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!)

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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

One step forward, two steps back

A while ago I mentioned that in celebration of the amazing (for me anyway) feat of finishing two projects in one day I’d cast on two new projects, a pair of mittens and a sweater.

One of these projects has gone amazingly well (The mittens!  They’re finished and I love them, but it’s been so dark wet and gloomy here that all attempts at photos have been poor at best.) but seeing as it’s you, I’ll show you the best picture of a bad bunch:

Autumn Bloom Mitts

If you’re looking covetously at them, they’re called Autumn Bloom Mitts by Rachel Atkinson and they’re in the current issue of Knit Now (Issue 27).  If you fancy seeing some much better pictures, Rachel has written about them on her blog here.  More about the mitts next time, when I hope to have some better pictures to show you.

……….as for the other, well……. the least said about it the better, but this is a blog, so it doesn’t work like that.

I’ve had some lovely green Rowan Cocoon in my stash for about a couple of years now and as the weather was cooling off I thought it was time I put it to good use.

Originally I’d bought it to make this but then I changed my mind, because although it is beautiful, I’ve never really been sure about sleeveless jumpers.  Also there is no waist shaping and it is sized quite generously, two things which tend to result in me looking as if I’ve borrowed someone else’s clothes as I’m quite petite (so to make it work I would probably have to alter it a bit).

So after a bit of deliberating I decided to make an Owls sweater (by Kate Davies), a pattern which cannot have escaped your notice, unless you’ve been living under a knitted rock for the past few years.  It’s a fitted sweater, I’ve always wanted to make one and the world and his wife have made an Owls in Rowan Cocoon….. perfect!

Before I go any further I must stress that none of the problems I’ve had with this project are caused by the pattern, which is excellent.  All the issue are down to a) my fussiness, b) my yarn choice.

Diligently, I checked my tension (in the round – I want to do this properly).  I’m a tight knitter, so I wasn’t surprised when I got a tension of 16 sts and 20 rounds to 10cm (unblocked) on the recommended 6.5mm needle, so I went up to a 7mm needle and 14 sts and 19 rounds.

At this point I decided that although it was still a little tighter stitch wise than the recommended tension of 13 sts and 20 rows, I didn’t want a looser fabric, so I decided to make one size up from the size I would usually make.

Excitedly I cast on and the pattern just seemed to whizz by!  Looks ok doesn’t it?

Green Owls Sweater

Before I knew it I had completed the waist decreases and increases, but I was a little concerned at the fabric and how loose it was.  I checked my tension.  It was still just as I expected, 14 sts and 19 rounds.

If I’m honest I was a little baffled.  This tension gives a drapey fabric with a teeny little bit of stretch, not at all right for a close fitting jumper and quite likely to stretch out to shape over time.  Yet the recommended tension for this yarn is 14 sts and 18 rows on a 7mm needle (so slightly looser again on the rows – unsurprising as working in the round will tighten the row/round tension for most knitters as purl stitches tend to be slightly looser than knit stitches) so it’s not as if I was working at tension that was looser than recommended for the yarn.

Look at it!  it’s see through, even when it’s just stretched a little!

Green Owls Sweater

I checked several projects on Ravelry using Cocoon and none of them mentioned being the fabric being to loose, although some did mention it stretching out of shape after a few wears.

Then I tried the jumper on and although it fitted nicely it was clear that the fabric would be too open when stretched (Owls is meant to be knitted with some negative ease – meaning the jumper is supposed to be smaller than your actual measurements).  In a last desperate attempt to avoid frogging, I wet blocked a small section for comparison, it the hope that the yarn would ‘bloom’ a little and fill out the stitches.  Unfortunately, quite the opposite happened and the fabric just became more drapey and open.

I guess I’m being very fussy, but I decided to frog it 😦 I’ve now cast on for the next size up again and having checked that my tension will still produce a similar size, I’ve gone down to 6.5mm needle again.

Wish me luck!

Lottie x

P.S.  Do you fancy test knitting a simple cowl in DK or Aran?  If you have 100 – 200g of yarn in contrasting colours to hand (50 – 100g of each colour) lurking in your stash you’re on Ravelry, can take a reasonable photo of your work, and you liked the look of the mystery Noro thing here, you could be just the knitter(s) I’m looking for.  (Noro is not required, this is a stashbusting project perfect for Christmas gifts.)  If you think you might be interested, leave me a comment and keep you eyes peeled for a post next week.

As rare as hen’s teeth…

Last Monday I achieved something I thought fairly impossible for me and finished two projects in one day!  When it’s not deadline knitting I’m not very disciplined – I think it’s a reaction to having three to four weeks or sometimes much less to make a sample and write the pattern and having to be very disciplined in order to get it done in between going to work, sleeping and eating.

(Stop laughing.)

The first was something secret-ish that I’d been working on for about a week:

Mystery project

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

I can’t tell you much about this at the moment, except that it’s made from Noro yarn, so the colours are gorgeous.  Hopefully soon I’ll be able to show you more (soon might be two weeks or two months, as I’m fitting this in between other projects).

Once I’d finished this, I was on a roll, so I dug these out of my project bag:

Half-finished mitts

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

Remember them?  They’re the Louisa Harding Charm Mittens that I started for a KAL back in June.  Yes, June.  Shush!  Other things got in the way of finishing these in time for the KAL (which finished at the end of June) and they’ve been hibernating ever since, with just the thumb on the left mitten to do and a the seams to sew on the same hand.  (They were a bit further on than in this picture, but I just wanted to get them finished, so I didn’t take another picture until they were done.)

A little while later I had these finished too!  Yay!  (Only 5 months late.  *blushes*)  You can see them on Ravelry here.

Finished Charm Mitts

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

I really pleased with both my projects, but it’s been unseasonably mild over the past week, so I’ve not worn either of them yet.  But old habits die hard, so rather than being good and finishing some socks, I’ve now cast on a pair of mittens and a jumper (The latter of which, it has to be said, while coming on very quickly, is not going all that well.  I may have to frog and start again.  More on that next time – keep your fingers crossed!).  There really is no cure for startitis.  *sigh*

Are you a good little project finisher, or a reprobate multiple project starter like me?

Lottie x

Too hot to knit mittens!

As I type it is just cooling off here, but it’s still far too hot.  Why?  Because we’re having what passes for a heat wave here in Britain.

(Prepare to laugh if you live somewhere consistently hotter)

Let me explain.

In Britain, summer tends to be a bit wet, cold and possibly windy – to me a nice warm day is 18-20°C but 16°C or lower and cloudy is not uncommon, so relatively, anything close to 30°C seems unpleasantly hot.  We’re just not built for it.  All my childhood summer holidays in this country were spent wearing cagoules at some point (even though some of them were beach holidays).  (Although there was that summer where it was so hot that there was a plague of ladybirds and you couldn’t go to the beach before 5pm or you’d be burnt to a crisp – but that was very unusual!)

Today it’s been 28°C and it’s not dropped below 26°C most of the week.  Urgh.

Consequently my enthusiasm for knitting anything vaguely wintry is at an all time low.

Observe the evidence:

Half-finished mitts

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

Yes, those are my Charm mittens.

Yes, they were being knitted as part of a KAL (knit-a-long).

Yes, the KAL did finish at the end of June.

Yes, you’re right, they are not finished.

No, that is not an out of date picture.

Yes, I am aware of the date.

Yes, circumstances did conspire against me, but this last week they haven’t, I’ve just not been in the mood.

Yes, it is too hot to knit mittens.  (I want to knit something light and lace weight and summery – not really sure what though – but I’m forcing myself to finish these first.)

Maybe I’ll get motivated over the weekend!  Wish me luck!

Lottie x

Giving in to temptation….

Last week I mentioned that I wasn’t really making much progress on my socks, and that I was tempted by some exciting yarn…….

Matching gloves?

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

…….. well I succumbed, because I am weak when it comes to yarn and pretty projects.

I’d been thinking of making a pair of Charm fingerless mittens from Louisa Harding’s book Three Graces for a while to match my Wagtail hat (from Mr Magpie by Louisa Harding).

Wagtail Hat crown

Wagtail Hat
Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

Well, on Sunday I gave in to temptation and cast on, aided and abetted by the current KAL (or knit-a-long, for the uninitiated) on the Louisa Harding Lovers group on Ravelry (come and join us, we’re very friendly!).

I can’t believe how quickly they are knitting up!  I was soon done with the cuff:

Charm KAL cuff

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

…… and by the end of the day I’d nearly finished and just had the last two rows and the picot cast off to go!  (It’s amazing what you can get done whilst watching the Canadian Grand Prix!)

Ignore the oversized stitch holder.  If I’d stopped to find a smaller one I might have missed some of the action!

Charm KAL: first mitten nearly done!

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

Before you ask, yes, I was very close to finishing, but when you’re falling asleep mid-row it’s time to stop and go to bed (yes, I know, I lead a very wild, rock and roll existence).

I’ve now cast off the main body of this mitten in Grace Hand Beaded and I’ve just got the thumb to knit and then I’m half way!

Some KAL participants have already finished, but shhh!  I had other things to finish first (but not my poor neglected socks). 

The Charm KAL runs from the 1st June 2013 until the 30th June and there are prizes!  If you fancy joining in, head over to the discussion board on Ravelry for full details.

Have you ever taken part in a KAL?  Did you enjoy it?

Lottie x

Going nowhere fast

……. at least when it comes to my socks……….

Sock-in-progress

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

Why?  Well I’ve been finishing off knitting something else.  Something secret which I will be able to show you soon-ish, but not just yet.

Socks in progress

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

So my socks have been neglected.  Poor neglected socks 😦  Luckily for the them I only have to cast off my top secret project, then I can start on them again.  Then again……..

Matching gloves?

Copyright Charlotte Walford 2013

…………… I could knit some mittens to match my Wagtail hat!

Oh dear.  Can you tell I’m a bit bored of my socks?   Help!  Encouragement required!

Lottie x