Changing times & tools

I’m loving my knitting at the moment. Now that may sound a little odd but when knitting is your day job  the joy of it can seem to go out the window when a deadline looms large and a million other things get in the way of what you actually should be doing. Happily though that’s not the case for me at the moment although I do have my hands full looking after Ma & Pa Trot. I’m currently working on a scarf design for The Knitter which is due for publication in the February issue and that’s why I’m keeping it under wraps rather than posting any pics of my progress online. Well, that would  spoil the surprise wouldn’t it?

I’ve chosen an unusual combination of yarns from the Isager range for the scarf and, mixed with garter stitch, the results are much nicer than I could have hoped in terms of colour, texture and drape. So I’m knitting away happily with that little excited knot in my stomach hoping that others will like this design as much as I do when it’s finally published. What has also occurred to me is that it’s been absolutely years since I worked on straight needles. Years ago, probably around 15 years when I ran a yarn shop in Edinburgh I fell in love with the feel and colour of Boye needles. So much so that, a bit like Victor Kiam who famously liked a razor so much he bought the company, I liked them so much I started stocking the range. Straights, circulars, crochet hooks and dpns I pretty much bought in the lot and worked on nothing else because they were light to handle, smooth to knit and oh so very purdy to look at.

fullsizeoutput_6df

Fast forward to today and my tools of the trade have changed. Nowadays my ‘go to’ needles for knitting are Knit Pro Interchageables because whether I’m working in rows or rounds they’re light in the hands, will accommodate almost any size of project and wherever you are there’s no chance of jabbing innocent bystanders in the eye with the end of the needle whilst you work. So why am I back to the Boye’s for this project? It just felt like the right thing to do to be honest. Horses for courses as they say. The yarns I’ve chosen are quite fine and I’m finding the knitting is much quicker on straights especially as I can revert to shoving the left needle under my arm for stability… plus of course although the deadline isn’t exactly looming it’s for work so I need to get on. I wonder if any of you find your tools of the trade have changed over time? Do you look for the latest trend in needles/hooks and buy those or do you prefer to stick with your favourites? Or perhaps like me it depends or what you’re knitting?

I’m sure I’ll be back to my Knit Pros when this is finished but in the meantime what I can show you is how pretty my Boyes look with what I’m knitting today

IMG_3685

Oh yes and for those of you wondering who the hell Victor Kiam is click here 

J x

Advertisements

Building the kitchen from heaven

IMG_0844
The Kitchen From Hell

Sam and I don’t do things by halves – we never have. We moved into this house last year 8 weeks after my brain surgery and within 2 weeks I had it looking like we’d been living here for …well much longer than that. I can’t stand chaos and disorder and as much as I loved and still love this house when we first moved into it the one thing we knew would change was the kitchen.

It was bad, I mean really REALLY bad. In fact in terms of layout it was the worst kitchen in which I’ve ever had the misfortune to prepare food. So back in March we saw the beginning of a major building project to transform the Kitchen From Hell or KFHL (as I came to refer to it) into the Kitchen From Heaven or KFHV. The build took around 3 and a half months, it cost…well more than a fiver….and if you follow me over on Instagram (where I’m @jeanettesloan) you’ll have seen some of my regular posts as the work was progressing.  It wasn’t however until a couple of weeks ago when I was at Ally Pally for the Knitting & Stitching Show that I kept being asked what the final results looked like. Well here’s the (shortened) story

The house was built in the 1930s and had a number of original features like stained glass  on the interior doors that thankfully the previous owners had kept but they’d also knocked the two downstairs rooms into one long bowling-alley type space. This used to house the living & dining area with a strange play area at the end leading to the garden. The KFHL was just off the dining space backing onto a utility room and all together this strange arrangement made up the ground floor of the house. The main aim of the building renovations was to make sense of these 5 spaces and turn them into a more clearly defined kitchen/dining area that backed onto an open plan living room with a utility room, office and store room built onto the side of the house.  This meant knocking down walls and making a mess……a LOT of mess.

In order to give us somewhere to eat in relative peace and away from the chaos our lovely builders erected a wall to create a new living room which became the ‘camp kitchen’ for the duration of the build. Then they started knocking seven bells out of the rest of the house and this meant lots of early mornings, the consumption of literally gallons of tea and coffee, washing up in the middle of a half built room, storing all our downstairs furniture in the middle of the garden and living on ready meals and takeaways for 3 months.

 

IMG_1690
Mess with more mess beyond
IMG_1743
Alfie up to his knees in it

Before you get the wrong idea we knew it wasn’t going to be easy and the disarray sort of reminded me of living as a student but throughout  both Sam and I kept our eyes on the prize, the bigger picture. I kept envisaging how my dream kitchen would look when it was finally finished, how I would no longer have to wash up in the  bath, how I could eat steamed vegetables rather than ‘nuking’ our dinners in the microwave every night and how I could actually bake in my new Neff oven!

IMG_1851
Ricky taking a breather having erected the steel frame

Now I could go into minute detail about the visits from Brighton & Hove Council’s building control, the enormous picture frame of steel girders that could hold up an entire block of flats let alone our modest semi or the countless cock ups by the ‘kitchen designer’ from a well known supplier that meant the completed kitchen is around 2 cubic metres larger than we were first led to believe. (Better bigger than smaller though, right?).

IMG_1697
Yes I washed up in this sink before they had to remove it

But I won’t. The main thing is that the building work and the months of filth and disruption were more than worth it. It has transformed our house into a beautiful, welcoming space that makes me smile every morning when I come downstairs. In fact I can’t believe this is actually MY kitchen.

IMG_3567

fullsizeoutput_6b6

fullsizeoutput_6baI finally found a home for the Charlie Harper bird decals I bought at Bristol’s Arnolfini

IMG_3569

along with the mounted section of locally produced linen that was gifted to me by my friends Ian & Jo who live in the south of France.

fullsizeoutput_6b3

fullsizeoutput_6bd

fullsizeoutput_6b2
My favourite spot in the Kitchen From Heaven

fullsizeoutput_6b1

IMG_3574

And amongst the many features and gadgets in the ktichen I love that choosing to install one orange and one turquoise cable on these pendant lights still drives Alfie absolutely mad.

fullsizeoutput_6b4

I could dribble on and on but I think the pictures say it all. Huge thanks to Ricky, Bailey, Alfie our first team who did the structural work, David & Robi our sparkys, Mark our plumber, Ian, Chris & James the chippys and everyone else who helped to work this miracle. I’d also like to give a special mention to Boysie; a lovely lad with a cheeky sense of humour who was a member of the first team and sadly was killed in a car crash just a couple of months ago.

J x

PS. Yes boys we know we still owe you that barbecue!

 

Book Review: The Artisan by Helga Isager

*This is an unpaid/ unsponsored book review

fullsizeoutput_68cFrom the moment you turn the first page this book screams absolute class. The simple, elegant designs aren’t over styled and this allows you to see the clever details that will make you want to cast on as  quickly as you can find the yarn. The title of the collection ‘Artisan’ sums the book up perfectly as it’s evocative of the skilled craft and attention to detail that’s evident in every single design.

Whether it’s the innovative yarn combinations that bring together contrasting or complimentary textures from across the Isager yarn range or a clever stitch detail that draws the eye to a shoulder seam or neckline I found something in every design that made me do a double take. I’ve got a milestone birthday at the beginning of next year and have been promising to find a real ‘hero’ pattern to knit for myself as a treat – well it’s definitely coming from this book. The trouble is, which one to choose?

IMG_3534fullsizeoutput_690

There’s the Pearls sweater which is a highly textured raglan design where the dipped stripes of the pearls(bobbles) echo the shallow ‘V’ neck which is edged in a 3 x 3 rib. The body of the sweater starts with a 3 x 3 rib that gently rises at the sides forming a triangular shape above each hip when the garment is made up. The sleeves also begin with a 3 x 3 rib but rather than creating a hard horizontal band across the edge of the sleeve the rib, as on the body, rises up on the inside to create a V shape when the seam is joined whilst the pearl textured stripes on the top focus the eye down the centre of the sleeve towards the back of the hand when the garment is worn.

When it comes to yarn the garment is worked in a combination of Spinni (a single ply 100% wool) knitted with a single end of Alpaca 1 ( a 2 ply 100% alpaca) which creates a intriguing ‘rustic/luxurious’ feel.

fullsizeoutput_692fullsizeoutput_691

Another design that had my eyes popping out on stalks is the Lace Blouse. Admittedly it’s been quite a few years since I knitted anything this fine but again it’s the details that made me fall in love with this pattern. It’s a wide, scoop neck sweater that employs lace holes to create a faux ‘V’ shape at the neck which is in-filled with 1 x 1 rib that’s echoed on each side of the garment’s shoulder seam.  There are vertical stripes of Bear Track pattern at the centre of the jumper that travel up the garment body cleverly widening out towards the shoulders and these are echoed by a single line of Bear Track on both sleeves. I don’t usually go for ‘pretty’ knits but this is both elegant & feminine but could easily be elevated to funky by using a really punchy colour. The yarn used for this design is Spinni but this time it’s used singly (just for the record this yarn shouldn’t be used singly if you’re knitting in the round).

fullsizeoutput_68e

Although there’s a lot of yarn combining in this collection none of the designs requires you to knit on anything larger than a 4.50 mm needle so even the 2 long jacket styles are  lightweight and well fitting rather than heavy, shapeless and sloppy. I love the refined layout of this book; the clearly written instructions, the simple hanger shots at the start of each pattern that allow you to see the finish project ‘unstyled’ plus the charming line illustrations within the individual instructions that have a lovely hand drawn quality. As an avid note maker I like that there are several lined pages throughout the book where you can jot down details of tension etc and in the back of the book the ‘Knitting School’ gives details of some of the techniques used in the collection as well as advice on how to care for the finished items.

I lost my knitting mojo a couple of years ago and really didn’t think I’d want to knit let alone design anything again but this collection of designs literally fills my heart with joy. It makes me wish that the UK had the sort of Scandinavian Winters that would allow me to hunker down and knit my way through the book from front to back. You’ll find the book and the full range of Isager yarns online at www.isagerstrik.dk

 

The details

Title: The Artisan

Designer:  Helga Isager

Number of designs: 10 ( 8 garments, 2 accessories)

Instructions: Combination of written and charted

Language: English, Danish, German

Price: 199.00 DK (Around £24.00)

 

Where’ve you been?

It’s been a while hasn’t it, where’ve you been?!

Ok so it’s not you, it’s me (I remember an ex-boyfriend saying that to me once…..just before he unceremoniously dumped me). Life has been busy as ever looking after Ma & Pa Trot but now they’re settled in their flat and FINALLY have a landline (though no broadband) due to me nagging BT for over a month I’m trying to fit in some work too.

As well as working on a couple of freelance design commissions for this Winter season I’m also going to be submitting a couple more for Spring / Summer 2018. Yes I know the clocks haven’t yet gone back and I’ve mentioned Summer already. That’s just how it is in the lovely design world, always looking forward whilst somehow, frequently looking back.

On the subject of looking back last Thursday I had the great pleasure of spending the day on the Erika Knight stand at the Knitting & Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace in London. It was a wonderful opportunity to spend the day with Erika & Bella, two of my favourite people, and meet lots of fantastic knitters, stitchers and all round lovers of creativity who were attending the show and drinking in all of the inspiring kits, yarns, buttons, patterns, fabrics and countless other products, teach-ins & workshops that were packed into the five day event.

copyright Erika Knight
Yours truly with my Constance Cowl design

Having missed out on the show last year due to the ‘brain squatters’ I was really proud to be on the stand along with my Constance cowl pattern which formed part of the design collection made using Erika’s British Blue 100 yarn. Although I wasn’t expecting it the show was also a great opportunity to catch up with lots of friends from my days as a Rowan Design Consultant which brought back so many truly warm and fond memories.

Despite meaning to take a lot more pictures and make a sneaky yarn purchase I didn’t do  either but here’s a peek of what I did see, sorry there aren’t more. As they used to say in school, must try harder next time. If you managed to get to the show I really hope you had a great time and you’re busily working away at your new projects.

IMG_3406IMG_3405IMG_3404

IMG_3414
Katia Lace yarn…with added stainless steel

This is a stunning collection of bags from a selection of well known fashion designers including Patrick Cox, Henry Holland & Lulu Guinness each embroidered by London company Hand & Lock.

Probably the highlight of my day was meeting the warm, funny and hugely talented Sarah Hazell. Somehow, despite us both having worked for Rowan as DCs, both designed for Erika and following each other on social media we’d never met until last week. As you can see we were pretty pleased to have put that right.

IMG_3422

I know this post may seem a little aimless (sorry) but the head is a little squiffy today having had a migraine yesterday plus I’m getting a lot of words back to front and I’ve still got my column for Knitting still to write.

As I said I’ll do better next time.

J x

A Winged Collective

 

A_Winged_Collective_Cover_3a0554ca-89e0-43ea-816c-d8c7cf369d5d_1080x

A Winged Collective is an A – Z of the collective nouns of birds from all over the world and although you’ve probably never wondered what to call a group of eagles…..or swifts …or magpies for that matter, I challenge you not to be captivated by it.

0e717cdc-b4ab-4442-8ec0-e3e1ae5d3b56With words by Polly Pullar explaining a bit about the birds and why they have their respective collective nouns complimented by witty, beautifully drawn illustrations by Clare Mackie you honestly don’t need to be a bird enthusiast to appreciate this book. It’s both informative and exquisitely detailed, in fact having been privileged to see all of the illustrations up close I am fascinated by Clare’s patience and eye for detail. I also love that she’s imbued each of her ‘colourings in’ (her words not mine) with her brilliant and cheeky sense of humour. In fact Clare is one of the funniest people I know and despite her huge and obvious talent is very self deprecating about her work.

abda80b4-ecdd-4589-8a1b-9b69b341e13dThe book is published by Boddington & Royall, costs £29.99 and can be ordered through the website here with an option for personalising should you wish to purchase it as a very special gift.

I know how many long hours of work went into this project Clare, congratulations hen! It’s brilliant and so are you… definitely another of my Design Heroes.

To see more of here work visit her website Clare Mackie Illustration

J x

 

Constance cowl for Erika Knight

fullsizeoutput_5db

Even as recently as 10 years ago I was never really one for wearing neck accessories – you know, scarves, cowls, shawls and the like. That was of course until I cut all my hair off (if you know my medical history I won’t need to go into why) and it’s not until you have no hair at all that you appreciate having something warm and snuggly around your neck to keep you warm. Yes, whilst a hat may be the obvious option for some reason hats just aren’t my ‘go to’ accessory.

So as a proud wearer of neckwear I’m really pleased to present the Constance cowl, my second design produced for  the Erika Knight yarn range.

Now as I mentioned in the previous post on the Camellia sweater these designs were commissioned/knitted around the time of my ‘brain squatters’ so even now some of the details are a bit hazy. I remember (I think) knitting it before my op then sewing it up and despite my best efforts to write notes for everything when I came to write up the pattern I couldn’t remember or see if it was knitted flat or in the round – so I had to search for and eventually undo the seam to confirm how it was made. Annoying at the time but it does say something for my expert mattress stitch technique.

image1

Browsing through the many books in my library of stitch patterns always sparks off lots of ideas and in this case the stitch came before the project itself. I wanted to create a rib based stitch that had a touch of lace but with the advantage of being reversible. A couple of hours, a bit of graph tinkering and a few swatches later I was happy with the results.  The 30 row repeat stitch pattern combines simple knit & purl with double yarn overs and slip stitches to create an unusual slanted rib structure that creates a lovely zig zag side edge that disappears when the project is sewn up after knitting.

The design is knitted in Erika’s British Blue 100 which is a beautifully soft DK weight yarn spun from 100% Bluefaced Leicester wool. It’s available in a choice of 10 shades and the cowl shown on the front of the pattern is knitted in Regent’s Park.

It’s generously sized so that it can be looped twice around the neck and of course you could always add a few extra repeats to the length if you wanted to make it deeper. 

I hope you like the pattern and would love to see what colours you choose for your version #Constancecowl

Have a great weekend

J x 

 

Camellia sweater for Erika Knight

*Before we start I should pre-warn you that there may be a bit of waywardness in this post

It’s been quite a whirlwind of a year, in fact that’s a bit of an understatement. I try not to look back too often and dwell in the past but as you’ll know if you (hopefully) read this blog regularly I occasionally have days when my brain doesn’t work as it should. Mind you whose brain does?

Mum often tells me that I don’t allow myself to recover properly when I’v been ill and to be honest she’s probably right. Since my craniotomy following the brain tumour diagnosis last May we’ve moved house (hooray), overseen a major renovation on the kitchen from hell (even more hoorays) and this Friday we’ll finally be moving my elderly parents from Essex to East Sussex so we can look after them. Understandably at ages 87 & 93 respectively  Mum and Dad are excited and more than a little anxious. They’ve lived in and around London since they came to England from Barbados at the end of the 1950’s and I think they’ve only visited Brighton on day trips to the seaside with the church…..a church they attended for the last time yesterday having been members of the congregation for over 35 years. So it’s fair to say there’s been a lot going on and somehow I’ve also managed to do what seems to be lot of design work. (More by luck than careful planning take my word for it).

fullsizeoutput_5da

Camellia is the latest design to be published but the first I’m proud to say that I’ve designed for Erika Knight. As I mentioned in my previous post I met Erika at a yarn festival here in Brighton and we got on so well we’ve stayed in touch ever since. Erika has a very understated, modern design style and her eponymous yarn range focuses on the highest quality, natural fibre yarns produced (where possible) in Britain. To be asked to design in any of her yarns really is like being a kid in a sweet shop; from big fat Maxi Wool to the wonderfully hairy Fur Wool my creativity went into overdrive and I soon scrambled to sketch out more designs than I’d done in a long, long time.

Camellia sketch J Sloan

Oh yes, that brings us back to Camellia. Knitted in Erika’s Studio Linen it’s a long sleeve, scoop neck sweater with a very simple silhouette that allows the characteristics of the yarn to shine through.  Made from 85% recycled linen and 15% premium linen fibre this is an extremely special yarn and an absolute dream to knit with as it’s not only soft but has a wonderful slinky handle that means it drapes beautifully . I chose a really subtle rib stitch for the sleeves and yoke and contrasted it with good old stocking stitch for the body but just to make things a bit interesting added a small gather detail at the centre of the bust at the start of the rib section. I’ve used a long tail cast on for both body and sleeves to keep the edges nice and soft and there’s gentle ruffle on the cuffs where the stocking stitch gives way to the rib.

IMG_2549

It’s been a long process to get this design published as it was originally designed before my diagnosis and to be honest it was a bit of a struggle to get back into my pre-op headspace. Whilst I really enjoyed knitting the garment myself it was, at times, really frustrating that notes I’d made before no longer made sense to me. In fact even 14 months after my surgery it’s like looking at someone else’s work and I still can’t remember whether it was knitted before or after the op. I’d like to say a huge thank you to Erika and Bella for their patience and understanding, it wasn’t easy getting this done but I’m so pleased with the results and hopefully you knitters will be too.

The garment has been sized from S – XL oh yes and I should also thank Bronagh Miskelly for her brilliant tech editing skills, I really couldn’t have done this without her help.

You can buy the pattern for Camellia #camelliasweater from your nearest stockist of the Erika Knight range or from the Erika Knight Pattern Store over on Ravelry

Have a great week

J x