Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for February, 2011

Spring pictures

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

Dog-wood - looks like a little fire burning at the back of a border


And alliums.  The seed heads from the early winter are all dessicated by the snow and cold now, but still nuzzling in the places I found for them:

the allium seed heads after the winter


See the little bright green grass-like blades?  these are the self-sown allium seedlings from the heads I placed in various places in the late autumn.  If you leave them undisturbed, they easily self-seed, germinate and after 2 or 3 years, they mature into small bulbs, large enough to lift and pot on:

allium bulb-lets - free!


Alliums are cheap enough to buy, but I really the idea of growing my own supplies, from seeds.  Today, I will lift a few dozen of these from where they have been abiding for 2 years and pot them up.

But, for sheer joyful hopefulness for the year ahead, blossoms on bare wood are hard to beat.  Here are the first signs of the quince:

flowering quince about to burst

Knitting injury alert

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

This is my right arm: 

Don't worry, no nasty images!


A fun evening in A&E waiting to have this kitchen-food-prep-related injury attended to, with a happy ending: the  lovely nurse who closed it all up and made it better, also said I can cycle later today.  Thing is though, I don’t think I will cos it it is rather sore.  So, instead I could knit, right?  No, I don’t think so, either, because I’m very right handed (to the point where crochet is a major challenge due to the yarn in the left hand thing), and I realise as I knitted today that I kind of twist my right arm a lot when I knit and it hurts. 

There is something very surreal about A&E at night.  Luckily for me, I was there in the early evening, before Bridgwater’s pubs closed down and the A&E party really got started.  It was a mixed crowd last night.  There was me (in my PJs – Jack Wills, don’t panic), fresh out of my bath, clutching a pair of clean but very scruffy tea-towels (note to self:  buy new tea towels), and a bag of frozen baby broad beans to compress the wound.  There was Mark, stoical as ever, bless.  There were some babies and toddlers, who looked Infectious to me, so, sweet though they were, I obviously had to find a baby-germ-free corner to wedge myself into.  There was a lady in a fab pink dressing down, who I hope got seen very soon after I left as she really did not enjoy the telly.  Yes.  There is a giant telly on the wall, blaring out ‘Harry Hill’s TV Burp’ followed by ‘Ant and Dec:  Push the Button’.  No, me either.  Interesting juxtaposition:  people (and attendant family) in various stages of pretty minor distress – this is Bridgwater A&E, not The Green Wing – being accompanied by Ant and /or Dec (Love Actually?) yelling at some random people… 

Hey, on the plus side, one of my gym friends was working a shift there and another rolled up with her little girl who had taken a tumble off her pony, so we whiled away the hour or so planning our team entry for the Taunton Commando Team Challenge in October!  I can’t wait, it sounds like a very good event:  mud, running, team tee-shirts (yay! I am very motivated by things like team tee-shirts and stickers), crawling, rope-swings, tunnels, Marines and an epic post-event party! 

OK.  Back to the injury.  No knitting.  That leaves work (hmmm);  reading – that is always a major bonus of ‘down time’; and, as always, when injured/unwell/unhappy, I will of course watch ‘Brief Encounter’ my ultimate ‘feel better’ film.  What’s your film equivalent of comfort food? 

My little injury will be healed soon, but I think it might be a few days before I can do justice to modelling these: 

Moulin Rouge Cuffs


 Very subtle, yes?  Too subtle?  I can re-work.  Hot pink, trimmed with black, lace ruffles, beads AND sequins.  Designed to be worn under your cashmere winter coat, showing a flash of divine decadence, darling (Cabaret?).  2 balls of KSH makes a least 2 pairs, and you reverse the colourway.  Kit – coming in March – will also include beads, sequins and tickets to the Kit Kat Club!

The Wilkins Scarf

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

A new kit design is off the needles and awaiting the photo-shoot that is planned for March.  This is a manly scarf, that also looks great on women and girls – Lily, my youngest daughter loves it and I agree she does look lovely in it, teamed with her Jack Wills stuff!

The Wilkins Scarf

It’s a fast knit in luxury Cocoon yarn, with a huge cable and uber-bobbles.

Available as a kit soon, on this site.

Spring Cleaning

Friday, February 18th, 2011

I hate housework.  But, I like the house once its done, so I force myself.  However, a wise friend once told me:  if it’s nice weather, do the garden, because the housework will still be there tomorrow, when it’s raining.

With that in mind, I ditched the housework, office and knitting work I had to do yesterday and spent 4 or 5 happy hours outside.  Spring cleaning the garden!

Our garden is large, but not overwhelming;  it’s also on the wild side of manicured.  This may be because I like to be an eco-gardener and little creatures and birds need a bit of ‘mess’.  Or it might be because I am short of time.  Probably the truth lies part way between the two.

So I focus on sections of the garden, because it’s too big to do in 1 (or even 3 or 4) days.  Yesterday I did the long paths in the front garden.  First, I made a lot of mess:

piles of rubbish from the borders all over one of the long paths


And more mess:

And then I cleaned it all up:

Arthur patrols the property


I had two dachshunds with me, Rupert, who is poorly and cage-resting until he has surgery this coming week, and Arthur, who is lost without his half-brother.  Here is Rupert on a brief ‘comfort break’:

Rupert, so handsome


and then there is Arthur, pretty (but not quite as clever as his brother):

Arthur, so happy, so cute - so 'special'...


I’m hoping for a great outcome from Rupert’s surgery next week.  The garden is just alive with hopeful signs – spring really felt very close yesterday.

and finally (for now), this zingy Hellebore:

I think I’ll take all my inspiration for the new story board from the garden.

Kit Knit

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Finally, Judith Bell-Ruffle Boa is ready for her close-up:

Judith Bell-Ruffle Boa


The construction is now correct, and it does what I wanted:  it looks frothy, but it has a bit of ‘body’ due to its central spine.  And, it layers into three at the back when worn as I have styled it here:

I had a little tussle with it because although the concept was easy and I knew how it would turn out, it took me three goes to get the ‘mechanics’ right.  And also to make sure it was using an appropriate quantity of yarn. 

Patterns that require, say 8 balls of X luxury yarn plus 6 balls of Y luxury yarn – for a throw, even –  are, I admit, highly desirable, but so expensive and it’s such a big commitment.  I have seen people get married with fewer ‘what ifs’ and ‘maybes’ than I have seen women weighing up how to spend their yarn pounds or dollars.  And I don’t blame them!  Luxury:  yes please, and that’s about 1 – 4 balls I think;  extravagance?  mmm, no, I feel those days are so over.

I have worn this boa ‘out’ and it really looks (and feels) great over a winter coat – or more casually, with shirt, sweater and jeans.  It’s not too long, but you can fold in half and pull through (as shown), or drape in a casual sweep.  Either way, heads will turn, and flouncing may be hard to resist.  I never try to, actually.  Resisting, that is.

It will become available as a kit on this site and in a few outlets, from March, and will come in these zingy colours or a more subtle but equally alluring black and grey colourway.  But…think of the colour palette in Kidsilk Haze!  Oh my, how many could we ‘need’?  Once you’ve got the pattern, the possibilities are endless.  It takes 2 balls of the main colour (in fact, 1.5 balls) and 1 of the contrast colour (in fact, 0.75) so it leaves a comfy, but not annoyingly large quantity of left-overs.

Story Boards

Thursday, February 17th, 2011

Making story boards is probably my favourite part of designing for a new book or series of projects – or for, say, a one-off commission.  When I did my first one, I literally had no clue about where to even start.  All my creative ideas closed down because I was panicing about the process of communicating my designs and my vision for the book, to a prospective publisher. 

But then I decided to just treat it like a giant canvas, and place all my projects into seasonal and colour-themed groups, with my inspirational sources at the centre of each sheet.  My goodness, it was a HUGE story board – four of them in fact.  I think my publisher was astonished and probably thought she’d got a nutter on her hands.  However, it was accepted and furthermore, I loved the process. 

I still do, and now I’m about to have the chance to story board all over again for book number four!  My first book was all about felting your hand knitting and creating new textural impacts using Shibori fabric techniques.  My second book was my homage to Kidsilk Haze and my third a further love-letter to that yarn – plus lace. 

Book number four wil be a little bit different, I’m loving the emerging theme, and the chance to knit with an even wider range of Rowan yarns.  But it will still be ‘me-knitting’:  not too big, not too much, not too hard;  pretty, fun to make (mostly, because yes, I know yards of Shimmer or the picot casting -off are aquired tastes!), and above all, do-able, while making you feel and look rather clever, actually.

Here are some snaps of old story boards:

Story Boards for Sibori Knitted Felt

The projects were placed in seasonal groups:

Images for Shibori Story Boards

I would then stick these collages onto even bigger sheets and write notes, plus swatches and photos of any complete pilot items, all round the sides.  Like these for the Kidsilk Haze volumes:

Images and notes for Lacy Knits

Lacy Knits again

So, I’m story boarding again, happy days.

Odd Traditions

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

I suspect that most families/groups/gangs – whatever – have odd traditions.  When I was a child, one that my father and I had, for example, was to ‘pretend’ that we had run out of something essential, late on Christmas Eve afternoon, so we had an excuse to walk into town just as the light was fading and the shops were closing for Christmas.  This was Wellingborough in Northamptonshire, a traditional market town, quite small in those days.  We’d usually buy some smoked bacon from Saxby’s;  or coffee beans from the deli (although we probably called it a grocers shop back then).

Hence, in my family now, we always drive to Wells on Christmas Eve and walk up the High Street, round the Cathedral Green, and back via the moat at the Bishop’s Palace, late on Christmas Eve afternoon, ending up back in the High Street to see the shops closing.

Another – rather newer – tradition, is that in February, we have a mini-Christmas Day.  I started this (to the amazement of the family, who I think believed I had finally lost my mind) about 6 years ago.  I do think January and February can be a dreary struggle and we all need to have happy things to do, plan, and look forward to.  Our second Christmas isn’t really a big deal, we don’t decorate.  But we do buy one present (secret Santa style), save a box of crackers, and – this bit is the real point – have another Christmas Dinner!

Non-Christmas traditions also abound.  For example, we have to eat chocolate cake on birthdays – for breakfast (but I think a lot of people do that).  I have to plant my garlic crop before Chrismas each year.  Hallow’een is a Big Deal and nothing may deflect our party that night.  Guy Fawlks night supper is always baked spuds, baked beans, sausages and then rubbish toffee (rubbish because I simply can’t make it work).  I notice, reading this, that many of our traditional habits happen in the dark, winter months.  I must be sub-conciously trying to lighten the darkness. 

What odd or funny traditions do you have?

So, today is Second Christmas Day here.  Dinner is roasting, table is set, it’s suitably dark and dismal outside.  I make it about an hour to glass of champers time!

Peek at New Kit Design: Sultry Scarf

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

Meet Sultry.  A peek preview of a new kit design currently on the needles.  This is knitted using just one ball of Kidsilk Haze in black, and one in grey, plus a lot of crystal beads:

This scarf will also be available in a version using silver Shimmer, Kidsilk Haze in sweet hare-bell blue and beads…that is the under-stated version, naturally.

‘Lacy Knits’ UK cover image

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

The new book, ‘Lacy Knits’ is being published at the same time in the UK and the USA.  And that will be any day now!  The title is the same but the publishers have each chosen a different image.

The content is exactly the same except that the UK book has metric sizes first and imperial sizes in brackets;  and the US version uses phrases such as ‘bind-off’ where in the UK we’d say ‘cast off’.  But otherwise identical.

 The UK version, published by Rowan, looks like this and if you specifically want the UK version, you can get it from:

 or your yarn shop!

Kit Bags

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

My luxury knitting kit bags are on their way!  I’ve gone for a high-quality cotton eco-bag, produced from sustainable and Fair Trade compliant producers.  I specifically wanted a bag that could be used over and over and easily carried around with a project inside it.  I (you may be different) always seem to have an improbable number of projects on the go, so many bags are needed.

And I wanted it to have long handles, so you can carry it on your shoulder;  and have a lot of room – this shopper size will easily take an A4 book or pad, long needles and several balls of yarn…

Here is the bag: