Constance cowl for Erika Knight

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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

 

On meeting your heroes

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I’m not sure who it was that one said you should never meet your heroes. No doubt it’s because they often don’t live up to our far-too-high expectations and are therefore not worthy of the pedestal on which we’ve placed them. Or they’re just bloody rude. This is a case however where any expectations I had were far, far exceeded.

I first met Erika Knight in 2014 (I think) at the Unwind yarn festival here in Brighton and have to admit to being a little star struck. At the time I’d been trying in vain to get the Jeanette Sloan yarn range off the ground and was feeling more than a little jaded about my work and my place in the ‘knitting community’. So meeting someone whose work I’ve admired since being a design student was no small deal but I couldn’t have imagined where it would lead just a few years later. We chatted over the course of the show and did that ‘oh we should meet for coffee’ kind of thing, you know the one that normally never transpires. Thankfully though it did and we’ve met up on more than one occasion over coffee, gin and cake (not at the same time mind).

As someone who is incredibly modest she won’t thank me for talking about her in great detail so I won’t embarrass her by doing so. Instead I’ll simply say that she is a genuinely warm, funny, beautiful  and classy lady whose personality is reflected in her designs which are timeless whilst at the same time feeling current. (Right Erika, no more gushing I promise).

When I was asked by Erika to do a couple of designs using yarns from her own range you literally could have picked me up off the floor. In fact I was still pinching myself when I rushed home – again starry eyed – to tell Sam. Life however got in the way of our best laid plans and last year when I was diagnosed with the ‘brain squatters’ it meant that I couldn’t meet the original deadline set for the designs.

Fast forward around 14 months and thanks to a bit of re-jigging and a lot of patience from this incredible lady and her fantastic daughter Bella – her right hand woman – the designs have finally been published. (I’m planning to write a longer post to talk about the designs in more detail).

Erika you are definitely a design hero to me. I hadn’t really thought of exploring my yarn / design heroes before but I think it would make for some interesting blog posts as creatively we take influences and inspiration  from countless diverse sources.

Ms Knight, I owe you so much. Thank you…xxx

 

 

Garden sheds and curious finds

As you may know we’ve been undergoing some pretty major renovations in an effort to turn the kitchen-from-hell, inherited when we bought the house, into my kitchen-from-heaven. Now back in the early days of my recovery I swore last year that I was going to have a much less stressful life and take things at a more leisurely pace. Well that’s what I told myself (and my mother who’s turned worrying about me into a career). We’ve barely owned this house for a year and the kitchen-from-heaven is now a reality although there are still things like flooring to be laid and doors to be hung which is why there are no pictures yet. Well as one major upheaval comes to a close another is about to dawn on us with the moving of my elderly parents down from Essex to a new home in East Sussex. It’s a hell of a move for anyone who’s lived in and around London for over 50 years but at 87 and 93 realistically it’s the last move either Mum & Dad will make but it’s worth it to have them live just around the corner where we can keep and eye and look after them.

What this move also means of course that Sam and I are spending many hours at my parents’ bungalow rooting through long forgotten boxes trying to de-clutter prior to packing everything into boxes. Going through the garden shed we came across what you’d expect; 3 sets of secateurs, 3 forks, 2 hoes, enough lawn care products to see the Lawn Tennis Association through the Wimbledon fortnight and countless tins of paint. ‘It’s good paint’ my Dad protested when I told him we’d have to dump the lot. ‘Yes it is good paint Dad, but only if it’s the right colour’.

Digging towards the dusty, spider ridden corners of the shed what I didn’t expect to come across was a folder containing photos recording some of the first pieces of design work I produced as a freelance knitwear designer.

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Now back in the golden days of swatching I used to sell both machine & hand knitted, crochet and embroidery designs through a couple of agents that sold internationally to fashion companies like Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan & Etro. In those days the samples produced were really source pieces from which the companies could take a number of ideas that could then be put into production and this meant that sometimes the swatches were a bit over the top in terms of colour, texture and embellishment. I didn’t always find out where each swatch eventually ended up  and I wasn’t the most prolific designer (my friend Wendy H’s swatch count literally ran into the hundreds) but I’d like to think that even now someone, somewhere is wearing a beautiful piece of 90’s knitwear, crochet or embroidery that was at least inspired by one of my designs.

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Now before you go judging me on my colour and stitch choices every collection was based on a storyboard provided by the agent and this meant that I didn’t always love the colours I was working with. That’s just the job of a designer, to work to the brief you’re given.

As you can see, even back then I loved knitting intarsia…and vivid colour…oh and a bit of embellishment. In fact some of the designs didn’t sell because there was so much going on they were too expensive to manufacture. Ah, the mistakes of youth.

Thankfully my design ethos is much less ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ nowadays but these were a real blast from the past, in some cases I can remember every yarn used and where I bought it.

How have your creative tastes changed over the years, would you be embarrassed now by what you were knitting 30 years ago? Hopefully not!

J x

 

Black people DO knit

I can’t be the only one who finds themselves scanning social media when they really should be doing something else….and it’s usually something that has a deadline attached to it.

Despite having a  very VERY heavy head on Friday I’ve actually been surprisingly organised and productive over the last week having delivered 2 magazine submissions (keeping my fingers crossed for them) and 2 more designs for a lovely project that’s a bit hush-hush at the mo.  I’ll let you know more when I can.

During one of my many Instagram visits last week I noticed that I’d been tagged in a post by Lorna Hamilton Brown (@lhamiltonbrown). She’s a black artist based just down the road from me in St Leonards on Sea and she’s currently studying for an MA in Textiles specialising in Knit at the Royal College of Art. Lorna’s knitting and illustrative work is diverse to say the least; from protesting Helen Titchener’s innocence when on trial for attempted murder in Radio 4’s The Archers to knitting life-size artworks that encourage us to reflect on the way that our youth  are portrayed in the light of the 2011 London Riots.  She’s produced a film called  ‘Knitting ain’t Wack’ that’s a rap video based on a traditional knitting rhyme that was recently selected for The Craft Council’s ‘Real to Reel Film Festival, has been referred to by  Deadly Knitshade  as the ‘Banksy of knitting’ and on top of that was awarded an MBE for services to her local community.

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Lorna with the knitting legends Kaffe Fassett & Brandon Mably

Now I don’t normally refer to people in terms of their skin colour but the fact that both Lorna and I are black is key to how we came to be in touch. For her MA dissertation Lorna is examining the myth that ‘black people don’t knit’ and one of her RCA tutors, the lovely Freddie Robins with whom I used to work suggested she get in touch with me.

I have to admit that when I ran a yarn shop in Edinburgh I’d hear ‘no one knits now’ daily (which was infuriating given that I was running a business based on that fact that people did and do knit) much more often than ‘black people don’t knit’. It’s one of those sweeping generalisations – a bit like ‘men don’t knit’ –  that’s worth examining in much more detail. Thankfully Lorna’s dissertation has set out to do just that and I was really pleased to be able to answer a few questions for her and hopefully have contributed in some small way to her thesis. It was submitted last week which must be a huge relief and I look forward to reading it when it’s made public. I haven’t met Lorna in person but given that she’s just up the road I’m hoping that we’ll meet up this Summer. In the meantime – again by the magic of social media – I’ve found Gaye Glasspie (what a great name) also known as GG whose blog Confession of a Yarn Ho can be found here. Well what do you know? One minute ‘black people don’t knit’ and the next thing you know there’s me, Lorna, GG, the great Shirley Paden…….ok you know where I’m going with this.

GG came to knitting later in life but this hasn’t diminished her infectious enthusiasm for creative knitting and all things yarnie. She’s extremely active on Facebook, in fact she puts me to shame, and has been generous enough to be promoting my work to the followers of her Facebook page here. You’ll find her knitting patterns, ready made accessories and her wide range of witty Yarnho products over on the blog which also gets a heads up in the latest issue of Knitscene magazine. I particularly like her ‘we knit too’ and ‘natural knitter’ mugs

 

Now just in case you read this and are thinking that this is a ‘race thing’ it really, truly isn’t.  I genuinely don’t judge anyone or their crafting habits on the basis of skin colour, race, religion or sexuality. I don’t care if you prefer knit over crochet, hand knit over machine knitting or whether you hold the yarn the Scottish way or Continental style. But ask me to knit something in high bulk acrylic and we may have a problem.
Have  lovely day and as the great Jerry Springer used to say. Please take care of yourselves… and each other.
J x

New look website

It has taken so much longer than I’d intended but I’ve finally managed to update my website. The combination of an incredibly manic 6 months couple with a wobbly brain that honestly couldn’t remember how to navigate my way around it’s back end features meant that many an evening has been spent re-jigging the pages and adding new ones. Hopefully it looks fresher and is easier for visitors to use.

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There are two big additions to the website. First there’s a new SLOANmade page with the latest Seersucker bags available to buy ( with more to come).

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There’s also a Latest Designs section on the front page showing you which of my knitting patterns have been published most recently.

Ah, but there’s been changes too…

The main change is that whilst the site shows all the patterns available to download in PDF form the handling of that process is now done either through Loveknitting.com or Ravelry.com. Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 09.47.23

In the Online Shop when you see a design you like click on the picture for more information like materials, tension, sizing and measurements.

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You’ll then see the price of each pattern (£3.60) and to buy you’ll need to click on the pink link on that page  to be re-directed to www.loveknitting.com where the patterns can be found in the Independent Designer section and you can complete the payment process.

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To buy the patterns through Ravelry go to the new Ravelry tab in the menu at the top of the screen then click on the pink link or the big picture below it and you’ll be re-directed to my Pattern Store on www.ravelry.com where you can again buy the patterns as PDFs. I wish I could have added a link to that tab but my poor brain couldn’t figure it out, sorry!

I’d love to know your thoughts on the look and feel of the new site – after all your opinion counts, I know where everything is (I think) but if you can’t find it please let me know. I’m hoping to find a way to add back in the free patterns and ‘Help’ section without making it too cluttered so keep checking back.

In the mean time enjoy.

J x

Close…but no cigar

Yes I know I should be celebrating.

No more filling bottles with water to boil for tea and no more hoiking dishes up the stairs in a box, to be washed, hunched over a bath silhouetted with masonry dust and shards of plaster, then hoiked back down the stairs in same box and dried on plastic trays in the temporary kitchen set up in the living room.


That is indeed a sink. With running hot water. But it’s in the new (unfinished) utility room. It’s 3 months into our ‘3 month’ kitchen renovation and the kitchen isn’t finished. Admittedly the builders have been fantastic doing the knocking out of walls and installing the mega steels that now hold up the back of the extended house. But as one team have moved on and the next have taken over for ‘second fixing’ the pace has changed and whilst I can’t fault the quality of their work I’m more than a little bored of the dust, disruption and dismal dinners. (A ‘bargain’ £1.00 Lasagne from Marks & Spencer just up the road was the final nail in my food loving coffin – even Sam turned his nose up at it). Now whilst this time 2 years ago I was still covered in Pilton filth with my nostrils haunted by the various smells from a stint working at Glastonbury and just a year ago I still had a fresh ear to ear scar in my head after my craniotomy I’d just like to…..ok I”ve just re-read this and there really is NO excuse to moan.

I’m here, I’m healthy, I’m happy and it’ll be done when it’s done. I just hope it’s before friends from Dubai arrive in the middle of next month.

Here endeth the moan, I’m off to put on the kettle.

J x