Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for December, 2017

The Last Day of Christmas

Monday, December 25th, 2017

Happy Christmas!  It is Christmas morning and the pattern elf has placed this little design in your stocking.

Smoke and Mirrors detail for needle case

It is the Smoke and Mirrors Felted Needle Case that is the companion to my Smoke and Mirrors bag pattern.  This uses 2 shades of Felted Tweed and some beads.  I think this is a perfect post-Christmas project and you might have some left-over yarn you can use.  Other yarns may be alright, but do test them first to make sure they will felt.  The temperature that you use may vary.

I hope you have enjoyed the 12 Days of Christmas pattern give-away.  I am going to leave this last one up as a free pattern into 2018.

Thank you for following my blog, coming to my events, buying my designs and generally being great.

Ali x

 

The Shetland Tour, July 2018

Friday, December 22nd, 2017

Just to let you know that ECT Travel have now up-dated the tour to include flights!  Here is the link.  I do hope you can come on my Fairisle knitting adventure on Shetland!

Image

 

 

Traditional Fair Isle – Modern Design: Your Shetland Knitting Adventure. 27 – 31 July 2018

Monday, December 11th, 2017

In July, I have been asked to lead a Fairisle knitting holiday in Shetland.  To say I am excited is an understatement.  In the same way that saying I quite like knitting is an understatement.

Lerwick

This is the full immersion Fairisle experience.  No distractions.  No ‘work’.  Nothing to do except knit, learn, explore the island and its rich history, relax and have fun.  Here!

The company that is hosting the event is ECT Travel in Bath, and we came across each other during my early preparations for Knit Camp 2017. That was ages ago and the idea they floated of collaborating seemed miles away, but after Knit Camp we go together and so we have drawn up a knitting holiday based in Lerwick.  You can  see the full itinerary and details here.

It will be from 27 – 31 July 2018.  We will have a whole FIVE DAYS together!  And if that is a bit alarming, do not be afraid, because I have of course asked Kathryn to join me so we will be teaching together and generally having such a lot of fun with you all.

Shetland Textile Museum

There is teaching, of course there is teaching, this is me, but it is not a Boot Camp experience (as some of you have been known to murmur when you thought I could not hear).  No, there are trips and visits every day; trips out together – and dinners with the high possibility of knitting at almost all times.

 

I love Fairisle knitting more than any other knitting.  And I love knitting it in a traditional way, usually in the round, sometimes I steek it, I always adhere to the 2-colours-only-in-a-row guideline (rule), and I do sometimes include traditional motifs.  But more often I add my own modern twists with non-traditional motifs, use of beads and even yarns such as Kidsilk Haze.

On this Shetland adventure, I will be showing you and teaching two brand new designs, designed especially for ECT Travel. I will draw upon the magic of the islands, but I will definitely be introducing some modern twists.

Jamieson and Smith

The teaching will focus on:

  • How to knit perfect Fairisle, in the round.
  • Charts – reading, and knitting from, charts.
  • Stranding and tension:  getting this right is the key to perfect Fairisle. I can help you.
  • How to knit with the yarns in two hands – if you want to try this.  And trust me, it is the easiest and fastest way.
  • How to never, ever, get in a muddle with the balls of yarn.
  • How to prepare for, and cut a steek; then how to finish the steek.  This is optional.
  • How to incorporate your own design ideas into your Fairisle knitting if you want to.  This is entirely optional, but we can draw upon the inspiration around us and help you to get your ideas onto paper and the needles.

I will be on hand at all times* to help and encourage you!

Everyone who comes with us will have a choice of my other Fairisle patterns as a gift, but I will be focusing on the new designs – one larger (a throw) that will be steeked, but there will also be a design that does not need to be steeked.  So if steeking is not your thing, you do not have to. But…isn’t this the perfect time to learn it, with us there to hold your hand every step of the way? (Obvs I won’t actually hold your hand or neither of us will be able to get any knitting done.  Just a metaphor). You will have both patterns for the new designs too.

I will be emailing the group at regular intervals with news, images and up-dates on Project Shetland.  ECT have an amazing reputation for really exciting innovative hosted holiday adventures so we will all be in very safe hands.  We even get a Tour Manager!  Kath came over all rock ‘n roll when she heard this, but I have talked her out of the leather trouser plus bandanna combo…

One thing we do need.  YOU!  Please come with us.  I can promise you the best time.

*I will not be with you at all times, never fear.  Just most of the time. Nor do I stay up beyond 10.00 pm so there will be respite.

View and book here. 

 

 

 

Allotmenting Continues

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

I have renewed the allotment for another year.  It seems silly to be hasty, especially as I have really got it under control now (except for the twatting white fly in the brassica cage – it is no longer a draw; they win).

No progress has been made on the ‘allotment at home’ project, though I look at the space a lot and think about it.  However, several other allotment holders have chucked it up this year, including my immediate neighbour and his immediate neighbour. One chap (or family) has now taken on both of these and jolly lucky they are too, to get two such good-condition plots side-by-side with almost no need to weed-control from the get-go.  One of these plots did in fact change hands last year but they only lasted one season.  I think often people just do not realise what a lot of work it will be, and the level of commitment needed, especially if like me, the first few months have to be spent entirely on weed removal and hand-digging. If I had known, I definitely would not have taken it on – which is not to say I am sorry because I do love my plot now.  But it’s a slave driver; and somehow, it feels ‘different’ this year, less peaceful, less calm and friendly.  So I sense that I am edging slowly closer to being able to part from it with no regrets, maybe even with relief – if and when that time comes.

Meanwhile, I am growing prosaic brassica (though see note above ref twatting white fly), spinach, beans, garlic and shallots.  The plot is still producing food.  Mainly perpetual spinach and kale.  The kale is on its last hurrah but as we’ve been harvesting this for about 6 months now, I think that is pretty good going.

The spinach – not the same at all as the small-leaved spinach that you can buy in bags at the supermarket – is a muscular plant, more closely aligned I am sure to chard than the bought-spinach.  It has stems like chard, which I cook first in a small lake of butter, garlic, mustard seeds, salt and pepper.  Once this is tender, I add the shredded leaves.  These do not wilt into a tiny ball of green sludge as small spinach is liable to do; it stays reasonably in shape.  I love it.  Mark really dislikes it and furtively pushes it about and usually leaves half of his portion.  We have arrived at a compromise:  once he takes over the growing/cooking duties, he gets to choose the vegetables. Thus, I anticipate that we will be eating spinach for a while yet.

My favourites are the red cabbage and this perpetual spinach;

I sowed this spinach in March, direct where it is to grow and although I only got c50% success, this is more than ample for one household for months.  I think it will slowly succumb to the cold now so in March I will sow more.  We were cropping it by May this year.

2017 was the best year ever for runner and French beans.  We ate them until we were unable to look one in the face, and then we froze them.  So I can vary the spinach/kale based diet with runners and Frenchies every week.

The raspberries were also fantastic.  They are all autumn varieties.  I rescued three plants from the weed jungle two years ago, and they thrive; plus I was given a lot of bare-rooted pull-ups in the hot summer of 2016.  I assumed they would be summer raspberries, but they also are autumn.  This is ideal as all summer, from early July to early September, we have loganberries, gooseberries and blackberries in the garden here.  So by September, when they are all over, in come the raspberries.  These are my favourite soft fruit.

The strawberries, also rescued from the weed-cluster years, and then lovingly grown on as runners by me, have been rotivated into the earth.  I never met such a sulky, ungrateful and lazy bunch of plants. But then, that’s strawberries for you, isn’t it?  I reckon I got a mean half-dozen unappetising little sods off them.  Pointless.  They are no more.

2017 was not so good as 2016 for courgettes, but it was still very good.  However, it was great for squashes of all sorts, some of which we are still eating as they store very well just in the open fresh air on a bench by the door.  They are delicious and so pretty.

I have now got four raised beds.  These will be supplemented in 2018 by the tyres I scrounged to grow potatoes.  Remember the great potato sadness of 2016/17?  I give up, Asda has lovely ones and that’s fine.  But the tyres, stacked in twos or threes, make ideal small raised beds. So I am going to allocate a courgette or squash to each of my tyre-beds – there are four, directly by the big raised beds.

So I am now beginning my third year as an allotmenter.  Who’d have thought it?  I feel much more confident, and also I know what I like to grow, what succeeds, and what I like to  eat.  I no longer care what other people like.

I continue to grow 100% organically.  It does really get on my nerves, when twatting white fly gets my brussels but if the alternative is spraying with chemicals, it’s not worth it.  What does work is barrier control, resignation to the fact that you will probably have to ‘share’ some of the crops with the birds and the twats, and avoiding things that you can’t protect without resorting to the nuclear option.  I really do think harsh chemicals including the old blue slug pellets should be banned from sale and use.  I have not used chemicals for years and after a couple of tough years (this is at home really, at first), the eco-system of the garden has adjusted, I have stopped growing slug salad-bars and I get very little trouble.  In fact (and I am really not, except once, a tree-hugger) I gently remove snails from my way and relocate them to the hedge row.  I don’t kill them, for they are a blackbird’s breakfast!  And if I poison them, the birds may also suffer and die.

In 2018 I will grow two or three new things, as I have each year, and so far the list is:

  • garlic
  • broad beans
  • shallots (new)
  • spinach
  • chard
  • kale
  • red cabbage
  • courgettes (three types)
  • squash (four types)
  • French beads – dwarf and climbers
  • runner beans
  • carrots
  • pea-shoots
  • mixed salad leaves (new)
  • raspberries
  • rhubarb

In the spring, I may also begin work on the ‘allotment at home’ project.  If that goes well, I could stop the allotment in late 2018 – or run them side-by-side for a year.  Then the lease on the field where we have our allotments will be up again, and maybe it will be renewed but there is no guarantee and that is partly why I feel I need to have a Plan B.

 

Copyright. Sigh.

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

Copyright is such a tricky issue for indi designers. When you find a breach, it is even harder to know what to do about it, if anything. Recently I found that a woman in a different part of the UK is knitting and then selling, in her shop, some of my designs.

She isn’t selling the patterns (as far as I know) and they are from one of my books, now out of print. So really she is selling her labour and materials. And my design. When a book goes out of print, the copyright reverts after a period of time, to the originator.  So the hand-knit design part of this book has now reverted to me. If I wanted to sell my designs knitted up, I’d knit them and sell them (highly unlikely!) or license someone to knit them, sell them and pay me for that. It would be nice to be asked.

It is infuriating to stumble across breaches like this. She isn’t even changing the names of the pieces.  But what to do?  If I insist, maybe she will desist.  In the course of such an action, I may also damage my own reputation as a ‘nice’ person, because after all, I’d be coming over all strong arm to another indi maker, right?  And what have I lost by her doing this? If someone is willing to buy a ready knitted item, chances are they can’t knit so even if I am selling the patterns – which I am, arguably they wouldn’t buy it anyway.  But they might.  They might buy it, buy the wool and pay her to knit it.  As ever for me, this is not about the money but the principle.

And, if she ignored me, what then? Would I really take it further? Given the wafer-thin margins in knitting, that’s unlikely isn’t it?

When I started working in this field, there was no Ravelry.  Yes my child, such a time existed.  How we managed to organise our stash, or even cast on, I don’t know but we did. With the advent of Rav and other places, the availability of free patterns – often untested, not checked etc – has further blurred the lines of copyright.  There is now, I think, sometimes an assumption that everything just might be free.  For example, I know that a lot of people generously share their patterns with others, with absolutely no idea that it’s basically taking the fee – usually just a few quid or dollars – from the original designer.  Recently a lovely lady sent me a pattern that I admired.  And I was very touched.  But it meant that I had to privately go to this designer’s website and buy it anyway, as otherwise, I couldn’t have knitted the thing at all. I do use free patterns now and then. I have recently decided to knit a jumper (it has been cast on, knit to the yoke – and frogged but I might knit it yet…) and I used a free design.  Largely because I could not find the exact yarn used and techniques in a bought pattern.  If I can find a suitable pattern now (I need to change to a 4 ply design now, having already bought yarn that says DK and boasts a DK tension but is obviously not DK when knitted by me!), I will buy it as I reckon a bought design will have had more scrutiny.

I would also add that knitting my designs and giving them away as gifts is an activity I fully endorse in fact I actively promote it! And knitting things for an event for charity – also fine but as they are being sold, I should be asked and sometimes I am. I always say yes anyway.

What will I do about this woman?  She’s just trying to make a living, like me. At least they look reasonably well knitted. But aside from keeping the original names of my designs, there is (as far as I can see from her shop) no ‘credit’ to me, not even a nod in the direction of the book.  I think what has happened is that ages ago, she bought the book; and now she knits and sells things from it.  So she may think, if she thinks of it at all, that by buying it once, she has the ‘right’ to do this.