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

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Yarn Shop Day – This Saturday!

This Saturday (3rd May) is Yarn Shop Day!

Yarn Shop Day 3rd May 2014

Launched by Let’s Knit Magazine, Yarn Shop Day is part of their ‘Love Your Yarn Shop’ campaign and lots of yarn shops across the country are holding special events to help you get to know your yarn shop better.  You can find events happening in your local area here.

Yarn Shop Day 3rd May 2014

I’m lucky enough to have the best job a knitter can have, working at my independent LYS (local yarn shop), Stash Fine Yarns in Chester (I work part time and today is one of my days off, so don’t worry I’m not skiving!) and we’re really excited about the event we’re holding this Saturday!

So what’s going on at Stash on Saturday? 

We’ll be open from 11am – 5pm for all this:

Louisa Harding is visiting us in the afternoon with a trunk show!  She’ll be bringing a selection of her design samples from her latest books and will be available to sign her books too.  Louisa has visited us before during her Himalayan Hiking Hats campaign to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support and she’s really friendly and enthusiastic so I’m sure you’ll all enjoy meeting her.

Andy from the Chester Wool Company (who supply independent hand dyers with undyed yarns) will be joining us too and he’ll also be bringing along some yummy Fyberspates yarns!

We’ll all be demonstrating knitting techniques during the day, such as mattress stitch, magic loop, Jeny’s Surprisingly stretchy bind/cast off, Kitchener Stitch and more, there’ll be refreshments, goodie bags and a raffle.  It’s sure to be a good day, so do come and join us if you’re in the local area.

You can find directions to Stash Fine Yarns including a map here

So why are local yarn shops important?  Well, as a knitter, if you are lucky enough to have a local yarn shop they really are an invaluable resource and it really is a case of ‘use it or lose it’.  Who knows, there might be one near you that you didn’t know about, so why not check here, or do an internet search on ‘yarn shop (insert your area/town/city here)’, you could be surprised!

Reasons to Love Your Yarn Shop:

  • Get to feel the textures of the yarns

This can make all the different to your project, enabling you to pick the right yarn to really make your project sing.  Plus, the more yarns you get to know, the easier it will be to choose the right fibres for your next project.  Also if you want advice about whether or not the yarn you’ve fallen in love with will suit the project you want to make, you can get it, which brings me to my next point….

  • Help from knowledgeable staff

Yarn shop staff are as passionate about knitting as you are!  We’re always interested in what you’re making and personally I love being able to give other knitters help with their projects.  If you’ve bought a pattern at your LYS and you’re having trouble with it there is usually someone on hand who can explain that new cast on, or advise you why you need that circular needle and which length you should buy for the collar on that cardigan.

  • Advice on yarn substitutions

You know how it is.  You really love that pattern and you’re desperate to make it, but either the yarn has been discontinued, or isn’t available in this country, or just isn’t a yarn that you like (maybe you’re allergic to wool, or don’t the colour range).  But you still have to knit that pattern.  What to do?  Why not ask for help at your LYS?  We know a lot about our yarn ranges and can usually show you plenty of different options for suitable substitutions, and make sure you have the correct amount of yarn to complete your project (remember, you need the same number of metres of yarn, not the same number of grams, but don’t worry, we’ll do all the maths for you).

  • Colour matching

If you fancy making a cardigan to go with that new dress, or a pretty shawl to go with a wedding outfit, or maybe you just want to see if that colour will really suit your skin tone, seeing the yarn in the flesh is essential!

  • Choosing patterns more efficiently

If you’re just starting out as a knitter, why not ask the assistant to point you in the direction of patterns suitable for your current skills?  Most shops will have a range of patterns for all abilities.  Whether you’re looking for a christening shawl or an Aran style sweater, if you ask an assistant to help you find what you’re after, you’ll save yourself a lot of time.

  • A second opinion

Which yarn is more hardwearing?  Will this one have good stitch definition?  Which pattern is easier to knit?  Which needles will suit my style of knitting best?  Your yarn shop can help you with all these questions!

So if you can, go and support your local yarn shop this Saturday!  We’d love to see you 🙂

Lottie x

Shades of Summer

Strange as it may seem, for once we are having what might be referred to as (whisper it) summer!

If you live in the UK you’ll know why I say this with caution.  If you don’t, you’re probably thinking about just how much I’m playing to the stereotypical image of the British, who only ever talk about the weather and are obsessed with it.

I’d like to be able to dispel this as a myth, but I’m afraid that it is probably fairly accurate.  Most of us have a conversation of some sort (even if it is only brief) about the weather every day.  We have dreadful summers so frequently (last year we had one unseasonably warm week in March and then it rained most of the time, apart from during the majority of the international-athletic-sporting-event-beginning-with-O-that-must-not-be-named) so we do get excited at the prospect of warm and sunny weather and we all feel that we must make the most of it.

Enough conforming to stereotypes!  Back to knitting 🙂

So what has the weather got to do with this post?

Well, inspired by the nice weather, I decided to have a look at what was in bloom in the garden.

Our new Clematis has got flowers… and they’re huge!

Clematis (Pink Champagne)

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

I found some pretty Lily of the Valley hiding under some other plants……

Lily of the Valley?

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

I love the colour of this Azalea flower, a beautiful rich red with slight pink tones:

Azalea

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

Although it was on it’s last legs, this yellow Poppy caught my eye with it’s tiny seeds dancing in the breeze around the remains of the flower and the last, still vivid yellow petal which had not yet faded.

Yellow Poppy

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

Though it may not have the prettiest of flowers, I love the colour of the blooms on this Rosemary, a beautiful blue-purple with lavender tones.

Rosemary

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

The rest of the red ‘flames’ on the Flame of the Forest had gone, but one solitary ‘flame’ remained and though it is certainly not the most exciting photo ever, I just had to capture the wonderful summery coral shade of the leaves.

Flame of the Forest

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

And finally (although not plant related) I took this picture:

Ex-snail

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

This snail is no more, it has ceased to be…………. it is an ex-snail and, I suspect, has become a bird’s dinner!

When I got back inside and examined my photos every colour reminded me of something in my stash!  (Well apart from the ex-snail.)

A bouquet of yarns!

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

I love these happy floral shades!  Very inspiring 🙂

Clockwise from top left: Manos Fino in #2106/Poppy, Fyberspates Faery Wings in Spring Greens, Manos Fino in #2630/Aster, Rowan Kidsilk Haze in #659/Ultra, Artesano Alpaca DK in #C704/Violet left over from Runa, Fyberspates Vivacious DK in #811/Mixed Magentas and #804/Sunshine, Araucania Botany Lace (this didn’t have a colour number and isn’t usually available in the UK, but the coral colour is fabulous), Fyberspates Scrumptious 4ply in #305/Purple and in the centre, a skein of Natural Dye Studio Precious 4ply in Coombe Martin and a tiny left over scrap of Easyknits Biffle-Boo in Simmering Summer Nights.

What are your favourite shades?  Does your garden inspire you to knit with more floral summery colours at this time of year?

Lottie x

Block around the clock!

One of the things I often get asked about when working at Stash Fine Yarns in Chester is blocking.  Blocking isn’t difficult, and really is worth the effort, as it can significantly improve the look of your finished projects, especially lace shawls, as you will see…..

So, I think some demystifying is in order.  I’ll try to answer some of the most asked question in this post and give you a little photo tutorial using the Ishbel that I made recently:

What is blocking? 

Blocking is a way of opening up knitted fabric to better show off lace (curing that ‘crumpled’ look that lace has when it comes off the needles) and to stop the edges of your project curling.  It also makes knitted fabric drape better. 

What do I need to block my knitting? 

You don’t need any special equipment.  Just a couple of clean old towels (old towels are best as new towels can have lots of loose fluff on them, which you don’t want to have to pick off your knitting, and also in case your yarn loses any colour when it is wet) or foam play mats, and plenty of long rust free pins (ones with nice bright pin heads are great – you can’t miss one and leave it in your knitting).  It is possible to buy blocking wires (which you can thread through the edges of your knitting for a nice straight edge without needing lots of pins), but while these are nice and certainly make blocking quicker they are not essential. 

How do you block something? 

Basically blocking involves soaking the knitting in/spraying it with water, and then pinning it out to the measurements on your pattern schematic/blocking diagram if it has one, or if not until the lace is opened up, but not distorted. 

Here is my Ishbel shawlette before blocking:

Ishbel pre-blocking

Ishbel pre-blocking
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

As you can see, the lace needs opening out, and the shawl is curling at the edges.  It could also be with being a little bigger.

Ishbel - curling at the edges!

Ishbel – curling at the edges!
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

The distinctive ‘points’ of the blocked shawlette are also not visible, only the curl.

So, on to the blocking:

Step 1: Soak the shawl in water

Step 1: Soak the shawl in water – you could use some detergent as well if you like.  A ‘no rinse’ wash like Eucalan or Soak is ideal.
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

Step 2: Spread the shawl out on some clean towels

Step 2: Spread the shawl out on some clean towels, roughly to the dimensions you are after.
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

Pins

Now reach for those pins – you’ll need plenty.  These pins were free with a magazine and I use them all the time.
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

Pinning corners

Step 3: Pin your shawl at the 3 corners and the centre of the top edge first.  Don’t worry too much about the position of the pins, you can always adjust them later.
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

Pinning points

Step 4: Pin the points of the shawl, making sure that you open out the lace, but don’t distort it.
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

Pinned vs not pinned

At this point I’ve pinned one half of the lace so you can see the difference.  Continue like this until you have pinned all the points, then add extra pins to the top edge if required.
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

Leave it to dry

Step 5: Step back and check that you have pinned the shawl evenly and adjust as needed.  Leave it to dry overnight (or longer).  Don’t be tempted to fiddle about with it until it is completely dry!
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

Blocked lace

Step 6: Un-pin your knitting and marvel at the improvement! Doesn’t it look amazing? Don’t you wish you’d done this before?
(Photo copyright Charlotte Walford 2013)

What if I do it wrong?

Don’t worry!  Unlike pressing your knitting with an iron (don’t press acrylic!) wet blocking (as described above) is reversible as long as you don’t over stretch your knitting to a ridiculous degree.  Just start again, blocking more or less aggressively depending on whether you wanted the knitting bigger or smaller respectively.  If you’re blocking a garment, make sure that you block to the measurements in your pattern, rather than by eye to avoid making it too big.  Also, try pinning out garments to the schematic measurements first and then misting them with water from a garden spray.  This method of pinning first, then misting with water is also good for fibres that are inclined to stretch, such as bamboo and other forms of viscose.   

I hope you feel more confident to try blocking now if you haven’t tried it before.  If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I will try to answer them for you.

Lottie x

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

Bluefaced Open Weekend (or ‘Andyfest’!)

Last weekend I was lucky enough to go to a very exciting event with some of my friends from Stash, the Bluefaced Open Weekend,  (or ‘Andyfest’ as it has become known on Ravelry!).

Now I know some of you will be thinking ‘More yarn and knitting things?  What a busman’s holiday!’ and while I suppose you may have a point (and I did see and chat to lots of lovely Stash customers – it was lovely to see you all!) I did thoroughly enjoy myself, and of course, I may have sucumbed to temptation/been weak willed bought a small cough amount of yarn, purely for ahem, research purposes, you understand.

One of the many things that were really nice about Andyfest was the relaxed atmosphere.  There were stands from Easyknits, Posh Yarn, The Natural Dye Studio, Fyberspates, The Knitting Goddess, Nicsknots, Babylonglegs, Felt Studio, Ann Kingstone and Laughing Hens but nothing was too crowded and there was plently of space to sit and chat with a cup of tea and a piece of cake in between stroking yarns!

I didn’t get many photos as I was too busy having a great time and buying lovely yarn, but in case you missed out on all the fun, here’s why you really must come if it happens again (I’ve got my fingers crossed that it does!)

The Natural Dye Studio stand

Beautiful yarns and stunning crocheted blankets on The Natural Dye Studio stand

These stunning blankets from the Natural Dye Studio are in Amanda’s new book ‘Into the West’.  My favourite one was the rainbow graduated one next to the yarns, Rita.

Fyberspates and Felt Studio stands

Gorgeous yarns at Fyberspates and amazing handspun at Felt Studio

There were some gorgeous yarns on the Fyberspates stand, and I may have had a moment of weakness/madness and bought 3 skeins of absolutely divine Fyberspates Faery wings, which is to die for.

And at the end of all this I came home with a lovely pile of gorgeous yarns!

Gorgeous yarns from 'Andyfest'

Gorgeous yarns!

Fyberspates Faery wings, Posh Yarn Natasha and Sylvia 4ply ‘orphans’, Easyknits Twinkle DK and 4ply, Cloud and Biffle-Boo, a pack of Mini skeins in Flower Power from The Knitting Goddess, and a skein of Precious 4ply from the Natural Dye Studio…….

Nicsknots project bag

Fabulous Nicsknots project bag – big enough to hold even a sweater WIP!

….and a bag from Nicsknots to put it all in (well, maybe not all at once!).

Did any of you go to ‘Andyfest’?  What did you get?

Lottie x

P.S. The offer on Moon River has been extended……

Get ready for Autumn!

Get £1 (GBP) off Moon River until 00:00 GMT on 1st October 2012!

Discount is automatically applied at the checkout. Enjoy! ♥