Yarn snobbery and the element of surprise

31 Day Challenge Day 23

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Every month a package of yarn is delivered to my door. Now that’s not unusual, I’m very lucky to have been Knitting’s resident yarn reviewer for some years now and surely, it’s every knitter’s dream job isn’t it? Playing with yarn and then getting to write about it? For each issue the yarns are selected and ‘themed’ by my editor Christine so I’m never quite sure what to expect from the mysterious package until it actually arrives. And you know what, I love that element of surprise.

Because we work a few months in advance the yarns don’t always chime in with the weather at the actual time of writing. I could be knitting with chunky wintry wools in the middle of August or slinky summery cottons in December. (Today it’s a cold, foggy day and there’s a mix of cottons and wool with a touch of mohair thrown in). It’s also really interesting that the yarns reflect just some of what’s available on the market and the thing that really challenges me is that they’re not always yarns I’d choose to knit with were I knitting for myself. Ok I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of a yarn snob. On a personal level I prefer natural fibres such as wool, cotton, viscose and bamboo and as for the luxury of fibres like alpaca, silk and cashmere well, that for me is fibre heaven. I’m drawn to strong colours because they literally make my heart sing with pink, orange, red, lime and turquoise among my favourites whilst washed out, pale shades..well, they just make me feel a little sad. I don’t mind if a yarn is roving, plied, twisted, chainette or eyelash in it’s construction or commercially versus hand dyed in it’s colouring but I’m not a huge fan of 100% synthetic fibres. I think it was learning to knit with nylon as a child (it literally set my teeth on edge) but I understand that they’re durable, can add strength to other fibres and are easy to care for so they have their place allowing lots of people with tighter budgets to knit away to their heart’s content.

The monthly knock of the postman followed by the cry of ‘MORE yarn for you’ marks the arrival of the next 8 yarns that may just shake up my yarny status quo. And rightly so, it’s too easy to get stuck in a rut. I don’t get to choose so they could include all, or more interestingly, none of my ‘got to’ favourites but it really doesn’t matter. My job is to explore them all and tell you what I make of them.

So would you admit that there’s a yarn snob in you? And what, if anything, will you do you do to challenge it?

I’m off to challenge mine, see you tomorrow

Jx

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Bramble Lace Cape, Knitting Magazine issue 123

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I’ve just received my copy of the December issue of Knitting Magazine and looks what’s made the cover… my Bramble Lace Cape!

It’s knitted in my Chunky Baby Alpaca and I chose the wonderfully rich red Raspberry Twist shade because, well just because the theme for this issue was ‘Christmas Elegance’. I think that Emma and the team at Knitting have done another great job with the styling creating a festive vibe without going too over the top and having my design featured on the cover is a great way to end the year.

The cape is very simply shaped as it’s knitted flat on a circular needle (due to the width of the piece) with columns of Bramble Stitch alternating with columns of lace. Once the required length has been knitted and the centre back seam joined, the deep rib collar is added by picking up and working into the side edges. It’s knitted on 6 mm needles which means there’s still enough time left for you to make one for popping on with your party dress this Christmas.

Alternatively you could pop over to the website where readers of Knitting can get an exclusive 10% off the knitting kit. Whether you knit one to give or buy the kit I think either would make a lovely Christmas gift. Just use the code given on page 66 when you get to the checkout http://www.jeanettesloandesign.com/

Until the next post, happy knitting and keep warm

J x

The longest week

So we’ve reached June 21st and thousands have spent the night at Stonehenge to mark the Summer Solstice. Time is a weird thing don’t you think? Perhaps it’s my age. On the one hand this year is flying by, I mean we’re almost through the month of June already, and yet on the other hand there aren’t enough hours in the day to tick off every item on my ‘to do’ list.  I think a lot of it has to do with working for a magazine where you’re always working months in advance.

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A huge amount of planning goes into each issue of Knitting and in order to keep all the contributors in check we all receive deadline dates for our work from Deputy Ed Katy. Normally these are beautifully paced to fit in with our other work commitments so  I can be working on an Ask Jeanette one week, followed by a Yarn Review the week after. This week however I find myself working on one Ask Jeanette, two Yarn Reviews and a Gallery Garment techniques which goes some way to explaining the chaos on my desk that you can see in the photo above. We’re currently working on the Autumn / September issues and whilst it’s normally quite perverse to be knitting swatches of heavy Winter yarns in the middle of June the current UK ‘Summer’ we’re having means it’s actually been quite nice to wrap myself up in a blankie (that was blankie not snuggie, things aren’t THAT bad) and knit to keep warm. It’s also ironic that whilst doing all this work for a magazine called Knitting aside from reviewing yarns I haven’t had a chance to pick up my needles to knit for pleasure this week. Not to worry, there’s always next week.

In the mean time can I ask you to knit a few rows for me? Before you do read this piece  by Franklin Habit in the latest issue of Twist Collective. Called Process This it’ll make you wonder  which camp you fall into –  ‘Process Knitter’ or ‘Product Knitter’. Have a wee think about the project you’re holding in your hands and it’ll tell you….

J x

Triple Twist Stockings

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Just published in the November issue of Knitting Magazine are the Triple Twist Stockings. They’re knitted in my Baby Alpaca DK using the Magic Loop method beginning at the toe with a figure of 8 cast on. I found the Triple Twist Lace pattern in one of my Barbara J Walker books which never strays far away from my desk. Flicking through the pages of any one of the four ‘Treasury’ series never fails to give me inspiration as was the case with this design.

The Triple Twist panels add a sexy feature at each side of the leg with calf increases hidden to allow both the lace and stocking stitch to continue uninterrupted. The lace keeps going to the top of the design where the stocking stitch changes to rib and, because alpaca is a heavier fibre compared to wool, I’ve added in an end of fine knitting elastic  which helps to keep the stockings up when worn.

The pattern is only available when you buy the November issue of the magazine but you can buy the rest of the Triple Twist Stockings kit exclusively from the website from today. You’ll find more details in the new Knitting Kit section here

Hope you like it

J x

Kilim Cushion, Knitting, issue 92, August 2011

The latest issue of ‘Knitting’ has hit the shops and it’s theme is ‘glamping’. What is it? Well glam camping of course, and as one who has just watched coverage of last weekend’s Glastonbury with a nostalgic glint in my eye it would be my preferred choice. I went ( to Glasters ) the year the Pyramid stage burnt down and amongst many bands remember seeing Orbital on the Saturday night. It was an amazing experience and though I would LOVE to go again my days of roughing it on hard ground are over, I’d like to be able to walk the next day thanks. So yes, back to the magazine and therefore my latest design, the Kilim cushion.

Image copyright Jeanette Sloan

It’s a large floor cushion which as it’s name suggests was inspired by not just the patterning but also the beautful faded qualities which are so characteristic of traditional kilims. It’s knitted using the intarsia technique using Sirdar Click Chunky with Wool which I felt was the perfect choice as it has gentle tonal changes throughout the colourway which gives the finished cushion a slightly aged look.

At 60 cm square I wanted to keep the scale of the patterning bold rather than use a smaller motif repeated several times across the design. The main colour ( sh 111 Blazer ) is a wonderfully bright, almost tweedy mix of reds, pinks, oranges, yellow, ecru and even a touch of power blue. This clever blend of so many colours means it would suit just about any colour scheme. As a contrast I chose another yarn by Sirdar, the more neutral  Escape Chunky although don’t let the neutral description make you think of boring ecru, again there are a lot more subtle changes in each colourway, and I used sh 198.

Sketching out my first ideas

The cushion is fabric backed and fastened with 3 large wooden buttons and button loops which are made from yarn rather than fabric in order to tie the whole thing together. I’ll be writing a little tutorial on the making up of this design and adding it to the blog in the next couple of days

Image copyright Jeanette Sloan

Orient Doctor’s Bag, Knitting Magazine issue 88, April 2011

Just like waiting for a bus, no blog posts for ages and then they come along in threes, alright two, but you know what I mean.

Hot on the heels of the Pyjama Case in the March issue of Knitting comes my latest design in Knitting’s April issue 88, the Orient Doctor’s Bag.

I really feel in my element designing bags and with every design I try to improve on the finishing touches that mean the difference between something that looks ‘homemade’ and something that’s been handmade.

This design marries the types of patterning and motifs you might find on Far Eastern carpets with the generous domed Doctor’s bag shape. ‘Orient’ is mainly knitted using a single end of  JC Rennie’s Chunky Aran & Jamieson & Smith’s Shetland Aran though for a couple of colours I used 3 ends of JC Rennie’s Unique Shetland 4ply to bring it up to an approximate Aran weight. I also had to make a conscious effort to stay away from my usual palette of Autumnal browns & reds or bright pinks & orange and work with what for me is a fresher colour story, ocean blue, azure, mint, marzipan, white and ochre.

The gently curved sides of the bag are charted and worked in intarsia combined with Swiss darning to create the ‘background’ patterning. On top of that twisted chainstitch, regular chainstitch, French knots and bullion knots are used to work the 3 dimensional tendrils, flowers and buds. As with my Eastwood bag ‘Orient’s base creates a contrast both in terms of pattern and texture and because the base of the bag is likely to get the dirtiest I chose to use the dark blue ( Ocean Force sh 1048 ) as the main colour for the stranded pattern accented with white and ochre which also picks up the colour of the bag’s brass feet. A purl stitch stripe breaks up an otherwise plain stocking stitch top panel and strongly coloured horizontal stripes focus the eye on the chunky zip fastener and its tassled pull ( the zip is inserted after the bag has been felted ).

Once again I’ve been drooling over the pages of product over at UHandbag.com and chosen the best hardware I could find to give the bag a professional touch. The bronze bag  feet, chocolate brown Italian Piped Leather handles and bag bottom are all available there. (Thanks Lisa).

I’ll be posting a tutorial on how to make up the bag base for this design in the next couple of weeks. There’s been a slight ‘oops’ in the printed instructions on page 80 of the magazine and the key to symbols is missing. Apologies all round but I’ve added one here