It’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
It’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 scarf5 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
There’s been a significant lack of knitting & designing going on in my life recently and rather than bang on about the reasons why I thought instead that I’d focus on something more positive. My latest design for issue 122 of The Knitter magazine which has just hit the shops.
‘Riley Stripe’ is a design that’s partly inspired by the work of British painter Brigit Riley. Her signature Op Art paintings play with simple geometric shapes like squares, circles and rectangles to stunning optical effect. She began her first Op Art paintings in 1960 whilst on a part time teaching post at Hornsey College of Art initially choosing to work just in black and white and only cautiously introducing colour from around 1967. At this stage she began to explore the precise placement of colour, line and shape in addition to the grouping of colour in order to convey a feeling of movement in the paintings which led onto works like Cataract 3 below.
Anyway back to this design….
More generously proportioned than a simple scarf I’d call this more of a wrap as the size makes it perfect for draping around the shoulders to keep out the slightest chill and it’s lightweight enough for wearing whatever the season. Riley Stripe features two different stitch patterns, each made up of a combination of slip stitch blocks, single columns and garter stitch stripes.
The first section of the wrap begins with a two colour cast on and a textured pattern with large blocks of slip stitch alternated with garter stitch stripes. These square blocks create a series of attractive curves up the side edge of the piece that eventually become the bottom edge of the wrap once you’ve picked up from the other side edge to knit the longer section in the smaller scale pattern.
This is really a design that explores contrasts; there’s both large and small scale pattern plus the ‘pick up and knit’ off the side edge of section one which places them at 90 degrees to each other. Then there’s the contrasting yarns which both come from the Isager yarn range. It might seem slightly odd to bring together Highland Wool (a 100% wool light fingering weight) with Viscolin (a 50% viscose 50% linen 4ply weight) but I really love the mix and actually it was playing with yarn combinations that inspired this particular match. As well as being beautifully lightweight the finished knitted fabric has a softness and warmth but there’s also a lovely bouncy quality due to the garter stitch. Once the finished wrap has been cast off (a two colour cast off to match the cast on of course) and given a gentle block and steam it also drapes like a dream.
If you haven’t tried a two colour cast on before I’m planning to do a couple of video tutorials to demonstrate this and the two colour cast off so keep an eye out for a blog post when they’re done. There really aren’t any other tricky techniques to master other than that and once you’re set for alternating the yarns it’s a really enjoyable knit, especially if you’ve had enough of heavy winter projects.
Brigit Riley may well have used black & white to knit her version of Riley Stripe but as you know I’m very much from ‘the brighter the better’ school of thought so I chose to use Highland Wool in Rhubarb (shade 3) and Viscolin in shade 40. I thoroughly enjoyed the process of creating and knitting this design and really hope you like it too.
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.
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.
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.
Hand & Lock embroidered handbags
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.
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.
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.
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
*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).
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.
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.
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
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.