Sunday, 28 February 2016

Busy busy

It feels like ages since we last chatted, doesn't it?! Half term passed by in a blur, we didn't ever seem to stop for breath! Last weekend we went to Stratford-upon-Avon. I was taking a sewing class at Sew Me Something, Mr JK was running a 10k and we also had tickets booked to see the RSC performing A Midsummer Night's Dream! I have admired the patterns from Sew Me Something ever since I first spotted them at a show. So I was delighted to find a class to make the Kate dress on at a convenient time. It was a fabulous day - there were 6 of us in the class and we sewed almost non-stop! Jools kept us fed and watered with tea and lemon muffins, and gave lots of advice on how to get a great fit. I see plenty more Kate dresses in my future! Mr JK took this photo yesterday. The sun may have been out but it was rather chilly!

kate dress (10)

I've also stitched the next block in the Sugar Block club, getting it done in the nick of time before March's pattern is released! This block was a lot less fiddly to make than January's. It's by no means perfect but I am embracing the imperfections in my patchwork and quilting journey! 

Sugar Block club February

My knitting needles have been busy too. I'm plodding away on my Magic Loop Continental stripy socks and will share a photo with you next time. At long last I have finished knitting all the blocks for my Love Squared blanket. I started it a year ago, using yarn from the Natural Dye Studio's Rainbow club. My next step is weaving in ends and blocking all the blocks to the same size before starting the mammoth task of crocheting around the edges of each one and stitching them together. I need to dye some yarn before the crocheting can begin. Mr JK had to buy some citric acid for me as I need it when soaking the yarn before dyeing and got given the third degree at the chemist; apparently there are all kinds of dodgy uses for it! Here's how the blocks look. I need to work on the arrangement!

Love Squared blocks done

I also published two patterns on Ravelry yesterday for my Kylebeg cowl and mitts. They are named after the cottage we stayed in last autumn in Co. Wicklow. I spent lots of time there playing around with stitch patterns to show off all the beautiful colours in the skein of Zip Light yarn from Easy Knits. This skein had seduced me at I Knit Fandango last May. You can knit both the cowl and mitts from one skein! You can find both patterns here if you're interested, free to download. 

Kylebeg cowl (1)

Kylebeg mitts and cowl (2)

Kylebeg mitts and cowl (18)

I'll leave you with a couple of 'sunny' photos. Mr JK bought these daffodils on Friday and they are brightening up the kitchen nicely. Since the photo was taken, all the daffs have opened fully. They are such happy flowers.

Saturday daffs

And here's a photo of Flo, enjoying the sunshine on one of the chairs in the kitchen. She was not at all impressed by my intrusion into her space and just after this photo was taken, told me exactly what she thought with a swift swipe of her paw! Have a good week! xxx

sunny spot Flo

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Coming soon to a screen near you!

If you are 'of a certain age' and British, you will most likely be able to recall the exploits of Eddie 'The Eagle' Edwards, a skier who in 1988 became the first  to represent the UK in the Olympic Games ski jumping event. Despite finishing last,  he won the hearts of the crowds for his determination and guts, and became a national hero. At the end of this month, a film telling the story of Eddie's Olympic adventures is going to be released and it's a bit of a knit-fest. Take a look at this video here to relive Eddie's superhuman efforts ...

Eddie's grandma knitted a jumper for Eddie's Mum to wear during the competition which declared on the front of it 'I'm Eddie's Mum', and this jumper has been recreated by the team at Yarn Stories especially for the film. I do believe that kits will be available for you to knit your own 'Eddie' jumper soon.

Over the last few months, I've exchanged a number of emails with Juliet Bernard. It was Juliet who asked me to take part in the Stylecraft Blog Tour last year. So I was interested to hear that it was none other than Juliet herself who knitted the front of Eddie's Mum's jumper as seen in the photo above!  It takes me back to my days of intarsia knitting! (The very first thing I knitted for myself once I'd mastered knitting was a picture jumper! I must see if I can find a photo of it anywhere.) It sounds like a real feel-good movie and I shall definitely keep an eye open for it here. 

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Temptations in Amsterdam

Whilst in Amsterdam last weekend, there were two shops on my 'must visit' list. The first was Stephen & Penelope, a yarn shop owned by Stephen West. It's a lovely shop, packed with colourful skeins of yarn. Loads of Madeline Tosh and Malabrigo, as well as Hedgehog Fibres, Titus, Jamieson's and much more. Also displayed are Stephen's amazing shawls. They aren't especially my cup of tea, I think my tastes in knitwear are more conservative, but it was certainly interesting to see them and admire his creativity. There was a new book there too all about Brioche knitting which I was tempted by. The samples on display were stunning. It was a real test of my resolve to leave yarnless, although I did buy a needle sizer as the numbers are rubbing off the one in my knitting bag.

Amsterdam 2016 (48)

Amsterdam 2016 (28)

The second shop was Knopenwinkel, a button shop that I have walked past many times, but never when it's been open! There is an enormous wooden button hanging outside as a shop sign - a button lost from a giant's shirt I reckon! 

Amsterdam 2016 (5)

Amsterdam 2016 (13)

The door handles are buttons too and the 'open' and 'closed' sign is made of tiny shell buttons.

Amsterdam 2016 (50)

Inside you are spoilt for choice and I reckon it would be nigh on impossible not to find a button to match any project. I didn't actually go prepared with any yarn/knitted swatches but will make sure that I do next time we're in Amsterdam. 

Amsterdam 2016 (37)

Amsterdam 2016 (43)

I liked the quirky attention to detail on some of the display cabinets too. At first glance, it looks like someone has left a card of buttons on the top. But on closer inspection, you realise it's a trompe-l'oeil and the buttons have been painted! All the coloured buttons at the front of the photo aren't real!

Amsterdam 2016 (46)

As you leave, you can admire the painted glass over the door - buttons of course!

Amsterdam 2016 (21)

Both these shops are definitely worth a look if you find yourself in Amsterdam. Do let me know if you ever visit them. xxx

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Rather Special

Do you remember back to last September when I took part in a blog tour to launch a limited edition pack of Stylecraft Special DK yarns? I came up with a design for a Ripple Stitch cushion which Florence took rather a liking to. 

I love the Special DK range of yarn; it's available in a huge number of colours (82 now I believe), is great value for money, goes a long, long way and is perfect for cushions, blankets and all kinds of knitting and crochet projects. Just feast your eyes on these cubbyholes full of yarn. What I would give to have all these colours to play with! 

Stylecraft have decided to expand the range of colours in the Special Aran and Chunky yarn and are going to add colours from the existing colour palette. You can see them all here. They are asking knitters and crocheters to nominate their favourite colour and then the 12 most popular shades will be voted on, with the top 6 being added to the ranges to be released later in the year. You have until 31st March to add your favourite colourway here. Look here and here to see the colours that are already in the range. I am super excited about the prospect of more colours in the heavier weight yarns. I'm picturing cosy blankets and accessories that knit up in a flash!

So what colour am I going to vote for? Well, having looked at my collection of Special DK yarn pegs, the colour that gets my vote is one of the new shades, mustard. I love the way it makes so many of the other colours 'pop'! And a chunky cabled cushion is calling out to me! I'm off to make my suggestion now. Let me know what colour gets your vote! xxx

Monday, 15 February 2016

A weekend in Amsterdam

Mr JK and I have been in Amsterdam this weekend. It's one of our favourite cities and it's so easy to get to from Norwich. A mere 30 minute flight! It's quicker for us to go there than to London, believe it or not! Here's a quick look back at the weekend. Enjoy a whistlestop trip around Amsterdam. xxx

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Amsterdam 2016 (33)

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Amsterdam 2016 (1)

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Saturday, 6 February 2016

Kali Kardia socks

I finally got round to publishing this sock pattern. I designed them whilst on holiday in Greece way back in 2014! They are named after our favourite taverna - Kali Kardia - which means 'good heart'. It's an easy to memorise textured stitch pattern, designed to show off your favourite solid or semi-solid fingering weight yarn. Thanks to one of my test knitters misreading the original pattern, it comes with two pattern options - either ribbed or chequerboard. Why not make both?! I have two pairs and Mr JK currently has one (and before you ask, Flo doesn't have any!!) The pink and blue versions are both knit using the chequerboard pattern whilst the grey pair are knit in the ribbed pattern. This pattern has lots of negative ease, so it's perfect for gifting!

Kali Kardia ribbed (6)

Kali Kardia in blue (2)

jk socks (2)

Kali Kardia ribbed (9)

Kali Kardia in blue (1)

jk socks (5)

You can download the pattern for free from here. Please let me know if you make a pair, I'd love to see them! I shall leave you with a few images of the Greek village where Kali Kardia first came into being. Enjoy! xxx

Greece 2015  (36)

Greece 2015 (58)

Greece 2015 (158)

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Get stranded!

more Loop class (1)

OK people, get your 'impressed' faces on please! I know that this little swatch of knitting doesn't look like much, but believe me, it's the result of about 5 hours of blood, sweat and tears! Actually there weren't any tears and no blood was shed during the knitting of this swatch; it was fun but just incredibly HARD WORK! Oh yes, my brain certainly ached after so much concentration! On Sunday, I went to the fabulous Loop yarn shop in London to take a class in colourwork. If you're a regular reader, you'll know that colourwork has appeared on my list of knitting resolutions for far too many years without me doing one single thing about it! Well, no more! Whilst I haven't exactly conquered it yet and am in no way ready to cast on my first Fair Isle sweater, I certainly feel like I have been equipped with the knowledge and skills to make that a possibility at some point in the future!

Loop Colourwork class (2)

When I arrived, the table was set out with an array of inspirational knits made by the class tutor, Juju Vail. Not only that, but there was a mahoosive plate filled with biscuits to keep our blood sugar nice and high! It was fabulous to see what can be achieved once you've mastered the basics!

Loop class samples (1)

Loop class samples (2)

To begin with, Juju set us all off learning how to knit using the Magic Loop technique. I had only tried this method once before and Did Not Like It At All! So my heart sank when I found out that Magic Loop is the preferred way of knitting any stranded knitting rather than using double pointed needles, so there's less to contend with, knitting from needle to needle as well as all the stranding. But Juju's method was so simple, it all fell into place straight way and there I was, knitting in the round with no sign of those pesky ladders that had put me off this way of knitting many years back. As well as using Magic Loop, Juju showed us how to knit in the continental style, using the left hand to tension the yarn, rather than 'throwing' the yarn with the right hand in the English way of knitting. So my first few rounds were painfully slow, having to think about each stitch I knit. Juju suggested that we practise for 10 minutes a day for two weeks to get the movements into the muscle memory. Once we were reasonably happy with that, it was time to introduce a second colour to begin some stranded knitting. Initially I did a 'salt and pepper' repeat of the two colours before trying out a little charted pattern. I held both of the yarns in my left hand, and found it quite awkward. But I plan to keep on with this method for now as I reckon with practice it will become easier. We were also shown how to steek our work, using crochet to stabilise the knitting before cutting. So I did the same thing when I'd finished my swatch. It was a little scary taking a pair of scissors to the knitting, but at least I know that it all holds together!

Loop Colourwork class (6)

Loop Colourwork class (4)

After the class finished, I had time for a bit of browsing in Loop. There are so many gorgeous yarns there, it is hard to resist. I bet you're thinking that I bought loads of yarn, aren't you? Nope! You would be proud of me as although my fingers twitched towards a skein of Socks That Rock yarn and some balls of Jamieson's Shetland yarn for trying out colourwork samples, my resolve to knit from stash this year was strong and I left the shop yarnless!! That has to be a first! 

So what's next? Well, I plan to knit a pair of plain vanilla socks using both the Magic Loop technique and Continental knitting as my next project, before tackling some colourwork socks. I'm just off to pick out some yarn before settling down to watch Bake Off, so I'd better hurry up! I'll let you know how I get on! xxx