knitting

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.

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.

 

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

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.

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.

 

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? 

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

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.

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.

 

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.

 

 

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.