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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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

5KCBWDAY2 – It’s all about Marvin!

Well, it’s the second day of Knitting and Crochet Blog Week 2014 and today’s post topic is a ‘Dating Profile’ for a project you’ve made.  Again, this topic takes me out of my comfort zone, but it does provide me with an opportunity to re-introduce my blog’s unofficial mascot……

Marvin!

Marvin!

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

Dapper Meerkat, 16 months, GSOH, would like to meet similar…….

Hello, my name’s Marvin and I’m a 16 month old meerkat and Knitwear Design Advice Guru.  I was knitted at my owner’s home in the UK and I spend my days providing her with invaluable inspiration and advice on her designs (when she’s not abandoned me to work at a yarn shop).

I’m 5″ tall, medium build, cute and fluffy with a glint in my eye 😉 (it must be the little glass beads)!

I’m interested in meerkat fashion, especially knitwear and I’m working on getting my knitter to expand my wardrobe.  It’s the least she could do after I helped her to get a design on the front cover of Let’s Knit magazine, but no such luck yet.  That design started life as a motif on my Nordic style jumper – a bespoke design just for me!

I also like Doctor Who.  In the words of the Doctor himself:

‘It’s a fez.  I wear a fez now, fezzes are cool!’ 

I also have a bow tie.  I’m quite the style icon in the meerkat world.  I just need a sonic screwdriver, a TARDIS and an adventurous assistant!

It's a fez, I wear a fez now, fezzes are cool!

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

As for my dislikes, well, I don’t like being mistaken for an insurance salesman*, or being compared to other meerkats online.  I also hate the cold, but that’s what my jumper is for!  With that on to keep me cosy I can even stay out long enough to built a snow meerkat!

Marvin in the snow

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

In the long term I would like to meet other small meerkats and be given more responsibility in my role as Knitwear Design Advice Guru.  Perhaps I could become a knitwear model or international trend setter?  Anything but selling insurance!

*In the UK, meerkats have become popular due to a character in a well known insurance comparison website advert, a campaign based entirely on the idea that ‘compare the market’ sounds a bit like ‘compare the meerkat’.  Though Marvin is understandably grumpy about this, he should probably accept that without the rise in popularity of meerkats due to this the pattern for him would never have been published, I would never have been given a copy of the book containing it for Christmas and he would never have existed.

Back tomorrow with another post!  Looking forward to reading yours 🙂

Lottie x

5KCBWDAY1 – A Day in the Life of…. erm…?

So it’s the first day of Knitting and Crochet Blog Week 2014!  Want to take part yourself?  You can find all the details here on Eskimimi Makes, there’s a post on the daily topics here and a post on the tags you need to use in your posts here if you’re interested in joining in.

Last year it was a lot of fun and I certainly learnt a lot, even if I deviated from the post topics a little bit and put my own spin on them!  I never was very good at following the crowd.  You can read last year’s posts here.

2014-Annual-Knitting-Crochet-Blog-Week-on-Eskimimi-Makes

Today’s topic is ‘A Day In The Life’ of a project you’ve made or are in the process of making.

I’ve just briefly scanned through my posts from last year (having had to find them in order to give you that link) and I realised that I had been pretty honest in those posts.  Not that I ever lie in my posts you understand.  Perhaps candid is a better word.  It’s just that often life is messy, dull or even bleak and:

a) I think you probably don’t really want to read about those days and mostly I want to just put it behind me rather than write about it.

b) Even if you do want to read about that, I don’t really want to write about it on the internet – and as this is my blog, I’m the boss 😉 – sometimes the internet encourages you to overshare and I want to avoid that.

So in the spirit of honesty and being candid I need to come clean about today’s topic.

You should probably know that my immediate reaction to this topic was a silent, internal ‘arrrrgh!’ that only I could hear.

Also, I’ve spent a considerable amount of time staring at a blank screen or reading everyone else’s blog posts for the day, hoping for inspiration to hit me.  It hasn’t.  Or it sort of has, but I can’t decide if it is tolerable, dreadful, or quite good.  I hope it’s the latter, but I don’t know if I’m brave enough to post it and find out.  Indecisive as usual (a recurring theme in my posts from last year).

I could write a day in the life of a project I wear frequently (most likely a shawl – maybe this one that I finished recently)….

Follow Your Arrow Shawl

Follow Your Arrow Shawl (Designed by Ysolda Teague)
Picture Copyright Charlotte Walford 2014

But it would probably be a bit like this:

The wardrobe door is flung open and I’m pulled unceremoniously from my comfy resting place on top of a pile of knits on the top shelf.  Lottie has to remove me in this way as she can only reach me on the high shelf by standing on her tip-toes with her arms at full stretch (she’s only 5’3″), so I’ve got used to it.  Lottie doesn’t always plan what she’s going to wear until she opens the wardrobe so I never know if it will be my day or not. 

Quickly flung around her neck, a brief glance in the mirror on the inside of the wardrobe door confirms I’m not going to slip off.  I’m rudely shaken about as she leans heavily on the uncooperative wardrobe door in an attempt to close it.  More often than not it pings open again after she’s turned the key and we repeat the process (If she doesn’t turn the key exactly the right amount clockwise we’re snookered).  I know that this is because she’s got too much yarn in there, but I’ve not plucked up the courage to tell her yet.  Then I experience the exhilaration of having to hold on tight as she rushes down the stairs and out of the house.

Once at work (at Stash Fine Yarns) I get blown about in the breeze as she takes the shop sign outside, ready to tell all the other knitters that the shop is open.  I try my best to stay securely wrapped around her neck while she picks orders, answers the phone and helps customers, but sometimes I lose my grip, or I get cast aside on warmer days.  Sometimes I get used as an impromptu hair covering in the rain because she hates it when her hair goes frizzy in the rain (having straightened it out of it’s natural curly state).  I don’t like this part.  At.  All. 

But I’m not just a shawl, I’m a badge of honour, helping Lottie (who doesn’t really look like a stereotypical knitter) to prove that she knows what she’s talking about and that she is a knitter too, just like the customers.  Sometime I even get compliments from them!  If I had a blood supply I would blush.  I’m a comforting presence, a piece of armour against the world, part of the unofficial uniform of ‘clothes for work’ that helps her to feel professional and more confident (she’s quite shy really).  

Sometimes at the end of the working day I’ll have the opportunity to internally roll my eyes (if I had any – mind you, I’m a lacy shawl, so maybe I could roll my eyelets?) when Lottie buys yet another ball of yarn, knitting book or pair of her favourite Addi Premium circular needles (why she needs another pair I don’t know, as she must have plenty already, but I suppose they’re probably holding another WIP, perhaps one that will join me on the wardrobe shelf in a few weeks?).   

Then it’s back home and into the wardrobe until the next time.  Just as soon as she’s got that door closed ;).  

Wouldn’t that be a bit… dull?

Ah.

I seem to have written a blog post by accident.

Whoops!

See you tomorrow for the next post 🙂

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

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!)

Echo Mitts

Exciting news!  I have a pattern in the latest issue of Let’s Knit, out today (Friday 15th November)!

Echo Mitts

Copyright Let’s Knit Magazine 2013 (used with kind permission)

These are my Echo mitts knitted in Manos Del Uruguay Fino (my favourite, I’ve used it so many times and I really love knitting with it) and Rowan Kidsilk Haze (another yarn I keep coming back to).

Like many good ideas, these mitts came from another idea that didn’t work as well as I’d hoped.  I’d had the Manos Fino left over from Cleome and I’d bought one ball of Kidsilk Haze with the intention of combining it with another yarn.

I had intended to swatch for some ruched mittens and picked these yarns out simply because they happened to be near to each other in a rather disorganised section of my stash and I noticed how well they co-ordinated with each other (unusual for two yarns from different manufacturers, as each brand tends to have it’s own colour palette – Debbie Bliss yarns for example often include a duck egg blue in their colour range and Rowan tend to have fewer very bright colours than other brands, Louisa Harding yarns also tend to have a very distinctive palette which crops up across her whole range).

The ruched idea didn’t really work and just looked a mess, but I liked the contrast between the textures of the yarns, so I undid the swatch and started again, working broad stripes (without ruching this time) and a pretty lacy scalloped edging.

Then I added a garter stitch edge on one side and some buttons:

Echo Mitts swatch

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

… and a cosy lined hem:

Echo Mitts swatch

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

I didn’t really plan the design before swatching, instead just going with whichever design elements I liked best.  Sometimes I think this is when you design best, when the ideas just flow on to your needles without thinking too hard or overanalysing what works and what doesn’t.  Sometimes you just know if you’re happy with it or not.

Then it was time for a sketch:

Echo Mitts sketch

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

Once they had been commissioned all that was left was to knit them up (while watching Father Ted on 4od, which kept me sane as I didn’t have very long to make them – but then it’s easy to look sane compared to most of the characters) and write up the pattern – not much if you say it quickly!

It’s been a little while since I made these, but it’s really nice to see them professionally photographed 🙂 I can’t wait to get the sample back, so I can wear them.  They’re really comfy to wear, incredibly light but really warm because the mohair in the Kidsilk Haze traps the heat despite it’s sheer appearance.

Echo Mitts

Copyright Let’s Knit 2013 (used with kind permission)

If you fancy making a pair they don’t take very much yarn, I used less than half a skein of each, so you could easily make two pairs from a skein of each yarn, or use left overs of plain 4ply yarn and laceweight in either coordinating or contrasting colours.  They’d look great in black and white – or how about using Rowan Kidsilk Haze Eclipse or Debbie Bliss Party Angel (both of which have a bit of sparkle) instead of Rowan Kidsilk Haze for a more glamourous look?

Alternatively, if you wanted you could use two 4ply yarns and use up your stash!  I made the sample in a week, so you’ve got plenty of time to make some for Christmas gifts if you’re feeling generous 🙂

Hope you like them!

Lottie x

A few of my favourite things…

….. raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favourite things!

Well not really…. apart from the warm woollen mittens of course!  I love mittens 🙂 but I prefer parcels of yarn to be packed in something a little studier than brown paper and string!

However, I do have a few favourite things when designing.  Some, like these bird books are things I have been fond of since childhood.  I have always loved watching the birds in our garden.  Not just the fancy ones, but the everyday birds as well.   They all have their different personalities!

Woodpigeons seem dopey and inept at anything except eating and chasing a potential mate.  They will pick up one twig at a time when nest building, having carefully selected it, then put it down in what looks like a moment of doubt, before picking up another, almost identical twig.  This goes on and on in a cycle to the point where you are amazed that they can actually build a nest at all!

Blackbirds are aggressive and very territorial, but this is offset by a rather comical ‘livid hop’ as I call it, towards their bitter rival.  Sparrows are playful, hopping in and out of puddles and chirping excitedly, and Magpies are furtive, and wait until you’re not looking to snatch those scraps of leftover food from the garden.

Bird Books

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

Not only are the birds themselves inspiring, but their Latin names can make especially good pattern names 😉

I also have sketchbooks and notebooks aplenty, which are always to hand if I have an idea worth preserving in the middle of the night (this is not unusual)!  This one is huge and handily spiral bound with sections of plain, lined and graph paper which is especially handy if I think of a charted lace or colourwork pattern that I want to jot down.  I also has a handy pocket at the back which is useful for any inspiring cuttings and pictures (if you look carefully you might notice that this is stuffed with such things).  If this sounds good to you, Paperchase do these every season in different cover designs (although there is usually only one to choose from at any time) so get yourself down there!

Sketch book

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

This one was bought for me for Christmas a couple of years ago by my colleague Anne along with a perfectly proportioned propelling pencil (try saying that quickly), and though much smaller than the other book, it has all the same features, plus several little clear pockets throughout, which are perfect for keeping errant yarn labels next to the pattern I’m drafting so all the yardage and content information is close at hand!

Little sketch book

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

It’s also the perfect size to slip in your bag or take on holiday, so now I never have to be without my sketchbook.  I love the pattern on the cover, which makes me think of Japanese Amigurumi toys!  Weirdly, the colours and pastel rainbows also remind me of (80’s/90’s throwback alert) Care Bears (although if you have no idea of what Care Bears are, I suggest you avoid clicking that link and remember that sometimes, ignorance is bliss).

What do you like to keep handy when you’re knitting?

Lottie x

The predictable kind of souvenirs (if you’re a knitter)!

Well you didn’t think I’d come back from my holiday in Slovenia without something knitting related did you? 😉

As Sarah from woodlandknitter said: ‘What, no yarn?’

She knows me too well!

In fact, on our journey from the airport to the hotel we spotted a yarn shop which was still open even though it was late on a Saturday evening – cue many jokes about desperate knitters nipping out to get their late night fix of yarn! To non – knitters this might seem funny, but personally I don’t think it takes much of a leap in imagination for this to be plausible. I mean, how often have you thought at about 11pm at night ‘Oh, I’ve just had the best idea of what to knit with this yarn!’ or ‘Wow, this pattern on Ravelry is amazing! I wonder if I’ve got anything in my stash for that? and before you know it, it’s midnight and you’re buried under a pile of yarn.  

Or is that just me?  *blushes*

Obviously I could not leave this little gem unexplored, so a few days later I went to investigate. Despite being tiny and also stocking sewing, embroidery and dressmaking supplies there was a surprisingly large selection of yarns, thanks to a quite ingenious three layered set of shelves full of yarn, where you could slide the front and middle layers away (rather like a yarn filled sliding door) to reveal yet more yarn in the layer behind (I want one 😉 ).

I did try my best to resist temptation, but there’s only so long a girl can withstand the intense gravitational pull of nice yarn (this is obviously an under researched scientific phenomenon) and eventually I gave in to it (but I was quite restrained – yes really).

I restricted myself to just three balls (told you I was good ;)), two balls of this lovely soft merino 4ply:

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….. and one ball of this interesting lace weight which shades from pink through to blue and emerald green:

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You have to look down the middle of the ball to see all the colours properly (a good tip if you’re choosing self striping yarns and want to know how the colours will turn out but can’t look at the yarn knitted up) but aren’t they pretty?

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I can’t wait to choose a project to use these on that will remind me of my trip 🙂 every time I wear it.

Do you like to bring yarn back from holiday? Have you ever found a lovely yarn shop in an unexpected place?

Lottie x

The best kind of souvenirs

I’ve recently got back from a lovely holiday in a beautiful country I’ve not visited before, Slovenia.

As usual with holidays, there is a temptation to bring back all sorts of themed tat, just because you want a souvenir of your trip, but as anyone who has bought a key ring/giant pencil/eraser/pencil sharpener/novelty hat etc can tell you, once you return home you wonder why you bought something as classy as a kiss-me-quick hat from Blackpool and where on earth you’ll put that straw donkey!

But I still like to bring something home as a reminder of my trip, so I try to look for something that I like on it’s own merits, not just because it was the least worst item in the gift shop. I have a silver pendant that I bought in Italy which I wear almost every day, and although I’m fairly sure that I could have bought something similar elsewhere, I bought it because I liked it and every time I wear it it reminds me of my trip. Sometimes this approach means that there isn’t really anything that I want, but this time I found some really beautiful local crafts that I just had to share with you.

We stayed in Bled, a town on the edge of the lake of the same name, surrounded by the Julian Alps. On our first day in Bled, I spotted a few covered stalls in a little tree covered space near the lake. Taking a closer look, I discovered it was a craft fair which took place every weekend. There were lots of beautiful crafts on display, all sold by those who had made them and I spent quite a while looking at each stall, trying to decide what I could fit in my suitcase!

Eventually I settled for two rather different pendants:

Wooden and glass pendants from Slovenia

The top one in the picture is hand carved from plum wood and has the most incredible coppery colour when it catches the light because it is sanded so smooth that it almost gleams!

The second pendant is handmade glass and is an amazing blue colour that I just can’t capture in a photograph. I will probably buy a silver chain to wear it on, as the cord it came with has findings (clasp etc) which my stupid skin tends to be allergic to, so I’ve not worn this yet, but I look forward to it!

A couple of days after we arrived, we came across a jewellers which amongst other things had the most beautiful and finely detailed silver filigree that I have ever seen. There were so many stunning delicate designs that it was hard to choose just one, but eventually after much deliberation I settled for these butterfly earrings.

Silver Filigree Earring from Slovenia

The earrings were handmade to a traditional design by the lady who owns the shop, who told us that filigree is a dying art in Slovenia and that she is the last of her family who can make it. They are tiny (about 1cm across) and so incredibly detailed that I cannot imagine how many hours they would take to make. I’ve worn these almost constantly since I bought them so I can already tell that they will be a favourite for years to come and a constant reminder of my visit.

Last but not least is another traditionally influenced piece, this little wooden bowl:

Wooden bowl from Slovenia

While at first glance this may seem fairly unremarkable, a closer look reveals a lovely folk art style pattern painted on the side:

Wooden bowl with carnation pattern from Slovenia

The flowers are carnations, the national flower of Slovenia and I love the simple style of painting against the smooth wood. Surprisingly I found this in a gift shop next to the church of Saint Martin in a part of Bled called Grad (which means castle), but on this occasion I was pleasantly surprised to find that the majority of the items in the shop were handmade locally, including knitted socks, silver jewellery and intricate bobbin lace. It seemed that crafts are more valued in Slovenia than in Britain, but whether this is because the economy in places like Bled is reliant on tourism is hard to say (the craft market, for example only runs in the summer when Bled is at it’s busiest).

There were lots more interesting and inspiring things in Slovenia which I’ll show you another time!

What’s the best (or worst) souvenir you’ve ever brought back from holiday?

Lottie xx