Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for August, 2016

Places Available for Gift Knits, Saturday 3 September 2016

Friday, August 26th, 2016

I have just had two cancellations for the next workshop which is on Saturday 3 September.  You can come here, knit this hat and / or these mitts, learn a new skill maybe, and have a generally lovely day. Both patterns are included and the hat comes in adult male, adult female, and two child sizes.

The items are both knitted in the round, skills which we can teach you; and they are fast to make – economical too, each uses only 2 balls of wool.

Fancy it?  Contact me!  And I will help you to book and send you all the info you need.

The Final Project Line-Up for Gift Knits

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016

This September sees the launch of the Court Cottage Festive Gift Knits events.  I have designed variations on three themes which all use 1 – 3 balls of yarn (DK or Aran, depending on the pattern) and each will take an average paced knitted, which would include me, about one to four evenings of TV knitting to complete.  The child-size hat is a one evening project; the ladies DK mitts take about four evenings for me to make a pair.

So they are economical in time and money.

It is easy to design things that are both economical and quite fast, but they can tend to be rather dull knitting.  Stocking stitch gets rather a lot of the lime-light, often.  But if you are minded to make several of these things for gift-giving, it becomes awfully tedious to keep grinding out the knitting. So, it also has to be a compromise.  Interesting, but not really hard, because if it is very complex it will be slow and difficult to memorise or watch in front of Orange Is The New Black.

I reckon these gift ideas are just the right side of easy, and also not dull.  Not a lot of stocking stitch either.  Quite often, I have placed the ‘fun’ bits at the start or the end.  For example, the ladies DK mitts start with a really simple but ingenious scallop cuff, which is also beaded.  After this, you whizz along in a lovely rib, and no more beads appear, but we have had our glitter ‘fix’.

Knitting with beads, while easy, does slow it down a tad so these open the show and then bow out.  The hats all have a simple swirling crown which I love knitting because it is so easy, fast and pretty!

I do hope there is something for everyone here.  These three days are full but I would be very happy to repeat it in the New Year.  I do have a small waiting list and if you fancy it, let me know.  It’s never too soon to start the gift-knits, is it?

Designer Notes: Drift Mitts by Smith from Elements

Sunday, August 21st, 2016


This is the first in a series of posts – Designer Notes – about unraveling the design and thus, the knitting and often the teaching process for some of my designs.  Some of these posts have previously appeared on the Smith and Jones Knits website.

The Allotment Goes Berserk!

Friday, August 12th, 2016

So it’s August and project Allotment is in month ten.  For ages it was just digging. Then it was just sowing and waiting.  Then a few bits of pieces of cropping excitement – mainly rhubarb which I now actually hate, broad beans, rather poor garlic.  Then the pace picked up and we started picking chard.  No-one likes chard in my family and hardly anyone at the allotment field grows it, but I cannot give it away because it really does taste like soil.

Then pea-shoots began and the spare greens off the brassica, and then kohl rabi, broccoli, courgettes, French and runner beans and squash!  It’s all come at once really.  So there are lots of beans in the freezer and I have an extensive recipe collection for courgettes.

This for example, was a recent harvest that I picked for Florence and Will:

There are amazing Japanese squash which sends out long tendrils and would have been perfect for a climbing frame had I made one.  I will do next year, if I still have the plot.  Yellow courgettes are far prettier, more vigorous and less watery than green ones and look really lovely in dishes – they also keep their shape better.

Two crops that have gone well are the French beans and the runner beans but with the latter, I think I did two things wrong.  The site is exposed especially the top and this is where they are.  It is far too windy and dry for them.  I guess I had banked on it raining and it has hardly rained for weeks now.  This site (the Burial Mound as was, or Newt Corner) is the furthest away from any source of water so getting them hydrated was an impossible mission.  Also, I put them in too soon.  This is a mistake I have made all along with several crops, beginning with the broad beans back on late November 2015.  I set the runners off in my greenhouse and they thrived; it was mild so they were fully hardy by April and they went in in early May.  It was fine for a bit as it wasn’t hot and dry but late June saw the start of a pretty much uninterrupted spell of very hot, windy weather and they bolted.  They set beans and went full on for maturity as they were stressed, they aborted beans and blossom and all in all, while I have had many beans, they have gone ‘stringy’ in late July and will be down by the end of August.  I have never taken beans down before early October before.  See, here is a recent harvest, clearly already going over:

The cage has been mixed.  The netting does keep out cabbage whites and large butterflies but it is not fine enough to keep out tiny moth/flying critters (or maybe they were dormant in the soil, I do not know).  These have eaten some of the leaves – not enough to strip and kill a plant as a cabbage white crop of caterpillars would, but enough to be a nuisance and a pest.  I planted it a bit too densely and made an error in sowing and planting out so many chard which no-one – literally no-one or anything, not even pests – like to eat. If I grew it again, which I probably won’t, I’d not bother clogging up the cage with it.  I defy cabbage whites to decimate it, despite it being classed as a brassica.  It is fact just coloured soil. So much chard (and also in the front, red cabbage):

Jo next door gave me 12 black French bean seeds, dwarf variety.  I germinated them and got 8 plants.  They are now cropping.  Gorgeous to look at:

Easy too, and although they lose the colour when cooked even if you saute them, they taste delicious.

One of the best crops, if not ‘show garden perfect’ has been the carrots.  Home grown carrots taste delicious, much more, um, carroty!

Here is a beautiful squash flower:

And here is the squash climbing up the side of the cage netting!

last month I sowed a final lot of French beans and 2 weeks ago I popped them in to the plot.  I don’t know if it will work but I am hoping to get a late summer/early autumn crop from them:

That is Rowan Pure Wool 4 Ply they are tied in with, by the way.  The plastic is the protection and watering system recommended to me by Jo.  The stems are so slender, these can stay in situ until I take them down in the late autumn.

Here is one of the beautiful and tasty Japanese squash:

It has been a very interesting experiment, the allotment. I have always gardened but allotment gardening is different from ‘normal’ gardening.  Also, despite always eating lots of vegetables, we now eat far more veg than any other food group!  All main meals are planned around the vegetables I am picking on the allotment.  So typically I will cook say, lentil dahl, and add finely diced carrot, courgettes and shredded beans, and then stir in some chard leaves (like spinach and the strong taste of the dahl disguises the soil flavour.  Or I will roast chunks of squash, saute some courgettes, steam some beans and serve it with salmon or chicken, really plain.  This has been the best part of the whole experience.  Picking can take ages and I sometimes cannot bring it back in one go unless I walk there and back with the wheelbarrow!

Would I do it again?  I vacillate.  Sometimes I think yes, definitely (usually when I am eating a butter-laden bean) and other times I would say not.  The thing is, having fought and worked so hard on it, I now feel obliged to keep it. Florence and Will have now ‘officially’ bowed out of the project, with my blessing as they have so much to do at home, but I know they’d help me if I was desperate and Mark often helps.  So, let’s see what the autumn and early winter feel like in terms of hours and commitment.  Then I will decide.

Blanket Progress

Monday, August 1st, 2016

The original Hive Blanket (like that name?  Not too medical – ‘oooh – come and look at my hives, Matron!’…?) is done.  A second version is now being knitted by Kath as I need it testing and also, new colourway, and also, it’s a bit bigger so folks get to choose from the original which is still generous lap sized or a slightly bigger version.

Here it is:

This takes as much yarn as a jumper.  Maybe a Manly jumper.  So it is unusual for me with my childish need for instant gratification and short attention span. However, knitting this was a joy.  I loved it all.  OK, not the border which is massive but mitred so a) you can do it all in one go in the round, and b) it is a *bit* interesting in the corners on every alt round.  Small things people!  I listened to half of the Mitford Girls while knitting the border alone!

Anyway, I now have a dilemma.  This is knitted in Rowan Felted Tweed which though not a pure wool, is sticky enough for successful steeking and I do love Felted Tweed…but I think it is time for me to extend my knitting radar range away from Rowan.  I say this for a number of reasons.  I do love Rowan and I always will.  But times change.  So I am now swatching with DK from Jameison’s of Shetland and I love it more.  If this also behaves as a felting yarn which I am sure it will, it is just a case of at what temp, I think I may switch to this in future for steeking, Fairisle and felting.  I will keep you posted.

This knit has been a long journey starting with many swatches and design changes along the way.  For example, I realised as I completed the first full pattern repeat that I wanted the blanket to have no up or down side so even at that stage I was flipping my charts.  I am so glad I did.  I don’t know why I didn’t think of this from the outset, maybe it is because I have rarely designed pictoral items?

If you are coming on steeking with me in October this is one option.  The other option is a cushion, also steeked and using this charting but obviously much smaller as a project.  If you are not but would like to be, or are on my event waiting list I am going to repeat this event in 2016, probably in February.  Let me know if you want to get advance notice. If you are on the list don’t worry I have you covered.

If like 90% of knitters, you *think* you may like steeking but are unsure if it’s for you, or if you can even do it, this is for you:

  • Once, me too!
  • If I can do it, you can do it.
  • I teach by easy, repetitious and staged sections.  It is not at all hard.  It is, at worst, fiddly.  We will go over the steps many times.  Muscle memory and confidence are built on these foundations.
  • It is normal to feel a bit anxious about cutting into your knitting. I did.  But knitting Fairisle in the round is an absolute joy and you do get much faster and far more *perfect* results.  And I will teach you to really secure your steek so it is stable.  It is secured in THREE ways:  1) surface crochet; 2) picked up stitches further reinforce the steek because they form a line of what is basically running stitch; and 3) the steek is then enfolded into a border, and I will show you two ways to do this.
  • Once you have learned it, you feel absolutely awesome!

Awesomeness guaranteed.