Tag Archives: fairisle

New designs in Simply Knitting

7 Aug


Oh hello there! I’ve been a bit busy of late, hence the tumbleweed blowing across your screen for the last little while.

Here’s why…


The new issue of Simply Knitting is out this week and I’ve got three patterns in it. Huzzah!

First up is Zest, an ombre cushion, with a flash of colour just for fun.


It’s knitted in Rowan Big Wool on 10mm needles, so it goes super fast – the whole thing took just a couple of evenings to knit. You start from one corner with just 3 stitches and increase out to the widest point, before decreasing again.


The back is envelope style, which means no sewing on buttons or any faffing at all really.


If you want to make the whole thing in one colour it takes less than three balls.

Also in this issue is Play Time, a dress for little girls, modelled by a familiar face, if you’re a ‘regular’ here at Nana Taught Me How…


I used PeterPan Sweetheart DK, which is machine washable (hurrah!) and super-soft against young sensitive skin.

It’s sized from 9 months to 6 years, and the smallest size is quite a bit shorter than the others so your crawling tot won’t get tangled up in a long skirt.


I bought dresses for Storm she never got to wear because she was a late walker – crawling and long skirts do NOT mix.



Thanks to Frances Jago for her sterling knitting, Phil Sowels for the lovely photography of lil’ Storm, and Sarah Clark and Al for helping me wrangle her on the shoot. That lollipop was the only thing keeping her from escaping!

Last, but not least is Happy Days, a cheerful polka dot cardigan with cute picot edgings.


The magazine has helpfully included a step-by-step tutorial for Fair Isle knitting in case you’re new to it.


And it’s on the cover. Whoop!


So, a busy month!


I’ll have more design news very soon. Ttfn!


Isla dress: New child’s dress pattern in The Knitter

15 Jun

Word up peeps. Just dropping in to say I’ve got a new pattern out this week in issue 46 of The Knitter, whatevs.


Isla is a kiddo’s dress in Rowan’s lovely new Wool Cotton 4 ply, which is a fantastic yarn for spring/ summer, and most importantly for the Head Laundryperson in your house if you have a nipper, it’s machine washable.

It’s sized from age 2 to 10 and doesn’t take much yarn – even the largest size is 5 balls of the main colour, with tiny amounts for the colourwork.

Storm was kind enough to lend her modelling skills to the shoot…


With hindsight, I should have added extra length to her ‘sample size’ as she is way taller than an average 3 to 4 year old – so it look super short. But it’s easy to lengthen if, like me, you’re the proud parent of a baby giraffe!

Look, matchy matchy!


The bottom section is knit in the round and there’s hardly any shaping so it’s a great first Fair Isle project too.

Most exciting for me, this pattern is now available online to buy from The Making Spot, along with some of my old designs. Welcome to the 21st century peeps! Not that I’m saying don’t buy the mag, but, if you want to cast on, like NOW, you can – hurrah!

More design news coming up really soon…

PS. Thanks to Al, James and Sarah for helping Storm have a great time on the shoot, Frances, for her amazing knitting, and Phil for taking such lovely pix.

Hello Mollie! Crochet flowers and egg cosies galore

10 Mar

Happy weekend! After a morning spent beavering away in the garden, getting ready for spring (hurrah!) I gave myself permission to tear open the wrapper on my yummy new issue of Mollie Makes. Thanks Mr Postman!

Even better, there are several patterns in this issue that I lent a helping hand with on the tech editing front.

First up is this month’s star project …

These lovely egg cosies by Suzie Johnson of The Wool Sanctuary, are lickitysplit quick to knit up, and will give you a nicely sample sized challenge, with a little bit of Fair Isle and intarsia knitting needed to make them up.

I also provided a little assistance with the adorbs (as Mollie would say) cover gift – a pretty crochet flower brooch in pink cotton yarn, designed by Anna Rakoniewska, who has a super-cute Etsy shop.


You only need to be able to do double and treble crochet (single and double in US speak) to put this together. It really is very simple – don’t be scared!

The garden is waking up to spring, so I spent a lovely hour outside after I’d finished digging, weeding and re-potting, sat in the warm(ish) sun with Mollie and a nice cool drink.


Ooo, look, buds! Hooray for sunny days! Ttfn xx

Reading List: My favourite blogs

22 Feb

Mmmmm, pondering what to write today, it occurred that there are a gazillion great blogs out there, but tracking them down can be tricky.

Some of the ones I like are well known, some not so much, but all are worth a peek, I hope you’ll agree.

So, here we go!

1. Posie Gets Cozy

Portland designer Alicia Paulson has an impossibly beautiful home, an incredible collection of sweet felt, cross stitch, embroidery and crochet patterns, and takes truly beautiful pictures. I’ve made A LOT of her designs. Go Alicia!

2. Yarnstorm

Quilting, baking, knitting, crochet, art and gardening, with Jane Brocket, who has a spectacular eye for colour and a ‘can do’ take on life.

She started me on my quilting journey. And hurrah for that! (More quilting here this weekend if that’s your bag)

3. Brooklyn Tweed

Jared Flood has superstar status in the knitting world, but is also an accomplished photographer, and now has his own yarn range. If any designer will persuade you to get into knitting, he is it.

Here’s his Rock Island shawl. Not one for beginners but totally GAWJUS.

Rock Island

Photo (c) Jared Flood.

4. Craftiness Is Not Optional

Mum of two and sewing genius Jess posts daily about clothes, with regular free tutorials on kid’s and women’s clothes and accessories. Great for last minute presents. I love her ric-rac flowers.

5. Feminist Ryan Gosling

This blog exploded just a few months ago, and riffs with exceptional humour on the whole F*ckYeah web meme that won’t go away. Succinct feminist theory and hot pictures of Ryan Gosling. What’s not to like?! This is my favourite post.

6. The Sartorialist

I love Scott Schuman for his coverage of the shows, but his street snaps are second to none. A superstar fashion blogger who deserves to be so.

7. Needled

Scottish knitwear designer Kate Davies takes you on adventures through the Highlands, and regularly reveals her latest, exceptional design. She has a penchant for ‘woolly wool’ and Fair Isle and great taste in dogs and hats.

Like this one…

8. Cotton and Cloud

Kyoko Nakayoshi is a talented Japanese knitwear designer, who I feel privileged to have worked with regularly over the past year. Her blog is full of useful knitting tips and techniques, as well as links to lovely products like these fab knitting needles. Knitscene recently named her one of the top 8 knitwear designers to watch in 2012, and deservedly so!

9. Birdface

Helen Ward is a graphic designer with a sideline in amazing paper art. She has occasional tutorials for everything from pretty Christmas decorations, to  leg warmers and is always inspirational. She rocks!

Here’s Helen with her fabulous knitted gate, which she created during Totterdown’s Woolly Wonderland

10. Jen Arnall-Culliford Knitwear

Jen AC is a widely respected technical editor with a sideline in just-so designs. She’s also my friend, and the person who encouraged me to go for my job on The Knitter. Thanks Jen!  Her blog is a lovely mix of knitting, stitching, foodie loveliness and good old common sense.

Enough from me. I’d love to hear about your favourite blog, so leave me a comment!

Weekend project: How to make an animal doorstop

4 Feb

I dreamt up this chap for Cloth magazine a year ago, but until recently, he’d been sitting on a shelf, looking rather pleased with himself, but not actually being  useful – namely because he’d been emptied of the rice I’d used as a temporary filling. Gotta eat, right?!


Meanwhile, my nice homemade cushions kept getting used as make-shift doorstops in the living room, by my practical, but not-so-crafty husband. Grrrr.

So this month I salvaged some very out of date dried lentils that were due to get binned, and made him nice and weighty again.

And now he gets used every day!

He’s supposed to be a Totoro-esque squirrel, but after living with him for a year, I’ve got to admit he looks more like a cat.


I made him from an old felted Fair Isle jumper, some cream felt and velvet ric-rac (from The Makery), and buttons, yarn and embroidery thread I had knocking around, so he only cost me a few pounds.

If you want to make him, you’ll need the template and the materials list.

Unfortunately Cloth only published the main template, but this is what the pieces look like laid out.


You need a front, 2 back pieces, each 2cm wider than half the front (so they overlap) and 10cm longer (to fold under to make a base). The sides are 2 smaller triangles, the size of which is determined by the width of the base, and the height of the front and back – easy to work out. The tail pieces and tummy panel need to fit in with the rest, so just draw those freehand once you’ve cut out the main pieces.

First, stitch through the ric rack to attach the tummy panel and tail topper to the main pieces.

Then pin the various bits together and blanket stitch them around the edges to join them. Because it’s felt there’s no hemming involved. Hurrah!

The two back pieces are only stitched together at the very top, and along the base. I added velcro to close them.


The vertical opening in the back is left open for a little sack of filling. I made one from some muslin, but you could just fill an old sock. The stiff wool fabric means your doorstop doesn’t need to be stuffed to bursting to stand upright.

Hide the opening with the ‘tail’, stitching it to the bottom edge only. Make a loop for it at the top, so that you can fasten it with a pretty button to keep it upright.


The flat bottomed shape means he’ll easily slide out of the way with a nudge from your slipper, which is particularly handy.

I only used a machine to sew the velcro and the ric rac on, but as long as you use a thimble you could do this by hand too.

His face is embroidered – blanket stitch around the button eyes, satin stitch for the nose, french knots for the freckles, and back stitch for the mouth. I used wool, but embroidery thread would be fine.


He’s a pretty ‘organic’ project- the main thing is to get the embroidery right. Maybe practise your blanket stitch too if it’s new to you.

Not my most sophisticated idea ever, but he does make me chuckle!

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!

Works in progress. A WIP confession

19 Aug

Every now and then someone says to me something like: “I don’t know how you fit it all in.”

Which is very flattering, but always gives me a bit of a giggle.

Because from the outside, I may look like I’m getting loads done. But actually, for every finished project that makes it onto this blog, or Ravelry, there are about a dozen in stasis.

Here is my confessional of unfinished objects, a list as long as well, this…


A rabbit in snowflake yarn, still in pieces. A request from Storm. Well, she can have it for Christmas!


A blue dress for Storm – 5 inches knitted.

Another blue dress for Storm – fabric cut out.

Primrose tee shirt for Storm – still in pieces.


Unfinished cross stitch.

Unframed embroidery.

Hearts banner which needs sewing onto ribbon.

Cardigan for a friend’s little boy. In progress so long it’ll have to go to his younger brother, although I’ve done about twice as much as is in this pic!

Cardigan for me.

Mad frayed jumper for me.


Blanket 1 – giant stripey granny square.


Blanket 2 – natural granny squares.


Blanket 3 – sock yarn hexipuffs


A quilt for Storm (I have now pieced half of it, but it’s flipping huge!)


Shawl I probably need to start again due to many dumbass mistakes of utter foolishness.


Sock I knitted 2 years ago which still needs a partner.


Ditto, a mitten I knitted 3 years ago!

Plus, oh, 5 unfinished designs for knitting patterns in various states of progress and swatches for the next season.

I’m writing this at 1am. Now you know why…