More Yarn Will Do The Trick

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Woodland Knits by Stephanie Dosen - interview & giveaway

The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper. 
WB Yeats

How true this is and if you've spent any time at all with the delectable miss d, either listening to her music, reading her blog, or knitting her patterns, you'll know as well as I do she's on a mission to open our eyes to her wonder-filled world in the enchanted forest.  If this is your first encounter with Stephanie, then you're in for a treat. Her first book, Woodland Knits, will put a smile on your face. It's inspired by the spirit of the woodland and faerie tales - a magical collection of quirky, amusing and beautiful knits.
Cover with Deer With Little Antlers Hat 
Holiday knitting is definitely on the horizon now, so first up on my needles will be Mr Fox Stole My Heart  - x4, for my four little grandchildren, each in a different colour to reflect their personalities. As well as the one for wee folk there's a larger version, both adorable.
Mr Fox Stole My Heart collar
Mr Fox Stole My Heart scarf
Stephanie has kindly agreed to join us for a chat today and has also donated a copy of her book to a lucky reader. If you'd like a chance to win, all you have to do is join in the conversation and leave a comment on this blog saying which is your favourite design and why. The draw will close at the witching hour on Wednesday, 2 October and the winner's name will be pulled out of the Midsummer Night's Dream hood the following day. However, if you can't wait, you can order your copy here.
Midsummer Night's Dream
Jean  Hello Stephanie and welcome to my bosky den in Wales where I’ve got faerie cakes, made with a secret recipe passed on to me in a dream - berries, angel crisps and some delicious flower nectar tea for us to share.

First thing to catch my eye about your book is the graphic design and how it reflects the contents perfectly. I love the woodland colours and how each design has its own magical leaf, fern or twig border. How much were you involved in this and how important do you think book design is in a pattern book?
Stephanie  Thank you! I was always afraid to put out a book of my designs because I didn’t want it to turn sterile.  A few publishers had approached me previously and I had to turn them down because they wouldn’t give me full artistic control.  I had previously learned in the record industry that when you give that up you are done for!  When Quadrille approached me they just seemed to “get” my vision right away. One of the first things they said was that they want to have little owls all around the book and make it woody and magical.  I was still nervous but I was on board!  I’m excited about how the book turned out.  It ended up being a real collaboration between artists.
Faerie Wings
Jean  You’ve used such a wide variety of gorgeous yarns, so which comes first, the yarn or the design? What are your fave fibres for attracting the attention of wee faerie folks on woodland walks?
Stephanie  I have to admit, it’s really hard for me to choose yarn!  I generally come up with a design and then feel the need to start right away. I will impulsively grab whatever is closest and get to work.  I’m usually too impatient to even go shopping for what I need!  That’s terrible isn’t it?  Good thing I keep my yarn stash positively loaded. I’m a sheep wool maniac. In general I love using wool in tweeds and heathers.  I want my work to look like a Welsh hillside went to Oz on the way to Narnia. 
Catching Butterflies mitts
Jean  If you were setting the mood for a catwalk show of your current collection, what would the story, music, food and colours be?
Stephanie  I think maybe we’d have a midsummer night’s eve setting. It would be twilight. The music would be crickets, forest noises, A little pan flute, jingle bells, owls, harp and branches breaking. We would come out of mist and prowl around a little bit. There would be a tea party and tiny feathers floating in the air.  The food would be nuts and berries and string cheese.  String cheese is fun to eat!
Jean  Do you have a muse? If you could chose one notable person from past or present to dress in your designs, who would it be?
Stephanie  Oooh, that’s a toughie. I really only design things because I want them.  I’ve tried to make things for other people but I always miss the mark!  I do work with a sweet little faery though.  She has a harvest dress and her pockets bursting full of ideas and acorns.  She has wild braids and helps me formulate all sorts of things.  My other muse is a grandmother. She sits in a rocking chair and helps me with technical aspects and staying calm.  Her energy is very grounded so I lean on her to keep me from buzzing right out of the ceiling when I get too excited or impatient. I suppose I am very impatient!
Woodland Hoodlet
Jean   Several years ago my son Felix introduced me to your music in your first album, A Lilyfor the Spectre, and I’m so looking forward to Snowbird, your upcoming CD, next spring .  I haven’t come across many people who share with me the twin passions of music and knitting. Can you say a little about any crossovers between the two?
Stephanie  Thank you! I’ve just received the masters for the record and I’m really excited about the way it sounds.  It took over 6 years to get the record to this point and I can’t wait for it to finally be out!  It is very woodsy itself and honest and ethereal.  It’s about animals and wishes and the theme of ghosts runs through it again.  I think music, poetry, painting, dance & design all work together to give us freedom from heaviness that life can sometimes become.  They are the feathers on the bird, the custard in the doughnut.  I’ve always liked the custard part the best.

Faerie Wings
Jean  Tell us a secret?
Stephanie  I obsessively arrange the books on my bookshelf according to height.

Thanks so much Stephanie and good luck to everyone in the draw!
All images © Tiffany Mumford

The drawing is now closed.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Dordogne Scarf

As promised today I'm posting another free pattern to celebrate the publication of my new book, Great Little Gifts to Knit.  This time it's the Dordogne Scarf, named after a visit to an angora farm whilst we were in France on a reccy for our upcoming tours, Knit France 1 & 2,  held in a beautiful manoir in the Dordogne next year. The yarn I used was produced from the goats on the farm (77% mohair and 23% silk) and also dyed in the area, but there are many similar ones now on the market, so you don't have to make a trip to France to get the yarn, though if you can I do recommend it!
Angora goat
To Make 
14cm/5.5in/wide, 38in/96.5cm long when pressed to shape.
Colour in this shot is slightly bluer than yarm - see below for accurate hue
25g/1oz Angora/Silk Mix yarn  125m/137yds per 25g ball 
1 pair 4mm needles
tapestry needle for sewing in ends

19 sts and 22 rows = 10cm/4in over pattern

Cast on 26 sts and commence pattern as foll:
Row 1 (RS)   Sl 1, knit to last st, k1 tbl
Row 2          Sl 1, purl to last st, k1 tbl
Row 3          Sl 1, *(k2 tog) twice, (yarn over needle, k1) 4 times, (k2 tog) twice; rep from *once, k1 tbl
Row 4          Sl 1, knit to last st, k1 tbl
Repeat these 4 rows 52 times, then cast off loosely, on a larger needle if necessary to maintain gauge.
Sew ends at cast on and cast off edge in  using tapestry needle.
I'm loving mine, it's just perfect for the first chilly days of autumn, a simple pattern delivering vibrant colour, lacy texture and movement. 
Add caption
One final thing before I close for today. I've got a treat in store for you tomorrow. Don't miss my interview with Stephanie Dosen about her new book, Woodland Knits, and of course a chance to win a copy! 

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Among Stones winner!

Congratulations to rolenestone, who is the lucky winner of the Among Stones draw. Enjoy! The draw was done using a random number generator.
If you'd like a chance to win another lovely book, next Thursday, 26th September, I'll be reviewing Stephanie Dosen's new book, Woodland Knits, plus there'll be an interview with the delightful miss d.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

A free gift for my readers

To celebrate the publication of my new book, Great Little Gifts to Knit, I'd like to gift a couple of easy patterns to my lovely readers. There'll be one today and the next one will be next Wednesday.
Since I broke my wrist a couple of months ago I've not been able to manage much knitting, in fact it was no knitting at all until the cast came off two weeks ago. Since them I've managed to make a couple of pairs of fingerless gloves, inventing the pattern as I went along, the stitches influenced by how much or little my swollen fingers could manage. I found it more difficult to actually sew them up than to knit them as sewing calls for fine motor skills which I'm sadly lacking right now.

I was quite pleased with both pairs.  I call them my Rehab gloves.  I've gifted one pair already to a friend who admired them, the other I kept as they're keeping my recovering wrist warm and cosy on chilly autumn days, making it less likely to swell up. I'm now branching out and working on a new stripey pair, but more of that anon. Here's the pattern:
To make
Sizes  S, M, L
Yarn 1 ball Rowan Cocoon in Kiwi (816) - 115m/126yds per 100g ball
Needles 1 pair each 6mm (US 10) and 7mm (US 10.5)
Gauge  14 sts and 16 rows = 4in/10cm
Using larger needles cast on 25(27, 29) sts and work 14 rows in sticking stitch. Change to smaller needles and work 8 rows in 1 x 1 rib as follows:
Row 1  *k1, p1; rep from * to last st, k1
Row 2  *p1, k1; rep from * to last st, p1
Rep these 2 rows 4 times.
Change to larger needles and work a further 14 rows in stocking stitch, then decrease 1 st at both ends of next row - 23(25, 237) sts. Cont for 1 more row in st st, then change to smaller needles and work 4 rows in 1 x 1 rib as above.  cast off in rib.
Sew seam leaving a 1in/2.5cm gap for thumb starting 2in/5cm from cast off edge.

There you have it.  I love my pair, quick and easy enough to be made in an evening - great for last minute prezzies. Enjoy!

Please note You're very welcome to use my pattern for your own personal knitting and gifting, but please ask before using it for commercial purposes.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Among Stones review & giveaway

I'm delighted to be one of the stops on Carol Feller's blog tour for her latest book, Among Stones. Here we have a capsule collection of nine patterns beautifully photographed in the crags and hollows of Scotland and her native Ireland. Comprising four women's sweaters, one child's sweater, a beaded scarf, a shawl, socks in adult and child sizes and a hat and mitten combo, it's available right now for wholesale (US) and retail customers.
DACITE - heathery tweed, plus versatile design
Carol kindly agreed to have a chat about the making of her book, so pour yourself a cup of tea, coffee, a glass of wine or whatever's your fav tipple, put your feet up and relax and enjoy this unique insight into her creative process.
SEPENTINITE - mossy hues reflect the stone and vegetation
I love the title of your book, Among Stones is evocative, esoteric and enigmatic. Can you say something about how the individual stones influenced your design choices?
The cover photo for this book was taken inside a ruined house at the side of a small river in one of my favourite local parks. When I first saw the spot a few years ago I photographed it and wanted to come back and use it as a backdrop. The designs weren’t influenced by individual stones but rather by my general environment. I live in the countryside and my primary activity involves walking; either locally, in woods or in parks. I have always felt at peace while I walk and I wanted the book to reflect that and my stone strewn environment. Even my entire house is clad in stone and surrounded by a 15 foot stone wall! 

I wanted the easy beauty of those carefully constructed stoneworks to be reflected in the knitting, no individual element is overly complex but in its completion you would have a thing of beauty.
SERPENTINITE - lovely combination of lace and beadwork
One of the things that immediately caught my eye 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?
My husband does the photography and graphic design for my books, usually with both of us sitting down one evening and throwing text and layout ideas together until we create the general feel for the book. 

The book started off quite organically, with a few projects coming together that looked like they were meant to be a set. Then we talked it through, thinking about how it would work as a bigger project. What atmosphere did we want to create? That is when the darker greens and blacks came in.

We also tried out a new square book format with this book, I really like this shape, it fits a nice amount of information on each page and doesn’t overwhelm the reader.
LIATHITE Junior and Adult hoodies - this could be my first foray into
top-down knits. Perfect sizes for all the grandlings.
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?
I like a good match between yarn and project; sometimes I fall hard for a yarn (Blue Sky Alpacas ‘Brushed Suri’ used for Dolmite) and other times I have a very clear image of the yarn qualities and colours I want and I spend months searching for the right fit (Hand Maiden ‘Maiden Hair’ for Serpentinite). I like a wide variety of yarns but they need to work well for the particular project to enhance it.

Generally though I have an idea for a project. I’ll initially swatch it up with yarn I have at hand and from there decide which direction I want to take for yarn and colour. There are so many amazing yarns out there now it feels almost like we’re spoilt for choice! Ideally if I get a chance I like to work with some Irish yarns as well, there are many great ones out there and I love to be able to support local businesses. In this book I’ve used both Donegal Yarns and a new hand dyer, Coolree Yarns.
BASANITE - I'm crazy about fingerless gloves,
these come with a matching hat 
If you were setting the mood for a catwalk show of your work, what would the story, music, food and colours be?
I’ve never really thought about this before! For this particular body of work it would have to be very organic, greys, green, blues with rustic touches. Mulled wine and maybe brown breads, salmons and other simple snacks.

Maybe some ‘Kila’ for music which is a fusion Irish music.

Do you have a muse? If you could chose one famous person to model your designs, who would it  be?
I definitely don’t have a muse, although there are some well known faces out there who’s style I admire. Kate Moss and Sienna Miller have such a casual elegance that it would work well for this collection.

She’s not famous, but my sister-in-law would be my favourite model in the world. She modelled for my Spring collection and I’ve never had so many compliments on photographs!

GABBRO - cool combo of short rows and lace
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?
I love mixing between indie publishing and using an outside publisher. Both have their own benefits and I find that I learn from both experiences.

When I work with an outside publisher I learn a lot about organisation, planning and how to manage edits effectively so that nothing slips through the cracks. These skills transfer really well to self-publishing.

The benefits of doing it yourself is primarily control. I control the schedule, projects, yarns, photography and layout. This is both a curse and a blessing! The volume of work is huge and you need a very strong drive to keep moving forward on your own timetable without outside deadlines. I think that for me indie publishing actually works better with the skills I’ve learned from a publisher.

My indie books are smaller also than with a publisher as I don’t have any advance to sustain me for the time it takes to write and edit the book.
GABBRO - Asymmetry hort rows and lace
I've picked out some of my favourites, but you'll find a few more gems in there too. Carol has kindly agreed to donate a hard copy or ebook (your choice) to a lucky reader. All you have to do is leave a comment below, telling me what sort of knitting you enjoy and what's on your needles right now. You have until midnight on Wednesday 18th September and please don't forget to leave your Rav ID or email address so I can contact the winner. For more chances to win, check out the rest of the blog tour below,

19th of September     Karen Kelty           
4th of October           Ann Kingstone         
17th of October         Rachel Coopey           
21st of October         Woolly Wormhead     
24th of October         Ruth Garcia-Alcantud       
28th of October         A Playful Day   

All images © Joseph Feller
For European wholesale info please contact Carol
RRP    Euro €17, GBP £15, USD $22
ISBN  978-0-9571212-2-5 (hard copy) 978-0-9571212-3-2 (digital)

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Champion Aran knitter

Had to share this. Anne O'Maille, who is the co-owner of O'Maille's in Galway, a shop selling amongst other goodies Aran sweaters, wrote to me recently with good wishes for a speedy recovery. She told this story:
Anne O'Maille
One of my greatest knitters Mary Anne Kelly, (who knits an Aran sweater every 10 days) got into a struggle with ivy she wanted to remove from her garden--- the result was a fractured wrist.

Unbelievably, she knitted one cardigan while in the cast and has completed another since the cast was removed.

Now there's a woman with a will. Respect!!!

There's a must-read interview with Anne on the history of O'Maille's and the Aran knitting tradition on The Wild Geese blog.