In a strange place

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This time last week I was one thousand miles away basking in the heat of the Corsican sun enjoying a much longed for holiday. Today however although I’m back home and on much more familiar turf, mentally I’m in a very strange place. I suppose it’s only natural to feel a little deflated when you come back off holiday but I’m really struggling to lift my mood, it could be the lack of sunshine…or heat….or that illuminated salt water swimming pool I’d got just a little to used to.

Alternatively it could simply be due to the fact that even 2 years after my op my post craniotomy brain dictates more than ever whether or not I can focus enough to work. This week it’s been ‘or not’. With a brief break for Tuesday night’s Stitch & Bitch I’ve been in a ‘pre migraine’ state since Monday morning which has made me touchy, anxious, achy and low. I’ve had to accept that the project I’d planned to knit on holiday just didn’t get done …..and you know what, that doesn’t matter. Instead I’m going to let myself off the spinning classes I didn’t do this week and allow my brain to do what it needs to come back to ‘normal’.

Whatever that is.

I’m hoping the re-set will happen by Monday as I’ve got quite a lot of knitting and writing to do. In the meantime I’ll chug along with the sock I’m knitting and catch up on some good drama on the iPlayer. Just as well it’s Slow Fashion October.

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Sorry for the whinge hope your week’s been better

J x

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Something for me and something for you

Screen Shot 2018-09-18 at 08.52.00I think I first posted about working with this shade of Rowan’s Cotton Rope back in July last year and as is often the case, it’s been languishing in my stash for years before that. Although my memory is pretty shocking nowadays I clearly remember the day this yarn joined the realms of the Sloan Stash. I’d bought it as stock whilst running HKhandknit in Edinburgh and fell in love with the colour as soon as I clapped eyes on it. It sat, and sat and sat on the shelves for a whole summer (obviously at the time too bright for my Edinburgh customers) and when Rowan decided to discontinue it I felt it would be happiest and best appreciated in my possession. All 22 balls of it.

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So fast forward to today and I’ve finally cast off the cardigan that that precious, fantastic coloured yarn has finally become. It seems to have been a long road to get to this point but that may largely be due to the fact everything involving numbers, concentration and memory can often feel like pulling teeth if my brain isn’t playing ball. I vaguely remember first dragging the yarn out of the loft back in 2015 PreC (pre craniotomy) but didn’t start doodling on paper until July 2017 PostC (post craniotomy). It wasn’t until I tidied my office almost exactly 12 months later that I moved a hug pile of fabric I’d been using to make cushions and came across the abandoned wip squashed into the bottom of a basket with my ‘missing’ 6 mm Knit Pro tips and 80 cm cable. Since my surgery I’ve dreaded making discoveries like this. Not as you’d imagine, because of the guilt you normally feel because you haven’t finished yet another project. It’s trying to get back into the headspace I was in when I drew up those original sketches and made those initial calculations which is so much like reading the work of a stranger that it fills me with such dread it sometimes causes enough stress to bring on a migraine.

Thankfully though in this case I was so genuinely pleased to have found 1. the yarn again – I mean THAT COLOUR!!! –  and 2. those bloody 6mm tips (I thought they’d gone for good) that I just went right back to the drawing board. Bizarrely enough for a ‘me’ knit I’d actually made lots of helpfully detailed written notes about what I was thinking so it actually wasn’t as difficult as I thought to pick up where I’d left off . So, after making a couple of changes ( dropping the needle size to 5.50mm) I was soon up and running again. Ok there’s been a bit of frogging but the combination of this yarn, large needles and the deliciously textured purl twist stitch I used on Mrs T’s Mittens made this a really really enjoyable design to knit. Now it’s finally cast off I’m really pleased with the results.

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I wanted a relaxed, boxy knit that would be easy to wear in the summer when the sun’s gone down and it gets a bit chilly. Because of the chunky weight of the yarn I wanted very few seams so it’s actually worked in one piece on a long circular needle whilst slipped stitches on the wrong side of the garment give the appearance of a seam but without the bulk.

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There’s a wide panel of purl twist texture in the centre back which is matched by the front facing bands which are worked as you knit, rather than added on afterwards (again avoiding any joins) and these run on over the shoulders to join at the centre back of the neck. Ah yes, that join. There were a couple of issues with the neckband as I’d originally envisaged grafting it together but after a couple of failed attempts where it just didn’t look of feel right I plumped for casting off both sets of stitches off together which I’m much happier with.

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All in all I love the results.

Would  I knit it again? Definitely. Probably a winter version with sleeves.

Would I make any changes? Mmmm probably, after all there’s always something you could tweak to make improvements. But for now I’m happy that this keeps summer going just a little bit longer. That and the fact that we’re off to Corsica for a week on Saturday!

At my age I’m more excited than I should be about going on holiday but we’ve been through a lot since our last foreign break seven years ago so to celebrate I’m having a sale over on  Ravelry. There’s 25% off all patterns from now until the end of September – no code needed – so you could get a headstart on some of that C*#!+%?mas gift knitting whilst I head off to the sun. Sorry it’s just too early to use that particular ‘C word’.

You’ll find my Ravelry Pattern Store here. I’m off to pack

J x

 

 

Yarn Review: Erika Knight Wild Wool

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I sort of knew that I was going to like this new yarn from Erika Knight for a number of reasons. First off, it’s name… Wild Wool reminds me of my favourite album by Paul Weller (bet he never thought that one day he’d be linked, however tenuously, to a knitting yarn). Secondly because I really like the thinking behind Erika’s yarn range; to give us eager knitters the highest quality, natural, sustainable and eco friendly yarns dyed in a delicious choice of colours. So having been given a couple of hanks of Wild Wool to play with (I love my job) and with no pressure to produce a design or even to write this review I cast on and started to play.

If you’re thinking that a yarn made from nettles inevitably means roughness and hours of scratching whilst sitting in a muddy field knitting around a camp fire then think again.

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I certainly wouldn’t have guessed simply from handling it that there was nettle fibre in this yarn. In fact it’s only when I read the label which gives the fibre content as being 85% wool that nettle is mentioned and it’s accounted for in the 15% viscose. It’s presented in 100g hanks which I honestly couldn’t resist squishing as I opened them up to wind into a ball. And, rather than being plied and twisted it’s more like a singles yarn that’s been twisted just enough to add strength whilst retaining a lofty, rounded hand feel. 

Winding into a ball often gives you a real feel for a new yarn and what I noticed whilst doing it in this case this was just how incredibly lustrous this yarn is. As you know bright, bold colours really are my thing but inkeeping with her timeless aesthetic Erika has chosen to launch it in 8 restrained colours inspired by the wild outdoors. There are two blues, pale pink, purple, deep green, two greys and gold (possible my favourite) but this yarn blend has a luxurious sheen that brings incredible richness to every single one of these shades. Another thing I love is that Erika’s wit is reflected in their names with each one an informal and very British term for walk such as traipse, mooch and pootle.

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So what’s it like to knit? Well there’s a wonderful roundness to it as it comes off the ball that flattens out a little when it sits in the needles as newly formed loops. But, as the next row of stitches is worked on top of them they regain their roundness once again producing row after row of beautifully even stitches that sit closely together. The fabric is soft, silky and lightweight and, because the yarn has a slight halo it’s so cosy on the skin that once again you forget about the nettle and any preconceptions you may have had about it. Win, win, win!

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Wild Wool has subtle veins of fibre that give it a marbled sort of colouring (the base colour plus dark in the lighter shades and light in the darker shades) so when knitted up these produce the most subtle tonal variations across the face of the fabric. And what’s also interesting is that although it’s not a tweedy yarn there are occasional little flashes of solid coloured fibre that reveal themselves as you knit so you may find that amongst the cool grey of Amble (sh 700) there’s the odd white stitch whilst in sh 704 Pootle that flash could either be white or old gold.

erikaknightwildwoolNow although the ball band recommends knitting in a 5.00mm needle and my knitting tends to be a little in the loose side I actually found this resulted in a slightly tighter tension than I would have expected. In fact my cast on edge curl upwards a little so I stepped up to a 5.50mm needle for all but the stocking stitch swatched shown in this post. Once the samples were blocked I gave them a little blast of steam which plumped the stitches up beautifully and as you can see it’s a great yarn for showing up all sorts of textures including garter stitch, moss stitch and cabling. 

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This is definitely a yarn that I’d use again, in fact as I used it for a recent magazine design submission I’m hoping that will be in the not too distant future.

In the meantime I can enjoy playing with the latest additions to my stash and I’ve included the details of the yarn below.

 

Yarn: Wild Wool by Erika Knight

Content: 85% wool 15% viscose (nettle fibre)

Weight: 100g (3.5 oz)

RRP: £11.95

Packaged as: Hank (skein)

Recommended needle: 5.00 mm (US 8)

Recommended hook:5.00 mm (Size H)

Standard tension: 18 sts and 26 rows to 10 cm (4 in)

Classificaton: Aran

Number of colours available: 8

Care instructions: Hand wash or dry clean in certain solvents. Iron on a cool setting

For more information on where to find your nearest stockist head on over to Erika’s website http://www.erikaknight.co.uk/stockists/

J x

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Rhubarb rhubarb rhubarb

RhubcakebigeyepicsThis is a short and sweet blog post. Short because I’ve got a tonne of design and magazine work on my desk craving for my attention and sweet because there’s a cake recipe involved.

Like a lot of kids who grew up in 1970’s Britain I’m not a huge fan of rhubarb. My Bajan Mum didn’t cook traditional English puddings so when I experienced my first school pud covered in lashings of creamy custard I was instantly smitten…that is of course until the day we had rhubarb and custard. And my first impressions?….What?… Why?!…. What the heck is this?! I made a mental note to self and learned to pass on pudding the next time it reared it’s sour although deceptively pretty pink head.

Fast forward more years than I care to mention and apart from the rare occasion when I dipped back into my childhood with the odd (sugar encrusted) rhubarb and custard sweet from the local pick ‘n mix I haven’t gone near rhubarb again. That is until a couple of years ago when Sam & I were at the Brighton Foodies Festival and came across a stall selling a rhubarb gin liquer. It may be that my palette has matured or perhaps that now as an adult I’m a regular gin drinker but even I was a convert. So this week when I was visiting a friend who’d been given a handful of homegrown rhubarb but no idea what to do with it the greedy cow in me thought, ‘well I hate the stuff but I’m not seeing that lot go to waste’. I did think of going the rhubarb gin liquer route but to be honest I didn’t have the patience to wait for the results so instead, with the memory of that morning’s hardcore 500-calorie-burning spin class still in my head, of course  I decided cake was the way to go.

I decided on Sarah Cook’s Rhubarb Crumble Cake on the BBC Good Food website. Ths was mainly because I already had every ingredient in my store cupboard but having made it I’d probably tweak it by adding a teaspoon of cinnamon to the main cake mix rather than just to the crumble topping. I also thought, as I was munching my way through my second slice, that given my normal disdain for rhubarb that I’d like to try it with other fruit like raspberries or even pears.

So here my lovelies is the original recipe. As Sam remarked when he tasted it, it’s more of a grown up cake as it’s not overly sweet which counters the sour of the rhubarb perfectly.

That said next time I get offered fresh rhubarb I think I’ll be making the gin liquer…

 

J x

 

Rhubarb crumble cake by Sarah Cook (the link to the original recipe is here)

Prep time : 25 MINS

Cooking time : 1 HR, 15 MINS (Mine took an extra 10 mins so check after an hour and cover if necessary)

Number of portions: Cuts into 8 slices (to be honest this depends on how greedy you are)

Ingredients

  • 250g pack of butter, softened
  • 250g golden caster sugar, plus 1 tbsp
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 large eggs
  • 300g plain flour, plus 7 tbsp
  • 2 tsp baking powder 
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 300g rhubarb, washed, trimmed and finely sliced

 

Method

  • Heat oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3 and grease and line the base and sides of a deep 20cm round cake tin with a little of the butter and baking parchment. Put the butter, 250g sugar and vanilla into a big mixing bowl. Beat until light and fluffy with an electric whisk.
  • Beat in the eggs, one by one, then fold in the 300g flour and baking powder. Spoon out 85g of the batter, and stir the extra 7 tbsp flour and cinnamon into this with a cutlery knife so it becomes crumbly.
  • Fold the rhubarb into the rest of the cake batter and scrape into the prepared tin. Scatter over the crumble mix followed by 1 tbsp sugar. Bake for 1 hr 15 mins, until a skewer poked in comes out clean – you’ll need to lay a sheet of foil on top after an hour if the cake is browning too much. Cool for 15 mins in the tin, then finish on a wire rack.

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Still in the spotlight

 

saturdayspotlightjeanettesloanIt’s so hot here! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining this is, after all, why Sam and I moved down from Scotland 6……no I think it must be 7 years ago now. I’m loving this hot weather, its been like this for over a week with no prospect of it changing for the next week so I’m a very happy (if every so-slight-sweaty) bunny. Plus of course the novelty of being so close to the beach still hasn’t worn off.

Anyway hot weather aside, a couple of weeks ago I was very happy to be featured in Gaye Glasspie’s Saturday Spotlight over on her blog which you’ll find on her website www.ggmadeit.com. If you haven’t heard of Gaye before she is a woman consumed by her passion for knitting and yarn, yarn & more yarn. In fact she describes herself as ‘a yarnho’ which still makes me laugh, us Brits just don’t say stuff like that do we? Gaye is also obsessed with the colour orange which is another reason I like her so much, I really wish I had her energy. Every week she shines her spotlight on a different crafter, dyer, fibre producer, yarn shop or designer and having met online through Lorna Hamilton Brown who I blogged about yesterday she got in touch to ask if she could feature me. Gaye has a warmth and enthusiasm which is really infectious you can follow here over on Instagram where she’s @ggmadeit.

Anyway this post is a couple of weeks late but you can still read the interview here

 

Lorna Hamilton Brown knits the blues

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Very seldom have I met someone with as much energy as Lorna Hamilton Brown.

We were put in touch by the lovely Freddie Robins (who I used to work with back in my technician days) when Lorna was researching for her Royal College of Art MA dissertation ‘Myth: Black People Don’t Knit’. I was very happy to play just a tiny part in this brilliant piece of writing since me, Lorna, Gaye Glasspie, Natalie Warner, poorpockets (on Ravelry), Dana (@callmedwj on Instagram) and countless other black crafters not only knit but also crochet with both skill and style. (Honestly, don’t get me started). Anyway since meeting up and finding that we get on like a house on fire Lorna and I have stayed in touch and I’m really proud and privileged to call her one of my friends.

She is a rare soul who puts so much passion and energy into her work and shows that through knitting, teaching and performing her work can touch and improve the lives of  others, be they victims of domestic abuse or sufferers of mental illness. In fact I’d go so far as to describe her as a Design Hero #designheroes.

As her final MA project her film ‘Knitting The Blues’ is a fun, funny music video behind which there is a serious, pertinent message. Knitting offers a huge therapeutic benefit to mental wellbeing and as someone who has had to cope with a lot of physical illness over the years I can definitely say that it has helped me to both relax and recover.

You’ll find the video over on Lorna’s website here on follow this YouTube link. There are a number of cameo appearances in the video including Kaffe Fassett and Brandon Mably, oh yes and you may just spot someone else you recognise. (Coughs)

Congratulations Lorna on being awarded a ‘Highly Commended’ for your dissertation!  I really hope you enjoy your graduation today. You’ve worked hard and deserve it.

Sending much love to you.

J x

 

New tutorial: Three colour cast on

IMG_4948It’s been a long time since I posted anything on Youtube. So long in fact that I couldn’t remember my login password and had to frequently search back through my archive for clues to access it again. I post pretty frequently on other social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook (which I still can’t get my poor head around) but only started my Youtube channel because there were a couple of techniques used in my designs that I felt could be best illustrated by video tutorial. The trouble is that since posting my first two videos for twisted chainstitch and the Edie infinity scarf 5 YEARS AGO all has gone quiet on the Youtube front. Oh the shame. I’m not going to try and come up with any lame excuses like ‘I’m not very organised’ or ‘I was a bit ill’ because you already know them both to be true but I will promise that I’ve got a number of techniques that I know would make good, and more importantly helpful video tutorials and it’s something that I’m interested in developing. So with that in mind let’s start afresh with the latest video for the three colour cast on.

This is a lovely, colourful braided cast on technique that is used to kick off my Hove Actually sweater design. It’s based on the long tail cast on method so if you’re more used to casting on using a two needle method you may find this a bit of a challenge at the start   but it’s definitely worth persevering. As I said I’d like to do more of these videos so it would be great to get some feedback. If you think there are things that could be improved upon just leave a comment under the 3 colour cast video on Youtube or even on here, it would be lovely to hear from you.

I hope you enjoy it and most importantly find it useful

 

J x