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I have been noodling around, swatching for some up and coming projects.  My yarn of choice this time was John Arbon’s Knit By Numbers 4 ply, which comes in an extensive range of colours – 109 0f them.

I have knitted quite a lot in Knit By Numbers DK but never tried the 4ply.  The yarn is made from 100% organic Merino and my first impression was how well the yarn takes the colour. I was knitting on 3mm needles, when the recommended size is 2.75mm but as soon as I blocked the yarn it bloomed beautiful to give a wonderfully consistent knitted fabric.  Even if you are just knitting a  plain garment, the yarn performs brilliantly and I’m sure it will look great in cables as well.

First of all I tried out some traditional designs.  Not sure the brown works at the bottom and I think the orange could be a tad lighter but that’s no problem with this range.

Then on to my favourite zig zags that never get old and always look fresh.

For a while now I have been fascinated by hat crowns and always try to make sure mine have a little bit of magic on top.  This is the crown of my Baila hat knitted as a hexagon.

And here’s another from an unpublished design.  I reckon a combination of these two could work well in a blanket.

So if you are looking for a great new 4 ply, do give Knit By Numbers a try.

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A Kingfisher Morning by Juliet - 1M ago

I’m not all that good at embroidery. I can manage a little embellishment on a hand knit and I’m not bad at Sashiko but fancy stitches…. I’m just not that neat or skillful.

I recently subscribed to a box scheme called Craftpod to help me learn and improve my skills. Although my first box arrived a while ago it was only on Easter Monday that I had the chance to see what I could do.

It was a beautiful day so we flung the doors of our extension open. My eldest got my sewing machine out to make a shirt and I unpacked the two kits in my Craft pod. The embroidered and collage picture of a bird was a little daunting so I began with the pin cushion. I had thought that the template might be an iron-on transfer that I could follow on the felt. But they were just to give you an idea. I was expected to embroider them freehand and without a safety harness. GULP. After one leaf I decided the supplied design was too difficult so just made it up. If I was going to improve this design I think a beginner needs a bit more help and direction.

I’m really pleased with how the embroidery turned out. Sewing the rest of the pincushion together was really easy and I’m delighted with the finished object. I now have enough confidence to try out the picture. I’m not sure that I will leave it in the hoop-it looks a bit twee to me. I might just turn it into a Book cover or a handy project pouch.

I paid £84 for a year’s subscription to Craftpod which I think is great value.

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Anyone that knows me will be aware that I am a huuuuge fan of Kate Davies, who I first came across when she was writing for the Rowan magazines.  Her beautiful designs, in sumptuous yarns, translated into thoughtfully written patterns are a joy from start to finish.

What you may not know is that Kate Davies Designs (KDD) is currently running an amazing design competition called Warm Hands, which was launched on Ravelry.  This could be your chance to see one of your designs in a KDD book which launches in the autumn.  Wow!  What an honour that would be. What’s really important is this comment from Kate; ‘As with Milarrochy Heids, the key aim of this project is to showcase emerging talent and to bring the work of new designers to the fore. With that in mind, I would like to actively encourage BIPOC at the beginning of their careers to consider submitting a design.’

I am not a great designer but I have created a couple of glove patterns in the past and I do have some Milarrochy Tweed in my stash so I thought I would have a bash.

Many of my designs take weaving charts as their inspiration because they are so graphic – a style I really like.  For my birthday I was given the book On Weaving by the legendary Annie Albers.  This swatch was influenced by this book but didn’t quite work.

So I tried another twill weaving chart which I think works quite well but I’m not sure about the colours.

Then I went back to one of my favourite zig zags.  Now I think the colours are just right.

In the final swatch I played with different square motifs which I also really like.

What really struck me is what a brilliant yarn this is for Fair Isle.  It is soft, yet maintains a great stitch definition and I think I am going to have to save up my pennies to buy enough of this yarn for a cardigan.

I didn’t have enough Milarrochy Tweed to knit a whole mitt so I have made this in some other stash yarn, which is absolutely allowed as part of the competition entry.  What do you think?

I still have a bit of fine tuning to do.  If you want to enter the competition the closing date is 30th April, so you’d better get a wriggle on.

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I’m not very good at crochet.  My tensions is nice and even but I have so much to learn.  However I do find the rhythm of crocheting squares to be supremely relaxing.

I recently noticed a post over on The Patchwork Heart about a grey blanket.  For my taste a lot of crochet blankets are just too bright for me but this one was just my cup of tea – mellow blues and greens, a couple of brights and lots of grey.

I bought Heather’s pack from Deramores (my their service has improved recently) and unpacked it with great excitement.  Then I started to get scared.  There was no pattern, no order to crochet the colours in.  Yikes!  How do i make sure I don’t use too much of one colour and run out?  How do I make sure that I don’t repeat colours?  Oh help.

I needn’t have worried, because Heather has another post to help.  Basically she advises crocheting all the first rounds, a regular number in each colour.  Then you lay them out, dividing them between the yarn for the next round and so on.

I decided that, since there were 11 colours in the pack (not including the mid grey) I would do a blanket that was 8 squares by 11 squares.  This meant I had to crochet 8 rounds in each colour. Heather advises doing this in pairs.  This means that when you have done all the squares only 2 squares will be the same, which i reckon should really help with the final layout.

I discovered I had enough project bags to keep the squares with their yarn!  I clearly buy too much yarn.

On to round 2.

Round 3 is now complete.

And round 4.

After this round it’s on with the grey so I am nearly there. I was a bit worried that the brights were too bright but choosing a darker colour for the next round dampens them down. It has been such a pleasure to make this blanket and Heather’s advice was brilliant at helping my way through it.

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A Kingfisher Morning by Juliet - 3M ago

To get back in to my knitting I wanted to choose a really elegant and simply pattern in a beautiful yarn, so I hit Ravelry and came across this lovely design called Spiral Escape by Martina Behm.

As the name suggests it’s a cowl worked as a spiral in garter stitch.  What could be nicer than that?  The original design was knitted in Bilum Hand Dyed Yarns called Loli.  This yarn is from Hungary and I found it on Etsy.  The colours that this indie dyer comes up with are quite extraordinary and very beautiful and I chose a shade called OOAK.

I was quite intrigued by this design but wasn’t happy with my tension at the end of rows so changed the first stitch to a knit stitch until it joined in the round.  It is really important, once you have joined and are working the spiral to make sure that any yarn over (YO) is pulled nice and tight.  I know that sounds a bit enigmatic but I don’t want to give away the secrets of this design – I want you to BUY IT!

I was a bit dispirited by how messy the ‘ladder’ looked as you progress round the spiral, but I know Martina is a very accomplished designer so I trusted her and I wasn’t disappointed.  When you have finished the knitting you take a crochet hook and crochet up the ladder to make it lovely and neat.  See, I needn’t have worried, need I?

I also used the smallest needle size (3.25mm) but I think I could get away with using a 3mm needle to make the cowl a bit neater.

Now on to the yarn.  While I absolutely loved the colours – you can see how fab they look – I found the yarn a little limp and it split quite easily. It’s only my opinion but I feel Loli would greatly benefit from being dyed on to a more robust or better quality base.

This was a great project and kept me interested right to the end.

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A Kingfisher Morning by Juliet - 4M ago

Things have been a bit busy here with lots and lots of writing and a little bit of designing. I always like to have something on in the background, usually voice-based but sometimes music, to help me concentrate.

The downside of doing so much knitting is I don’t get enough time to read books so I am a huge fan of Audible.  I have a membership of 24 books a year and even that isn’t quite enough.  I love crime, thrillers and a bit of science fantasy but I do like to listen to books that are recommended to me or that I wouldn’t normally listen to like All The Light We Cannot See or Americanah.  There are also some great podcasts such as The Genius Dialogues.

I used to listen to a lot of BBC Radio, but since their change to Sounds, not so much.  My big problem with this app/ website is that it isn’t searchable in most instances.  When it first launched I was interested to see they were pushing all the podcasts they offer but no search bar, just the hot ones for the day.  I tried the main search bar and typed in science podcasts – I was looking for The Infinite Monkey Cage.  This particular, incredibly successful podcast doesn’t appear in the results list and it’s hardly a title you could guess at if you haven’t ever heard it before. Epic fail.  I know several people who have uninstalled the app and gone back to iPlayer Radio.

Someone told me recently that Spotify offer a lot of different podcasts and it was easy to find lots of amazing programmes I hadn’t come across before. I’ve learned so much and I’m really enjoying binge-listening The Guilty Feminist.  There are a heap of knitting podcasts to dive in to as well.

If I have a long, complicated article to write, I do have a secret weapon on Spotify. I set up an Armin Van Buuren radio station that blasts dance music into my ears to help me concentrate.

What do you like to listen to?  I’d love any book or podcast recommendations you might have.

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With this spell of cold weather and with a long-planned trip to the north (now cancelled, unfortunately), I thought it was time to bash out a pair of gloves.

I found a ball of Pickles Pure Wool in my stash that I bought while visiting my dear friend Eline in 2017.  The yarn is actually spun in the UK and is a generous 380 metres in a fantastic palette of colours.  It feels a little rough when you knit with it but blooms beautifully when blocked.

I was going to use one of my own patterns but decided to try a lovely pattern I found on Ravelry called Badlands Mitts by Kathryn Folkerth The design is a lovely blend of linen stitch with a ribbed thumb and is such a fun knit.  Kathryn also has a worsted version here.

The pattern uses 3.75 and 3.25mm needles but I found I had to drop down to 3 and 2.75mm to achieve the tension.  That could have been down to my yarn choice so if you do knit this pattern I strongly recommend you check your tension.  Fingering or 4ply yarn can be so different depending on how it is spun and which fibre is used.

What really intrigued me about this pattern is that the gloves are knitted top down, which is quite unusual and means that you can make the cuff as long as you want.

There is a separate instruction for how to join the thumb.  It suggests you put the thumb, that is knitted in the round, one one needle, but I found this impossible so put it on two, ready to bring in when the hand was long enough.

I also noticed from the designer’s picture that she had finished off her cuff with a tubular cast off and realised I had never tried this technique.  I know, how could that be?  Anyway I have now put this right now and I found a great video over on Very Pink Knits to help me.

So here is one glove and the other is already on the needles.  I can’t wait to try them out in the snow.  Do try this pattern, you won’t be disappointed.  i think next time I will try a bouncier yarn.

Do you have any patterns that you have really enjoyed?  I’d love to hear about them.

SHAMELSS PLUG:  I also have a top down glove pattern here.

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Before I start this post I should come clean. Innocent have been a client of mine for 14 years but I wanted to tell you a bit more about what I do for them.

Most of you will be aware of their campaign in aid of Age UK called The Big Knit. Each year thousands of knitters and crocheters from all generations knit little hats that adorn innocent smoothie bottles, usually in October. The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness of fuel poverty among the elderly.

I really look forward to seeing what challenge the team at innocent will have for me each year. I have knitted hats for statues in Copenhagen, including the Little Mermaid, created hats from a sketch submitted by numerous celebrities from Zandra Rhodes to Stephen Fry, designed character hats for Miranda, Liam Gallagher and Michael Sheen (although they weren’t used and designed lots of patterns featuring fruit, veg and animals.

Here are a few of the hats I have created over the years.

Click to view slideshow.

This February has been declared Big Knit Month so why not knit or crochet some hats to help this great cause. You can find some of my patterns here.

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The last few days of 2018 and the first of 2019 saw me in a very sorry state.

I HAD FALLEN OUT OF LOVE WITH KNITTING.

Can you imagine?  No matter which WIP I picked up, which new pattern or lovely yarn I looked at I just couldn’t find my mojo.  I was like a teenager, don’t want to do that, that’s stupid, that’s boring.

Joe’s socks

I think it’s because of all the knitting I did before Christmas, most of which were socks and basic ones at that.  My knitting became a drudgery, something to get through, a deadline to meet.  I was constantly thinking forward to all the lovely projects I would be back to over the festive period but when I could knit them I simply didn’t want to,

Lize’s cowl

It made me feel pretty despondent, I can tell you.  My dear friend Michelle even regifted me some yarn I had give her a while ago (Felted Tweed since you ask) and helped me match it up with yarn from my stash to knit a glorious  Stephen West garment called Starring.

But I had only just got beyond the rib when I abandoned it.

My Mousa

My Mousa by Marie Wallin was nearing the end and looked enormous.  I did a tension square, honest I did.  Maybe I have lost weight?  Anyway this has also been abandoned and will become a cushion cover – it’s not so bad because nearly all the yarn came from my stash.

Even a lovely batch of new colours from Holst Garn wasn’t inspiring me.

It’s not that I was looking for something particularly complicated.  I just wanted something that would intrigue me but also was going to grow and hold my attention.  I didnt want much, did I.

Who should come to my rescue but the fabulous Ankestrick with this pattern called Big Love – even the name feels like she created this just for me.  The pattern is beautifully written as always, the construction is elegant and I love the colour of yarn I chose which is Lettlopi in a lovely dark wine shade – I haven’t managed to quite capture it in this hasty snap.

So you can relax, I have found my joy in knitting with renewed vigour.

Note to self, knit for Christmas throughout the year.

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I have been tidying up my book shelves just recently and have spent a happy afternoon re-visiting some of my favourite knitting books.  So, if you are still looking for a gift for a knitworthy friend or something for your loved ones to give you for Christmas, have a little look at these.

I certainly never knew or even suspected that there were so many different ways to cast on and off until I read this book by Cap Sease, but now I like to refer to it for different projects to find the perfect technique.

Dorset buttons are pretty addictive.  I sat with a friend at knitting group last week and she was making one with a curtain ring and lost of beads as a decoration.  I love the way a mess of strands suddenly comes together so beautifully.  It also means you can make the right colour of button for your cardigan every time. I like Jen’s books because of how well she explains the techniques.

I absolutely love, admire and am totally in awe of Alice Starmore’s work.  Her latest book Glamourie is so much more than just a pattern book.  It is a way to explore your creativity with helpful tips and explorations on her website.  Watching her make felted buttons makes me want to reach for the Marigolds. Every time I open this book I find something new to inspire me.

I’m not brilliant at crochet so I really NEED this book if I haven’t had my hook out for a while.  As well as explaining all the basics Jane takes you on through some really yummy techniques such as beading.

Norah Gaughan is undoubtedly a genius and I have lots of her publications, but Knitting Nature was my first love and one I return to for a bit of knitting porn.

And finally, The Sock Knitters Handbook has helped me to understand about the different structures you can bring to socks.  I love to try out the different heels and they have done all the maths for you, no matter what size you are knitting.

I’d love to hear about your favourite books.

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