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My 50th Year-part two!

It’s finally over. I’ve had a fantastic year celebrating and now my 50th birthday has been and gone.

As I said a couple of weeks ago I had 50 treats spread out over 50 weeks. It was brilliant fun sharing some treats with friends & family and doing some other things I really wanted to do on my own.

Here’s the last lot of treats to complete the picture…

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Officially a Knitter!!!

Yesterday was a big day for me when the fabulous piece of paper arrived in the post.

This is the culmination of almost 7 years work (if I’d been quicker I’d have received a proper City&Guilds one) and I guess it now means that I’m officially a knitter & designer!!!

I have been knitting for a very long time, since I was taught by my grandma as a child. My grandma and my mum were always knitting and I wanted to be able to do it so much.

Grandma enjoying some riverside knitting!

I learnt so much from both of them, and from trial and error.

I was very lucky having someone on hand to ask when I was struggling and as a result of  learning at a young age I’ve had a lifelong passion for knitting and everything connected to it.

Early in 2010 I decided that I wanted to build on my passion and add some more formal learning to all that I’d managed to learn so far. I did a bit of research and chose to sign up with Loraine McClean of Knit Design Online. There was a waiting list so I had to wait a few months to get going and I think I began the course early in 2011. If you are at all considering doing something similar I would recommend having a look at Loraine’s website & thinking about the courses she is offering.

It is no exaggeration to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed working through the 12 modules that would arrive in the post.

It has been a marvellous opportunity to experiment with so many different techniques, stitches & yarns which is something that I’d never thought to do for myself before. I wasn’t afraid to substitute yarns and try things I hadn’t done before, but always following a pattern.

I have learnt to be much more strict with myself and re-do things until they are spot on as Loraine doesn’t accept anything less than your very best, and I hope this means that I will always produce items of a high standard which I can be proud of.

I’ve never had any training in art, as I was not considered creative enough to do art at school, so I was a little scared of some of the artwork we had to do. I had, however, had alot of experience doing painting, gluing/sticking & making creative messes with toddlers, and I just approached most of the tasks from this level, followed the instructions in the module and managed to present some pleasing results most of the time.  It was always a delight when the assessment came back and I found out I was actually quite good at some of these tasks.

I’m more confident now but there is definitely room for new skills to be acquired!

We also studied different types of yarns and fibres and learnt about their properties and which ones work best for certain projects and why. Finally we had to design and knit our own garments which I now have the courage to do independently. I have so many ideas and inspirations which I now can’t wait to follow up over the next few years.

Doing this course has been an absolute joy and I never ever ever want to stop building on the foundation it has given to me.

Here are the main items I have produced throughout the process.

 

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My 50th Year – part one

Warning…this post is a bit self indulgent!

Having taken a year out after closing the shop I’m being a bit slow getting going again and finding it hard to discipline myself around settling down to do some work.

There are so many distractions and other things to do!

Also it’s my 50th year and I’m celebrating  in style by giving myself 50 special treat so I’m rather busy!

There are a number of reasons I decided to do this but the main one is that, I feel like sometimes we don’t allow ourselves to be spoilt and tend to say ‘oh yes I’d like to do that one day when the children are older/we have more money/we have more time ‘etc etc, when really we should be living life as fully as possible, doing the things we love.

It’s also been a fabulous opportunity to share the fun with some of my fantastic friends.

So here’s a taste of some of the things I’ve been getting up to over the last (almost) 12 months.

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Let’s Talk About Fair Isle Knitting

I am really looking forward to the first of my new knitting workshops which will be at York School of Sewing on Friday 17th November.

The workshop will be an Introduction to Fair Isle knitting. You will receive a knitting kit to take away and complete your own version of my Petal Cushion Cover which is available in several colours, including those shown here.

If you’re keen to start creating beautiful designs using one or more colours, but have never tried, then this workshop could be for you.

You will need to be able to do both knit and purl stitch with confidence, if so, you really can progress onto Fair Isle knitting.

If you’re at all apprehensive about the thought of using more than one colour at once, then remember that traditional Fair Isle knitting uses lots of colours but never more than 2 per row!

The workshop begins with getting to grips with the techniques needed to get started with 2-colour (more if you like) knitting.

Contemporary knitting involves using any colour and knitting with frequent colour changes. This might sound a bit daunting, but once you know what you’re doing you can create some very impressive results and expand your enjoyment of your knitting hobby.

This type of knitting is also known as Jacquard, stranded or two-colour knitting. The knitting is usually done in stocking stitch but it is ok to experiment with other stitches if you wish!

I have been a bit silly in the past and seem to have either lost, given away or donated to charity most of my pieces of Fair Isle but this is something I knitted 30 years ago when I was 19.

I can remember seeing this in a magazine and loving it. I bought the wool stated on the pattern, for probably the first time in my life, and I think I even used the same colours which is something I rarely do. I like to come up with my own colour combinations because I really really want my hand-knits to be unique and individual.

In the workshop we learn about and practice, stranding and weaving the yarns at the back of the work, (as can be seen above) how to follow a chart, then we look at choosing yarns & colours for your fair isle knitting.

Here you can see I have been experimenting with doing some simple Fair Isle, choosing my colours from some inspiration and trying them in different sequences.

As I’ve done, its’ a good idea to use inspiration to help choose colours which might go together. Tear pages from magazines, collect fabric swatches or use your own personal photographs.

One thing to remember with this type of knitting is that you will use more yarn than when just knitting using one colour and your work will be alot thicker and warmer.

For Fair Isle wool works better than other more slippery fibres such as cotton. It is worth spending some time experimenting with different yarns to see how they knit up. If you are using a yarn which is more suited to this kind of work then you are more likely to be happier with the results. It’s so easy to be disappointed and to think that your work is no good when all you may need to do is change the yarn!

For this kind of knitting it is much easier to work from charts than from words so if you’ve never knitted from a chart now is the time to get your head around them. Once you do then that’ll be another knitting hurdle you’ve passed and as with most things you’ll probably find it’s alot more straightforward than you thought.

Once we’ve practiced the techniques you’ll be able to make a start on your cushion before taking it home to complete.

I love spending time helping people to make new steps with their knitting. It’s so rewarding when someone moves on from having never tried a technique, or they’ve tried on their own but not been able to conquer it, and you can see them filled with pride and enthusiasm over their new-found skill. Contact myself or York School of Sewing if you need to know more 🙂

 

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The Knotty Knitters Meet the Alpacas

Our knitting circle had a brilliant day out on Saturday.

It was part of my quest to have 50 special treats before my 50th birthday in October!! I wrote about this previously here.

When trying to decide what a group of friends who like to get together to knit and enjoy a cuppa might like to do for a fun day out I tried to think of something yarn related. What I came up with was Alpaca Trekking.

I love it.

I’ve done it before, as a fun activity to do with family & friends when my children were younger, and once, when I was Brown Owl for the local Brownie pack a few years ago we had a very pleasant evening stroll with the girls.

I always go to Treeside Alpacas who are absolutely brilliant. The owners are a lovely knowledgeable couple who really make it into a special experience. We saw them when we had our day out to Leeds Wool Festival where they were doing mini treks.

It was a rather windy on Saturday afternoon but we were very lucky and it didn’t rain on us!

First we spent a little time chatting and getting used to the 7 gorgeous fluffy boys. Then we all chose an Alpaca to walk with and set off on our trek. The Alpacas don’t rush, and the route around the farm is not too strenuous, so there was plenty of time to chat to Rosanne and Nigel about their characterful creatures and enjoy spending the time together. The walk back was a bit quicker as the boys knew they were going to get fed at the end.

I took a great many photographs but I’ve tried to pick out the best ones here.

 

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Shells and Gems

Back in May I wrote about my Shell scarf pattern which I had added to the shop.

I mentioned that I had bought this beautiful yarn at Spring Into Wool and I was planning to make another one.

I actually finished it a few weeks ago but it has been waiting to be blocked.

The yarn is West Yorkshire Spinners Wensleydale Gems and I absolutely love the colours it’s available in.

I was desperate to see what it would look like knitted into this scarf but I was a little concerned that it might be a hard or prickly yarn so different to the gorgeous soft Sublime Alpaca that the original is done in.

Not so, however. The yarn is so soft and fluffy – not as soft as the Alpaca – and it drapes beautifully.

I blocked it at the weekend and the sun was out so I grabbed some quick photos.

It’s so great to see my design in a different yarn and colours.

As you can see I also bought another yarn from Home Farm Wensleydales which is destined to become a Shell Scarf too!!

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The Dark Self

Last week I visited this an exhibition in York called The Dark Self.

The artist, Susan Aldworth has created this collaborative piece of work which explores the experience of sleep.

It was most interesting to me as it involved ‘1001 embroidered pillowcases hung from the church ceiling, sewn by local people, community groups and schools’

There are also prints, sculptures and a film to see in this very peaceful and atmospheric installation.

It’s open Wed-Sun 11am-4pm until 3rd September 2017 at York St Mary’s YO1 9RN and admission is free.

 

The pillowcases are all old hotel ones (nice bit of up-cycling) and they have been sewn onto using a limited colour palette which is pleasing to look at and I think suits the theme rather beautifully. I took lots of photos which give a feel for the experience, but it wasn’t easy due to the way they are all hung, so if you’d like to get the true atmosphere it’s worth calling in if you’re close by.

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Quick and Easy Scarf

A couple of weeks ago we had a little sight seeing trip to London for the weekend.

Obviously I needed a bit of knitting to take with me for the journey, and I had nothing appropriate on any needles, so a new project was called for.

Having found a very charming skein of sock yarn in my stash (Ripples Crafts Hand Dyed Sock Yarn), I cast on for a scarf and was jolly happy with myself!!

There was plenty of knitting time on the train and a tiny amount of knitting time during our stay.

On returning home I decided that the scarf was not going to be long enough with just this one skein of yarn.

I was very happy to find some yellow West Yorkshire Spinners 4ply which went really well with the one I was using and merrily continued with my new scarf. Now it is finished and I am very pleased with it.

This is such an easy stitch to do, creating something which looks very impressive, especially when combined with a yarn such as this from Ripples Crafts. It would make a nice winter scarf if done on larger needles using something chunky!!

I’ve written out the pattern and you can download it for free here.

 

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Something a little different…

A few months ago my son asked me if I would be able to knit a Leeds United cushion for his girlfriend to give to her Dad.

I said I’d give it a go but it would have to go to the back of the queue!!

On a recent trip to a lovely yarn shop called Knitting Pretty in Knaresborough I bought the perfect coloured yarn for the project, King Cole merino blend dk.

A couple of weeks ago I felt the time was right so I did some drawings for the family to chose from.

Once they’d let me know which design they liked the best I was off and running.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I knit most of my cushions in one piece to reduce the number of seams needed.

Here it is being blocked…almost ready for sewing together. Just the small matter of embroidering on the LUFC and crocheting a white Yorkshire Rose to finish it off.

This is quite different from the kind of thing I would normally knit and I am pleased with the finished result, I think that I managed to fulfil the brief!!

I’m told that Olivia’s Dad was very happy with it too.

 

 

 

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Knit a Shell

I first introduced my Shell Scarf on the blog last August and now, finally, I’ve published the pattern for anyone to buy online!!

I was waiting for the scarf and pattern to be assessed by my City and Guilds Tutor, and then I decided to make an alternative version, which would be easier to knit, so it has taken some time to get it organised!!

As mentioned in the previous blog, the yarn I’ve used is the most gorgeous , Sublime Alpaca DK which is a gorgeously soft yarn, and the colour choices were influenced by my inspiration. The yarn also comes in a wider range of delicious colours.

The inspiration, by the way, came from the little shell which I found on a walk form Warkworth towards Amble in Northumberland earlier last year.

The original scarf, Scarf One, is triangular shaped and lighter weight for the Spring and Autumn, whereas the new design, or Scarf Two, is bigger and warmer to snuggle up in the Winter months.

Both are knitted in a drop stitch rib, which I chose because it is not only very effective but, the fabric produced looks like the pattern of ridges on the shell which was my inspiration. I also really really like the excitement of dropping stitches on purpose (I’m sad like that!!).

I hope the following images show how the two scarves differ.

 

If you’re a less confident knitter, then you could try scarf two as it has limited shaping so is not so daunting.

I bought some exciting yarn when I visited Spring Into Wool in Leeds recently so I’ll be posting photos of the scarf knitted in different colours and fibres over the coming months.

 

If you buy the pattern, I would love to hear which scarf you choose to create and what yarn you have used.

If you send me photos I’ll be delighted!!