Riley Stripe Wrap, The Knitter issue 122

IMG_4271There’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.

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‘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.

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Cataract 3 Bridget Riley

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. RileyStripe5JSloan

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.

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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.

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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.

Happy knitting

J x

 

 

 

 

 

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Last time of asking

KM178coverIt’s a dreary and wet Saturday morning and the March issue of Knitting Magazine has just hit my doorstep. Great you may think, a perfect excuse to hunker down with a(nother) cuppa and linger over the designs, articles and reviews held within the covers. But this issue  is a little different for me as it marks the end of an era ….my last Ask Jeanette column.

I was very privileged to have been asked by Knitting’s previous editor to take over the column from Jean Moss and I can’t believe that was something like 10 years ago. Within that time I also took on other features including the yarn reviews and truly enjoyed all the drooling, petting, swatching and writing about yarn for ‘work’. It’s truly been one of the best jobs in the world. But, as you’ll know if you read this blog regularly life has taken a few unexpected turns in the last couple of years with the diagnosis of my brain tumours. Although mercifully they were both successfully removed in 2016 the surgery has left me quite a different person and no doubt along with getting older, has left me with a number of difficulties. This may sound odd but I no longer feel ‘present’ in much of what I do so on a good day I’ll write something – much of it back to front or spelt incorrectly (thank god for autocorrect) – but without a great deal of focus or concentration which means constant reading and re-reading in order to try and get it to penetrate my brain. Even then I may come back to it 24 hours later and it feels like reading someone else’s work. Alternatively on a bad day there are the migraines which I’d hoped to have seen the back of after the craniotomy.  Fellow migraine sufferers will know how debilitating these can be and despite being caffeine free for over 5 years and trying to avoid cheese (boo!) & red wine (boo hoo!), getting lots of rest and drinking lots of water they still rear their ugly heads.

Unfortunately all this this has meant that trying to meet deadlines has become increasingly more difficult along with trying to juggle looking after my elderly parents day to day. I felt that something had to and has to change. So I took the difficult decision to bring to an end most of my work for Knitting Magazine. You’ll find my final column on page 44 but you won’t be getting rid of me entirely as I’ll still be responsible for the A to Z of Techniques along with the occasional design. As for who will replace me I’m very happy to say that the reigns will be very ably taken over by the wonderful, and hugely talented Sarah Hazell who I was fortunate to meet only last year at Ally Pally and will hopefully see a bit more this coming year.

Thank you for letting me into your favourite knitting magazine. It’s been an absolute pleasure to write for you. I hope you’ve enjoyed picking my brains over the last 10 years…it’s just time to put less stress on what’s left of them.

J x

 

50 sense

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I know it’s a couple of days into 2018 but it’s never to late to wish you a Happy New Year! Well obviously saying it in August might be a little daft but you know what I mean. Happily for me the dawn of a new year also means celebrating another birthday and this year it was the biggie – the belter – the big 5 – 0.

If you’ve read this blog for a while you’ll know that there have been several interesting occurrences in my life (I normally hate the phrase ‘challenging’ but that is what they’ve been). A number of serious illnesses over the last 30 years meant that I genuinely didn’t think I’d get to 50 at all but I am truly blessed to have done so meaning this New Year’s Eve celebrations were extra special. If you follow me over on instagram (@jeanettesloan) you’ll have seen a number of videos where I’m dancing around like an idiot and to be honest I make no apologies for that. I’ve embraced my 50th birthday with all the enthusiasm of a small child and whilst that meant that a whole evening prancing about the lounge in high heels made my knees and ankles agony when I woke the next morning I’m still giggling about the amazing time I had surrounded by the some of the best people I’m privileged to know. Among them are my friends Lee & Nicci who part way through the evening, produced this incredible birthday cake which literally made my eyes well up with tears. I’ve known Lee since we lived up in Edinburgh and have come to know Nicci over the last few years and for this beautiful couple to take so much time and trouble to create this stunning confection for a knitty old lady like me really blew me away.

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Nicci & Lee are huge foodies and with Lee being an art director with a perfectionist’s eye for detail it’s no surprise that the cake is so wonderfully bright, skilfully executed and of course ….delicious.  (It had a spiced apple cake centre and the balls of ‘wool’ were made from sponge mixed with chocolate ganache). Nicci & Lee are a lovely couple and as they’re getting married this summer whoever is tasked with making their wedding cake had better up their game.

You’d assume that reaching the ripe old age of 50 I’d have some sage words of advice to give? Nah, not really. That the new year has prompted me to write another long list of resolutions I’m bound to break before the month of January is out? Not a chance.

My only resolution is NOT to make any New Year’s resolutions. Having reached this ripe old new age I’ll be holding my family and friends more closely (sorry guys) and enjoying every moment of the new challenges (that word again) that 2018 will bring. A number of them will take me away from knitting but the ‘pins’ will never be too far away. Like many of us I’ve put on weight over the festive period and knitting in front of the telly is the only thing that will stop me stuffing my face with food. So as part of spreading the love I’ve got a bit of a promotion going in my Ravelry Pattern Store where there’s 50% off all my patterns for the next 5 days (discount ends at midnight 8th January GMT) just click here

Thanks for reading my ramblings and whatever you’re doing in 2018 I wish you love, peace, happiness and health

 

J x

 

 

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.

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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

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

J x

Building the kitchen from heaven

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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.

 

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Mess with more mess beyond
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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!

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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?).

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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.

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

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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.

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My favourite spot in the Kitchen From Heaven

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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.

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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?

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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)

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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