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

What? No Cable Needle?

Whilst I love cables, I’m not so keen on using a cable needle to work them, especially with thicker weight yarns. Cable needles just get in my way or the needle falls out and I risk losing my stitches, so I prefer to pinch the stitches instead. I’ll explain:

In this example, from my A Slice of Honey hat pattern, I’m about to work a 2/2 right leaning cable with the next four stitches on my left hand needle (pic 1). I’m going to hold the next two stitches at the back of my knitting to make the cable, so I slip them purlwise onto the right hand needle (pic 2) and then pinch them at the back with my left thumb and forefinger (pic 3).

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I then knit the next two stitches from the left hand needle (pic 4) and replace the ‘pinched’ stitches to the left hand needle ready to be knitted, being careful not to twist them (pic 5). Once I’ve knitted the ‘pinched’ stitches, the cable is complete (pic 6). This works equally well for other types of cables, e.g. those involving more stitches or those where stitches are held at the front.

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I’m not going to pretend that this method isn’t a little fiddly and you’d need to adjust it to suit your knitting style (just for reference, I’m an English style thrower), but now I’ve got into the swing of it, I find it much easier than faffing about with a cable needle! You might like to give it a try?

My A Slice of Honey hat pattern will be released next week: aran weight yarn, unisex pattern, three sizes, slouchy and beanie fit, and a little ‘slice’ of cables up the sides. If you’d like to receive an exclusive discount code, then join my mailing list before Wednesday 4th October CLICK HERE

Happy knitting!

Maddie

 

Hat Blocking … Blocking For Hats

I’ll start this blog post with a wee confession: I don’t usually block hats! However, I make an exception for hats with colourwork, where I want to even out the stitches, or with lace where blocking helps relax the stitches and make the lace patterning open up.

A good way to block a hat is over a balloon, as laying your hat flat to dry will give it a crease down each side. You can either blow up a balloon to the size you need or use an already blown-up balloon (we always have some kicking about from kids’ parties). Start by soaking your hat in the usual way (more on this here), then place the hat over your chosen balloon. To keep the hat in place and to stop the brim from over stretching, sew a running stitch around the brim, draw up the ends snuggly around the balloon and tie (cotton yarn or string is good for this, as it doesn’t ‘stick’ to the hat). Drawing a face on your balloon is optional but I couldn’t resist!

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Leave the hat to dry, turning it every so often so that the fabric doesn’t sag and that it dries evenly. Remove the string from the brim and your hat is ready to wear.

The hat featured here is ‘A Slice of Honey’ is a unisex cabled hat knitted in aran/worsted-weight yarn and will be available very soon. If you’d like to be the first to know, receive an exclusive discount code when it’s released, and get a free top tips sheet about blocking shawls, then sign up to my mailing list by clicking here: mailing list

Happy blocking! Maddie x

Two Months, Three Yarny Events

The last two months have seen me attend three very different yarny events: a visit to Sirdar HQ; the Indieburgh Yarn Crawl; and PomFest, all of them fantastic in different ways.

 

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Last month Pom Pom Quarterly celebrated their 5th birthday with a two-day PomFest party. I happened to find myself near enough to London, on a family holiday (with no pre-planning obviously), to go for the first day.
There were no classes at PomFest, but rather talks and panel discussions, which were fascinating. Bristol Ivy talked about her design process: how process dictates form (“What happens if I knit this in this way?”) and conversely how design dictates form, where Bristol shared some images that had inspired her design work. I also caught a panel discussion, chaired by Anna Maltz, about how knitting and the knitting industry has changed in the last five years. There was much talk about the increased role of social media in the knitting world and about the growth of small businesses, especially local and specialised yarn companies.
Of course, there was a market place, where I picked up some goodies, and a lovely seating area, where I bizarrely found myself sitting at a table with Ysolda Teague, Veera Valimaki and Clara Parkes – I really didn’t know what to say!

 

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The Indieburgh Craft Crawl in the middle of June, was a real “knitting friends day out” round the craft shops of Edinburgh. It was fantastic to visit Ysolda Teague’s studio, which is usually closed to the public, although she told me at PomFest that their space doesn’t usually look like it did – they had done a fair bit of furniture rearranging and ‘yarn displaying’ to get it ready for the Crawl. It was also great to see Border Tart’s trunk show at Kathy’s Knits, where I couldn’t resist buying a little set of mini-skeins (photographed above with two skeins of Tuku Wool from Ysolda). It was a very hot day so I was pleased to make it along to the ‘after-party’ at Hama, near the Scottish Parliament building, to drink a pint, do a bit of knitting and catch up with some yarny friends.

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Finally, way back at the beginning of June, I went to visit Sirdar HQ as part of my prize for winning Knit Now Magazine’s New Designer Of The Year. It was a fantastic day and Sirdar was so generous with their time and yarny goodies. We had a tour of the warehouse (pictured: these boxes were filled with yarn) and the design room, and a sneaky peak at the new yarns and designs for Autumn 2017. Finding out about Sirdar’s design process was really interesting and I loved seeing their inspiration board covered with photos and swatches. It inspired me to create my own design board at home and I’ve found it really helpful to have my ideas up on the wall: I may have even found a new love of swatching!