Alison Crowther-Smith

Posts Tagged ‘yarn’

A Gift for YOU at Gift Knitting Day!

Tuesday, September 25th, 2018

Gift Knits Day!  Anyone who is already booked onto, or who books onto this course in future will get a £5 voucher on arrival, entitling them to £5 off yarns bought on the day!

You do not need to do anything.  I will sort it all out for you on the day.  Redeemable only on the day.

You’re welcome!

DRift Mitts for SH

Workshop Loyalty Scheme 2014

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Court Cottage Workshop Room – Ready for the Day!

Eleven valued customers have just qualified to choose £20 of Rowan yarns from me!


This is my 2014 Workshop Loyalty Scheme, details of which you can see here.

If you have attended, or book to attend, three workshops or more with me here at Court Cottage in 2014, you too will qualify.  I have back-dated the plan to January and it ends in November with the Christmas Workshop.  By November, I will have run ten events here, including the two-day Design Weekend, which is more than the last three years.  I have run more events because of the limited numbers I can take – seven or eight is my maximum – and I want to enable more people who might like to come, to be able to do so.

I recently added five new events.  You can see all the events here.  There are still spaces in June, September and October.  I do feel really lucky and very proud that so many of my customers come back for more workshops with us.  I have seen so many leaps and bounds of confidence and skill, in all of my customers, and I think that together, we have created a really special place to come and learn something new, enjoy a bit of gentle boundary-pushing, and meet other lovely people.

Teaching here at home was something I began almost 4 years ago.  I must say, I was filled with mild* anxiety about it when I first started, because, despite having taught for many years, over literally hundreds of events, I was opening up my house to people.  It felt much more personal.

Then Millington joined me.  It is very rare to have the focus of two knitting tutors for groups as small as seven or eight participants, but I think this is one of the elements that makes Court Cottage events special.  I was very lucky to meet Millington when we both worked at Rowan as freelance teachers and Design Consultants, and I am lucky to have her work with me still.

*may be an slight** understatement

**refer to * above

Over the 3 plus years of teaching here, I have always taught elsewhere, usually here in the West Country.  For me, these two experiences go hand-in-hand.  It is a very different (not better) experience, coming here for an event.  If you haven’t yet tried a Court Cottage Workshop, please do, because they really are unique and I love meeting new knitters too.

But to my very special cohort of regular attendees, new and long-standing alike:   this is a tangible way for me to say thank you.  So, enough with the schamltz – get choosing your yarn!

More Half-Moons Seen Over Somerset (AKA: I am repeating the sold-out Half-Moon Shawl event)

Monday, February 17th, 2014

I’m still mooning about with shawls – crescents and full moons will be next, but for now, I am repeating the Half-Moon Day on 14 June.

Half Moon symetric draped

This is also running (and is sold out) in February and September, so if you’d like to come and knit a half-moon, please book here.

Of the two design choices, one is easy, one is easy to intermediate.  The designs are straightforward and offer the knitter scope to add features, change yarns, use more beads, use no beads *shrugs shoulders, spreads hands, casts eyes heavenwards*.  Anyway, it’s a satisfying knit and a lovely thing to make, to keep or give as a special gift.

There are, as I write this post, three spaces available.

Places Available on 22 February for Half-Moon Shawl Course

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Maybe it’s the bad weather, but I have had two cancellations for my course on 22 February and another person has warned me that they may also be unable to come.  Fear not, the course is still running, but it’d be lovely to fill one or two of the places.  View or book here.

If you fancy an antidote to the wet and miserable weather and you are free on 22 February, this is what we will be making: Half-Moon colour wash rumpled


Well, it’s one of the options.  There are two basic designs for choose from, one of which, like the one above, can be knitted as a colourwash piece; or you can knit it in one shade of Kidsilk Haze only.  This design, like all half moons, has ‘segments’, but in this shawl the segments form a curving, slightly swirling shape:

Half-Moon colour wash spread out 1


The other option available to knit on the day is another half moon shape, but with the segments spaced in perfect triangle shapes – i.e., no swirl:

Half Moon symetric draped


It has sub-divisions, adding extra beading at about the half-way stage:

Half Moon symetric spread

And a little frothy finish:

Half Moon symetric close up


The swirling shawl, despite perhaps looking more complex, is the easier knit though both are simple enough.  The swirly one does not use stitch markers – I designed it specifically for people who just don’t get along with using stitch markers.  The symmetrical one, however, does use 8 or 16 depending on how ‘beady’ you want to make it.  I used 16.

Both designs can also be knitted in a DK yarn, for a baby shawl or just because they look great in Pure Wool DK or Baby Merino Silk DK:

Baby half moon wrapped

If you come to the course, your yarn and beads are included.  As it some of this:

Vic sponge (2)


It would be lovely to see you here.  Here is the link to the course.

Teaching Dates 2014

Friday, February 7th, 2014

I’m going to be out and about quite a bit this year.  Here are some of my non-Court Cottage teaching dates for independent yarn shops and other centres, so far for 2014, up to and including August:

  • 20 February, ‘Half Moon Shawl’, Spin-a-Yarn, Devon
  • 1 March, ‘Double Pots Mittens’, Hulu Crafts, Devon
  • 6 March, fashion show with Martin Storey, Bovey Tracey, Devon, details from Spin-a-Yarn
  • 3 April, ‘Circular Shawl’, Spin-a-Yarn, Devon
  • 12 April, ‘Magical Moebius’, Coastal Yarns, Cornwall
  • 17 May, ‘Shibori Knitted Felt, feat. The Bump Bag’, Fyberknitics, Swansea
  • 22 May, ‘Moebius:  Moving On’, Spin-a-Yarn, Devon
  • 7 June, ‘Magical Moebius’, The Cotswold Craft Room, Gloucestershire
  • 8 June, ‘Cave Pearls’, The Cotswold Craft Room, Gloucestershire
  • 9 August, ‘Shibori Knitted Felt, feat. The Bump Bag’, Abbotskerwell, Devon (contact details to follow)
  • 10 August, ‘Mittens in the Round’, Abbotskerwell, Devon (contact details to follow)

Plus, of course, my workshops here at Court Cottage.  I will be adding more Court Cottage dates for later in 2014 soon.  I will also be able to take some bookings for teaching elsewhere in September – November 2014, if you are a retailer or a craft provider and you fancy booking me.  You can do that, here.



Copyright. Why it matters

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

The brew-ha-ha about Debenhams and Kate Davies’ iconic Owl Sweater has caused quite a stir.  I’m not raking it up.  Happily it’s now resolved to Kate’s satisfaction.  Debenhams still deny that they did anything wrong, but acknowledge that there was an issue to be addressed.  Kate is happy and I think this is a good outcome.  You can read about the details of the settlement here.

That it happened is of course A Bad Thing and also it can’t have been a pleasant experience for the designer.  However, some good has come out of it.  First, maybe Debenhams will think twice before being so *inspired* by a design that they basically reproduce it.  Maybe, other big retailers will have a think too.  The power of new media and networking, plus the knitting and crochet community (in this case) is rather cool.  We’re knitters.  And we’re also customers.  Ha, take that, Big Brand Bullies.

However, some thoughtful commentary was forthcoming within the debate that this caused.  For example, it is standard practice for the cat-walk fashions to be ‘copied’ and express-delivered to the mass-market retailers.  Versions of these are to be found in Primarni and the like within hours or at least within days.  I am not sure this is much comfort to the designers but the fashion houses they design for seem to take it on the chin.

Fair point.  But then again, they are not sole traders or very tiny companies. Most of us are.

This has led me to ponder the question of why intellectual copyright is important.  My designs are covered by copyright.  My brother is a lawyer and he basically said:  pop the words on there but good luck if you ever need to take someone on, it’s a massive pain in the backside. Well, Kate took someone on.  Someone big.  And she mobilised a huge network to help.  But I think my brother is probably right, for most small indi designers.

Intellectual property is a massive field, ranging from copyright warfare at global company level, through to lending someone a book.  Somewhere in between is what happened to Kate.

When I worked for Rowan in John Lewis, there was an interesting range of copyright issues to be negotiated.  For example, (and this only happened once while I was there), a design was ripped out of a Rowan magazine.  That’s pretty straight forward, it’s theft.  Actually, I was really shocked by that because all my customers were so lovely, therefore I know it was not them.  But there it was, a ragged tear of paper, a page missing, from a magazine that then cost £10 – but they only wanted that design I assume.  I won’t even write on my pattern books, I photocopy them (for my own use) and write on that.

Which brings me to photocopying or scanning.  I bet most knitters ‘share’ patterns.  I’ve been at shops where this has been openly discussed by customers, as in the ‘I’ll buy this book and you buy that book, and we’ll share’.  Sharing is A Good Thing.  We all lend each other books to read for example – don’t we?  So if a customer shares a pattern book, well, that’s not in the Debenhams/Kate league.  Photocopying designs is a bit more troublesome.  Many times a customer would ask me to copy a design from a Rowan book, but of course I had to say no and also try to explain, without sounding like the copyright police, why that wasn’t a good option for designers or the craft in the long run.

It’s awfully tricky, but really, since so much is given away, free of charge, by the generous community of crafters, makers and artists, there seems no need to copy.  Knitters and other makers are by nature generous with help, knowledge and design ideas.  But when a designer is trying to make a living from his or her work, then it is a matter to at least have at the front of our minds.

How would you deal with this?  I’m working in the store and a customer asks me if I will photocopy a pattern – a garment, not a stitch – from a book that is still in print, copyrighted to the designer and so on.  I gently explain why I couldn’t do that (and I always found this awkward, but it was something I believed in and also, it was part of my job).  The customer accepts this and carries on browsing.  I resume fondling the yarn display, with trips into the stock room now and then.  On my return from one such visit, I observe that the customer is now seated at the little knitting table, calmly and studiously copying out the pattern, by hand, into her own little note book…


Cave candy

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

This is my caving log book:

It was a Christmas present from a friend, a friend who, like me, is blessed with the Glitter Gene.  I expect she imagined I’d use it as a knitting design book, as did I when I unwrapped it.  I always have a knitting design book with me and this is where 90% of the designs start before being swatched and abandoned or typed up and knitted.  I choose pretty books, usually with silk covers and some beads.  This book is the sparkliest book yet. Not only does it have beads, it has sequins and little jewels.

When I started caving, I thought I’d probably go down 2 or maybe 3 times and never thought about keeping a log book.  But when I went on the Wessex Cave Club weekend, back in April, they suggested that it was a good idea to keep a record.  And so I decided that this note book would be promoted and be the Cave Candy Log Book.  As we have established over the years, I am a nerd.  I love stationary and collecting things, I like Lakeland, Tupperware, flannels, recycling timetables and record-keeping.  And I like pretty things.  So really, this little book brings together a lot of my favourite things:  collecting (caves I have visited); pretty things (caves I have visited – not you, Dog Hole, and the book itself); and record-keeping.

Now that I have shared my sparkles-diary I fully expect that other club members will either show us their glittery books or invest in one, maybe.  Monsoon is a good hunting ground.  Or Paperchase.

I now have 15 entries in this book.  I was really surprised that I have caved only 15 times.  One one hand, it seems like I ought to have more than this because it feels like I am more or less always underground, scrubbing kit, driving up Cheddar Gorge or planning another trip.  But it’s only 15.  On the other hand, you’d think that after 15 goes I’d be a fair way up the ‘improving tragetory’.  I’m not.

In fact, I think I may be regressing.  Here is a recent extract from my diary:

‘Dear Diary


Today I caved for the first time with the Wessex Cave Club as a member. Yes I am now a WCC member.  We had a lovely trip (lengthy passage here about the cave, time we spent, areas visited etc).  However, as usual I managed a frankly impressive if minor cock-up at a small and simple climb into Jim’s attic, happily witnessed by several fellow members.  Florence urgently hissed at me: ‘What are you doing with your feet? They are the wrong way round!’ I looked down.  They were indeed, crossed.  When I approached the exit to this little bit of cave and had to climb back down into the main chamber, the waiting members, almost involuntarily I think, formed a small arc round the space where I would land.  They didn’t grab me or rush in.  They just formed a guarded semi-circle – just in case, I suppose.  As it happened, I untangled my legs and made it down on my own! Ha!’

I didn’t really write all that in the book – but I could have for it is true.

Also on this trip were 4 other new club members.  We all met for the first time at the April weekend event.  It was so lovely to see them again and cave together.  After a long chat with one of these people, and also a long think on the way home, I have decided that I am primarily caving for the candy.  That is to say, the pretties, the white or crystal formations, pearls (which I have only seen in Bakers), straws, curly things, curtains and water.  I am also caving because it’s a major challenge, for me.  It’s hard work and I make it rather more so than perhaps it really is.  However, once I am out and I’ve done something that for me is a stretch, I feel great!

Anyway, I accept that my progress may be, um, steady.  It was the same with running.  I was a slow and short-distance runner for ages.  It’s taken me years to grow as a confident endurance runner – and still my comfortable distance limit is only about 10 – 12 miles.  But when I struggle, I just think back to when I ran at 0530 hours in summer to avoid anyone seeing me, and then it was stop-start, walk-run for weeks until I managed first 1, then 2 non-stop miles.  It’s easy to forget, once running is a normal part of your life and you can run more or less anywhere if you want to, that it was at one time a struggle or even impossible.  Perhaps the thing is, running (assuming you do it sensibly and train etc) isn’t dangerous but caving can be.  Cycling was the same, I’ve been cycling most of my life but the transition to road bikes and being clipped onto the pedals was only a few years ago.  That was fun! Honestly, I reckon Mark could have sold tickets to come and watch me attempt the unclip and put the unclipped foot down manoeuvre.  I bestowed a lot of innocent spectator pleasure on the good people of Pembrokeshire the year I first took my then new road bike and clippy shoes there on hols…

I’m still knitting by the way.  And designing.  The non-knitting work areas of my life have been rudely interrupting recently but it’s all systems go again now.  And my new designs are named after caves (or bits of cave).  Just as with my sparkly cave diary, I will unite these amazing hobbies one way or another!  Here is the sleeve of The Singing River Shrug:

It’s made a lot of progress since this picture was taken, in fact the second version (in blues) is currently also being knitted. The design is knitted from the cuff back up, in the round and because the cuff feature – lace, beads, Kidsilk Haze – can only be achieved at the cast-on, it’s knitted in two halves, in the round and then split for the back.  The main yarn is a new Rowan yarn, Baby Silk Merino DK.  But why should babies have all the luxury?

The Singing River Shrug is named after a mine I caved in (if one can cave in mines) – a mine with some natural cave at one end – in the Mendips, which has a river running through it.  As you approach the water but cannot see it, you can hear it.  The mine was abandoned many years ago, and it felt cave-like.  It was lovely, actually.  The scallops and lines in the lace at the bottom of this shrug design is how my designer’s brain ‘sees’ caves, or at least how it saw Singing River.  I have exaggerated the ‘flow’ of the work by using beads and mainly by changing the yarns, using them single and held together.  This helps to emphasise the wave effect and also highlight the way the simple lace stitch causes the work to open and close.  This *probably* varies from the way real cavers see caves and may account for the reason my feet are sometimes crossed over…


Debenhams and Kate Davies

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

Read about it here.  It’s not a happy story:

I love Kate Davies Designs.  Guess what?  Kate Davies is just a person, an individual like you and me.  She is not a faceless multi-store retailer.

If we don’t stick together, then indi designers, be they of knitting, crochet, fabric, art, ceramics, jewelery – whatever – will be prey to organisations like Debenhams.

I’ve bought a copy of Kate’s owl sweater pattern and plan to knit it just as soon as I can.