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

 

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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!

“That’ll block out”

You might have heard knitters talk about blocking or read the instructions “block to measurements given” in a knitting pattern, but what does it actually mean?

Blocking is the process of washing or soaking your finished knitting and then laying it out to dry. It can involve stretching the piece out with pins, as with lace knitting, but it’s really a way of helping the stitches and yarn to relax, and even out. I often hear knitters saying, in a reassuring way to each other, “That’ll block out”, meaning that the little glitch or wonky stitch will sort itself out in the washing process (it usually does!).

In shawl knitting, blocking is a really important stage: it helps open up any lace patterning, relaxes the stitches and helps to create drape, which will help your shawl look even more beautiful when you’re wearing it. Just look at these before and after photos:

How to do it?

You will need: wool wash/shampoo/conditioner, a towel, big bags or foam mats, pins (ideally blocking T-pins)

  1. IMG_5986Weave in the ends, leaving a wee tail (I prefer to cut them off after blocking, as I find the ends can move around and pop out if I cut them before blocking).
  2. Fill a sink or bath with tepid water, add wool wash if you like or a wee drop of shampoo or conditioner. Add your shawl and submerge it in the water. Leave it for about 15 mins.
  3. Pull the plug and squeeze out the excess water. Ley the shawl onto the spread-out towel and roll them up together. To get the excess water out, stand on the towel (it seems brutal, I know, but it gets a lot more water out than squeezing with your hands).
  4. Lay out your bin-bags or foam mats, and unroll your shawl from the towel and lay it on the mats/bags. Most knitting patterns will give you a schematic drawing, which gives you an idea of the shape of the shawl and the measurements . This will give you an idea of how to pin the knitting out. If it’s a triangle or traditional crescent or semi-circle then I would suggest starting with the straight ‘top’ edge and pin along that first. You can pull the knitting about quite a lot – check the measurements on the schematic if you’re not sure of the finished size.                                                              .
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  5. Once you have the top edge pinned you can start on the bottom edge. Usually the knitting will want to move into a certain shape. Maybe there are picot edges to pull out or a scalloped edge to pin?
  6. Leave your shawl pinned out until it’s absolutely dry, otherwise it will not keep it’s shape. If you find you’re not happy with the shape, you can always repeat the blocking process again.

 

Want to know more? Get my Free Top Five Blocking Tips PDF by signing up for my mailing list here The PDF contains further blocking tips for shawls, including using blocking wires, ideas for blocking picot edging and bobbles, and how to block when you’re in a hurry.

The beautiful shawl featured in the photos is Snow Blossom, now available in my Ravelry store. Click here for further details, photos and to purchase.

Mini Skein Pattern Picks

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Zastruga Shawl & Technicolour Dreamsweater

I went along to the St Abbs Wool Festival last Saturday, which takes place twice a year in Eyemouth (just along the coast from St Abbs, where the festival originated). It was lovely to attend an event so different from the previous woolly event I attended: the Edinburgh Yarn Festival. St Abbs was small but beautifully formed, with two large rooms filled with yarn, fleece and things made from sheepy goodness. The sun even shone for the event – a lovely day all round.

Predictably, I bought a handful of gorgeous mini skeins from Sandra of Chandlers, an indie dyer from North Berwick. She had stopped me earlier in the day to comment on my  Zastruga shawl, which I had explained was designed for mini skeins and gradients, and we had a good chat about working together at some point in the future.

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Mini Skeins from Sandra of Chandlers

I’ve noticed a lot of mini skeins on my Instagram feed recently and wondered if people buy them with a plan in mind or if, like me, they buy them on a whim because minis are so irresistible?

I decided to have a hunt around on Ravelry and see what shawl patterns I could find that used mini-skeins (disclaimer – I haven’t knitted any of these patterns but if I had time I would!).

MINI SKEIN PATTERN PICKS – ‘DOTS’

Solaris by Melanie Berg – “Rainbows break through a cloud-gray background in Solaris, an asymmetrical triangle shawl drizzled with eyelet rows.” Uses 5 Madelinetosh Unicorn Tails (5 x 48m/15g)

Aurorae Shawl by Helen Stewart – “This asymmetrical shawl features garter, eyelet and slip stitches: it looks intricate and complicated, but in fact it’s a gentle, easy knit.” Pattern includes two sizes for different sized mini skein sets.

Leftie by Martina Behm – “Leftie is an asymmetrical shawlette that was designed to show off your favorite little leftovers.” Each ‘leaf’ in this pattern uses 5-7g of 4py/fingering weight yarn.

MINI SKEIN PATTERN PICKS – ‘STRIPES’

Buccaneer by Justyna Lorkowska – “The shawl is all about fun, colors and staying warm this winter. The shawl can be made in two versions.” The two versions are one which uses feather and fan lace, and one with plainer chevrons. Uses either 6 minis of 73m/20g or 9 Madelinetosh Unicorn Tails of 48m/15g.

Lamina Wrap by Ambah O’Brien – “Let Lamina Wrap be a strata formation of all your oddment end balls in your stash, revealing the past in the form of projects knit and loved. Also perfect for mini skeins and unicorn tails.” Has 26 lace panels, each using 27.5m of 4ply/fingering weight yarn.

Shockwave by Josh Ryks – “Using mini-skeins and a complimentary full skein, Shockwave is a perfect shawl to showcase an amazing mini-skein collection and wear it in style!” This shawl uses 9 mini skeins of 18m in length and is part of a mini skein collections of 5 patterns.

Koi Pond by Casapinka – “Garter stitch dances around knot stitches in various combinations, and ends with a simple repeat of lace.” This one uses 6 minis, each 91m in length, so a little bit bigger than the average mini but good for leftover sock yarn.

 

 

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Mini Skeins from The Wool Kitchen

Let me know if you’ve knitted any other shawls using minis or if you know of any other great mini skein patterns.

You can find out more about my Zastruga shawl pattern here and sign up for my mailing list here to find out more about future Maddie Harvey Design patterns, including some more using these gorgeous mini skeins.

Please feel free to share this blog post on social media, tag me @harveyknits or use the hashtag maddieharveydesigns.

 

 

 

 

Smarter Garter Tabs

If you follow me on Instagram then you may have seen a post about me teaching a class on shawl shapes and construction recently. We had a lovely time creating mini-shawls and going through some of the different ways to start a shawl, how to create different shawl shapes and trying out various stretchy cast offs (important for when you come to blocking your shawl – more on that another time!).

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One of the topics we discussed was the ‘garter tab’, which is a common way of starting a shawl. Shawls are frequently made up of an edge on either side of a main body of stitches and a garter tab is a way of starting a shawl whereby you set up these sections simultaneously.

You begin by knitting a little strip of stitches in garter stitch and then picking up stitches along two of the other sides. One lot of stitches is picked up along the long edge of the tab and the other stitches from the cast-on edge.

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I shared with the class a few tips for making your garter tab as neat as possible and I’m going to share them here too!

Tip One) If the designer specifies the type of cast on to use, then use that cast on. This is because when you come to pick up stitches you want to be working on the right side of your work. If the pattern specifies a ‘knitted on’ type of cast on (knitted on, cable, or backward loop cast on) then the next row worked will be a right side row. If the pattern specifies a long-tail cast on then the next row worked is a wrong side row. So if you do the opposite type of cast on then you’ll be picking up stitches on the wrong side of your work, rather than the right side, which makes a difference to the look of your garter tab.

Tip Two) Even though a garter tab only requires a few rows of knitting, somehow it’s easy to lose count, so I like to place a lockable stitch marker on the right side of my work, after the first couple of rows, to help me keep my place.

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Tip Three) When you pick up stitches along the garter bump edge, put your needle right through the middle of each bump (it looks like a little knot on the side of the tab), this should help to keep the stitches even and neat.

 

 

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Tip Four) If you’re still not happy with the look of your garter tab, then it’s possible to do a provisional cast on for the first stitches, and then place these stitches back on the needle, instead of picking up along the cast on edge. Similarly, you could use a sock toe cast on (Judy’s Magic Cast On – shown in the diagram, or Turkish Cast On) for the initial stitches, leave one side of the cast on hanging on an extra needle and then transfer them over when needed.

 

I hope these little tips help you make smarter garter tabs but if you’d like anymore information, have any questions or feedback, I’d love to hear from you: please leave me a comment, or feel free to share this blog post on social media, use the hashtag maddieharveydesigns or tag me @harveyknits.

If you’re interested in hiring me to teach a class about any aspect of shawl knitting, please feel free to contact me here.

Extra Links

*YouTube Video from Very Pink Knits demonstrating a provisional cast on: here

*Link to instructions for Judy’s Magic Cast On: here

*YouTube Video from Jane Richmond demonstrating the Turkish Cast on: here

 

Mini-Skein Love

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Do you love mini-skein sets? I find them very tempting. The range of sets available now is amazing: from tiny 10g miniballs (as featured here, from Wee County Yarns) to sets of co-ordinating 50g skeins of 4ply/fingering weight yarn. From sets that form a gradient, to those with vastly contrasting skeins, and sets that feature variegated and speckled skeins too, the choice is vast.

 

 

designHowever beautiful and seductive these sets are, it is sometimes difficult to know what to create with them, especially if you’re not keen on knitting those gorgeous little mitered blanket squares. To remedy this, I’ve designed Zastruga, a shawl pattern especially created for using mini-skeins (and gradients), which is the first in small series of patterns using minis. Zastruga uses a set of 5 x 20g minis, and is knitted in five distinct sections to depict a developing snow storm. The pattern includes instructions for going ‘off-piste’, so that the sections can be extended if you have more yarn, helping you to get the most out of your gorgeous mini-skein set. If you’d like to be the first to know when it’s released this week and obtain an exclusive discount code, click here to sign up to receive my ‘news updates’. NEWSFLASH: Zastruga is now available – view & buy here

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If you’re heading to Edinburgh Yarn Festival this weekend, there’s a plethora of vendors selling mini-skeins and gradients, that would look fabulous knitted into a Zastruga. Even those vendors who don’t usually stock minis will have some available, for example Helen of The Wool Kitchen let me into a little secret that she’ll have minis on her stand this year (B2). I will have to make a special effort to get there pronto on Friday morning before she sells out!

 

Other purveyors of mini-skein sets at EYF include:

The Border Tart, Stand K8: Natural Indigo Dyed Mini-Skeins

Dye Ninja, Stand H8: Ninja Pops, 20g skeins of pure Merino

The Knittting Goddess, Stand K10: Blacker Yarn St Kilda Laceweight Minis

La Bien Aimee, Stand G3: Mini Merino Singles Bundle

The Little Grey Sheep, Stand J3: Stein Fine Wool 4ply Mini Skeins

Martin’s Lab, Stand D2: Mini Bundles

Ripples Crafts, Stand H4: High Twist BFL Gradient Packs (5 x 50g)

Woollenflower, Stand M3: Gradients (organic Shetland fingering weight)

Easyknits.co.uk, Stand K4: Easyknits yarn was used to knit the two samples of Zastruga (Big Boy Cakes and a Sushi Roll) Jon creates mini-skeins and mini-cakes, and also beautiful Sushi Roll gradients.

 

And if you’re not going to EYF, here are some other stockists of beautiful mini-skeins:

Cuddlebums, a variety of mini-skeins, both solid colours & variegated/speckled

Five Moons, Lunar Flares (micro sets -3g) & 4ply Minimoons (20g)

Wee County Yarns, Miniballs (10g) of J.C.Rennie 4ply 100% wool

New Designer of the Year

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If you subscribe to my News Update (subscribe here), then you were party to a wee secret a couple of weeks ago.

Knit Now Magazine announced the winners of their Knitter of the Year awards and I am thrilled to say that I am one of the winners of New Designer of the Year 2017.

 

 

 

fullsizeoutput_10fIt was very hard to keep this a secret until the publication of Knit Now’s Issue 70 and so far it’s been a fairly low key announcement but I’m very excited about winning and I’m looking forward to the opportunities that I hope may arise from my win.

My win follows on from two designs that I’ve had published in Knit Now: Sycamore and Snow Blossom , and a submission for a new shawl design, which will be featured later in the year (you might be able to spot a sneaky peak in one of my photos here).

 

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As part of the prize, all the winners (there were four other categories: Designer of the year; Online Innovator; Local Superstar and Charity Hero), including fellow Edinburger Jessica James proprietor of Ginger Twist Studio, are going on a day out to Sirdar HQ in Wakefield. I’m very excited about this, as I’m keen to see how they approach the design process within a large yarn company, and I’ve also been told there will be a lot of yarn to ‘oooooh’ over. Watch this space for lots of photos and blog posts after the event.

If you’d like to be one of the first to find out what’s happening with Maddie Harvey Designs in the future, including new pattern releases before anyone else and special coupon codes, sign up for my News Update (click here).

Retreat

Have you ever been on a knitting retreat?

imageOver the last few years I’ve been lucky enough to attend a couple of retreats, each of them different. Some retreats offer classes to teach you new knitting or crafting skills; some are more like conferences, with speakers and workshops on professional skills like technical editing; and some retreats are purely about relaxing with your knitting friends. These retreats involve taking some time to knit on your works-in-progress, without unwanted interruptions, perhaps picking up a few knitting tips on the way, or leafing through a gorgeous knitting book. This is the kind of retreat I went on recently with my friends from my Knit Night.

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Although we only stayed overnight at the retreat centre, we spent the whole Saturday and Sunday knitting, chatting and eating. There was a log burning stove, plenty of cosy chairs, and beautiful grounds to walk in, if we so chose. For those of us who ventured outside, there were some lovely woolly sheep and alpacas to say hello to, perfect for a group of knitters.

 

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Since I started doing more design work, I have less time to knit projects that are just for me, so I loved being able to work on my Lilian jumper in beautiful Posh Yarn Martha DK. I also had time to experiment with some entrelac knitting. Whilst my attempt at brioche-entrelac (would that be briontrelac or entrioche?) wasn’t entirely successful, it did give me some ideas for using elements of entrelac in future designs.

 

A knitting retreat doesn’t have to be anything elaborate or expensive: my Knit Night group enjoy having the odd ‘knitting day’ at each other’s houses. Whatever form they take, retreats are an important part of self-care for knitters, so take some time out with your knitting friends to knit, chat, eat and … repeat.

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I’d love to hear about your experience of retreats. Leave me a comment or connect with me on Twitter or Instagram where I’m @harveyknits

Links:

Lilian jumper by Suvi Simola – http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/lilian-4

Posh Yarn – http://www.poshyarn.co.uk

Knitting Resolutions

Too late for New Year resolutions? image

By this stage in January, some people might think it’s too late to be making New Year resolutions. I heard the term ‘Blue Monday’ being use this week: a day when people tend to give up on their resolutions and feel pretty down about the whole thing.
Christmas and New Year is often such a busy time, that it doesn’t always feel like the right time to be making resolutions to change things or start something new. There also seems to be a rush to finish-off the old year before it even reaches the 31st of January. Maybe giving yourself a bit more time to think about last twelve months, coming up with an idea for resolutions, and starting them well after the festivities are over would be a more successful way to do it?

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Last year, I decided to pick a word for the year, rather than making resolutions. I chose ‘growth’, which applied to growth in both my personal life and in my knitting and designing life. Growth was a good word for me – I published my first pattern in Knit Now Magazine and I developed and published my first self-published pattern, Cherry Stone. I learnt new knitting techniques, including two-colour brioche and using beads, and I harnessed my love of short-cuts to come up with or utilise methods of knitting that were easier. For example my ‘picot on the go’ edging and no-closing-the-gap short rows in Cherry Stone, and no-turn bobbles in my upcoming Zastruga pattern.

In these first couple of weeks of January, I have been thinking about a word for 2017. After listening to various podcasters talking about their word for the year, I’ve decided to choose ‘Identity’. Like last year, this is a word that I can use both personally and in my design business. I would like to grow my business in 2017 and come to a sense of identity with that work – a certain style or look that is particular to my designs and my aesthetic. At the moment my knitting group tease me that I’m all about the bobbles…well I do like a bit of texture!

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Last year, as a way to remember my word of the year, I had a leather bracelet made with the word ‘Growth’ engraved on it. This year, I’d like to make something that includes the word ‘Identity’ to use as a reminder. This seems appropriate for a year that is hopefully going to bring a lot more making, of many kinds, into my life.

View and buy my patterns here:

http://www.ravelry.com/designers/maddie-harvey
Other links:
Podcasts:
http://www.taraswiger.com
http://www.curioushandmade.com
http://www.martineellis.com
Bracelet (on sale until end of week):
http://www.notonthehighstreet.com/graciecollins/product/personalised-leather-francis-bracelet