Sunday, December 31, 2006

Who Ya Gonna Call?

I've received an advance copy of the February issue of Simply Knitting (lovely stitch markers as the free gift!). I'm delighted to see how well my crocheted Stashbuster Serape has been staged and photographed. I was really in two minds, when I sent it off, about whether it should be shorter and wider. It looks most luxurious on the model, however, and I'm glad I left it as it was. It's designed as a project for which you choose your own yarns from stash (obviously). Just in case anyone wants to know what yarns I used for mine, here they are:
  • Elle Monet (278 – Pisarro)
  • Texere Recycled Yarn (discontinued)
  • Red Heart Plush (9536 Lt Purple)
  • Wendy Precious Moments (197) (discontinued)
  • Rowan Calmer (484 Lucky)
  • Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran (502 Pea Green)
  • King Cole Merino Blend DK (69 Olive)
  • Cygnet Wool-Rich 4-ply (0268 Olive)
I also supplied an alternative knitted pattern for this, which is something I'm considering doing in future in my more simply constructed items. If a garment is made out of basic shapes, then it should be just as easy to make those shapes by knitting or by crochet. Of course the crochet will take more yarn (about a third as much again seems to be the accepted wisdom), so the crochet versions will drape a little differently; but I like to give people the choice...

Still on the subject of using what you have, instead of buying new, I have to share with you a few lines from a book which my sister found for me on her bookshelves. It's from 1943, and is called New Life For Old Clothes by Gertrude Mason. I imagine it would have been a remarkably popular book during the War – with clothes and yarn both being rationed. This comes at the end of a description of how to create a bath robe from a bathing wrap and an out-of-date swimsuit:
Remove the skirt from the swim suit and cut the lower part of the sleeves from it. Cut the facings for the lapels from the body part of the suit, using the front of the pattern as a guide. The trunks should provide sufficient material for belt and pocket, and a small back collar if required.
I know that bathing costumes used to be more decorous, but it sounds like this one was positively Victorian :)

The other book she brought for me is rather battered. It has lost its cover and the first and last few pages, so I have no idea what it's called or when exactly it was published. Judging by the copious photographs, it looks as if it comes from the 50s. It also contains advice on unravelling sweaters to use the wool for something else. I particularly enjoyed the child's pixie hood, made from a cut-up felted sweater!

I used to love pixie hoods. I looked like a gnome in them, but I still loved them...


"You did want it unravelling, didn't you?"

Friday, December 22, 2006

Comfort and joy

First, a newsflash: Santa's toyshop has been shut down, following inspection by Elfin Safety. Boom boom! I thengyow....

I know it's a little late for this year, but may I pass on my top Christmas tip? Don't send cards. Not that I don't like getting cards - I do - but since I've been ill, it's been an even bigger problem to get them all written and distributed than it was when I was well. So, a few years back, I announced that I would no longer be sending them. Instead, I donate the amount I would have spent to the Salvation Army, and it pays for them to supply a hamper and some presents to a family who wouldn't otherwise get them. Plus, of course, it saves resources!

Anyway - Happy Christmas to all my readers, and I hope Santa brings you all the things you asked for. Personally, I know it's unlikely that I will get David Tennant, but a girl can dream...


Tigger says: 'Don't drink and drive, just drink and nap...'

Monday, December 11, 2006

Zap! Kaplow! Blammo!

Thanks to everyone who left a comment last time. Getting comments is a bit like getting applause when you're on stage - it reassures you that there really are people out there, and you're not just whistling in the dark. (Good to see another Floyd fan, Steelbreeze!)

I want to give a little plug to a new craft zine, Proud to be Crafty. It's edited and produced by Alexandra Byrne, who blogs as LittleLixie. The current edition is the second; the first was limited to 50 copies and sold out in gratifyingly quick time. The new issue costs £1.50 and is available at

It is an endearing mixture of fun and interesting articles, including a fascinating piece on the online publishing service It also comes with an attractive length of Taos yarn to play with :)

I'm considering working with Richard to produce some video podcasts for the Knitting & Crochet Guild, as I can't go out to groups to run workshops and pass on my hints, tips, and expertise. Would anyone like to suggest a topic or area of knitting or crochet that particularly needs to be covered? Obviously I want to do topics that people are going to find useful, as well as entertaining, so I don't want to go off into areas in which nobody is interested.

I had hoped that I would get a bit of peace and quiet to concentrate on my knitting from last Friday onwards. Friday was the launch date for the new Nintendo games console, the Wii, and Richard has been telling me far more than I ever really needed - or wanted - to know about the damn thing for months. He'd preordered one at a shop in Durham, so he was able to go down there at 11:30pm on Thursday for their midnight launch. Of course, once he brought it back, he had to set it up to make sure it was working.

I think he got to sleep at about 4 o'clock...

Now, to be fair, I must admit that it is jolly good fun, although rather strenuous for those of us with puny muscles because its big selling point is its motion sensitive controller, which allows you to swing it to hit the tennis ball, roll the bowling ball, and box your virtual opponent. The one thing it can't do, however, is make Richard shut up about it. Instead of telling me how amazing it was going to be, he's now telling me how amazing it is.

Still, it could be worse, he could have painted his bedroom black and been listening to death metal...


Tigger says, "Nobody ever asks me if I want to play on the Wii..."

Monday, December 04, 2006

Happy Second Blogiversary!

Yes, gentle reader, it is two years to the day since the Doodles blog burst on to the stage. Well, it was more a tiptoe on in the back row of the chorus, but you know what I mean.

I missed last year's Blogiversary, because I was convinced, at the back of my mind, that I had started it quite a way into 2005 and by the time I realised, I'd already missed it...

So, you have my permission to eat twice as much cake, get twice as drunk, and sleep with twice as many ugly people as you would normally do when celebrating. Balloons, streamers, party hats, jelly and ice cream, pass the parcel, and being sick into your goody bag are all recommended.

I know that I have readers all over the place. I think it would make a great celebration if every reader (yes, this means you) left a comment, no matter how small. I'd love to hear from you all!


Tigger says, "Ooh! Did someone mention cake?"

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The rumours of my demise have been greatly exaggerated...

I suppose the main reason is that I have Been Out. Three times in about two months, actually, and all to Durham Gala Theatre. In a vain attempt to Get A Life, I foolishly booked tickets for three different shows in October and November and, although I enjoyed all of them greatly, it has left me absolutely flat. Still, if you get the chance to see Marcus Brigstocke, Jeremy Hardy, or The Play What I Wrote then do go and see them because they are all - in their own ways - extremely funny.

I have done one important thing in between periods of recovery, and that was send off my swatches. In the end I sent three to Rowan, three to Interweave Knits, and two to Vogue Knitting. I've already had an acknowledgement card from Interweave Knits to say that the parcel got there safely, so Watch This Space.

We've also solved The Mystery of the Smelly Cat: every so often, Tigger has come in smelling pleasantly - but distinctly - of non-cat smells, like the incense I mentioned in the last post. Apparently he has taken to visiting a neighbour of ours, who has just lost her little dog. My immediate reaction was to go along and apologise to her, but the Warden for our block assures me that she's very happy to see Tigger when he visits, and that he's helping her get over the loss of Lady. Obviously it is from spending time in her house that he picked up the scents over which we then puzzled...


"I won't be long. It's baking day today, so I'll be back in a minute - smelling of cinnamon..."

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A sobering thought

Before I get to the main thing I want to blog about this week, can I just say: thank goodness Bonfire Night is over! As the Beamish Boy said last year, "Some people go to firework displays; some people organise firework displays; and some people have firework displays thrust upon them..." The village has not had an official display this year, but we have had all the local youth trying to outdo each other with the number, size, and loudness of their bangers. The past two nights have been like living in a war zone :(

(Note for non-UK readers: on 5th November every year, we commemorate a plot to blow up Parliament. Some people let off fireworks because they are pleased that the plot was foiled; others do so in gratitude for the plot being hatched at all...)

Anyway, I was given a large bag of crochet thread this week by a friend who had received it from a recently bereaved family. She passed it on to me because she knew that I am a member of the Knitting & Crochet Guild and hoped that I would be able to find a good home for it. Before I gave it away, I naturally had a good rummage through. It was really quite sad; the threads were all tangled together, and had obviously just been dumped into the bag from a drawer or work box.

As I sifted through, I found a small piece of tatted edging. As I pulled it out, I found another one tangled with the end of it; then another, and another. By the time I reached the bottom of the bag, I had unearthed several pieces of quite elaborate edgings, some small individual motifs, three complete – or nearly complete – doilies, and three tatting shuttles:


Then something stuck in my finger. I thought it was a needle until I pulled it out and realised it was a tatting hook – the tiny hook used to draw thread through a picot on a tatted motif to attach one piece to another. We've put a penny coin in the photo to give you an idea of scale:

Tatting Hook

There's a mixture of crocheted and tatted stuff, but it all has three things in common: it all needs a gentle, but thorough, wash; it needs bits finishing off and threads sewing in; and it was somebody's pride and joy, which was never intended to be dumped unceremoniously into a bag and given to a complete stranger.

The last one made me think. What's going to happen to all of my stash when - although not for a good many years yet, I hope - I cast off my last row and head for the Big Stitch 'n' Bitch in the Sky? It's not something that any of us likes to think about, but even a small stash can be a great gift to another knitter or crocheter.

I have a friend who inherited a stash from the relative of a friend. It has taken her two years to knit her way through it, and everything she has made from it has benefited a charity. When she has knitted up the last ball, she intends to type up the list of items she has made and present it to the family. I'm perfectly sure that they will be amazed at what that small stash has achieved.

On an even gloomier note: is your stash insured? Even a moderately sized stash of yarn, needles, and books could be worth a considerable amount of money, if it all needed to be replaced after a fire, flood, or unexpected plague of moths. I'm not too sure that you can insure your stuff against plague of moths, but it's a niche market that I'm sure insurers should be looking into :)

So, in short, get your stash into your Will and onto your contents insurance; you don't want it ending up jumbled together in a bag in a stranger's home.

I'll do my best to restore and complete all these lovely pieces, and I'll post photos to show you what they look like when I've finished.

On a lighter note, Tigger presented me with a bit of a puzzle today. He came in smelling unmistakably of incense. The only solution I can think of was that he had gone to the Catholic church across the road, misread the sign as "Cat-holic" and joined the congregation for mass. After all, he can be a very devout cat:


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

It's In The Genes

Those of you who read My Family and Other Knitters - pt 1 will know that I come from a very creative bunch. Since my sister has been studying the family tree, we have discovered another little sprig of needlecrafting ability.

As all of my maternal grandfather's family were seafarers, I always imagined that their wives and sisters spent their time faithfully knitting ganseys. My maternal grandmother's family, however, tended towards brickmaking, and it was with great please that I discovered my great-great-great-aunt Rosanna, born in 1838, who appears on the 1851 Census as a lacemaker. She would only have been 13, and was already earning money, which seems strange to us these days, but was the norm back then. However, she is the only one in the family, so I would love to know where she learnt her skills and what kind of lace she made. She lived near Salisbury in Wiltshire, so she was nowhere near the great lacemaking areas like Honiton or Notingham.

The present is also quite interesting this week. Poor little Tigger has had a trip to the V-E-T because he has a cold. He's determined to punish us for this; both Richard for taking him, and me for letting him. It has to be said, that he is punishing me far more!

I've been in contact with Deborah at Simply Knitting, and I am please to say that my plus size patterns are now underway. The next thing I am having published is in issue 23, not a plus size pattern in the strictest sense although scarves do tent to be one-size-fits-all. Also, Simply Knitting now has a blog, which is well worth a read.

Lastly, I am very proud to announce that I have finished all the sketches for my samples. Not all to my satisfaction, but the best that my limited artistic ability can produce. Watch this space...


Tigger says, "Try getting me in that carrying box again, and it will be the worse for you..."

Sunday, October 15, 2006

I Aten't Dead

Sorry for my non-appearance last Sunday. It's been a bit of a time, what with my tooth, and going out gallivanting, and the Beamish Boy upgrading my computer and introducing it to Linux. It wasn't love at first sight...

However, now that the BIOS has been upgraded, everything seems to be working fine, and I am no longer under the oppressive thumb of Bill Gates :)

I've spent part of the past week wrestling with my mother's Christmas present. She requested a big lacy knitted circle, with slits left in it for her arms to go through, so that it would just cover her shoulders nicely if she had to go into hospital. Not that she's planning to, you understand, but she likes to be prepared. I faffed about with a number of different knitting and crochet patterns, none of which really fitted the bill. In the end, I dug out one of my favourite crochet doily patterns, and worked it in 4-ply yarn with a 4mm hook. This gave me a good base on which to build, probably by adding a few plain rounds at the end and working the slits into them.

It was at this point that I phoned my mother and told her what a pretty bed jacket she was going to get.

"Oh, I didn't want anything as complicated as that," she said. "I was thinking of just a length of knitting joined up at the ends to make cuffs. I didn't want you to go to any bother."

I told her firmly that she was having a fancy bed jacket and liking it, and then went straight back to my crochet and started working out how to add cuffs...

In the end what I did was simply to work in half-rounds, gradually decreasing as I went, to turn the circular doily into an oval shape. When it was wide enough, I put the edges together and started working round, and round, and round to make sleeves. Of course I would have done this a lot more quickly had I remembered that the doily was composed of 16 motifs. The first time I started on the half-rounds, I counted up and came to 15, so I worked the whole of the first side and sleeve from a beginning of 7-and-a-half motifs. It was only when I'd nearly finished the second side, worked over 8-and-a-half motifs, and held up that sleeve against the first one, that I noticed the discrepancy in width. Luckily crochet is much easier to unpick and work up again than knitting...

Well, it's finished now, and I can get back to my plus size patterns.

And I promise that this week, I really will do the sketches to go with the swatches I made weeks ago, and get them sent off...


Tigger doesn't care what I do, as long as I don't move :)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Extracting Information

My teeth and I have had rather a week of it, which is why I am blogging a day late - the Beamish Boy wasn't here yesterday and, in my codeine-befuddled state, I couldn't remember how to switch on the laptop...

Whether it was the stress of going out, or the result of gritting my broken teeth as I concentrated on navigating, I don't know. All I know is that I developed something nasty under my teeth, which has taken a week of antibiotics to kill off, and a large amount of codeine to subdue.

Anyway, once I get the All Clear, I can force myself to visit a dentist. Yes, I have found one - not only an NHS dentist who is still taking patients, but a wheelchair-accessible one too.

They weren't easy to find, even with the help of one of those Patient Helplines that we're always being told to ring. I explained that I needed a wheelchair-accessible NHS dentist whose books were still open.

  "Oh, yes!" the lady said, brightly. "We would recommend Tiggywinkle's Tooth Emporium1 on Steep Street."
  "Is that the one halfway up a steep cobbled hill, with no car park?"
  "That's the one!" she replied, cheerfully.
  "OK," I said carefully, "but it's not really wheelchair-accessible, then, is it?"
  "Ah," she said, ruffling a few papers. "Then what about Dingly Dell Divine Dentists?"
  "Three stories up, and no lift," I reminded her.
This had her stumped. "We-ell..." She ruffled a little more. "The Pixie Palace for Pearly Teeth?"
  "It's a converted terrace house," I pointed out. "There's not exactly a lot of room inside; remember, I need it to be wheelchair-accessible."
She sighed a deep sigh. "Well, I can think of one place," she said, "but it's outside of the town."
  "Is it an NHS practice?"
  "Is it still taking new patients?"
  "And is it wheelchair-accessible?"
  "It's a hospital," she muttered. "Own car park, all on one level, automatic doors. But I don't know whether it will suit you..."
  "Why on earth wouldn't it suit me?"
  "Because you said Durham City, and this one's three miles outside..."

I am delighted to report that I didn’t call her a Rude Name, but thanked her politely, took the hospital's phone number, and hung up...

So, another little adventure looms. I don't know how soon they'll be able to fit me in, but I'm hoping it will be in the next couple of weeks. Yes, gentle reader, my life is indeed full of Excitement and Adventure and Really Wild Things :)

1. Names have been changed to protect the innocent Durham dentists who practice in listed buildings and therefore can't install lifts...

PS. Tigger says I should do what he does, and sharpen my teeth on Chloe...


Sunday, September 24, 2006


The photos of the display have now been uploaded to Flickr and can be found here.


I made it out to the Knitting & Crochet Guild exhibition in Sunderland Art Gallery yesterday, so today I feel like a small piece of chewed rag.

I also have toothache... Still haven't found a wheelchair-accessible dentist in the area!

Richard took loads of photos, so we'll be posting them soon. In the mean time, here is a picture of Tigger with his new ornamental friend:


PS. The problem with leaving comments has apparently been sorted out now, so you shouldn't have any more problems. Why not test it out today :)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Odds 'n' sods

It's been a quiet week here in Lake Wobegon Esh Winning, my home town. Oops, been listening to a little too much Garrison Keillor...

Apart from Tigger bringing in another two pieces of meat, and a child's fireman's hat turning up on my wheelie bin, nothing much has happened. I did get my new Rowan magazine, which has some lovely items in it and blissfully plain photographs. In other words, in this issue you can actually identify what the knitted item is :) I'm still not quite sure about the ball gown, though...

Talking of new issues of magazines, my Simply Knitting also arrived this week. The jumper featured on the cover is a wildly vibrant orange bobbly cabley thing, which would lift your spirits every time you wore it, were it not for the rather unfortunately placed bobbles on the chest!

Speaking of Simply Knitting, I had a good chat on the phone with Debora Bradley this week about my plus size patterns. She absolutely loves the sketches I've sent her, so it's just a matter of our deciding on yarns and colours. Watch this space...

Finally, I know a few people have had trouble leaving comments since I switched to Blogger Beta. I've found this to be one of the main drawbacks (it also means that I can't leave a comment on a blog which isn’t using Blogger Beta), although I suppose that these snags will disappear once the new version has reached everyone. In the meantime, you can always leave a comment as "Other", entering your name and blog URL manually. Bit of a pain, I know, but I hope it won't be long before everyone can switch to Beta.


Tigger says, "Don't disturb me, I'm waiting to see what she chucks out next..."

Sunday, September 10, 2006

And the runner up is....! Like I expected (having had a quick vote for the others in my category to check on their totals), I came second in my section of the blog awards. I am so chuffed to have been nominated that I could have come last and not cared :)

This entry will probably be shorter than usual, as I am missing my faithful amanuensis. For the last few weeks I have been dictating and the Beamish Boy has been typing, like Eric Thingummy for Delius. Except I don't write music... Anyway, this week I'm flying solo!

I've almost finished my swatches, and I'll soon be onto the sketches. I love doing those, as I've only discovered in the last few years that I can make marks on paper which can be recognised as the thing I intended them to be! Until I was 12, I attended a school where art lessons were all about free expression, which was great; unfortunately I had a teacher who constantly put my work down and told me I couldn't draw. Then I went off to my convent high school, where we had lessons with a rather eccentric working artist - great at her own work, but didn't teach us much, and used to tell us all we couldn't draw. So, when I left school, I was pretty much convinced that I was a dud at art.... It was only when I wanted to keep a note of my design ideas that I tried sketching figures, and found I could produce rather stylised models which were ideal for hanging my pieces on!

The yarns have all been very pleasing to work with, but I am the most impressed with Inca Cloud by Artesano Alpaca. I've been wanting to use this for a while, as it is a Fair Trade yarn (something in which I believe very strongly), and I finally found the correct project for it. I swear, the stuff is like knitting with butter - there's just no effort needed to make the stitches and move them along.

I love alpacas, with their funny little teddy-bear faces. I wonder if I might be allowed to keep one on the lawn in front of the bungalows here? It would be so much more pleasant than putting up with the council's earsplitting, stinking petrol mowers, and would be lovely to look at:

My Pet Alpaca

(Thanks to the Beamish Boy for the photoshopping!)

Monday, September 04, 2006

Swatch It!

Firstly, two snippets of news: the voting for Knitting Fiend's blog awards has now closed, and the results will be announced on the 6th. I am expecting to come second. Also, I have now switched to Blogger Beta, which probably won't make any difference to your reading enjoyment, except that the archives are now easier to get at.

It's been a bit of a rough week, because I foolishly enjoyed myself by having three lots of visitors last week. It was well worth it to see two of them, but I could have done without the Methodist minister turning up in the middle of my Friday afternoon nap, plonking himself down in the chair, and proceeding to tell me how awful his job is for the next half hour. I must have one of those faces...

Anyway, all this excitement meant that I wasn't really in a fit shape to work on anything larger than a swatch this week. So, I've spent the week producing samples to go with the latest round of sketches. I'd already sent three sketches of possible plus size items to Simply Knitting - they didn't need samples because I've worked with SK before. I'm also now submitting a dressy top and a sweater to Interweave Knits; a shrug and a man's sweater to Vogue Knitting; and a baby cardigan, a sweater, and a jacket to Knit Today. If you have fingers, prepare to cross them now :)

The beauty of swatching, of course, is instant gratification. You get to work on a small scale, not some huge and heavy piece of knitting, and after a few hours, you have a finished thing of beauty which you can admire. It's also brilliant for trying out new stitch patterns, which is also something I've been doing this week. Even with my befuddled brain, if I use enough row counters, stitch markers, and little bits of paper I can follow new patterns with only a minimum of frogging...

Their other benefit, when produced as a sample for editors, is that I can take my tension from them and start writing up the pattern, rather than selling the idea and then having to make a tension square when I'm itching to start the garment itself.


Tigger says, "See this claw? If you stop me sleeping on your yarn one more time, it's going right in the middle of that nice lacy pattern..."

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Error in 'Summer Dreams'

Many thanks to Libby, who posted this comment:

I'm literally in the middle of knitting your top (even though I think I will need to add straps when it's finished!) but I've got slightly confused starting the decreases. I think it looks like a typo but it could be me being dim.

On the 3rd row of decreasing it says slip stitch, then pass the slip stitch over but I haven't done anything to pass it over. Should it be a repeat of the instruction at the end of the 1st row where you slipped the stitch, then ssk then pass the slipped stitch over that?

Libby, you're not dim at all - it's an error! It's correct in the file I submitted, but it's slipped into the printing. I didn't even notice it myself .... (slaps hand)

As you say, you should SL1, SSK, PSSO as for Row 1.

Can I just say a little something about comments? I love replying to comments, but if you don't have a blogger account, the reply address shows up in my email as 'no-reply@blogger' and I can't mail you. Please, please, when you leave a comment, spell your e-mail addy out - like snoopy at dogkennel dot com, or harry potter at hogwarts dot ac dot uk ;)

Oh, and keep voting - the deadline is Wednesday....

Happy knitting :)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Fat Birds Knit Bigger

Well, that wasn't quite what she said, but if I tell you that it was said by a bewildered participant in the ridiculous Gillian McKeith's You Are What You Eat - during a discussion on digestive processes and lavatorial habits - I'm sure you can guess which rhyming word I've replaced...

Thank you to all the people who have voted for me (and will hopefully continue to do so) in "The Addicts Choice Knitting Blog Awards". Don't forget to keep voting for me until August 30th.

Can I also recommend voting for Odd Ball Knitting and Knit the Knits in the Minor Categories.

Also, Richard has excavated the second half of my bookshelf, which means that a whole load of other stuff is up for grabs on the Prunings page. Items are going pretty quickly, so go over there now while you think of it :) I've learnt my lesson from last week's postage costs; things weigh a lot more than I imagined! Standard postage is now £1 per item to a maximum of £5 per order for UK buyers.

Anyway, on to the knitting content! I had a chat with Debora Bradley at Simply Knitting this week about the feasibility of my contributing some plus-size patterns. I'd been a bit wary of suggesting this before, as I know that models' fees are a consideration in the budget for the issue, and I wasn't sure whether the budget would stretch to an extra model just for one pattern.

However, she's very positive about the idea, and has asked for some sketches. I have plenty of ideas for items, and lots of practical information from my own experience and from my design books, but I want to canvas opinion before I send anything in.

So - do you regularly knit yourself patterns with a bust size of 42" or larger? Do you have strong views on the sort of patterns you would like to see in sizes up to a 60" bust? If you do, then please leave a comment or email me. I'd like to be able to send in patterns which are likely to be popular with the knitters who will make them.


All this excitement is too much for Tigger...

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Vote for me!

Nominations closed a couple of days ago on the "The Addicts Choice Knitting Blog Awards". There are four blogs in my section, so I am shamelessly touting for votes.

Click here to go to the voting page, and feel free to vote for me every day until August 30th.

The awards are announced on September 1st.

Go Doodles!


I've just received this exciting information from Mary Anne:


did you know your blog has been nominated at this site?
Scroll down to Best Pet & knitting Blog

And I went, and there I am! How exciting is that!!

I mean, in other categories are people like the Yarn Harlot......


If anyone fancies voting for me, I won't object :)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Space Race

In my ongoing search for more storage space in my one-bedroom bungalow, I have decided to rehome a tottering pile of knitting magazines and books.

Like most of the other knitters I know I have more knitting books than I could possibly ever use and, although I enjoy looking through them, I have very rarely made anything from them. Therefore the majority of what I'm offering is virtually in a new condition. The Beamish Boy has very kindly created a special little sales page for me, and he will be fielding the emails that result from it.

Prices range from 50p to £3 with a standard charge per order of £1 Postage & Packing, unless you want Special Delivery or you live outside the UK. Therefore, the more you buy, the cheaper postage and packing becomes. Feel free to go wild...

The page is

There is a requirement to enter a username and password, just to fox the SpamBots, but it will be the same for everyone: beamish for username, and boy for password (there's a reminder of this on the page itself).

Orders are on a first-come first-served basis - please don't put your requests here as a comment or in an email to me because that will just confuse the whole system.

Secondly I have been contacted by several readers concerned about Chloe; they worry that she may be feeling left out because Tigger is so photogenic, and poses so well for the camera. Truth to tell, Chloe hates the camera and runs away from it at every occasion, leaving Richard with a lovely collection of shots of her backend rapidly disappearing out of the frame. However, after days of patient stalking, Richard managed to get this fine shot:


Sunday, August 06, 2006

The fearless hunter

Tigger likes to persuade us that he is still a fearless hunter at the advanced age of 9. OK, so 9 isn’t very old for a cat - barely 45 in human years - but this summer, thank goodness, he seems to be losing the knack of trapping small, live things, and bringing them back to show me. As my longer-term readers may remember, he and I had an intense discussion about the bringing in of livestock after this incident.

In order to maintain his reputation, he has discovered a new source of presents for me. Let me explain: I live in a terrace of bungalows, originally built as a war memorial. The entire block is E-shaped with the central arm of the E being the communal hall and visitors’ car park. I live at one end of the E and Tigger’s hunting grounds extend over the whole site right down to the bottom arm of the E. Because I rarely go out I don’t know many of my neighbours - nor their strange habits, as you will see.

A few weeks ago, Tigger came charging in, making his giveaway preeping noise, with something unusually large in his mouth. I drew in breath to scream at him just as I realised what he had “caught”; it was a piece of ham.

I wrestled it away from him (those extending grabber sticks are really useful) and dumped it in the bin. He promptly went out and brought in a second, larger piece. Just as I was playing tug-o-war with him, my carer arrived. She got the ham off him, and was as bemused as I was about where he could possibly have found it.

The next few days were quite uneventful. Then he barrelled in again with a large, misshapen yellow thing which turned out to be the very tail end of a piece of battered cod. This one had me really baffled; it wasn’t as though he could be mugging people for their sandwiches this time.

Equally unsettling (not to mention smelly) was the following day’s offering: half a kipper. I was really starting to worry now...

The pi├Ęce de resistance, and the final explanation, arrived together this week. This time he appeared through the window with the remnants of a rather thick and overdone burger. This time I was sure I had him; he had obviously found somebody having a barbeque and had done his Oscar-winning poor-little-me-nobody-feeds-me-I-am-a-starving-little-kitten routine with the huge eyes of Puss in Boots from Shrek 2.

The truth turned out to be much weirder than a mid-week barbeque in a complex inhabited mainly by tough old ladies who don’t hold with soft, modern ways and wouldn’t go near a barbeque if their lives depended on it. Jacky-the-carer brought the final missing piece of the puzzle.

Apparently we have a new neighbour at the other end of the E. While perfectly pleasant, she is sometimes deserted by her common sense and does things which are rather... bizarre. She really enjoys feeding the birds, but occasionally forgets that all of our visitors are of the breadcrumbs and birdseed persuasion rather than carnivorous varieties which she seems to want to attract with ham, kippers, and burgers.

Although strangely enough, I did see a pair of gulls this week. Perhaps the word is out...


(If you look carefully, you can seem me reflected in his pupil; this is another of Richard's super photographs - please feel free to visit his website,, where you can see more photos and even send Tigger an email!)

Monday, July 31, 2006

Not so much a post, - more like a sticky note

And sticky is the word. Hot, hot, horrible and hot. I want air conditioning....

Thanks for all the great compliments, on here and by email, on the strapless top. I have to say it's one of my favourites too! Lixie, you should be able to get the yarn at any online store that carries Elle Yarns - I'm not up-to-date on LYS stockists. Mail me if you have problems.

Two really annoying things happened this week. I missed yet another Knitting and Crochet Guild meeting - I'm used to being kept indoors when it's cold, but it seems a bit unfair that I now can't get out when it's too hot, either :)

The other was my surpassing of my previous record-holding piece of clumsiness, ie giving myself a paper-cut on the peel-off backing of a Band-Aid. This time, I broke my tooth. On ice cream.

Stop laughing, it hurts :)

To be more specific, it was Ben & Jerry's Phish Food, and it was a fish-shaped piece of chocolate surrounded by ice cream, but the point remains.

Sometimes I wonder how I manage to breathe and walk at the same time :)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Designing 101

For those of you breathless with anticipation for another chunk of my boring family history, sorry - that will have to be next week. Too hot. Too tired. Also, I want to write about my latest design!

Simply Knitting came out this week, featuring my strapless ribbed top with ribbon detail. They've called it 'Summer Dreams', which I like. The pictures are super, which is very cheering after my breakdown over the poncho picture :)

I originally designed this top with straps, but as the knitting progressed, I realised it was going to hold up on its own and ditched the straps. Now, I have had a lot of compliments about the top this week (squeak!), but also several requests about larger people wanting to use straps. Listen, people - have you seen my photo? I would need not only straps but buttresses. If you want to make straps, make straps. I would always rather my clothes were worn and enjoyed :)

The yarn is Cotton Fields from Elle, whose yarns I love (and no, I'm not on commission!). I'm not a big fan of cotton because of the splittiness and lack of elasticity, but I have to say that this was quite an easy one to work with - not too hard on the hands, drapes nicely, doesn't split too much.

The ribbon is organza, from a website called Craft Online (again, no affiliation, etc). It supplies craft materials for, among other things, wedding favours. That's the section which has the organza ribbon in it. I love the way that the organza is sheer, whch makes the colour more subtle, and also that it has a sheen to it, offsetting the matte surface of the cotton.

Of course, the other exciting thing for me was the interview :) Richard (the Beamish Boy) provided the photo, and the actual interview was done over the phone. Sharon Thomas is very easy to talk to, and had some interesting questions. I think she pulled the bones out of our conversation really well - it made me sound quite coherent!

I'd also like to pop in a few words here about th
e whole design-to-print process, because some readers seem to have odd ideas about how things are done.

The first step is the idea. Either I come up with something, or an editor will request a type of garment. Sometimes they want to highlight a particular yarn, so I get sent some to play with and have to design around that.
Magazines are usually looking to the issue three or four months ahead, so I often find myself knitting heavy jumpers in August and skimpy tops in February!

The design usually evolves over a few days, so I rarely go with my first idea - I let it stew for a little while first. If I haven't been sent a sample ball of the yarn, I order one online.

Next step is swatching. This is essential, because I might find out at this point that the yarn I want doesn't do what I want it to - the fabric comes out too dense, or textured stitches don't look right.

Once I have my swatch, I can write the first draft of the pattern. I start with sketches of the pattern pieces, and then label these with measurements in cm and inches. Magazines prefer cm - I still think in inches :)

I check and recheck all the numbers here, to make sure that everything adds up as it should. It's no good my deciding that a side seam should be 30cm overall if I've already labelled the ribbing as 10cm and the rest of the seam
as 22cm! These measurements also help me work out how much yarn to order.

With these numbers, and my swatch details, I can now write the first draft of the pattern. I usually have to design for about 5 sizes, and the actual garment will be the smallest size.

Once I have a good idea of how much yarn I will need, I request it from the distributors. I have a lot of very helpful contacts with different companies, who appreciate that I need the stuff as soon as possible. I've only once had to wait more than a couple of days for yarn. Of course, this is in their best interest, too - my designs exist to advertise their yarns!

The yarn arrives, and I start work. All this time my subconscious has been muttering away to itself, refining and polishing the design, so it is at this point that I make any final major alterations to the drawings and pattern.

Finally, I start knitting - usually to a deadline. I tweak the written pattern as the garment grows, altering things like the depth of ribbing or the shape of a neckline.

Once the garment is finished, seamed and blocked, I check through my written copy of the pattern to make sure it reads clearly, and then type it up in Word. I have templates for each magazine, as everyone sets their patterns out slightly differently. Then the garment, a sample of the yarn, and a covering letter go off in the post to the Editor, and I email her the pattern and my schematic of the pattern pieces.

I have no more input once the garment has been sent off, and just have to wait until the magazine comes out. Sometimes I will be asked for a few comments on the garment, but not every time.

After the piece has been photographed, it is returned to me, and I store it with my other designs
- meanwhile, it's on to the next one!

The most common questions I seem to get about designing are 'Do you use a computer program?' (nope, just good old pencils, paper and a calculator); 'Do you get the things back once the magazine finishes with them?' (yes, but none of them fits me!); and 'Does the magazine have people who knit your patterns up?' (not the ones I work for, although I think you have that choice with Interweave Knits).

So there you go. Everything you never really wanted to know about my design process.....

Sunday, July 16, 2006

My Family and Other Knitters - pt 1

Someone asked me recently if I came from a creative background. I didn't think my family was any more creative than normal until I started to think about it.

For example, my great-grandmother on my mother's side was a professional cook. This seems to have been passed on through the family - one of my aunts, the second daughter of my grandmother's six surviving children, was the cook at Harrow School for years. My mother, sister and I are enthusiastic cooks, who love to throw dinner parties, although Mum and I aren't up to the elaborate stuff any more.

Mum makes and decorates great cakes. She can do the traditional royal icing types (my wedding cake, baskets of roses and so on) as well as the Jane Asher type - she does a lovely butterfly.

She's also very good at pickles and preserves, although she deosn't produce as much as she did when we were at home to eat them. I can still smell the eye-watering combination of boiling vinegar and pickling spice from the making of pickled onions :)

My maternal grandmother was a talented dressmaker - just as well, when she had six children to bring up, and a husband who was away at sea more than he was at home. (He retired from sailing a year before my mother was born, when he lost a leg in a wreck.) She not only clothed the family, she took in dressmaking too. Mum can clearly remember her sewing into the small hours, to finish a party dress for the family or an order for someone else.

My maternal grandfather, as I say, was a sailor, and so was proficient at netting and sailmaking. Because of the netting, he also knew how to cast on with the thumb method - something he taught Mum, which she then passed on to me and my sister. He also loved to whittle wood, and carve toy boats, which Mum, her brother and their cousins used to sail on the local pond.

My mother's brother inherited Grandad's abilities with wood, and became a time-served carpenter, making furniture which is still in use in the family. (His wife, although not a blood relative, also deserves a mention - she was a trained tailor and upholsterer, and I remember her work as being amazingly neat and accurate.)

Mum and another of her sisters both trained in the workroom attached to a big upholstery/curtains/loose covers shop in Southampton. It was almost a rite of passage there to have the needle of the sewing machine go through your finger - Mum still has a rough section on the side of one nail, where the needle went in between her nail and her finger, while my aunt had it actually go through the middle of her nail.

Mum was also a great dressmaker, and could be amazingly inventive. After the war, when money was short and clothing was hard to get, she made my brother a pair of shorts and two plaid shirts from my father's old raincoat.

We all had handmade clothes as children, although we didn't always appreciate it! One of my favourite outfits was the sailor top and navy miniskirt she made for my twelfth birthday - I felt like a million dollars in that :)

She was also a prodigious knitter, and loved Fair Isle especially. She used to say that, if we won the Pools, she would sit and knit Fair Isle all day. She was also particularly inventive with her allowance of clothing coupons in the Second World War - she used short lengths of tapestry wool (for which no coupons were needed) for Fair Isle tops, and even knitted her own nylons, complete with seam, from the little cards of nylon darning thread!

(I'm using the past tense here, not because she has died, but because the other family legacy - arthritis - has curtailed a lot of her activities.)

My father, like Mum's brother, was a time-served carpenter, and made some lovely furniture. He could be very inventive - my sister still uses a long, low table which he made from the top of a piano! Although he eventually qualified as a chartered quantity surveyor, he never lost his DIY enthusiasms, and I can never remember anyone else coming to the house to do odd jobs. He's the only man I have ever known who could wallpaper a ceiling....

He also used to make hooked rugs, and could embroider beautifully. He was stuck in quarantine in a military hospital for a whole winter while he was in the Army in WWII (carrying, but not suffering from, diphtheria), and he passed the time by embroidering tray cloths and making a pink elephant for the Sister. He presented it to her when he left, explaining that, when it turned grey, she would know she had had enough to drink!

My brother is creative with words. He has written several series of stories for children, as well as a children's novel and several collections of humorous verse. He can compose long rhyming poems for any family occasion, and we all treasure the poems he has written for each of us!

My sister is a proficient knitter and a wonderful cross-stitcher. She especially used to like the big intarsia picture sweaters of the 80s, and used to add extra sections onto the charts to keep herself interested - more sheep, or more flowers. She made me a wonderful sweater with a country landscape on it - but she thought the back would be boring for her just done plain, so she adapted the chart from the front, and created the same scene by night for the back!

She can make clothes - she's just made a beautiful christening robe for her new granddaughter.

She's been a keen cross stitcher for several years now, and has designed lots of her own works. I particularly like the pair of samplers she made depicting events from the years in which she and her husband were born.

She doesn't knit much now, but I still treasure the memory of waking up one birthday to find that she had knitted an entire wardrobe of beautiful clothes for my Tiny Tears! Come to think of it, I still have the pattern she used :) And I really regret losing the green rabbit she made me....

Like me, she has dabbled in a ot of other things - macrame, plasticraft paperweights, jewellery making, tatting.

Ever since I was little, I've been making things: knitting, crochet (yarn, thread and filet), tatting, cross stitch, embroidery, blackwork, tapestry, bobbin lace, Ruskin lace, spinning, paper crafts, macrame, Fimo modelling, modelling with paper straws, watercolour painting, basketry, dressmaking..... But I keep coming back to knitting and crochet. I guess they're my thing.

Next week: Our amazing neighbour. Have a good one!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Too hot :(

I received my August copy of Knitting magazine yesterday, with my final piece for them in it.

OK, that was terrible sentence construction, but I am too hot and tired to care :)

It's a camisole worked in Louisa Harding Kimono Silk Ribbon, which has to be one of the prettiest yarns I've used recently. I love variegated yarns anyway, because the changing colours keep me amused - yes, I am easily amused! Sometimes variegated yarn has very badly conceived colourways, and sudden changes in colour. This yarn, however, changes subtly from one colour to another, and also has a lovely sheen to it which is not immediately obvious in pictures.

It's also very easy to work with, so long as you don't use mega-sharp needles, as these would tend to pierce the yarn. It slides smoothly along the needle without slipping off the tip, and it's surprisingly stretchy.

No affiliation, by the way - just my own thoughts!

I was also very pleased with the way that the camisole itself was photographed - good front and back shots. It really annoys me when I open knitting magazines and see photographers trying to be arty - sorry, people, but we need good, clear photographs of the garment. No colour filters, no long-distance misty shots, and nothing distracting from the knit.....

OK, that's it for this week. Sorry I'm not at my sparkling best, but I hate heat. And please don't mention 'Doctor Who....'

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Slight error of judgement

Today was the hottest day in rural County Durham so far this summer. So what did I do?

Did I sit under the shower?

Did I go to the leafy, shady forest down the road?

Did I find a spa with a cool jacuzzi?

Nothing so obvious.

I got my whole family together - from Southampton, Luton, York and Durham - and took them to a restaurant with no air-conditioning, to eat a roast dinner.

It says a lot about my family that no one gave in to Heat Rage and tried to disembowel their neighbour with a dessert fork.

We were actually gathered together to celebrate both Richard's 21st and his graduation. We worked out that the last time we were all together, including Richard's paternal grandparents, was at his christening - although the last time my side of the family met up without them was only three years ago, at a joint birthday party for Mum and my brother.

We don't go in for big reunions much :)

Anyhoo, I am hanging on by my last nail, so I think it's time I went and crashed. I may be back next Sunday.....

Sunday, June 25, 2006

A star is born

I was interviewed this week!

I've answered the odd question for Simply Knitting blurbs before, but this was a proper interview, conducted by a proper writer, for a proper 500-word article. Real proper stuff :)

I may have mentioned it in passing to the odd person since it happened. The fact that one of my carers greeted me today with, 'Yes, you told me' is entirely coincidental...

The interviewer, whose name, I am sorry to say, I was far too excited to take in, made it a really enjoyable experience. She asked interesting questions, not just the predictable ones for which I had already planned my answers. She had read my blog, and knew about my designs and interests. She was also really easy to talk to, and we discovered a mutual admiration for the very talented and twinkly David Tennant !

So, the article will be in the August issue of Simply Knitting, due out on July 20. There is also a design of mine for a cotton top with organza ribbon in the same issue.

Maybe my ambition to be on 'Desert Island Discs' is not so far-fetched after all.... Since the age of 10, I have regularly updated my mental list of eight records, one book and one luxury. Just in case Sue Lawley is reading this, and wondering what I would choose, here is today's selection.

Tomorrow's may be different ;)

Time Out - Dave Brubeck
My Funny Valentine - Miles Davis
Birds In Your Garden - Pulp
Jokerman - Bob Dylan
Hearts and Bones - Paul Simon
God Give Me Strength - Alison Moyet
My Home Town - Bruce Springsteen
Who Knows Where The Time Goes - Sandy Denny

The Opinionated Knitter - Elizabeth Zimmermann

Need you ask? Lots and lots of yarn and needles. I promise not to knit an escape boat :)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

News Flash!

Richard, the Beamish Boy, is now the proud possessor of a B Sc in Physics from Warwick University!

Feel free to raise a virtual (or real!) glass of bubbly :)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

First, the good news

Well, it might not seem like good news, announcing that my second submission has been rejected by Vogue Knitting, but read on.

My first submission was accompanied by a letter that basically said, 'Thanks, but it's not for us.'

The second, which they kept much longer, came back with this letter:

'Thank you for your design submissions. We were unable to use them at this time, but we encourage you to continue submitting to our publications in the future.

Thank you again for thinking of us. We look forward to seeing more of your work!'


I do feel chuffed :)

However, as one door opens, another door shuts. I am sorry to announce that I will no longer be submitting designs to Knitting magazine, as I am not happy with the way they have handled the error on the 'Magic!' hat pattern.

The Beamish Boy currently has the correct chart on his machine, but I expect it (and the other two I submitted) will be back on my PC soon, so if anyone would like a copy of the correct chart for the lightning bolt hat, do let me know. Don't expect instant answers, as I'm not managing to get online every day - but, if nothing else, I should be online every Sunday.

I still have a camisole in the the works at Knitting, but that will be the last one. It's sad, but I felt I had no other choice.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


Well, the four worries that have kept me away from my post here have all now been resolved. The two projects with insane deadlines have been completed (early, in both cases!), my brother is out of hospital, and I'm on new lung medication which is allowing me to breathe. Always a bonus :)

(My brother, for those of you who know him, has had a prolonged stay in hospital and in a rest home because his diabetes got out of whack and he ended up with kidney failure. He is well on the way to recovery now, having worried us all sick for weeks...)

I think I may have to take a leaf out of Mary Anne's book, and designate a day for blog entries. I'll probably pick Sunday, so I hope that, next Sunday, I'll be posting again.

In the mean time, it has been suggested to me that I reprint here an article that I wrote for SlipKnot, the journal of the Knitting and Crochet Guild. The issue in which it appeared was dedicated to bags, but the information on blending yarns applies to any project.

Stash Bags
This is not an article about storage solutions – it’s about how to make bags without spending money on yarn! As I am writing this around Christmastime, saving money on yarn seems like a very good idea….

Now, I’m not talking about pretty, lacy, delicate little bags – the kind that just about holds a handkerchief or a lipstick. What I am considering here is the good, solid, useful tote bag. There are plenty of patterns around which use expensive, chunky yarns to make thick, hardwearing bags in beautiful colours. However, many of us no longer have local yarn shops in which to browse or, even if we do, we may not necessarily have the budget for the sizeable balls which always seems so short on yardage.

The answer lies in our own hands – or, rather, our own stash. I have been experimenting for quite a while now with working with more than one yarn at the same time, blending my own yarns to create different effects. If you have never tried knitting with two or more yarns together, it may seem a little daunting. But really, all you have to do is pay a little extra attention to ensure that the point of the needle goes through the entire stitch.

First of all, root about in your stash to find those odd balls that you never know quite what to do with. Try to choose balls with a similar yardage. A mix of textures is always a good idea; I recently completed a garment for Knitting magazine which combined a variety of colors and textures with a Lurex thread, and the results looked almost like a sparkly Fair Isle. Because of the way yarns twist together when they are worked, different colours come to the forefront at different points in the fabric. I suppose, if you are a spinner, you could even ply the yarns together, although I’ve never tried this myself. I prefer just to hold the yarns together.

The next thing to consider is the colours that you will use. You could begin simply with several strands of the same colour yarn, but this is a bit dull. It’s much more fun to hold two or more different colours together and see how they twist around each other to create a random variegated effect. Even the most garish colours can be muted by being worked with other, more subtle colours.

Sometimes a theme can be useful in choosing colours. Try jewel tones - sapphire, ruby, emerald and topaz. If you prefer a more muted palette, what about ice cream colours? Perhaps Raspberry Ripple (pink and red), Caramel (shades of brown) or Neapolitan (brown, cream and pink)!

And dont simply use yarns of the same weight. I achieved very pleasing results using a pale cream double knitting yarn together with 4-ply peach, yellow and green. In terms of the ice cream colours, it was a little like Tutti Frutti!

Next you need to consider your needle size - the smaller the needle, the denser the fabric. You may want quite a stiff and hardwearing fabric for a tote bag, so a smaller needle may be what you need. (Of course, blending yarns is not just for bag making, and a larger needle creates a springier fabric suitable for cushion covers, throws etc.)

Even with a dense fabric, you may like to create an inner for your bag to stop things falling out through the stitches. I find old pillowcases are invaluable for this, as they need very little sewing. You may prefer to knit an inner on much finer needles, with finer yarn.

Finally, dont forget that the Guild offers BIYCH yarn – Blend your Own Chunky. If you dont like what youve unearthed from your stash, perhaps the Guild can supply colours for you. Whatever you do, be adventurous – the results may surprise you!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Things are bad. Send chocolate.

Still coughing. Had a week off the antibiotics and then had to admit defeat and go back onto a new set. Vague rumblings are being made about my going into hospital, which I am strenuously resisting - I have enough problems without that :)

OK, well, now that Blogger has condescended to work, and my computer has stopped sulking and working at half speed, let's see what kind of a post I can cobble together for you. I can't believe it's nearly a month since my last effort....

Two new patterns published: a baby poncho called 'Angel Delight' in the current 'Simply Knitting', and a top in the new issue of 'Knitting'. (No info yet on the reprinting of the correct chart for the Magic hat, by the way.)

I'm sure Debora, who edits SK, won't mind me saying here that I wasn't totally happy with the photo for the poncho - we have discussed it at length ;) You get a better idea of the whole garment on the following page, where it is laid out flat. The baby model was a bit large for it - but VERY cute!

That reminds me - talking of cute babies in SK, my sister has just returned to knitting to make the doggy babygro from a previous issue. She's making it for her granddaughter, in the same colours as the family dog..... although, as my niece is a vet, I have no worries about her confusing the two!

Anyway, as I was saying - the poncho is made in Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, which is one of my very favourite yarns as it's so soft and pliable. The gorgeous buttons are from a huge and lovely selection at Laughing Hens, and I've used several different designs from there in the past.

The Honeybee top is one of my most enjoyable past projects. It's made by working random stripes of four different yarns, along with a length of Lurex, and it creates almost a brocade-like fabric. The stripes are more pronounced in the final item than they were in the swatch, as I had to replace a Rowan yarn, which was being discontinued. This seems to happen with monotonous regularity :(

It was a fun project to do, as you can swap a colour as soon as you get bored of it. The best thing of all is that it's worked top-down, in the round - no sewing up!!

Two other bits of news - sadly, Alice Weir (Flossie Knits) didn't win Knitter of the Year, but stll needs sponsors for th Race for Life. Please visit her site if you can.

Secondly, as well as luring my sister back to knitting by showing her the doggy babygro, I have persuaded Richard's grandmothers to start knitting again. My ex-mother-in-law is knitting for charity, and my mother is about to start knitting my baby poncho. I am beginning to feel like Patient Zero for a knitting virus :)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


It let me upload it at last :)

This deserves inclusion in my collection of ghastly patterns for so many reasons. The fact that it's designed for Jimmy Savile; the clumsy 'OoOoOo'motif; the fact that said motif is swiss darned (what a cop-out by the designer!).....

For any of the non-British readers who don't know why this is funny - Jimmy Savile is a British DJ with an unpleasantly unctuous manner, whose trademark is a weird ululating yodel - hence the motif. He does loads of stuff for charity, but he still gives me the creeps :(

The new issue of Knitting magazine is now out, with not two, but THREE of my patterns in it, AND an article (photos courtesy of the Beamish Boy). They've done a great job on the article, adding extra illustrations for me and setting it out well on the page.

I'm not totally happy about the way they've styled the Springtime shawl, although it looks good - I would have preferred it twisted as I suggested in the pattern. I have to say, though, that the Blue Sky Alpaca Silk that I used for it is just the most gorgeous yarn I've ever had the pleasure of fondling. It is soft and smooth to knit with, and blooms on washing into the most amazingly even fabric.

I love the way the Hollyhock gilet has been styled and photographed, and it really shows up well. The Twilleys Freedom wool is incredibly light and airy for a chunky wool, and so soft that you would never know it was a pure wool yarn. I love the colour, too!

The Magic hat looks OK - it's difficult to photograph shadow knitting. Big problem with the chart, though - they've printed the wrong one. As soon as I can get hold of the editor, I know she'll arrrange an erratum notice, but I'd rather it was right first time.

Oh, and one of my swatches has come back from Vogue Knitting, with a nice letter saying, 'Thanks, but no thanks.' I'm not really surprised - I don't think anyone gets in first time. However, they still have the other swatch, so - who knows?? Watch this space....

Friday, March 31, 2006

News from Nowhere

Still here.

Still knitting.

Coughing well.

Yes, I have... a chest infection!! Just as the weather was improving :)

I wanted to show you all the ghastly pattern with which my dear friend Vicki cheered me up recently, but I'm having issues with the photo upload gremlins.

Instead, I shall leave you with this joke:

A friend of mine had to visit her doctor lately with a rather odd problem. She'd noticed that, whenever it was her turn to drive for the car pool, she got a tingling and then numbness in her hands. Even stranger, it only happened when she drove through the Tyne Tunnel - nowhere else on the journey, and on no other day of the week except that one.

The doctor told her not to worry, and diagnosed car-pool tunnel syndrome.....

Monday, March 13, 2006

At least I can blog about it

Well, the Beamish Boy is home for vacation - next term he takes his Finals and (I hope) graduates. Where did the time go? I swear, the last time I looked, he was sitting on the sofa in his pyjamas, chewing his toenails and watching 'Dangermouse'.

Oh, wait. That was this afternoon....

Well, I finshed camisole A (see a few posts back), washed it and blocked it. It looks gorgeous, it has worked just as I hoped it would, and the colours absolutely glow.

Now, before I go on with this anecdote, I have to explain a few details.

1. I don't move fast.

2. Especially when I am in bed, which is one of those snazzy electrical jobs, but moves even slower than I do.

3. I block finished items at one end of my desk, which is the other end of my bedroom from my bed.

4. My cats ignore any order I give them.

Ok, so I was on the phone with Serena (who has, incidentally, done her duty and added herself to the Frappr map. Just saying....). We were happily chatting away when I noticed Chloe lumbering up onto the desk - she's rather old and has lost her bounce, bless her.

She sniffed the camisole. I told her to get down.

She lay on the camisole. I told her to get down.

She stretched out her neck and, before I could get to her, casually chucked up a hairball onto it.

I may have deafened Serena at this point, and if I did, then I apologise.

With gritted teeth and murder in my heart, I rewashed it (thoroughly) and reblocked it. It doesn't seem to have suffered too badly. And, as I said to Serena once I started breathing again:

'At least I can blog about it...' :)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Hard sums

It is the bane of my existence as a designer that Knitting Involves Hard Sums.

I was unfortunate enough to be taught Maths in junior school by someone who didn't understand how numbers work and just taught us by rote. This state of affairs was made worse when I went to secondary school, and had to learn SMP Maths. Don't ask - I don't know the difference. I just know I don't understand it, and I passed my Maths O-level purely by dumb luck.

This means that I am as capable of solving maths problems as anyone else with a calculator - but I have no confidence in my ability to select the right bits of any problem on which to use it.

I've even been known to phone the Beamish Boy and ask him to check my answers....

Which is why I was quite ridiculously pleased today, when working out two concurrent sets of increases, to find out that one needs to increase every 4 rows, and the other every 8 rows. Nice and easy to remember - and I didn't even have to torture the numbers and fudge the tension to get them to work out :)

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Not a good day

I was going to have a moan.

I was going to tell you a long story about how I needed to rip out about 6 rows of the camisole last night, and have managed to end up, 24 hours later, 20 rows further back than I was this time last night.

I was going to shake my fists at the weather, which prevented my sister from coming and spending the day with me.

I was going to grit my teeth over the DVDs which didn't turn up today as they should have done.

Then I switched on Radio 4 for 'The Archers', and caught the 7 o'clock news, and an item which put my bad day into its proper context.

Linda Smith, stand-up comedian, actor, Radio 4 panellist and writer, died today of ovarian cancer. She was 48.

She had a deceptively quiet style, with, as Mark Steel said today, 'an air of Englishness' about her. She could sum up a situation in one pithy remark and put people in their places without their ever realising she had attacked them. She wrote a subplot on one of her shows about having a poltergeist with ME which still makes me laugh every time I remember it.

She went too soon.

Blowing two trumpets at once

The April issue of 'Simply Knitting' is out, and I'm very proud to say that I have TWO (count 'em, two) projects in it - my rainbow wrap, and a bag featured as the 100g Challenge. They've really done me proud with the photos, and both are in thumbnail on the front cover.

I have to admit, though, that by far the cutest thing in the magazine is the dog babygrow - especially as they photographed it on the world's cutest baby! It's almost enough to make me broody. Not quite, but almost!

I'm not sure if I have anything in the April issue of Knitting, but I can reveal that I have THREE items in the May issue. Yes, three. One more than two :) Although, strictly speaking, it's two items and an article.

If they keep using my stuff at this rate, I'll have to learn to knit faster.....

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Senior Moment

Well, it had to happen sometime. Given how erratically my memory works, I was bound to mess up sooner or later.

You see, it was like this. I came up with two different ideas, in two completely different yarns, for camisoles - let's call them A and B. I offered A to editor 1, and B to editor 2. Editor 2 accepted first, so I organised the yarn, and started on....

Camisole A.

I then compounded the error by not realising until it was half-finished, when I did what I should have done in the first place, and read my 'To Do' list.


Luckily both editors were very understanding, so I didn't have to frog or chuck out what I had done so far, but I did feel a fool :(

Ahem. Anyway.

You may have noticed a new button, for the Doodles Frappr map. Please click and put your pin in the map - I'd love to see where my readers hail from!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Calling all artists

I have a friend in Glasgow called Janie Thomson. She's a brilliant photographer, and she is starting a new project photographing women artists at work. She's blogging about it here , where you can see the first photos. She's keen to get in touch with all kinds of women artists, preferably in and around Glasgow, but further afield as well (I've volunteered!). If you think you would like to help out by being photographed, please comment at the blog. Many thanks!

Well, all day today, I've been here - not the website (which is a fabulous gallery of pictures by another talented photographer friend, Robin Somes - please go and view it), but the New Forest.

Not literally, sadly, but mentally. It's where I grew up, and I miss it with an intensity that amazes me at times - after all, I've lived here in Durham, three hundred-odd miles away, for longer now than I lived in Hampshire. I love my adopted county, but still, when I lose myself in thought, it's the New Forest that I see.

Today was the February meeting of the Knitting and Crochet Guild. Once again, I could not attend - the weather was too cold, I'm not as healthy as I need to be, and anyway I had no transport. So I knitted. Knitted and sulked, knitted and swore, knitted to avoid looking at the same four bedroom walls I see day in and day out. Knitted to escape.

Gradually it began to work the soothing magic I needed, and I was caught up in my own thoughts. I could remember the smell of the pines, the leafmould, the bracken. I could feel myself relaxing and recharging. The mind is an amazing thing, especially when knitting lets it roam.

It's been a lovely day. Not the day I wanted, but a good one nevertheless.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Happy Saturday

Do you think the guy turns up once you've knitted the dress?

And, more to the point, do I really need a man to chew on my knees?

Another pattern from my collection. In fact, the first one, the original pattern that started it all off....

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Cross everything!

OK, people - my submission to Vogue Knitting goes off in the post tomorrow.... I've submitted two tops, one of which could be for summer, but both could be for evening wear. If you see what I mean. Anyway, one's in Rowan Wool Cotton and one's in Rowan Calmer, both of them a joy to knit with, I have to say. I don't usually use a lot of Rowan, but I needed something which was widely available on both sides of the pond.

Actually, I may find myself using more Rowan in future - after the lovely parcel I received this week. A full set of up-to-date Rowan shade cards. Mmmmmm.... I love being a designer, you get such fun stuff! And speaking of designs - p.27 -29 of the new issue of Knitting is my pattern for a moebius scarf :)

I've spent a lot of time this week working on a piece called 'A Pillar of the Community'. It's going to form part of a display that several local knitting groups, including the Knitting and Crochet Guild, are mounting in Sunderland Art Gallery in the autumn. We're creating a patio and garden (not to be confused with the knitted garden that the BHKC are creating), and my piece is a sampler of Aran and gansey stitch patterns.

I'm using the collections of Mary Wright and Gladys Thompson as my main resource. All their patterrns come from traditonally-constructed ganseys, ie those worked in the round, so I am creating a long tube. I'm alternating cabled sections with textured sections - it's looking OK so far....... I'm working out how to make it stand up as a pillar, and I think part of the solution is suspending it from the ceiling!

One last thought. I've been watching the first series of 'Lost' again in the last two weeks, on DVD. Is it a sign of my obsession that I get cold shivers wondering how I would survive there with no knitting?

Monday, January 30, 2006

Stop press!

Simply Knitting have just published the shortlist for their Knitter of the Year, and I would love everyone who reads this in the UK to vote for Alice Weir. Please ring

0901 890 4884

Alice is a member of Newcastle Knitting and Crochet Guild, a smashing knitter, a great ambassador for the craft (she's even been on the radio talking about knitting!) and an architecture student designing a Textiles Centre.

She's also a really lovely person :)

If you want to know more about her before you phone, her blog is here.

She's also doing the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Walk, and I'm sure she would appreciate any sponsorship too.

So please, if you can - Vote Alice!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Joy of Swatch

I've been having a jolly time over the past few days, knitting up samples to accompany my submissions to Vogue Knitting.


Sorry, I have to take a few deep breaths every time I say that. If I get them accepted, I'll need resuscitation.....

Anyway, this has involved making little samples of the interesting bits of my designs. It's heaven. No great long cast-ons, no acres of body, just the bits of cables and Fair Isle that make the designs interesting.

I've done two out of three, and now I'm champing at the bit waiting for my last ball of yarn to arrive so that I can do the final one. It's just what I need to fight the winter blahs - producing little sections of fun.

Here's hoping the final garments are as interesting to knit :)

Friday, January 13, 2006

neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, shall keep me from my appointed rounds.....

......but a bum knee will do it every time!

I'm still confined to quarters with a dodgy chest, but I've now added an arthritic knee which has stopped me getting online - I couldn't sit at the laptop for long enough. However, gentle pottering around the bungalow is having the desired effect, and I can now bend it again.

Well, I had a splendid Christmas. The Beamish Boy came to stay for a whole week, and also cooked a lovely Christmas dinner, as usual. He's a bit of a star :)

Mum bought me 'The Opinionated Knitter' by Elizabeth Zimmermann, which is wonderful. I love EZ - her attitude to knitting is so inspiring. Plus she writes such sensible patterns - for a polo neck, she suggests 'Work P2, K2 until you are sick of it'. Isn't that the way we all do it? :)

I got a variety of books and audio books, plus smellies and chocs. How well my family knows me!

We also had beautiful, thick snow, which looked amazing. Of course, I could enjoy looking at it, safe in the knowledge that I wouldn't have to go out in it!

Nothing from me in Knitting this month, but I think I have two in the next issue. I also have 3 lined up for Simply Knitting - details as I know them.

I'm glad to be back, anyway. I hope it won't be too long before I post again. Happy New Year, everyone!