Rhinebeck Ready?

Well Hello. It's been a while! I've been super busy doing lots of exciting things (new yarn colours out now and a new book coming soon!). But I'm BACK! You can expect lots of blog posts in the near future, I'm going to try really hard to make it a habit. 

In two weeks I'll in Rhinebeck NY for New York State Sheep & Wool Festival, I went last year and it was nothing less than AMAZING. 

I'll be on the Merrett Bookshop Stand, they will be selling copies of all my books and I can sign them if you want me to. I will also be giving a talk on Sunday as part of their Tales of Yarn event, so come along and listen!

It's traditional to knit a Rhinebeck Sweater. I'm terrible at knitting sweaters for many reasons, but I'm giving it a jolly good go. Last year, at Jill Drapers Open Studio (which is happening again this year, so worth a visit!) I bought a skein of Empire. This yarn is amazing, the colours she dyes are amazing, and the skein (singular) is as big as my head. And I've got a big head.  

It's pink and lilac - I've fallen in love with pink a little bit, which is very unlike me. This skein of yarn has been dyed in such a way that when knitted, it looks like a winter sky. 

After much deliberation, I ordered a normal sized skein in an olive green for contrast cuffs and button band and decided to knit a Ramona cardigan. Will I finish in time to wear in at the fairground? Will I finish it at all? Only time will tell. 

Sidney and Eugene KAL round-up

I really don't know what's slower - my knitting, or my writing up a post about a long-finished KAL.

The January and February KAL in the Coop Knits Ravelry group was Sidney and Eugene, both from Coop Knits  Socks Vol. 2. Serial sockists Mandy and Gail both maintained their reputations for being prolific as they managed pairs in both patterns.

Eugene: writergirl3 (Gail)

Eugene: writergirl3 (Gail)

Sidney: mandyscragg (Mandy)

Sidney: mandyscragg (Mandy)

Random pattern prizes went to Sarah and Penny for their Eugenes and Sidneys respectively.

Eugene: sarahpurpleflower (Sarah)

Eugene: sarahpurpleflower (Sarah)

Sidney: pennybro (Penny)

Sidney: pennybro (Penny)

There isn't a KAL running currently, but keep looking here or on the Ravelry group for notice of the next one.



Have you seen these: card games for knitters

Rachel, you asked yesterday for recommendations for board games for you and your boys. This is a game you'd probably enjoy, just not one maybe to break out after Sunday lunch with your family since the themes are very adult in nature. 

Scary hand reflection available separately

Scary hand reflection available separately

It's an expansion for the pre-existing game Cards Against Humanity, where as far as I can see, the aim is to complete an innocuous phrase with the most outrageous statement you have in your hand.

These are from the tamer end of the spectrum

These are from the tamer end of the spectrum

Knitters Against Swatches was thought up by Sarah and Robyn, who run ReBelle, a yarn store in Lexington, Kentucky. They are offering the chance to win a free deck of cards to those who post funny combinations to Instagram or Twitter using #horribleknitters before the end of March.

With Edinburgh Yarn Festival next week, I'm sure you'll see these cards around.


Socks Yeah! but not just for socks

Socks Yeah! has been available for a few months now and there are loads of brilliantly executed socks out there. I'll share some of the best at some point soon. What has interested me recently though, is what else the yarn has been used for. A little digging through Ravelry and Instagram threw up some really impressive projects.

Super Eyelet Fine by Fiona Wright; Photo: The Woolly Brew

Super Eyelet Fine by Fiona Wright; Photo: The Woolly Brew

This Super Eyelet Fine shawl has been designed by Fiona Wright, a partner in The Woolly Brew yarn shop in Pitenweem. It is available as a free download from Ravelry now, and should knit up fairly quickly so you have something new to keep you warm during cool spring evenings.

This shawl, made by Aiko in Rachel's favourite shade, features a textured section that will look good at the back or the front of your neck, depending on how you wear it. All proceeds from the sale of this pattern go to a scholarship fund at the Australian National University in memory of the designer's brother.

Northallerton Hat by Rachel Coopey; Photo: Carol (UnfadingSpring)

Northallerton Hat by Rachel Coopey; Photo: Carol (UnfadingSpring)

This Northallerton hat, made by Carol, from Coop Knits Toasty Volume 1 shows that Socks Yeah! looks good in stranded colourwork, as well as in lace patterns. I could certainly do with wearing it to protect my head from the piercingly cold wind that I've been out in this week.

If crochet's more your thing than knitting, be sure to have a look at Crochet Yeah!, a book of crocheted accessories in Socks Yeah! from The Crochet Project. More on that soon! 

Socks from everywhere: Blue

I may have mentioned this before, but the most popular colour to have in socks, at least according to Ravelry, is blue. Whether this is because blue is an easy colour for dyeing, that it has the widest range of hues, or simply that it goes well with jeans, I really don't know. Whatever the reason, here are four of the best blue socks.

First up are the well-defined cables of these Seudagan socks, designed and made by Mona NicLeòid. Seudagan is Galic for "little charm," or "little gem," and they certainly have a charm of their own.

Pattern and Photo: Seudagan by Mona NicLeòid

Pattern and Photo: Seudagan by Mona NicLeòid

Strictly speaking, these could go into a post on orange socks, but these had to be featured.

These were made by Tiffany, who does her own video podcast, Knitting at Tiffany's. I can't decide what the contrast colour makes me think of, but definitely an animal of some sort: a tiger, or some kind of exotic tropical fish? Either way, the waves of colour and asymmetry make these socks stand out.

I realise I've done a number of these and haven't yet featured a Coop Knits pattern. These Deccas, from Coop Knits Socks Vol. 2, made by Glen (Glennz on Ravelry) are great examples as you can see the lace pattern so clearly.

Pattern: Decca by Rachel Coopey; Photo: Glen (Glennz)

Pattern: Decca by Rachel Coopey; Photo: Glen (Glennz)

I had to look at this last pair over and over again to believe they were actually knittted.

Photo: PurlsB4wine

These Royal Copenhagen socks are modifications of not one, but three General Hogbuffer designs, Eisern, Skandium and Onopordum. The effect is nothing short of stunning as the combination of yarn and design work perfectly together to match the feel of Royal Copenhagen china. Who knows, maybe in the future we'll see vases in the shape of socks?

With only one weekend left in February, there's still time to finish off your Sidney or Eugene socks for the Jan/Feb KAL. Head over to the Coop Knits group to see what's been going on.


Coop Knits at Unravel

Need something to lift you from the murk and gloom of February? Farnham Maltings is hosting Unravel 2016 on the 19th-21st February. There are exhibitions, talks and workshops throughout the weekend. Rachel will also be manning (or is it womanning?) the Coop Knits stall, so do drop by to see what's new from Coop Knits, she'll be launching a new book Crochet Yeah from the The Crochet Project, which features Socks Yeah yarn. She will also be bringing all her books and the beautiful Dyed in the Wool yarn from Spincycle (on the left below).

Day tickets are £7 in advance (workshops are extra) and, if previous years are anything to go by, there will be plenty to keep you busy and to tempt your wallet all weekend.

I'll be there on the Saturday for Veera Välimäki's workshop on shawls. Are you going? If so, what are you looking forward to?


Socks from everywhere: Red

Many years ago I had a student whose father was a doctor. He would come along to parents' evenings in his sombre suits that he clearly wore to work, but you could pick him out from the crowd as soon as he sat down as he was partial to alarmingly bright socks, usually in vivid yellows or reds. 

I've done a little research on Ravelry and found that red is far from the most popular colour for socks. Perhaps it's the look-at-me quality that this dad was going for that some knitters shy away from. I would not presume to know, but here are four pairs that caught my eye.

Pattern: Im Kreis der Familie by Regina Satta; Photo: duesselhexe

Pattern: Im Kreis der Familie by Regina Satta; Photo: duesselhexe

These just look good. The variegation of the Drachenwolle yarn doesn't detract from, or disguise the cabling. Instead it adds depth to the design. The pattern name is In the family circle in English and these fine examples were made by prolific sock knitter Alexandra (duesselhexe on Ravelry).

In looking through thousands of sock projects, I've seen this pattern many times and these, from knitter and designer knittymelissa are good examples. I'm a relative newcomer to colourwork, but like the simplicity of the idea here of the gradual change in colour which works well. It would be a shame to wear shoes with these since the instep colourwork would be hidden from view.

Stephanie van der Linden's designs seem to really stand out from the crowd and could easily have chosen two or three for this post alone. The leafy lace pattern on these Esther socks, made by knittyliciousuk, is accentuated by the hint of sparkle in the Easyknits Twinkle yarn.

This came up as one of the top hits when i went looking for red socks and I couldn't resist putting them in. It's just a fun design that made me smile when I first saw the photos. Maybe these are for you and you can be the one standing out from the crowd with apples on your socks.....


Tips and techniques: Colourwork without the worry

I had planned to put out tips and techniques posts in a logical order. This probably isn't going to happen as I'm not that organised and also because I'm better at writing on a subject that is in my head at that time.

There are vast numbers of colourwork sock designs around, such as Rachel's Alfrick pattern.

I always wondered how you would keep track everything if the floats were hidden in the centre of the tube. The answer of course is that you don't have to. 

Quite simply, you work the sock inside out. It's easier to ensure that the floats don't pull too tight if you can see them, after all. For me, working a tube inside out hasn't ever been a problem as I picked up magic loop a bit wrong. In fact, if someone demanded that I knit the right way out, I'd really struggle. 

There are a couple of ways to flip around your work. The simplest is to work the edging as you normally would and turn the work inside out when you came to the colourwork chart. Or you can do what I do and work magic loop with the cable between me and the tube from the start.  

If you're eagle eyed, you'll have picked up that this isn't a sock, but a sleeve. That doesn't really matter since the idea is the same. What you will notice though is that there are places where I had to carry the yarn across the back of 5 stitches. With everything on show, I can ensure that the floats don't pull too tight, puckering the fabric.

I don't profess to being a colourwork expert and I'm sure there are many people out there with a wealth of expertise, so if you have any tips of your own, please do share.

If colourwork isn't your thing, but you do like cables, there's a KAL for the Sidney and Eugene patterns on the CoopKnits Ravelry group.

Useless information?

In looking for candidates for the Socks from everywhere posts (next week it's red socks), I've made extensive use of the advanced search features on Ravelry. On a whim, I wondered which were the most popular colours for socks.

Of course a simple question always lacks a simple answer. While you can search for single colours, there is the option, for somewhere-inbetween colours such as yellow-orange. For simplicity's sake, I counted these as both yellow and orange.

Far and away the top two colours are blue (roughly 124,000 projects), followed by green (102,000). Red is third, with a little over half the number of green projects (56,000), with purple just behind (55,000) and, perhaps surprisingly, pink in fifth (38,000), closely followed by orange (35,000).

I would take these numbers with a slight pinch of salt since when I went back later on and performed what I had thought was the same search, the numbers had shifted slightly. however, the pattern was pretty constant.

So should this be anything more than passing curiosity? Certainly it leads to even more questions. Are knitters predisposed to buying blue or green yarn over more muted browns or greys? Or is it the case that the photographs of the samples on the patterns sway yarn purchasers? Do designers influence yarn choices that strongly?

All and none of these could be factors, but there is another angle. My house is full of yarn purchased, sometimes without even a vague notion of a project, so it lies in storage. It may be that pretty colours sell, but just never make it as far as the needles.

Maybe I'm better spending my time on more useful pursuits. I fancy some nice new socks, blue perhaps.......


Tips and techniques: Reducing the mending burden

I am hard on my socks.

I don't think I particularly mistreat them in any way, but beyond simple wear, I seem to have a habit of snapping the cast-on edge when taking them off or putting them on. To a degree, this is probably something I should expect: I have the dainty ankles of a runner, and the feet of a 6ft tall man, so for socks to stay up, there is literally a tension between keeping the stitch count down at the ankle, but up around the heel. Snapping and swearing are an inevitable consequence.

Having a loving and patient wife who is happy(ish) to mend my socks for me, I possess a few pairs of colourfully repaired socks. 

The big question is though, how do I prevent breaking the socks in the first place while keeping the cast-on stretchy? I think I have one possible answer. In future, when casting on for socks for me, the yarn needs to be held doubled. This should drastically reduce the likelihood of the dread sound of snapping, my contributions to the swear box and the pile of mending.

Have you got another idea to solve this problem?

Wilbert and Orville KAL round-up

The last KAL of 2015 was two patterns from Coop Knits Socks Volume 2: Orville and Wilbert. What you can see from the pictures of the finished socks is how much the yarn used changes the look of the same pattern. 

These pairs of Orvilles were made by, from top to bottom, cvd-aviatrix, MissFrances and writergirl3. You can see how the middle pair were knit with a far less fluffy yarn than the other two, giving a much sharper stitch definition. It could be the differing light conditions in which the photos were taken except.....

These Wilberts, made by, from top to bottom, mandyscragg, writergirl3, have far less variation.

I guess that's one of the fascinating things about knitting: that you're never going to know exactly how things will turn out until you've made a good start.

The randomly selected winners from the KAL are MissFrances, mandyscragg and writergirl3, and yarn winners are agita and cvd-aviatrix. There are other KALs running currently in the CoopKnits Ravelry group. Have a look and join in!

Socks from everywhere: Yellow

Way back in the distant past I was a postgraduate research student. I moved into a house with friends and was horrified to discover, a few days later, that my supervisor's girlfriend was my new next-door neighbour. The adjoining walls weren't all that thick, so I was regularly treated to the fruits of his, hitherto unknown, knowledge of hilarious (to him at least) jokes. The thing is, I never heard the body of the joke, only ever the roared punchline followed by gales of self-congratulatory laughter. Early one Sunday morning I was treated to a cry of, "......... and it was yellow! Ha ha ha!" Ever since, I have not been a fan of the colour. 

It turns out though that the rest of the world seems to disagree with me. So here's a selection of yellow socks: cabled, colourwork, lace and fun patterns.

Pattern: Linesx3 by Jeannie Cartmel; Photo: LizzieLace

Pattern: Linesx3 by Jeannie Cartmel; Photo: LizzieLace

These, made by LizzieLace, caught my eye because of the changes of direction. With the spiralling band, I bet they're snug fitting too.

Pattern: Fibonacci by Stephanie van der Linden; Photo McFrazzled

Pattern: Fibonacci by Stephanie van der Linden; Photo McFrazzled

These, made by McFrazzled, may have made my eyes go a little funny if I looked at then too long, but I do love the overall effect and the fact that the soles are completely different. This picture, with the strong line dividing the motifs, would be a good one to use if trying to explain how socks are constructed to a beginner knitter. 

Pattern: Monkey by Cookie A; Photo: Heikku

Pattern: Monkey by Cookie A; Photo: Heikku

These look great in the photo and this design was one of the first that Jen knitted. I think it's a great example of a simple idea, well executed to make something special. Heikku made this pair and after last week's post, I wonder what's on her sock blockers.

Pattern: No. 2 Pencil Socks by The Yarn Enabler; Photo: TrishKnits

Pattern: No. 2 Pencil Socks by The Yarn Enabler; Photo: TrishKnits

When I saw how this photo was composed by TrishKnits, I had to smile. It took me back to the couple of years I spent in the US as a kid, always in need of a No. 2 pencil for day to day work, but particularly for tests. I may never make a pair, but I am glad that the design exists.

If you think I've missed out a stunning pair of yellow socks, please do leave a comment.

Have you seen these: sock blockers

Every time I go to get a CD out of the cabinet where we store them, I knock the wire sock blockers that hang from the knob onto the floor with a huge clatter. This poses two questions for me. Firstly, why do I persist in putting them back in exactly the same place, knowing full well that I'll only knock them off again? And secondly, do quieter sock blockers exist?

Plastic seems like a suitable substitute material and there are options available from the big brands, these for instance:

KnitPro AQUA sock blockers

KnitPro AQUA sock blockers

However,  for something a bit different, some of these from Etsy might suit:

Fruity themed sock blockers?

Fruity themed sock blockers?

Just in case you forget.....

Just in case you forget.....

One adjustable set so you can knit for the whole family........

One adjustable set so you can knit for the whole family........

As a bit of a cheapskate though, I think I should really follow Eskimimi's advice and simply make my own.

Intentions 2016

I do love a New Year, there is something hopeful and clean about it for me. It makes think about what I want to do in the upcoming year (not what I need to do, and often not anything to do with work - that stuff gets planned way in advance).

Last year I had 2 intentions, you can read about them in the post I wrote last year here. The first was to learn to crochet and I did just that: 

It was glorious, I am in love with having a yarn hobby again, I'm a total beginner and it has given me a much better appreciation of how difficult it can be when you're not familiar with terminology, it's difficult to remember that when you've been doing something for a long time. 

My second intention didn't really get going. I did go to some exhibitions and museums (not nearly as many as I would have liked), the William Morris Vs Andy Warhol exhibition was amazing and I really enjoyed the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. I didn't do any sketching on location though, I think because I visited with others and I really need to go to more places on my own if I want to do this. I did have a magical afternoon with a sketchbook on the shores of Squam lake and my trip there did wonders for my creativity.  

Intentions for 2016

Number One: Inspired by Kenneth Rocafort, who draws and paints in a page-a-day diary everyday (I think for 4 or 5 years now) I have bought a tiny pocket diary and intend to do something in it everyday. It might be a drawing, a painting, a print or something else. It might be something I saw that day, it might be something random. The only rule is to put something on the page everyday. I'm hopeful this will be a path back to things I used to do that I haven't for a long time, I can't remember when or why I stopped - I'm working on forgiving myself for that. 

Number Two: To keep track of the books I read. I think I'm using GoodReads for this but if you know of a better way, please let me know. 

My rolling Intention is to be kind. I hope 2016 is a kind year to you and everyone you love. 

Have You Seen This: Colouring Book for Knitters

Adult colouring books seem to be everywhere this year. They have been around for longer than you might think. A long time ago in a career far, far away, Jen had a botany colouring book while she was doing horticultural training. And I know that there are practising doctors out there who got through their anatomy courses with the aid of a colouring book.

The range of subjects has multiplied, with things like Moose Allain's Advent Calendars becoming an annual staple.

In the language of the season, "And lo, in the fortnight before Christmas Ann and Kay did publish a colouring book for knitters. Jen did see the book and squeal with excitement and did instantly order two for delivery before the final posting date. And verily, Jim rolled his eyes."

Time to break out the pencils!

Time to break out the pencils!

If you haven't come across Mason-Dixon Knitting, Kay and Ann have been corresponding on their blog for well over a decade. Set aside a good hour and wade into their take on life, the universe and knitting.

Get hold of your copy from Amazon (make sure you go to Amazon UK if you're in the UK). Then you, like me, will truly have seen it all.

Don't forget that you will get a free Coop Knits pattern when you buy two skeins of Socks Yeah! 

For the Tree

In a panic about what to get for your child's teacher? Need a bauble for your knitting group's annual decoration swap? Want something classy, but quick to make for your tree?

The mini-stockings from the For the Tree set could be your answer. Re-edited for 2015, pattern instructions for all five come together:

Choose from stranded colourwork, beaded or cabled stockings. Or even better, make all five! Because the projects are relatively small scale, these are a great opportunity to try out something new.

I've been told that I should have a go at the cabled and beaded one on the far right. The trouble is, I've never put beads onto a knitted piece before. Fortunately, Cat Bordhi's YouTube video, featuring Wayne's World stye extreme close-ups, has come to my rescue.

The For the Tree set is available now from the Coop Knits Ravelry store. Be sure to share your progress and photos with the Coop Knits Ravelry group. If you have previously purchased the set, your Ravelry library will have an update waiting for you.


Festive Feet and Christmas Post!

I LOVE Christmas socks!

I'm planning on knitting myself a pair with this West Yorkshire Spinners yarn in Holly Berry and Cherry Drop:

I went looking for my Grinch project bag (The Grinch is number 3 on my favourite Christmas films list, number 1 is It's A Wonderful Life, number 2 is Santa Claus The Movie). When I found it, there was already a pair of socks in there! I had completely forgotten these Dave socks I knitted last Christmas, all they need is for me to knit the afterthought heels and they are DONE!

It's like a present I managed to give myself by virtue of my sieve-like brain! I used The Knitting Goddess Same Difference yarn, I don't think it's currently available but I know there are Christmas colours in her update tonight. I am having a little KAL in my Ravelry group so if you're planning festive feet, come on over!

If you would like to do a spot of shopping in my online shop, these are the last postage dates around the world:

Friday 4 December Africa, Middle East

Monday 7 December Asia, Cyprus, Far East, Japan, Eastern Europe (ex. Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia

Tuesday 8 December Caribbean, Central & South America

Thursday 10 December Greece, Australia, New Zealand

Monday 14 December Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Poland

Tuesday 15 December Canada, Finland, Sweden, USA

Wednesday 16 December Austria, Iceland, Ireland, Portugal, Spain

Thursday 17 December France

Friday 18 December Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Switzerland

For orders in the UK: I will be shutting my online shop on Saturday 19th December at 9am and it will reopen on 1st January.

If you going to the Pom Pom Quarterly Christmas Party next week, I will see you there!


Friday Favourites: Lorna's Laces

This week Beth Casey, the driving force behind Lorna's Laces gives us an insight into her world.

What is your favourite colour?

Hmmm.... That's a pretty broad question.  My favorite color to look at is orange. The orange you get in the 8 pack of Crayolas. Nothing fancy, just plain orange. Black is my favorite color for a car. Everyone should have a pair of red Chuck Taylor's. And there's nothing quite like a crisp white shirt.

What is your current favourite yarn/fibre?

I'm always going to be a sucker for wool. I like all kinds of wool from the softest merino to the scratchiest Shetland.

All the wool in one place at once

What is your favourite season?

Without a doubt, Fall. And just for the record, you can keep summer. This girl wants nothing to do with being hot. Bleh.

So much yarn, so much potential......

So much yarn, so much potential......

What is/was your current favourite knitting/crochet project?

I've been on a long jag of small projects. Mostly shawls, although lately, sweaters are finding their way back onto my needles. Now, I need to get them off my needles. I've been suffering from startitis these days.

If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?

My dad. He died when I was 25 and was the smartest person I've ever known. I'd like to show him how I turned out. I like to think he'd be proud.

Where do you feel most inspired or get most inspiration?

I do most of my best thinking very early in the morning. Many times I'll get great ideas during that limbo time between sleep and waking. The trick there is to remember it once I'm fully awake. Oftentimes, those eureka moments grab me and wake me right up!

Quick fire questions! What is your favourite:

Book? To Kill a Mockingbird
Film? Sabrina (The Audrey Hepburn version.)
Quote? Never let making a living prevent you from making a life. John Wooden
Cocktail/drink? Vodka martini, up.
Cake? Red Velvet. With my mom's icing. Not that cream cheese stuff.
Cheese? Any creamy blue cheese.

Every business needs a mascot like Sam.

Every business needs a mascot like Sam.

All photos ©Lornas Laces