Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for the ‘Brioche Knitting’ Category

Musings: My Diary (if I wrote one) from a week or so ago…

Monday, June 11th, 2018

Monday:  exciting news today is that it is time to take Rupert for a check up at the vets.  This means, as I have a special needs dog in the form of Arthur, who cannot be left alone unless Rupert is also there, that we all have to go.  I have decided today is the day to have The Talk with the vet.  Roo is fine, he is really well actually so it is a good day to talk to LV (lovely vet) about The End Game Plan.  Rehearse calm conversation about how I would like this to go.  Naturally, having completely composed myself on the drive in, I instantly dissolve into tears before I have even one full sentence out of my mouth.  Distressing interlude begins for all of us as Arthur begins to whine, Roo begins to yip and LV goes out to get tissues for me.  LV fills in gap in my conversation – me being reduced now to wet sniffs and gulps instead of words – with a cheerful discourse on Losing A Much Loved Pet.  Decide to abandon The Talk until another time.  Arthur wees on the floor. Know how he feels…

Tuesday:  appointment book reveals that I have an appointment at the dental hygienist.  My old hygienist has left and so I have a new one.  Becoming less afraid of dentist was really only achieved by previous hygienist being angelically nice to me and I have had a good 2 years.  Tell literally everyone I meet today that I am Very Nervous.  Receptionist glances at colleague, decides I am probably harmless and indicates a chair in the waiting area as far from her as is possible.  I sit and read about spiral knitting.

Steve (new hygienist) has 2 or 3 goes at alerting me to my appointment and eventually the old man sitting next to me digs me sharply in the arm and demands to know if I am Alison.  I admit it, and then Steve gently leads me into the office.  S asks if there have been any changes since my last appointment.  I tell him I have become, once again, overcome with Dentist Nerves. As angelically nice woman has left.  Steve listens, and then asks me if any dental or medical changes have occurred.  I tell him I have given up drinking fizzy water to which I believe I had become addicted.  Steve agrees that this is Wise and pops out for a moment.  Nurse enters.  I tell her I am Very Nervous and that I wish my other hygienist had not left.  Steve comes back in.  Nurse tells him that I am Very Nervous.  Steve nods, maybe a little wearily, and then coats the entire interior of my mouth with a thick gel or paste, rubbing it firmly into my gums especially.  This is a first and I try (but fail) to say so, my mouth being full of his hand and also a lot of paste.  Instead I gag on his finger but happily am not actually sick, I just urge a lot and my eyes completely fill with tears.  I decide to close my eyes and think of a Fairisle chart.  Procedure is totally painless.  Am unsure if this is the paste, or the skill of the hygienist.  Am blissfully grateful and happy!  Thank S and nurse in manner of Academy Award winner, and float into reception to make next appointment.  Rave to receptionist about how Great S is.  Skip back to car, bestowing smiles and cheerful mini-waves to all I pass.  Achieve car, and look in mirror.  Startled and disappointed to see that tiny coat of mascara I applied earlier is now all over cheeks and temples, in improbably huge dried-up rivers of coal-like stains, probably due to the gagging.  Drive home in dark glasses.

Thursday:  finally complete The Allotment at Home Project.  Last delivery of gravel has been dumped, the last lining is down.  Gravel Man and I say farewell, for ever…Immediately begin agony of indecision re old allotment.  Now is the moment to go one last time, empty the shed and never go back.  Instead of following this plan – which has been widely shared and agreed with many interested parties – I sow seeds for things I have no room for, here. Also, pot on squash and spinach.  Reflect that I could just keep it for another year.  Rule – which is flagrantly dismissed by several plot holders, I note – that 75% of the plot must be under productive cultivation is a problem as I am now only growing garlic, rhubarb and raspberries.  Wonder if planting a few stands of beans and half a dozen mystery squash will suffice. Family express strongly held view that I have got an allotment here now and I cannot reasonably keep the other. Continue to sow beans…

Friday:  attend the gym for usual classes.  I am very early so I decide to cast on a Moebius.  This witchcraft further sets me aside from the demographic and I regret getting out knitting  – or at least think in future I will knit only ‘normal’ things in gym foyer.  Put knitting away and instead attend to some admin on my phone. Lovely Retailer (LR) with whom I have worked for many years, is retiring and I have been asked to offer some autumn teaching dates for the New Lovely Retailer (NLR) who has bought the shop. LR asks for Brioche. Having sworn never to teach this wretched subject again, and indeed, having firmly refused several times in last year, I inexplicably give in and say Yes.  But only In The Round.  Instantly regret this but have sent email so too late.  Spend entirety of classes thinking about Bloody Brioche.  Find, part way through Spin, that I am standing up and have been for ages whist rest of class is toiling in seated climb.  This lapse due to finding that, mentally at least, I have no idea how to knit Brioche any more.  Entire knowledge of it has fled.   Assume this is self defence.  Hope it will somehow, magically, be restored once I try and do it.

Try to wrench mind away from BB in the torture that is BLT class.  In the end, compromise thus:  I make a bargain with myself (or the devil, unclear on this matter) that IF I can hold the pose we have been contorted into – which in my opinion leaves me with one hand too few on the floor, but anyway – for the duration of the 10,000 leg raises, on each side, without putting my hand down or stopping, Bloody Brioche will be unparalleled success.  I do hold the pose but sadly catch glimpse of self in mirror and am horrified to observe demented expression and mad hair.  That’s Brioche for you.  Do come.

Go home and eat chips.

Saturday:  receive text from Lily who is euphoric about the completion date on the house she and Jack are buying in Bridgwater. And this has just been confirmed.  Text back with equally euphoric reply.  Which is entirely false as this news, looming as it has been for so long, is in fact most unwelcome.  Try to tell myself this is Good (I know), and Normal (yes, yes), and that others Have It Far Worse (yes, I suppose so but do not care in the least and if we were all honest, we’d say the same). Yet, day clouded with terrible self-pity about this year being the first for 29 years when I will not have 1 or 2 children living at home. Am disappointed that I am not, after all, that paragon of motherhood who wishes nothing more than for her off-spring to leave; mainly because it is Good and Normal, and also because she is about to join the local symphony orchestra on a good-will tour of Middle East, so timing could not be better.  No.  I am not that woman.  I don’t even really like going to Taunton.  Decide to keep allotment.  That evening, try to think about Blessings.  For example, M and I will have so much more quality time.  Glance at M, asleep behind the Telegraph which he believes confers properties of invisibility.  Cast on Bloody Brioche.

 

 

Winter is Coming…

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

Zig Zag scarf 4

Without wishing the summer away, I have completed the design and knitting (almost) for the Christmas Gifts events in September.  These are the days that kick off the autumn term – and I can’t wait to get back to the workshops!  Having the summer ‘off’ enables me to focus on some other designing, notably this year finishing off the last two designs for Knit Camp and the Christmas Gift events in early September.

The concept for this teach is to produce some fairly easy (but not boring), and economical accessories – so none use more than three balls of wool, and none will take an average knitter who also has a job or a busy life, more than a week of evening knitting to complete.  For example, Kathryn can knit the hat pattern in one night; I can do it in two-point-five nights.  Kathryn can knit a pair of the mittens in two evenings; I can knit a pair in four evenings.

 

Zig Zag hat mink close up

This year I have taken one stitch – a zig-zag rib that looks like a little cable, but is not – and used it in both flat and round knits.  There are hats – womans (beaded) and mans; a split scarf; and a pair of mitts with a beaded peplum detail. I am really happy with the finished items and I will definitely be making some myself as gifts this Christmas.

Zig Zag hats collection

I love this concept, because for one thing it frees up the Christmas at Court Cottage events and allows me to just focus on festive decorations.  Also, mid-late November is possibly too late for you to make a few hats, scarves or mitts.  But early September is plenty of time.

The courses are both full but I have three names on a waiting list so if you are interested, let me know – we may be able to set up an extra date.

Zig Zag hats male edge

Another knit that would make a great gift-knit is my Brioche in the round cowl, which I am teaching again in Devon at Spin-a-Yarn (fully booked but I am trying to fit in an extra date or two) and also on 4 November, at the Totnes  ‘Stitchfest’ – more details on this will follow soon. I can accept up to twelve bookings for the Totnes gig, so contact the organisers if you fancy a place.  This is the same event that I taught here, but slightly abbreviated.

In the meantime, here is the split scarf for the September events, which I love and it makes me feel all Judy Garland in ‘Meet Me in St Louis’.

Zig Zag scarf 3

 

Two Courses at Spin a Yarn, Devon

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

If you missed my Brioche in the Round courses here and you fancy having a go at this technique I am teaching it again at Spin-a-Yarn in Devon on 19 October, 10 – 4.  This is an easier way to knit Brioche than the flat version so it’s a great entry-level to a fantastic new skill.  I have designed three cowls, all variations on the same theme, in a range of yarn weights.  To take part, you need only know how to cast on, knit and purl and follow a fairly straight forward pattern – I will do the rest!  the Brioche cowls are the ones along the top of this gallery.

I am also teaching the Lined Fairisle Cowl on 9 November, 10 – 4.  I have taught this here and the courses were sold out so if you missed it, come along to Spin-a-Yarn and learn how to make this reversible cowl – a modern twist on a traditional Fairisle look.  To take part, you need to be able to knit, cast on and off.  If you have never knitted Fairisle before, the charts for this are moderate – I am happy to teach you how to read and knit from charts and how to hold the yarns in both hands for perfect and even stranding.  Other skills include picking up and knitting which again, I will be able to show you on the day.  The lined cowl images appear on the bottom line of this gallery.

For both events, you will receive the patterns for all the designs on the day, plus full tuition and notes.  Be great to see you there.  Please contact the shop for details on availability and to book.

 

Brioche Cowls

Friday, May 19th, 2017

I have two events in June on Brioche Cowls.  This is Brioche knitted in two colours, in the round.  It is stage two of our 2017 Brioche events.  You do not need to have attended the earlier Brioche course to come to this one. In fact, knitting Brioche in the round is rather simpler than when knitted flat, but of course, it is knitted in the round which is not something everyone is comfortable with.  However, it is possible to knit these (in fact, it is preferable) on a single circular needle, either 40cm or 60cm long, depending on how wide you want the cowl to be.

In the round, Brioche is a simple two round process and with no ‘ends’ as you have with flat Brioche, there is no sliding, turning or edge stitch business.

Brioche is a stitch that will reward your efforts.  And by effort, we are not talking about the feats of Hercules.  No, this is rather more tame than that. It really requires you to open your mind and leave some old knitting habits behind, just for a while.

As with any new skill, it can take a while to assimilate the unusual – or rather, new – technique but none of it is at all difficult as it is of course only knitting, purling, slipping stitches and moving your yarn back or forth.  And you can do all these things already.  Brioche is just a stitch that re-arranges the order somewhat.

I have designed three cowls.  One is chunky and it is knitted in a luxurious silk wool yarn; I chose a soft grey and a sweet, subdued yellow.  This uses one hank of each.  Another is colourwashed and is in Kidsilk Haze plus a DK wool – I used Felted Tweed.  Finally, an aran Brioche cowl for which I used grey and navy blue.

The classes are limited to 6 participants only.  There is 1 place available on each of the two days – the 24th of June and the 25th of June.  Use the links if you fancy having a go at this rather lovely new skill, and whipping up a Brioche cowl in double quick time.

Brioche Cowl In the round - aran

grey and yellow silk Brioche cowl

Brioche Cowl Colourwashed

 

Workshop Planning

Wednesday, May 17th, 2017

Brioche Knitting:  The Marmite of the knitting workshop except that I think about 50% of people hate Marmite whereas only about 3% of people gag on Brioche (knitting). It has been very interesting teaching this recently, and we have taught it quite a lot. And I have been reflecting on what it has taught me.

Personally I love Brioche, partly because it is pleasing to look at and to wear.  Partly because it is different.  And partly because it is soothingly rhythmical, assuming you enjoy that rhythm of course.  Here is some of the Brioche in the round cowls for the next batch of workshops – easy and so elegant:

Happily many participants, like me, enjoy Marmite – but I do understand that some prefer jam.  For example.  I suppose the key thing for me is that it is a new challenge.  However, while most people do like the end result and a majority enjoy getting there, it is not for everyone and I began to think of knitting categories which are not for me.

I hate knitting intarsia for example. I admire it, often and in the hands of designers such as Donna Jones, it is very beautiful and a long way from the deadly picture jumper with which it is often (sometimes unfairly) associated.  But I can knit it.  I even knitted a whole intarsia blanket, once.  I hated the knitting of it and I will never fall in love, I just know it. I am also glad I gave it a more than fair crack.  A single bed sized blanket is a good effort, isn’t it?  Many years ago I basically taught myself to do it from a book.  I cracked it, job done, move on.

Socks are another area that I do not love. I like them more than intarsia (but then, I like going to the dentist more than that).  I just get so bored.

Very Hard Lace.  That’s a mystery to me.  I love lace.  But the monastic silence type of lace is just awful.

Finishing off.  I like doing this.  I hate teaching it and I won’t ever teach it again.  When I worked as a free-lancer for Rowan – and in those days, you were basically working solely for Rowan but self-employed – we had to offer a range of workshops to retailers and you signed up for the ones you could/would teach and they picked from that menu.  I taught finishing off for years.  This workshop is great and really, everyone ought to go on one or at least learn about how important tension is and how to mattress stitch.  But not here, with me.  It was the deadliest teaching day ever.  It is good for you – but not very enjoyable.  Frankly, that’s what yoga and sorting out the freezer are for.

My workshops are planned months ahead.  This begins about 9 months ahead of the next year with a theoretical discussion with Kathryn, and formerly with Millington, about what we think is possible, would be do-able, might be fun.  It also draws upon the experience of the current or last programme.  Because I think of it as a programme.  Otherwise it might end up being all about Kidsilk Haze, knitted in the round and beaded. It needs to offer a range of things:  new skills, new ideas, some ‘foundation’ skills, new designs, new concepts – and they all need to be translated into real, live projects because whilst I am a big fan of swatching, as you may know, I also know that a workshop based only on swatches is unleavened, unseasoned and far from satisfying for both the student and the teacher.  In the old days, my approach of almost always having a workshop that was based on new techniques (or old ones) but was layered into a real, live project was quite unusual.  I plan to continue with this approach, though for my sake, it needs modifying.

Some decisions have been made already and others are forming into fairly firm objectives. These are, in order of importance:

  • There will be fewer events in 2018; associated, partly, with fewer projects.  This is my key decision I suppose.  I plan to teach no more than five topics or new projects for 2018, with only one or two days for each. I don’t suddenly have a bigger room, as if by magic.  No, it will still be small and intimate.  There will just be less. I hear it’s the new more.
  • Some renewed emphasis on design – from the participants.  I think I will re-introduce one design-based teach, similar to the Design Weekends. Your vision, encouraged, facilitated and enabled by us.
  • One, maybe two, ‘back-to-basics’ topics.  This will depend largely on if I like teaching it, to be honest.  So crochet which I am frankly awful at, and finishing off are out.
  • A new colour-work topic.  No, intarsia, we have established that it won’t be you haven’t we? Put your hand down.
  • New pastures in new places.  Where this will take me and Kathryn…well, as yet we are not sure, but they are on our horizon. You are welcome to come with us.

One thing I have loved teaching, designing and knitting in the last three years is Fairisle.  My own take on this, from colour-washing small accessories through to the huge monochrome beaded Fairisle cowl for Elements and culminating in the Bee Blanket and Cushion, which included steeking, has been a joy from beginning to end.  I am not a traditional Fairisle designer although I am fervently traditional when it comes to the use of more than two colours in one row – that is beyond the pale.  Fairisle is my great knitting love.  I see more of it in my future, and it won’t be all zig-zags and diamonds, great as they are as a starting point…

If you have any feedback, suggestions for topics or techniques – or just a tale to tell, do comment or contact me.

Brioche Knitting

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

This is beautiful Brioche, knitted flat, using Cocoon and Kidsilk Haze:

Brioche finished montage in brown and teal

I am teaching Brioche in 2017, a class on flat Brioche and a class on Brioche in the round.

The flat Brioche is very soothing knitting, with a fairly straightforward 4-row sequence.  This lends itself to scarves and throws and that is what I have designed.  Here are some images of the designs so far:

There are three courses on this flat Brioche and two are fully booked but there are spaces (two) on the event on 23 April, so why not come along?  I have made the stitch fairly simple and more ‘English’ I think and I am really enjoying the preparation. One interesting approach is to vary the yarns in use so I have been experimenting with Kidsilk Haze and Cocoon, as well as using yarns of the same weight.  It works beautifully.

Peep Into The Design Room…

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

Here is a peep at some of the goodies we have been designing and knitting for your workshops in 2017.

Two Colour Brioche – knitted flat

We have Introduction to Two Colour Brioche in March, April and May.  The April date is the only one with spaces – there are two.  This course is all about getting to grips with this pleasing stitch – but hopefully I have Anglicised and simplified it a little.  This is not to say that it is difficult, but it is rather unusual.  I have sifted through several of the eleventy-nine variations on this theme and come up with the one I will teach you. So this course will walk you through knitting Brioche in one colour, and then we will move on to two colours.  I have ‘designed’ two scarves/throws – I say ‘designed’ but really, it is just a matter of deciding what yarns you want to use and then how wide/long you want it.  So it’s a stretch to call it designing. However, I have done the experimenting so you don’t have to.  One of the things I like best about Brioche is the opportunity to experiment a little, which we have been doing by blending yarns of differing weights.  You can view the course and book the remaining two places here.

Here are some examples of the way Brioche looks.  This is the warm brown and teal Kidsilk Haze pattern.

brioche-flat-teal-brown-montage

I do love it.  Often – and I especially need to remember this – less is more.  With Brioche, once you have mastered the rhythm of the stitch (and it is only slipping, knitting and purling, basically), I think it is fine to just let the Brioche, with its neat edges and reversible shadow-effect rib, do all the work.

And this is a neat grey and cream Aran:

brioche-flat-grey-cream-montage-2

Scarves and throws, by the way, will never go out of fashion and I for one am glad that they are there, constant and faithful in a frankly alarming world.  Long live the scarf – and Brioche extends its reign.

Kidsilk Haze Extravaganza

There is just one place left on this event.  One date is full, but there is a space on 1 April.

I do love Kidsilk Haze.  Oh!  Wait – did you not know?  OK – well I am the Kidsilk Haze Queen.  Self-appointed, granted and ruler only of my own stash – which is impressive.  I have written two books devoted to it and even the books I have published that are not all about Kidsilk Haze have some of the cocaine of the yarn world smuggled in.  Yes, even felted.  Anyway, this year I am returning to my roots in many ways.  And one of these ways is The Kidsilk Haze Extravaganza events.

At this workshop, I will offer you a choice of three designs.  Two are brand new.  One is a pair of almost entirely decorative beaded cuffs – fairly easy, knitted flat.  Next is a new design adapted from Rise in Elements:

rise-montage

But this Rise is knitted in the round, and features Kidsilk Haze plus a DK wool. This design is probably the most challenging.  Finally, Gathering Scarf from my second (now out of print) book, Little Luxury Knits.  This takes only one ball of Kidsilk Haze, is lightly beaded, and is an unusual but fairly easy lace knit:

gathering-new

And then…we have also worked this same design in a silk-wool DK blend, wider and longer, and behold, it is a thing of great beauty:

gathering-in-dk-1

I have done this so that even if you are for some sad reason, possibly medical, unable to wear or knit Kidsilk Haze, you can still do the course!  Rise can also be knitted with a substitute for the Kidsilk Haze. Please apply to the management in writing for more details.

Anyway as I say, just one place is left, so do come.

I will reveal more glimpses through the crack in the design room door shortly for the Brioche in the Round, and Fairisle Courses.