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!

“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