Inspiration is everywhere

Sometimes, when people find out that I design knitting patterns, I get asked things like:

‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ or ‘Is it hard to keep thinking of new ideas?’

But to be honest these are questions that I never really consider until they are asked. Inspiration is really all around you, but it doesn’t have to be specific. Sometimes a design has particular inspiration and sometimes it is much more nebulous and difficult to pin down.

I’m not really sure what the secret is to keeping inspired, or even if there is a secret. But from personal experience I can tell you this much:

  • Inspiration is almost impossible under pressure. I think it requires daydreaming and that is something that you can’t do when you are stressed.
  • I find it helps to keep thinking about designs while doing other mundane tasks. Somehow a routine task frees up your creative thoughts. Or maybe I’m just weird (probably the latter).
  • Be patient and wait for the right idea to come along.
  • Be curious. If something interests you, go and investigate it. It doesn’t have to be knitting related.
  • When you have an idea, even just a germ of an idea, write it down or sketch it, even if it is very half-formed. Often when you look over your rough sketches with fresh eyes the bits you were undecided about start to become clearer. Or perhaps the half idea will merge with another half idea and become something even better. But if you don’t write it down you might not find out!
  • Take in your surroundings, even if it is somewhere familiar, and try to look beyond the obvious features and notice something that you haven’t before. If you’re walking through a city, look up at the architecture above the shop fronts – often you will be surprised at how much diversity there is in the styles of buildings, particularly if it is a city with quite a bit of history and older buildings. If something fascinates you, don’t try to work out how it will inspire a design, just take a picture of it or draw a quick sketch of it if you can and look over your photos later.
  • Don’t just look at pattern, look at colour as well. Look for interesting or unusual combinations of colours. Try to find the colour that you wouldn’t have put in the scheme yourself, but somehow just makes the whole thing pop!
  • Inspiration is not a science. There is no magic formula.

The thing that I am perhaps most inspired by is nature, especially plants. Look at the fabulous colours in this Clematis!

Clematis flowers

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

Or this one (I love the different shades of red/pink in the flowers – the newest flowers are the most vivid colour):

Clematis (Rouge Cardinal)

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

And the bobbing heads of these large daisies amuse me throughout the day as they follow the sun around the garden!

Daisies!

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

Finally, I couldn’t resist showing you this hedgehog (at the top of the picture) that had snuck out to eat some scraps – they move much quicker than you would expect!

Hedgehog!

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

What inspires you?

Lottie xx

P.S. Thank you so much to everyone who took the time and trouble to like or comment on my last post, it has been great to hear your views. I’ll try to write another post summing up experiences and tips for gift knitting soon, so if you have anything you’d like to add I’d love it if you’d leave a comment with your views! ūüėÉ

In which I am a lucky recipient of woolly goodies

Sorry I’ve not posted for a couple of weeks!¬†¬†The heat here has been sort of overpowering and energy sapping (for pasty pale Brits who aren’t used to it¬†anyway) for the past two weeks and once I’m back from work I’ve had enough.¬† Also I’ve been swatching so I’ve not really got any knitting that I can tell you about.

Well ok, go on, I guess I can show you the yarn I’m swatching with.

Swatching yarn

Yes there are ten colours (some of them are underneath others in the picture, in case you’re counting).

No I’m not using them all at once.

We’re just starting to get all the new yarns in for Autumn/Winter 2013/2014 at work (not that the weather could be in greater contrast!) and I just loved some of the new colours (Turquoise!¬†¬†Purple!¬† Cerise!)¬†in Rowan Fine Tweed and as it comes in 25g balls it is perfect for colourwork, so five colours made it home with me on Tuesday.

Then I did some charts for colourwork ideas on Wednesday (my day off), ten ideas to be exact.¬† And I decided I needed some more colours.¬† So I got five more colours on Thursday.¬† I’m going to have to narrow down the ten ideas though otherwise I’ll never finish swatching!¬† Whether or not I will be happy with any of them when I have swatched is a moot point.

It’s cooling down slightly now, but it’s still quite muggy and horrible.¬† It is just me, or do you like the idea of a summer until it actually happens, at which point you just want it to go away?¬† I’m probably just weird, but 20¬įC and a little bit of cloud would suit me just fine.¬† Anyway, enough whingeing!¬† Onwards!

Working at a yarn shop (Stash Fine Yarns¬†– I’m a lucky girl!) I’ve got to know a lot of knitters, some of whom have become good friends.¬† One of those is the very talented¬†Sarah who blogs at Woodlandknitter¬†who made me this amazing hand felted¬†yarn bowl for my¬†birthday recently:

Yarn Bowl

Isn’t it fab!¬† I love the way the yarn comes out through a little flower, revealing the yellow fibre underneath.

Yarn Bowl

It even has little holders for your stitch markers!

Yarn Bowl

And there was even a little bit of yarn inside it (Manos Del Uruguay Maxima if I’m not mistaken – yes I am a yarn nerd):

Yarn Bowl - inside!

I’ve never had a yarn bowl before so I really love this :).

Thanks Sarah!

Happy knitting everyone!

Lottie x

Can you guess what it is yet?

What do think this yarn is for……?

Mystery yarn!

Mystery yarn!

I’ll give you some clues to what I’m making……

  1. It’s knitted (surprise,¬†surprise)
  2. You have to use two strands of yarn at once
  3. It’s made in several parts
  4. It’s from a book I got for Christmas (from my brother :))
  5. It’s not a garment……
  6. …….or an accessory
  7. But it is certainly very cute!

Can you guess what I might be making?  Leave a comment with your guess before 23:59 GMT on Sunday 13th January.

If no-one guesses correctly I’ll post some more clues on Monday.

The first correct guess will win a pdf copy of my Moon River pattern!  Good luck!

Progress so far…….part 2!

So what else did I make from my pile of yarn from Andyfest?  Well, so far only one other item, but hopefully I will get some more done this year.

I’d been thinking that I should really make an Ishbel for a while, as it is such a pretty shawlette and I love shawlettes (in case you have been living under the knitting equivalent of a rock for the past few years, Ishbel is a shawl pattern by Ysolda Teague which has acheived cult status, and at the time of writing nearly 12,000 projects on Ravelry!).

One of the *ahem* three skeins of Fyberspates Faery Wings I got at Andyfest was a gorgeous cherry red colour, which I bought with my Mum in mind.¬† It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to make anything for her, so I thought it was time to sort that out.¬† Quite a few people have made Ishbel in Faery Wings, so it seemed like a safe bet (Faery Wings is a bit shorter than most 100g skeins of 4ply yarn, so I wanted to be sure I would have enough).

I started my Ishbel¬†on holiday back in September after I’d finished Rosaleen and had hoped to be able to finish in time for Christmas, but¬†with other things to do between then and now it was not to be, however I finally¬†finished at the weekend!

Ishbel

Ishbel
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

Isn’t the colour of the yarn beautiful?¬† I confess that if this was for anyone other than my Mum, I would have had great difficulty in giving it away!

Ishbel edging

Ishbel edging – just look at the pretty points!
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

Faery wings has a beautiful drape (thanks to the high silk content) which is great for shawls, it blocks nicely (good for lace) and has a halo of mohair that just makes the fabric divine.  I even have a little bit left, which I might be able to use if I combine it with something else.

I made the smaller size, which is a nice size to wear as a scarf, and not so big that you get fed up before it is finished.

I enjoyed the pattern (I especially love the points at the end of the border) and even though it was a long time in between casting on and casting off, it didn’t really take that long to finish in terms of time spent actually knitting it instead of just thinking about knitting it!

If you’ve not made a top down shawl before, this would be a good place to start, as like most of Ysolda’s patterns,¬†this pattern includes both charted and written directions for the lace (perfect for chart lovers and chart phobics alike).

Just two more skeins of Faery Wings to go!

Lottie x

Progress so far….

It’s been a little while since I went to Andyfest and came back with all that yarn *ahem*.

Unfortunately for the yarn/fortunately for designing I’ve not had much time for non-work knitting since then, so I’ve not made much, but actually having finished something(s) by now is quite good by my usual standards!

First, I made this lovely shawlette¬†while I was on holiday all the way back in September.¬† The pattern is Rosaleen¬†by Rachel Coopey with a skein of Easyknits Cloud¬†in the ‘Petrolhead’ shade (I’m a bit of a motorsport fan, so it seemed quite appropriate):

Rosaleen Shawlette

Rosaleen Shawlette
(Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

I love the edging on this, the bottom edging reminds me of flowers and features beautiful twisted stitches (I love twisted stitches).

Rosaleen edging

Rosaleen edging

The top edging is a twisted stitch rib that ties in with the bottom edge nicely.  Did I mention how much I love these twisted stitches?

Although I finished the knitting on holiday, it is a little bit difficult to block shawls in a hotel room, and I didn’t fancy trying to take pins on a plane just for that, so it did languish unblocked for a while before I got round to that bit, hence the lack of photos until now.

It’s a great pattern and it made a good holiday knit, being in DK weight yarn it was fairly quick to do.

The yarn is gorgeous and works well with the twisted stitches and the lace, although I was cutting it a bit fine with the yardage, as the recommended yarn is quite a bit longer per skein.¬† I had several moments of doubt about whether I would have enough, and spent a lot of¬†time nearer the end of the shawlette working out how I could shorten the edging if necessary, as well as nervously measuring out the remaining yarn.¬† So if you’re planning on making this in the same yarn I would get an extra skein, especially as I knit fairly tightly, so I tend to use a bit less yarn.

Happily though I had just about enough to finish it as per the pattern, with a tiny ball of yarn the size of a cherry tomato left over!

Come back tomorrow for the second finished item!

Happy New Year!

Lottie x

Extreeeme!

What does the word extreme mean to you? Does it make you think of Extreme sports like snowboarding, motocross, rallying, canyoning and bungee jumping? Or does it mean something else – perhaps taking things too far? Well, I think I might just have taken things too far with my latest project……

Extreme Knitting

Extreme Knitting!!

Yes, I am trying a bit of extreme knitting (I know – this is the sort of things that newspaper articles joke about, as if it doesn’t exist, or is an oxymoron) with some old relics and oddments¬†from my stash (about 15 or so strands and 24mm needles from Rachel John – I’ve only had them 4 years *ahem*).

Extreme Knitting

Yes, it is huge….mahoosive in fact!

Goodness knows if I will ever finish it – it is already getting very heavy – but I really love the thick squishy fabric so far.¬† I’m not really sure if it will be a blanket or throw or a rug yet, or even where it will go, but something about the eccentricity¬†of the whole thing appeals to me –¬†non-knitters might think I’ve gone mad, and you know what, I don’t care!

I’m even using some ancient¬†Rowan Big Wool Tuft that I bought when I first started knitting and I thought I would never use because¬†it is a bit hideous, but somehow with the scale of this it works!¬† I’m trying to go for a sort of marine¬†look¬†with the colours, and I even have some Louisa Harding Jasmine in there for a bit of silvery sparkle, like light glinting off the sea, as well as some handspun that I bought at a craft fair on holiday¬†in Austria a few years ago.

If anyone asks, I’m calling it ART!

Lottie x

Honeycomb Cowl

Hello everyone!

It’s been a little while hasn’t it?¬† I’ve been away on holiday, hence the lack of posts, and while I’ve been away some of things I’ve been working on over the summer have been published – very exciting!¬† I’ve had a few things published now, but I still love seeing my designs in print with beautiful professional photos.¬† More of the other patterns soon, but today I have a pattern in Knit Now (Issue 13 Gifted Knits Supplement)¬†to tell you about.

Honeycomb Cowl

Honeycomb Cowl from Knit Now Issue 13 Gifted Knits Supplement
Copyright Charlotte Walford 2012

The Honeycomb Cowl started life as a reversible cable stitch that I had been playing about with.¬† I really love reversible stitches, so ever since I’d discovered this while playing around with cable stitches I ‘d been wanting to design something with it.¬† The design brief this time was simply something that you could knit as a Christmas gift.¬† So it needed to be quick to knit without being too simple and boring to make (sometimes the reason I end up with UFOs), and not use too much yarn.¬† The reversible honeycomb stitch that I’d been playing around with seemed perfect!¬† I could use it to make a cowl with none of those ‘what happens when it drapes and you see the wrong side?’ problems.

Honeycomb Cowl Swatch

Swatch of reversible honeycomb cable stitch
Copyright Charlotte Walford 2012

Then I thought about other things that might make the cowl a bit more wearable.  What if I made it flare out over the shoulders like this?

Honeycomb Cowl Sketch

Honeycomb Cowl Sketch
Copyright Charlotte Walford 2012

So I decided on a cowl in reversible honeycomb cable¬†stitch, with built in shaping about halfway up narrowing the cowl towards the neck, knitted in the round.¬† Easy, but not so easy that you get fed up before you’ve finished.¬† I chose Artesano Aran for the design as I wanted a yarn that was sturdy enough to keep out the wind on a cold day, but soft enought to wear against your neck.¬† It also has great stitch definition (really important for cables), and I found it worked really well on larger needles than those recommended on the label (I used 6mm needles to give the fabric a bit more drape).

It knitted up really quickly, and best of all there are no seams!  Just a couple of ends to sew in and I was done.  My cowl took about one and a half skeins of Artesano Aran, so if you are making them as gifts you could get two cowls from three skeins (other yarns will vary, so check the total yardage is the same if you are using yarn from your stash)!

I really hope you like it – if you want to get your hands on the pattern for my Honeycomb Cowl (and lots of other lovely patterns) Knit Now Issue 13 is in the shops now, or pop over to their website¬†if you want¬†to buy one directly.¬† I’d love to see your versions¬†if you make one!

Lottie x

Mae: from sketchbook to pattern book

Mae Shawl

Mae Shawl
(Image used with kind permission of Artesano)
Copyright Artesano 2012

When I was new knitter, I often wondered about how the design process worked.

Did you just have an idea and then start knitting it?

Did you draw the whole thing out on graph paper first and then knit it?

Did you work it all out mathematically and then write the pattern perfectly first time?

In truth it is a little bit of all of them (although you never write a pattern perfectly just from the maths!), it varies depending on the idea and the challenges it presents you with.¬† Sometimes an idea that is great in your head looks dreadful when you try to knit a swatch, or is just too unwieldy for anyone to actually enjoy knitting it¬†(and we all knit for fun, so you don’t want it to be purgatory), and sometimes an idea just evolves as you go, with subtle changes that end up being the things you like most about the design appearing as you knit that swatch.

So, as my Mae shawl and shawlette that I designed for Artesano for their Vintage Handknits booklet is republished in Knit Now this month (Issue 11) I though I would take you behind the scenes and show you the design process behind it.

As you might have guessed, the design brief for this booklet was ‘vintage’.¬† I wanted to do a crescent shawl, but from the top down, to allow for adaptation in terms of size.¬† This idea had been developing in my head for a little while and seemed just the right sort of thing for a lovely drapey yarn (especially when worked on larger needles – Mae is knitted on a 5mm)¬†like Artesano DK¬†or Artesano 4ply (both yarns are featured in the booklet), so I went ahead and knitted a swatch.

Mae swatch

Mae swatch
Copyright Charlotte Walford 2012

As is often the case there wasn’t much time and in this instance I wasn’t sure which yarn I would be given if my design was selected,¬†and I didn’t have any Artesano DK or 4ply in my stash, so as the observant amongst you might have noticed I used Manos del Uruguay¬†Serena, as the most important thing at this stage was establishing whether or not the idea would work.

And it did!  So now I had mini version of the shawl and a definite idea of how I could construct it (a short row crescent from the top down so you could adjust the size, with expanding feather and fan pattern at the edge, finishing with a picot cast off) I could sketch!

Mae sketch

Mae sketch
Copyright Charlotte Walford 2012

I usually find it better to sketch after swatching, because then I have a better idea of the scale of stitch patterns and can make my sketch a more accurate representation of the final design – there is no point doing a beautiful sketch only to find out on swatching that the idea doesn’t work!

Then I sent it all off to Artesano and waited……

And they liked it!

So then it was on to working out the fine details while waiting for the yarn to arrive (Artesano DK in #1492 Belize (pink) and #1291 Argentina (blue)), charting out the short rows to check my calculations, and carefully placing increases to shape the shawl РI used a lot of graph paper!

Last but not least, actually knitting it (a good opportunity to check the instructions thoroughly)!  As Artesano wanted two samples, I thought it would be nice to do two variations in the pattern to suit different tastes and occasions Рone big dramatic shawl (in pink) that you could really wrap yourself up in for a glamorous evening cover up, and one smaller shawlette (in blue) to wear as a scarf or around your shoulders over a summery dress.  I always like variations in a pattern so that you can really make it your own!

So the pattern and samples were sent off and I waited for the photos and the finished pattern booklet with bated breath.

When I saw them I was delighted.  I think this is my favourite photography and styling for any of my designs so far!

Mae Shawlette

The finished design!
(Image used with kind permission of Artesano)
Copyright Artesano 2012

I love the different styling of the two variations – more casual for the shawlette and a definite glamorous look for the shawl.

Now I just need to get around to making my own – I’ve got the yarn (Artesano DK #7609 Paraguay), but I’ve not got much further than that!

I’d love to see your versions if you make one,

Lottie x