More Yarn Will Do The Trick

Monday, 25 February 2013

Jools Beret

After knitting the Freedom Scarf I found I had enough leftover yarn to knit another three! Fabulous, I loved the hand-dyed Madeline Tosh merino, which I'd never used before, but had drooled over several times on our knitters' tours when US visitors were using it. So the prospect of having another project on my needles in this gloriously light and luminous yarn  was very seductive indeed.
Freedom scarf
I bought the yarn in New York at Knitty City recently and absolutely adored the feel of it running through my fingers. The pattern came free with the yarn and much as I loved the basic concept, I just couldn't resist doing my own take on the size and hue ie taking liberties, get it, Freedom Scarf?  Also named for the Freedom Tower in New York.
I love wearing berets, and it occurred to me how fab it would be to have one to go with the scarf. So without more ado, I dived in and started the Jools Beret.  I chose this name as it reminds me of both the tiny jewels in the design and the boogie-woogie music of Jools Holland. The colours of the yarn are just fabulous and it was thrilling to see how the different colours interact as the pattern develops - the element of surprise giving an extra incentive to knit on to the next colour.
I wanted the design to be a stashbuster, so I chose an easy fairisle design with a stripey rib, with no more than 20yds(18.25m) in each colour. There's eleven colours in both the scarf and the hat and as I only had six in Madeline Tosh, I chose kettle-dyed Araucania Ranco for the rest.
Quite by chance, the way I grouped the colours gives a totally different feel to the top and the underside of the beret - luckily I quite like this. The underside has a purpley damson feel to it whilst the top is more zingy green.
Underside and band
As today was horrible outside, wet with intermittant sleet and rain, it was the perfect opportunity to write up the pattern - no distractions from the outside when I'm crunching the numbers.  So I settle in, turned up the heating and finished it by tea time.
I posted the pic of the unfinished project on Facebook and was delighted with the positive reception it got. This led me to wondering if it might become my first ever KAL.
Unaccustomed as I am to these newfangled knitalongs, I'm presently looking into how to set about this. My initial plan is to put the pattern on Ravelry, then open a Jean Moss KAL group. I did say I'm a complete ingenue when it comes to KALs, so if there are any of you out there that know more, or better still have participated in one, I'd be pleased to hear from you.

More anon...

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Surprise View, plus winner of Born & Bred Giveaway

I'm delighted to announce the winner of the Born & Bred giveaway. Congratulations to Drae, the sixteenth knitter to leave a comment, chosen by a random number generator.  
Please get back to me by email with either your Ravelry user name or email address, and Ann will get the ebook winging its way to you pronto.  Many thanks to all who participated.

Over the weekend, P and I had a day trip to Sheffield to visit Tristan, Jane and their little ones, Lyra and Louis. It was such a beautiful day, icily cold, but with brilliant blue sky, so we decided to get out into the Peak District for a blast of fresh air.
Panoramic view from the top
Surprisingly this beautiful National Park is on their doorstep, only 20 minutes away in the car. In no time at all we found ourselves walking up a steep hillside strewn with gritstone boulders and scattered with elegant lofty birch trees. The area is favoured by climbers and scramblers as its impressive rocks offer a firm footing, which gets even better the colder it becomes. Jane carried six-month-old Louis, cosily snuggled in his sling  and  two-year-old Lyra stepped out like a pro, holding my hand.

Tristan had assured us we would be amazed by the glorious, rugged landscape and he was spot on.  Steeped in an industrial past, with old millstones littering the way, in the past the moorlands were quarried for stone to build the dams of the nearby Derwent Valley.  
The trek up to the top

Design inspiration everywhere you look!
Old millstone encountered on way up
View down to the birchwoods
Sitting on top of the world - allbeit gingerly!

View over the other side

Way down from the top
Beautiful birchwoods at the end of our walk
I think I can feel a Surprise View sweater coming on

It was the perfect way to spend a sunny winter afternoon. We were back in Sheffield by teatime, invigorated and happy, ready for a glass of something to warm up with by the fire.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Color Affection

On our last knitters' tour I noticed in the Show & Share that several people were knitting or had knit Color Affection by Veera Välimäki. For those of you who haven't yet had the pleasure of feasting your eyes on this knitting phenomenon (and if you haven't and you're a knitter, seems you're in the minority with yours truly), it's a truly beautiful thing to behold. The shawl is knit in garter stitch and uses short rows to produce an asymmetric shape.  I immediately made a mental note to look it up on Ravelry and what should I find there, but that it's a knitting prodigy with a dazzling 7,500+ projects on the go!!

Maybe I've led a sheltered life, but the most projects any of my designs on Ravelry have ever managed to rack up is about fifty and that was for Stomp, a fairisle and cable dress in Vogue Knitting a couple of years ago. Even with Ravelry's very reasonable pattern prices, Veera's staggering 7500 sales must have  netted virtually a year's salary for her! Got me to thinking it's a lot easier and more profitable than conceiving, designing, pattern writing and proofing 30+ projects, as I've just done for my next book. So where am I going wrong?
Stomp from VK Fall 2010

I thought it would be interesting to see for myself what it is that's captured the imaginations of so many knitters.  As a general rule I don't do much knitting of other people's designs, as I'm usually too busy creating ones of my own, or at least swatching for them. But a couple of weeks ago I found myself with some time and I decided I'd make a start.

I plumped for the fingering version (other version is lace) as I had some lovely gold Madeline Tosh merino and a skein each of Araucania Ranco in turquoise and deep aubergine. So... yarn sorted I decided to cast on.  I hadn't read through the pattern (very naughty), so little did I realise that the 5 sts you cast on, speedily and exponentially become many many more stitches, till eventually you're knitting across rows of 400+ sts!!!

Thoughts of will I ever finish this and will it become just another UFO certainly crossed my mind as I continued in every odd spare moment with row after row of garter. Then we decided to have a few days away from it all at our home in Mid-Wales and I had the chance to really get cracking on it.
Ready to start the gold border! Colours are pretty accurate,
the alarming-looking red tea is cranberry and apple :)

So at the moment after nearly a week in Wales, I'm about to start the final border which will be in gold.  I found the knit relaxing up to the short rows as I love garter for its easy rhythm and I also get a buzz from seeing how the stripes develop, especially using hand dyed yarns which tend to give extra flashes of organic striping. I find the garter stitch rhythm relaxing - you can get up quite a speed across the long rows.

I'm not a tight knitter, but I soon found that the increases along the top of the shawl were tending to pucker. I googled this problem and sure enough there was a great tip to combat this - just put a yarn over between the first and second stitches and drop it on the way back. Bingo, that one solved!

I noticed many knitters had ripped out their shawl after realising this, but ever the pragmatist, I couldn't bear to do this. I have to put my hand up to being a product as well as a process knitter, and anyway I reckoned that the rows I'd done so far would press out, so I just continued adding the yarn overs from then on.

Another problem was preventing the balls from tangling as I knit the short rows.  This one seems to be a little more difficult to solve, but not impossible if you keep them separate and reassess every two rows.

I only have my set of Addi Clicks with me and I've been using the longest cord which must be about 30in, but I would have preferred an even longer one.  Maybe then, it would have been easier to prevent the yarn from tangling?
 Love this pic of the kitties. After a heavy day mousing,
Arlo's determined to cosy up, Django's not too sure
But I digress... what are the things I've learnt so far about what knitters love about this incredible shawl? Well...
1   It's in garter stitch
2   The 2-row stripes add interest as you knit
3   The short-row shaping isn't difficult to do, with no wraps to pick up
4   Seeing the asymmetric shape develop maintains interest
5   There are four distinct stages of the pattern, giving a feeling of satisfaction when one is completed, plus anticipation of starting the next
6   The pattern is well-written and accurate
7   Virtually no finishing
8   Knitters like asymmetric shawls

If any of you have your own tips, please let me know. I'll post more pics when mine is finally done.
Meanwhile there's still time to enter the giveaway for the ebook of Ann Kingstone's Born & Bred. Just click here, scroll down to the bottom of the page and leave a comment.
PS  All done now and I'm pretty pleased with it, but whether to add the extra yo between the two first stitches remains a moot point.  The designer says not to as the shape of her design is a crescent and needs to curl a bit.  In fact I did mine half and half and I prefer the first half which was worked exactly as pattern and sits just right.

I've been experimenting on how to wear it. The frustrating thing is that it seems to look best when wrapped around my neck a couple of times, but this means that the interesting construction and shape is hardly visible. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Born & Bred - Review & Giveaway

They say good things come in small packages and that's certainly true of this hot-off-the-press ebook from Ann Kingstone.  Produced in partnership with the Leeds yarn store, baa ram ewe, this is an intelligent collection of folksy knits made from Yorkshire yarn. I'm a great believer that small is beautiful and knit local is a philosophy I fully endorse, so I'm delighted to be participating in Ann's blog tour. Her love of her native Yorkshire and its traditions shines through on every page.
Front cover
Unusually for me, even before I looked at the woollies, I fell in love with the book design, which has a decidedly quirky and homespun look to it.  The patterns are written in an old typewriter font, on a rough linen background with additional hand-drawn graphics, all very easy on the eye. The charts are clear and the quality of the images is superb.
Wharfe - snuggly welly toppers
I always prefer books which have a narrative, so the interesting anecdotes introducing the patterns are a real bonus and, as I live in York, have an extra resonance for me.

But let's get down to the knitty gritty now...
The book has nine designs - 2 sweaters (both in a staggering 14 sizes), a baby jacket, a boy's vest, a hat, a teacosy, fingerless gloves, welly toppers and felted clogs. The patterns call for yarn from four different Yorkshire sheep breeds: Wensleydale Longwool, Masham, Whitefaced Woodland and Swaledale.

These designs are not for the beginner knitter - there are travelling stitches, cables, fairisle and steeks - but in my opinion, good for Ann for not taking the dumbing down route. However, that said, they're achievable by any tech-hungry knitter who doesn't mind taking a leap of faith.  Rest assured, this comes from the mouth of someone whose first ever sweater was an allover fairisle. But even if you never knit a stitch from this rich and thoughtful collection, you'll be inspired by the wealth of other stuff it offers - like real ale served straight from the cask, this book is served straight from its Yorkshire designer  - real Yorkshire!

Btw if you're not doing so already, you can heighten your Yorkshire experience as you read by clicking on to Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez (Orange Juice Concerto :D) in the sidebar, played by the Grimethorpe Colliery Band in Mark Herman's fab film, Brassed Off.  

Here are my favs...

How could I not love a sweater with a name like Wetwang?  We used to live in a farmhouse in the Yorkshire Wolds close to the village of Wetwang and I was always tickled pink by its name.  I'm specially taken by the design of the swans, reminding me of the work of MC Escher.
I'm an avid tea drinker, though I have to confess to being of the weak Earl Grey persuasion rather than the stand-up-your-spoon-in Yorkshire black tea. This teacosy is named after a tea shop I always head for when in York, Ilkley or the beautiful RHS garden at Harlow Carr - Bettys is a longtime favourite.
Ilkley Moor hat and Baht 'At fingerless mittens
I love travelling stitches and I'm a sucker for berets and fingerless mittens, so this combo is a must have.
With three little grand-daughters I'm always on the lookout for new and unusual patterns for little girls - this one is definitely bound for my needles.

OK, enough from me, Ann kindly agreed to be interviewed about the making of the book...

Let’s kick off with the obvious question: why Yorkshire?
Because it's the historical centre of the wool universe! As a born and bred Yorkshire lass, I'm immensely proud of Yorkshire's woolly heritage. I grew up in Huddersfield, which in common with most towns in the old West Riding of Yorkshire, was built around the woollen textile trade. Nearby we have Bradford, which is still home to the British Wool Marketing Board, and is the namesake of the 'Bradford Wool Count', once an internationally used system for measuring the fineness of wools. 
Yorkshire's dominance of the wool trade began with the monastic tradition. Our abbeys coordinated the wool industry here in medieval times, using vast areas of Yorkshire as grazing land for sheep. Much later the industrial revolution here centred on the production of wool cloth, and so in West Yorkshire our little villages grew together into large mill towns. Meanwhile handknitting became a major source of income for many rural communities in northern parts of Yorkshire, famously including the village of Dent (read more about the terrible knitters of Dent).
I feel very rooted in this heritage, and love to visit ancient sites and museums around Yorkshire that tell the story of our woolly past, such as Rievaulx Abbey, or the Dales Countryside Museum at Hawes. 
Rievaulx Abbey
I was interested to learn that Born & Bred is published in partnership with the Leeds, UK yarn store, baa ram ewe. Can you say something about how this came about and what the division of labour is? 
I did a talk for baa ram ewe at their new season launch last February, after which I stayed to chat with Verity and Jo (joint owners of baa ram ewe), seeking advice about my branding. The next day Verity rang me and suggested we did a book together using Yorkshire wools, emphasising my heritage. 
The book really is a joint effort. Baa ram ewe provided most of the yarns, I did the designs and wrote the patterns, Verity did the photography, and Verity and her husband did the book layout.

What are the qualities you look for in choosing a yarn for a specific project? Do you have particular yarn qualities you like to work with and if so what is it that makes them special for you?
Typically I prefer working with fine yarns - 2ply and 4ply. It was a huge challenge for me to work with the bulkier yarns Verity wanted to include in Born & Bred. Also, I usually work from a design idea for which I hunt down yarn with the desirable qualities required by the project, eg springy wools for colourwork, or drapey silks for summer shawls. For most of the projects in Born & Bred I was working the opposite way round though, designing to suit the yarn. It took a long time to come up with an appropriate project for the Swaledale Aran; it is such a rough, hardwearing hill wool, and initially I hated it. In desperation I felted a swatch, and when it came out of the washer I fell in love! So although I do have favourite yarns, especially those in wool, angora, or silk, I have proved to myself that I love any yarn that is eminently suited to it's purpose. 
Swaledale Clogs

One of the things that immediately caught my eye and that I love about your book is the graphic design, how much were you involved in this and how important do you think book design is in a pattern book?
I think it's incredibly important, which is why I would always prefer to have it done by a talented graphic designer, which isn't me! Verity was the creative force behind the layout, though it was her husband Chris, a graphic designer, who pulled her ideas together into the actual book.

If you were setting the mood for a catwalk show of your work, what would the story, music, food and colours be?
It would have to have a Yorkshire theme! Maybe Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band for the music? Cold mini Yorkshire puds stuffed with silverskin beef and spring onions, then Yorkshire parkin -we have a special family recipe handed down my Dad's family, (for those of you unfamiliar with Yorkshire parkin, here's a recipe) and fruit cake served with Wensleydale cheese. The main colour would be my beloved spring green, with duck egg blue, deep cherry, and lemony yellows making an appearance. 

Do you have a muse? If you could chose one famous person to model your designs, who would it be?      
I love the work of Kieran Foley and Nicky Epstein. Both of them are unafraid to experiment with unusual constructions and design features, so produce original designs of pure genius. 
I know I should choose somebody young to model for me, but I love the actress Maggie Smith (most recently of Downton) so much I'm going for her! 
Spoken like a true Yorkshire lass!
I’m a big fan of indie publishing, it must be so liberating to take your vision through from initial idea to end product.  Can you expand a little on the pros and cons and do you have any advice for designers who may be thinking of taking the leap?
Other than single patterns for a collection, I've never worked for a mainstream publisher, so have little experience to compare indie publishing with. I do think I would find the lack of control difficult though. For Born & Bred I was present at the photo shoot, and able to have input on the styling. I know from designer friends that this often isn't possible with mainstream publishers, and consequently styling gaffes occur. Also, I know with a mainstream publisher the technical editor may not be up to standard. Because I work independently I have one technical editor whom I work with on all my projects. We've built a great working relationship, and I trust her immensely. 
The biggest downside of independent publishing is that I have to fund everything, and project manage everything. Working collaboratively on Born & Bred was a treat because I was able to share these responsibilities with somebody else. 
For somebody starting out, I recommend investigating print on demand, such as Createspace (Amazon). This requires very little upfront investment for the printing, so is ideal for first books where there is uncertainty around the sales potential. I wish I'd done this for Novel Knits - my first book.

Your book is dedicated to Rosemary, Mabel and Violet - can you tell us a little about them?
I don't know much about Rosemary and Violet (Verity's Mum and Grandma) but can tell you a little about my Great Aunt Mabel. She was a music teacher in Bradford, where she trained student teachers at MacMillan College. My Mum was one of her students, and Aunty Mabel introduced her to my Dad, who at the time was a lonely young widower...
Aunty Mabel was a great British eccentric who inspired many young people with her passion for music. She was a brilliant pianist, then learned to play the violin in her 60s!  She died in January 2011 aged 98. Interestingly I do know that Verity's Mum was also a great pianist!

Many thanks to Ann for her fullsome and interesting comments.  She has generously offered an ebook for the giveaway.  So... if you'd like your own copy of her fabulous collection of Yorkshire knits, just leave a comment on this blog, telling me which yarn you would pick as your all-time favourite. The winner will be announced on Tues 19th February.  Good luck, you'll love the book!

Born & Bred Available on Ravelry £9.75 GBP 
Copyright © 2012 Ann Kingstone
Published by Ann Kingstone Designs
in partnership with baa ram ewe
ISBN 978-0-9569405-4-4 
Photography Verity Britton, copyright © 2012

More stops on the blog tour:
Friday 15th Feb Knitspincake   Aimee Nicholson
Tuesday 26th Feb Woolly Wormhead's Ripping Yarns Woolly Wormhead
Tuesday 5th March StolenStitches  Carol Feller
Friday 22nd March The Independent Stitch  Deb Robson
Tuesday 26 March Knitgrrl  Shannon Okey