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?

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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.

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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).

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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)

 

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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 

 

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

 

…and it was going so well

31 Day challenge Day 6

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This doodle was done just after my craniotomy and tries to describe the sharp stabby pains and the aura experienced during one of my attacks.

Why the title? Well, I was really enjoying my first working week of the year and settling into my daily blogging as part of the #31daychallenge when a familiar ghost reared it’s ugly head. Migraine.

So given that there’s been a lot of ‘screen time’ this week which has no doubt contributed to me having the first attack in months I hope you’ll excuse this short post.

Hoping to catch on with another short post later

 

J x

 

 

Living with a jumbled mind

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We’re now almost into October and although it’s officially Autumn down here on the south coast it’s still warm enough to be walking around sandals, skirt and a summery vest top.

It’s 18 weeks to the day since my operation and I still have to pinch myself. Back in May I was looking at a very uncertain future with months of chemo ‘treatment’ rather than ‘cure’. Now thankfully I’m living in a wonderful new home just minutes from the sea and have just become a grand aunt for the 3rd time. (Welcome baby Imari, congratulations to my beautiful niece Danie & Ben).

That said I’m finding that living with a post-craniotomy brain is a perplexing and frustrating thing. The first few weeks of steroid induced euphoria meant I was desperate to capture thoughts that kept me awake in the early hours and doodling away to my heart’s content but recently it’s been more like living in the house  of a complete stranger. It’s feels like I’m not fully present in my own self so looking back on projects I was working on before the op is like looking at the work of someone else. Did I write that? Where did I put that? What is that? I spend much of the day saying one or all of these things and yes, I know, we all forget the odd thing from time to time but when it happens all day, every day it’s very, very tiring.

So I’ve had to adapt a very Zen-like approach to my jumbled mind in order to avoid the stress that leads to a headache. Instead of getting upset at ripping back for a second, third or fourth time I just drop the needles, back away from the knitting and try again the next day. Physically I’m doing very well although all the weeks spent stuffing my face with ‘treats’ (homemade ice cream, sweet & salty popcorn,  Pipers cheese & onion crisps) has led to a couple of extra pounds ( ok 1 stone) which I really need to shift but a full return to work is way off. At this time of year I’d normally be back at Kingston Uni helping to introduce the 1st year Fashion BA students to the delights of the knitting machine but instead of responding to cries of ‘its dropped off again!’ it looks like gentle beach walks to shift the lard and simple baby knits to ease the brain  into gear will have to be the order of the day.

I’m off down to the beach, now where did I put those keys?…..

 

A change of pace…..

To say that 2016 has been ‘eventful’ would have to be something of an understatement. As a ‘woman of a certain age’ who’d been suffering more frequently occurring and severe migraines I trotted off to the GP in a quest for answers. What I wasn’t expecting however was to find out in May that I’d been diagnosed with a couple of ‘unwelcome guests’ – not one, but two brain tumours (I never do things by halves) which thankfully have now proved to be benign. Having undergone surgery for a bilateral craniotomy  just 2 weeks ago I am having to take life at a much, much slower pace and seriously re-evaluate my work / life balance. So now I’m at the mercy of a newly operated-on brain which has more space to breathe but for which, just getting dressed is a challenge. I am also learning other valuable lessons; mainly that I have to learn to be patient. Previous bouts of illness have seen me bounce back pretty quickly but there is, of course an enforced change of pace when your brain has been messed about with.

Everything….takes….ages….

So whilst I thought I had long mastered the type of patience required for swatching, perfecting tension, writing patterns or sewing up it’s a totally different matter when your brain has been fighting for space inside your skull with a couple of cheeky, tumour shaped squatters.  Whilst I wake every morning feeling extremely happy about my diagnosis my default state is ‘wobbly’. In fact I’m walking a bit like Mrs Overall albeit without the two soups. I can dress myself and make a cup of tea but beyond that my day’s achievements are subject to just how knackered I’m feeling. I never thought I could sleep so much but sleep is exactly what I need to recover not only from the trauma of surgery but also holding a simple conversation that may be just 5 mins too long. So I’m learning that if I don’t manage  to do something today, it’s not important, I can always try again tomorrow.

So for however long this recovery process takes the posts here  could be about anything; from knit to crochet, art to design, interiors to food. I’ve also started another blog ‘life as a ziphead‘ which will recount my recovery and  find a focus for all the nonsense that’s been  waking me up at 4am.

It should be interesting……….

New 4ply Design – #2 Skinny Winnie

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This design is just a bit of fun which guarantees a major shot of colour to any outfit. This time it’s worked in crochet on a 3.75mm (US f/5) hook with 3 colour stripes of trebles and half trebles which travel vertically down the scarf. The good news? There’s only 12 rows of pattern. The bad? This means there’s a very long chain to make first, but never mind you’ll still be able to make one in a weekend and the best news of all? You can download the pattern for FREE from my Ravelry Pattern Store from 10.00 am tomorrow. 

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For a hot colourway I combined Olive, Spice and Lippy but you can of course choose your own colours when you order the kit which will be launched at Unwind this weekend. If you can’t make it along then simply order the kit through the website.

J x