually becomes apparent relatively soon into the design process whether that amazing idea is working out or not.

Similarly. with sample knits which have to be perfect, frogging is essential if you want a good finish. There is little point is hoping that that mis-crossed cable somewhere around the middle of the sock foot will go unnoticed in the finished photos - it won't - in fact it is bound to positively bound from the page and smack you between the eyes every time you look at it.

Frogging in my design work is a given, something to be done and got over with as quickly as possible.

 A half-finished sock awaiting its fate

A half-finished sock awaiting its fate

Frogging in my personal knitting is another matter entirely. I have on my kitchen counter a lonely half finished single sock. In a very cute project bag, but a half-finished sock nevertheless. It has been there for three weeks now and the reason? I turned the heel half an inch too soon an a toe-up sock for my DH and the resulting sock is a smidge too tight when he pulls it on.

In my heart I knew it was just too small and I had him try it on just to confirm my suspicions. 

The sock then sat on my kitchen counter for three weeks, three whole weeks waiting for me to frog it. And yes, I am aware that this also says something about my level of domestic cleanliness. For three weeks the sock mocked me, it was the first thing I saw in the morning as I put the coffee on to brew and the last thing at night as I cleared the kitchen at bedtime.

So, in a fit of organisation before work one morning I seized the sock and while my coffee was brewing I decided to deal with the errant heel.

The result? The heel was frogged, the stitches picked back up and the yarn rewound in less than 5 minutes. I had no idea why I had built it up into such a Herculean task but I was slightly embarrassed that it was so speedy in the end.

The moral of the story (I think) is that such jobs rarely take as much time as you think. Better to get it over with and then you can move on with the project. Maybe reward yourself with a cake afterwards as an added incentive? 

Free patterns and mixed blessings

One thing which has been on my mind a lot recently is the issue of free patterns and I'm really keen to hear others' views on them too. I have always offered a few free patterns - a few basic sock patterns (one cuff down and one toe up) as well as a baby cardigan pattern and a baby blanket.

Most of these were created and published towards the beginning of my career as an indie designer and I am very pleased and proud that they have been so well received. The Fuss Free baby cardigan for example has well over 400 completed projects on Ravelry now and has also raised a considerable amount for Bliss - a charity very close to my heart.

 The Fuss Free Baby Cardigan by Louise Tilbrook Designs

The Fuss Free Baby Cardigan by Louise Tilbrook Designs

One thing which is unavoidable due to the nature of social media today is the extent to which free patterns are used, downloaded and shared. Looking back at all the requests for pattern support I have received over the past year, the vast majority arise from free patterns. In addition the tone of these requests can vary from the usual, very polite to the really, if I'm honest, quite rude and self-entitled. It is one thing to think to yourself that a pattern design is easy and something you could have done yourself. It is quite another to email the designer of said pattern to tell them that, particularly, as that pattern is indeed free.

 

In one particularly memorable example I was asked for pattern support on the FFBC and in the course of the query it became apparent that the knitter hadn't downloaded the pattern from my Ravelry page but instead had been given the pattern on a CD of free patterns - from a source she was unwilling to disclose - not surprisingly.

The often quoted advice given to new designers is that free patterns help knitters to understand your style and to decide whether to purchase patterns from you in the future. This may be true and there are certainly some well known designers who make a brilliant range of free patterns available - TinCan Knits are one example that spring instantly to mind. 

I do wonder however, to what extent that still applies in an era where online digital patterns can be so easily downloaded and distributed. 

I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback on this and whether you think designers should offer a number of their patterns for free. Have you ever found that you are more likely to purchase a pattern if you are able to 'try out' a free pattern first from a new-to-you designer. Do leave a comment and let me know or drop me a line on my Facebook page.

Paris and a new shawl design

As a designer I am known more for my sock patterns but recently I have found myself drawn to the way of the shawl. Specifically garter stitch shawls using gorgeous woolly, British yarns. Proper cosy, wrappable, squishy shawls. The kind that will provide a welcome layer under your winter coat or that will be great to throw over your shoulders on a chilly morning as you gently potter about at home.

 Paris is Always a Good Idea

Paris is Always a Good Idea

 

My newest shawl pattern is no exception to this. Using the wonderful Tamar 4ply yarn from Blacker Yarns this shawl was originally conceived as a travel project for a planned trip to Paris with knitting friends - hence the title Paris is Always a Good Idea. In the event, life intervened and I wasn't able to go on the trip but I did have the perfect project for some sick-day recuperation as the medicinal powers of soothing garter stitch are surely well known by now?

The shawl starts with the longest edge so all you have to do is to cast on the required number of stitches, wind up your yarn and you are good to go with the perfect portable travel project. There is very little counting involved and specific yarn amounts needed are given so that you can customise as required to meet the demands of your stash.

Whether this is worked in subtle tones, bright contrasts or with a colour pop this shawl is bound to find a special place in your heart - a bit like Paris really.

You can buy the pattern here, and if you are quick before the end of the bank holiday weekend here in the UK (Monday 29th August) you can use coupon code for 20% off the purchase price.

August....already?

July should probably have been renamed as "the month that did not happen" I think. I really try to keep the tone of my blog and my online social media in general as upbeat as possible, whilst of course recognising that 'life happens' and I am not stuck in a circle of perpetual knitted bliss. There is obviously a time and place for sharing more personal information and for me, that place isn't generally online.
There are some times though when events are unavoidable and despite ones best efforts, everything just grinds to a halt. So it has been for me over the past month, although if I'm perfectly honest the warning signs were there back in May. A series of coughs and colds never really subsided and my normal Battle on Regardless attitude came back to bite me on the rear.
A truly dire chest infection was the result which left me profoundly grateful for my normally-good health (and antibiotics) and a newfound resolve to do a bit less Battling and a bit more Caring.
My carefully planned out summer schedule of designs came off the rails completely and I found myself unable or unwilling to contemplate anything beyond simple garter stitch knitting. On the plus side - this generated a very pleasing new stripy shawl design which I hope to be publishing soon. Every cloud has a silver lining...
Now I find myself already partway through the school holidays - how on earth did that happen - and getting ready for a family holiday in our beloved Lake District.
I will be back in about 2 weeks time and by then I hope to feel fitter and more refreshed and relaxed than I am at present. Family time seems in such short supply these days and as my eldest boy starts high school shortly, I am acutely conscious that in a few years time the idea of a family holiday will be much less appealing to him. A few weeks of making precious memories, relaxing and yes - probably cursing under my breath as we walk up yet another mountain.
See you on the other side...
 

 

xx

Dovestone: a review

Even as the UK is basking in a bit of long-overdue summer, I have been taking a sneaky peek into Autumn and the new shades for Autumn/Winter 2016 available from Baa Ram Ewe.

 

I was lucky enough to be sent a sample or two of their lovely new additions to the Dovestone range and of course I couldn't resist getting it on the needles - heatwave or no heatwave.

The Dovestone DK yarn has been a firm favourite for some time and now there is an aran weight yarn in the range too. Dovestone Natural Aran is the same blend of Bluefaced Leicester with Wensleydale and Masham. Careful blending has been used to create 5 natural shades which work well either together in a gradient palette or singly.

I couldn't resist casting on the No. 2 Shade BREDNA02 and to me, it was begging to be something warm and squishy in my beloved garter stitch.

 Dovestone Natural Aran Shade 02

Dovestone Natural Aran Shade 02

On 5mm needles, the yarn produced a very pleasing, soft squishy fabric which would work brilliantly for hats, gloves, cowls or sweaters. Beautifully soft, with no hint of a tickle this is just perfect for all sorts of winter accessories.

If natural shades aren't your 'thing', the colour palette in the DK range has also been expanded, with the addition of 3 new shades. The vibrant orange 'Viking' is my particular favourite but the really rich purple shade 'Bishopthorpe' is also really striking.

 Dovestone DK: new shades for A/W 2016

Dovestone DK: new shades for A/W 2016

I can really see me using some of these yarns for some cosy winter accessories - just as soon as the temperatures cool down a little.

The Gift of Knitting

This week has been a particularly trying one. Lots going on at home and the impending school holidays rushing towards us like a juggernaut. School activities always take on  more of a frenzy at this time of year, particularly so this time as it is my DS1's last few days at primary school (cue emotional wreck of a mum in the corner).

 Knitting the Amulet shawl - in fabulous speckled yarn from Countess Ablaze.

Knitting the Amulet shawl - in fabulous speckled yarn from Countess Ablaze.

Lots of school plays and after-school activities have meant that my normally busy day has had to expand into the evenings with a sort of taxi-shuttle run service to and from school.

Never have I been more grateful for my knitting. With my trusty project bag (or two) stowed safely in the car I truly don't mind having to sit and wait for an hour (and I would rather do that than waste time and petrol by shuttling to and from home).

Last night, it was a balmy evening for once so I left the car and found myself a perch on a bench in the school grounds. The doors to the junior hall were open (to avoid the occupants dying of heat stroke) and the sounds of joyous (and only slightly off-key) singing wafted across the field.

The previous night I had been watching both my boys perform (whilst dying of heat stroke, seated on a tiny chair) with a tear in my eye and a very full heart. But last night was special too. Just me and my knitting (the new Amulet shawl from Curious Handmade, in case you were wondering) and a fabulous summer evening. I even had hot coffee. And for that one perfect hour - I could bask in the sense of a job well done. No where to be and nothing to do apart from knit - that's my kind of evening.

Malala - a new sock design

In true British style this week I feel as though I should kick off with 'apologies for absence'.

The EU Referendum and post-Brexit nightmare have been deeply disturbing for us a family, for various reasons and it has taken me a few days to collect myself. I can't ever remember having been quite so shaken by a political event as this, and it will take some some to work out what the long term repercussions will be for DH and myself.

Still, in yet another manifestation of Britishness, we simply make a large cup of tea and get on with it. And in that spirit I would like to present you with Malala - my most recent sock design which was published last week.

 Malala Socks: In Rusty Ferret Doll, colourway 'The Dark Below'

Malala Socks: In Rusty Ferret Doll, colourway 'The Dark Below'

I was honored to be asked, a few months ago, to come up with a design for the UK Sock Knitters group. Each month the group is knitting patterns inspired by a different UK actor and July is the turn of Emma Watson. 

Following on from her Harry Potter days she has gone on to become a confident and assertive ambassador for women’s rights. She inspired Malala Yousafzai (the young human rights advocate) to call herself a feminist after Malala heard her speak in her role as UN Women Goodwill Ambassador.

I wanted to create a design which moved on from the fabulous Hermione’s Everyday Sock - the very well-known design inspired by Emma’s character in the Harry Potter films. Emma’s confidence and assertive stance is reflected by the strong central cabled panel which gives the design structure and form. She remains at heart a down to earth and practical young woman however and so the back of the leg is left fuss free and straightforward with a twisted stitch rib.

I hope this design inspires you to become more confident with your sock knitting skills. Maybe this is your first time trying toe-up socks, or maybe you are going to try cabling without a cable needle (highly recommended in the interests of speed). Either way, you will be able to wear your Malala socks with pride and confidence in your own abilities.

Just in case you were wondering - and I know you were - the yarn used in this design is from Fluph, in Dundee and is from Leona’s own hand-dyed yarn range - Rusty Ferret Doll in the colourway The Dark Below. It was my first time using this very special hand-dyed yarn and it certainly won't be my last.

 

The best bit...

I'm sure that every designer is different but for me, the best bit of the design process is when your new pattern heads off to the tech editor and for test knitting. It is taking it's first few baby steps into the world as you watch anxiously, waiting to see how it gets on.

It's also the first chance I get to share some details of the design with you.

 Malala Socks pattern in Rusty Ferret, Doll yarn. Colourway: The Dark Below

Malala Socks pattern in Rusty Ferret, Doll yarn. Colourway: The Dark Below

This design is particularly special to me, as the yarn support was provided by an indie dyer I have wanted to work with for ages. Leona runs Fluph Shop in Dundee and is also the dyer behind the brilliantly named Rusty Ferret ranges of yarns. Her Doll yarn base comes in some fabulous hand-dyed colours and this one - The Dark Below really spoke to me.

I decided  to use this yarn for a project for the UK Sock Knitters Group on Ravelry. A committed and dedicated bunch of sock knitters, every year they run a year long KAL with a theme for each month. This year their knits are along the theme of British Actors and July - the month I was asked to design for- is allocated to Emma Watson.

The Malala Socks were the result.

 I wanted to create a design which moved on from the fabulous Hermione’s Everyday Sock - the very well-known design inspired by Emma’s character in the Harry Potter films. Emma’s confidence and assertive stance is reflected by the strong central cabled panel which gives the design structure and form. She remains at heart a down to earth and practical young women however and so the back of the leg is left fuss free and straightforward with a twisted stitch rib. This theme continues to the end of the leg - with no traditional cuff. The pattern ends with a stretchy bind off, the ribbed design giving sufficient stretch and structure to serve as a functional cuff. 

All the details can be found over on my Ravelry Patterns page and if you would like additional notification of when the pattern is live - along with an exclusive discount off the purchase price, please do sign up to my newsletter - click here to sign up

Preparation is key

So, as it seems that this summer is going to be my summer of 'All the KALs' I have decided that some serious preparation work is required in advance.
I have a number of designs and commissions on the go too so I need to strike a balance between wanting to knit 'All The Things' and getting some designs out there.
In anticipation of the #summersockskal - starting tomorrow onJune 15th I have been doing some planning this weekend. It runs until 15th September which gives me 8 weeks in which to crank out some serious sock mileage. On a happy note, anything I finish before mid Aug will also count for my Stash Dash total - win!
First up we have a long term WIP - Halloween socks - a special custom dye last year from Michelle of Berry Colorful Yarnings. Let's just say that the season caught up with my last year - but this year I shall have natty, seasonally appropriate socks.
These are just 60st tube socks into which I will put an afterthought heel and I already have most of the first sock completed, so this should be a quick win.
Continuing the WIP theme I also have a partially completed tube sock in the celebrated Mind The Gap colourway by indie dyer Trailing Clouds. I should love everything about this project but for some reason I keep stalling on it. Time to plough on and get some progress made.
My husband is madly in love with his recent Robin redbreast socks and has let it be known that more stripy socks would be gratefully received. I happen to have two more skeins from The Knitting Swede which deserve to be freed from my stash. And besides, I bought them at last years Fibre East. It would be nice to have knitted them before I restock this year.
The grey stripe is probably the better option for DH and the blue and pink stripe might make some great Espresso Macchiato socks for me.
Also I need to reknit my Green Gable sock pattern for an upcoming event and the perfect yarn just came my way courtesy of Quarter 2 from The Golden Skein. As not everyone has received their parcels I won't post a picture but suffice to say that the colour is perfect for it (although - as some of us have pointed out - it does evoke quite strong memories of school uniform jumpers for some of us).
A sock design for Fluph Yarns and also an upcoming pattern - Fickle Steps - complete the lineup.
So, 7 pairs in 8 weeks? No problem.

 

On second thoughts - maybe I should just order a few more pairs of needles.

Ambitious? My weekend knitting plans.

I have high hopes of some serious knitting action this weekend.

As well as two designs that need to be finished - one shawl and one pair of socks - I have two other exciting projects clamouring for my attention.

 Keeping busy this weekend.

Keeping busy this weekend.

The first is the new shawl design from Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade. The Talisman shawl is the first in a series of six shawls which she has called The Shawl Society. Each month sees the release of a new pattern which is kept secret until the release date. As you would expect from Helen, tons of additional information is provided in terms of yarn choice, sizes and top tips to help you achieve a great looking shawl.

I'm not sure that I will manage to keep up with all six - the KAL running over on Ravelry is super busy and full of lots of chatter - but I know that I will be able to work my way through them in my own time and end up with a series of fabulous shawls at the end.

My own personal challenge during this KAL is to use up yarn from my stash, and to use the yarn I have to showcase the fabulous range of indie dyers we have in the UK. Many of the 4ply skeins I have in my stash have come to me via The Golden Skein yarn club and are from some brilliantly talented dyers. As each shawl design is kept secret it is difficult at this stage to know which yarns I will be using but I have quite a lot to pick from so I think I should be OK.

I am knitting Talisman in one of the recommended yarns, which must be a first for me. It just so happened that I had a coveted skein/cake of the Wool Kitchen's Urban Hints yarn which was one of the ones Helen used for the samples.

Urban Hints is a wonderful gradient yarn that gradually introduces speckles of darker colour until eventually you transition fully from light to dark. Interestingly though, Helen opted to start with the dark shade on the outside of the cake and work towards the lighter centre - so I am copying her :) I think the lighter border will work really well with the long crescent shawl border.

Working clockwise we have a sock design using lovely Rusty Ferret yarns from Fluph. My tech editor is primed and ready to go with the pattern draft so I just need to get a wriggle on and get these beauties off the needles.

Next up we have a shawl design using the fabulous new Wenslydale/Shetland 4ply from the Knitting Goddess. Again this is nearly 75% done and just needs a final push to see it on to the next stage of it's journey.

And finally, we have the amazingly addictive Vivid blanket which is approaching completion. Happily the new parents have requested a small pram-sized blanket as all their larger blankets keep dragging on the ground. This means that a 4x3 square arrangement will work perfectly. Just 1 square to go and then I get to practice my mattress stitch skills and turn it into a Finished Object. One more to go towards my Stash Dash total.

Right, that's my objectives sorted. How about yours? Do feel free to leave a comment below or tag me on social media with your #weekendknitting plans.

 

Coffee and valuing the handmade.

 The perfect cup of coffee

The perfect cup of coffee

 

I recently read a blog postabout an Instagram photo where a contrast was drawn between a handmade item, artistically arranged next to a Starbucks coffee cup. The tone of the article was that if you valued the handmade, you would (and arguably, should) extend this to supporting your local coffee shops and spurn the multinationals.

This really got me thinking and reflecting on how I value the handmade in my every day life. Obviously I am a knitter and designer - crafting and the slow fashion movement is very close to my heart. I also really appreciate a great cup of coffee and a chat with my local coffee shop owner (along with a scone the size of a baby's head - but I digress).

There are times though when I grab that ancient M&S cardigan as I'm heading out of the door, rather than picking out a handmade sweater or finding that perfect shawl to wear. In a similar vein I will happily swing by Starbucks on my way to (yet another) offspring's sports practice for a much needed shot of coffee. Essential for demonstrating the required level enthusiastic support which is demanded by said offspring.

Like my Grandma used to say: "It's like anything else - you need balance" - and I firmly believe there is a time and place for both.

 Never knowingly undercaffeinated: #coffeeandknitting

Never knowingly undercaffeinated: #coffeeandknitting

 

In an ideal world I would have an entirely handcrafted wardrobe. I'd also love to bake my own bread. I do, sometimes, but not with a frequency that would stave off starvation in a busy family of 4. I also love to support my local coffee shops and wherever possible I will choose the local independent coffee shop over the ubiquitous Starbucks. Not least because I know the baker of the afforementioned scones and I know which coffee shop he supplies.

There are times though, at 7:45am on my way to catch a morning train that I will pick convenience over the handmade anytime. And, if you see a woman with uncombed hair in a slightly fraying M&S cardi, asking the barister for a tall black filter coffee (it's quicker than waiting for a handcrafted flat white) - do say hi.

 

All hail the mighty KAL

There seems to be something in the knitterly brain that happens around the beginning of June. Always happy to be swept along or enabled into casting on 'just one more pattern', the onset of June traditionally sees the start of a whole festival of KALs. And I for one, am happy to go along for the ride.

First up, I do have to give a plug for my own KAL - Running from June 1st to Jul 31st for those knitting the Hebridean Hap. This was inspired by and designed using the fabulous Daughter of a Shepherd yarn from Rachel Atkinson (of My Life in Knitwear). You don't need to use the specific yarn but you do need to have a love of squishy garter stitch, cosy shawls and a bit of fun chatter. The thread is over on my Ravelry group - please do pop over and say hi. If you are knitting the hap, show us your shawl and if not, maybe we can tempt you?

Next up is the #summersockskal run and hosted by the brilliant Rae (aka MmedeBeauvoir on Ravelry and Psychoknitter on Instagram). Rae is hosting a really fun and chatty group for this celebration of all things sock related - her Ravelry group is here.

There are no rules - other than to chat about socks, sock patterns, sock tips and general enabling. Whether you are new to socks or an experienced sock ninja the group is open and welcoming to all comers.

Of course, at the root of this summer related knitting obsession is the annual Stash Dash event. Hosted by the KnitGirlls and running from the end of May to mid August the aim is to keep track (in metres and Km) the exact amount of yarn which leaves your stash in the form of finished objects. All the details and answers to many questions can be found over on their group - but with goals ranging from a 3K jog to a 15K marathon it has a wide ranging appeal and is wildly popular.

And just in case I was in danger of finding myself with insufficient WIPs, two new KALs appear in view to tempt me.

Helen of Curious Handmade has announced the launch of her new secret Shawl Society pattern club. Starting on June 8th the first shawl pattern will be released and one of the recommended yarns - Urban Hints - is that dyed by my friend and fellow woolhead Helen of The Wool Kitchen. A skein of that very yarn currently resides in my stash so it would be rude not to join in..no?

 

 

And then, just to finish me off, the charming Ellipsissy on Ravelry (the_ellipsissy on IG) posted a few pictures of her new project - the Vivid blanket squares by Tincan Knits. Except she is knitting them in superb natural yarns from Isla of BritYarn. Totally gorgeous and utterly compelling. A wet and windy bank holiday weekend (is there any other) saw me grabbing the needles and some stash yarn and casting on. Six squares later I appear to have accidentally started a new baby blanket project (the good news is that each completed square counts towards my Stash Dash tally) and also agreed to host an informal KAL on my group. The #minivividkal is growing by the day though and isn't quite as mini as it once was.

There is something extremely addictive about these innocent looking little squares - please do pop over to the group to check them out - but don't say that I didn't warn you :)

Right, that's enough from me I think. If anyone wants me this weekend I'll be hiding in the spare bedroom frantically knitting whilst my family subsist on peanut butter sandwiches and takeaway pizza.

 

Happy Knitting!

 

 

 

Self-stripe yarn - beyond socks

 Fabulous Halloween-themed sock yarn from Berry Colorful Yarnings

Fabulous Halloween-themed sock yarn from Berry Colorful Yarnings

As much as I love a great stripy sock there is no reason to limit self-striping sock yarn to just socks - you can really make a feature of these gorgeous yarns in other projects too.

Baby knits are especially cute as the relatively narrow circumference helps to keep the broad bands of colour intact. The Little baby sweater by Purl Soho is a great example of this and Jasmin of the Knitmore Girls has made a wonderful version using the Berry Colorful Yarnings self-stripe. You can see it on her Ravelry project page here.

 

 Image by @laralorelai on Ravelry

Image by @laralorelai on Ravelry

Cowls can be a very effective way to show off a bold self stripe and this version by Claire (Laraloreli on Ravelry) uses another BCY yarn to great effect. The pattern is the Spice of Life cowl by Louise Zass Bangham and the 'Peacocks Revenge' yarn was dyed specifically for the Golden Skein yarn club.

Mitered squares might not be an obvious choice but they allow you to use up those last scraps of yarn and can really help to add pops of colours to a blanket or other larger project.

How about sweater sleeves? If you are looking for a pop of colour in your wardrobe but aren't quite ready for all over stripes, why not knit a sweater in a plain grey - such as the Seashore sweater by Isabell Kraemer and then add bands of colour by using a self stripe yarn for the sleeves. A yarn with good broad blocks of colour would provide all the colour interest - without all the pain of weaving in ends. It might even help to overcome your fear of second sleeve syndrome (if you suffer from this particular affliction).

If all else fails and you simply can't decide what to make with that perfect skein of self striping yarn you can always resort to my default option. Just pop the skein on display, as befits the work of art that it is and pet it every time you walk past. An easy way to brighten up your day!