Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for the ‘Elements’ Category

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.

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.


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:


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:


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:


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:


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.

‘Ice Boa’ from Elements

Saturday, October 1st, 2016

I wanted to show you this:


It is Ice Boa from Elements.  Jane, who has knitted two of these now, edged the cast-on side with velvet fabric/ribbon which I think is really lovely and would also have the added bonus of making sure the boa never gets any longer!  I think I will *borrow* that idea.

By the way, I have knitted this is in chunky yarn other than Rowan Cocoon; I love it in luxury Juniper Moon Farms silk/wool chunky but any chunky wool will knit to tension.  Another thing:  you can knit this in DK or Aran weight wool and use the appropriate needle.  Then, I add a few repeats to make it long enough.  It is a very fast knit and need not be at all expensive.  Great gift, really. When making one in DK, I would also add a few row repeats to give it enough depth.  The Boa is knitted flat, on one long fixed cable needle.  It does end up with *a lot* of stitches, but on the other hand it is only a few rows deep. Highly memorable pattern too after the first two or three repeats.

You can buy Elements here.




Designer Notes: The Landscape Throw

Saturday, September 17th, 2016

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.

Steeking Fairisle

Monday, July 4th, 2016

When I was designing the Rime cowl for Elements, I worked on a version myself and later, for reasons of pattern accuracy and to adjust a few things, another version was knitted which was used for the final shoot.  This project is a Fairisle knit, knitted in the round.  The charts are pretty simple, but the cowl is also beaded and the Kidsilk Haze background shades are colourwashed.  It is started and ended with a deep ribbed edge, which is in turn folded over and slipped stitched down so the ends are really neat and the Fairisle doesn’t start for several inches.

Rime Snood Litchen Mitts

So, I had two cowls.  Then I got to wondering if I could steek one of them and make a throw with it.  The cowl is very big, so I thought it’d be a nice throw, with the pattern going the opposite way to how it is in the image above if you held it longways.  The problems I had to consider were:  it was not knitted to be steeked, so it had no steek ‘bridge’ built into the pattern; also the deep (two layers deep, too) ribbed borders at each end are not conventionally steeked at all, most patterns only deal with stocking stitch Fairisle – these ribs are not stranded; and it is beaded, so clearly once it was cut, the beads in these areas would probably become liberated, no matter how carefully I secured the steek.  Finally – and this was my main worry – the cowl is knitted with yarn double throughout.  So every end is really two ends…

It sort of preyed on my mind for a few months.  At the same time, I was designing things for my steeking courses later this year, which meant knitting and steeking a lot of samples.  So in the end, I decided to just try it.

A conventional steek would have an area set aside in which to secure and cut the steek and it would look something like this:

This is a sample, with simple Fairisle and a five stitch wide ‘bridge’; I cut the steek right up the middle of stitch number three.

So on my KSH cowl, I picked a spot in between some of the charted work where a cut would look most logical.  Then I surface crocheted up one side and down the other side of a line of stitches I had chosen:

I used Fine Lace, an ultra-fine smooth lace-weight yarn.

Then, I cut the steek:

And voila:

So far so good.  I then knitted a ‘sandwich’ finish on each side – i.e., over each steek-side.  This was not successful on the first one, so I did the other side and this was fine; so I undid the first attempt, which involved further cutting, and re-did it.  One side was far less stable than the other, especially in the area where the folded double-layer rib was, so although they are both now 100% stable and secure, one is fatter than the other.

Here is one side, sandwiched:

I used Kidsilk Haze double, as for the main throw, to knit the side edges. I used two of the colours used in the main cowl – black and grey, held together.  I chose these as this gave me the best chance to be able to see the backs of the stitches against the main work – you need to be able to identify and pick up these ‘bumps’ on the wrong side to complete the sandwich.  And here it is, on the wrong side, showing the many ‘ends’ safely tucked away inside:

Sorry the pics are so fuzzy.  Very difficult to get focus on KSH in soft-focus colourwash!

It took me about 2 full days (had I added all the time up) to complete the steeking and it was tricky, especially at the double rib ends, where the surface crochet only ‘grabs’ half the layer.

But overall I am delighted with it, and I now have both a cowl, circular version and a lovely light-weight but very warm, large throw:

I think it has also given me a huge confidence boost.  I am not afraid of steeking, and once I’d found the method that suits me best – which is the one I will be teaching – I was very comfortable with it.  But this experiment has been worthwhile and I’m now fearless!

‘Elements’ Fashion Show in Cornwall – on a BARGE! 30 June.

Monday, June 20th, 2016

This is where the next ‘Elements’ fashion show will be!

The Barge

Isn’t it cute?  It is a barge, moored on the canal in Bude, right outside the shop where I am also teaching that day, which is Thursday 30 June.  I am teaching for the lovely Coastal Yarns people and the workshop is the Drift Mitts from Elements. The workshop is fully booked but I believe that there are spaces for the free-of-charge fashion show, at which there will be drinks, nibbles, me and all the Elements knits, books, Rowan garments and a raffle!

Here are the Drift Mitts which I am teaching that day:DSC_0937

If you’d like to join the workshop, you can ask Coastal Yarns about the waiting list.  And do come to the show, which is free of charge and runs from c 5 PM to 6.30 PM. Contact Coastal here.  Or ring the shop on 01288 350304.  I hope to see you there.


Smith & Jones @ John Lewis, Cardiff, Saturday 23 April.

Tuesday, April 19th, 2016

Logo for Press and Trade Release

If you are in, near or within hailing distance of Johnny Lou-Lou’s Cardiff on Saturday 23 April, please come along as say hello to me and Donna (Jones to my Smith).  We will be signing books, showing all the things from Elements and generally hoping to meet and chat to as many knitters as we can.  As Donna and I both started our Rowan careers as in-store Design Consultants for Rowan, we can also sell knicker elastic, bra-extenders and reminisce about the halcyon days when you could buy ribbon by the yard…


Anyway, this Saturday, John Lewis, Cardiff, 11 – 2.  Hope to see you there!

The Smith and Jones Blog

Sunday, February 7th, 2016

Aside from my meanderings here, I also blog now and then on the Smith & Jones Knits website.  There, due largely to the restraining influence (in a very good way) of Donna, I blog only about knitting, where as here you get me blathering on about trees and caves and allotment and food and – well, life.  But then, I have always been very clear that this blog is by a knitter but may not always be about knitting.  Smith & Jones Knits is all about knitting.  So if you are frankly sick of my underground activities, or could not care less if my garlic is going well down on the allotment, check out Smith & Jones Knits.

One cool thing that we are doing is slowly building a little catalog of articles about the designs in Elements, our new book. Each month, we are selecting an item and taking it in turns to dissect the design.  It will reveal a little about the design ideas behind each one but the main point is to give you an in-depth, informal tutorial on the knitting of the piece.  In a written pattern, you can’t always add all the tips and wrinkles that may make it a more pleasurable experience for you, if you knit one of the designs.  Also, we are now starting to teach some of the designs and this gives us invaluable data about any areas in a design that a knitter might find a wee bit tricky – we can help.

My first one is now up, and it is a detailed look at knitting the Lumi Mittens:

Next, Donna is going to tell you all about the design and knitting of Birch, a beautiful waterfall-front waistcoat with an ingenious design twist:


We also write about other things, and recently I posted about how Donna and I approached our story boards for Elements – and how we then used these to make sure we delivered our vision.

I do really hope you will drop by and visit Smith & Jones Knits, because Donna and I are probably first and foremost teachers of knitting, which is very firmly driven by our designing.  The S&J blog will evolve – is evolving – into a unique resource for anyone who has Elements, because we are really passionate about making sure you get the most from each item you knit from it – and I do not know of a similar resource out there.

Workshop & Fashion Show, 30 June 2016: Knit the Drift Mittens from ‘Elements’

Sunday, January 17th, 2016

Come with me to Cornwall in June.  It’s not often you get that sort of offer is it?  On Thursday 30 June I am teaching at Coastal Yarns in Bude. The full-day workshop (10.30 – 4.30) is all about the Drift Mittens from Elements.


This workshop will be strictly limited for numbers so I suggest you contact the lovely Coastal girls now to get your place saved.

These mittens are knitted in the round – I used DPNs.  You can use other means but that is how I will teach it.  They are rather elegant, frosty and have some intriguing design features.  This includes the beaded, folded cuff sections, a lace-edged thumb and a neat ribbed hand.  I class these as suitable for someone who is reasonably confident, and who can already knit in the round.  Otherwise, no special skills will be needed as I will teach all the rest on the day.

And – after the workshop, they are hosting an exclusive Cornish fashion show for Elements. I will talk through the book’s design roots and will be featuring all the designs in the book.  You can see all 24 pieces, have a fondle, see them on and talk to me about what you’d like to make.  There will be wine, I believe, and snacks.  This is actually all my favourite things right there in one go:  Cornwall, a wool shop, lovely knitters, wine and crisps (I imagine.  It might be posher than that.  Olives, maybe, or vol-au-vents. I love a vol-au-vent!).  You can  come to both the workshop and show, or just one.

So please come to support hand-knitting, knit-wear design, and crisp-eating in Cornwall, on 30 June, which is just after my birthday so I may still be in birthday mode.

Folder beaded swatch

Book! Dogs! Halloween!

Saturday, October 3rd, 2015

So, things to tell you.  First, ‘Elements’ is now available to buy from our dedicated website Smith & Jones Knits.  Hurrah!  Rowan retailers can buy it direct from Rowan via their Rowan rep or account.

Second, dogs and Halloween.  Halloween is their favourite festival, obvs.  This year’s Halloween events are happening, as is traditional, in October and here is Arthur helping me to model two of the items that can be knitted:  Skull and Bones Mitts (black and white) and Tomb Raider Mitts (pink and black); there is also the antidote to skullery – a KSH beaded scarf, Friendly Spirit.  Do you think he looks scary?  BOO!

Really looking forward to these workshops. I love hiding GIANT SPIDERS in peoples’ knitting bags.

Skull and Tomb Raider plus Arthur

Friendly Spirit stitch close up

Skull and Tomb Raider together

Interview – Somerset Life Magazine

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

I thought you might like to see the transcript of an interview I did with Somerset Life for a forthcoming edition (October I think) about the new book, Elements.

Somerset Life.  It’s only a short step from here to being on Strictly, really, isn’t it…?

*Who is behind Smith & Jones and how did you get together?

I am Smith, and Donna Jones is Jones! We met when we both worked for Rowan Yarns in Bristol about nine years ago.  Over the years, we have collaborated on some knitting workshop teaching and often discussed doing some joint design work. Finally in 2014 we decided to create a design partnership – Smith & Jones Knits and this book is our first major project.

*What are your backgrounds?

I worked for Rowan Yarns for several years, in the John Lewis Partnership and later as a Workshop Tutor teaching all over the UK.  Donna did the same.  By combining this work with our ‘real’ jobs, we both developed our textile and teaching skills.  Before and alongside knitting design and teaching, we both have other jobs.  Donna is nurse by background and is now a senior nurse manager in the NHS.  I am a freelance writer, working on magazine, website and corporate projects, most of which are nothing to do with knitting. 

*How did you begin knitting?

I learned to knit as a child – which is something that skipped a generation, really, after generations like my own.  People just stopped knitting, though knitting is still enjoying an 8 year plus renaissance, so people are once again learning to knit and are passing on the skills to their children. I suppose what I am saying is I knitted before knitting was ‘cool’. I knitted when none of my friends knitted and frankly it marked you out as being a bit odd.  There was a time when women especially knitted for reasons of economy:  it was cheaper to knit a school sweater than to buy one.  With the start of mass-produced clothing and low prices, most knitters now knit for pleasure and to create something luxurious and special that you could not buy, because it doesn’t exist in the shops.

When I had my own family, I returned to knitting just as a hobby, which gradually grew to occupy more of my time and attention.  I attended a lot of courses and workshops and decided that I wanted to have this ‘hobby’ as part of my working life.  Getting the part-time role with Rowan as a Design Consultant was the start of that.  I remain utterly amazed that I have somehow now written 4 books, and that I teach and design every week. 

*Where are you based and how would you describe your workspace – do you have a Somerset view?

I live in Puriton which is about 4 miles from Bridgwater.  We have lived in the village for 10 years; before this we lived in Burnham-on-Sea for many years.  My workspace is my house, which is a very old cottage right in the middle of the village.  My view from my office and from my workshop room is my garden.  This garden was definitely right at the heart of my designs for Elements. The garden has lots of history – very old apple trees, and metal work from when the cottage was a black-smiths forge. It is a bit wild, it’s quite big, and it also served as the back-drop for some of the book photography.  But all my inspirations were drawn from Somerset, especially the Mendip Hills where I spend a lot of time, cycling, walking and caving.  I teach here at Court Cottage, with an annual knitting workshop programme, and I have also been very inspired and encouraged by the knitters who come here, from all over the UK.

*Can anyone learn to knit or do you have to have particular skills like patience?

Yes, I have never failed to teach someone to knit, and I have taught 1000s of students.  Patience is helpful, especially when things feel a bit tricky.  But in fact, I’d turn that round and say that becoming a knitter, even just an occasional knitter, can teach patience.  It’s a very soothing, repetitive process.  It need not be difficult, often the simplest designs are the most effective. Really, you are weaving a piece of fabric – only with wool and two pointy sticks instead of a loom.  And despite all the amazing knitted items that can be created, knitting boils down to just 2 stitches – knit and purl. I was absolutely terrible at needle work at school; I think my poor old teachers would be stunned to know how I make my living today!  

*What tips do you have for a beginner?

Ask someone calm and patient to teach you.  It’s great if this is a friend or colleague as you can ask them for help all the time!  Knit every day, even if it is just a few rows.  This will really consolidate your new skills and create a memory in your hands as well as in your mind.  Choose a real project to start with, not just squares or long strips.  A simple scarf or a bag is a great starting point, but you’re much more likely to keep going if you have a goal.  And don’t worry or give up if you make mistakes or go wrong.  It’s only knitting.  It can be fixed. 

*Why did you decide to produce the book?

Personally, I liked the idea of collaborating with someone I know and really like.  Donna’s knitting style is nothing like mine, nor are her colour choices, so it was also a great opportunity to offer our audience 2 different, complementary knitting design styles.  Elements is my 4th book and also the one most closely associated with my Somerset background, so that really appealed to me.

*What are some of the examples of designs we can find there?

The book has 24 designs, ranging from garments such as cardigans, and shrugs, to accessories, such as mittens and scarves, and home-wear with cushions and throws. 

*What inspires you?

I am inspired by textures and shapes.  I look at a landscape and it suggests areas where I might focus – stitch patterns, shades, shapes and so on.  I then layer in design ideas and my shade choices, working backwards from this initial idea.  My designs are not ‘literal’, so if I am inspired by, say, the Mendip landscape, as I have been, the resulting designs are likely to be suggestive of this imagery, rather than conveying an accurate ‘picture’ reproduction of it. I am also inspired by fine details and delicate features, so I often incorporate beads and lace to capture these.

*Do you have a favourite knitting style?

I like simple knitting that looks as if was really hard!  My designs often look fairly complex, but on closer inspection, they are very accessible by most knitters, even beginners for some designs.  I love knitting Fairisle colour work, and I love pretty, dainty knits.  What I can’t be bothered with is knitting that you can just buy in M&S – why knit a navy blue sweater, when you could buy one for twenty quid, and spend that time knitting a gorgeous wrap instead?  Nor do I go in for knitting that is going to take longer than a few weeks to complete.  I love knitting, but I don’t want to be committed to a project that lasts longer than some marriages! 

New Book Preview

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015

These are the Drift Mittens.  They are one of my designs in Elements, which officially launches exactly one month from today.  I think they are in my top 3 favourite things that I designed in the book, although actually my absolute favourite thing out of all 24 projects is probably this felted bag, by Donna; this is Bramble:

Bramble by Donna


‘Elements’ Cover Shot

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

Here is the final cover shot for my new book, ‘Elements’ jointly authored with Donna Jones. The book is officially available from 1 October 2015.

The cover features a design by each of us.  I hope you like it.

Final Cover

Retailers can buy stock of the book via their Rowan representative or their Rowan account.  It will be with Rowan in September.  If you are a retailer and would like to discuss any promotional activity or teaching opportunities with Smith & Jones, please get in touch.

We also have a Smith & Jones Face Book page. Like this to get weekly up-dates on all our Smith & Jones news.

Fashion Show in Wiltshire

Saturday, June 13th, 2015





















29 October, me, Martin and Donna, do come.

‘Elements’ Photo-Shoot; photo-bombing

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

We have now completed about 70% of the photography for the new book, ‘Elements’ which Donna and I are publishing in September.  The shoots have been held in Somerset, and in South Wales which is an important factor for us both, since we have drawn our inspirations from our home environments.

For my other books, I was never able to attend the shoots.  I very much regretted this, and not only because, had I been at one of them, I would definitely have noticed that one of the pieces was inside out. Before it was photographed, so that it didn’t end up in the book that way.  It’s OK.  I expect to be over it in roughly 2018.  I did ask to be there each time. But it wasn’t – yes, I think, in fact, it wasn’t allowed.  No-one said that, but it just didn’t ever happen, despite my always asking, and even driving the items over to the shoot location for one of the books.  And then, you know, saying ‘hi!’ and ‘bye!’ before just driving home.  I am more assertive now.

I did mainly love the photos for the other books.  But Donna and I both wanted to be much more involved this time than I had been in the past.  We now have a much better appreciation of just how much sheer hard work styling a shoot is, and we are very grateful to our models and photographer.  I mean, it’s not hard as in assembling Range Rovers in a car plant or teaching GCSE maths to a bunch of enthusiastic teens.  But it is actually a lot of slog, fixing, getting wet, getting steamed up, forgetting to eat and drink – that sort of thing.

Anyway, above all it was a nerve-wracking and highly enjoyable experience which has yielded some great material for our designer to work with.  All we have to do now is choose a minute percentage of the 1000s of images that were produced.

We shot some of the interior pieces here.  In fact, for my very first book, the cover shot was taken here so I was present, if in the kitchen.  As I was arranging two of the pieces, Arthur who is the Zoolander of the Dachshund world, being ridiculously good-looking, photo-bombed the set up.  I think one of his shots might creep into the final edit.  I always think of Arthur as a pup.  But he is 7 this year.  I was struck by how white his muzzle is going.  Sigh.

Arthur photo bombs the shoot 1



Arthur photbombs the shoot 2

Design Event

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

The 4th Court Cottage Design Weekend has just happened.  It was really good, I hope the participants would agree.  The range of ideas which the ‘mood-boards’ generated was impressive, as was the scale of the visions we saw emerging.  The concept for the weekends has evolved and now I send out 2 mood-boards with some themes, yarn suggestion, and some guidance as to what I want to see at the weekend.  There are 2 options, so you can choose from the brief that is quite narrow and prescriptive, or from the other which is much more relaxed.

The whole weekend was a real joy, for me, and for Millington.

I think however, that I will not hold a 2016 Design Weekend.  This is partly because when my new book, ‘Elements’, comes out later this year, my co-author, Donna Jones and I, may hold a knitting retreat weekend, or weekends, one of which may well have a design theme.  It is also because I fancy ringing the changes.

So in 2016, I have some half-formed plans for an event – which may be a short series of one-day get-togethers – where we design something together. That is, I design half, you design half.  And if you don’t want to design half, you can double up on my designs.  My (rough) plan is that folks can book for 2 days, a few weeks apart, so the plan can evolve, with a final free-of-charge afternoon reunion, the purpose of which is  to eat cake to see where we have all got to, go ‘ooooh/aaah!’ at what we’ve done, and to sort out any final points.  I am loath to call it a Knit-Along (KAL) but it will be a version of that, I suppose.

It’s brewing in my head, and now it needs to get to the test-knit stage.

‘Elements’, My New Book Out in September 2015

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015


I am working hard on a new book, which I am co-authoring with Donna Jones of Fyberknitics.

‘Elements’ is a collection of 24 projects, 12 designed by me, 12 by Donna.  This will be my fourth book, and it’s been the most fun, because we are a great collaborative team.

The theme revolves around the way each of us draws on our landscapes to feed our designing.  For me, in Somerset, this is about my own close environment, even my own garden, and a little further afield, the moors of the Somerset Levels, and the high ground of The Mendip Hills.  For Donna, who lives in South Wales, it is about the coast and forests of her home-land.

Happily, as we created our story-boards, back in the autumn of 2014, we also found that we inhabit very different places on the shade spectrum.  I am all about the cool greys, whites, creams, and blues.  Donna is using a warmer, richer palette.  It is fair to say we both love colour – but we use it in very different ways.

Donna and I met as Rowan Design Consultants many years ago now.  We bonded over a mutual love of yarn, and a shared outlook on many aspects of the creative life.  Our extreme nerdiness (yes, it is a word) is probably our defining shared characteristic though.  It’s great to nerd out with a kindred spirit.

Some years later, here we are, in the final stages of our joint book.  It will be distributed by Rowan Yarns and in the next few months, I will keep you up to date with its progress.  In the summer, we will launch a website dedicated to the book and our wider collaborative project.  This will extend to events, shows, website video tutorials, workshops – and maybe even a residential weekend.

In the meantime, here are two images from my side of the collection.