Ugh, when I started this blog I vowed I wouldn’t do what I do with all of my other blogs, i.e. go AWOL for weeks without a post. Anyway, I’m back and the main reason for my silence is because not much has happened on the knitting front. I’ve been feeling a bit uninspired whilst finishing off the Short Raglan sweater (above) – the completed pieces were just sat in a bag for weeks. Finally I took action, stitched the seams together, finished the neck and blocked it (still haven’t woven in the ends). It’s looking great, a behemoth of a jumper, very boxy and bulky, not going to be able to wear it for at least 6 months without sweating!

Anyway some things that did happen while I was on hiatus…

I finally discovered a really quick and easy Pom Pom maker by Clover. I volunteer at an arts and crafts class for disabled people once a week where I have been teaching knitting techniques – a couple of weeks ago we made French knitting necklaces, on the Monday just gone we made pom pom accessories and the pom pom maker really came in handy. We tried these pom pom looms too but the results were rubbish!

A few weeks ago I did a carboot sale in Pimlico (which was a waste of time  - no one wanted to pay more than £1 for anything) but I did get some nice Vintage Aran knitting patterns – in hindsight I wish I’d bought the lot but the seller was a real battleaxe and would only let me have 3 for £2!

At the same carboot I got this Dover quilting book, which has a lot of swastika designs (it’s pre WWII and probably refers to the Native American use of the symbol). Anyway, got me thinking I’d quite like to make a quilt, especially after seeing Kaffe’s quilts. It’s probably not something I am going to get into in a big way but I’ve always coveted patchwork quilts and would love to make my own.

Another Dover book I have been reading recently is Mary Thomas’ Knitting Book, written in 1938, it is interested insight into the history of knitting and details many different techniques. It’s a bit like a potted encyclopaedia of knitting, I’ve learnt a lot from it even if it can be a bit of a tedious read at times. I would recommend it to any intermediate or even beginner knitter – you can read as many modern, trendy knitting books as you want but this has the fundamentals and is very simple to follow.

As well as knitting I also enjoy sewing my own clothes, I have just started this Wiksten Tank dress in a pale grey fabric and I’m waiting for some hand dye to arrive so I can try some dip-dying like this.

Finally, Drops, are having a month long sale this May. Everyone knows I love Drops, lovely cheap wool (real wool or alpaca or mohair etc.) so I went a bit nuts. I don’t know what I’m going to make with it all, probably something grey?!

Books For Budding Knitwear Designers

Recently I’ve been doing some research into books which will help me advance with my knitwear design and I thought I would post the fruits of my research for anyone else who is looking for similar books, I’m not saying these are the best knitwear design books ever but they are affordable and seem to be well respected within the knitting community.

First up is Pop Knitting: Bold Motifs Using Colour and Stitch by Britt Marie Christopherson.

This book is amazing, it has some of the most unique colourwork and pattern design I have seen in knitting. It freaks me out though as some of it seems incredibly complex (it’s probably not really once you actually invest some time in it) and the book assumes that you know the techniques already.  However, the slip stitch ‘shadow’ patterns look fairly straightforward, I think I will probably attempt to master them first. The instructions are minimal, leaving you to create your own knitwear designs based on the swatches and their many variations, at the back a basic guide to design a sweater (read “canvas”) for these designs is supplied. I would probably call this a coffee table knitting book – it’s a real beauty. It’s not entirely useless to me right now and it will definitely come in useful in the future, it’s will really  inspire me when it comes to using colour, texture and pattern in my work.

Next up is Custom Knits: Accessories by Wendy Bernard

I thought this book looked a little bit naff, the styling is a bit iffy and the images of certain designs are repeated way more than is necessary BUT I bought it anyway because I wanted some help understanding how to design basic accessories such as hats, socks and mittens. It’s a good all rounder, it’s very simple and easy to understand and talks you through designing and adapting patterns for your own accessories. It has some basic formulas and charts for designing all the different shapes of each type of accessory. It’s not that basic though as the designs given as examples are actually quite interesting in terms of shape and detailing – not just run of the mill hats and scarves – there are bonnets and ponchos too! This book will help me to make my own designs without having to look for existing patterns as a starting point and the fact that I don’t find the designs hugely inspirational, I suppose gives me  a blank canvas to get creative with my own ideas!

Finally, a book I’ve had my eye on for a while, Knitwear Design Workshop: A comprehensive Guide to Handknits by Shirley Paden.

This book looks like the business, at first glance it appears to be a sort of textbook with areas where you enter information – so you’re learning along with the book and keeping a record of what you’ve learnt. I think this book is going to be the most useful as it teaches you the fundamentals of pattern design – from taking your measurements and applying them to different silhouettes to choosing the right stitch and yarn all the way up to adding extra details and textures to your designs. There are formulas and charts to help you acquire accurate results in every aspect of the designing process. If you’re looking for a practical, no-nonsense knitwear design book then this is it. Again, it’s not that inspirational, the featured designs are a bit frumpy BUT it is going to give you the tools to design pretty much any type of sweater you like so just buy it!

It’s cold outside…

Spring is still to rear it’s head and it’s going to get even colder this weekend. In some ways I don’t mind because it gives me an excuse to keep knitting big woolly hats and sweaters even though the weather is supposedly warming up! Anyway, I was out in the miserable cold on Lee High Road earlier today and I stumbled across a few shops I hadn’t visited before, one was a second hand bookshop which had a selection of 70s knitting books and magazines, the other was Knitshop.co.uk which I knew was in Lewisham but only happened upon it by chance this afternoon.

I opted for a Phildar magazine in the book shop which has lots of classic 70s woolly warmers in it… most of it is horrendous but there are a few gems. That said the pattern inside the front cover for a hooded Aran jacket complete with tassels – which was my main reason for buying it – doesn’t actually seem to be included. Bummer.

In knitshop I got a few skeins of yarn. Whilst they don’t have a great colour selection and it’s a bit muddled inside, the yarns are good quality and well priced considering they are an independent shop who don’t sell branded yarns. I got one skein of Alpaca Quito yarn in ‘Anthracite’, which is heavenly soft, drape-y aran type wool, a skein of Alpaca Fino in ‘White’, which appears to be finer, sturdier but still as soft as the Quito and a skein of Simply wool in ‘Black’ which is similar in texture to Rowan’s Creative Focus Worsted. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with them all but I’ll probably post the results here soon enough!

We Are Knitters

Just came across We Are Knitters, a Spanish website selling yarns and pattern kits. Whilst I’m not a massive fan of kits as I find choosing the colour and texture of my yarn to be one of the most exciting parts of the knitting process, We Are Knitters do have some nice modern patterns made from chunky 100% Peruvian wool yarns. The kits are are reasonably priced, when you consider that you’re not just getting the yarn but everything else you’ll need to make your garment including the patterns and needles and on top of all that they have made their own instructional videos which teach you all the techniques used in their patterns.

The designs look quite simple and are really contemporary so could be a good gift for converting a friend who doesn’t knit already. I’d love to knit that poncho or one of the loopy waistcoats!