Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for the ‘Show and tell’ Category

‘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.




Smoke and Mirrors – a new version!

Friday, June 17th, 2016

This is another version of Smoke and Mirrors by Michelle who attended this course here recently – the ginger and the deep blue look amazing together.  I love it.

Smoke and Mirrors by Michelle

If you would like to make this bag and learn a lot about felted hand-knitting with no tears, there are still two places on my autumn repeat – it is on Sunday 4 September and you can book it here.  These are are the last two spaces for any Court Cottage courses for 2016, so do come!  The knitting is pretty straightforward and rather good fun.  Everyone who has made this bag is delighted with it – it is a real head-turner.

Smoke and Mirrors Felted Bag

Monday, May 16th, 2016

I wanted to show you this, knitted by Annabel, who comes to my workshops sometimes.  This is her Smoke and Mirrors Felted Bag –  my new felted design. The colours Annabel chose – so very her, if you know her! – are stunning and when I saw what she had chosen I thought why the hell didn’t I think of that?  And then she sent me this image, and the shades are brightened and really vivid and I think I may have to knit one exactly the same.

Smoke and Mirrors by Annabelle

Thank you Annabel for sending me this image.  It is a perfect example of how this design works – plump, sturdy felted landscapes packed with texture and delicious colour.

If you think you might like to knit this design, I am re-running the event this September and I will post the dates tomorrow I hope. If you are on my list for this event, I will be emailing you first – if you are not and want to come, please let me know.


Show and Tell: Fairisle Off the Needles; and … Workshop Query

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

Earlier this month we held the first Fairisle Court Cottage Workshop.  Participant Sue has just sent me this image of the cowl she completed.  I love it.

Sue's FI Cowl

The concept is traditional Fairisle, with a colourwash and beaded twist.  You will learn the most important skills:  1) flat, even stranding and tension control.  2)  the option to hold the yarns in either one hand or both hands.  Hint:  it’s easy.  So much myth and kerfuffle is talked about FI.  I am a big fan of the easy route to great looking designs and this, I promise you, is so much easier than it may look.

I am running it again in September, but that is full.  Let me know if anyone fancies a repeat, as I do have one person on the waiting list, so it’s possible that it’d be worthwhile sorting another date.

On that note, I am running out of Saturdays.  How would Sunday events work for you?



Show and Tell: a new Bump Bag

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

Meet Andrea’s Bump Bag and matching needle case.  I ADORE the colours she chose in Rowan Felted Tweed, and the gentle muting effect the felting has had.  Andrea attended a Bump Bag event here in February and I loved the sample she made then – here is the finished work.  I love it.

andreas bump bag

Show and Tell: a lovely Cornish Moebius

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

This is the Moebius that Felicity knitted after attending my recent Intro to Knitting a Moebius course at Coastal Yarns in Bude:

Felicity & Moebius

I understand that Felicity has now cast on another Moebius.  I love this size and also the use of colours.

Very proud face here!

Design Weekend – The First Design Is In!

Monday, March 31st, 2014

This is the shawl that Tilly knitted after attending the Design Weekend just over a week ago:

Tilly's shawl 1


This is a full circle shawl, knitted in a combination of Fine Lace and Kidsilk Haze, sometimes held together, sometimes fading the colours in and out, sometimes using the yarn single.  It is beaded until the lace border is reached.

Tilly's shawl 2


I provided each participant with a choice of two story-boards and design  briefs.  Tilly chose to design for the brief that asked the student to design a shawl, wrap or scarf, and I specified the yarns that they could use, the beads, and the ‘feel’ of the design.  For this board the ‘feel’ was clean, vintage-chic, under-stated glamour, wearable retro-art.

Tilly’s design is lovely.  It ticks all the boxes, but mainly, it pleased Tilly.  Because each student also had, within the brief I set, to draw upon her own inspirational themes.  Tilly chose to draw upon the sea-scapes of her native England, the east coast wideness of sky and sea and shore; her family sail, and so she also wanted to capture the move and dynamic of sails.

Now, ‘learning’ to design is not an easy thing to do, or to deliver.  This is NOT an intensive, technically driven, C&G style experience.  For one thing, it only lasts for two days.  But it does provide an aspiring knitting designer – be it for pattern adaption purposes, or to design your own, unique accessories, from ‘scratch’ – with a framework to start from.  It also, hopefully, provides a degree of space, time and crucially, I suspect, confidence to take these steps.

Is the way I design the ‘right’ way?  No, but there is no such thing.  I am not trained in banging out sweater after cardigan.  My approach is driven by organic, questing ideas.  The creativity comes first.  But, it is underpinned, as all successful designs are, by A Lot of techie swatching, pencil-sucking, testing and changing things.  That is what I aim to deliver, on my own Design events.

Perhaps, at its basic level, it could be called guided design.  But it does lead to independent, confident, bold designers, who have permission to think their own ideas are valuable and beautiful; and who will gift themselves the time and space and repetitive process of designing for themselves.

I am very proud of Tilly’s design, as I was of all the participants.  The ideas that people have, as I saw when I looked at the output from last week, when they are challenged and nurtured, astound me.  You all have that spark, you know.

Next year – this, of course, seems inconceivable, but it’s already BST, and soon it will be time to decide on all the courses for 2015 – I think I may offer different options.  I liked the fairly ‘open’ brief that gave my students some boundaries, but also a lot of space.  This worked well, especially if me saying:  ‘off you go, design whatever you like!’ just leads to white noise in your head.  So I think this idea will stay, but alongside that, (and maybe over a separate weekend), I will offer the option to design something very much more specific.



Saturday, February 8th, 2014

Here’s a finished Bump Bag:

sue's bump

I love the strong, zingy colours.  This Bump was knitted by Sue.  I also have a pic of another colourway that a customer made which I will dig out and add next.

If you fancy making Bump, you can buy the design here;  and the handles (not the ones originally used) here.

Sue’s Moebius

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

One of my pupils at Moebius Day, 2 weeks ago, has made this, which I think is really beautiful:

I am very proud of Sue, especially as I *think* she may have some half-term time set aside for a new Moebius…

It is knitted in Rowan Baby Merino Silk DK and Kidsilk Haze.

Mission Moebius

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

As Moebius Day approaches, I wish to share with you some of the *many* Moebiuses that I (and in one case, someone else) have made.

This beautiful Moebius was knitted by Hannah in Baby Merino Silk DK and Kidsilk Haze

I love the simplicity of the luxury, smooth silk-wool DK edged with the frills of KSH in Steel.

The edging is a close shade-match to the main Moebius

What is very impressive is that this Moebius is only the second project Hannah has knitted since returning to knitting some months ago.  I think the dove-grey simplicity of the work and its soothing neatness of stitch make a really lovely accessory.  Simple though the look may be, it is still a true Moebius, worked with the true half-twist – often that which looks simple is in fact a truly complex structure.

I am very proud of Hannah who expressed an interest in making a Moebius at exactly the time I was looking for victims volunteers to help me practice the teaching for the Moebius workshops I am teaching this year, starting Saturday.

Thanks to Hannah I am confident of similarly lovely outcomes from all my Moebius students.

Here are some of my other designs, similar but not the same.

Pure Wool DK and sunny KSH

A larger, deeper and frillier pink-pud version

And this Moebius in Cocoon and KSH is large enough to be either a shoulder draping circle, a double neck scarf or a shrug that goes all the way around your back



Carol’s Christmas Knitting

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Carol came on a course with me at Hulu Crafts in Devon before Christmas and LOOK at what she made!

Choosing one of my new favourite shades in KSH, ‘Steel’, Carol has knitted some of the many Christmas decorations I teach at my ‘Knitted Christmas’ classes; plus a pair of mitts ‘The Double Pot Mitts’ which I designed to give to my pre-Christmas classes as a gift.  These are knitted in Rowan Pure Wool 4 Ply (I think Carol has gone with ‘Shale’) and embellished with sweet and slightly bonkers KSH ruffles.

Both the Christmas Collection of patterns, and the Double Pot Mittens are available as PDF downloads on my site now.



Crochet! Ah yes, the C word – and it’s lovely

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Recently a rare event took place at Court Cottage.  We held a workshop.  Not unusual, we have about 8 every year.

No what marked this one out were two factors:  one, Millington wasn’t here.  I know!  I played the role of Sarah, as I wasn’t teaching (Sarah does teach when she’s here but I didn’t, I swanned about, made tea and distracted the participants by sitting next to them and gossiping while the real teacher, Dr Donna, was talking.  Naughty step for me).

On learning that Millington wasn’t going to be here, Lily muttered about it being at variance with the laws of nature and knitting.  It did feel odd.

Two, it was crochet.

Beginner crochet, with the objective of learning to make a twirly scarf in Pure Wool DK and KSH.  Even I cast (?) one on that night.  And now an email and image of a FO from the course has flooded in.  Here is the gorgeous scarf that Emma made:

Look what Lisa made!

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Ages ago, I designed a little nursery blanket, felted Rowan Scottish Tweed 4 Ply, with bars and bobbles on it.  This was published in Shibori Knitted Felt.  However, the yarn was discontinued ages ago.  When some friends wanted to knit the design (bigger, for grown-ups), we – mainly they – experimented with various options and in the end, decided that Rowan Felted Tweed was the best option, felted at 40 degrees, not 60 as in the original pattern.

My friend Lisa made one and here it is.  It’s bigger than mine ever was, and will be a lovely addition to her sitting room.  She has edged it after felting in both the shades of FT that she used.  I love it.  She also had a little ‘help’ from one of her cats…bless.


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.

Show and tell – cuffs; kit news; Sunday musings…

Sunday, August 28th, 2011

The Moulin Rouge Cuffs have been my best-selling kit since I placed the first kits on this site earlier this month.

Here is a pair, knitted in black with hot-pink details, silver beads and pink sequins, knitted by Sue:


I have added a new cuff to my repertoire – the Le Marais cuffs, which will be a kit as well, and these will also be the new ‘practice’ knit on my ‘Learn to love Kidsilk Haze’ course AKA Little Luxury Knits and one or two other titles, that I teach at retailers.  I’m going to add these cuffs to the site soon along with the new version of Star-Crossed, which will come in a wintry cream-and-silver colourway.

It’s raining hard now, here in Somerset, and has been all morning.  I’m glad it was fine yesterday for Mark was, very unusually, on holiday on the Saturday and we went cycling, a long and fairly hilly ride circling Taunton, thus taking in the Quantocks and a bit of the Blackdowns and some lovely lanes we hadn’t ridden before.  We almost postponed it to today!  The rain is making me restless because the garden is keening at me…the lawn is simply covered in apples, so many things need to be done, and our holiday is almost over.

So I am going to retreat to my dining room camp (should I light the fire?  In 3 days it will be September – and I doubt it’s above 16 degrees today?) and knit the Le Marais cuffs in the second colourway.  And I’m planning a new pair of mitts for Christmas Gift knitting in October.  Rainy days are therefore blessings.  Because they give you permission to just stay in and knit.

I’m reading a lot at the moment too, and also listening to audio books.  My ‘rule’ with audio books is that I only listen to that which I’d be unlikely to read.  So far I have listened to a very diverse range of fiction and non-fiction.  I’d never, for example, have read the Stig Larson books but as a listen, they work very well.  With this in mind, I downloaded some ‘improving’ literature, notably ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’.  This may have been a mistake…

In other news, there is just 1 place left on the January 2012 sock course.


Thursday, August 11th, 2011

In order to cheer up a frankly very disappointing August Thursday (do buck up, August!  I feel like a school Ma’am who is more sad than angry with this particular British summer:  ‘could do better’) I present Glow, interpreted by Andrea, who attended one of my classes recently:

Glow uses (used) Kidsilk Aura, now discontinued so I have re-designed it, taking the chance at the same time to change the ends, and make some other adjustments.  When a yarn is discontinued, there is a range of emotions, that I pass through, as a designer.  These span from amazement to ‘I shrug my shoulders, I could have told you that…’.  I am going to miss Aura, Kidsilk Haze’s big, fat sister.  But anyway, let’s not dwell and be sad, because these things also represent opportunity.  This time the opportunity was:  Shimmer!

I have re-cast the supporting role that Aura had in ‘Glow’ with Shimmer.  And just like in ‘All About Eve’:

Go to fullsize image

the supporting actress (Shimmer, playing the part of Anne Baxter) out-shines the real leading lady (Kidsilk Haze, giving us a very convincing Bette Davis). 

As you can see from the image of Glow in pewter Shimmer and Dewberry KSH, the new Glow has been further embellished by beads.  Now, I taught Andrea at a lovely yarn shop where I am often spotted, for it is my native habitat.  I find this shop, Spin-a-Yarn, is a rich hunting ground for me.  I think you are aware that my key objectives in life are:  discover a cure for freckles on the top-lip area;  make a sour-dough starter that doesn’t die a depressing and fetid death;  wear fitted dresses with sticky-out net underskirts at every opportunity;  and finally – convert the knitting world, one knitter at a time, to the joys of Kidsilk Haze, glitter, beads and sequins. 

Sometimes, a knitter who has had insufficient exposure to these elements, may make a small ‘mou’ of distaste when I suggest beads.  Often, sequins receive mixed reviews and Shimmer can encounter frank and open yarn-discrimination.  I find few resist us for long though.  And at Spin-a-Yarn, I have encountered some very promising material, resulting in being able to establish a new South West cell of glitter-knitters.  Andrea has now joined this cell.  I am proud of her!  Even I had not added beads to new Glow.  That over-sight will be addressed very soon.

Andrea also knitted new Glow in an inspired palette of shades that, on the day of the workshop, we christened Fairytale:

With silver Shimmer and pale pink and soft yellow-green Kidsilk Haze, this makes me think of fair-grounds and – I say this in a good way, cos I love them – My Little Pony-Land.  It looks like the colours of candy flos and pony-manes…

Who wants to watch ‘All About Eve’ now?  We may as well, it’s cold and wet outside, being August 11.  Right, I’ll pop the kettle on, you grab your (sparkly) knitting and I’ll meet you on the sofa in 10.

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.

Show Time!

Friday, June 24th, 2011


This is Glow, knitted by a star of the needles, Sue.  The darker shade is Kidsilk Aura, with soft Kidsilk Haze forming the lacy circles in between.  Sue has chosen lovely colours, as you see again on this image of her version of Sunday Night Mitts:

I just think these look gorgeous.  And also, I can’t believe I designed them, because knitted in completely different colourways, they are transformed.  Sue also did this with a lovely piece she has recently completed, Shimmer Stole, in which she chose the lovely teal shade Trance in KSH and teamed it with Silver Shimmer.  It’s so beautiful.

I do not think Sue would have imagined herself knitting such fine yarns – and enjoying it – a few months ago.   But, as is almost always the case, Kidsilk Haze works its magic.  You think:  hmmm, OK, I’ll give it a go, if only to shut the tutor up (that’s me).  Then, you think:   oh no!  far too fine for me, needles feel like tree-trunks, pesky beads – I’ll humour her (that’s me) and keep on with the sample but after that, I’m back to the aran…

Time passes.  Cake is eaten.

The Kidsilk Haze behaves itself, mainly.  The beads gleam.  Frills emerge…

Kidsilk Haze – the cocaine of the yarn world – is an utter tart.  It knows it’s gorgeous, it knows how to make you love it.  It’s naughty, it’s a bit of a challenge (but really, not that much) and it’s addictive.  I like to see my role as converting the world to its many, varied and often surprising charms, one knitter at a time. The more I use it, the further I find I can push its boundaries.  Because it has this amazing capacity to form teams with other yarns and other things, such as beads, ribbons, sequins (yes, Sue the day will come.  Ali adopts evil dictator style laugh).

If ever you, or anyone else, Heaven help them if they say this to me, infers that maybe you have enough Kidsilk Haze, that it’s an expensive habit…remind them that you get 210m for about 8 quid.  That’s 210m of knitting joy.  For 20 fags, you have to part with (I’m unsure so guessing) at least 6 quid – and your health.  At least with Kidsilk Haze you only have to part with your soul… (Reprise evil dictator style laugh).

Show and tell

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

This is Twist, knitted and then felted by Vi, a participant in my course on this topic at Marmalade Yarns recently.  I have had to re-design this due to the old yarns being discontinued (*desk, face-plant, rep from * to end of time regarding discontinuation of yarns, oy).

Anyway, re-worked in Felted Tweed DK, it’s been beautifully knitted by Vi.  It is beaded too.

I’m creating a new category for this blog:  show and tell.  You email me your finished images and I’ll show-case them!  Thank you, please.  Contact me via the contact page to send images.

And in that spirit, I share with you my crocheted flowers, crochet being way out of my comfort zone, but I am pleased with these:

Yes, very simple, but I’m loving the way the 2 strands of KSH melt the colours and once I have enough I will lightly crochet them together to form a flower-shawl.

So please, send me your FO images after workshops etc, I’d love to see them.

Finished Object – but not by me

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

Cuffs, by Nicola, modelled by Nicola!


Behold.  Gorgeous, sparkly, slightly lacy cuffs, knitted by a participant in the last Court Cottage workshop which was all about cuffs and mittens.   I love the shades Nicola chose along with enough bling to satisfy even me yet remain very chic as well.  And look at the work!  I am proud of  her. 

When someone knits a design you have created, and they like it, love it even, wear it, make more to give away and so on, it is an amazing honour.  As is teaching our craft. Thank you, Nicola for coming to an event here and letting me see and use your lovely pictures.


In other news I am going to the ballet, right now in fact.  I am going to see the Matthew Bourne production of Cinderella, in Bristol.  Two friends are also going and they said if I could get a ticket, we’d go together.   I did get a ticket!  I now feel like Cinders for I ought to be gardening and knitting. Instead, I am out for an afternoon of pure pleasure.  I cannot wait to see this ballet, it’s set in Blitz-stricken London during the war.  

Matthew Bourne's Cinderella

The ugly sisters…

…and here I am dancing with my Prince.

Thing is, I am not going to be sitting with my friends, I am sitting in ‘the gods’ – on my own.  Well, literally the place will be packed so not alone but not with anyone of myown, as it were.  I have never done this!  Not even at the pictures.  I chose a seat (front row) that had 2 empty seats beside it.  So I won’t be ‘cheek by jowl’ with my neighbours.  Do you think people will assume I have been stood up by my boyfriend? I am too old to look as if I have boyfriends, so no, probably not.  One friend suggests that I remove my wedding ring and sob quietly but pitifully into a 1940s style hanky throughout, to engender a atmosphere of tragedy.  I won’t, don’t fret.  That would be annoying and probably very trying to maintain. 

Anyway, I have dressed up (as much as one reasonably can for a matinee, and also we have to go to M&S afterwards for food shopping so mustn’t over-do).  But I have selected a sort of 1940s – but I’ve gone for post-war – style dress, with a wide sash and a little bit of sticky-out net in the full skirt.  It’s summery, despite the weather and the dark appearance of the Bourne Cinderella treatment.  I hope I don’t feel embarrassed about sitting alone, with a poignantly empty seat beside me (this will be quite useful for my knitting bag though).  If anyone speaks to me, I will attempt to convey an air of sweet, slight, sadness…wish me luck.   (I do know, by the way, roughly where the fine line between reality and What Happens In My Head lies, so don’t worry too much, I won’t let you down!)

But first and much more prosaically, I must eat 2 boiled eggs and toast soldiers for lunch!

Here I am, setting off on honeymoon with Prince Charming: