Wednesday, 12 November 2014

A knitting workshop focus: Introduction to lace 22nd November

Lace knitting can be chunky, warm and rustic, or delicate, light and ethereal. It can be modern or evoke a vintage feel. It can be geometric and striking, organic and intricate.  (All the images here are of my knitting, simply because I don't want to use other people's photos without permission, but search any image collection for lace knitting, and you'll see what I mean!)

It can brighten up a formal look, or add a touch of elegant glamour to a casual outfit. For the product knitter, there is plenty to like; for the process knitter, there is a world of possibilities, of intricate stitches and fun techniques.

All that, and in terms of pennies per knitting hour, lace knitting is by far the most economical road to tread. I'm planning my next garment: Bonny, by Tincanknits. It will cost me less than £20 in yarn - a single skein of laceweight - and that's despite more stitches than I'm going to think about very hard.

At the same time as offering all these opportunities for the knitter, lace tends to daunt us a little. But there are charts! But it's difficult! But it's so fine! But, but, but!

It isn't that difficult, and charts in and of themselves aren't incomprehensible. They're different, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing, and written instructions can run parallel to those charts to ensure you are comfortable with both forms.

My Beginner's Lace class is designed to teach you all you need to know about knitting simple lace. Beginning with a focus on reading your knitting, and exploring specialist cast-ons, increases and decreases, we'll experiment with swatches to see how these elements work together.

We'll explore patterns for lace knitting, looking at the differences between charted and written-out instructions, and you will start to knit a simple sampler scarf, which you can finish at home.

If you'd like to join me for this class on the 22nd November at the Malvern Cube from 10 am - 1 pm, please email me: ruthcrafts [ at ] ruthv [ dot ] co [ dot ] uk. The class costs £25, to include materials (needles and yarn) for the workshop, as well as the pattern and kit to knit the Flower Lace Stole so that you can consolidate your skills.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Stitching catch-up: A Question of Pieces

Sometimes, I embark on a project and set its parameters without really thinking through the scale of the task ahead. Like when I suggested to a friend on her hen do that I'd be happy to make her a quilt for her wedding gift, as long as she didn't mind it being late. Patterns were pored over, and one finally approved (Italian Tiles from Popular Patchwork July 2005 - subscriber access is available). Then I procrastinated. And procrastinated. This was going to involve a lot of cutting, and everyone knows that's easier to do with a bit of time ahead of you. And there wasn't really any sense of urgency... Until this Spring, when I looked at the calendar, saw how many bank holidays fell very close together, realised that we were visiting her and her husband in their newly-purchased and decorated home, and thought I should just get it done already.

Easter weekend thus began with cutting, and kneeling, and cutting some more, until I had a lot of squares. Which were sewn together, and cut into two, and pressed, and at the end of a full day's work I had the same number of pieces as I'd had at the beginning, but they were all two-colour and two tonal (mid light and mid dark).

The next day was a cutting day: lots and lots and lots of light and dark squares, which were then cut along the diagonal: so, triangles. Triangles to be individually sewn to the edges of the two-toned squares prepared, so that they can be pressed again, and the extraneous triangle carefully excised by roller cutter (this was waste fabric in this project... if I have reason to use this pattern again, I will plan a secondary project to use them too somehow).

One final step before it would be time to focus on the layout: sewing the half-square triangles into squares. These squares are 5 1/2" wide, and there are 196 of them.
By this point, I'd run through my first weekend, and through weeknight evenings into the second. We had a computing friend of Mr P's to stay, so sewing and programming and takeaway made for a fun time, and, thankfully, a third pair of eyes. I had been planning to sew my squares into blocks of 4 before laying out the whole quilt top, but it was pointed out that this might limit where I was willing to place them beyond what was actually physically possible. So we discussed the rules for colour repeat / nearness that I was happy to abide by, cleared the comfy chairs and general stuff from the living room, and covered the floor with fabric. Better eyes than mine pointed out colour meetings, and where I'd offset the whole design by one square... 
And then I began the to-ing and fro-ing, marking the squares in a block with pins and numbered pieces of paper, and carrying them carefully back to the sewing room to be completed. And pressed. And sewn into long strips. And eventually, into a full top.

Which I must now find the motivation to make into a quilt sandwich, and wrestle gently with through the quilting process. When the pieces will finally be the promised gift, is a matter of time. Time, and patience, and perseverance!

Friday, 7 November 2014

Jormungandr: Socks

These socks are named for the mythological snake and son of Loki - the Midgard Serpent who encircles the world, holding his tail in his mouth. As an Ouroboros, as well as being in some ways the beginning and ending of the world itself, he himself is never-ending, a symbol of eternity. And so, when it came to naming a detailed pair of socks centred on a sinuous combination of cables and mock cables, he seemed an appropriate choice.

 Ideally suited to a semi-solid or solid sock yarn, this is a project to conjure autumn nights: long evenings in front of a fire, with a special fibre in a jewel-like colourway. The finished item is intricate and elegant, whether worn hidden in your winter boots, or on show.

The ribbed texture ensures that cables and mock cables alike spring from the surface of the knit, while also making them fit a wide range of sizes, though instructions are included for medium and large versions. Both charted and written instructions are included throughout the design, for rib, cuff, heel flap and foot sections in order to ensure clarity and ease of reference.

The samples were knit in Artists Palette Yarns Smoothie Sock (Blue), which can be found in small batches through etsy, and in Eden Cottage Yarns Pendle 4ply in the Sand colourway, and these wonderfully tonal and surprisingly subtle semi-solids allow the pattern to really shine through.

Available in Medium and Large ladies sizes, these would, I think, also suit a man with discerning taste.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

My Other Knitting

The current WIP that you won't have seen so much of is a cardigan: the Bailey's Irish Cream by BabyCocktails / Thea Colman. I love Thea's sense of style, and design aesthetic, but the fact that I mostly live in a temperate, semi-urban environment has prevented me casting anything on until this, an elegant lace panelled cardigan with stocking stitch back and sleeves. It's a stash-busting project, using the yarn originally bought to knit the March Colourwork Sweater of Elizabeth Zimmermann's Almanac repurposed with only 2 additional balls to complete it.

More significantly, I'm hoping it will be a work-appropriate cardigan: it's relatively light and feminine, and doesn't, in my opinion, wear its handknit status on its sleeve. Not that handknits aren't work-appropriate, but in my new 'smart officewear' dress code, there's a fine line. (As distraction from the poor light in these photos - the true colour is between the two - here are the flowers I was kindly given by the lovely people in my old office)

Sadly, I'm finding it a slow knit. As usual, I'm having to add two inches of length to the body (taking it to 15 1/2”), and the rows are loooonnng. Plus I keep picking it up, and putting it down, and losing the chart...

In fact, I started this before Unwind Brighton, and was making good progress on it there, until I realised that I'd crossed half of the cables in the first repeat of the lace chart (on one front) in the wrong direction. Queue mammoth fixing session: we sat on the beach while I knit 8 stitches, dropped down the next 8 by 16 rows and recrossed, and then knit them back up, knit 8 stitches, and repeat.

Having got it under control, I'm hopeful it will now progress relatively steadily, though fear that as an increasingly unportable knit for me at this time of year, it won't be quick!

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Messy Tuesday, or Work in Progress

In a blast from the dim and distant past, I have remembered the tradition of Messy Tuesdays. They existed because in a blogosphere that sometimes becomes sanitised and rather carefully posed, it is worth remembering that actually, we're all living our own lives, at our own paces, and we shouldn't be discouraged from sharing that simply because we don't 'match up' to some unattainable standard.

Today is Tuesday, and I've spent the last couple of weeks dashing hither and yon, and finding that lighting is lacking, and housework and filing just too much to find time for. My brief flurry of blog posts seemed about to dwindle again, waiting for the moment when my life matched up to the calm, attractive and serene standards of the true craftblogger... but that isn't going to happen, so here I am, and here's my knitting.

For those monitoring #WIPCrackAway progress, thus far, I have succeeded in resisting the urge to cast on any extra projects, and the image above is the toe of my first Christmas sock. It's a very simple vanilla sock with cable detail, which I add mostly to stop me getting bored when knitting on the train, but also to stop me having to count rows or measure accurately to keep each sock the same lengthm, either in cuff or in foot.

In case the recipe's of any use: Cast on your usual number of stitches; work in 2 x 2 rib for 12/14 rows, place marker for start of round. Row 1: K2, P1, K8, P1, K to end. Repeat row 1 three times, then work cable row: K2, P1, C4F, C4B, P1, K to end. Continue in this way, working cable row every fourth row, inserting a heel of your choice when you wish, and later, the toe of your preference.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

WIP-Crackaway, WIP-Crackaway, WIP-Crackaway

Nic and Louise have got a fantastic plan: fight the startitis of the cold days and dark nights by picking up a WIP in turn and knitting till it is done. No more casting on all the things. Instead, finish something! #WIPCrackaway is happening in all the usual places: Ravelry (specific threads with prizes in KnitBritish and YarnsfromthePlain); Twitter; Instagram; Pinterest etc...

What with the stash acquisition that has been going on, and the slightly mad charting that seems to go hand-in-hand with an unpurposed skein, I felt rather in need of a cleaner plate. So, rather than casting on my beautiful Yarndale yarn, I have been most virtuous! The orange and green socks (blogged about way back in February) have been waiting patiently for the ends to be woven in. Check. The Regia sock is growing on me, though I still find the green / orange / pink combination is slightly too much. (Orange and pink, yes. Green and orange, yes. Green and pink, yes. All three? Not sure) They'll get plenty of wear this winter if it stays as it is, in any event.

I'm much more proud of my Devon pair. Finally finished (just in time for Yarndale in fact) on 25th September, after casting on in the Autumn of 2012?! I remember finishing the first sock after a slow knit in February of 2013 (backstage at Salad Days), but the second sock lingered even longer. Now they're done, and I'd be wearing them for work if only office rules would permit. Knit out of Easyknits Deeply Wicked in their Grape colourway, I'm really pleased with how they've turned out, and I like the combination of stripe and lace, even if the pattern is a little obscured from a distance.

Third is a bit of a secret knit, but the photo exists, so I'm showing them off. The yarn is Eden Cottage Yarns Pendle 4ply in Sand, bought at Yarndale 2013, and cast on in the Spring (I was originally hoping to have the pair done for Unwind Brighton this year). These are a test-knit of a new pattern I'm working on at the moment. More as and when it's ready!

And finally, in the centre are a long-awaited pair of mitts: in January this year, the office was very cold, and a colleague in particular was suffering. I said that I had leftovers that would suit, and could knit a pair of mitts. Only then I cast on too many stitches, and ended up with something too large for my (substantially larger) hands. So I sulked. And they sat in time out until this September, when I left that office for a new job, and finally decided to get them finished for her, before it gets cold again! So I ripped, and started again, and finished both hands!

And that's it - I've even picked up the next UFO, which I began just before the deadline, on 31st August. Now to turn a single sock into a pair...

Monday, 13 October 2014

Knitter on the inside

As knitting season is upon us once more, I have ventured back into the world, and found that behind the blue door lies a fantastic new venue for my knitting workshops: the Malvern Cube. Formerly a youth centre, and now a vibrant community hub, with U3A classes, fitness groups, a cinema club, repair and diy café and theatre troupe, plus an excellent actual Café, the Mavern Cube will now also house knitting workshops - three between now and the New Year, to be precise.

At present, the plan is to run workshops on approximately a monthly basis, and to begin by sharing beginner / intermediate level skills. Full details are available on the Events page, but the outline is that:

On 25th October I will be teaching Beyond the Knit Stitch, a class designed to take new knitters from the Garter Stitch scarf into the bright world of purl, rib, moss and slipped stitches, so that the world is their oyster. 10am-1pm, the Meeting Room, Malvern Cube. £25 including materials and equipment kit.

On 22nd November it's the turn of Lace to be the star of the show. Simple textured stitches, directional decreases, yarnovers and chart-reading - what more could you ask for? Well, there's an exclusive pattern for a simple and elegant lace stole, for which the yarn and needles are provided as part of your equipment kit! 10am-1pm, the Meeting Room, Malvern Cube. £25 including materials and equipment kit.

And Finally,

Just in time for Christmas decorating, on 6th December I'm teaching my Beginner's Sock class. From an introduction to knitting on 4 needles through cuff, heel and toe, this class is brilliant fun, and by the end of the morning, you'll have a mini Christmas stocking to add to your advent calendar! 10am-1pm, the Meeting Room, Malvern Cube. £25 including materials and equipment kit.

So if you know a knitter who'd like to know more, or a garter stitch genius out to broaden their horizons, please do let them know. Places can be reserved by emailing me (ruthcrafts [at] ruthv [dot] co [dot] uk).

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

A Me-Made Day

I haven't yet picked up the courage to try any of the 'me-made' alongs or similar outfit challenges relating to sewing, partly because I'm really bad at getting my wardrobe organised enough for it to work, and partly because the majority of my dressmaking has made exactly that: dresses. Wearing dresses for a whole month with English weather and the demands of work / travel / tights just doesn't seem like a very good idea.

Over the last few weeks, though, circumstances (some unexpected time off, sunny weather, a fantastic event in mind) conspired to create at least one fully made-by-me outfit.

Here you see me in: my Minoru jacket and Alletta shawl over the excitingly-named 'Shirt 113' from Burda Style (June 2013), and 'Trapezoid Skirt 121, also from Burda Style (June 2013). Plus the bag was made and drafted by me - to fit keys, phone, wallet, mp3player, kindle and small knit. It does ok, but I should have added a button closure / zip for the phone pocket.

A few notes:

In a rare fit of courage, I have finally (and I mean finally, I have been buying jersey for 4 years now) made something with knit fabric! And not just one something, but two (there's a striped version of this top which I wore on the same weekend, but was not photographed). The Burda tshirt has the added detail of princess seams and cap sleeves which necessitate binding the lower armscye, but once I'd made sse of the directions, and like with the neck binding I found this much easier on a knit fabric than it would have been on a woven.

The cord skirt is a regular favourite in my wardrobe, and I find the item generally transitions from home to workwear well in the autumn / winter season. This one has the benefit of hip-yoke pockets, which are useful despite sitting slightly oddly on me, and is written to include welt pockets on the back, as well as belt loops. Neither of these two features seemed conducive to a successful project in my timeframe, though I do still intend to add the belt loops, since this skirt is designed to sit an inch below one's natural waistline, which on me just feels a tad low.

I love my Minoru, and am starting to think I should make another jacket. The Robson? Something from Burda? I have a number of their coat issues, and rather like the idea of a pea coat, but don't really want to work with something massively heavy. Any suggestions? What's your favourite autumn cover-up?

Monday, 6 October 2014

Millefeuilles: a leaf-lace stole

As the nights draw in, the mornings grow dimmer, and the leaves begin to turn, I find myself searching for a splash of colour to brighten my office outfit and provide an extra dash of warmth against the chill. Millefeuilles was designed to fit this brief: a shallow crescent shawl or stole knit form tip-to-tip so that you can use every metre of that beautiful single skein.

Carefully shaped lace patterns begin and end this stole, so that the scarf grows out of the leafy design, and finishes neatly with an asymmetrical point.

With full charts and written directions, this scarf is a perfect project for the Autumn, whether as a special project for yourself or as a plan for Christmas gifting. While it may look complex, the main lace chart is a straightforward ten rows, and worked over the 26 stitch border, maintains interest throughout the length of the stole.

Samples were knit in Fyberspates Rural Charm 4ply and Juno Fibre Arts Buffy Sock, but any 100g skein of fingering-weight yarn with a little drape would work. Consider using luxurious fibres or pure wool to make the most of the skein you have, or pick something new that isn't too tightly spun or springy. I'm making another, just for me, in Eden Cottage Yarns Copper Bucket, and would recommend their Tempo or BFL Sock base.


Tuesday, 30 September 2014

A fantastic time; a definite haul

I think perhaps Yarndale is going to become my favourite yarn festival. It's close to my parents and friends, it's full of friendly stallholders and knitters, it has amazing goodies, and even the weather seems to be smiling on it.

This year, we decided to make the official journey from Skipton Station to the auction mart through the park - which was much less far than I had felt it was when discussing lunchtime options last year! Instead of the 30 minute hike to the edge of town which I had anticipated, it was a 15 minute saunter in the sunshine, reassuringly accompanied by yarny signage all the way to site.

We'd packed a picnic, and I am glad we did - the queues for the Café (which was sensibly sited in the space adjacent to the marketplace itself) were long throughout the day. It also meant we could enjoy some fresh air as we ate the pasta salad I managed to cobble together!

Our plan was to make one exploratory loop of the vendors, and then return on a purchasing spree. That way we could make our decisions in a level-headed and sensible fashion, rather than simply running off with yarn and squeeing madly. We were, largely, successful.

[Left to right: Eden Cottage Yarns Pendle 4ply in 'Copper Bucket', EasyKnits Slink in 'Upstairs', Handmade in the UK by Emily of Tincanknits, Fivemoons Comet MSY in 'Lowering Sky Ooak' and Fivemoons Artemis in 'Can You Hear the Silence?']

I didn't know that I was going to buy a patttern book, but I have heard some fabulous things about this collection, as well as Emily's interview with A Playful Day, and was won over by Bonny, which is going to be knit in the turquoise laceweight from EasyKnits.  TwinkleMou5e (who is the other half of the 'we' in this post!) was even wearing Raindrops for Yarndale! So you see, it had to be, and Emily was very lovely and charmingly signed my copy for me, and then Jon sold me some laceweights... and Eden Cottage Yarns is always a favourite... and Fivemoons had some wonderful stock at Unwind which I didn't buy, and have regretted, so I made up for it. I didn't have planned projects for all the purchases when I made them, but I do now, which has to be a good sign, doesn't it? Now, if I can just stop myself casting on All the Things...

[Gratuitous distracting photo of Alpacas]

The best thing about this festival was just how lovely the people were, and the fact that I was meeting internet friends not for the first, but for the second time. Unwind had given me that opportunity, with its fantastic podcaster meetup, and I'd been attempting to be a bit braver on Twitter and in saying hello to people I know of, so I actually got to chat with Aimee from KnitSpinCake / Harbour City Yarns, Louise from KnitBritish, Jo from Shinybees, Nic from Yarns from the Plain, Jon of EasyKnits and Vicky from Eden Cottage Yarns.

So thank you, everyone, for being lovely, and thank you particularly to the organisers of Yarndale, for creating such a fantastic event somewhere I can get to relatively easily!

Friday, 26 September 2014


If you look at the stash, you might think there was no need to add to it; considering the UFO oubliettes, you might conclude that I'm working on plenty of projects.

Sometimes, though, it isn't the right yarn at the right moment, for the right project. Sometimes you need to knit something very specific (a simple, small, shawl in a nearly-solid neutral). And sometimes, Eden Cottage Yarn posts photos of yarn and builds up temptation a drop at a time until you simply must buy all the yarn, right now!

So this was a project born out of that desire to just get something knit – to finish a project, to add to the wardrobe, to achieve something simple and practical.

Started on a train, it was finished within a fortnight, and pressed into service. Though I've knitted the Alletta pattern several times before, and I do like the variegated versions, I think this is my favourite – the yarn has a soft halo and a beautiful drape to it, while being woolly and robust enough for me to simply grab and go.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

July Pi Shawl

Make that stunning skein of semi-solid yarn into something to treasure: based on Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Pi Shawl, this elegant shawl incorporates all the increases into a few carefully placed plain rows between the lace-work.

 Worked entirely in the round, this circular shawl or wrap starts with just a very few stitches, and grows… and grows. The magic of Pi and of blocking ensures that the shawl is complete at any and all points, so stop when you think it’s big enough, or when your yarn is running low, and you’ll find you have a warm, comforting shoulder wrap.

Perfect under your winter coat, or as an extra layer in the office!


A simple stitch pattern twines its way around the leg and across the foot of this elegant sock. Choose to knit two identical socks (twisting sunwise or widdershins), or create a symmetrical pair.