I was very excited when Jean Moss asked me to be part of the blog tour for her new book, Sweet Shawlettes. Shawlettes is a a word that's been used a lot in the last year or two. Normally it's used to describe a small shawl just covering the shoulders. In this book it means various designs that cover the neck and/or shoulders. There are shawls, capes, scarves and other pretty things to adorn and warm your neck.
Sweet Shawlettes is divided into 4 chapters called 'country', 'couture', 'folk' and 'vintage'. There's a variety of designs covering various techniques making the book suitable for all knitters. The designs are so inspiring and will hopefully inspire you to try new techniques.
The designs range from 'necklace style' scarves such as the Garland Necklet
and the Evergreen Scarf to more substantial 'neck warmers'. Both these scarves look like so much fun.
As a lace lover, my favourite design in this book has to be 'Mantilla' which is a Spanish inspired shawl. When I first looked at the photos I thought this was a rectangular shawl but it's actually worked in the round. If I had time this design would be on my needles straight away.
The gorgeous Vamp Boa is another one of my favourite pieces from the book. It's knitted in Rowan Kidsilk Haze which is a gorgeous yarn. If you like making gifts for your friends, I think this would be perfect. Kidsilk Haze comes in such a huge variety of yummy colours, you'll be spoilt for choice when choosing your colour combinations.
The Bronte Fichu is another lace shawl I like. As the name indicates it's inspired by Wuthering Heights. The pattern does not have charts and looks easy enough for a lace novice to tackle.
There are plenty of non-lace pieces I like in this book too. This chunky looking cable cowl, Drift, is perfect for chilly winter days. It's knitted in Rowan Big Wool which makes it a very quick knit. Most knitters should be able to knit up one of these in a weekend. I know Christmas is a way off yet but this is a good item to put on your Christmas knitting list - it's quick, fun and fashionable.
The Penumbra Cowl is a piece of knitting magic. Look at those stripes. Aren't they pretty?
This cowl uses shadow knitting to create an optical illusion. This is definitely on my to knit list. I'm determined I'll take a project designed by someone else on our holiday to Spain in the summer and I think this may be it.
There are capes in the book too. The Purple Patch Shrug is perfect for spring and summer. If, like me, you like buttons and have a button stash this is the perfect opportunity to show off some of your pretty buttons.
Animal prints are always popular and this Kitty Capelet is a perfect example. Perfect to warm your shoulder from fall through to spring and it's knitted in Rowan Felted Tweed which makes it even more perfect.
As well as being a fantastic designer with years of experience, Jean also runs knitting and gardening tours. I'm very keen on travelling and as a teenager my plan was to become a travel agent, I'd like to combine my passion for knitting with my passion for travelling one day. Jean agreed to answer some of my questions and I started by asking her about her knitting and gardening tours.
Jean, please tell us more about your Knitting & Gardening Tours:
Our tours were born out of a desire to share some of my favourite places with other knitters. Back in 2000 I was invited to do a workshop at the Rowan Mill in Holmfirth to a group of lovely American visitors on a UK tour hosted by Vogue Knitting. My partner, Philip Mercer, and I were struck by the fact that their American guides were not familiar with deepest Yorkshire at all.
Reasoning we could do that, we launched our own programme of tours, initially in the UK, but now further afield to Morocco last year and Ireland this year. We only visit places we know well, so that we can offer our visitors a personal off-the-beaten-track experience. This was made possible in Morocco by the fact that we have a family member who has lived in Casablanca for many years.
Our aim is to offer the very best of the British knitting scene and at the same time visit beautiful gardens.. Although knitting and yarn feature heavily in our tours, I'm an avid gardener, so the idea was to combine my two passions in one holiday. We also try to mix in great food, quirky people and places, and local musicians. The aim is to create a house party atmosphere, where our visitors can unwind with kindred spirits, rubbing shoulders with top designers like Alice Starmore, Sasha Kagan, Martin Storey, Erika Knight, Debbie Bliss, Sue Duckworth, Debbie Abrahams & Sarah Hatton.
Some of our people started a special Travellers with Jean Moss group on Ravelry, where you can speak with past and present participants and get their feedback. Friendships are made and cemented, and many come back year after year. This is why we’re constantly on the lookout for new locations. Morocco last year, Ireland this year, next year we're considering Amsterdam and the Peloponese in Greece - two other destinations we know and love.
What's your favorite knitting technique?
This changes all the time as I'm a technique junkie. There's so much to learn in knitting and you can never know it all, so with this in mind I try to make each design a mini-tutorial for at least one technique. That said, my fave of the moment would be shadow knitting.
Has the internet affected your design career? How?
The internet has changed everything. When I started I saw myself as a fashion-led knit designer, producing fair isle, aran, lace and intarsia sweaters which were difficult to knit, had limited production and therefore had a very high price point. However, the cult of the knitted stitch has superseded the fashion angle now. Knitters are into techniques, relaxing with their knitting and sharing the fruits of their labours with their friends and the web is a fantastic tool for facilitating this. If you look at the most successful books on knitting right now they are all about techniques – there are far fewer books which are purely collections of designs. Initially, as I was working with several US design houses and also selling my own collections, my main interest was to produce couture pieces, but recently I consider each design from a more knitterly point of view, striving to combine fashion with interesting knitting for all abilities in my patterns.
What's on your needles right now?
I’ve always got several swatches on the go for current designs. At the moment there are various projects, either for magazines, workshop samples or future books. However, when I’m not working I love to knit mindlessly. As my work involves a lot of head work, I tend to knit no brainers for pleasure, favourites being garter stitch baby sweaters, as in the last five years my kids have started having babies of their own. I have to admit to being a product as well as a process knitter and tiny garments are far more likely to get finished! I love being surrounded by adazzling array of colourful yarns which lift my spirits every time I look at them. I often grab a ball, cast on a manageable number of stitches, pick an easy stitch and just let the yarn shine – et voilà, before you know it, you have a beautiful wrap.
I’m in full swing swatching for my next book now. At this stage I can’t say a lot about it other than it’s another Taunton book, developing one aspect of Sweet Shawlettes and applying it to small projects
I hope you'll agree that this sounds like a great book. Taunton Press has agreed to give away a copy of the book. To be in with a chance of winning, please leave a comment telling me what would be your favourite knitting tour destination. Make sure you leave the comment before midnight UK on Sunday 18 March and I'll announce the winner next Monday. You also need to leave either your Ravelry name or a contact e-mails so I can contact you if you win. If you don't want to wait for the give away, you can buy the book on Amazon.
Thank you to Jean for asking me to be part of this blog tour. Go and visit the blogs below to read their review of Sweet Shawlettes. Each blogger looks at the book from a different angle and I've found it very interesting reading through the blog posts.
Wed 7 Mar Jen Arnall-Culliford Knitwear Jen Arnall-Culliford
Thurs 8 Mar Needled Kate Davies
Fri 9 Mar Rock and Purl Ruth Garcia-Alcantud
Sat 10 Mar Woolly Wormhead Woollly Wormhead
Mon 12 Mar Yarnscape Alison Barker
Tues 13 Mar Confessions Of A YarnAddict Anniken Allis
Wed 14 Mar Joli House Amanda France
Thurs 15 Mar This Is Knit Lisa & Siobhan
Fri 16 Mar The Knitting Institute Katy Evans
Sat 17 Mar Life n Knitting Carla Meijsen
Sun 18 mar ConnieLene Connie
Mon 19 Mar Just Call Me Ruby Susan Crawford
Tues 20 Mar Tiny Owl Knits Stephanie Dosen
Wed 21 mar Ulla-Bella Anita Tørmoen
Thurs 22 Mar Heike Knits Heike Gittins
I'll leave you with the Polperro Cape, which is inspired by a small, very pretty fishing village near where I live in Cornwall. Polperro is special to me as it was one of the first places Simon and I went for a walk when we were first going out. It's also my Mum's favourite place to visit when she's here and my favourite place to buy handmade fudge. Maybe I should knit the Polperro Cape for my Mum. Her birthday is not until November so it's doable.
Tomorrow I'm hoping to publish a former magazine design, which would have fitted perfectly in to Jean's Sweet Shawlette book.