Tag Archives: wool

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)

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!

And they say never meet your heroes…

23 Mar

I distinctly remember when I was in my early 20s watching Aerosmith’s Steve Tyler on a UK chat show.

Man, I’d always loved that band (yes, I know they are The Cheese). But seeing Tyler on TFI Friday, talking about women in a most unsatisfactory way – though Lord knows what I was expecting, put me Right Off.

And then there was the time I made an absolute fool of myself when I bumped into Noel Fielding (lovely) and Julian Barrat (less so) in Soho Square at the height of Mighty Boosh mania. You don’t need to know more than that.

I’m rambling. But because of the above, I was a little wary about meeting a more recent hero of mine – Jane Brocket.

Jane was on the Mollie Makes stand at the Stitch and Craft show at Olympia, where I was working at my day job for The Knitter. It was a perfect opportunity to say hello and have my copies of her books signed…


Happily it was third time lucky for me. Not only was Jane absolutely lovely, she told me a little about her next two books, and her plans for some time off after six years of working solidy. Fair enough I think.

I didn’t get a picture with her because, if it were me, I wouldn’t like that at all. But as she was absolutely instrumental in my decision to take a chance on a new kind of career, it was great to pay a little homage, without any actual fawning/ grovelling involved.

While at the show I also finally permitted myself a Moda jelly roll (you can blame Jane for my ever growing quilting obsession)…


And was also treated to a little yarn freebie by the utterly delightful Martin Storey (thanks Martin!)


So tell me, who are your heroes?


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!

I finished the hat…

2 Feb

It only took me a few evenings (aran weight + mostly stocking stitch =  speedy gonzales). Friday, Saturday, Sunday and it was done.

I quite like it, but only quite.

It’s not the hat’s fault. It is a lovely hat. But the sad truth is, my head is the head of a giant, so this Almond Comfit just doesn’t look big enough. More of a soldier’s beret than a sauve Parisienne’s topper.

I knit the largest size. OK, I went one needle size down, but I always have to do that ‘cos I’m a loosey goosey when it comes to gauge. If you look at Ysolda‘s and my pictures, my stitches are still looser than hers, even with the smaller needle! Grrr…


Anyway, I currently have five hand knitted winter hats which is verging on greedy, so I was already pondering who might like the scrummy red colour, and it was Helen’s birthday on Monday…

So hello and goodbye hat. I may make you again with thicker yarn on bigger needles. You shall not defeat me!

It is still a clever pattern. Well played Ysolda. Perhaps you could consider adding a freakishly large size for the next one.

Mmmmmmmm… Saturday Treat: Almond Comfit hat by Ysolda Teague

28 Jan

I am such a sucker for knitting patterns. When I went on my yarn diet (well, fast really) this year I seriously considered giving up buying patterns too. But hey, one step at a time.

So I’ve just indulged in Ysolda Teague‘s new Saturday Treat collection. It’s a small, but beautifully formed group of patterns with Fyberspates popular Scrumptious yarn, a silk/ merino mix.

Saturday treats for me definitely include seeing my family, going for walks, eating scrummy food, and knitting something non-work related.

Sometimes we go to Treasure Island Sweets in Bristol’s amazing St Nick’s Market, to stock up on Sherbert Fountains, Caramac bars and Liquorice Allsorts.

For my calorie-free goodie this weekend I picked Almond Comfit, a sweet hat design with an unusual construction. You start with the pretty leaf motif at the front and then increase at the sides until it’s wide enough, then decrease towards the back. Very clever.


I’m making it in one of the signature colours Ysolda picked for Fyberspates to complement her patterns – Empire Biscuit, a lovely fresh red which is available in aran weight.

The full yarn collection is made up of six colours, each with a sweet name (Dandelion & Burdock, Flying Saucer, Sugar Mouse). There are two new colours each for Scrumptious Lace, Sport and Aran.

On a professional note, you can read more about Ysolda’s collaboration with Fyberspates in the next issue of The Knitter, which comes out on February 25.

But in the meantime, it’s the weekend, so it’s time to get some knitting hours in! What’s your Saturday treat?

Happy New Year! And a resolution…

1 Jan

2011 was a year full of lots of things. Lots of adventures, lots of work, lots of change. But, unlike in previous years, there was supposed to be less of something too – buying yarn.

But my stash doesn’t really seem to have diminished, partly because I now get new yarn to try out for work (yep, I know what you’re thinking, poor me), and also due to working with other yarn for my designs. OK, and yes, because I bought some, although not much, honest.

As of today, this is about a third of what I actually own. Doesn’t look too scary, does it?


Although it does rather explode when you unpack it…


Juliet Bernard, my lovely editor at The Knitter, spent the whole of 2011 on a yarn diet (including a trip to the knitting mecca that is Norway, which I think would have driven anyone to the brink), but as of today she is allowed to buy yarn again.

Well, if she can do it, I can too. can’t I? (No laughing please)

So, for 2012, I have a list of promises. Here goes…

1) I will NOT buy yarn.

OK, that’s long enough! I originally had a whole host of other good intentions, but as this one is going to be tough enough to follow on its own, I don’t think I should try any harder to set myself up for a fall.

As I’ve only been knitting seriously for about 7 years, I can get all my stash into three big boxes, including the one above –

However, THIS is what happens when these things get out of hand…(click on the pic for the full story)

(c) Mochimochiland

Yes, I think 2012 is going to require a LOT of willpower, but every time I feel myself wavering I will look at this picture and remind myself why I’m abstaining. Wish me luck!

PS. You can read more about my adventures in stashbusting on The Knitter website throughout 2012.