Sunday, 28 July 2013

Compton Bay Hat and Mitts

This month I was more excited than usual when my copy of Knit Now magazine dropped through my letterbox. 

Allow me to introduce the first pattern that I have had printed in a magazine - the Compton Bay Hat and Mitts.
 Knit Now is still a relatively new knitting magazine and what sets it apart from the others is that it specialises in patterns for small projects and accessories. The editorial style is also very open and supportive towards new designers so they seemed the ideal first magazine for me to approach. I have learnt a great deal through the process of this pattern coming to print. I made the first submission back in February for just the mitts seen below. My submission was accepted along with the note 'Could you make a hat to go with them?' Eek! I have never designed a hat before but nothing ventured, nothing gained, I had a go and found I really enjoyed it. I was glad to be taken out of my comfort zone.

Another benefit of making this submission is that it really taught me how the process of getting an idea into print works and all the stages that have to be gone through. Waiting for yarn for the sample, knitting to a tight deadline, writing to a strict format, last minute queries about details in the pattern were all new to me.

As a relatively new designer my ideas often go through a number of trial runs before I am happy with them. I thought you might like to see a couple of the versions of the mitts that I made while I was developing the pattern. The set above are made in the Uncommon Thread Bluefaced Leicester DK in the Into Dust shade. The pair below are made in Quince & Co's Tern in the Kelp shade. 

Clearly I am going to have to work a little bit more efficiently in the future as when I get an idea I'm really excited about I am sorely tempted to knit it up in all kinds of colours and yarns. I'm fighting the temptation to cast on another hat as we speak but the next Knit Now submission deadline is almost upon us and I need to focus!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Spinning a little yarn

Right now everyone seems to be spinning. Whether spinning along to punishing cycle racing or inspired by the season of fibre festivals being in full swing, wheels and spindles are spinning and yarn is being produces. Here at Yarn Archive HQ is no exception. I have been treadling away on my faithful Majacraft Little Gem, despite the stifling heat of our current mini heatwave. This is not the only step I have taken outside of my comfort zone.
Earlier this year  I remember admiring a pair of hand spun socks and being told that the fibre was Southdown, something I hadn't tried before. When I came across a pretty but subtly shaded skein on Hilltop Katie's stand at Wonderwool Wales I decided to give it a go.
My first impression was that it was incredibly springy and bouncy, soft but quite matte in appearance.

I wanted to knit a pair of socks so decided on a sock weight 2ply yarn. The staple length was a lot shorter than I am used to so was subjected to the discipline of a short forward draw being exactly what it says - short! I was pleasantly surprised,however at how easy to draft this well prepared fibre was, despite the short staple length. I worked reasonably slowly, ensuring a decent amount of twist went into the yarn and was pleasantly surprised at how the yarn retained the bounce of the fibre. I managed to spin approximately 380m of yarn, so plenty enough for a pair of socks. The subtle dying of this grey fleece means that the resulting yarn resembles the inside of a sea shell. I need to find a suitably nautical pattern to do it justice.
After I have completed a long,careful, disciplined spinning project I get the urge to do something speedy and entertaining so I turned to another braid of fibre that I bought from Katie at Wonderwoool Wales. This time it is a Jacob and silk blend. I was so fast in getting this on the bobbin I didn't even stop to take a photo. Within a few hours  I had a couple of hundred metres of aran weight yarn.   

It's certainly a robust yarn with the silk rather adding to its lustre rather than softening the overall impression. It's perfectly usable, but not next to the skin soft.

What would you do with it?

Monday, 8 July 2013

Beardy Beatnik Beige

I am very lucky to have some really talented friends. It is especially nice when you are able to do a project that combines the skills of two of them. These are Beat Feet Socks by Rachel Atkinson from Knit Now Number 20 in Bonny sock yarn by Natalie Fergie.

The pattern is inspired by the cabled sweaters worn by the beatniks of the 1950s which according to Rachel if the sample is anything to go by were red. Now my images may be filtered a little by black and white images of young men with berets and beards smoking Gauloises in Greenwich Village bars but in my imagination beatniks wore beige.I also thought that a paler colour would show off the interesting cable pattern better.

When it comes to sourcing a good beige sock yarn I need look no further than my friend Natalie who has the confidence and sureness of touch to not only dye vibrant and colourful yarn but also to produce neutral yarns that are interesting and beautiful in their own way. For me this is the perfect Beardy Beatnik Beige. I have a feeling she won't be adopting that as a colour name though...

The yarn was slightly lighter than that suggested so I made the M/L size and went down a needle size. The pattern is interesting enough to maintain interest but simple enough to be a travel project. These were finished thanks to the long drive to and from Woolfest. I would definitely recommend this pattern.

Off to put them on and write some angry verse.

Monday, 1 July 2013

The Big Reveal

So now Woolfest is over I can show you what was in the box! Not one, but two new mitt patterns! These mitts were designed to take less than 50g of yarn and to showcase Natalie Fergie's yarn which, conveniently often comes in 50g skeins. We have been aware for some time that in these difficult economic times,a whole 100g skein of yarn can be a little beyond the budget whereas a skein of yarn and a specially designed pattern for under £10 makes a lovely gift or just a well deserved treat to yourself!

The first pattern, the Belinus Mitts was inspired by stone circles and ley lines with horizontal stripes leading into vertical ribs. The Belinus line runs from the Isle of Wight to the Isle of Man and beyond so seemed quite appropriate as it links south and north. Although it is a simple striped mitt I have tried to incorporate some neat little touches such as ensuring that when the colours change the stripes are clear and well defined unlike in ribbed mittens. Similarly, the jog that often occurs in striped garments knit in the round has been softened due to the stitch pattern used.

The other mitt launched at Woolfest is Forgotten Love, with cables and twisted stitches, using a traditional Austrian motif known as Forgotten Love. I made the sample in the photo from Bonny, Natalie's hard working simple sock yarn. I found that its robust texture really emphasises twisted stitch patterns so can highly recommend it.

We are pleased to say that along with my existing patterns, the Glasgow School Mitts and the Palm House Mitts, the patterns really went down well, to the extent that one customer even asked me to autograph his patterns and I turned into a blushing fool. In the times that I was able to leave the P-Hop stand it was lovely to see people enjoying choosing yarns to match the patterns and vice-versa.

Both the Belinus Mitts and Forgotten Love are now available to download from my Ravelry store.