Wild Poppies shawl – now available!

I have something really exciting to share with you today; a new shawl pattern!

Meet Wild Poppies; the latest addition to my eBook ‘Wildflower: The Lace Collection‘.

The petal pattern reminds me of the shape of poppy petals, hence the name!

Wild Poppies by Charlotte Walford

Copyright Jesse Wild/Charlotte Walford

This one has been quite some time in the making, so I’m delighted that I finally have it ready to share with you.

To celebrate the launch, there’s 20% off this pattern (no code needed) until the end of Monday (23.59 BST on Monday 13th July 2015).

Wild Poppies features an unusual lace patterned spine and a border inspired by poppy petals; which you can bead as much or a little as you like.  I’ve beaded the spine and the border in the purple variegated version (shown above) but in the red version (shown below) I’ve just added beads to the very edge.  The pattern provides options for both versions so you can really make the shawl your own.

Wild Poppies By Charlotte Walford

Copyright Jesse Wild/Charlotte Walford

I’ve designed this shawl to be knitted in just one skein of either heavy lace (lace weight yarn with around 600m/100g skein) or 4ply weight yarn (with around 400m/100g skein) and the lace pattern works well with solid or lightly variegated yarns so you can easily pick a favourite skein from your stash and make something pretty with it (if you’re anything like me then you’ll have quite a lot of single skeins to choose from).  There’s also a handy table of estimated yarn and bead quantities in case you want to make a larger or smaller shawl.

As usual with my patterns, all lace patterns have both charts and written instructions so you can work from whichever you prefer and the charts are provided on a separate page at the end of the pattern, so there’s no wasted paper if you don’t want to use them.

Wild Poppies by Charlotte Walford

Copyright Jesse Wild/Charlotte Walford

So, why design this shawl?

I loved the original border pattern I designed for my Rockrose Wrap so much I wanted to incorporate it into a heart shaped shawl, not just by adapting it into an expanding border pattern, but also using it to add interest to the increases at spine of the shawl as well, creating a softer, more flattering shape than a traditional triangular shawl.

I’ve thought for a while that the design opportunities that the spine of a triangular shawl presents are to often ignored.  Just because you have to work increases doesn’t mean they always have to be a straight line of yarn overs!  Why not use a different increase or make a feature of it?  It certainly makes the body of the shawl more fun and interesting to work!

Wild Poppies By Charlotte Walford

Copyright Jesse Wild/Charlotte Walford

I think it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever made, (even if I do say so myself) but I can’t claim all the credit, the beautiful yarn I used certainly helps; Posh Yarn Lorelei Sock (the purple variegated shawl) and Posh Yarn Valerie Heavy Lace (the red shawl).  Unfortunately Valerie Heavy Lace is being discontinued, but Posh Yarn are having one last update with the yarn this Sunday at 7pm.  If you miss out on that, their Diana Heavy Lace or Miranda Heavy Lace yarns would both make lovely substitutes.

Hope you like it!

Lottie x

Thanks to Jeni from Fyberspates and the amazing Jesse Wild, who took these lovely photos of me and the shawl on their photoshoot earlier this year and also to my lovely test knitters. 

 

 

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Rockrose – now available as a scarf!

I’m pleased to announce that the Rockrose Scarf is now available!

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2014

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2014

After making the Rockrose Wrap I wanted to see if I could make a smaller version with just one precious (100g/400m) skein of 4ply yarn, you know the sort of thing, it called to you in the shop and though you couldn’t quite resist it, you only bought one skein (two would be an extravagance).  Now you want to make something with it, but what?  Well, I made this!

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2014

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2014

On my birthday this year I decided to treat myself to a single skein of Posh Yarn Audrey Sock (made with mulberry silk and cashmere), being such an indulgent yarn, I thought I’d just stick at one skein, but I wanted to make something elegant with it and use up as much of my precious (try not to say that in a Gollum-like voice) skein as possible.

I’d been pretty pleased with the wrap version of this pattern, so I thought I could do with making a smaller version for those with less time, patience, or an aversion to lace weight yarns (I have to be in the right mood to knit with lace weight).  It also gave me chance to make sure my hastily scribbled charts made sense now that I’d redrawn them neatly on the computer!

Floral Lace Scarf_012

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2014

I was pretty pleased with the result, this yarn is really beautiful and makes the scarf incredibly soft with a really lovely drape.  Sadly Audrey Sock has been discontinued, but Posh Yarn Natasha Sock (baby camel and mulberry silk) would give a similar effect.  So scarf knitted, it went off to my lovely tech editor and testers and now finally it’s ready to share with you!

The Rockrose Scarf is the latest pattern in Wildflower: The Lace Collection eBook, available here.  There are at least five more patterns to go!  If you buy the collection the patterns will be automatically added to your Ravelry library as they are released.

Also, if you’ve already bought the Rockrose Wrap (or if you add both patterns to your cart together), you can get the scarf version free (and vice versa, if you buy the scarf pattern you will get the wrap pattern free), just add it to your cart and the price of the scarf pattern will be deducted automatically.

♥ Until midnight GMT Sunday 2nd November 2014, the price of the Rockrose Scarf and Wrap patterns has been reduced from £3.75 to £2.75!  No need for a code, the price has been altered on the pattern page and will return to the higher price at midnight on Sunday. ♥

Hope you like it,

Lottie x

Introducing Rockrose…..

So, I’ve been dropping hints about exciting new things for the past few weeks and now, finally I am ready to show one of them to you!

Introducing Rockrose, a delicate lace weight wrap, knitted in Fyberspates Gleem Lace with an original lace patterned border using Estonian stitches…..

Rockrose Wrap by Charlotte Walford

Copyright Fyberspates 2014

Rockrose is the first pattern in my collection of floral inspired lace designs and a product of my continuing obsession with the design possibilities of Estonian lace stitches (which involve increasing rapidly into one, two or three stitches), which you can see in this close up of the border pattern.

Rockrose Wrap by Charlotte Walford

Copyright Fyberspates 2014

These stitches continue to fascinate me, because they present so many design possibilities, which I first explored in my Cleome shawl design a couple of years ago. I find that they lend themselves perfectly to floral inspired lace patterns, as you can represent blooming flowers really beautifully as well as distorting the fabric into waves and ripples to make the most of hand dyed yarns, like the yarn I chose for this design, Fyberspates Gleem Lace.

As well as hankering after designing something with Estonian stitches again, I wanted to play with transitions between different stitch patterns.  By modifying one pattern to blend into the next one you can create really interesting effects and fun juxtapositions between stitches.

So I started a (not that) little experimental swatch:

Evolving stitch patterns

Evolving stitch patterns
Swatch design and photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2014

Note the difference in width between the different stitch patterns, despite all patterns using the same needle size and number of stitches.

Yes, I know, I didn’t block it (naughty me), but I just wanted to get an idea of some of the possibilities of different stitches (which I made up as I went along), making small alterations to each one until I had definite favourites (as well as some never-agains!).  I didn’t frog the swatch back at any point and I’m glad I didn’t, as it will be interesting to look back on it (perhaps some of the other motifs will make their way into another design?).

One swatch wasn’t enough though…. so…..

The stitch evolution continues...

The stitch evolution continues…
Swatch design and photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2014

By this point I’d got a much better idea of the stitches I wanted to combine, so this swatch refined those ideas (you can see that the flame shaped stitches didn’t make it into the final design).  Once I’d finished this swatch though, there was no time for sketching.  I already knew what the wrap was going to look like and I never intended to submit the design, so I just got out my yarn and got started!

Why the rush?  Well, my friend Jenny was getting married the next month and I needed a wrap to wear with my dress for her impending nuptials (I think this is what you call making an effort with your outfit).  The Sea Green Gleem Lace was a perfect match for the emerald green colour in the fabric of my dress, so the yarn decision was easy.  See what I mean?  Perfect!  (No point in trying to match the yellow-green shade in the print, that would only make me look sickly.)

Gleem Lace with my favourite dress

Gleem Lace with my favourite dress!

‘Do you have any pictures of the wrap with the dress?’ I hear you ask?  Erm… sorry, no, not any that I took (I was having too much fun), so this will have to do.

So, I should probably tell you more about the wrap now, right?

It begins at the centre with a provisional crochet cast on (fully explained in the pattern) and is then worked outwards in two identical halves, starting with a simple lace pattern reminiscent of leaves, which then transitions smoothly into a gently undulating pattern of petals (worked using the aforementioned Estonian stitches) and finishes with a delicate edging of blooms and a beaded picot cast off (you could leave the beads out, but it does add a pleasing weight to the ends of the wrap, helping it hang nicely).  The length of the wrap is easily altered and instructions are provided in the pattern for doing so.  This length is perfect both for wearing as a stole and for wrapping round your neck and wearing as a scarf.

Rockrose Wrap by Charlotte Walford

Copyright Fyberspates 2014

A few weeks after the wedding I took my wrap with me to the Pop Up Wool show and showed it to the lovely Jeni of Fyberspates.  She loved it and asked if she could borrow it as they were having a photoshoot for some new Fyberspates patterns the next week.  Obviously I said yes, so thank you Jeni, for letting me use your lovely photos!  It also gave me the necessary motivation to get on and get the pattern tested and tech edited ready for it’s release.

Rockrose Wrap by Charlotte Walford

Copyright Fyberspates 2014

Anyway, enough of my waffling about design stories.  (I hope you’ve found the process behind the design interesting.)

The Rockrose Wrap is available on Ravelry here, and until midnight GMT (clocks go back this weekend in the UK) Sunday 26th October you can get £1.00 GBP off the pattern!  Just add the pattern to your cart and enter the code GleemLace at the checkout and the discount will be applied (do not use the buy it now feature, or you will be taken straight to Paypal).

Wildflower The Lace Collection Sneak Peek

Wildflower: The Lace Collection Sneak Peek!
Photo and designs copyright Charlotte Walford 2014

Or you can buy the whole of the ‘Wildflower: The Lace Collection’ eBook here (making a saving on buying the patterns individually) and each pattern will be delivered to your Ravelry library on it’s release.  Eventually there will be at least six different designs available in the collection, which can be purchased individually or as an eBook.  You can find more details on what to expect from the collection here.

I really hope you like the design, self-publishing is fun, but nerve-wracking!

Thanks for reading 🙂

Lottie x

5KCBWDAY6 – A knitter’s story

Firstly, apologies.  I started writing this yesterday but it got a bit long winded (as posts often do when I don’t know what to write and go off on a tangent) so it’s up a little late.  It’s probably the most personal post I’ve ever written and perhaps will ever write. 

It’s the penultimate day of Knitting and Crochet Blog Week 2014 (wow, that went fast)!  Today’s task is to write about a knitter or crocheter that you admire.  But, because I’m contrary I’m going to bend the rules again, just a little bit.

You see, as I only started knitting properly when I was 20 and I taught myself, so not only have I spent much more of my life not knitting than knitting (although I find it impossible to imagine not being a knitter now), but I don’t really have anyone that I can say taught me anything in particular about knitting itself.  Books were my teachers!  So instead I’m going to write about people who inspired me to craft in general, because they are all special.

I suppose the first thing that made me fascinated with making things as a child was going to playgroup (pre-school) and messing about with paint.  We used to do string painting, where you put pieces of string in paint and sandwiched them in a folded piece of paper to make a pattern.  I had an easel at home too with a blackboard on one side and a place to hold paper on the other.  There are pictures of me in the back garden wearing one of my Dad’s old shirts and grinning while painting at said easel.  So it’s fair to say I enjoyed crafty things from a pretty young age.

My first memories of knitting are not of the process, but of the finished product.

My Mum used to knit (although by the time I learnt to knit she hadn’t knitted for some years) and when I was about three she knitted me a rabbit for Easter, which become my favourite cuddly toy.  It had it’s own dress and shoes and I can remember frequently pestering her for a set of clothes for it in another colour!  But I don’t remember seeing my Mum knitting as she tended to knit things for me in secret so it would be a surprise.  When I was in the Brownies (a part of the Girl Guides for girls from about 7 to 11 years old) she knitted me a Brownie from a Jean Greenhowe pattern which even included a tiny replica of the badge for my group within the brownies (a green pixie).  Despite all this, she will tell you that she is not creative!

My Grandma can knit too, but like my Mum, she doesn’t knit anymore.  She once told me that as a girl she used to knit gloves and found it so tedious that each finger she knitted would get progressively shorter, because she was so desperate to finish!  I suppose that when knitting is a necessity it loses some of it’s charm.

Friendship bracelet

My first experience of fibre related crafts, like many girls, was making friendship bracelets.  My friend Jenny used to make them using embroidery threads in bright colours and I wanted to make some too, so when I was about 10 years old I bought a little book (which I still have) with instructions for making several designs which came with a little kit with five differently coloured threads.  I can still make a simple one in about half an hour!

Later I also learnt macramé from a wonderful teacher at primary school called Miss Moores who taught an after school art class, something that I really enjoyed.

By the time I was 14 I’d learnt to make earrings as well as friendship bracelets and I used to sell them to the other girls at school.  I would save up my pocket money to buy beads and jewellery findings and then spend the money I made on more (perhaps not the best business model!).  I really enjoyed making things, both the process and the finished items.

Crafts took a back seat when I went to University (to do something serious and not at all creative) although I did still make jewellery occasionally.

Then, when I was home in the holidays during my second year I found an old knitting kit with dreadful instructions, which I had been given some years before.  I had tried to knit before from this kit as a child but had been defeated by it.  I found a knitting book of my Mum’s and after she’d helped me fix a few mistakes, I started knitting a tiny 10 stitch wide strip of garter stitch.  I remember thinking that 10 stitches was an awful lot and each row seemed to take forever (of course this seems utterly ridiculous now).

First piece of knitting

I took the kit back with me to Uni and kept knitting until all the yarn was used.  When I’d finished I had a pathetic, inch wide strip of knitting that was very loose at the cast on end and  extremely tight at the other (no wonder the rows seemed to take so long), with all the stitches knitted through the back of the loop.

A couple of months later I got Glandular Fever and became very poorly (partly because without a diagnosis I couldn’t give a proper reason for any absences, so being a committed swot I just tried to keep going).  By the time I had a diagnosis I had made myself much worse and I had no choice but to go home to recover.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, I wouldn’t end up going back to Uni.  By the time term was due to start I wasn’t even close to being well enough to go back and eventually when it became clear that my recovery would not be quick I had to give up my course.

A few months after I became ill one of our neighbours noticed some earrings my Mum was wearing, which I had made for her and suggested I might like to sell them at the local Country Market (formerly W.I. – Women’s Institute – Market) which met one morning every week.

With trepidation I went along and it was there that my interest in knitting was re-ignited.  Some of the ladies there were very experienced knitters and I was fascinated by the things they could make, some more traditional and some much more modern.  One week one of the ladies brought along a pair of purple elbow length fingerless mittens with ribbon lacing.  I thought these were amazing and resolved to buy them if they were left a closing time.

They weren’t.  So I decided I would have to learn to knit so I could make some myself (I never did make the gloves, but I did buy a pair from her later).  I got a book out of the library and started learning again (I had to start from scratch as I’d forgotten how to knit).  I made a few awful things from squeaky DK acrylic that I bought from the local hardware shop (!) and then I bought a book called The Knitter’s Bible by Claire Crompton and learnt everything in it.  It was a slow process as going to the market took a lot of my energy at the time.

Two and a half years after first becoming ill I still wasn’t well and was diagnosed with M.E./C.F.S. which is common after Glandular Fever.  But I was hooked on knitting and had started designing my own patterns because I couldn’t find any that I liked.

Three and a half years after becoming ill I finally felt well enough (although not better) to be able to get a job.  I applied for a job at Stash Fine Yarns and took all the things I’d designed with me to prove that I knew what I was talking about.  There I met Helen and Steve, who would become my bosses.  Helen had suffered very poor health herself and kindly agreed to give me a chance.  She was interested in the things I’d designed (including a dress that had won me first prize in a competition in Knitting Magazine, but was at the time, yet to be published) and six months in to my new job she put me in touch with Jenny at Artesano and started my design career, something that I never expected.

I’ve been at Stash nearly four and half years now, and I will always be indebted to them for giving me that chance.  Sadly Helen passed away earlier this year, but I will never forget her influence.  She was always much more ambitious for me than I was for myself and certainly made me try to aim for bigger and better things than I believed I was capable of.  I hope I did her proud.

It’s now almost exactly eight years since I became ill at the age of 19 and I still have to be careful with my health, but knitting has given me a second chance and I think I’m happier now than I would have been if my life had gone the way I originally planned.  I am by no means well, but I have come a long way and I am lucky and grateful that I am well enough and have been given the opportunity to do this.  There is huge variation in the severity of M.E./C.F.S. and many others are not so lucky.

I’d have to say that reactions to my knitting have been mixed.  Always positive from knitters themselves, but sometimes bemused ‘what on earth are you doing/making?’ or ridiculous.  Talking of the latter, I’ll end with on a lighter note with this:

When I was blocking out my Mae shawl I had this conversation with my Dad (who has never really understood my knitting or especially my designing):

Dad: ‘What is it?  Is it a skirt?’

Me: ‘No, it’s a shawl.  Why would I be knitting a skirt?’

Dad: ‘Well it’s just so…. big.’

Me: :/

I’ve enjoyed reading your posts from Saturday.  If you’ve stuck with this post to the end, thank you.

Lottie x

Denman

I’ve got another new design to tell you about today.  Honestly, you spend three months working on new designs, and then they all come out at once!

Anyway, onwards!

My latest design to be released is Denman, a shawl with an unusual construction in Artesano’s gorgeous new Linen Silk DK yarn.

Denman Shawl

Denman Shawl
(Photo copyright Artesano Ltd 2014, used with kind permission)

I wanted to design a shawl that was a little different from the others I’ve designed in the past, something more like a wrap which would stay on your shoulders easily and not slip off, with a stitch pattern that would show off variegated colourways but still be a bit different from the usual suspects (feather and fan, chevrons etc).

Denman stitch pattern detail

Denman stitch pattern detail
(Copyright Charlotte Walford 2014)

I’ve been fascinated by Estonian style increases (where between three and nine – or sometimes more – stitches are made from just one stitch) for some time now, ever since I designed Cleome using them.

I’d been experimenting with other ways of using them in my own original stitch patterns, so after some quite substantial swatching and a lot of frogging, I came up with a stitch resembling falling petals.  I realised that I could use the same increases to work a circular shape.  What would happen if this became the central section of a wrap…. with two sides radiating from it at an angle, like this?  That would help it to stay securely on your shoulders!

Denman Shawl Sketch

Denman Shawl Sketch
(Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

Of course, in order to test out this theory I had to knit one of the largest swatches I’ve ever knitted!  It probably would have been even larger, but I ran out of yarn (this was the yarn I had left over from Tatyana – about 70g or so of Manos Silk Blend if I recall correctly).  You will have to excuse the fact that it looks like a massive boiled sweet wrapper!  Because of the way the pattern works, the circular section of this swatch had to be as big as that section in the real life shawl, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to test out the pattern on each side of the shawl at the same time.

Denman Shawl swatch

Denman Shawl swatch
(Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

Despite this idea being a bit mad and off the wall, Jenny at Artesano was able to see past the big sweet wrapper swatch to the sketch and commissioned my design!  I was pretty chuffed, as I love working with Artesano and I also love doing more unusual designs – working it out is fun, but the sense of achievement when you realise that your mad idea actually works is even better ;).

I was pretty excited when the yarn arrived.  You never know which colour you are going to get for your design until it arrives, but I was absolutely delighted with the beautiful colour that I ended up with, #EX52/Paradise, a beautiful mix of blue, turquoise, pink and purple.  It was perfect, both for the shawl and for me, as those are my favourite colours!

Denman close-up

Denman close-up (Photo copyright Artesano Ltd 2014, used with kind permission)

The yarn (a DK weight mix of 40% Wool, 35% Silk and 25% Linen) was beautiful to knit with and I loved the way the linen added depth to the colours.  Also the skeins were incredibly evenly matched even though they were hand dyed, which is very impressive (although I still decided to work the yarn in stripes from two skeins at a time in order to guard against pooling – I don’t think it would have been a particular problem, but when you’re working a large item to a deadline the last thing you want to have to do is frog your work, so I didn’t want to take any chances).

After a few weeks work it was done!  The wrap is quite large (though it looks even longer on me – I’m only 5’3″) which allows it to be worn with the circular section either at the front or the back, but it would be easy to make it a little shorter if you prefer.  If I remember correctly one skein will knit 5-6 pattern repeats.  I have to admit it was very cosy and I was rather reluctant to let it go!  I might have to avail myself of some more of this yarn.  Here I am looking tired after many late nights knitting, but chuffed (standing by the back fence trying not to look cold):

Finished!

Finished!
(Copyright Charlotte Walford 2014)

You can see more pictures of the finished wrap than I could possibly include here on my Ravelry project page.

I’m delighted with the beautiful pictures Artesano have taken of this for the pattern photography.  The colours are very true to life and almost glow, just as they do in the flesh.  Thanks Jenny and the team!

Lottie x

Siskin

I’ve got another design to tell you about today, but first I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who followed, commented, liked or tweeted about my last-post-but-one, Barmouth.  I was really overwhelmed by your heartwarming responses and I never expected such a big reaction, thank you!

Now I suppose I should tell you about that design, Siskin:

Siskin

Siskin, photographed at Gorton Monastery
(Copyright Dan Walmsley for Practical Publishing 2014, used with kind permission)

Siskin is published in the latest issue of Knit Now Magazine (out today!) as part of a collection inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement (you can see the rest of the collection and the mood board that inspired it on Pinterest here).

My original inspiration for Siskin was the work of William Morris.  I really love the use of flora and fauna in his patterns, such as the famous ‘Strawberry Thief’ print and I wanted to create my own original colour work pattern, using some of the key elements and characteristics of designs from the Arts and Crafts movement.

The more you study various Arts and Crafts style repeating patterns and prints for wallpaper, fabrics, tiles etc, the more you begin to notice recurring themes, such as the use of motifs from the natural world (birds and flowering plants especially), mirroring and hourglass shapes.

After absorbing all these different inspirations and leaving them to ‘brew’ for a bit in my head, I got to work with Stitch Mastery, charting out a repeating pattern through trial and error.  I really enjoy this stage of designing stranded colour work patterns, when you’re really inspired by something it just flows and is very satisfying, just like the endless drawing I used to do as a child.

Eventually, after faffing about with various subtly different ways of representing birds, I came up with a design I was happy with. Then, on to swatching:

Siskin swatch

Siskin swatch
(Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

This swatch was knitted in Fyberspates Vivacious 4ply in Tweed Imps (for the background) and Fyberspates Scrumptious 4ply in Oyster (for the birds pattern).  I wanted to use a subtly variegated yarn for the background to allow me to use all the rich colours popular in Arts and Crafts designs, without introducing too many different yarns and give the pattern depth.

But what to do with the colour work pattern?  My original idea had been to use it for a small crescent-shaped shawl, but that would be a bit of a faff working to a tight deadline, so I settled on a tablet/e-Reader cosy, just the right size for a Kindle or iPad Mini.

Arts and Crafts tablet case sketch

Arts and Crafts sketch
(Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

Of course it didn’t end up as a tablet case did it?  Kate from Knit now emailed me to tell me that she would like my design to be in the magazine, but that they had rather a lot of tablet cosy designs…. could I make it into a hat perhaps?

I panicked for a weekend while I worked out what to do.

The pattern repeat was big, I knew the shaping would probably end up interrupting the pattern messily and that grading it for three adult sizes would be impossible.  But I really wanted to accept the commission, because I was excited about the design.  What to do?

Being a glutton for punishment and not good at saying no to offers of work I decided to offer a couple of alternatives.  A cushion, or a little crescent shawl (my original, rather ambitious plan) perhaps?  Kate replied that either would be fine so I could choose.  So I chose the crescent shawl, because I really wanted to make it!

In due course, the yarn was chosen and sent out to me, (Manos Del Uruguay Silk Blend Fino in Lava #6921 for the background and Topaz #2220 for the birds pattern) and I got to work.  I had a panic about the amount of work I had to do in the time available (with Christmas slap bang in the middle) and got started! After a lot of late nights and only Christmas Day off from the long rows of fairisle, I finished knitting the shawl!  Yay!

Siskin finished!

Siskin finished!
(Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

…..it’s just as neat on the back too (I always stranded the background colour above the birds pattern colour – this makes the stitches for the birds pattern very slightly longer and gives it more impact – doing this consistently throughout the whole piece keeps the knitting neat on the right and wrong sides of the work) making the wrong side look almost like a tapestry.

Wrong side vs right side

Wrong side vs right side
(Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

So, all the hard work was worth it in the end, just look at the gorgeous photos taken on the photo shoot that Kate arranged at Gorton Monastery:

Siskin

Siskin, photographed at Gorton Monastery
(Copyright Dan Walmsley for Practical Publishing 2014, used with kind permission)

Hope you like it!

Lottie x

Barmouth

I’ve got a new design to tell you about today, Barmouth, in the latest issue of Let’s Knit Magazine (Issue 79, May 2014):

Barmouth Headband

Barmouth Headband
Copyright Let’s Knit 2014
Used with kind permission

The inspiration for this design is very personal to me.  As a child I spend many happy summer holidays on the beach at the Welsh seaside town of Barmouth with my parents, brother and grandparents. When Sarah from Let’s knit sent me a ball of Rowan Silkystones with a request to design a headband for one of their spring/summer issues, I wasn’t really sure what I would do exactly before I saw the yarn…. Rowan SilkystonesBut once I’d taken it out of the envelope I knew straight away that it would be connected to this place:

Barmouth (about 1995-96 ish)

Barmouth (about 1995-96 ish)

The colours took me back there straight away.  The grass on the headland, the ripples of the sand on the beach, the hours my brother and I spent making sandcastles, and with the help of my Mum and my late Grandpa, digging elaborate moats around them that went right down to the sea, so that they’d fill up with seawater.

Boats in Barmouth harbour (1995 - 1996 ish)

Boats in Barmouth harbour (1995 – 1996 ish)

As it was Wales, the weather could be extremely variable.  As you can see, this was not one of the very best days, but not too bad (it’s not raining!), or too hot (one year – maybe 1995 – it was scorching, we had a plague of ladybirds – yes really – and it was so hot we couldn’t go down to the beach until 5pm).

Barmouth Bridge (1995-1996) - the bridge is for the Cambrian Coast Railway line

Barmouth Bridge (1995-1996) – the bridge is for the Cambrian Coast Railway line

These photos were taken by me on one of those holidays during a walk on the headland with my family.  Though I can’t remember when exactly, I’m fairly sure that it was around 1995 – 96, so I would have been about 9 or 10 years old.  Please excuse the quality, this was the days of film cameras after all, with 24 or 36 exposures…. eeh, kids today, they don’t know they’re born!

It’s the time on the beach that I remember most of all (including having such a good time that I had to be persuaded for around an hour that it was time to leave).  My memories of that are all tied in with memories of my wonderful Grandpa, who encouraged me to be adventurous, swim further out (but never too far) and was always eager to join in our silly games, even if it meant being buried in the sand!  Anyway, back to the design, before I wallow in mid-nineties nostalgia any more…..

Barmouth headband

Barmouth headband
Copyright Charlotte Walford 2014

Welsh beaches are very windy, so a headband would be the perfect accessory to a walk along the shoreline or a day at the beach!  With this in mind and thoughts of the ripples in the sand, I began to work out some cable and lace ripple patterns that would go together well but still make a sturdy enough fabric to keep your hair in check.

Barmouth Headband

Barmouth Headband
Copyright Charlotte Walford 2014

Starting with an i-cord tie, you increase into rib, which flows into the rippling cable and lace patterns, then back into rib, ready to decrease for the i-cord tie at the other end.

You can easily adjust the size of the headband by working fewer cable and lace pattern repeats before decreasing, if you wanted to make a child’s headband for example. Rowan Silkystones (a mix of silk and linen with a really beautiful sheen and soft handle) is a lovely yarn to work with, but if you wanted something easier to care for Rowan Handknit Cotton knits to the same tension and would make a great substitute if you wanted to make a headband for a child, and there are lots of bright colours to choose from too.

Because I’m feeling brave, here’s a photo of me, in Barmouth, wearing a headband, aged about 9 or 10 (I was always very small for my age):

Me in Barmouth, about 9 or 10 years old

Me in Barmouth, about 9 or 10 years old

My Grandpa was long gone by the time I learnt to knit, so he never saw any of my designs, but Grandpa, this one is for you.

Lottie x

On the value of craft

If you frequent various social media outlets on a regular basis you probably will have seen this article from The Observer causing a bit of a stir amongst the online knitting community.

If you can’t be bothered to read the whole article (and I don’t blame you – it’s almost guaranteed to raise your hackles) here’s a quick summary of the main points:

  • Knitting used to be a necessity.  Now it isn’t.

Fair enough, knitting used to be cheaper than buying ready made clothes, so being able to knit and sew was an important skill.  Now high street bought clothes are cheaper to buy than knitting or sewing your own, so you don’t have to.

  • Once knitting wasn’t a necessity it was an activity only practised by grannies.  To quote the article, knitting is:

old-fashioned and something you did if you were a little frail and didn’t get out much

Oh good, a well worn stereotype.  Knitting is just for grannies!  Are you feeling cross yet?  Well brace yourself, we’re not finished!

  • Knitting has been revived thanks in part to celebrities who knit, such as Kate Moss and the Duchess of Cambridge.

Of course, we’re all shallow little girls who want to do whatever Princesses and models do!  I started knitting nearly eight years ago, not because of celebrities or anything like that, but because when I was a child I’d had a knitting kit with appalling instructions and it had always beaten me.  I was quite poorly at the time (and no longer a child) and in some ways life had beaten me, through no fault of my own.  So I thought maybe I can conquer this!  Then I will have done something worthwhile!  With the help of books (not the internet) I taught myself.  At the time I had no idea that knitting would help me rebuild my life like it has done, but I got addicted and it just went from there.  (The rest is another story for another time.)

I’d also like to point out that knitting has been in a revival for the past decade, not just the past week, and perhaps this is more likely to be down to the internet and social media (Ravelry and it’s 4 million members anyone?) which has improved access to patterns, yarns and information and made solving your knitting problems easier than ever before (YouTube is a godsend if you’re stuck with a technique).

Perhaps handknits coming back into fashion also plays a role.  Knitting patterns are so much more fashion led now than ever before and all yarn companies and magazines study fashion trends in both garment styles and yarn colours and textures when launching their new ranges.

But of course knitting is basically a waste of time because to quote the article again:

Needlecraft, it seems, is just not relevant to the reality of modern women’s lives.

If that wasn’t enough, the article goes on to even more bizarre territory:

  •  Needlecraft is mentioned in Greek mythology, but according to myths, legends and fairytales, spinners are power crazed and evil.

What?  How is this relevant?

  • Knitting is empowering and Ghandi knitted, spun and wove.

Is this included for balance after the evil fairytale spinners?

  • Knitting is subversive

This statement is not qualified.

So to sum up, according to this article, knitting isn’t something anyone needs to do, it’s old fashioned and mainly practised by grannies, if you’re not a granny, you must be knitting because celebrities knit, because knitting is irrelevant, the stuff of myth, legend and fairy stories but subversive all at the same time.  You know the worst thing?  This article was supposedly written by a knitter.

Personally I think these attitudes and poorly written articles are all part of wider perception that crafts in general are unimportant, outdated, a waste of time, or produce silly and badly made things that nobody wants.

But why are crafts not valued?  I don’t think I have a definitive answer to that.

But I do have a few thoughts on what might contribute to this view.

Maybe we have to look to the experience of crafts that non-crafters have.  When do all of us make things?  At school, I suppose, and being inexperienced in making, often the products of school crafting are not as well executed as they might be.  But you’re just learning so that’s fine and only to be expected.

We all have to start somewhere and which of us can honestly say that our first attempts at knitting were perfect?  Certainly not me!  My first piece of knitting had very loose stitches at the start and very tight stitches at the end and all the stitches were knitted through the back of the loop!

I present exhibit A, my first ever piece of knitting:

20140416-205825.jpg

The only way to become proficient at something is practice.  There is no shortcut to skill and if you only try a particular craft once you never have the opportunity to improve and improving your skills is very rewarding.

Now for exhibit B: Look what I can design and make now!

Avocetta Capelet

Avocetta (Photograph Copyright Dam Walmsley for Practical Publishing 2013)

 

The other common experience of knitting in particular is the unwanted Christmas jumper, knitted by the well meaning elderly relative who didn’t realise that you wouldn’t like it.  I can’t say that this was something I experienced myself, but lazy journalism does tend to refer to this quite often when mentioning knitting so I suppose we have to assume that it is one of the things that springs to mind when knitting is mentioned (think Bridget Jones’ Diary).  See my guide to gift knitting to avoid disappointment and the unwanted Christmas knit!

If these are the only things someone associates with craft, is it any wonder that it is undervalued?  If you’ve never spent the hours, days, weeks or even sometimes months it takes to make a sweater (hideously Christmassy or otherwise), or spent even longer getting good enough to attempt that sweater in the first place, you won’t be able to see why paying £20 at a craft fair for an adult sweater is pitifully inadequate.  (Of course this leads into the free pattern debate, but I don’t want to open that particular can of worms right now.)

But is the attitude to crafts improving?  Certainly in some areas of the media I think.  The Great British Sewing Bee, for example presents sewing as a worthwhile activity that takes time, patience and skill, but rather than present the competition in an X-Factor style, the BBC has chosen to focus on the enjoyment and camaraderie of the craft, the joy of learning new skills and improving.  All the sewers gain from the experience, which is wonderful.  I’d love the media to view more crafts in this way.

Phew!  What a long post!  I’d love to hear your thoughts, whether you’re a crafter or not.  I’m sure there’s more I could say on the subject and I certainly can’t claim to have covered everything, but I hope I’ve been able to set the record straight a little.

For more insight and opinions on the Observer article, check out the hashtag #ANDknitting on twitter set up in response to the article and the assertion that knitters have too much time on their hands.  There are some really well thought out blog posts to be found and much better written than the original piece, especially this and this.

Next time I’ll have a new design to show you 🙂 along with the story behind it!

Lottie x

 

Tian – A rather unusual design story!

Yesterday, I showed you my latest design, Tian, a pair of fairisle mittens that (to my great excitement, as this is a first for me) made the front cover of Let’s Knit! magazine:

Let's Knit Issue 76 February 2014

Copyright Let’s Knit! 2014

At the end of the post I mentioned that Marvin might be involved in the rather daft design story behind these mittens.  Perplexed?  Well, prepare to be less perplexed (and quite possibly think I’m completely mad).

Marvin, for those of you who might be new to this blog, is a rather dapper little meerkat:

Marvin the Meerkat!

Meet Marvin the Meerkat!
(Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

I made him about a year ago, after my brother bought me a particularly amusing knitting book for Christmas called ‘Knitted Meerkats’ by Sue Stratford (if you click that link and look at the projects on Ravelry you’ll see that Marvin has many little knitted cousins around the world).  Anyway, meerkats are desert creatures, used to warmer climes than chilly, wet and generally dismal Britain in winter, so Marvin was clearly going to need something to wear.

The book has a section of different meerkats that you can make, each with it’s own outfit, some of with are separate and some sewn on.  One of these is the skiing meerkat who wears a sweater and bobble hat along with his knitted skis.  In the book, the sweater is a fairly simple affair, striped with a small band of fairisle dots in white mohair yarn against a pale blue background, but I had a different picture in my head of the sweater I wanted to make.  To be a true skier, Marvin needed a proper, Nordic style fairisle sweater:

Marvin's Nordic sweater

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

I wanted to put a snowflake on the front, but the area to play with was too small, so I charted out the size of the original sweater and fiddled about with the stitches until I had something I liked.  I had to alter the shape of the sweater quite a lot to make it fit, as the stranded pattern changed the tension compared to the original.

It’s so cosy, Marvin even went out in the snow last March:

Marvin's Nordic sweater

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

After I’d finished the sweater, my Mum mentioned that she liked the motif, and did I think it would work as an all over pattern?  Never one to refuse a challenge, I started charting, and after a few alterations I knitted a swatch:

Tian Swatch

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

Once I’d knitted this, especially after adding the folded picot hem at the top and the corrugated ribbing at the bottom edge, it was clear to me that the swatch wanted to be mittens.  So it was time to sketch:

Tian Mittens Swatch

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

I sent it off to Sarah at Let’s Knit and she liked it!  Before I knew it my first choice of yarn (and a personal favourite), Manos Del Uruguay Fino (70% wool, 30% silk) in #2440 Lapis and #2800 Cream had arrived, so last summer I got started and knitted them up!

Tian Mittens

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

The pattern goes right the way round the mittens, even on the palms, and the thumbs have their own smaller complementary pattern (I love the thumbs on these!):

Tian Mittens

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

(You can tell this was in August from the flowers in the background!)  Then, yesterday, the best bit, seeing them in print:

Tian Mitts

Copyright Let’s Knit! 2014

…. and on the front cover of the magazine, something I certainly never dreamed of when I set out to make Marvin the meerkat a silly, overcomplicated fairisle sweater and wrote this:

Marvin has a sweater, but as I decided to make up a fairisle pattern for it, as the sweater in the book was too simple (i.e. perfectly adequate for anyone without a burning and unnecesary desire for fairisle) – and Marvin deserves only the best ;)

Basically I made a small stuffed meerkat an overcomplicated fairisle sweater (sanity anyone?), which turned into an idea for an overall repeating pattern (which I am swatching), I can’t show it to you, because it might become a design.  *sigh*

Yay!

Let's Knit! Issue 76 cover

Copyright Let’s Knit! 2014

Yes, I am still doing a happy dance.

No you can’t see.

It’s not very dignified.

Happy Knitting lovely blog followers!

Lottie xx

(P.S. Is it wrong for me to be just a little bit chuffed at being in the same magazine as Pauline McLynn, who played Mrs Doyle in Father Ted?  She knits too!)

First front cover!

Exciting news!

I’ve got a design on the front cover of a magazine! Look, these are my blue and white fairisle mittens!

20140116-223341.jpg

This is the latest issue of Let’s Knit! Magazine (Issue 76) out tomorrow (I can’t wait to go and get a copy!) and there is a rather interesting (if slightly daft) design story behind them, but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for that! The mittens are called Tian and you can see them on Ravelry here. I can’t believe my mittens are the cover picture, I’ve had small pictures of my designs on magazine covers before, which is always pretty exciting, but never as the main picture and I love the photos (more pics tomorrow). If I had more energy this evening I’d be bouncing off the walls!

Sorry for the lack of posts recently, I am still here, I’ve not dropped off the face of the earth, just been really, really busy (up until half two in the morning knitting big fairisle sample/lace and cable sample/trying to get a pattern tested/doing tax return kind of busy). And by the weekend I will be again! Don’t get me wrong, busy is good, but busy is also tiring and lacking in social contact (both in person and online) and it makes you feel guilty for not working (even on Christmas Day – I am my own worst boss), so I’m sorry I’ve been off the radar for over a month!

I hope you all had a good holiday season and I’m looking forward to catching up on all your blogs!

More tomorrow (Marvin my be involved in the daft design story – if you can guess how, you can have a little prize from my stash 😉 )!

Lottie xx