Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Blacker yarns

Pure Black Welsh Mountain DK knitting yarn

A parcel was waiting for me at home last night - six balls of pure Welsh DK wool from Blacker Yarns (http://www.blackeryarns.co.uk/)

They have a pretty good selection of single-breed and rare-breed yarns in undyed shades, as well as some overdyed and mixed yarns. The handle is pretty crispy, so I imagine it's going to felt like billy-o. I can see it turning into a black bag, perhaps with a snowflake design in white on the flap? I'll have a go swatching tonight and see what it does.

I've been making some of the brilliant ' duffers' felted slippers, little nineteen-row slippers in chunky yarn (you can find the pattern very easily on Ravelry). I've made a rather crude pair for me, one pair I gave away to a freind who's very pregnant at the moment, and last night I felted another pair. I sort of did'nt check the time I put them in the washing machine, resulting in a pair of adult size six shoes coming out as children's size. Sigh. Still, I know someone at work who'll be delighted with them - she was begging me for a pair after she saw the others I had made - so perhaps it's all worked out for the best. After all, I can always make more!

Friday, 16 September 2011


A couple of weeks ago, sitting watching TV in the evening, I suddenly thought ‘I wonder what a knit-and-purl pattern pi-shawl would be like? I wonder if I can do it?’

I dug out my copy of Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Knitters Almanac, the place where the pi-shawl was born, and looked through the chapter that included the pattern. In her pattern notes she mentions that one of her favourite shawls was ‘brick red’ and talks about moving away from pastel-shade light-weight yarns.

Running through the idea, I eventually came up with Hearthstone, the final evolution of an idea for a textured knit-and-purl shawl that I’ve been batting around for a few months in different forms. The pi-shape helped overcome the structure problems I’d had with working out sideways from the centre, which tended to produce droopy wings.

I worked in DK cotton/acrylic, which produces a knit that has a slight lustre and more weight than acrylic alone, but still has loftiness and warmth. I’m unfortunately very sensitive to wool, so I don’t like it close to my neck at all!

Anyway, here is the result; the final version will be worn with a ‘collar’ at the top folded back and a single big button fastening, sort of a cape design rather than a classic shawl, although it could be knitted that way. It could also be knitted much larger, into an afghan or a really sumptuous wrap.

All in all, I’m pretty pleased with it. It has a lovely subtle texture, and I really like the ‘homely’ feel. It feels sort of wholemeal. The pattern - with slightly bigger pioctures, I'm afraid my camera is terrible at wide shots! - will be in the e-book, releasing in around the next month or so. I hope you like it!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

On Dolls

Isn't there something comforting about dolls? I don't know if you find it, too, but for me there's something about dolls that makes me want to cherish them. They are so often thrown away, gummed up with glue, rotten with woodworm, torn up - it's nice to be able to pick them up, dust them off, and give them another chance.

Of course it's always immensely satisfying to work on very small things, as well! It demands a whole new 'eye', as I found recently when I knitted a fisherman's gansey for a doll I picked up recently.

Here he is, as he arrived;

He was part of a group of four dolls that I got from eBay, someone clearing out a shed I think. His body is made from cloth sewn into kid-leather, and stuffed with wood shavings. He leaked shavings all over the carpet, not a brilliant start! At some point he'd lost an arm and both legs, the other arm was horribly scraped and over-painted, and the kid had been painted at some point with what looked like household emulsion!

I made him a new body from calico, following the proportions of the old one closely. It's odd, but the old body had a really short torso and really fat legs! I toned down the legs a bit, on the grounds that I think his wood shavings had settled over time into his calves. Although I tried to save the one china arm, it was really too badly damaged at looked kind of 'post mortem', so that unfortunately had to go. I made two new arms from fi-mo, the oven-hardening modelling clay. I decided to make them very basic so as not to detract from his lovely face.

Yesterday, in bed with flu, I decided to finally tackle the gansey. You might remember the Mary Wright book I picked up a few weeks ago - I used the instructions for an adult gansey to make a very, very small one with a stitch pattern for the upper half from the isles of Scilly. I really wanted cables, but it couldn't have a large 'spread' or the jumper would have looked out of scale. I used DK yarn on 2.00mm needles to give a really tight stitch-size and firmness; a lot of doll clothes end up looking funny because the stitches are so large and loose they don't sit right.

Anyway, here he is at the moment - far from finished, but doing very well!

Someone, somewhere...someday!


Lankakomero (see her excellent blog above) has done the impossible. She has made Azalea. My hat is all the way off - I bow to you! Someone, somewhere, managed to make sense out of that pattern : )

With that sort of sucess, perhaps a career in MI5 is calling, Lankakomero?

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Farewell summer - hello new patterns!

Well, summer’s well and truly over here in the grey UK; the sun’s gone, the clouds have rolled back, it keeps blowing a gale; it’s definitely autumn. I shouldn’t gripe really – some of the weather in other parts of the world is really bad at the moment, my heart goes out to you if you’re caught up in any of the flooding or storms that seem to be hitting a lot of the US and parts of Japan at the moment.

Last week I had a nice break from everything, and decided to spend the last week of summer pottering about at home, trying new crafts and reviving some old projects I’d put aside. You can see – and even buy (wink wink) some of the results in my brand-new etsy shop; you’ll find a link in the top right corner of this blog. I’ve been working on some really sweet antique and vintage wooden boxes I’ve been picking up over the last couple of weeks. I’ve been working on things like scratches and finish, repairing them and remodelling them where I have to, and giving them new paper and fabric linings. I’ll have a few of them up for sale in the next few weeks, so do keep your eyes out. I’ve been playing with decoupage lining papers, combining old images to make new ones, which has been a lot of fun, although I did nearly take off the top of my finger with a scalpel. Oh, I suffer for art!

Knitting wise, I have a few new patterns prepared for the Edwardian-themed e-book. They’ll be going into one large collection and a small number of the patterns will also be released individually. The final list of patterns looks like this;

Lavender Fields; long-line ‘quilted’ cardigan or jacket with a wide open collar. I can see myself wearing this to death – it’s soft, heavy and beautifully warm thanks to a clever geometric knit-and-purl pattern with repeats of just five stitches. Perfect mindless knitting!
Emmeline; Long sock with a lace top, ideal for wearing with knee-length boots or under skirts. Made by my mum, an expert sock knitter, the sock could be varied in lots of ways for something really unique.
Alix; lace wrap-around scarflette, for wearing with jackets or cardigans. This has the soft ‘standing’ edge I blogged about earlier in the summer.
Romanov; lace undersleeves or arm warmers in feather-and-shell. Having worn them for the first time, I have to say I’m addicted. So versatile!
Grouse and Partridge; tweed ‘tailored’ scarflette with a snug fit and button fastening. I’m very proud of the simple pattern for this one; finally, solved the problem of my scarf falling down the back of my neck in windy weather!
Hearthstone; Textured pi shawl in DK weight yarn, perfect for nodding off by the fire.  
Miss Murray; buttoned wristlets; these prevent those autumn winds whistling up your coat sleeves! See below for more detail.

There’s a short bolero and a lace shrug still on my needles, which may make it into the final ‘cast list’. And there may be a few extra accessories if I find inspiration strikes between now and publication! I’ve had a lot of fun playing with some of the design elements – short rows, knit-and-purl texture, simple lace, garter stitch sections, and sleeve-to-sleeve construction. I hope everyone else enjoys it as much as I have!