Thursday 31 December 2015

Indie Design GAL: FO: Twit Twoo Owl Flip Top Mitts

We're now into the final hours of the Indie Design GAL 2015, so it's probably about time that I showed you the other GAL project I finished a week or two ago.

This pattern was designed by me: the Twit Twoo Owl Flip Top mitts. I wasn't planning on making these during the GAL, but when I saw my mum in November she asked if I could make her a pair. And as she never requests anything for birthdays or Christmas I immediately ordered the yarn she requested (Bergere de France Ideal - the same yarn I used for the original sample, my pair have worn really well) and got knitting. The mitts didn't take long, and make a really pleasing happy finished object. And my mum is really pleased with them, which is even better!

No modelled photos as my mum's hands are smaller than mine

The Indie Design GAL finishes at 11.59 pm EST tonight, so you really only have hours to join in the fun. If you have finished anything during the GAL, remember to post it in the FO thread in the Indie Design GAL group on Ravelry* to be in with a chance of winning a prize.

*You must be logged into Ravelry for this post to work.

Wednesday 30 December 2015

Indie Design GAL: FO: Tupelo Slouch

I first saw Sara Gresbach's Tupelo Slouch during last year's GAL and decided that I had to knit it. But actually knitting it took until this year's GAL. I chose to use the Devon Sun Yarns yarn club yarn I recieved in April. I wasn't totally certain about it at the time, but when I got it back out of the box I found it much more appealing. So I happily wound it into a ball and started knitting.

Sara's pattern was lovely to follow; the pattern is a four-row repeat, so easy to memorise, and excellent TV knitting. The pattern doesn't show up very well on the variegated yarn, something a little more solid would showcase the pattern better, but the finished hat looks good and fits reasonably well (if I did another I might do an extra repeat to make it a bit slouchier - on my head it's neither a beanie nor a slouch hat, but that may well be down to my head). And as it's purple it'll go with everything!

The Indie Design GAL finishes on New Year's Eve, so there's not much time to join in, but if you have finihsed anything that you haven't yet posted in the FO thread in the Indie Design Gift-A-Long group on Ravelry,* now's the time to do so - there are prizes to be won. I have a couple more finished objecs to share with you tomorrow; I have no idea where December has gone! I hope you've all enjoyed my sharing of new designers and patterns, I've certainly enjoyed it.

*You have to be logged into Ravelry for this link to work.

Tuesday 29 December 2015

Indie Design GAL 2015: Meet a designer: Sara Gresbach

I first discovered Sara Gresbach's knitting patterns when I was looking through all the Indie Design GAL patterns during last years GAL. It's taken me until this year to actually knit the Tupelo Slouch pattern that I bought last year, but I am delighted to be able to interview Sara (addiesma on Ravelry) here on my blog.

Tupelo Slouch, image copyright Sara Gresbach

1. How did you get into designing?
I got into designing shortly after I started knitting, simply because I can’t just leave well enough alone! I love to follow a pattern and have the FO turn out exactly as intended, but I also love making things my own, which is how I got into designing. I started to play with small changes in the things I was knitting, which sort of transitioned naturally into designing.

2. What is your favourite part of the design process?
That’s a tough one! I love every part. I enjoy the initial brainstorming and have really grown to love swatching, but the feeling I get when I pick something up after blocking for the first time to see how it truly turned out, that’s magic. I also really love to see how test knitters interpret my designs too, which is also a great phase of the whole process.

3. Which is your favourite of your designs?
Hmm, that’s tough! I have had so much fun designing my Lodgepole pieces, so I would say they rank pretty high up there. Lodgepole Hat, Lodgepole Cowl and the adorable little Lodgepole Pullover, which is an all time favorite for my son. He wears it SO much, I think I will be making the next size up for next winter.

The Lodgepole Collection, images all copyright Sara Gresbach

4. And your most underappreciated?
I have a couple cowls that I loved designing and wear a ton that I wish folks would choose to knit more. They are so cozy and fun! Moonpath and Comfrey.

Moonpath Cowl, image copyright Sara Gresbach
Comfrey Cowl, image copyright Sara Gresbach

5. You’re a mum; how has that changed your approach to knitting?
Well, I took up knitting when my oldest was just under a year old, and for me, it was the perfect fit for a creative outlet. It was functional, I could make things for my kids, and it was easy to pick up and put down, as well as portable. I can’t even picture my life with out it anymore, and now that my kids are older, it’s part of their everyday life too. They wear their hand knits like crazy and my daughter has learned to knit, and I don’t think her brother will be too far behind her, as he’s interested in learning too. They both are excited to learn to spin at some point too. It’s a way of life that has involved the whole family.

6. Which other GAL designers are on your must-knit list?
There are so many I just adore, I had to hold myself back from buying more than I could knit this year! I bought a couple patterns that I hope to make for my kiddos in the near future, one from Heidi Atwood-Reeves, Tinsel Tree, and the adorable Langstroth sweater by Elizabeth Green Musselman.

Tinsel Tree, image copyright Heidi Atwood-Reeves
Langstroth, image copyright Elizabeth Green Musselman

7. What is your favourite knitting technique?
I love working cables with out a cable needle. When I learned that, it made cables so much faster and they really “clicked” for me.

8. Are there any knitting techniques you’re keen to learn?  
Yes! I still haven’t knit a pair of socks, so that’s definitely on my list for 2016, and I’d really like to steek, hopefully a sweater.

9. If money was no object, what crafting object would you like to unwrap on Christmas morning?
Oh boy….that’s tough! Probably just a giant basket of all of my favorite yarns, as well as some I’ve been longing to try out. It would be like opening a bag of inspiration!

As part of the GAL, I have knitted Sara's Tupelo Slouch, which I tell you about in a separate post tomorrow.

A sneak preview of my Tupleo Slouch

If you want to find out more about Sara and her work, she can be found here:


It's been lovely chatting to fellow designers over the past few weeks. The Gift-A-Long continues until the end of the year. Full details can be found in the Indie Design Gift-A-Long group on Ravelry.*

*Note that you must be logged into Ravelry for this link to work.

Thursday 24 December 2015

Christmas Eve

"'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house; Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse..."* I love Christmas Eve. Possibly more than Christmas Day itself.

As a child and teenager I would always save all my wrapping for Christmas Eve and do it in front of something Christmassy on the television, or on my parents bed, enjoying the low afternoon sun streaming through the windows. We would visit friends and drop off last minute gifts, wishing everyone a Merry Christmas as we went. We'd walk to the butcher's shop to collect the turkey, and we'd always have homemade sausage rolls for tea. And it was all topped off with a Christmas carol service. It's possible that I've blended the memories of many Christmas Eves, but I do always think of it as a positive day of low-key anticipation.

Things were a bit different in my late-teen and early adult years, with Christmas Eves often being spent working at supermarket checkouts dealing with customers who were angry at you personally that there was no cream left in the fridges for them to buy the day before Christmas. And the year I got to take the Christmas decorations at the supermarket down on Christmas Eve was a bit of a low point, but has mostly been forgotten now. I do have many happy memories of Christmas Eve cinema trips to see the Lord of the Rings films with my brother, which must have been from around the same time (and we'd always get home to the welcoming smell of those homemade sausage rolls).

Now, as an adult and a parent, Christmas Eve has come into its own again. We've seen friends this morning, and are now home for some last minute mince pie baking, and I'll be reinstating that sausage roll tradition later this evening. Stockings will be hung and the children are excited. The present wrapping was finished last night, so I'm hoping for an hour or two of festive knitting and stories this evening once the kids are in bed (earlier than usual in anticipation of Santa; I can wish). A happy day.

I saw this book in Sainsbury's and could not resist - Enid Blyton was my favourite author for a long time when I was small. And the sock knitting is very festive. I have one sock done but ran out of time for sock two; it doesn't really matter, I can enjoy knitting the second over the 12 days of Christmas

I finally got round to making my own stitch markers!

Merry Christmas everyone!

*The opening lines of A Visit From St Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore.

Tuesday 22 December 2015

Indie Design GAL 2015: Meet a designer: Meg Gadsbey

While I was browsing the Indie Design GAL patterns, I fell in love with the beautiful simplicity of Meg Gadsbey's designs (AtelierMeg on Ravelry), so I'm delighted to be interviewing her here on my blog.

Sailing, image copyright Meg Gadsbey

1. You’re fairly new to designing, but all your designs are beautiful. How long have you been knitting, and who taught you? 

Thank you, Vikki - I’m pleased you like my designs! My mother taught me to knit when I was about 7 or 8 but I wasn’t very interested in taking it any further than the first or second ‘holey’ scarves that I made. When I decided to pick up the needles in 2011, my skills were so rusty that I had to re-learn how to cast on, knit, purl, and cast off. I really loved it and became hooked on all things yarn-related.

2. How did you get into designing? 

In 2013, I played around with a dragon skin stitch to make a fluffy cowl from some Noro Kochoran I had in my stash. I didn’t write up the pattern but it was my first experience of designing an accessory from beginning to end. I designed my first published pattern, The Big Blue, in 2014 as an attempt to create a shawl design that I wanted to wear myself, that was straightforward yet interesting to knit.

The Big Blue, image copyright Meg Gadsbey

3. What is your favourite part of the design process?
Figuring out the structure or shape of the design is the first part and the most exciting part. Often this is done at the swatching stage - yes, I am now a lover of swatching, something that as a knitter I had always been loathe to do. At other times, the design is worked out with a pencil and paper. Either way, this particular stage always feels fresh, exhilarating and creative.

4. Which is your favourite of your designs? 

It would be difficult to choose an overall favourite design but, at the moment, it is Midnight in Sydney. There are so many beautiful photos of it on Ravelry - every time I see a new Midnight in Sydney project, I am both thrilled and grateful that someone would invest their time, money and effort in knitting the pattern.

Midnight in Sydney, image copyright Meg Gadsbey

5. And your most underappreciated? 
 Aquitaine is my most underappreciated design in terms of pattern sales. I think it would have received more love if it had been designed to be a larger shawl or perhaps made in a lighter-weight yarn. In saying that, I still love the design as it is - a quick, fun shawl to knit and throw on around your neck in the winter.

Aquitaine, image copyright Meg Gadsbey
6. As well as designing, you also dye yarn. What’s your favourite fibre to dye, and is it the same as your favourite fibre to knit with?
I love to dye superwash fingering/sock merino and merino blend yarns. They take the dye beautifully and are fairly easy to handle during the dyeing process. I’m a huge fan of knitting and designing with fingering yarn from indie dyers but I also enjoy the more minimally processed yarns from local producers like White Gum Wool in Tasmania. I’d like to try some fingering Polwarth Yarn from Tarndie in Victoria as soon as it is available in the grey or white shades. I also love alpaca; there are quite a few alpaca producers in Australia, so it’d be awesome to design and knit a shawl in some soft alpaca fingering weight yarn.

7. Do you find the same things inspire your dyeing and designing, or are they completely separate?
I find that the inspiration and ideas for dyeing yarn and pattern design are quite different. For me, dyeing yarn is about exploring and revelling in colour just for its own sake, whereas designing is more about playing with texture and shape. The colours I use in the design samples tend to be those that I enjoy looking at over a long period of time whilst the design is being repeatedly knitted, ripped out, placed in hibernation, etc., so I tend to gravitate towards blues and greys (my favourite colours).

8. Which other GAL designers are on your must-knit list?
Designers that have patterns or styles that I’m drawn to this year include: Alicia Plummer, Justyna Lorkowska, Clare Devine, Lisa Hanes, Libby Johnson, Hanna Maciejewska, and I love your Fluffy White Clouds and Vroom Vroom, Beep Beep blanket designs too!

Peppermint Leaves, image copyright Clare Devine
Rattan Shawl, image copyright Libby Johnson
Fluffy White Clouds, image copyright Practical Publishing
9. What is your favourite knitting technique? 

I love Fair Isle. My maternal grandmother loved to knit Fair Isle patterns and although she has long since passed, I somehow feel closer to her knowing that we share the love of the same knitting technique.

10. Are there any knitting techniques you’re keen to learn? 

I’m keen to delve into textured knitting techniques or styles like Aran, Gansey, Guernsey and cabled knitting.

11. If money were no object, what crafting object would you like to unwrap on Christmas morning?
I’d love to find a Saori Loom under my Christmas tree! The woven fabric made on those looms is stunning.

If you've enjoyed reading about Meg and want to see more of her work, you can find her in the following places:


The Gift-A-Long continues until the end of the year. Full details can be found in the Indie Design Gift-A-Long group on Ravelry.*

*Note that you must be logged into Ravelry for this link to work.

Thursday 17 December 2015

Indie Design GAL 2015: Meet a designer: Kate Bostwick

The past few weeks have been spent frantically knitting Christmas gifts, enjoying end of term events and writing my PhD thesis. And now Christmas is almost upon us, I'm starting to have a little more time to get back on board with the Gift-A-Long on Ravelry. One of the things I wanted to do during the GAL was to introduce you to a few fellow designers whose work I admire. So, in the first of a series of interviews, let me introduce you to Kate Bostwick, who can be found on Ravelry as cowtownknits.
When I was looking through all the GAL designs, I was immediately drawn to Kate's designs, especially her cabled homewares.
Ribbon Weed, image copyright Kate Bostwick

1. How long have you been knitting, and who taught you? 
I’ve been knitting off and on for about 13 years, but more seriously/obsessively since I was pregnant with my son in 2008. I learned from my Mom and grandmother when I was little, but it finally stuck when my university roommate taught me years later.

2. How did you get into designing?  I got into designing when I was looking for a pattern that didn’t quite exist in exactly the way I wanted it. I had been starting to take knitting more seriously and realized that I could probably start designing things for myself.

3. What is your favourite part of the design process?  My favourite part of the design process is finishing! I like all of it, but there’s this great sense of satisfaction you get when the piece comes out exactly the way you had it in your head. When I finished knitting my Sea Oak sample and put it on the pillow form, and it fit and looked exactly the way it was supposed to, I couldn’t stop grinning.

Sea Oak, image copyright Kate Bostwick

4. Which is your favourite of your designs?  My favourite of my designs is Siffleur. That one took a long time to work itself out in my head before becoming a pattern, but I’m so proud of it now that it’s done.

Siffleur, image copyright Crissy Jarvis

5. And your most underappreciated?  Hmm… My most underappreciated would have to be Kensington Tweed. She’s pretty, but I understand people not wanting to tackle that much applied i-cord.

Kensington Tweed, image copyright Kate Bostwick

6. You’ve recently moved from to the UK from Canada; has it been much of a culture shock knitting-wise, or is crafty completely international now? 
That’s a good question. I think I feel more immersed in yarn here. I love being able to see sheep in the countryside all the time, which doesn’t really happen much in Canada. And since I now live in a gigantic city, there are a lot more crafty goings-on that are available to me. Otherwise, I think the level of knitty-ness here is similar to back in Canada. I’ve experienced lots of culture shock in other realms though!

7. You’re a mum of two; how do you find juggling crafting time around family time? 
This year has been the first year that my kids are both in school full-time, so now I have a lot more time to devote to knitting and designing. It used to be that I would do all of my calculations and writing in the evenings when the kids were asleep, and knit when I would get a chance through the day. Now I can do all the thinky stuff while they’re in school and squeeze in the knitting on the bus and in the evenings. It’s still hard though, because working from home comes with the feeling that I should be doing housework all day. It’s hard to justify sitting and knitting when the bathrooms need cleaning.

8. Which other GAL designers are on your must-knit list?  I am trying to get in some Giftalong knitting this year, which is nice. I’ve finished a Waverleaf scarf from Faye Kennington, and three Bubbly Scrubbers from Amy Kenagy. I’m also working on a Hobby Horse for Little Knights by Aurelie Colas, a Beignet by Laura Nelkin, and a Quatrefoil Cup by Katya Frankel. There are lots more wonderful designers whose patterns I’d love to get a chance to make, including yours!

Waverleaf, image copyright UkeeKnits

Bubbly scrubber, image copyright Amy Kenagy

Hobby Horse for Little Knights, image copyright Aurelie Colas

Quatrefoil cups, image copyright Katya Frankel

9. What is your favourite knitting technique?  I absolutely love doing stranded colourwork.

10. Are there any knitting techniques you’re keen to learn? 
I’ve been working with Brioche a bit lately and I’m keen to get more familiar with it and how to manipulate it better.

11. If money was no object, what crafting object would you like to unwrap on Christmas morning?
If money was no object, I would love a fancy sewing machine. I had an inexpensive one but it is sitting in storage back in Canada because I wasn’t sure I’d have room for one here. Now that I don’t have one I’m really wishing I did.

If you want to find out more about Kate and her designs, you can find her in the following places:

The Gift-A-Long continues until the end of the year. Full details can be found in the Indie Design Gift-A-Long group on Ravelry.*

*Note that you must be logged into Ravelry for this link to work.

Saturday 5 December 2015

My favourite indie dyers of 2015

For the month of December, I've been joining in with fellow designer Louise Tilbrook over on Instagram in a month of random acts of kindness, the aim being to spread a little love during the festive season. Louise has provided a list of suggestions for each day, alongside encouragement to do your own thing if some of the items don't work for you.

On day one, I posted a review for the yarn shop Ringarosie. For day two I travelled all the way to London to join my brother for the launch of his new book (very exciting! Attending was very much a last minute decision, but definitely the right one.) On the third, I sent six people who had it in their queue a copy of my Twit Twoo mitts pattern. And on Friday I gave my office mate a bag of numbered sweets to unwrap before Christmas as she'd not managed to get an advent calendar before the shops sold out.

So far the decisions have been pretty easy. Either I've gone with Louise's suggestion, or subbed it for something that worked for that day. Today is day five, and the suggestion is to write a review for a podcast. For whatever reason I've never got into podcasts. So instead I am going to bring you a round up of my favourite indie dyers I've discovered in the past twelve months.

Before January, I hadn't used yarn from indie dyers. Most of my knitting was done in relatively inexpensive yarns, unless they came in the form of yarn support for magazine submissions. This year something changed; I started knitting socks, and a skein of sock yarn is really goof value - even when knitting fast, it takes me at least a week to knit a pair of socks. So my Facebook and Instagram feeds have become very yarn heavy, and hand-dyed yarn has become a big part of my knitting life. I've now amassed quite a collection; here are four of my favourites.

1. Devon Sun Yarns
Devon Sun Yarns was my first foray into buying yarn from an independent dyer. I think I first came across her as a result of a competition she was running on Facebook, and could not resist this beautiful skein of jewel splashed white yarn; it made an excellent hat.

Since that first skein I have bought several more skeins from Daisy, and a couple of sock blanks (not that they've yet been knitted, but part of the joy of pretty yarn is that it looks amazing without you actually having to do anything with it!), and I'm sure there will be many more purchases. Daisy has an excellent eye for colour, and always has a good selection of yarn weights and bases available. She's recently moved her shop to its own website, where you can also find kits for dyeing your own yarn.

2. Mothy and the Squid
Mothy and the Squid is an indie dyer based in Scotland. Her business is named after her two sons favourite things, and from her Instagram feed you can see that it's very much a family business. I had been eyeing Jillian's yarns for ages, and was delighted when I won one of her (frequent) competitions on Instagram. Her yarn is beautiful, often inspired by rainbows, whether little flashes or full stripes. It is also packaged beautifully, with hand stamped labels and a little extra inside every package - I've ordered from her twice now and have had moth and squid stitch markers and a 17g sample of some lovely fuchsia and pink yarn. She also let me have an extra large (120 g) ball of yarn so I would have enough to make socks for my husband, and didn't charge me for the extra!

3. Cuddlebums
Another dyer specialising in rainbows, Jodi makes stunning yarn. My sister bought me some for my birthday and Jodi made sure to include a little birthday note in the package, as well as some cake soaps as a little birthday extra. The socks I knitted in Twilight Rainbow Donegal Nep are my favourites, and when I went to Yarndale I specifically sought out her stall to get another skein of something wonderful, coming home with sparkly cornflower blue rainbow yarn.

4. Hand Dyed by Kate
Kate is based in Wales and dyes a lot of striped yarn (a hugely labour intensive process!). Her colour choices are amazing, and every month she has a self-striping yarn club, which I am very, very tempted by! I went to Kate when I wanted some watermelon striped yarn for a friend's birthday, and she was really helpful with my request. When Amy had finished her socks, she sent me the spare and my daughter got a pair of matching socks. I've ordered Kate's Snowflake self-striping yarn box for myself for Christmas and am very excited about it.

I love supporting small and local businesses, and shall continue to do so in the new year. Who are your favourite indie dyers? And if you fancy joining in with the random acts of kindness, it's not too late!