Tag Archives: design

Happy New Year!

1 Jan

Well, goodbye 2012. It was nice knowing you!
It’s been an exciting year for me. In the spring I set myself a goal of having 20 patterns available on Ravelry, which I achieved as the year drew to a close. I’ll have 10 more coming out in February, which were finished some months ago – more on that soon.
Over the summer we published issue 50 of The Knitter, with a frankly bonkers 50 patterns, and redesigned the magazine.
My only regret was all that work meant I could only take a one week holiday while
Storm had 7 weeks at home before starting school.
I made some new friends, and got to know some others better.
My journey as a minimalist is now in its third year. At Christmas this meant having an emptied car driving home after the festivities, and actually being able to see out of the back window for a change! Being a minimalist doesn’t mean all white interiors and a penchant for Philippe Starck (at least, not to me). It means fewer possessions, and more real life. Zen Habits and Becoming Minimalist are both great places to start if you’re curious.

While letting go of possessions has felt relatively easy, one of my biggest challenges as a minimalist is reducing my commitments. For about four months over the summer my workload meant I barely had a moment to just ‘be’, and also resulted in much reduced blogging here.

So my goal for 2013 is to look at balance, say no a little, and have some more fun and get some more adventure in my life!
I’ll have 2 pattern collections coming out this year, but first up is a very exciting trip to New York for Vogue Knitting Live.
In the meantime, here are my key moments of 2012. I hope you had a good one, and wish you all the best for 2013,


1) Storm starting school. And starting to read and write. Just wow.
First school packed lunch. Awww.
2) Making new friends and renewing old bonds

3) The death of one of my oldest friends – in itself a terrible loss, but with some surprising silver linings.

4) Starting and finishing (!) quilts for my dad and Storm

5) Being able to call myself a designer – after 20 plus years of dreaming about it


6) Watching my husband launch his fledgling breadmaking business

7) Helping Storm learn to swim and being able to share my passion for swimming with her

8) Handmade birthdays and a minimalist Christmas
Christmas chutney!

9) Being constantly reminded that happiness in work, family and friends is more important than anything money can buy
10) And this picture… (thanks Steven)


Popsicle Shawls in Mollie Makes

28 Sep


A little over a year ago a pretty little craft mag was launched. Mollie Makes has taken the making world by storm, with its heady mix of beautiful projects, inspiring features and one to ones with some of the world’s top crafters.

I was a subscriber from issue one, so I’m absolutely chuffed to say that I’m in the latest issue. Hurrah!


My Popsicle Shawls are a fresh twist on a classic – a mini shawl that thanks to a little clever shaping, won’t fall off your blinking shoulders!


I wanted to create a design that was easy to wear, simple to make, and grew quickly. You can knit up a Popsicle in a couple of evenings, and all the stitches are very straightforward.

The yarn is Blue Sky Alpacas Organic Cotton Worsted (nom), and the pattern uses 6mm needles so blink and you’ll miss it!

The first one I knitted – the lime shawl, started life as a mini strip of garter stitch. I was trying (again) to teach my daughter to knit, and this is what we ended up with after a little while.


But she quickly lost interest (she’s allowed, she’s four) and I sat and stared at this 2cm strip for a few minutes, thinking, ‘well, I’ve knitted that, I don’t want to undo it, what can I do with it?’

Then I remembered a neat technique to pick up around the 2 short sides of a rectangle, and knit out to create a shawl shape. So I looked up Elizabeth Zimmerman‘s Pi Shawl formula, which I’d been wanting to try, and started from there, developing the shape to fit around the shoulders properly.

The increases are all partnered with dropped stitches to create long eyelets, and add a bit of interest, but unless you’re an absolute beginner, this shouldn’t be beyond you!


Once I’d made the lime shawl, I had another go with blue, and refined the design a bit, to make the lower edge more ruffled. A bit girlier perhaps.


I roped in my stylish friend Helen for the photo shoot (check out the feather necklace) and her hubby Tim helped out with holding reflectors and gave me some tips for getting the best shot (he is a much better photographer than me).


We also had two pint-sized helpers – Storm (mine) and Jet (Helen and Tim’s little girl), plus their new baby. We were quite a sight!

We shot in front of a wall painted by Bristol street artist Inkie, who you might have heard of in connection with Bristol’s famous street art gallery See No Evil.


And if you haven’t encountered See No Evil, look it up – it’s amazing.

Ttfn and happy knitting!

New design in The Knitter: Dartmoor beret

25 Jan

Squeee! I do love it when I have a new design out. It’s often months after something has been sketched, graded, knitted and pattern checked before it can appear in public.


Dartmoor is knitted in Lang Donegal, a gorgeous tweed 4 ply weight yarn that comes in really vibrant colours. The hat takes less than two balls of yarn, making it a pretty cheap knit. If you can’t get Lang, Rowan’s new(ish) Fine Tweed will give you a very similar effect – you’ll probably need 3 balls.

It is worked in the round and is mostly in herringbone stitch, with a twisted brim.

This yarn is a winter yarn, but very light, and runs quite thick and thin, so the herringbone stitch, which creates an almost double thickness of fabric, makes it a denser, and more substantial garment that will keep your head nice and warm.


I’ve written the design in two sizes, mainly to accommodate those of a larger bonce (such as your truly). It took me just a couple of evenings to knit, after a fair amount of  swatching to get the needle size I was happy with.

This yarn is single ply, so it will stretch a fair bit. If in doubt, make the smaller size! Happy knitting!

All photos are copyright of The Knitter

Peerie Flooers finished! And a little colouring in

6 Oct

It took me six days in the end to knit my Peerie Flooers (Rav link) hat. I was, as I said earlier, pretty obsessed!


The thing about colourwork is that it’s addictive. As the pattern unfolds with every row, you get hooked on seeing what’s going to happen next.


Making this hat (designed by the very talented Kate Davies) has got me thinking even more about colour than usual.


I recently had the pleasure of swatching some Fair Isle style motifs in John Arbon‘s new yarn with vintage knitwear expert Susan Crawford, Excelana.


It’s a beautiful yarn, perfect for colourwork. The challenge for a designer lies in making a relatively limited palette (there are eight colours in Excelana so far) work in harmony.

When working with a limited colour range, or in fact, any colour range, there is a great trick for making it easier. I think I first read about it in Alice Starmore‘s seminal Book of Fair Isle Knitting, but it’s a widely used technique.

Simply take your colour range and put it into black and white.

The easiest way is to take a picture using the black and white setting on your digital camera, but I prefer to take it in colour and then desaturate it in Photoshop, so that I can refer back to it.

This allows you to see the relative light or dark values of the colours. By having this extra info, you can then easily avoid putting colours which are of the same light/dark value next to each other, where a lack of contrast would make the patterning hard to see.

After that, despite all the colour ‘rules’ you may have heard of, everything else is just a matter of taste.

Having knitted Peerie Flooers in a combination of Jamieson and Smith 2 ply and Rowan Fine Tweed, I’m now looking at a new design using the Rowan yarn.

Here’s what happens when you take the colours away…



Time to play!

Sock it to me! New design in The Knitter (part deux)

2 Sep

Sorry. Years in newspapers have left me a sucker for a pun.

ANYWAY, just a wee note to say I have another design in the new issue of The Knitter. Greedy I know! More to do with me missing a deadline for the previous issue than a desire to get two patterns in at once.


The Thistle socks are knitted in Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock, and have a bold angular motif (adapted from a Hitomi Shida stitch pattern in Couture Knits 250) which should show up well even on heavily variegated sock yarn. They’re designed to be a bit more androgynous than your average sock, so I’ve included a big size if you fancy knitting them for your fella for Christmas (am I allowed to say the C word yet?).


The design uses a twisted cable, which you can make without a cable needle, and the stitch pattern is pretty intuitive – I didn’t need a chart after the first repeat. So a good one for the bus/ train if you’re a commuter like me.

The pattern is mirrored across the left and right sock, which took a lot of brain hurty maths to figure out. I have a new found respect for Cookie A after designing these! (Although I always thought she was pretty great).

The new issue of The Knitter is out Monday. Just sayin’.

Have a great weekend.


All pics are copyright of The Knitter.

Oooooo, new design in The Knitter!

31 Aug

The latest issue of The Knitter is out and I’m super chuffed – my design is on the cover!

Here it is…

It’s knitted in Rowan Felted Tweed and Kidsilk Haze and is called Rothko.

In all good newsagents as of Monday. Hurrah!

Thanks to Frances, who did such a splendid job of knitting it, and Belinda and Sarah, who helped with the first and second drafts, when I couldn’t see the wood for the trees…

How long is a piece of string? Aka, how much yarn do I need for a crochet granny square?

17 Aug

I keep noticing this search term pop up in hits on my blog, (OK  the second term, not the first) so I thought I’d take time out to answer it.

Sadly, the answer is, there is no easy answer. But what’s most important to remember is that, if you make a simple granny square, each round will take more yarn than the last.


If you want to estimate how much a round will take you, you need to do a little prep work. Firstly, you need some electronic kitchen scales – the kind than measure grams or ounces (OK, I didn’t say it was going to be easy!).

Weigh your square. Then crochet one full round (ie four sides of the square). Weigh it again. The difference is the weight of the yarn you just used. Write that down.

Then work another full round. Weigh your square again. The difference now is the weight of the second round you made. Write that down too.

Now compare the weights of the yarn you used on each of the two rounds.


If you want to be exact in predicting how much more you’ll need each round, you need to work out the relationship between the two. For example, if the first round took 10g, and the second round took 10.5g, then you used 5% more yarn for the second round. This is roughly how much your round will grow each time.

So your next round will take about 105% of 12g, which is 11.025g (Work is out by doing the calculation 10.5 x 1.05). Your next round should take about 105% of 11.025g, which is 11.57g (11.025 x 1.05).


Keep going and you should be able to work out how much yarn you need for each round. If you just change colours but use the same type of yarn it’ll be pretty accurate. But if you’re changing weights of yarn, then it’s not. This technique only works if you stick to the same weight (and heck, the same brand and type) of yarn.



Not got any scales? You can also work a whole round, unravel it and measure the length of the yarn you just used. But that will only give you the amount needed for that round.  Again, you’d need to work 2 rounds, unravel both and measure them and compare the two to get an idea of  how much more you’ll need as the square gets bigger and bigger.

But the bottom line is, none of this really matters. Honest. The idea is to get rid of itty bits of your stash. Just go with the flow, use up whatever yarn you can get your hands on, and keep going round and round in circles until you get sick of it!

My giant granny square is now so big it takes 30g per double stripe. Pretty soon I’ll have to switch to single rounds, and I think when it gets to the point that it takes a whole ball to do a single stripe I’ll just stop. Because the point of all this is usually to not buy more yarn. Ahem.