Friday, July 29, 2016

The Gondola KAL - Inspiration

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you may have noticed that I went on a fabulous holiday recently. Part of that holiday was three days in Venice. Venice had a big impact on me. I went as a child but couldn't remember much. Walking the narrow streets and along the canals and travelling on the canals really inspired me. It's such a beautiful city, full of history. 

While I was in Venice, I kept thinking about design ideas. I took hundred of photos as I drank in every aspect of this city. We travelled around Venice and the surrounding islands by boat.The pastel colours of the houses, the water, the narrow streets - it's all so beautiful. 

So I decided to use Venice as an inspiration for the Gondola KAL. Gondolas are the crescent boats that travel around the canals of Venice. They're incredibly expensive so we didn't actually go on one as we were trying to do Venice on a shoestring budget. But we nearly crashed into a few as we travelled around on the water buses. I decided I wanted to design a crescent shape so I decided to name the shawl Gondola after the venetian gondolas.

My yarn, Schoppel Best Of... (colour 2233) have similar shades to the faded pastel shades of Venetian buildings. The faded grandeur of Venice is one of the things I love most about the city. In northern Europe, most of the buildings would have been designated as derelict but in the bright sunshine of southern Europe it looks completely different and in Venice it reminds me of the city's former glory days.

If you missed my blogpost on Wednesday announcing the Gondola KAL, you can read all about it here. To sign up, just download the pattern info page which has details about the yarn, needles, how it all works as well as a chart to use for swatching (the lace pattern is charted and written out).

To chat about the KAL or ask questions, do join my Ravelry group. I will not answer questions about the Gondola pattern by e-mail, so please ask all questions in the Ravelry group.

Are you ready to cast on, do share your yarn choices in Instagram by using the hashtag #gondolaKAL so we can all see it. I'm doing a Periscope broadcast on Monday afternoon where I will show you how to cast on and get started with this shawl. The first part of the pattern will also be published on Monday.

Any questions? Ask below or in the Ravelry group

Happy knitting x

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Something Exciting For August

Yesterday I taught my last workshop before my summer break. In August, I'm not teaching any workshops and, although I love teaching, I am looking forward to having a break from teaching. So far this year has been very busy.

I do have other work to do in August: several magazine deadlines, work on my book, other designs, getting ready for my autumn classes and a few other things but for a while I've fancied trying something new.

I haven't done a mystery KAL (knitalong) for a while so I thought I would host a mystery KAL with a difference. This will be a kind of design-a-long too. Through blog posts and Periscope broadcasts (which you can watch on the Periscope website if you don't have the Periscope app) I will be taking you through how I design a small shawl. And at the same time, I'm inviting you to knit along with me. 

I have decided on the shape and I've decided on one of the stitch patterns I will be using. But that's it. I will show you how I decide on which other stitch patterns to incorporate, how I chart the lace pattern and write up the pattern. 

Each week I will publish the next section of the pattern so you can download it and knit along with me. This pattern has not been written up yet, it's not been knitted yet. So if I make mistakes along the way, there may be ripping back to do. I've no idea yet, apart from the shape, of what the final shawl will look like.

I've chosen my yarn and today I will give you the yarn and needle details so you can get ready if you want to knit along with me. To sign up for the Gondola KAL, download the pattern here.

You can join and start at any time in August. The pattern will be released in bitesize chunks on Ravelry weekly. Sign up here (by downloading the pattern) and you will receive an update each time the pattern is updated. At the end of August, I will close the pattern listing, send the pattern to be tech edited and get the photos taken. Once the final pattern is ready, it will be uploaded and those who signed up during the free period can download it (still for free) but for anyone else it will be a normal paid for pattern. So if you sign up by the end of August, it'll be free. If you buy the pattern after August, it won't be free. Either way you'll receive all future updates to the pattern.

As well as watching Periscope broadcasts (if you watch them live, you can chat to me and ask me questions), there will also be chat in my Ravelry group, so do make sure you join the group. Please ask all pattern questions in the Ravelry group or during live Periscope broadcasts. I will not reply to pattern questions via e-mail.

You can also share photos on Instagram and tag your photos #gondolaKAL so we can all see them. Anyone who finishes by end of August and posts a finished photo in the Ravelry group will be included in a prize draw.

I've never done anything quite like this before and I'm a bit nervous about it but I'm hoping it'll be a bit of summer fun.

You can sign up now. You may guess from the name what my inspiration is but I'll be back tomorrow to share more about my inspiration and reveal the shape of the shawl. 

In the meantime, don't forget to sign up and download the swatching details and information. The swatching is optional. Knitting to the correct tension isn't essential for a shawl but if your tension varies, your shawl may end up much bigger or smaller than expected and you may need more or less yarn.

So will you join me on this adventure? Sign up here.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

On The Needles - The Holiday Edition

Normally I update you on my knitting every Wednesday but I've got an announcement I'm making on the blog tomorrow so I'm a day early. I took a lot of knitting with me on holiday but didn't do as much as I'd hoped to do. 

I cast on for a pair of Lollipop socks before we left. I used my Creme Brulee pattern to knit these top down socks. I could have finished them on our holiday but by the time we were due to leave Venice, I only had half the foot left. I knew that wouldn't be enough for the trip home so I put these socks in my suitcase and cast on for another pair instead.

I took some beautiful sock yarn from Snailyarn with me. Snailyarn is an Italian indie dyer and I got a couple of skeins from her last year. I wanted to knit on these while we were in Itally and finally cast on for the last day. When we got to the airport, I'd only done about 5 rounds of rib. I knitted the remaining 65 rounds of the leg while we were waiting in the airport (we did get there hours too early). I knit the entire heel flap after boarding, while we were waiting for take off. Again, we had about 1/2 hour delay due to missing our take off slot. I then turned the heel, picked up stitches for the gusset and worked through most of the gusset decreases during our flight. Again, I'm using my Creme Brulee pattern for a pair of top down socks for me. The yarn is dreamy to knit with.

I cast on for the Caterpillargreen shawl before we left but wasn't really feeling it. Then we visited Santorini and the volcanic landscape and blue water reminded me of the colours in this shawl and I suddenly wanted to finish it. I've just cast this off yesterday evening. I didn't get that far on this while we were on the holiday but I've knitted a lot since we got home. The pattern will be revealed in September.

Before we left, I was working on a new poncho design which will be part of the Lace Wear Volume Two Collection which will be published this autumn. I wanted to finish this before we left for our holiday but I didn't manage it. I've been unwell since we came home and I've done a lot of knitting and watching Netflix and on Saturday this poncho was done. It's currently in the blocking queue which is rather long at the moment.

Since I've been home, I've also done a few rounds on my sparkly Opal socks. I'm on the second sock and the leg is over half done so I'm nearly there. This sock has been living in my hand-bag and I work on it when I'm out and about. The picture below was taken before I left for my holiday and the yellow string is the waste yarn for the afterthought heel.

I'm not keen to cast on a new project at the moment. On Monday I'll be casting on for something which I'll be revealing tomorrow. Until then I'll try to finish these two pairs of socks and I need to do some swatching for future projects, design commissions and my book. Make sure you come back tomorrow or sign up to my newsletter for my big announcement. I've got something fun planned for August and it'll be free.

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Monday Mini Tip - Double Decreases at Beginning and End of Pattern Repeats

Welcome to another Monday Mini Tip. Today, I thought I'd talk about double decreases and how they impact pattern repeats when they are placed at the beginning and end of a pattern repeat.

A double decrease is a decrease that decreases from three to one stitch and include sl1, k2tog, psso/sk2po (slipe one stitch, knit two stitches together, pass slipped stitch over), sl2, k1, psso/s2kpo (slip two stitches, knit one stitch, pass slipped stitches over), k3tog (knit three stitches together), sssk (slip three stitches knitwise (one at a time), insert left needle into the front of all three stitches and knit together). There are more but these are the most commonly used double decreases.

In the video below I use two charts - Chart A and B. Below are the two charts and chart key. Don't worry too much if you don't like charts, you don't really need to understand them to understand this tutorial.

Chart A:
 Chart B:

You can also view the video here.

If you have any questions, please ask in the comments below. All comments are read by me before they appear on the post, so please be patient if your comment doesn't appear instantly.

Previous Monday Mini Tip posts and other tutorials can be found on my Tutorials page.

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Lost In Venice

A few days ago we got back from a fantastic family holiday. I blogged about part 1 of our holiday. The last two days of the cruise were a bit mixed. Sailing back towards Venice from the Greek Islands we had half a day in Dubrovnik. It was HOT!

Everyone had told us we had to walk the walls of the old city of Dubrovnik so that's what we did. I didn't actually make it all the way around. I gave up halfway as it was just too hot. But it was worth it. The old town of Dubrovnik is beautiful and quite small. The view from the wall was fantastic. I'd definitely like to go back to Croatia and Dubrovnik. The water looked very inviting but we didn't have time for a swim.

After a rainy day in Ancona, Italy, and a rough night's sailing, we arrived back in Venice. Vanessa had a bad cold while we were on the cruise and when we got to Venice Emily had caught it. We left the ship and headed to our hotel in Venice. Checked in and got on the bus to go into the city. About halfway, Emily was sick on the floor of the bus. A helpful lady gave us a pack of wet wipes and Simon cleaned up Emily and the bus as well as he could. Simon and Emily headed back to the hotel while Vanessa and I continued in to Venice for an afternoon of exploring .I was worried Emily had caught a sickness bug and that we might all get ill so thought it best to get on with exploring Venice while we were fit to do it. Turned out it was only a bad cold and the next day Emily was well enough to join us.

I'd visited Venice as a child and I know it was beautiful but I'd forgotten just how beautiful Venice is. The narrow streets, the old buildings, the canals, the faded grandeur - its all stunning! We enjoyed wandering the streets and getting lost.

We had two full days and two half days in Venice. On the first half day and full day, we explored on foot. Walking aggravates my chronic upperback/shoulder/neck pain a lot so on the second full day I couldn't face anymore walking so we decided to get a day's travel card which gave us unlimited travel on buses and water buses. Venice has an excellent water bus system. You can travel around Venice as well as to the many islands in the lagoon and we took full advantage of this.

Venice is known for glass making and I saw this beautiful art piece in a courtyard in Venice.

We headed to the island of Murano which is famous for glass production. There are several glass blowing studios and a glass museum. Most of the glass blowing studios charge to watch demos. I've seen glass blowing lots of times before so we decided not to pay. The shops stock beautiful glass art, jewellery, table ware, vases and lots more.

The impressive statue above is displayed in a square on Murano and is made of glass. Murano has narrow canals and is just as beautiful as Venice.

Later in the day, we got back on the boat and headed out to Burano which was about a 45min boat ride but well worth the trip. Burano has canals just like the other islands in the lagoon but it has a completely different feel to Venice itself.

Burano is known for lace making and brightly coloured houses. The houses are beautiful and I loved the colours. There were lots of little shops selling lace souvenirs but it all looked a bit tacky.

There were some more upmarket shops selling beautiful lace garments and one shop selling beautiful linen clothes which were made by the owner and her family. We were trying to do Venice on the cheap so I didn't buy anything but it was very tempting.

On the final half day we headed back in to Venice and had just under an hour left on our travel card. We worked out that if we got on a water bus quickly, we could ride the length of the Grand Canal to Salute (at the end of the Grand Canal near San Marcos - St Marks Square). There's a beautiful cathedral there which had free admission. Because it was relatively early for many tourists, there were fewer gondolas and water taxis ferrying tourists around and more service boats delivering parcels, frozen good, drinks etc to the businesses in the city.

Below is a photo taken from the water bus as we approach the end of the Grand Canal and the cathedral (you can see the dome) at Salute.

I really enjoyed Venice and I hope I can go back one day. It's an expensive city and we were trying to do it on the cheap which was a struggle but it's possible and I'm so glad we decided to add three nights to the end of our cruise and stay on in Venice.

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Saturday, July 23, 2016

No more Artesano

Two weeks ago, a couple of days before I left for my holiday, I got an e-mail from Artesano to say they were going into liquidation. From what I understand they went into liquidation that same day. 

Artesano made the news public by posting a notice on their Facebook page.  The notice is no longer there. I shared their notice to my Facebook page and that's not there either. I assume that they took the notice down which also took it down from other Facebook pages it was shared to.

I had no prior warning that Artesano were closing. I have taught at Artesano four times this year (three workshops each time) and was booked to teach another 15 workshops this year. Obviously those workshops won't happen now. When I taught at Artesano I stayed with the owners, Tom and Jenny. My impression from my last visit in May was that they were struggling financially but I had no idea that things were so bad.

I know some people had already booked spaces on the workshops and had paid Artesano. I just wanted to let those of you affected by this know that my workshops at Artesano were organised by them and the bookings/payments were taken by them. They then paid me a set fee for each class. I have not received any money for any future classes I was due to teach there and in fact, they still owe me money for the workshops in May.

I know the company has gone in to receivership and my understanding is that anyone who had placed orders with them (including workshops) which they had not received yet, will be listed as creditors and contacted by the receivers. That's all I really know. 

I have not heard any more from Artesano since this happened. I'm really sorry this has happened. And I'm sorry to anyone who had booked future workshops with me and who have now lost out financially. I wish there was something I could do to help you. I'm also sorry for Tom and Jenny and their family that they have to go through this. I'm sure it's a difficult time for them also.

I'm still teaching a lot this autumn and you can see all my autumn workshops here. I'm still working on my 2017 teaching schedule. If you know someone who might be interested in hosting workshops, please ask them to contact me (e-mail me on

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Friday, July 22, 2016

The Knitter issue 100

Before I share what's in issue 100 of The Knitter, I just want to let you know that there's 15% off in the YarnAddict Shop until Sunday 24 July 2016. Use discount code: italia.

The Knitter's 100th issue hit the shops this week and I'm so excited to have a new beautiful shawl design, Beausoleil, in this issue. If you subscribe you get a second shawl pattern by me too.

Create a shawl you’ll treasure for years to come with this beautiful intricate lacework design. Beausoleil is a beautiful crescent shawl is worked from the top down, using a combination of garter stitch and lace on a stocking stitch background. The combination of lace patterns is breathtaking and the lacy edging is emphasised by incorporating beads.

I used four balls of Eden Cottage Yarns Milburn 4ply which is a Bluefaced Leicester Wool and Silk blend and comes in 50g balls so the shawl takes a total of 200g (800m) of 4ply/fingering weight yarn.

Beausoleil is a crescent shawl which starts with a garter tab cast on and a provisional cast on. I will be doing a Monday Mini Tip Tutorial on this very soon. I recommend using the Turkish/Eastern cast on which is normally used for toe up socks to create a closed toe cast on but with a tiny modification it can be used as a quick and easy provisional cast on. However, you can use any provisional cast on or just cast on the three stitches required and when you've finished working the garter tab, you need to pick up three stitches from the cast on edge. With a provisional cast on those three stitches are already there ready to knit.

The edging has a few beads which adds a bit of glimmer and weight to the edging and helps the shawl to hang beautifully when you wear it. I've done a video demo on adding beads using the crochet hook method. The beads are optional and the shawl will look just as beautiful without the beads. I used Debbie Abrahams seed beads and I have a selection in the YarnAddict Shop.

I've got other tutorials which you may find helpful if you're tackling a lace shawl for the first time. 

This issue of The Knitter included a booklet of their favourite patterns. I'm so honoured to have one of my patterns included among some of the top names in the British knitting world. Irma (pictured above) is also available to buy directly from me and was originally published in issue 54 of The Knitter.

If you are a subscriber (print copies only), you will also see a third pattern from me in this issue. Exmoor (pictured above) is a small shawlette knitted in just one ball of Zauberball. It's a sideways, asymmetrical triangular shawl with an easy lace pattern. Perfect for knitters new to lace and shawls or as a quick knit for experienced knitters. If you're not a subscriber, I will make this pattern available when The Knitter's exclusivity period expires.

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