Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for the ‘Smith & Jones Knits’ Category

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!

The Severn Collection from Smith & Jones Knits

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

Logo for Press and Trade Release

Over on my sister-blog at S&J Knits, a little look at the design inspiration behind two of the accessories I have designed for our next venture – a mini-collection of eight accessories.  Due out in the autumn.

You can read about it here.

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.

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

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’, 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.