Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for January, 2011

New Knitting Kit Design

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

I am currently obsessed with Rowan’s Shimmer yarn – Lurex in old money.  In the good old days, this came in a lovely range of sparkly colours, but the new Shimmer (safer, apparently?) has a limited palette on the silver to sparkly black side with grey in between.  While I mourn the loss of sparkly pink, I still love the shades we are left with.  They are very wintry and clean.

I’ve been teaching a Shimmer + KSH workshop project and I’m teaching it again soon in Devon at so I’ve been playing with the yarn all over again.

So far I have  cast-on (but then revised) a pattern for mittens with Rowan Pure Wool 4 Ply and Shimmer – but I will go back to that one.  And I have now cast on (twice) for a glam pair of mitts in KSH and Shimmer.  So far it looks like a snow ball with tooth picks:

mid-grey shimmer and pale dove-grey Kidsilk Haze at the 3cm of cuff stage

I’m going to knit these today and tomorrow.  I should be knitting my Wooden Hill Blanket – but it’s having a little holiday at Marmalade Yarns in Frome, ooops!  Kind Marmalade people are however posting it back to me…

The Frost Flower Mitts will have no fingers but half a thumb, they will have a mock-cable bit, some Lurex-on-its-own frills and thrills and some flowers.

Now:  would Shimmer, Kidsilk Haze AND beads be too much … even for me…?

Ah, Drawing Board. We meet again.

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Can you guess what this is?

3 of the 4 balls I had knitted up

Yes.  It’s the Little Wooden Hill Blanket.  All frogged. 

However, I am happy because – it just wasn’t right.  I went on a long (wet and muddy) cycle ride yesterday and as I cycled, I thought about the blanket and specifically, what was Wrong With It.

Time spent swatching (OK this was past the swatch stage, but never mind) or time spent re-designing is a good way to spend time, because not all designs can be right first time, or second time or even third.  Third, by the way, is where I draw the line.  If I spent a day swatching, experimenting with, a design concept that was in my head, but at the end of that day, the swatch proved unsuitable, too difficult, too – anything, well, that’s not time wasted, is it?  It’s time invested in getting it right.  Or, as sometimes happens, deciding it’s not for me and leaving it.  Either way, it has to be done.

I wanted this blanket to be right – and it will be – but this version wasn’t.  Too wide, too many balls, the cable/moss panels too wide, hearts too squat.  Choice:  carry on, fudge it and make it OK.  Or, frog it, say ‘Hello Drawing Board!’ and get it so you’re really happy.  Remember, this is for a very special baby, and it’s also for a kit.  Hobson’s choice.  (I was in Hobson’s Choice once, at school.  I think I was Victoria – no, Alice, but I wanted to be Maggie.  Of course).

So after my day’s work is done, I’ll be back here, re-designing, refining and casting back on.  And then I’ll have to knit very, very fast.  

Every cloud though:  at least 4 of the balls of yarn are already threaded with beads and I know that they have no knots in them!

The muddy paw marks on the draft pattern by the way, are from Medlar the evil  yet annoyingly clever cat, who told me all along it was too big.

Little Wooden Hill Blanket

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

Little Wooden Hill Blanket - first of three beaded lace heart sections now complete

Baby blanket up-date:  it’s 1/3rd done!  yay! And it has a name:  Little Wooden Hill Blanket.

I am loving knitting this blanket, despite achieving the sum total of only 137 sts yesterday – oops, he’ll be at school before I get it done unless I have a major knitting day today, which I will.  I have Glee, Miss Marple, and the Secret Life of Coaches in Sky+ all ready for my knitting pleasure later.  I especially want to watch the coaches one as it has model coaches – loaned to the programme makers by the British Coach Model Collectors Club!  True.

I got loads done on Friday as Lily had a Doc appointment, followed by a long weekend queuing in the pharmacy;  but I always think of such times as opportunites:  opportunities to knit, make friends with the guy yelling at the display of rash creams, and possibly a chance to catch some highly infectious virus – multi-tasking at its very best.  It’s OK, I’m going to wash the blanket prior to hand over.  I think, by the way, that I may be slightly germ-phobic.  No, I realise that no-one actually likes germs.  That would just be weird.  However, mostly I observe that folk manage to, for example, be in the same room/railway carriage/car, as someone who lets out a giant unprotected sneeze and not deploy tissues, hand spray, scarves round face, whilst muttering:  for God’s sake, euw euw euw…That’s me.  Seriously, get a tissue, people.

Ahem.  Sorry.

The blanket is knitted in Rowan HK DK Cotton, in simple cream, adorned with crystal beads and lace hearts.  Cables and moss stitch borders run through the design, dividing the blanket into ‘squares’ but it’s knitted in one piece.

the hearts are knitted in stocking stitch backgrounds and cables and moss stitch panels complete the squares

I’m hoping to make the central square a solid bead motif, let’s see how that looks once I get there.

In the meantime, I’m almost on ball number 4, so I reckon this is going to be an 8 – 10 ball project plus one bag of beads.  Seems like a lot of knitting, but it’s on 4mm needles, it goes really fast and it is, after all, a modern nursery heirloom, hopefully.

Next up:  I’m planning a smaller version, more like a pram top blanket, in Rowan HK DK Cotton again, but with motifs of stars and crescent moons…

Both will be available as kits, soon.  I also think I will plan a Court Cottage workshop based on this concept – where I offer participants a design all charted up, OR, you can come along and use my template, but I’ll help you to make up your own motif, design your own cable, background stitches etc – what do you think?  It’s much easier than it looks, once someone has done the maths and the charting, and I’d love to pass on how easy and satisfying this sort of project is.  You know you can trust me, right?  I knit something Really Hard about once a year, then I revert to type:  looks hard, but is easy.  This is in that category.  Can you knit?  Purl?  Then you can knit this.

Twinkle Twinkle little beads…oh how I love me a bit of glitter

close detail of the sloping lace centres with the beaded outline

I’m wishin’ and hopin’…that it was summer already!

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

Are you a winter person, or a summer person?  I was always a winter person, until quite recently.  Love the autumn feel of winter on it’s way, it’s a great excuse to light the fire, cook (even more than usual) hearty meals and hey!  the Christmas season is just round the corner, once you hit October.  Plus, winter is The Knitting Season.  In my life every season is knitting season but many knitters sort of reverse-hibernate and garden etc in the summer, returning to the yarn in September. 

But recently, I’ve been much more excited by summertime.  I do love to garden, and the longer days seem to suit me better – age related?  Maybe…  The biting cold of recent winters has been in many ways, really lovely, because it’s like old-fashioned weather and has been very beautiful too, but then again, the cold has been a bit relentless.  And it makes my feet cold – painfully cold – when I cycle. 

Today, still January, yes, but the weather wasn’t biting cold, the wind was brisk, but it was a kind wind.  I went out about 4 o’clock as it was just getting dark and pottered about in the garden.  There is a magical time, winter or summer, when blackbirds just Go For it!  One was going for it this afternoon.  So I went into the little summer house (shed?  well, it’s wooden), and had a little tidy up, though the major de-spidering will wait until March, put on the lights, hung up some newly aquired random ornaments (elephants with gold outfits and bells!)…and dreamed of summer: 

Dusky January night - but we can pretend it's summer


I also unpacked a little Christmas present that I got for Mark.  You may say:  Alison, be honest, did you in fact want those lanterns yourself, hmm?  isn’t that the real reason you bought them for Mark…? But I’d deny it.  It was a set (2 sets actually, more is more, remember?) of solar-powered Chinese-style lanterns, made of cloth and plastic so they can, theoretically, live outdoors in your trees for the summer.  I got them from a cool website called Fire Box, and this is what they will look like in the summer: 

I predict a long, hot, dreamy summer....

Soon these will be adorning the apple trees and I’ll be sitting on the lawn in the lovely hot summer nights, sipping a refreshing glass of wholesome lemonade…unless it’s a Friday night, in which case, make that a large Chardonnay!  Roll on summer…


Saturday, January 8th, 2011

I’m not exactly the queen of puddings (get it?  oh, almost a good joke!), but I do make a pretty trifle.

I’ve made two today, because I’m going to friend’s birthday party and everyone is bringing some home-cooked food – mine were trifles.

There is a very traditional sherry trifle which I have adorned with pink edible sparkles;  and a dark, sultry black forest chocolate cherry trifle – this one is my favourite.

Trifles all dressed up and ready for the party

The black forest chocolate trifle has gone for an understated look:

Green and Blacks organic cocoa makes this cherry-chocolate trifle very yummy

While the sherry trifle has gone rather Barbie:

Pink sugar crystals and a sprinkling of shiny pink baubles

I’d like to knit a hat or scarf now, in cream, with tiny pink baby-pink seed beads plus a random dose of big dark pink beads, like this:

This looks like a design idea!


Thursday, January 6th, 2011

I think that left-overs are often at least as good as the main meal.  I’m so keen on them, I make extra-huge meals the first time round in order to have many many left-overs.  Then there is no need to make a sandwich for lunch (or as is usually the case, open ‘fridge, stare vacantly at contents, close ‘fridge, fail to make sandwich but make cup of tea instead…)  With the magic of left-overs, all I have to do is remember to put some of it in the warming oven at breakfast time, then after a hard morning of pattern-wrangling, I can just eat, no thinking needed.

So it is with knitting.  Left-over bits of yarn are hoarded and saved for something-important-sometime.  Only, I don’t always find a use for it.  We need to be creative in using up these precious bits and pieces – I think that, along with a free pattern for you here, from time to time, we’ll have a left-overs category where I can pop some ideas for using up the left-overs.  Mainly these will be so simple they won’t need patterns, but if I think it does need one, I’ll add it as a PDF for you to download.

First up any day soon, will be this Kidsilk Haze left-overs idea for a cushion.  So, never throw away KidSilk Haze over 1 metre in length, ‘cos that’s just enough for a bobble.  Aiming to post this free pattern on my blog in the next few days.

Kidsilk Haze left-overs, warmed up and served as bobbles on a cushion

Free Pattern – The Mooting Mitts

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Mooting Mitts

As I promised you, I have now completed the pattern for the Mooting Mitts and it’s available here as a free download.  Note:  tension is measured over 10 cm sq

Enjoy! X

(Click link below to download the first free pattern on my website, you’ll need to do this twice)

Chart & full patt for Mooting Mitts

OK, yes, technically it is your chair, but possession is nine tenths of the law…

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

Medlar has occupied my office/workroom chair. He says: do you feel lucky today?

Designing, cycling, thinking…

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Tomorrow is the first day ‘back at work’ for many people after a Christmas break and New year holiday that seems to have lasted for about a month.  Last year, January 2010, it would have been the first day back for me, too.  Back to a job I used to do, at one time full-time, then increasingly part-time for 16 years in all (which amazes me – my daughter wasn’t even born when I started working there!), until in October, I left.  2011 is therefore the year in which I have a great opportunity to really focus on what I love best:  designing.

Still, it feels odd.  Maybe I’ll eventually get used to this feeling.  The feeling of…freedom.  Yes, but with freedom comes a portion of anxiety, or at least, in my case, coming from a family in which anxiety was an Olympic sport, it does.  My beloved dad was, to me, perfect.  I loved him totally.  And yet, oh my, his anxiety levels were amazing.  Every new situation, every plan that was made – let’s not even go to plans that were altered – filled him with a level of concern that must have been unbearable.  For example, if he had to go somewhere he’d never driven before, there would be map-searching, note-taking (long hand directions for the passenger to hold, plus a handy note book size reference sheet that he’d Sellotape to the steering wheel.  I’m not joking).  And then, we’d set off on the Dry Run.

The Dry Run was made a day or so before the Real Run and just as you imagine, it’s a practice.  Yes, we’d practice driving to, say, Cheadle, from Flixton in Greater Manchester where we lived.   Then the next day, we’d do the Real Run in order to have tea with somebody or other.  Later, when we lived in the Midlands, we’d practice driving from Wellingborough to, say, Oxford.  Where dad’s sister, my lovely aunty Florence, lived.  That soon became a safe run because we did it so often.  Until the day They built a new by-pass.  Oh dear.  A Dry Run was organised.

I grew up loving the Dry Runs because we did them together!  I was the instruction holder in the passenger seat of the pale blue Anglia.  I was the one who taped the short-hand notes to dad’s steering wheel, I was the one with change for the ‘phone box so we could ring home (‘Don’t answer, Jean, it’ll be me and Al, letting you know we’re 30 minutes from home, let it ring three times.  Then put the kettle on 25 minutes later, love’). 

Some years later, attending a friend’s wedding in unfamiliar country, and staying over for a few days, I found myself organising a Dry Run to the wedding venue, notes in hand, family bemused, slightly irritated:  ‘Mum?  aren’t we going here tomorrow?’  ‘Yes, it’s our Dry Run today’.  Oh my God, I was turning into dad…

Cutting the cord that attached me to my old – often loved, sometimes hated – job of 16 years, did make me very anxious.  I’m coming out of it now.  After all, I’ve been having a Dry Run at designing for long enough.  I think even my dad would say:  ‘Al, off you go, and don’t forget your notes love.’

So, I’m going to show you some of my notes.  Like many knitters, I keep a note book in my knitting bag, and this note book is where I make sketches of things I might design, I write down all my references, tensions, I staple in ball-bands, lengths of yarns, small swatches of knitting, photos, entire patterns I’m designing will first of all be written out long-hand in these books.  From here, I type them up and add the first typed draft to the note book for modification by me as I work and evolve the design.

Stack of design note books

As I look through my old books, I can hardly recall some of the ideas or swatches, but I can recall the people with whom I worked, or whom I taught (or who taught me).  Because I get knitters I meet and work with to write any notes I need, some have added pattern notes, or even in one case, examined a bit of crochet I did but that I could no longer remember anything about (I’m crochet-phobic, but I’m getting help) and she wrote it all out for me, perfect!  So the books are better than diaries.

So, these are my maps, they show me where I’ve been, as in this tiny swatch that became a stole in my book:

…and they also show me where I am going, such as this sketch for a new design that I did today:

This will be knitted in Rowan Hand Knit DK Cotton, in Ecru, and I will also use large crystal beads.  The baby is due in January (eek) and we know he is a boy, he is the very special Grandson of my friend Hilary, and so I promised Hilary a modern heirloom knit that will also be practical.  The design will feature hearts that will be knitted in lace AND beads (may as well start him young!), and also have texture from cables and moss stitch.

I am really looking forward to knitting this and once it’s done and handed over, I’ll prepare it as a kit, too.  It will look ‘hard’ but, like all my knitting, it will really be quite easy.

I’ve been planning this in my head on several long cycle rides recently.  When my hands or feet are so numb they hurt in the cold (despite eleventy-five layers, yes), I distract myself from the agony by imaginary knitting or planning.  That’s what I used to do in meetings too, by the way – what do you do? And that is when I planned this blanket, cycling through the beauty of Somerset’s levels on bitter late December and early January days.

It will be cast on tomorrow, the first day back at work for many people, including me.  This is what I do now.  I’ve done the dry run, tick;  I’ve got a note book, tick;  change for the ‘phone box…?  Yes dad, I have, thanks.