Alison Crowther-Smith

Archive for the ‘Teaching’ Category

Moebiuses Predicted in Totnes This Weekend!

Monday, October 29th, 2018

I have just heard that there are 2 places now available for my Moebius workshop at Stitchfest Totes, this Sunday, 4th November, 10 – 2.  Here is the link. 

If you have never knitted one of these magical cowls before, this class will teach you the cast on and all important first round.  You will make a very elegant, simple cowl.

If you have knitted one before, this can be a refresher course and as a bonus for the class, I will be giving you a new Moebius design.  Obviously, you won’t have the yarns and needles, but contact me if you want to come and make the advanced option on the day. I will send you the requirements list.

This is  such a great event, with lots of exciting sellers in the market places and local teachers such as me! Do come.

Moebius yellow & grey1

WIP Amnesty Day 2019 – 23 March

Wednesday, September 19th, 2018

Come to the Court Cottage WIP Amnesty event in 2019 and get back in touch with a project that you once loved – or quite liked – but shoved behind the sofa in 2017 and now can’t face.

We are trained* professionals with years of WIP experience.  We understand the lure of casting on a new project.  It is irresistible.  But it is also true that completing an older project is very satisfying.  We can evolve reward-based strategies for you, if that works for you.  Or we can adopt the ‘tough love’ approach.  Or we can agree that, yes, it is time to let that orange waistcoat for the dog go.  And everything in between.

When I worked for Rowan in Johnny Lou Lou’s, I had a lot of experience of WIP wrangling.  Customers would smuggle in a carrier bag of half-knitted bits of a cardigan, for example, and a rumpled pattern, and a few notes maybe, plus an assortment of knitting needles.  They’d slide it across my table.  In the manner of an arms smuggler checking the quality of the goods being offered, I’d play it cool and casually glance inside.  If a cloud of moth did not emerge, I’d get it all out and have a nice long look-see.  The most common problems were:

  • I am lost.  Where am I in this pattern?
  • I have encountered an instruction I do not understand, or cannot make work.
  • I have a repeated numerical error – usually the stitch count after lace rows.
  • I wanted to adapt it but I am not sure how.
  • I made a mistake some rows ago and I can’t correct it.
  • I wish it wasn’t black.

Often, a fresh pair of eyes on a project can resolve the above, except the last one.

Or, you may know exactly where you are, and have no problems other than boredom with the design.  We can give you a kick-start and a list of good audio books/Netflix titles.

Or/and, you may in your heart of hearts want to quit.  This is fine.  Life is too short for a number of things, such as finishing books that are rubbish, peeling most vegetables, ironing, and forcing yourself to finish a WIP you don’t want anymore. With breathing techniques, whale-music, and finger-cymbals (Kath’s speciality), we can create a safe space for you to let it go.  Or, as we have absolutely no emotional or financial investment in the WIP, we can start the ripping out process for you, we are ruthless rippers – job done! We can help you re-assign the yarn and make a fresh start.

It’s half price as it is not a teaching day.  But we will both be on hand to help you, one-to-one.

Here is the page.

*We are trained.  I am a trained sausage-wrangler and Kath is a nurse.

 

 

July Newsletter

Thursday, July 19th, 2018

SSCW Throw and Scarf

I have just sent out the July Newsletter.  In this edition, there is the usual mix of my news, industry news and new yarns.

If you want to get these up-dates, please contact me and I will add you to the email list.

If you used to hear from me and would still like to, the chances are we got lost in the great 2018 GDPR-gate fiasco and I have had, reluctantly, to drop your address from my previous list.  This may be an enormous relief to you, in which case you don’t need to do anything.  Or you might miss the odd in-box wave, in which case, contact me to go back onto the list.

Here are some images of the easy and so pleasing Slip Stitch Colourwork Throw for the July events – 2 places available for the event on Thursday 26 July.

SSCW Throw 2SSCW Throw 3SSCW Throw 4SSCW Throw 1

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

Monday, June 11th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go home and eat chips.

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

 

 

How To Videos: stretchy cast on for socks

Sunday, June 3rd, 2018

I am planning to make a few short videos of some of the techniques I teach and release them after workshops.  Here is the first one:  a stretchy cast-on for top-down socks.  This can also be used for the brim of a hat, the cuff of a mitten or anywhere that needs a good stretch that won’t go baggy.  Here it is.

Top down plain sock cast on

 

 

GDPR: your data, your rights, and my policy.

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

This policy applies on and from 25 May 2018

Keeping your data safe

I am committed to keeping your personal data safe and secure, and handling it in accordance with legal obligations.  This Privacy Policy sets out the purposes for which I hold and use your personal data, and what rights you have in relation to that data.

I am a sole trader, trading as Alison Crowther-Smith Designs

What data do I collect and where from?

I collect some data from you via PayPal or from an email from you, when you book a place on one of my courses or buy a product from my website.

This data includes:

  • Your full name;
  • Your email address(es);
  • The address you used to book your course.

I also collect information (email addresses only) from participants at workshops and events when I am teaching or presenting for a third party such as a yarn shop or festival.  I will collect your full name and your email address on a form which explicitly states that you have agreed to me holding and using your data.  If you do not wish this to happen, do not complete the form.

What do I use your data for?

I use the data to contact you directly about news, events, and patterns.  This will include Newsletters and direct emails.

Who do I share your data with?

No-one, including other people on my email list.

What rights do you have?

You have a number of rights under data protection law and I will respond to any requests to exercise your rights as soon as I can and in any event within one month of receiving your request.

  • You have a right to access your information;
  • You have a right to object to me processing your information;
  • You have a right to ask me not to send you information;
  • You have a right to have inaccurate data corrected; and
  • You have a right to have your data erased.

If you wish to be added to or removed from my email list, please contact me.

April Newsletter

Monday, April 16th, 2018

The new Newsletter has just gone out to my email list.  It contains news on my events, new stock, and an invitation for expressions of interest for Knit Camp 2019 – which will be in Bath and offer 2 or 3 night options.  if nothing else, it is an easy read with a cuppa…

To receive my up-dates first, ask me to add you to my distribution list.

 

 

 

Moons and Stars

Monday, February 26th, 2018

Moons and Stars 1

I thought you might like to see the final images of the designs for the Moons and Stars events which are new for 2018.

Here is the lap-blanket:

And here is the Cowl:

The blanket is steeked.  Both are knitted in the round and we also knit Fairisle with beads.

There is one space (a cancellation) for 22 March. The other dates are fully booked but we may repeat it in the autumn as there is a waiting list now.

This is not the design for our Shetland Fairisle adventure in July – but like Bees and Sulis, it is typical of my approach to Fairisle design – modern, a bit different, not difficult, simple colours and clean images – but knitted 100% traditionally. Do come to Shetland!  I can promise you it will be amazing.

 

2018 Courses

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

The 2018 courses are now live here.

Next year, as trailed, we will be teaching:

  • Cables, Bobbles and Beads – for the absolute last time!  In March.
  • Slip Stitch Colour Work
  • Socks from the top down.
  • Socks from the toe up.
  • New Fairisle:  Moons and Stars, steeked or not steeked, throw or cowl.
  • Design Weekend.
  • New Moebius.
  • Professional Finishing.
  • Gift Knits.
  • Knit Camp 2018.

In 2018, as there is a late and seasonal Knit Camp, there will be no Court Cottage Christmas Workshops.  This makes me sad – but Knit Camp will be good, and I might hold a Court Cottage Christmas Knitting Party in mid-December, just to finish off what I really think will be a great year.

There is good availability for many of the date at the moment.  We would love to welcome you here.

 

 

 

Cables, Bobbles and Beads: the texture events

Monday, October 16th, 2017

fable peakcock 2

The next Court Cottage events are Cables, Bobbles and Beads, at the end of this month.  The final pattern samples are almost ready – one of the designs is all done, knitted in 4 optional ways and the patterns all sorted.  But the interruption of Knit Camp – lovely though it was – has slightly delayed the completion of the final offering.  However, this is now 75% done.

Here are the Fables.  This is the first pattern, and it is a fake cable – hence the  fable name.  I actually prefer this fable to a real cable, as it sits so flat and also there is no cable needle deployment. In these designs, I have added beads to the DK options, and the chunky option is not beaded, but with the addition of Kidsilk Haze, it could be.  Fable comes to you as a knit-in-the-round cowl, or a flat-knit generous scarf. The patterns are easily adaptable to other yarns and other sizes.

Next is Cables, Bobbles and Blackberries.  This features real cables, big bobbles and also a smaller bobbly texture using blackberry stitch.  Further textural variance is achieved by knitting the cable ends of the scarf in chunky wool, turning the cable on its side, and picking up the rest of the scarf in aran wool.  This design also features a new teach here – Kitchener stitch.  This is a widely dreaded grafting technique but I can assure you that, rather like Kitchener’s exact opposite, Steeking, there is nothing to fear.  It is simply a process, all the steps of which are very simple. There is no need to memorise the steps as I have written them down, so there is nothing to worry about.  Also, we will be practicing this.

I am teaching this a lot – at the end of this month and again into 2018.  All the courses are fully booked except the last one, on 4 March 2018, which has one place.  You can view and book that here.  I probably won’t teach it again here so if you fancy it, do come along.

Here is Fable as a wide beaded scarf:

 

Knit Camp 2017 and 2018

Saturday, October 14th, 2017

I think this has been the longest I have ever gone between blogs.  That is mainly because Knit Camp 2017 happened last weekend and most of the 4 weeks prior to that was given over to the final preparations.  I have worked in many different roles all my life but I have never worked as hard as I did on Knit Camp.

When I decided to run it, which was a decision taken in October 2016, I had a pretty clear vision of what I wanted to deliver.  Somehow, I think we did deliver that vision, very close to the concept and the plans – in fact in many ways, even better.  The concept seems simple:  a knitting event that is not a holiday or a retreat, but a fully focused teaching and learning event.  The emphasis being on high levels of technical content all pitched at a variety of levels from intermediate to advanced, and also a range of project sizes from small to large.  All these factors determine the degree of difficulty for the knitters, and they also scope the teaching requirements for the teachers.

At KC 2017, we specifically taught:

  • Beaded icord
  • Picking up and knitting along a beaded icord and using this as a base for a knit-in-the-round accessory
  • Two handed, no-swap Fairisle, in the round
  • Steeking
  • Picking up and knitting into  lace edge, a side edge, a top/bottom edge, and a steek-side
  • Shawl shaping, including short-row shaping on a lace knitted-on border

Plus anything that was needed one-to-one.

Because it was over 2 days, Knit Campers could also choose and start more than one of the collection.  I will add some images of the Bailbrook Collection here but if you want to have access to the Drop Box folder that I created for Knit Camp 2017, contact me, tell me you want to see the 2017 Knit Camp Drop Box album, and I will add you to the access list. Knit Campers have been able to look at this folder for some time now, but now it is over, I will widen the access.

I loved it.  Don’t get me wrong, I also hated it at times, and there were several times when I wished I had not started it, and swore I would never do it again.  The sheer volume of Knit Camp was (self-imposed but) daunting at times and I wanted to tick off every conceivable detail, to create an event that was unique, special and really enjoyable.

Teaching with Kathryn, and working with each other all year to perfect these designs, was a joy.  I would never have done it alone.  To teach this level of content to almost 30 knitters, and have the grades of project content, at the same time as organising and running a complex event was something I will admit I found challenging, but then there was nothing for it but to work and then work a lot more to deliver the event we imagined.  So much was pre-planned, that on the weekend, it all just fell into place.

Next year, Knit Camp will return, in late November 2018.  We will stay at Bailbrook House, in Bath, and the basic format will be the same.  But this will be Knit Camp 2018 – the Christmas Edit.  It will be coinciding with the start of the Bath German Christmas market and the gorgeous Georgian hotel will be starting to get dressed up for Christmas.  So Christmas at Court Cottage will, in 2018, move to Bath.  This means I can widen the design scope with some festive content.  It will be Christmassy – but not too much; just enough to get that pre-Christmas tingle started.

My 2017 Knit Campers have first refusal, but inevitably, they won’t all want, or be able to attend.  So in a week or so, I will be opening up Knit Camp 2018.  If you are on my email list, you will automatically get an alert.  But if you are not, or you are not sure, please contact me and I will add your email address.

If you join us, I can promise you a weekend of absolute indulgence, luxury accommodation, delicious food which was also not overwhelming, inclusive wine, full board with all catering needs included, the undivided attention of my little team, an amazing weekend of companionship and laughter with lovely like-minded knitters – and a packed knitting and teaching schedule with lots to learn and choose from.   Along the way throughout the year, Knit Campers get regular Bulletins with news and previews, a private Drop Box folder as the designs emerge and first refusal at future events.  It means we build up a community.  And that is exactly what it felt like.  If you want to join in, please let me know.  You can see a general overview for 2018 and some of the 2017 feedback here.

Knit Camp 2017 logo

 

 

2018 Courses

Saturday, September 16th, 2017

The events for 2018 are now all decided and in the diary and I will add them to the website in October.  If you are on my mailing list, you will automatically get an alert as they go live.  If you want an alert and you’re not on my list, please contact me.

The schedule goes like this:

  • New. Moons and Stars:  a new Fairisle course with the option to knit a Moons and Stars blanket (steeked) or a Moons and Stars cowl (not steeked). Learning to steek, if you have not tried this yet, is a built-in option for the workshop.
  • New. Socks:  two events, one for toe-up socks and one for top-down socks.  Learn all the elements of sock construction for either or both.  They will run back-to-back.  If you want to do both and plan to stay locally overnight on the Saturday (email me for some suggestions), I will be in the Puriton Inn on the Saturday evening if you want to have supper with me.  If not, I probably won’t bother!
  • New. Slip-Stitch Colour Work:  a great alternative to Fairisle, intarsia or brioche.  Only one colour is worked at a time, rows and rounds are worked only once, and it is easy yet effective.  There will be two designs, one knit flat, one in the round.
  • New. Design Weekend.  Design weekend is back with a new design brief.  This is a two day event, back to back.  If you want to come to the event and plan to stay locally overnight on the Saturday (email me for some suggestions), I will be in the Puriton Inn on the Saturday evening if you want to have supper with me.  If not, I probably won’t bother!
  • New Moebius.  There will be a new Moebius design knit in two yarn weights.  I will also take bookings from those new to Moebius knitting and we will split the class.
  • Gift Knits.  New festive gift knit ideas.
  • Christmas at Court Cottage.

In the meantime, here is one of the designs for Cables, Bobbles and Beads.  This is Fable (a beaded fake cable) knit as a luxurious wide scarf, and as a beaded neat cowl/neck warmer.  This will also be knit in a chunky yarn, not beaded.  And there will be a further design with real cables and bobbles. I am teaching this on four dates in 2017 and 2018 and the classes are all full except for the one on 4 March, 2018 which has one place.

 

 

Knitting Code

Friday, August 18th, 2017

 

Recently I have been writing and editing a lot of knitting patterns.  I am always doing this anyway but this year there is Knit Camp and also we have had the busiest year of teaching ever, and because I over-cater, there are usually 2 – 4 patterns for each new event.  So this year I have so far designed 18 new things not counting Christmas which I have not started yet.  This is paltry stuff compared to the output of a Proper Designer with a Proper Yarn House – but I do not have the software to generate patterns and if I did, I would not use it.

Anyway, Dr Donna is pattern checking my Knit Camp designs and we are almost done with them.  However, there is one pattern that has a lot of ‘tech’ content and so we’ve been very focused on that.  *I write the pattern.  Kath and I and sometimes someone else knits the pattern.  We find the bugs, I re-write the pattern, rep from * to about 2 months later…then they go to Donna.  Donna edits them with pink notes.  She corrects my errors, she checks all the data, she re-measures and re-states tension, and she suggests style/wording edits to make it more accessible to the knitter.   As with many things, there are often several ways to express the same line of a pattern.  They all add up to the same outcome, assuming the maths is right.  So for example, you may get a line expressed with the use of * to end, or * to *; or it can be written in full; or you can have ( ) with a number after to give you the number of repeats.

Add to this our shorthand.  Tbl, k2tog, psso, skpsso, sl1, k1, psso, tog, M1, B1, rep, cont, RS, inc(s) C6B, TL, MB  and so on, with the punctuation and * and ( ) etc that goes with it.  As a new knitter (stretches hands back through the mists of time) I used to ask Old Knitters: why, oh wise one, do we have all this CODE?  why can they not be written in English?  And the wise one would say:  just look it up and shut up.  Fair enough.

This week Kath and I have been wrangling a Knit Camp pattern.  So there is Donna’s pink edit, then my blue edit with highlights and insertions to query points, plus hand-written calculations and notes in the margins.

Code

This sheaf of documents was on the table when Mark came in, bearing tea.  He looked at the notes.  He doesn’t touch them because he knows that there be dragons in these pages but he went as far as putting on his glasses and peering. And he said:

Mark:  Knitters would have made incredible code makers – or code breakers, like at Bletchley Park.

Me:  They would.

Mark (looking in some bewilderment at the many hues of type, the squiggles and the abbreviations):  I mean, this looks like a code.

Me:  Well, it is sort of.  There are lots of words in there but it is a stream of code that will equal a shawl, for example, when put into practice.

Mark:  I imagine the CIA would think it was dodgy…

Me:  Ummm…(think but do not say:  I bet lots of the CIA operatives are awesome knitters!)

Mark (warming to his theme):  They would assume it was a code within a code!  Cleverly hidden coding concealed in a knitting pattern!

Me:

Mark:  A plan to invade somewhere!

Me:

Mark:  A knitting army!

Me (putting down pen and rubbing eyes):  Where would we invade?

Mark:  Oh, I don’t know (desperate but brief mental search follows) – say, Japan!

Me:  Japan?

Mark:  OK not Japan.  Israel!

Me:  Surely, Sherlock, we’d be more likely to invade a country with a known excellence for goats, lamas and alpacas?

Mark:  Why?

Me:  Well, the knitting army would need supplies of fine fibres.  What is the point of knitters invading a fibre desert?

Mark: Ah. OK.  Peru…?

Me:  Peru is a peaceful land (I think).  So ‘invade’ is not really the right word.  Maybe ‘visit’ would be better.  ‘Visit’ and ‘go shopping’.

Mark (pointing at a long string of pink, blue and black ‘writing’ on a page):  Does this say:  the invasion is on tonight!  Prepare and meet at dawn!’

Me (reaching for the pattern):  Yes.  Impressive skills.

Mark:  What does it say?

Me (after short struggle with wish to make up some sorcery):  It says – and I am just going to copy and paste this now for you, dear reader as it will be quicker for us both:  Row 32 (WS): With B, P1, yrn, *p2, (B1, p1) to last st before next M, p1, SM, rep from * once more, p2, (B1, p1) to last 2 sts, p1, yrn, p1. (105 sts)

Mark:

Me (sensing his disappointment):  OR, in other words:  we strike at dawn! Operation Thumb Gusset is GO GO GO!

This satisfies him and he leaves.

Knitters would never form an army but if they did ‘organise’ it’d be for peace. It is sad that knitters do not run the world. Peace.

Winter is Coming…

Wednesday, August 16th, 2017

Zig Zag scarf 4

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

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

 

Zig Zag hat mink close up

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

Zig Zag hats collection

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

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

Zig Zag hats male edge

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

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

Zig Zag scarf 3

 

Two Courses at Spin a Yarn, Devon

Wednesday, July 26th, 2017

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

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

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

 

A Knitted Time-Line

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

The Knitting Archive (image shows 5 of 8 boxes):

kniting archive boxes 2

This summer I am taking some time to sift through things. Physical things.  I began because we are having some decorating done and this means moving things around.  This became a good chance to clear out some clutter and sort other things.  The art of minimalism (not so much an art in my opinion, more a commercially successful device for selling books, DVDs and life-style blogs) has and always will pass me by.  I am happy to wave a fist full of memories at it as it slides effortlessly by.  I sometimes think I’d like to be minimalist but then I go to somewhere that has almost no trace of human life being actually lived there, such as a hotel and I know it is just not for me.  In fact, I don’t think I have the personal discipline to be a minimalist, or the heart.  I am too fond of my comforting things, especially books, family items and pictures.

I once read that to practice minimalism you should pick up and hold each object (I am assuming that old Welsh dressers, sewing machines, sofas etc are exempt) and if it does not bring you joy, you should get rid of it.  On that basis, I would keep all the books, yarn and needles, my iPad, my iPod, my iPhone, my gardening tools, a spoon, a bowl and very sharp knife.  But the thing that gives me most joy is of course the iPhone/Pad/Pod charger.

Well, this blog can never be accused of, or congratulated on, being minimalist and I digress, as ever…

But the knitting needed a good sort.  This is knitting that I count as ‘work’.  Not things I use, or have given to others as presents, or keep about the house.  This  knitting does not pre-date the start of knitting for Rowan, or not by much.  These items are from my time as a Design Consultant, then my books, and my many years as a teacher of our craft.

So I gathered all the knitting into one place.  One big, very crowded place. I am not a diarist.  This blog is fairly close in some ways, but it misses out a lot of events and emotions because I assume you don’t come here to hear things that may be reminiscent of your own bitter and silent battle with the recycling regime where you live, or a boring account of each meal I had on holiday – obviously that is what Face Book is for; or just things that may be…triste.  But as I unpacked all the knitted things, going back more than a decade which is when knitting became a ‘job’ for me, it was an oddly transporting experience.

Each thing was a conduit back to that period in my life, the period in which I designed and often when I knitted it.  As one item was retrieved, I remembered being on a cycling holiday with Mark in mid-Wales and completing it, the last-but-one item in my third book.  Holding it, re-folding it, settling it into its new archive box, I remembered a lot of sudden flashes of that week, really vividly.  Falling off my bike, twice (it was the first time I cycled with clip-on cycling shoes).  The absolute blackness of the sky at night, with no light pollution at all, save the stars and the eerie moonlight:  it is silver and light enough to walk outside with no torch.  The odd, wooden bathroom side-room.  The happiness at being away, with Florence looking after the house and Lily, for our first ever full week away since – forever.

I also noted as I sorted the work, how my focus shifts.  You may never have noticed, but a tendency to become slightly obsessed with things is probably my one weakness.  Here they were, my phases of intense interest.  Felting, Shibori, Kidsilk Haze, lace, beads, form – especially Moebiuses, texture, edges, colour and Fairisle. One constant factor is mittens.  I appear to have been, and remain, obsessed with hand-wear.  So I felt happy that in this, at least, I am not fickle.

Nor, I noticed, am I and appear never to have been a follower of knitting ‘fashion’ or trends. This year, for the first time ever I think, I coincided with a resurgence in a trend – an interest in Brioche knitting – and if I am honest with you, it did thoroughly irritate me.  I much prefer it if I am not designing and teaching things that everyone else is Instagram-ing about until its five minutes passes, again.  I think I began my felting odyssey at about the time when wedding-ring shawls were all the rage.  I adored Kidsilk Haze when the whole world was backing away from it and making crossed-fingers-ward-off-the-devil gestures at the yarn display in Johnny Lou Lou’s.  I (not very secretly and in the absence of any corroboration from the manufacturer) do think I am responsible for this yarn’s amazing reign as the queen of yarns. You’re welcome, Rowan Yarns. This was achieved by simply teaching every knitter I ever met, to learn its ways, and how to knit with beads.  Job done.

There were some painful memories in those boxes too.  After my father died, and this happened 9 months after my mother died, I frogged and later gave away the yarn, from the project I was knitting as I attended his dying weeks.  So it wasn’t that project.  It was the project I most clearly remember knitting after that.  For all that I have experienced and witnessed the restorative, soothing, even healing properties of knitting, after my father died, I did not – could not – knit for many weeks.  I didn’t work for Rowan, so I had no imperative to knit, as I would now.  Working for Rowan came the following year and so in a way, I think it was part of the knitting-healing process.  But after many weeks when I didn’t knit – and now I do not know what I did do, other than work, tend the children, do the garden I suppose – I finally felt the need to knit again and I designed one of my earliest things. When it came out of the box, it trailed behind it a painful, bitter-sweet train of memories of the months that went before it.  I fervently wish I had not frogged and given away the yarn from the scarf I was knitting when dad died.  Do not ever do as I did, and pull the knitting out, then hide from you the yarn, as if you can pull out and hide the pain, for you cannot.  And if I had carried on, I’d still have that scarf and I’d wear it – easier now, now that the years have soothed the hurt somewhat.

Some things evoked the most mundane – but happy – memories.  I remembered meals I had planned, cooked and eaten as the item evolved.  Some of them made me recall their creation as a blissfully easy process from pencil to needle to book; others still had the taint of making me swatch, swatch again, and then yet again, to finally bring forth a thing of worth.  Sometimes I looked at a thing and thought:  ah!  that thumb-gusset (an example) was, after all, worth the torture of maths and placement.   Sometimes I looked and thought:  why on earth did I design that?

They are all now packed up, not in their stitched time-line, but in an orderly, categorised way, though this does often coincide.  The boxes are sealed and labelled.  There are 8 of them and they are hefty.  It has been a good thing to do, this summer.

One oddity:  the long-lost sock years.  Oh yes!  I too had sock years, my child.  I have rarely taught sock knitting, perhaps because when I first knitted socks, literally everyone was doing the same, or they were teaching it.  It felt as if the knitting universe had invented this ingenious foot-covering.  So of course, I could have nothing to do with it.  Also, I had a (now inexplicable) taste for socks in pink, orange and grey.  And for every pair I made, I also knitted a small pouched, draw-string matching sock-bag.  Why?  Answer came there none.  I unearthed 4 such pairs still in the special matching bags, all perfect (aside from the colours).  I also knitted some pairs as gifts back then including my first and last ever pair of man-socks, in Fairisle, which I gave to a friend.  I am unsure if the gifts of socks were fully appreciated and for these and other reasons to do with Marks and Spencer stocking lovely socks, I gave it up.  But I think I may design some new socks – not bed-socks but real socks for going out in – and teach it in 2018, for the entire world is either still teaching Brioche or will be teaching double-reversible-entrelac-intarsia top-down night-caps, which is what I was going to do…here is a shot of one of the long-lost socks, also proving how hard it is to shoot a picture of your own sock-clad feet.  You have to pick a foot and go for that one.

Sock solo

 

Knit Camp 2017

Monday, June 26th, 2017

The designs for my Knit Camp are now all complete, and the final two items are on the needles.  Those people who are coming to Knit camp have been seeing monthly Knit Camp Bulletins from me with news and glimpses of the five featured designs.

So here are some of the images of things I have been working on.

The theme is Bath – its culture, history and architecture.  This has proved a rich seam for me.  Next month all the designs go off to the pattern checker, the inimitable Donna Jones, and then I will do the photo shoot.  If – and I very much hope it will be – the event proves to be fun, exciting and packed with knitting time, we may well run another Knit Camp again, in future years.  Let me know if you’d be interested in that.

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.

brioche-flat-teal-brown-montage

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

And this is a neat grey and cream Aran:

brioche-flat-grey-cream-montage-2

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

Kidsilk Haze Extravaganza

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

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

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

rise-montage

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

gathering-new

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

gathering-in-dk-1

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

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

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

2017 Courses – Now Live

Saturday, December 3rd, 2016

The courses are up and it’s the biggest year ever!  Here they are – do come!

We have Fairisle and Brioche, cables and beads, steeking and gifts – and of course, Christmas.

It really won’t be the same without you, so please take a look and Kathryn and I hope to see you here in 2017.

Here is the link.