Mixing colours

img_20161115_124118When I was at Black Sheep Wools recently, one of their lovely staff showed me a new yarn from Wendy called Evolution.  Made up of 4 ends the colours gradually change one strand at a time.  There is also a German company called 100 Farbspiele that offers more unusual colourways.


I was quite intrigued but Evolution is a cotton blend and I’m not keen on knitting with cotton.  This set me thinking about how I could create my own version of this yarn.  I am a huge fan of the webshop Colourmart, where you can buy yarn on the cone in the most luxurious blends so I spent a happy hour putting together colour combinations.  I would love to have worked only in cashmere but until I am sure I can make this technique work I decided to limit myself to laceweight merino yarn and chose 3 lovely shades to try.

img_20161115_104901I had to sit down in a dark room to work out the maths – I thought I’d share my little chart with you.

img_20161115_104926Each cone has 1300 metres on so this was the best combination to use up most of the yarn. I used a fishing line counter to measure the meterage and wound the yarn off in to cakes.


My gradient will start with the taupe, go through the teal to the blackcurrant.

To combine the yarns I used wooden knitting needles threaded through a box and a ball winder.Then simply gather up four ends of you first colour and change as each cake runs out.

img_20161115_120302I am very happy with the result and am going to knit Xanadu by Kitman Figueroa – her designs are always such a pleasure to knit.  The designer has used a 4 ply and according to my measurements this new yarn is coming up as nearer a dk so I will need to swatch and  hope that I have enough yarn. Wish me luck!

Sophie Digard

large-alice_sophie-digard2-2048x2048_to-sendI have always loved Sophie Digard’s work.  She is a Parisian based designer who creates the most amazing scarves and accessories made of tiny crocheted motifs.  She is influenced by nature and artists like Gustav Klimt, and has a unique way of blending extremely fine yarns to create a subtle palette in each piece.  Sophie uses skilled artisans on the island of Madagascar to manufacture her work helping to keep their skills alive.

Last year, at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate there was a wonderful exhibition of her work that was so inspiring. The designs vary quite a lot from square motifs to delicate flowers, from the graphic to the natural, but each is a complete work of art.  I just wish I could afford to own one small piece!

I was rooting through my stash the other day and found a project bag with several balls of Noro Sekku Lace which is sadly discontinued, and a 1.5mm crochet hook.  When I went to Australia last year I crocheted for much of the flight, small filled granny squares measuring about 4cm, to make into a scarf reminiscent of Sophie’s work. I did try smaller squares to start with but the thought of all that making up…

The colours in Sekku are so delicious and each square looks slightly different.  They may not be quite as exciting as Sophie’s designs but I think it will look amazing when it’s done.

You can see more of Sophie’s work on the Selvedge website.

Yarn diet

stash220Well, that’s it! The time has come for me to go on another yarn diet. You may remember that I did this a few years ago when I was still at The Knitter. It was an unpleasant experience, that’s for sure, but not quite as bad as giving up smoking.

Today I once again find myself in a situation where my stash has become, well, flabby, and the number of WIP’s is shameful, so I am taking myself in hand. Yes WIPS that haven’t been knitted for more than 6 months definitely count as stash.

I did learn a lot from not buying any yarn for a year so I thought I would pass on a few tips, Just in case you are in the same boat as I am.

Set aside a good day for yourself to go through your stash, when you are feeling positive and enthusiastic for the task ahead of you.  If yours is anything like mine it could take a while to find it all.

Get your stash out and take a long long hard look at each and every hank and begin by dividing them into porn, love and meh! Immediately get rid of the meh! or ‘what was I thinking’ yarn by giving them to charities or knitting friends-If they accept your gift that ball of yarn is no longer your problem. I reckon if I’m ruthless I can get rid of at least 20% this way especially if I include part balls from finished projects that I really am not going to be able to use.

I have a fixation with Noro yarns but recently decided that four or five balls of sock yarn were not really my colour. It was a painful process giving them  up but now they have a new forever home in Scotland and I’m sure they are being well looked after. It’s kind of paying it forward in a yarnie way. OK, I am trying to make it sound like a more positive experience to motivate myself and you, but desperate times and all that.

Look at the amounts of each yarn you have and try to picture what you can make with it. To make this process more fun I will be spending several hours in (and I do mean in, up to my neck) Ravelry and my bookshelves. BE CAREFUL not to get sucked in to rearranging your books as a diversionary tactic.  You are here to sort yarn! When you have made your choices you can bag up the yarn with a pattern ready to knit.

Now look at what you have left. Is it really still porn ? Do you still really love it or is it looking more meh! that you can get rid of. By this stage I hope to have my stash sorted by 70% but that 30% is going nowhere.  I need to have something to fondle and inspire me.

I could go on and mention boxing and cataloguing but I already feel a bit overwhelmed so I think I might leave it for now. There is nothing wrong with having stash, but if you aren’t going to use it at some point it’s just loft installation.

SPOILER ALERT  I will admit I have cheated a bit, I mean taken some precautions, and stocked up in advance of the New Year.  A girl’s got to have something to look forward to.

Crowd Funding

I have a love for crowd funding, the idea where we can all be investors or show our support for projects we care about, are interested in or simply intrigued by.

I think that crowd funding is an absolutely brilliant way for craft businesses to get projects off the ground.  In fact, if it had been more accepted when I was working on Planet Handmade we might have been able to get the funding we needed to become advocates for small makers, but ho hum.

In our industry they can be supremely successful.  I know that Jen Best funds all her books about Dorset buttons this way, keeping this heritage craft alive and increasing it’s profile today.  The lovely Susan Crawford’s project was so successful that she exceeded her target and was able to spend more time on research which benefits all of us who have invested.  The book The Vintage Shetland Project will be out soon and I just can’t wait.

I have coughed up a few pennies in the last couple of years in other sectors with mixed results. Philippe Starck’s  Wistiki delivered on time and now means I can track my dog if she runs off.  The product is beautifully designed, as you would expect from a name like his, and reasonable priced.

But two other projects Kerv (contactless payments enabled by a ring) and Lix (a 3D drawing pen) are proving less satisfying.  I expect there to be teething problems along the way with the inevitable delays.  I don’t get bent out of shape by that – it is just part of the R & D process.  What really gets my goat is the lack of communication.

Just because you have a great idea doesn’t mean  you know a)how to run a business, and b) understand how to deal with your customers/investors.  For heaven’s sake factor in some budget to retain a communications professional to help you otherwise your brand is in danger of being damaged before you have even delivered one item.

Entrepreneurs on Kickstarter could learn an awful lot about how to keep in touch and keep us all on board by looking at the craft industry.  Nice to know a heritage industry can teach the new young guns a thing or two.

Cashmere Delights

Cashmere is the most amazing fibre but I rarely get a chance to knit with it.  I start so many projects that I never finish, frogging the yarn and leaving it to languish in my stash.  To do that to a precious hank of cashmere would be sacrilege.

I have come across 2 new yarns this season that I feel sure I would not want to put down until I had finished a project, in fact, I have already finished one!

Debbie Bliss has created a wonderfully soft yarn called Lhasa, a blend of Cashmere and Yak. It is has a chainette construction and is technically a chunky.  Size 6mm needles are the recommended size and I did start off with that, but my Fair Isle was just too compact so I went up to a 7mm.  The yarn is so beautifully squishy and is perfect for this little cowl that I rustled up.  I used a two colour cast on and a two row, two colour cast off which you can find in Cap Sease’s book, Cast On, Bind Off.

Yarntelier is Louisa Harding’s new venture, a new cashmere yarn spun by one of the finest spinners in Yorkshire, in lace and DK weights.  Due to its provenance this yarn is not cheap at £25 a ball, but for accessories it really is the most luxurious cashmere I have ever knitted with.  I did buy one ball for a Christmas gift at The Knitting and Stitching Show, where it was launched so I have only knitted a little swatch for you to see here.  You might think the yarn feels a little thin when you knit it but the bloom when you steam it is so satisfying.

Now all I have to wait for is some cold weather so I can snuggle in to my new cowl!

A Shetlander’s Fair Isle Graph Book

img_0566I guess by now you may have realised that I am completely addicted to Fair Isle knitting in all its forms.  In fact I am even designing a pair of stranded socks at the moment.  Something I never thought I would do!

I’m not sure why or how my love affair started but the idea of having a lovely yarn in each hand and being able to create the most delicious patterns satisfies my love for knitting and for graphics as well.

Thanks to Phil at The Twisted Yarn blog I was alerted to an amazing bit of Fair Isle porn, recently published by the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers – God bless them, each and every one – with some help from The Shetland Times.

Not only is A Shetlander’s Fair Isle Graph Book In Colour essential reading (or should that be viewing) for incurable stranders like me, but it is a wonderful snapshot of patterns from the past that we can all share.

The book is dedicated to the many women and girls who knitted at all hours of the day and night, in all conditions, to keep the knitwear industry supplied with quality, hand-crafted garments. Please take a moment to salute them!

img_0571Most of the patterns go back to the 1930s an 40s from two notebooks belonging to Bill Henry at Anderson & Co, although he probably didn’t design the patterns.  The book tells us more about the company and the knitters that worked there as well as explaining where and how the patterns might have been used.

What follows is page after page of colourful designs mapped out on graph paper, some pages with dates or notes – a loving facsimile of the original books.  From simple 3 stitch and four row repeats to complex patterns often involving 3 colours on one row,  the designs from notebook one are a brilliant resource.

Notebook two gives a little more information showing which designs were for gloves (front and back), Norwegian inspired designs and which complemented clan tartans.

I could go on and on about the wonders of this publication but I won’t.  All I will say is you can buy it here.



Brioche Honeycomb Stitch – almost


When I travelled to the Faroe Islands in July we met a lovely designer who works under the name Shisa Brand. You see her window ornaments everywhere – silhouettes of puffins flying or landing laser cut out of black plexiglass that are very charming.  She also makes fantastic leather goods but the items that caught my eye were her knitwear designs.  One scarf and jumper featured a stitch that she described as a honeycomb stitch.  A quick bit of resarch and I found out it is called honeycomb brioche stitch.  There are lots of tutorials online but none of them looked as easy and straight forward as the method she showed us.

The instructions go something like this:

Cast on an even number of stitches.

Knit the first and last stitch at each end of every row – I won’t include these stitches in the instructions.

The pattern is a 4 row repeat.

Row 1: *k1, kb (knit the next stitch into the stitch below).  Repeat from * to the end of the row.

Row 2: *k1st with loop, k1. Repeat from * to the end of the row.

Row 3: *kb, k1 .  Repeat from * to the end of the row.

Row 4: *k1,k1st with loop. Repeat from * to the end of the row.

This is the lovely fabric you get as a result.


I have made a little video to help you get to grips with the instructions.