Does Your Yarn Speak To You?

Does your yarn speak to you? Have you ever had a skein tell you what it wants to be? Does it stay in your yarn collection until it knows what it wants to be knitted into? Or perhaps it’s the opposite – sometimes yarn tells you what it doesn’t want to be and that’s what happened with my Bamburgh Shawl design.

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I started designing this shawl with a clear idea in my head of what I wanted it to be: a design that involved sections where the yarn was held double, but I couldn’t get it to work. It wasn’t coming out like I’d envisaged. The yarn didn’t want to be that particular shawl – merging the yarns together wasn’t really highlighting the differences between the fluffy mohair and the woolly Cheviot yarn, but rather showing what happened when you put them together.

I went back to the original basic premise of the design – showcasing the contrast between these yarns and how wonderfully the textures could play together. I found a slipped stitch cable in one of my stitch dictionaries that I thought might work and played about with the yarns and the patterning until I had something I was pleased with; something that let each yarn shine and show off its unique characteristics.

I wouldn’t exactly say that the yarn told me it was happier being a slipped stitch cable. There wasn’t a little voice saying “Yes Maddie, we love being all stripey and tessellated” but I definitely had that excited feeling about the design and I hope you do too.

Find out more and buy your copy here

Bamburgh Shawl sample is knitted with one skein each of Whistlebare’s amazing Yeavering Bell 4ply (orange – Castle Keep) and Cheviot Marsh 4ply (blue – All At Sea). See more Whistlebare yarn here

Big Cast-On?

This is a handy photo tutorial for my Calamus cowl pattern or any other pattern with a big cast-on number.

If you’re knitting something where you’re required to cast-on a lot of stitches with a long-tail cast-on then you usually need to estimate how much yarn you’re going to use before you start. For example, I normally go for three-times the circumference of the finished item, so for a hat it would be three times the circumference of the brim, or for a glove, I might just wrap the yarn around my hand three times.

However, this doesn’t always work out and I don’t think anyone wants to run out of yarn 300 stitches into a 350 stitch cast-on! Here’s a handy way to do a long-tail cast-on without having to estimate your yarn, using two balls of yarn (here I’ve used one cream and one blue so it’s easier to see).

First, find the ends from two separate balls of yarn (you could also do this with the inside and outside ends of the yarn from one ball, but it might get a bit tangled) and tie them in a knot. Place the knot on top of the needles so that the yarn is straddling the needles:

 

Now twist the yarns underneath the needles, to make the loop a bit securer before you start your long-tail cast-on. You can use whichever method you prefer; I’m using the sling-shot method here. Please note that the loop or stitch created by the knot, doesn’t count as a stitch!

 

Once you’ve cast-on all the stitches, set up your knitting for working in the round, as for the Calamus cowl, (or if you’re knitting flat then just go ahead with the next instruction). I’m working in magic loop here but it’s the same for regular circular knitting.

Now undo the knot and the initial loop that was around your needle. You can also cut one of the yarns that you used for your cast-on, (usually the one on the inside of the work, but it doesn’t really matter) so that you only have one working yarn attached. In this example I’ve cut the cream yarn and I’m going to knit with the blue:

Now you’re ready to start working on your project and knitting all those lovely cast-on stitches!

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Top Tip: If the thought of casting-on hundreds of stitches daunts you, try splitting up the cast-on into blocks of 50 and place a marker after every 50 cast-on stitches. This not only helps make the cast-on seem more manageable (350 stitches becomes 7 x 50, rather than 350 individual stitches), it’s also a handy way to keep count!

An Easy Way to Join-In Yarn

This tutorial is useful if you’re knitting my Patience Cowl Advent KAL, which is a pattern specially designed to use with mini-skeins.

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If you’re knitting a pattern with lots of changes of yarn, this method of joining-in a new colour means that you’ll avoid having lots of ends to weave in when you’ve finished knitting.

When you come the point where you need to change yarns (for example, from green to orange), loop the new yarn around the old yarn, doubling them both up:

 

Now knit the next couple of stitches with the doubled-up yarn (green), until you’re working the stitches with the doubled-up new yarn (orange):

Drop the tail end of the new yarn and continue working the stitches with a single strand of the new yarn. When you come to these ‘double’ stitches on the next round, be sure to knit the two strands as one, so as not to increase your stitch count!

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When you’ve finished knitting, cut the ends down to around 2-3cm long. Then once you’ve blocked your knitting, you can cut the ends right down, or sew-in any ends that have popped out during the blocking process.

Perth Festival of Yarn

Just over a week ago I was sitting on my sofa ‘recovering’ from Perth Festival of Yarn! This wasn’t because I’d had an terrible time and needed to recover, quite the opposite! I’d had such a lovely ‘yarny’ weekend looking and squishing at all the gorgeous skeins and chatting with so many brilliant people, that I was trying to re-adjust to being back at home.

As well as taking Karie Westermann’s fantastic “Knitting The Landscape Class”, I also had quite a lot of time to wander around the marketplace and take some photos:

It was great to chat with Pauline from Lifelong Yarns about their yarn and the Scottish Blackface fibre blends which they use, and also with Julie from Black Isle Yarns – I was particularly taken with these beautiful indigo-dyed mini-skeins!

There was lots of variegated hand-dyed yarn too. Two of my favourites were Das Mondschaf from Germany, whose yarn was so beautiful that I could have closed my eyes and picked any skein and been delighted with it, and Giddy Aunt Yarns, who had some especially lovely mohair and double-knit colourways.

Of course, I made a few purchases! On the Saturday I bought this gorgeous single skein from Love Handyed, and as I was wearing my Hecate Shawl with it’s little moon motifs, I couldn’t resist a celestial needle gauge from The Queen of Purls. I also bought some lovely gradient mini-skeins from Cookston Crafts and five skeins of Ullcentrum 2-ply from Midwinter Yarns, as I have plans to knit myself a Moonbow sweater from issue 26 of Pom Pom Quarterly – watch this space!

I hope you’ve had a chance to visit a yarn festival recently or have one coming up? Perhaps I’ll see you at one soon!

Maddie

Tutorial: I-Cord Corner Tab Cast-On

This tutorial explains a technique use in my Hecate shawl from Issue 26 of Pom Pom Quarterly but I’m sure that you’ll find it handy for any shawl with an i-cord edge that begins at the corner.

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The corner i-cord tab, is fairly similar to the straight i-cord tab cast-on, as featured in my Ama shawl (tutorial for that coming very soon), except that a yarnover is worked in the middle of the picked up stitches to create the corner.

First work the i-cord as instructed in your pattern, here I’ve worked six rows to create six  ‘v’s in the i-cord (worked in the dark grey yarn, the rest of the tutorial is worked in light grey to make the technique clearer, but you can follow your pattern).

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When you work the next row, don’t slip the stitches back to the left-hand needle, but turn the work 90 degrees clockwise to pick-up stitches along the edge of the i-cord (if you’d like help with picking up stitches along an i-cord, see my handy tutorial here).

 

Skip the ‘v’ directly underneath the needle (the first dark grey one in this example), and pick-up one stitch in the next ‘v’ by inserting the right-hand needle under both strands of the ‘v’, looping the yarn around the needle and pulling a loop through. For this tutorial, I’ve done this twice (which is different from the Hecate pattern to protect copyright), but your pattern will advise on how many stitches to pick up.

 

 

Now we have reached the middle of the tab, make a yarnover (this enables the tab to bend and creates the point or the corner of the shawl).

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Skip the next ‘v’, and pick-up two stitches (or however many your pattern says) in the following two ‘v’s. There should be one ‘v’ left, which we will skip.

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Finally, turn the work 90 degrees clockwise and pick-up three stitches from the cast-on edge. Work the wrong side row as per your pattern.

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Yay – you have now worked an i-cord corner tab!

Have you come across this technique before? I’d love to know – leave a comment below!

Maddie x

Tutorial: Picking Up Stitches Along An I-Cord

Picking up stitches along an i-cord is a technique used in my Hecate shawl from the latest issue of Pom Pom Quarterly, where the stitches are picked up to work a gorgeous fluffy mohair edge. I use the same technique to pick-up stitches in many knitting situations and you may also find this tutorial handy when picking up stitches along the edges of my Loie shawl from issue 16 of Amirisu Magazine.

Picking up stitches is often something that knitters don’t like doing, as trying to pick up the right number of stitches along an edge can be tricky, however when you’re picking up along an i-cord edge it’s usually more straightforward. The stitches in an i-cord edge are quite clear to see as there’s an obvious straight column of loops or ‘v’s to work along.

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Firstly, as the i-cord is made up of three stitches around, you need to identify which line of stitches you are going to pick up along. In this example, I’m going for the middle column (number 2), but your pattern might specify which to use, and I’m using a lighter coloured yarn (my working yarn) to pick-up the stitches with, to make it easier to see.

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Using just the right-hand needle, insert the tip underneath both legs of the first stitch or the first ‘v’ (left hand photo). Next, place the working yarn around your needle, as you would to knit a stitch (middle photo), and pull through a loop. You will need to keep the working yarn quite tight to be able to pull it through the stitch.

Repeat this all the way along, picking up and pulling through a stitch for each ‘v’ along the column of i-cord stitches (or the correct number according to the pattern), then work the next row.

Happy Picking-Up!

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Processions 2018

Last Sunday my daughter and I took part in Processions, a celebratory ‘living art work’ to mark the 100th anniversary of the beginning of women’s suffrage in the UK. You might have seen some of the coverage on BBC One last Sunday, or you may have taken part yourself; it was an amazing thing to be part of.

I’ve been a feminist for a long time, I think probably since the moment when, aged 3, our twin-boy neighbours told me I couldn’t play with them, ” ‘cos girls can’t play cowboys”. I had no concept of ‘girls can’t…’ so I just thought this was stupid, and I’ve thought this kind of thing was stupid ever since!

At school I played rugby (whilst also taking weekly ballet lessons), and at university I studied Women’s Studies alongside English Literature. When I went on to postgraduate studies, I wrote my masters thesis on the role of eighteenth century Scottish women authors in the formation of the concept of “Britishness”, and I love the fact that when my daughter went to nursery, her teacher informed me of how she told the other kids that dancing (and especially wearing the ballet outfits and tutus) wasn’t just for girls, it was for everyone.

So Sunday’s procession was an emotional and personal one for me and I wanted to share some of the photographs, taken by myself and my daughter, of the banners and signs that people had stitched, knitted, crocheted, drawn, and crafted,  and which they carried as they processed. Enjoy!

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Torfin Hat

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This is Torfin, a slightly slouchy colourwork hat knitted in Milarrochy Tweed and my entry into Kate Davies’ West Highland Way hat competition, which closed last Friday. Sadly I wasn’t a winner (there were some amazing and beautiful hats entered, have a look in Kate’s Ravelry group), but I had such lovely feedback after I posted a photo on Instagram, that I’ve decided to self-publish Torfin instead.

I used 3 shades of Kate’s Milarrochy Tweed: Birkin (pale grey), Buckthorn(deep orange) & Bruce (dark grey) and the design is inspired by a local landmark here in Edinburgh, Corstorphine Hill Tower, on Corstorphine Hill. The tower is a memorial to Sir Walter Scott, and was built in 1872, out of local whinstone, possibly sourced from the hill itself. The surrounding hill and woodlands are a great place for walking, exploring and sledging (of late!), and from May to September it’s possible to visit the tower and climb to the top.

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Building Fairy Houses on Corstorphine Hill

The name Torfin comes from the medieval name for Corstorphine – ‘Crostorfin’, which is thought to mean ‘Torfin’s crossing’ and although there’s no record of who Torfin was, the area was full of small lochs and marshes at the time.

I took inspiration for the colour-work motif from the shape of the tower’s windows and the buttresses. The colours reference both the local whinstone and the autumn colours of the numerous beech trees which surround the site. This is a great photo of the tower, and one that I used for my design: click here

Before Torfin is released, I’m planning to rework the top of the hat to make it slightly slouchier, and also to incorporate some addition patterning to the crown decreases. I’m also hoping to offer the pattern in three sizes! If you’d like to be one of the first to know when Torfin is available, and receive an exclusive discount code, sign up to my newsletter mailing list here.

Tunisian Crochet Workshop

In my last blog post I talked about my new found Tunisian crochet skills and how I was about to pass on what I’d learnt in a workshop for my fellow Knit Nighters. I thought I’d pop back in here to update how it went – just look at these photos of their work!

 

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Learning new things is challenging and within, what is primarily a group of ‘knitters’, I was impressed at everyone’s keenness to have a go at Tunisian crochet. For one of my friends, it brought back lovely memories of crocheting as a child in Indonesia, where she would make some extra pocket money crocheting edges onto table cloths. Many of the participants have been doing more Tunisian crochet after our session and have even emailed me photos of their results, which I think is a sure sign of a successful workshop!

As for me, well I’ve just bought an 8mm Tunisian hook so that I can start making a bean bag cushion cover. I just need to make sure I put aside some “Tunisian crochet time”, who knows, maybe I’ll even take it to Knit Night?

Happy Knitting … or crocheting,

Maddie x

New Year, New Craft?

Happy New Year!

Well, this isn’t something I saw myself getting into in 2018 – Tunisian crochet! Have you tried it?

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After taking a Tunisian crochet class, taught by one of my Knitting For All colleagues back in October, I offered to run a workshop for my Knit Night friends on our yearly retreat, happening this weekend.

Now, although I know how to do regular crochet, I’m in no way an expert. I’m not great with my tension, so I’m never 100% happy with my slightly sloppy-looking attempts. However, Tunisian crochet is a kind of half way house between knitting and crochet. Using a long crochet hook, with a stopper on the end, stitches are picked up along the edge of the work, known as the forward pass. Then the loops are sort of cast back off, known as the return pass, until you are left with one stitch. Unlike in knitting and crochet, you don’t turn the work (which takes a bit of getting used to) so everything happens on the right side. There are lots of different stitches but you can create a really interesting fabric by just using the simple stitch. This makes a great surface to cross-stitch onto, which is what I did with this coaster.

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I’m currently Tunisian crocheting myself a cowl, which I’ll share soon, but I’ve also found some good resources along the way:

Michelle Robinson has a fantastic website, blog and a book all about Tunisian Crochet  – she’s responsible for those gorgeous little Tunisian crocheted feathers that I keep seeing on Pinterest!

Also there’s a great pattern here for a simple stitch dishcloth, although it’s really too nice for washing dishes and would make a good table mat.

I would also recommend Craftsy’s Tunisan Crochet for Beginners class, which helped me refresh my skills for teaching my workshop this weekend! Hopefully my Knit Night friends will be as enthusiastic as me about Tunisian crochet. Look out for some photos on Instagram stories over the weekend, and let me know if you’d like to know more about my new hobby!

Happy Knitting … and Tunisian Crocheting?!

Maddie x