Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for the ‘Kits’ Category

Pattern Downloads

Monday, January 7th, 2013

All my former kit patterns are now available as single PDFs.  These are priced at £4 each.  I will email the PDF to you.

I will still very happily make you up a kit for any of these if you wish to have a kit or want give one as a gift – just email me if you do and I will sort out your options.

However, I think (based partly on many email requests and largely on my personal preference) that most knitters like to have the option just to buy the single designs, sans yarns – we *may* have the yarns in stash, after all…

I don’t want to clutter up the site with ‘buy a kit’ and also ‘buy a pattern’ options so I have decided to just go for the pattern option on line.

Whilst doing this work on the site I have also added some new designs – marked as *new* on the menu.

I hope you approve of the changes and the new patterns.  There are 4 or 5 other new designs to go on this month.  Putting up kits has been something I have ‘lagged’ with – because of the additional faffage with colours etc.  You see, I have A Lot of shades here but realistically for a kit, I can only offer 2 options on line.  I think this way will be much better and encourage me to put my back-log of designs up with more alacrity!

The sleeve of the new 'Singing River' shrug

Some new designs

Friday, August 10th, 2012

Caving inspired designs, soon to be kits, all knitted up, with the versions you see here knitted and checked by the amazing Fiona, patt checked and raring to go.

First, The Singing River Shrug:


It comes in 2 versions, this one being the version that features a ribbon, corset-style back. The cuffs are flared, lightly beaded and simple lace.


There is another version, with a grafted back thus allowing it to double as a scarf:

Next, The Charterhouse Mittens, with an opposing ‘rift’ of beaded lace running across the backs of the hands.  Here we are working in Fine Lace and Kidsilk Haze, except for the final frill, Kidsilk Haze only. Really, it hardly merits the word ‘lace’ as it is simply eyelets that mirror the gently twisting line of beads:

And now the understated and modest Rhumba Alley Cuffs.  A froth of twirls, beads and twisting lace:

I am emerging from my twisted, twirly design phase and am now deeply into the shrug/bolero phase.  Currently on the needles are 2 shrugs, 1 with deep puffed sleeves and a lace rib back, and another with simple rib-cuff short sleeves and beads. Pics soon.





As a woman…

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

As a woman, obviously my main concern is tending my home, removing every-day stains from things and shopping.  And eating bio-friendly yoghurt.  I also like hearing about products that might interest me personally, as a woman, such as face-cream, diet pills and miracle exercise devices.  OK, that’s not true. Though I do love nail varnish.  True.

(Side track:  I recently caved again, and my nails, always polished, were very dark, almost a black purple/blue – in honour of the caves you see, I felt hot pink was perhaps too bright – and lo, the nails emerged from the cave trip all just fine because I cave in luxury Marigolds and my nails, though polished, are not long, because I am a knitter – and a gardener.  So we go for a quick drink after showering and changing, to a real, proper caver pub, which was so nice and cosy inside.  And the landlord, ex-caver I believe and really lovely, serves me a round of drinks and as he gives me my change, with my pint mug of diet Coke, he carefully holds one of my hands by the tips of my fingers as if I was a Princess (which I kind of am) and examines the deep purple nails.  ‘Now my love’, he says, ‘what have you been doing with those nails?’ To which I was very glad to be able to say:  ‘I’ve just done the round trip in GB in these nails!’  By the way, I’d adore to tell you all about it, it involves a waterfall climb again but this time a nice one rather than a more evil wire ladder episode, and if anyone encourages me, I will!)

Recently I have been ruthlessly targeted by advertising campaigns for womanly things that I might need or like.  By ‘ruthless’ I mean I might have signed up for the brochures.  And emails.  And you see, as a woman, I find it almost impossible to resist this sort of targeting – and this is how I have become hopelessly addicted to…Lakeland.  Have you ever been in one of their shops? Go! no – wait – don’t go!  Oh well, I don’t know, you decide if you think you are strong enough to resist what is, in effect, crack-cocaine for houses.  You may, unlike me, be blessed with invincible powers of resistance.  Or you may be a man (though a friend has recently given me the glad news that her man likes Lakeland even more than she does).  Even Mark, who aside from his shoe-shopping habit, is not a womanly-man (as it were) likes going in there.

We go in, looking for say, a pepper mill.  That was last time and I can tell you, it’s a good pepper mill.  Oh but the lure of the various sections!  It’s like the earth’s own magnetic force.  I am drawn to the laundry section first, usually.  I love their pegs.  Then there are the baking and roasting sections.  And the cake stands and party things…and the staff are lovely, they know their stuff and they clearly love working there.  I know I would, I’d probably be too enthusiastic though.  That can scare people.  Apparently.

There are things in there that you never even knew existed, so how could you know how urgently you need them?  Then you go in and you find a whole new world of Stuff You Must Have Right Now. Such as this strawberry huller:

OXO Good Grips® Strawberry Huller

recommended to me by a friend – a simple piece of genius.  OK I can hull a strawberry with a knife but this is fun!

I am currently quite obsessed with their steam-clean range of products.  I’m undecided between some of them so if you have any experience of these, do pop me note on, ta.


In other news, thank you for the comments and also the emails I have had in response to my question:  what workshops do you think you’d like?  The top answer is cake.  Really? you do amaze me! But then comes learning new techniques, followed by:  a nice day out.  Hurrah, I’ll just carry on popping those ingredients in together then.  Certainly, the (easy) techie days such the Moebius workshop are popular.  There is a repeat day for the 2013 Moebius now but only 2 places left.  This is April 2013.  Another experiment was planning an intro to Crochet day for this September.  As you know, I am crochet-phobic or was until Dr Donna got her hook into me, and this is now almost full too.  So, if this is for you, there are only 2 places left.  Anyway, offer still stands, if you ever think:  oooh, I’d like a day about this or that, let me know.  Not you, fiendish lace.

I’m going to add the rest of 2013’s workshops to the website next month.  There will be 3 or 4 more I think.


Finally it’s been a bit quiet on the kit front, but I have 4 new kits almost ready to go on.  Mitts, cuffs and scarves.



Little Wooden Hill Baby Blanket kit now available; and other kit news

Monday, October 10th, 2011

There is a new kit available, it is the Little Wooden Hill Baby Blanket, a small but perfectly formed moses basket or pram blanket.  You can view the details here.

I really like this sort of knitting.  Fairly easy but not boring, because there is something happening most of the time.  Happily, this activity quickly becomes really obvious.  The finished blanket is lovely and drapey, very pretty and actually very practical, as both the yarn – Rowan Handknit DK Cotton – and the beads, can be machine washed at 40 degrees.

An item of feedback from a customer has flooded in.  She makes the very good point that none of the kits on the site is really, really easy, and that she’d like to maybe buy kits for knitters she knows who are learning, just past the knit/purl point but not confident about beads, cables etc.

However, I feel that a kit that just says:  here’s some wool, cast on and do garter stitch (or something) is maybe not that attractive, yet I also think she is right in her assessment.  So I am working on a 3-part kit, called Three Easy Pieces, which comes with 3 patterns, all unisex scarves, using Cocoon and Kidsilk Haze.  Pattern 1 is really, really easy with a tiny bit of design and lots of easy knitting.  Pattern 2 is easy, with a tiny bit more ‘content’.  And Pattern 3 is still easy but with a little more technique added.  The kit will include enough Cocoon and KSH to do one of the scarves, but the knitter then has all the patterns and can move on to the next and so on.  What do you think?  I love getting feedback by the way, direct on this blog or via email.  Designing is something I’ve done for some years now – but selling kits is new, so please tell me your thoughts.

23 years ago…

Friday, September 30th, 2011

…today, I got married to Mark.  It seems amazing to me that so many years can have gone by so quickly.  And they said it wouldn’t last!  We have no idea who ‘they’ are or were, and I’m pretty sure no-one said that but it’s just a little standing joke.  Humour me.

We got married in Birmingham, at the central register office, which was at that time located at the top end of Broad Street, the end that isn’t Five Ways, now an achingly cool social area, then – um, not so much.  However, across the road was (and still is) the Rep Theatre, where we had our reception, complete with a traditional jazz band, the major item in our wedding budget.  It was just a perfect day, hot and sunny, which is amazing luck in late September – as it is today, in fact.  We went out together for dinner the night before, I even remember what I ate and drank!  The next day, I drove into Five Ways to pick up some new reading glasses, then back home to wait for my mother and father, aunts and uncle, to drive down to Birmingham from Manchester, drink sherry, get ready and take photos in the back garden.  Then 2 black cabs arrived and we drove into the city, from where we lived which was Quinton (no, Quinton, you’re not  Harbourne, OK? You’re not even Quinbourne, get over it).

We had no bridesmaids or best man, no cake, few speeches and it was lovely.  After the supper, (which was duck, food is obviously a memory trigger for me!) we drove to north Wales and stayed in Abersoch, a small coastal town where as a child, I had had holidays with my family.  My main memory of that part is that our good weather luck ran out on 1 October!  But it was still lovely to have a week there.  The second part of the ‘honeymoon’ was spent in Spain.  Money was tight, and Mark had been invited to be the ‘guest teacher’ for a golf party that the club he then worked at as the Pro was holding.  The chap who was organising this offered us a free week out there, if Mark would teach and play every day, so we agreed.  I remember that we flew into Gibraltar airport, which is minuscule, and I felt I was in Casablanca, and then we had to cross the border (run way) on foot to the coach that drove us to the resort, which I can’t recall at all now.  It was a bit odd, that working honeymoon.  There were wives on the tour – not playing, don’t be daft – and they were lovely but they all knew each other and I was much younger and crippled by shyness, so mainly, I swam or hid in our room until Mark was released from his duties and we could go out.  Looking back, it just seems weird.

To celebrate, this weekend we are going to ride a 66.2 mile sportive in the New Forest.  I am absolutley dreading it.  Wish us luck, we’ll need it.

In other news, there is a new kit on the site:

which is available here.

Another will be on next week, and it is a baby blanket, knitted in DK cotton and simply embellished with beaded lace hearts and cables:

Odd jobs

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

Odd jobs in a minute but first, a question:  does it rain and blow a lot on Sundays, and also I post a blog?  Or, do I blog because it’s raining and blowing?  Discuss.  I really don’t know.

I’ve had some odd jobs, well, some varied jobs might be more accurate.

Currently, I do my own thing, here in the linen cupboard, as you know.  I also do some other ‘jobs’, and at the moment this mainly involves golf trolleys.  I wish I was paid for this job but I’m not.  Hey ho, that’s family businesses for you.  I’m struggling with the golf side of my life, if I’m honest.  I don’t golf myself.  Once, a member of a golf club, chatting to me about this and that as you do at ‘functions’ asked me what I did.  This was many years ago, Florence was only 2, Lily wasn’t going to appear for another 5 years.  In fact, I worked full-time in Bristol then.  So naturally I said that I worked in Bristol.  Well.  I wish I’d said I was a US Navy Seal or a hand-model or a sausage-linker, because when I said I worked in an office in Bristol, I might as well have admitted that I worked on the moon as a cheese-taster.

Bristol?  Bristol?

Um. Yep.   Bristol was then, before we moved very slightly south, 3 motorway junctions and about 45 minutes drive, from our house.

Well!  Fancy you working in Bristol! (Chuckles at this idea, as if it was so fanciful, it probably wasn’t even true…)

Then:  I assume that’s voluntary work?

See.  It was a different world, another plane, there was never going to be a meeting of minds.

It is a matter of family history now and if Mark or I wish to express significant, even incredulous surprise, we may murmur:  Bristol?  Code for:  I cannot believe that, not for one moment.

Anyway, due to my aversion to golf thingies, I have invented an alter-ego who does this work for me.  Her name is Kristy.  She is very calm, loves order, process and routines.  She is about my age, and has a light brown bob.  Kristy’s key strength is her patience with customers.  She never says, or even thinks:  for God’s sake!  it’s a golf thingy sprag-bracket we’re talking about here, no-one died!  Which I might, if I was allowed to deal with golf thingy brackets and their customers…

Considering that I invented Kristy – she is therefore like a costume which I can wear when I need to be in character – so she doesn’t really exist, I get quite defensive of her.  For example, recently we have had 2 customers who have spelled or said her name incorrectly – Kirsty, instead of Kristy.  I was a bit annoyed – and I voiced a gentle correction!  It’s Kristy…and then I went to have a lie down in a cool dark room, because, you know, even by my standards, that’s bonkers.

Anyway, odd jobs.  I have in fact really done one of the unlikely sounding jobs I mentioned about eleventy sentences ago – I do hope you’re keeping up at the back there?  So, have I ever been:   1) a US Navy Seal;  2)  a hand-model;  or 3)  a sausage linker?

The answer is 3)  a sausage linker! 

This looks to me like a traditional 3-link sausage.

Yes, I was for many years employed by Saxby Brothers of Wellingborough at their famous pork-pie and sausage factory.  I worked there in the school and uni holidays from the age of 17 to 21, when I graduated and joined the West Midlands Fire Service.  Now that was an odd  – and amazing – job!  Maybe another time…

I was, it turned out, an epic linker.  I think it might have been an early indication of my future ‘career’ as a knitter.  My fingers were quick and nimble as the slippery giant sausages spewed out from the sausage-making machine.  A very long, un-linked sausage, all wet, maybe 4m of it, is shot out of a special machine, which is in turn controlled by a highly skilled operative.  In my day this was Doreen, a short, powerful lady, probably not that much into her 20s but I was 17 and so she could have been Noah’s granny for all I knew.  Doreen was originally from London and with the strength of 2 men, she heaved vats of raw sausage meat and cereals and seasonings about.  She loaded her machine with this mixture, and then placed the 4m of sausage skin over the nozzle of the machine, and slowly started the projection of sausage meat into it, building momentum by the second, until maximum velocity was achieved – trying all the while to avoid the major sausage hazard:  trapped air.  No-one wants a bubbly sausage.  Then we’d grab a link and get busy.  These were then festooned, like meaty festive wreaths, over a large rack which in turn was wheeled into a giant refrigerated room, with ominous, clanky huge steel doors.  I had a morbid fear of getting locked in, much as years later I developed a morbid fear of the ‘rolling-racking’ in the stock rooms of John Lewis stores…therapy…?  I agree, I’ll sort that out.

Sometimes, when I’m looking in butcher shop windows, I have a sudden urge to ask if I could maybe have a go at the 3-sausage link for them, just to see if I could still do it.

My odd job this week has been knitting a new mitten.  Here it is.  Along with the 4th swatch. 


Even by my standards, 4 swatches is a lot and as you know I love swatching.  I did this first with Kidsilk Haze, single.  Not robust enough.  Then, smaller needles and KSH double – still not firm enough.  Finally 2 swatches with KSH plus Fine Lace on 2 different row counts.  I’m still not 100% happy and after these are done, I will do them again with a new row-count between the clouds.  Yes,  it does look to me like clouds so it’s called Cloud – all puffy and a bit sparkly.  It will soon have a companion and also a matching hat or small neck-warmer.  The ruching is so simple and the yarns – a blend of Rowan’s new Fine Lace and Kidsilk Haze – make the finished fabric feel like angora.

Cloud has had a bit of a mixed reaction.  Last week, it was a hit with a bunch of knitters in Devon but yesterday, a class of lace-knitters in Somerset (not mine, I hasten to add) dismissed it with a careless:  why on earth would I knit/wear that?!  Also dismissed without a character reference were most of my new kit-knits, I assume on the grounds of them being glittery (some of them) and pretty (all of them).  Hmm.  Oh well, I almost imperceptibly lift my silk-mohair draped shoulders in a way that hints at:  if you embraced a tiny bit more sparkle and resisted the earthy tones a little, you might enjoy your knitting even more…

What will happen next to this concept is that I will transform it into a shrug, with billowy, cloudy sleeves and a snug, fitted back.  I love the shrugs.  I also need to see if this can be knitted in the round.

Bubbles – and lace, but not mine

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

Behold the Bubble Pop Electric Comforter, knitted in dusty pink 4 ply wool and gorgeous Majestic Kidsilk Haze:

This image shows you some stitch detail – this design is all about the texture – plus a glimpse of the finishing ruffle, which adorns each end.  I love Majestic, because though it is basically grey, it’s also got a lot of warmth in it, veering into the pink-underneath-of-a-newborn-mushroom spectrum…yes, I do believe that is an official colour on the colour wheel.

This will be 1 of 3 new kits that will populate this site by the end of September.  The others are very sparkly and outrageous cuffs, and a cream cotton baby blanket, with lace beaded hearts.

And now, in Show and Tell, marvel at ‘Hilda’ lace circular shawl from Lacy Knits, knitted by (and here I am awed) Jane, who is a relatively new lace-knitter!  I know!  It’s only the most challenging thing in the book!

Impressive, much.  Well done Jane – who has also leapt straight into full membership of the AC-S Glitter Knitter Cell, by adding beads, knitted cunningly into the point of each ‘tip’.  Even I, Archdeaconess of Glitter, had not thought of that.

Crushed strawberry comforter

Friday, September 9th, 2011

Look what’s on Fiona’s needles.  Isn’t it yummy?  It’s Bubble Pop Electric Comforter, only in soft pink wool with Majestic Kidsilk Haze.  Fiona is knitting it up as a new kit, available here later this month. 

I knitted it in green and grey, and this version will also offer it as a slightly larger item.

Fiona says it’s like the shade Crushed Strawberries.  I’m trying to hang on to summer (grumpyfaceaswehadnonetospeakof) so I agree.  I am also trying to resist lighting the dining room fire!

New book pattern pic and Shimmer Star-Crossed

Saturday, September 3rd, 2011

This is a peek of a shot from a new book proposal that we are working on:

Here you can see Kidsilk Haze and Fine Lace, plus dusty lavender beads.  The corsage uses felted knitted backing – and also melted chiffon!

I have had a couple of emails asking if the detail on new Shimmer Star-Crossed kit could be made plainer.  Maybe this photo will help:

New kit – Shimmer Star-Crossed; and Paris tales

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

This is Star-Crossed scarf, knitted with Shimmer in the place of Pure Wool DK.  It’s simply lovely.  I know I may be biased but it is!  It looks very ethereal, almost like the foam of very fine bubble bath…then the silver Shimmer glints at you and holds the criss-crossed Kidsilk Haze in place. 

It’s available here.  The original version, which uses Pure Wool DK and Kidsilk Haze is available here.

Both use (almost) 4 balls of yarn, that is 2 of each quality.  Fiona’s husband – Fiona is an amazing knitter to the confused (me) – also liked it, which I am told is high praise. 

Tomorrow, I am adding another kit, Le Marais Cuffs:

I think I am about ready to deal with The Incident In The Restaurant In Paris.  My youngest daughter, Lily, loyally tells me she reads my blog but I am pretty sure she doesn’t and so I am safe.  Our second evening in Paris, warm, still, bustling pavements, bizarre street artists – in this case a late-middle-aged lady dressed in feathers, who executed startlingly ugly and slow pirouettes across the square to the accompanying Swan Lake, booming from her beat-box…

Anyway, emboldened by our successful day of chatting away like native Parisiennes, ahem, we returned to the cafe where the night before, we had had a delicious supper and a fair bit of red-wine – a pot.  Some of us however, were rather too confident.  Lily boldly opted for the steak tartare.  I was startled.  So was the waiter, who seemed to clearly recall that last evening, Miss Lily had been quite content with le cheese-burger and a huge slice of tarte tatin to follow…I intervened.  I said (suddenly and painfully aware that I seemed to have come over all middle-class and also very bourgeois and embarrassed):  oh but Lily, I’m not sure you’ll enjoy that – it’s raw steak…

Yes, I know. (Theatrical sigh).

It’s raw, chopped steak, mixed with – erm – eggs!

The waiter is feeling my pain but also, it’s frantic in this place, being August and he’s eager to clinch the order.

Yes, I have seen it, it will be fine mum! (Oscar-standard eye-rolling)

I shrug, a shrug that says, fine, I am not the one who has to force that down, and I order my duck.  Once before, some years ago in St Ives, Lily, who was then only about 9, ordered squid in a restaurant.  She did this because she was mesmerised by a friend of my eldest daughter who was on holiday with us, and she, knowingly and happily, had also ordered squid which she very much enjoyed.  On that occasion, Mark manfully took over and ate the squid, for I surely could not have done so.  You may say – and I might agree – that we all ought to have learned our lessons from that incident.  Mais non, apparently not.  I ought to have said:  no.  You’re not having that madam, order something else or go without.  I do not really know why I didn’t.

The food arrives.  A flourish at Lily’s place reveals a HUGE shape of raw chopped steak, nestling in a forest of salad. 

Lily is suddenly not a sophisticated teen-about-Paris anymore.  Her eyes meet mine.  There is an extended silence, broken only by the sounds of Mark eagerly addressing his own dinner, in a blatant and successful bid to avoid having to man-up to the steak tartare, like he did with the squid.  I briefly consider not doing the ‘told you so’ dance, reject this option and tell Lily that I did warn her.  She makes a pitiful mewing noise and prods the food.  I take one bite of my duck.  Lily plays the clincher.  She says:  Mum, I am afraid of my dinner.  Oy.

With incredibly bad grace, I switched our plates and had a good look at this steak tartare.  I also am afraid of it but sadly, I am not 15.  I think about donning a few feathers and joining mad ballet lady in the square.  Finally, I re-charge my wine glass and slowly, silently, sip (!) of wine for bite of steak, I eat about one third of it.  Oh!  what a different party we were from that of the evening before when we had laughed and talked!  Now we are each lost in our own worlds.  Mark has bolted his supper with a speed that might have made me laugh if I hadn’t been so focused.  Lily, evidently loving my duck, was trying to look as if she was forcing down rather than adoring the lovely supper, the dauphinoise potatoes, the tender vegetables…

I re-assessed the plate.  I reckoned that leaving one third would be OK.  I had eaten one third, how, I do not know.  There was no way the last third was going down.  Mark stared hard in the other direction, Lily practically licked the pattern of her plate.  I deployed all the napkins, deftly wrapped half of what was left in them and put this – and this is almost the worst part – in my tiny Mulberry handbag.  It was fine, they were good napkins. 

My next tale of Paris is a happy one!

A love affair

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

The most romantic place in the world:  Paris!  Why have I never been there before?  A ridiculous oversight that I have now dealt with and intend to deal with again and again and again…

So, I’m back, having spent a week in Paris.  I know!  My usual modus operandi is a week or so cycling in Pembrokeshire, a cross-border foray into Devon or Dorset, maybe a day-trip to Bath.  Paris, ooh la la, we may as well suggest Mars.  But Mark insisted.  I was very, very reluctant, but he was right, it is a beautiful, amazing city and I did fall in love with it.  As my physio said (yep, physio is now a regular feature of life, sigh, but it keeps me running, and kicking and punching, so hey):  get you Ali!  Amsterdam, now Paris!  you jet-setter, you!  Oui, c’est moi.  Le jet set.

We all went, the boys having first been deposited with Aunty Hilda and Uncle Peter, where they were really rather naughty and badly behaved (they are now formed into a Dachshund-mould on the chair in the yarn-room, next to me as I type, snoring gently – no them, not me – exhausted from a week of terrorising that part of Puriton).  I have hinted before at the Olympic standard anxiety levels that I can achieve, a trait that I inherited from my father.  Imagine the levels I can attain before a visit to Paris.  Yes, epic.  It all adds to the drama and makes the subsequent absence of a disaster all the more piquant, mainly for Mark…

We rented an apartment on the border of a hyper-trendy district called le Marais and another one whose name I forget, but anyway, a boules-roll away from the Pompidou Centre, about 10 minutes stroll to the Seine, and a further 5 to Notre Dame.  The street was really a walk-way, about a car’s width and rarely used by vehicles other than the street cleaners and mopeds.  Into what was once a very grand 4 storey house, now apartments, via a giant door, and up the atmospheric stairs:

I never got tired of walking up or down this stairway, despite being on the 2nd floor and there being a lot of coming in and going out, because it was so lovely.  At the top of a flight of steps like this, surely one could write an epic novel?  Or create a heart-achingly beautiful sonata?  Or at the very least, knit a pretty little cuff, a small homage to le Marais?

I knitted a bit, not as much as I’d have liked but there was so much to see and do.  However, one day I wasn’t very well and so the family went out, in a clear, hot (almost 90 degrees at mid-day) day and I stayed in and knitted, here:

In a corner by a window of huge proportions that allowed in great light plus a dollop of real le Marais Parisian life, noise and scent, was an absolutely perfectknitting spot.  A comfortable but straight backed chair with no arms, which is my knitting preference, an old carved desk, a plug for my iPod speakers so I could listen to my book…I was really unwell, I’m not making that up, and yet, that day was in some ways my favourite day in Paris.  At times the music and laughter and shouted conversation from the bars and cafes that teemed below forced me to turn the speakers up loud in order to follow the book!  In the afternoon, someone, I think in the bar opposite, played about an hour of very loud music, Piaf and also American songs from the 50s and 60s but in French, (la Itzy-Bitzy-Teeny-Weeny yellow polka dot bikini, for example…).  It was almost a parody.  I did think at one point:  OK Paris, I get that I’m in Paris, there is no need to pour Piaf into my window, next you’ll be poking a baguette in the letter box – but it was really very magical too.  Eventually, 2 ladies from the hair salon next door went out into the alley and yelled, in a fairly good-natured way at the bar owner:  ‘Anthony!  Anthony!  Arret la musique pour le bien de Dieu!’ or something like that.  And he did.  30 minutes later…

More – much more – of Paris later, oh yes, mes amis, you will become tired of my Paris stories, but here I only shrug and say:  hard fromage, for there is more to come.  I will tell you tales of concerts in cathedrals and churches filled with golden light;  of dog-boutiques, museums and queues – and a meal that the stuff of nightmares is made of.  Do not ever say that I do not spoil you.  I will just tell you one more small thing now.  On our return, Mark, with a fairly Gallic flourish it has to be granted, produced a well-wrapped lump of blue cheese, that was not finished for supper and that I assumed had been binned.  But no, he couldn’t bear to part with it so he wrapped it in our clothes and fetched it home.  Voila!

For now, however, I leave you with some knitting-related news.  Look what is happening in the design room!  I have secured the services of a much sought-after knitter who has very kindly agreed to knit for moi!  Fiona is knitting this at the moment:


Mmmm.  I know!  Star-Crossed reincarnated in Shimmer and KSH.  I am very excited to see this in real life.  I love her work and her blog, and I know I am going to love this.  It will be a kit and a workshop…

Kits are available on the site

Monday, August 8th, 2011

It’s like making bread, the River Cottage way, me and my kits.  Slow.  However, the first 6 are now on the site, under kits.

More will be added this month, taking us to 10 or 12 kits and then some autumn/winter designs will be added in September and October as we rev up to peak knitting time.

I hope you like them.

Garden slavery; bread

Friday, August 5th, 2011

The title of this post is not a complaint.  I have been slaving but so has Mark which of course makes it far quicker and spares my poorly shoulder a bit.  Despite the weather, the garden is booming away and 2 days ago, on a rare, still, sunny and warm day, I took some pics, in which I thought how dreamy – if a little shaggy – it was looking.  Some of this shagginess has now gone:

For example, the lavender paths that go towards the cottage which you can see above.  Gone.  All cut back and then dug up.  I said I was going to and I have.  That hedge was about 7 years old and thriving in parts, dying back in others, but mainly, just far too big for the space, despite purporting to be dwarf.  Hmm.  The space it has opened up is lovely.  I was dreading it but it’s fine.  Now we can re-form the gravel paths and re-plant.  I’m still thinking lavender, but really dwarf as the last lot of dwarfs reached well over 3 feet tall.  I’ve also removed some roses that never thrived despite their eye-watering price at the time, and a Hebe that was done for in the snow last year and was half dead anyway.  So I will have more depth to plant into.

Here is a fennel, growing in the stones round the little pond, with another lavender behind it.  I love the softness of the foliage and the yellow against the fading mauve of the lavender. This lavender is a survivor, it is in a perfect place, just right for its size, with a companionable jasmine next to it.  It has now been shorn of its fading flower spikes and looks very smart again, if a little shorn.

In another part of the garden, by the kitchen, is some summer clutter:  the watering can, not needed much this year; our tea mugs, the hose because we were pond-cleaning.  And the geraniums, which have done well despite the wind, cold and rain.

The agapanthus that I grow in huge pots under the kitchen window and opposite the summer house are almost over, the seed heads are more apparent than the blue petals.  Here is Arthur strolling by…


A master-poser at work:  Rupert, more grey at the muzzle than ever, but so distinguished, we feel.

We wish we had a little more time for this, above.  Looking at this image I see something is missing – Mark and I, for one, and also, a table, upon which ought to be placed 2 large glasses of home-made lemonade…or chardonnay.

The lawn, 2 days later, is well sprinkled with apples from the ancient trees in this part of the garden.  The Michaelmas daisies are almost out, the Japanese Wind-Flowers are out (very early, but I think due to the very cold June and still fairly chilly summer since).  The garden has that alluring end-of-summer feel about it.  I love that.

In other news, my bread-making has taken a knock.  My sour-dough starter has died.  This should be almost impossible.  Sigh.  I’ve got to start again and since I’ve ordered a ton of bread-making clutter, I feel I must persist.

Oh.  And the first kits are going on this weekend.  Not all of them, just a taster.

Mary’s mittens (Nicola’s mum)

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Another ‘show and tell’ triumph!  Mary, a workshop participant back in April, made these, Frost Flower mitts (yes, yes, very soon now, they will be a kit…) and I adore them!

You can see the green KSH on its own in the top layer of the flowers on the cuff and the Shimmer alone on the finger-frills – but together, look how they work and mingle!  Lovely, thank you Mary.  Mary is the mother of another of my star-knitters, Nicola.  Mary wishes it to be known that she has also made a lot of quilts etc as she is a fab stitcher, too, since April…

I do not know why I spend so long agonising over, thinking about, pondering – messing about with, if I’m honest – my kits.  I’d like to know why it is.  Then I could avoid it.  If I have a book/commission deadline, no problem, by and large.  I don’t procrastinate and if I need a wee bit of extra time, it’s because of yarn/technical issues and it’s rare.

However, give me a kit for my own use and wow!  I can fiddle with them for ever, re-work them, pass the patterns around to anyone who will knit them in order to test them, take them to workshops and see what folk think, come back, think some more…it’s as if I don’t want to let them go.

Weird. Any ideas what my problem is, Doctor?  Seriously, do you ever have these sort of issues?  Help appreciated.

However, I have finally drafted a prototype kit page and my lovely web-wizard man is now no doubt having a lot of fun making sense of Frost Flower mittens etc…

It’s coming to this website real soon.  I promise.

Kit images are emerging

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

I think I am going to like my new camera.

It can do some interesting things, like make my camera skills a little less pathetic.  Some of the images for the kits are underway, here are a few:

Fashion show with Martin Storey, 20 October

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

In a rare outbreak of knitting-related posting – this being a knitting blog, after all, despite evidence to the contrary – I share with you some exciting news.  I’m doing a joint fashion show with Martin Storey on the evening of Thursday 20 October at the Guild in Bovey Tracey.   I have attended these and they’re such fun – knitting fashion parade, delicious supper, glass of wine – perfect!  Do come.

This is Martin’s recent and smash-hit Nordic Knits book, and this:

is my absolute favourite book of designs for men.  Check the socks, I loved knitting them.  Martin is also the lead designer on Rowan’s lovely seasonal brochures and I adore his style of design, for both men and women. 

So the lovely people at Spin-a-Yarn have asked me to collaborate and show-case my accessories, using items from the books and also fresh knits from the kits.  I think our designs will go really well together.  Keep an eye on the Spin-a-Yarn site and newsletter for details and tickets.


More knitting news:  this is a new design, Bubble Pop Electric Lace:

This will be on offer this Saturday at my Lazy Luxury Lace workshop, here at Court Cottage.  It’s Kidsilk Haze (soft green) and Pure Wool 4 Ply (soft grey) together and the ends will have a bubbly cascade of KSH as an embellishment.  It’s a satisfying and fairly easy pattern to knit, little bit of a challenge on 2 rows, knitting and purling on the other 6 in the repeat.  And it is lacy, just quite modern lace, lace with a twist, which is what I like. Soon it will also be a kit on this site.

There will be another lace and beaded scarf and some lace cuffs too as alternative options.  I’m also planning the cake-offering – a giant cup-cake for afternoon tea might make an appearance.

Photo-Shoot Preview

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

We did a shoot for some of the kits which I hope to have on this site in the next few weeks.

Some of the shots are really lovely, especially this:

 This is Joseph. one of our models, modelling The Wilkins Scarf – and also Arthur.  Arthur came on the location shoot as our stylist.


And here he is again, passing on a few tips to Thomas.

Let’s Twist again…

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

I have re-designed Twist:

I originally knitted this is in Rowan Scottish Tweed 4 Ply, holding 2 ends together.  That yarn has now been discontinued so I have re-worked it in Rowan Felted Tweed DK.

It’s a little softer than the original, but it worked very well.  I have also had to adjust the felting temperature.

I’m tempted to go on and make some more modifications, such as making it longer and also maybe doing a Felted Tweed aran version, still beaded, so it’s a plumper scarf.  I think the DK version is light and soft, very pretty and decorative but the aran version (once I get it knitted!) will be a good, chunkier option.

I love that the crystal beads still work really well in the softly felted surface of this highly structured piece:

DK and aran versions available as kits soon, on this site.

Flower Scarf Knit Kit

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

I saw an on-line tutorial (via Marta McCall, thank you Marta) showing how to make chiffon flowers.  The concept is very easy:  cut circles of chiffon in varying sizes and hold the fabric about 2 inches or so above a flame from a candle or tea-light (ensuring that a jug of water is at hand, just in case…) The delicate fabric quickly crinkles and the raw edges are ‘sealed’ by the heat.  The petals curl inwards so that when you stack them into a corsage shape, they form a water-lily effect.  They then simply need sewing onto a scarf (as I plan to do) or any item you wish to embellish.  I think I will sew mine with a small cluster of beads.

Here is my first flower harvest, assembled but not sewn on:

Note the glass of wine:  my reward for staying in by the fire on a Saturday night to make chiffon flowers (actually, I can’t think of anything better).

I am now officially addicted to this process, what luck that I don’t have an obsessive personality or I might have to buy several more meters of chiffon in many different colours…

I haven’t sewn these on because the scarf base I knitted is just not the right shade for the delphinium blues plus cream of my flowers.  Thus, I need to re-knit the base in cream AND buy new chiffon, maybe in moss-green and dusty pink – for this scarf, which is grey, looks grey on the shade chart but once knitted is distinctly olive green.  Odd how that happens.

This kit will be easy and fun: it will include the yarn and simple pattern to knit the base scarf;  plus two or three shades of chiffon and the beads to make a huge bunch of flowers!  I love combining crafts and I think this simple trick is just such a great ‘find’.

In other news, I am finally going to see ‘The King’s Speech’ tonight and also eat my favourite meal:  Nandos!  Oh yes, I am a Nandos addict.  I suspect they put something highly addictive in the sauce because if I go longer than a month between ‘fixes’ I start to crave a visit.

I think my husband looks like Colin Firth by the way:

Me and Colin Firth...

New Kit On The Block

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Here is Star Crossed scarf:

Star Crossed scarf


It’s a zingy homage to spring.  I have knitted it in apple green Rowan Pure Wool DK and Jelly Kidsilk Haze.  I love this brightness with the lemony primroses.

Close up, you can see the way the two yarns work so well with – and against – each other:

The overall effect is of texture and glowing colour. It’s dead flat too, light but warm and actually surprisingly easy once you get the first repeat out of the way. 

Available as a kit here on this site from April.