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Monday, March 26, 2012

A Spring Weekend

ETA Tuesday 27: Check out this post on the Fyberspates blog about my Scrumptious design for this month's Let's Knit.

Before I tell you about our lovely weekend, I better mention that I've been dyeing yarn & it's been drying really quickly outside in the sunshine. It's the first time this year I've dried the yarn outside. Below are some of the yarns in the update. Sorry the pics are so small. But aren't the colours beautiful. I have some new yarns. Silky Camel Lace is a luscious blend of silk and camel. It has 800m so is perfect for many of my shawl patterns. BFL Dream Lace has replaced Silky BFL Lace. BFL Dream Lace has more silk than the old blend with 55% Bluefaced Leicester wool and 45% silk. It's gorgeous, soft and silky and i've got a skein ready to knit with already. I've also got some Silken Sock, Super Merino Sock and Twinkletoes Socks. All the new yarn can be found here.
I've got an idea for a new sock pattern and possibly also handwarmers. I'm keen to cast on and may take it on holiday with me over Easter. I've been eyeing up some of the new yarns and I'm particularly keen on these ones, they're all Super Merino Sock:
 You won't be surprised to see that there are purple and lilac/blue colours on my favourite list.
 But I wasn't expecting this red coral to be on my list of 'want to knit with' yarns. But I just love it.
On Saturday we got up reasonably early again and took Sam out for a walk. It was just me & Simon. We drove up on the moors to Sibleyback Lace. There is a 3 mile path around the lake. The first thing that struck me was how full the reservoir was. Last October it looked like this, which was the lowest I've ever seen it:
But now it's nice and full. It was a beautiful sunny day with a few walkers, joggers, cyclists and fishermen out and about but not too busy. 
 Look, the water is right up to the edge all the way around now.
 The lake is surrounded by fields inhabited by a lot of sheep an a few cows. The lake is popular for sailing and windsurfing and has a sailing centre. We saw kids getting ready for sailing lessons when we walked past.
 At one end of the lake there's an island which I've not noticed before.
 And there's horses in a field too. These 2 were really beautiful.
 As well as fields, there's also 3 small woods along this walk.
Sunday was another lovely day and we spent the afternoon at the Eden Project where Emily and Simon did the Sports Relief Mile while Vanessa and I relaxed.

I may be back with another blog post and a knitting/crochet update before I go in to hospital on Wednesday for my gall bladder op. After tomorrow it may take me a bit longer to post parcels as I'll have to rely on my family to go to the post office for me. I'll also be announcing the next continental knitting and professional finishing techniques online courses in the next few days.

Have a good week & take a look at this.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Winner & A New Toy

First, thank you to all of you who entered the Jean Moss 'Sweet Shawlettes' prize draw. The winner is Luthaisea. If that's you then please leave your name, address and e-mail address in a comment (which I won't publish ofcourse) and I'll organise the prize to be sent to you.

I had planned a long post but I've got too much to do today so I'll just show you my latest toy. On Saturday I bought a table top tripod. This means i can film videos for my online classes without any help from family members. I'm planning to play without later this week.
There will be a shop update either today or tomorrow. I'll let you know when it's all gone live. I've got some beautiful new yarns listed.

I've got a new WIP and some progress on my granny square blanket to show you next time I blog.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Tulips & Sock Design

The Tulips shawlette was published in The Knitter last summer. The sample was knitted in a gorgeous merino/silk blend from Artisan Yarns. It's the same blend as my Supreme Sock and the colour is gorgeous.
The pattern is now available to you all. This is a small sock yarn shawlette and takes just one skein of sock yarn (400m). If you've not bought your Mum a Mothers Day present yet (it's Mothers Day in the UK on Sunday), then why not buy the pattern and give her an IOU and knit her one. I'm sure she won't mind waiting.
Of if your Mum is a knitter, why not gift her the pattern so she can knit her own shawl.
Thank you to my lovely model, Sarah who did a great job modelling for me. We did have a problem with the sunshine on the day we did the photos shoot. The photos were taken on the epic photoshoot on a very cold but very sunny January morning.
Thank you also to Bronagh who did the tech editing for the pattern. The pattern will be available for wholesale to yarn shops very soon too. I'll be ordering another batch of patterns last week.
I had some more good news this week, I finally got a date for my gall bladder operation. I've been waiting for the op since October but I was first diagnosed in July so it's been a long time. My gall stones have been behaving themselves lately, I've been careful and stuck to a very low fat diet but this morning it was bad, not painful but I just had a bad tummy so I obviously ate something my gall stones didn't like yesterday. The op is on 28 March which is a week before we go on holiday so it's perfect timing. I was praying for a date that week as it meant I didn't have to cancel our holiday or any workshops.

Do you like knitting socks? Would you like to learn how to design your own socks? if you have some basic knowledge of sock knitting (either top down or toe up) then you may be interested in my workshop at Spin A Yarn on Tuesday. There is still a few spaces left. You'll learn everything you need to know to design your own socks and you'll get a chance to start your own design during class. Contact Spin A Yarn to book.

If you haven't entered the prize draw for a copy of Jean Moss' Sweet Shawlettes yet then do enter on the post below. The prize draw closes Sunday night. I'll announce the winner on Monday.

Have a wonderful weekend. I'll be doing a lot of knitting (deadline) and I'm hoping to fit in some spinning and machine knitting too.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sweet Shawlettes by Jean Moss

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.

Monday, March 12, 2012

New Design & A Discount

The new issue of Let's Knit (issue 53) is out and I've got a gorgeous cardigan in this issue. Sandra is knitted in Fyberspates Scrumptious dk which is amazing to knit with.
This is a sideways knit in 4 pieces and features the same interesting cross stitch pattern as my Mar Menor shawlette. If you're unsure about how to work the cross stitch you can watch my video tutorial here.  This is a lovely cardigan which will take you through several seasons and it's fun to knit.

The Celtic Knot scarf was among my first self-published lace designs and was first published in 2007. My pattern writing skills were basic then and so were my charting skills. Since then I've learnt tons and upgraded my charting and desktop publishing software. I've been working on updating my older patterns over the last few months and Celtic Knot is now ready for re-release. This pattern has new photos, new charts/written instructions and new layout. It's also been freshly tech-edited. Thank you to Bronagh for doing that for me.
I knitted Celtic Knot in Handmaiden Lace Silk which is gorgeous heavy lace weight but this scarf will work in any lace or sock yarn (4ply or fingering weight yarn). The pattern tells you which needle size to use for the 2 yarn thicknesses.
The Celtic Knot features a fabulous celtic knot lace pattern and I added a fringe to the ends but that's optional.
As a special offer to re-introduce the Celtic Knot design, I'm offering 25% off until the end of the week (Sunday 18 March). To take advantage of this discount use code: celticblog.

The Celtic Knot would look stunning in one of my new lace yarns. I'm dyeing up a batch of this yarn tomorrow. But it look stunning un-dyed too. I struggled to get good photos today, it was either bright sunshine or shade. This photo is fairly accurate (at least on my screen but screens do vary) and I decided to list some un-dyed skeins. You can find them here.
 I'm desperate to wind a skein and cast on for a new design but this week I need to focus on finishing a secret design and doing lots of swatching for a BIG magazine deadline. Once that's all done I'll be casting on for a new design for the April shipment of the new Lace Lovers Club, which is now full, but I've reserved 5 memberships to sell at Wonderwool, so if you're desperate to join us, I may be persuaded.

Another yarn I listed today is this gorgeous Organic Merino Sock. I dyed a few of this colourway when I dyed the February Not Just Socks Club yarns (which was the last shipment for the Not Just Socks Club). I love this colour. It's AMAZING. I've wound a skein and done some swatching with it and I'm keeping one skein for a future shawlette design.But again, I won't be casting on that yet. There'll be more Organic Merino Sock later this week too.
We spent the weekend in Oxfordshire. On Saturday I taught at Purlescence (I'll be back there in May) which was great. I really enjoyed it and I think the participants did too (say hello if you were at the workshop). There were 12 participants in all. After the workshop we got the opportunity to shop in the Purlescence shop. Wow, they've got some gorgeous stuff. I was very tempted by some Handmaiden yarn and lots of other goodies. I did give in to temptation and buy something. I'll show you later in the week what I bought. We had a great day in Oxford on Sunday, Simon and the girls spent Saturday in Oxford too. But I'll do a blog post about our weekend later in the week. There'll be a new former magazine design being released later this week too. I've just got to make the changes my tech editor suggested first.

Tomorrow I've got a very exciting blog post planned. I'll be chatting to Jean Moss and reviewing her new book 'Sweet Shawelttes' and you'll have an opportunity to win a copy. So don't forget to stop by tomorrow.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Pretty Things

It's been a week of pretty things. I've made 4 more little granny squares for my blanket this week. I got a couple of new colours on Tuesday. I also tried getting some more lemon for the final rounds but unfortunately Spin A Yarn was out of stock but they'll probably have it back in next time I visit.
It's been a very good post week this week. That's Jean Moss' new book 'Sweet Shawlettes'. I'm taking part in Jean's World Blog Tour to mark the launch of her book. See all the stops here and come back on Tuesday to read my review of the book. The book is great, btw.
 Want a closer look at the pretty fibre? It's from Wharfedale Woolworks. This first braid is a blend of merino and I think it's got silk in it and little silver sparkles. It's basically the same blend as my Twinkletoes Sock.
 And this is a merino/soy blend which i'm really looking forward to spinning.
 I stocked up on the latest Interweave mags this week too. Here are the spring issues of Interweave Knits and Knitscene.
 And, as if I didn't already have enough knitting bags I've got two more. The owl print is the same as another bag I have but the other one has a zip fastening.
 These bags are drawstring and are bigger than my other drawstring bags. Perfect for a sleeve, a shawl, or even a front or back of a sweater might fit in here. They'll still fit into my handbag though. I got them from The Lollipop Stop. There's a monkey print in the shop that I'm very tempted by. Someone go and buy it before I give in.
 I'm off in a few minutes. Tomorrow I'll be teaching in Purlescence near Oxford. Simon and the girls are coming with me and tomorrow while I teach they'll explore Oxford. Then on Sunday we'll spend some time in Oxford before driving home. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's Easy Lace Workshop. I'm all packed and just about to load the car. I'm a little bit worried I may not have packed enough knitting. But as I will be spending tomorrow in a yarn shop I can always stock up.

The new Let's Knit is out. Subscriber copies have gone out but I'm not sure if it's in the shops yet. I've got a beautiful cardigan in this issue in Fyberspates Scrumptious. I'll tell you about that on Monday. Got to go and pack the car now.  As soon as Em gets home from school, we're leaving.
Have a lovely weekend x

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Weekend Crochet & Spinning

Do you fancy joining a KAL? I suggested doing a KAL (knitalong) for Mar Menor on my Ravelry group. Join the discussion and if you fancy another pattern KAL, suggest it here. If you're not a Ravelry member you'll have to join but it's free (and great).

At the beginning of this year I decided to set aside Sundays for non-work knitting. I've not been very good at sticking to it lately because of deadlines but this weekend I was determined. I did plan to finish my sock in progress but on Saturday afternoon I fancied doing some crochet. I have a granny square blanket in progress so thought I'd do a few more squares.
 The blanket is worked in Artesano Superwash Merino as i had a lot of colours and they do such a big selection of gorgeous colours and it's nice and squishy, a bit thicker than standard dk and lovely to crochet with. I've been trying to use as many colours as possible. The idea is not to make any two squares the same. I can use the same colours but not in the same order. The pale lemon for the outside round helps tie it all together.
 This weekend I ran out of the lemon. I thought i had some more but I can't find it so I'm getting some more today when I'm visiting Spin A Yarn. I carried on making some more little squares though & I'll join them tonight when I have the lemon.
 Pretty little stack, eh? These are so quick to make and because they're so quick to finish, even though the final blanket is nowhere near finished it feels like an accomplishment and that you've completed something.
 I'm aiming to have this finished by next autumn. I'd like a blanket big enough to snuggle under on the sofa.
 I love granny squares especially in lots of different colours. The idea for this blanket came from a variety of blanket I saw on various blogs who use the same idea.
 Then on Sunday evening I decided to do some spinning. I bought a fluffy green & gold batt from FeltStudio UK at Woolfest last summer and I've been spinning this for a while. I've nearly finished the first batt. This is all that's left.
 I'm spinning it fairly fine. I'm aiming for a 2ply laceweight. Here's my first bobbin.
Crocheting and spinning wasn't all I did this weekend. On Saturday Simon got up unusually early for a weekend. I'm always up early but usually relax and knit for a couple of hours. It was sunny outside so Simon and I decided to take Sam for a walk. We drove up to Golitha Falls which is 10 mins drive away on Bodmin Moor.
 Sam had a great time as she found lots of other dogs to play with. In fact she was friendlier than normal. With one dog she got very friendly, a bit too friendly and we had to separate them very quickly. Sam is 10 yrs old now and I do not want puppies. We've hardly ever noticed when she's been in season but I did wonder if she might be in season now as she's not been that friendly with other dogs for a long time.
 Towards the end of our walk it started drizzling so we quickly made our way back to the car.
 But it was a lovely way to start the weekend. Fancy a bit of Golitha Falls in your life? I've got a pattern named Golitha Falls. You can see it here.
Do you run a yarn shop (in the UK or abroad)? or are you an indie dyer? My patterns are now available for wholesale. I sent out an up to date list last week. If you're interesting in stocking my patterns please leave me a message in the comments with your e-mail and I'll get in touch. I won't publish those comments.