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The Further Adventures of Chardonnay

Hello there.

Just taking a break from working on my up-coming knit-a-long to update you on the adventures of Chardonnay the sheep.

Chardonnays yarncrawl, which took her from Knaresborough to Harrogate and then on to Thirsk, has had to be interrupted for obvious reasons.

She’s been in for some repairs as described by Knitting Pretty’s owner Di Watson…

‘Recently we’ve had to shear her original pompoms and they grew back in a rainbow 🤷‍♀️ 

Her latest hat is fashioned from the top layer of Harry and Meghan’s wedding cake, made by Lynsey Gallant

( Chardonnay is all about re-using and eco-friendly)’

I popped in to see Chardonnay last week and I have to say I was impressed with her new look. She is sporting the very latest fashion for 2020 , the Rainbow & the face mask! As Di explains:

‘These lovely face masks have been beautifully made by Cath. They’re lined too! Great quality at £5 each-all of which goes to Martin House Children’s Hospice.’

I think Chardonnay’s is just perfect !

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Christmas Eve Blanket Knit-a-Long

Let me introduce to you my finished Christmas Eve Blanket…

I talked about how I came to be knitting a Christmas project in the summertime in my previous blog.

I have completed the design and the patterns are now being test-knitted by Sharon at Ewe and Yarn and Di at Knitting Pretty.

I am also knitting another sample so we will soon have 4 versions of the blanket in 4 different colourways.

The design aims to be flexible, so that you can mix and match the patterns, should you wish to not do some of the squares and create more versions of other squares instead.

I said that we were going to have a knit-a-long and that I was trying to find a way that I could incorporate some small workshops.

We launched the knit-a-long a few weeks ago and it is scheduled to begin on the 15th August with those taking part receiving patterns to download every 6 days until December.

Alongside the patterns I am making tutorial-style videos so that, even if you are not a confident knitter, it will still be possible to try out all of the techniques showcased in this design.

I will set up a special Facebook page for everyone to share their progress and ask any questions so that we can still be knitting along together, even though we are apart.

There is much excitement brewing now for the Christmas Eve Blanket knit-a-long and we are already fully international with people taking part from our local area but also from New Zealand and Switzerland.

If you are interested in joining us, you can purchase a kit from myself or from either Knitting Pretty or Ewe and Yarn.

I’ll be back soon with another blog to show you how our different coloured blankets are working out.

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Looking Forward…to the night before Christmas!

Hello there. Thanks for visiting.

What is everyone up to this weekend?

Safe to say I’m on a bit of a mission this spring bank holiday, I need to finish my Christmas Eve Blanket!

I know, I know, it’s not even June!!

Here’s how it happened…

On my final workshop of 2019 at Knitting Pretty, about 10 days before Christmas, we got the idea that it would be massively fun thing to have a BIG knit along with as many people as possible joining in and all making ourselves a blanket that we could snuggle up under on Christmas eve 2020.

On that December Saturday back in 2019 when the world was a different place, a small group of us got very excited at how much joy it would bring us, and much discussion took place as to what it would look like and what a wonderful thing it would be.

I left Knaresborough that afternoon, full of enthusiasm, clutching several balls of West Yorkshire Spinners ColourLab yarn, which I was going to use to design and knit a fabulous blanket for this project, that we had decided needed to be kicked off in what seemed at the time to be the dim and distant summer!!

January came along and I had loads of ideas and couldn’t wait to get cracking on with my new assignment.

The ColourLab comes in lots of scrummy colours!

We have also invited Sharon at Ewe and Yarn in Thirsk to join in the fun.

The aim of this undertaking is that it will be a project that is accessible to anyone with basic knitting skills, but also enough to entertain those of us who have more experience.

I’ve designed lots of different squares with an even mix of colourful Fair Isle squares and plain coloured, textured stitch squares. These 20 squares will all be joined together to form your blanket. Knitters will be able to knit the blanket as I have done, or pick and choose which of the squares they like or feel confident to knit. Maybe you never tried cable knitting and want to give it a go? you could just knit all the squares that use cable stitches and do each one several times. There are going to be endless possibilities with this 🙂

Because certain techniques might be unfamiliar to some people we thought it would be rather nice to have some little workshops so that you are learning at the same time as creating your special blanket.

I started off a Pinterest board which is now teaming with ideas and, to inspire me, I wrote a list of words that I wanted to use as themes for the squares.

words of inspiration

I was going great guns with this enterprise and popped to Knitting Pretty again just before lockdown started to make sure I had enough yarn to finish it off.

Then when we actually went into lockdown I found I could not focus on it and the whole thing ground to a halt.

However, over the past couple of weeks I have realised that if I don’t complete the design stage, we won’t be able to share the knit along with you all and the week I had done would have gone to waste, and all that fun we had planned won’t be happening. Therefore, I am cracking on and aiming to have something, which I hope you will like, to show you very very soon. I’m also working out how we can join in this project all together and keep the idea of incorporating some small workshops, whilst still being able to socially distance if we need to, as who can say how long it’ll be before normal service can resume?

For now here’s a taste of what is to come…

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Chardonnay in Harrogate

Hello from a sunny Yorkshire!

Last month I introduced you to Chardonnay and told you about the plans for this colourful Pom Pom Sheep to have her own yarncrawl which I’m very keen to follow.

This meant that yesterday I got to visit the lovely little shop Yarn Etc in Harrogate.

 

It’s a welcoming and colourful oasis just outside the town centre and it was very nice to meet and chat with Fiona who’s been hosting Chardonnay for the last few weeks.

Fiona tells me that Chardonnay has been very well admired, especially when she spent time sitting in the shop window where she could easily be spotted by passengers travelling past on the bus!

Yarn Etc is a busy little shop which hosts a popular knit and natter session on Monday evenings in addition to a varied programme of workshops. They also have a book club starting up which you can find out more about here

Many customers have been getting involved knitting poppies to display for Remembrance Day throughout the town and Fiona is hoping that next year they’ll have lots more for an even bigger display.

I enjoyed a good look around whilst I was there and I may have made a considered purchase or two.

Here is a flavour of what is on offer.

 

Chardonnay will be moving on to Thirsk very soon but before that she will be taking a little tour of the sights around Harrogate.

I can’t wait to see what she gets up to!!

 

 

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Chardonnays Yarn Crawl

Let me introduce you to Chardonnay.

Chardonnay is a sheep!! She’s a little bit of a diva, and she lives in the window of an amazing little yarn shop, Knitting Pretty in Knaresborough, North Yorkshire.

Chardonnay was created by Kt Arthur, Sarah Johnson and Kerry Young as part of a window display in Knitting Pretty for the FEVA festival 2019 (Festival of Entertainment and Visual Arts). The display won the window competition (the 4th time the store has won this)

Sarah Johnson

Sarah tells me that she made the structure for a sheep which was originally used in the 2019 Great Knaresborough Bed Race, the ladies then re-purposed her for the FEVA window display.

Diane Watson, the owner of Knitting Pretty says

‘Knaresborough is a very friendly town, it has the world famous Bed Race in June, the FEVA festival in August – where the town goes pink – and Bright Friday in November when children carry lanterns from the castle to the market square ready for the start of the traditional Christmas market over the Saturday and Sunday. We have some fabulous independent shops as seen recently in the York Press

Knitting Pretty are stockists of Rowan, West Yorkshire Spinners, Adriafil, King Cole, Opal, Stylecraft, Clover, Knit Pro and so much more.

The store supports Martin House Children’s Hospice and to date have raised over £1ooo for them.

Knitting Pretty really is so much more than just a yarn shop.

Currently Diane’s community of knitters are making poppies for British Legion 100th anniversary in 2021, with the aim to have a breathtaking display at Knaresborough Castle. Knitting groups take place on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

I provide knitting workshops on several Saturdays throughout the year. It is always a fun day and a pleasure to be part of this fantastic enterprise.

Back the star of this blog Chardonnay…

Chardonnay is going on a yarn shop tour #chardonnaysyarncrawl where she will spend time in various yarn shops and hopefully get to know more about them and the towns they serve.

To kick this off, Diane and I took her on a tour of the town of Knaresborough. Thanks to the local green grocer for the loan of the sack trolley (Chardonnay is far too much of a star to actually walk around town).

We all had a fabulous time and Chardonnay certainly attracted a lot of attention. Everyone who saw her loved her and wanted to hug her and photograph her.

We started off in the market square where Chardonnay met Mother Shipton and Blind Jack.

Then it was a trip to the castle which was unfortunately closed but we all enjoyed the views!

Next, no visit to Knaresborough can be complete without including England’s oldest tourist attraction Mother Shipton’s Cave.

On the way there it made a nice change to admire some of the unique trompe l’oeil windows that are all over the town, and some more sheep 🙂

The people at Mother Shipton’s were amused to see Chardonnay. She brings colour and joy wherever she goes.

She would have loved a boat ride but it wasn’t possible due to high river levels.

However, Blenkhorn’s Boats were very obliging and allowed her to get onboard. Look how excited she was!!

That was enough excitement for one Saturday morning in October, and Di and I were getting a bit warm with wheeling Chardonnay around, so we headed back to Knitting Pretty.

There could be a whole other blog about this charming little shop and all the quirky little details, there’s something different to spot every time you go and they all have their own stories. Here is just a little taste …

 

 

The final photo is some yarn which had to come home with me.

This yarn is hand dyed locally in Knaresborough, and there is even a special colour called Knitting Pretty specially created for Diane. I have some ideas in my head for designing something special to knit with this beautiful bundle.

 

 

 

So what’s next for Chardonnay? The plan is that she will head off to Harrogate to spend some time at Yarn Etc, after that a visit to Sharon at Ewe and Yarn in Thirsk is on the cards. I’m sure it won’t end there, we need to get Chardonnay to visit as many yarn shops as we can.

I hope to follow her around on her travels and write about it here.

She will also be using the hashtags #chardonnaysyarncrawl and #chardonnayontour on instagram.

Give her a wave if you spot her she’s always happy to meet new fans!!!

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Projects Celebrating Special Birthdays

This is a blog I’ve been meaning to write for a while but just never got round to it.

I have wondered if anyone would find it interesting but, if there is one thing that I’ve learnt in the last 6 months or so, it is that you just never know when what you’re doing is inspirational to others.

So, I hope that some people might find my small selection of projects interesting or inspirational. For those that don’t, this little blog post isn’t for you, and that’s fine.

Over the last couple of years, there have been a few special birthdays amongst my friends and family which I have tried to mark by making special gifts for them.

I like making things for people and hope that they enjoy receiving them. Sometimes, you want to give something special, and what is more special than a handmade gift?

For friends who’ve had 50th birthdays I’ve made some patchwork cushions. I tried to choose colours and designs that I hoped the recipient would really like. For some people this was really obvious, you think of them and a clear colour choice comes to mind, for others it was a little more tricky.

I used the same patchwork design for all these cushions. I learnt to make this cushion at a Beginners Patchwork class at York School of Sewing.

I don’t seem to have any photos of the next cushion actually finished!!!

My little sister was also 50 so she needed an extra special gift.

I knitted her a temperature blanket using the temperatures of each day of her 50th year and creating a square for each month.

She has her blanket now as her birthday was a couple of months ago but I need to make a backing for it so she’s going to have to give it back one day so that I can finish it off.

It will be good to make a back for each month with dates on to correspond with the front of the blanket. I added beads to the blanket for family birthdays so I can include a key on the back, then in future years she will know what they mean!!

I also made some 60th birthday presents. These are cushions too, mainly free-motion machine embroidery.

I absolutely loved making these.

This last one was made from a piece of hand embroidery that I’d done quite some years ago. I found it last summer when sorting through some boxes. I looked at it and thought to myself what a shame that I’d done all that work and it was just sitting in a bag, hiding away. Straight away I knew what I wanted to do with it and made it into a cushion for Carol 🙂

Well there we are.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed looking at my work and maybe you’re inspired to make some very special gifts for the important people in your life.

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A Sock Knitting Challenge

Hello, welcome to the latest of my intermittent blog posts!

Today I’m all about knitting socks.

Despite the popularity of this activity, and most of our knitting circle and other friends, having taken it up enthusiastically over the years, I have never felt the urge.

Towards the end of 2018 I decided, however, that it was about time I joined in with the fun.

I knew that I had all the skills required but I really wanted to experience the process so that I could include sock knitting in my list of workshops available. Therefore, I felt that I needed to set myself a goal and a time limit for the number of pairs of socks I was going to make in order to gain the know-how required.

So at the end of November the challenge began!! I was aiming to knit 6 pairs of socks by the end of February.

 

 

 

I had ordered myself some new sock yarn (I already had loads of this but I treated myself to one of the West Yorkshire Spinners Christmas sets), plus some patterns and a book because I didn’t just want to make the same pair of socks over and over again.

 

 

 

This is the first pair of socks that I produced. I loved the pattern and the yarn that I’d chosen but the knitting wasn’t very good. I’d used the needles suggested on the ball band and in the pattern but the tension was far too loose so I learned that I needed to use much smaller needles, which I have done ever since, and been much happier with the results.

For my second pair of socks I used the special Christmas yarn and a different pattern on much smaller needles. I love these socks which have been worn and washed very well.

Before starting this challenge I had envisaged only knitting basic top-down socks but I had bought this book which shows different methods of sock knitting. When I’m learning about & experimenting with my knitting I do like to try a variety of ideas and techniques to see what different results can be produced. The 3rd pair of socks fit perfectly and were knitted from the toe up.

I knitted these lovely red socks on a short circular needle rather than dpn’s.

We were now at the beginning of February, I had produced 3 pairs of socks and needed to knit another 3 to achieve my goal before the end of that month…progress had been slower than I’d hoped.

It was very definitely time to crack on and knit another pair of socks. I’d heard of afterthought heels and thought I’d give one a go for my next sock. Another interesting method of making a sock.

This is a top-down sock also from the Sock Anatomy book.

These socks were finished on 27th February so I’d failed my challenge as I was 2 pairs short!!

I really wanted to try making some very small socks for workshops as it’s obviously not going to be possible to knit a full size sock in a one day workshop.

So, I thought I’ll see if I can make some pairs of teeny tiny socks, good practise for workshops and maybe I could still say I’d made the full 6 pairs.

This is a book I bought from The Loveliest Yarn Company at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate. It’s really cool as it gives a basic sock pattern with options for mixing and matching cuffs, legs and toes.

The socks are really mini & you can create your own set of little socks to make a fab Christmas decoration.

I thought I’d have a go at making one of the basic socks to see if you could do it in a day.

This one took me just a little bit too long to knit so I found a pattern for an even smaller one!!  I managed a pair of these teenier tinier socks by the 1st March and decided that that was satisfactory

The end of my challenge but definitely NOT the end of me knitting socks.

I will be running my first Beginners Sock Knitting workshop at Create in Wetherby on 8th June 2019…maybe I’ll see you there 🙂

 

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My Big Waves Brioche Cowl

This blog is mainly for people who have been to one of my recent 2-colour Brioche Knitting workshops.

Anyone who hasn’t tried this technique might also find it interesting to look at how the work grows and the kind of fabric that can be produced.

For those who haven’t heard of brioche knitting before, you might be  wondering what on earth I’m talking about,  maybe you would like to know a little bit more, or perhaps you could be interested in attending a workshop. For these reasons, I should probably write another blog about brioche knitting in the future!!

Thank you to all the people who have been along to one of my 2-colour brioche knitting workshops, I am sure that you will all agree that learning to do brioche knitting was quite entertaining.

Last week I was chatting with a lady who was making the cowl following on from the workshop, and she mentioned that it would be good to have photos of the work as it went along so that she knew what it ought to look like.

I thought that this was a splendid idea so I came home, chose some gorgeous colours of the Croft yarn  and cast on a new cowl for myself.

I have knitted the cowl and photographed it at significant points so that you can check your work as you go along if you need to.

I hope that these images will help to give you the confidence that your work is progressing ok or to show any errors that may have occurred.

I have amended the pattern as I realised that I have written the end section incorrectly.

I have sent a PDF with these changes to the person who organised your workshop.

Please ask them to send you a copy or email me directly stating which workshop you attended, and I will send it to you.

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Changes for Chains and Stripes

This blog was originally written in April 2015 but I wanted to re-visit it as I have recently added these knitting kits to my website having not had them on there for a while, so here is the story of my Chain Stripe Cushion knitting kits…

 

Today I’ve been finishing off something I started back in September!
IMG_0177After our annual visit to Cawood Craft Festival I realised that my original version of one of my knitting kits could do with a bit of updating. I designed this cushion some time ago now and we talked about it on the blog back in the summer of 2013.

When I had the idea for the cushion we had just started selling West Yorkshire Spinners yarns and I really wanted to make something which would show off the natural colours of the wool from Jacob sheep which they produce. I had been playing with the chain stripe stitch when knitting samples for my City and Guilds course and I felt that it was an ideal choice. I designed this little cushion, which can be knitted in a number of variations using the 4 natural colours available Ecru, Light Grey, Mid-Grey and Brown.

I don’t like having to insert zips and I really like these cocoanut shell buttons so I used this simple construction for the cushion. One long piece is knitted, folded and side seams sewn up, finally attaching the beautiful buttons which are included in the kit. I am very happy with the way the cushion looks, I love the Jacob wool which is ideal for home wares and many people have bought the kits and given positive feedback.

Why did I feel the need to improve the pattern then? Sitting in a tent in a field in North Yorkshire, I realised that, if I was designing the cushion today I would have made the stripes match up all the way round the cushion, and they just didn’t. It bothered me so much that I just couldn’t forget about it and I took one of my sample cushions and actually unravelled the cushion, re-knitting it to my new specifications. I have now knitted 3 samples in all of the new cushion and I am happy to say that the stripes match up beautifully all the way round except for where the rib occurs for attaching the lovely buttons which I don’t mind.
IMG_0770I have replaced the old  patterns in the kits and will re-vamp the packaging when I make some more and I now feel very satisfied with my little cushions again.

The kits contain all the wool you need to knit a cushion, plus the pattern and 3 buttons. You can buy them  online.

As I explain on the website, this kit makes a great gift for a knitter friend and the pattern is easy to follow for those who have not knitted for a while, or who are just learning but interesting enough for those with more experience to appreciate it

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Why Learn to Knit?

To many people this may sound like a silly question! All the same I thought it was worth thinking about it.

If you’ve been taught a skill such as knitting, crochet or sewing at an early age then it can seem like the most natural thing in the world. If you’re not that fortunate then you may be thinking ‘I love making things for myself or as unique gifts and I’d like to learn a new craft so why would I choose knitting?’

I believe that knitting can be a relaxing hobby (maybe not so much at the first steps, but certainly when you get the hang of it) which engages the mind and fires creativity. There is always something new to learn or try if you wish to push yourself, on the other hand, some really easy straightforward knitting can be just the tonic when you’re feeling tired and stressed. You have the brilliant satisfaction of being able to spend your relaxation time productively with a beautiful finished item to be proud of as the end result.

Most people seem to have the desire to learn to knit for a specific purpose. The most popular one is probably the arrival of a new member of the family which seems to spur people into action and get them picking up the needles. For other people, the desire can be sparked by a specific item they’ve seen and really want to make for themselves. This is the reason I myself wanted to learn the ‘sister’ craft of crochet so that I could make things which had previously been untouchable for me because I didn’t know how to use a crochet hook.

Still need some inspiration? What might you be able to knit with just a little bit of knowledge?

Simple scarf like this one can easily be made with just basic stitches and you can make it for yourself or give as a gift!!

If you attend one of my Beginners Knitting workshops you will make one of these. You will take away the materials and pattern to make one for yourself, and when you’ve done that you can make more in different colours 🙂

 

These teddies are a really lovely easy knit which would be great to make for a new baby or small child.

Why not try making a baby blanket in a soft chunky baby yarn they’re really easy and quick to do for your new arrival.

You can make cushions for your home or as gifts. Try one of my simple but effective chain stripes cushions in beautiful but hardwearing Jakob aran yarn.

 

Will I need lots of expensive equipment?

Basically, no you won’t. Having said that, you will need some core items to begin with, and there are lots of products out there to tempt you, but it is up to you. If you would like to have lovely needles and notions you can do, but you don’t have to you can just stick to basic items.

A simple starter kit should probably contain –

  • a selection of smooth inexpensive double knitting weight yarns (you can move onto the fancy stuff and gorgeous natural fibres when you are more confident)
  • needles – again nothing too fancy needed unless you really want to, just some basic needles in the size appropriate for your yarn ie double knitting yarn 4mm needles or check your ballband to see what needles are recommended
  • pins
  • scissors
  • tape measure
  • yarn needle
  • safety pins
  • row counter and/or pencil and paper

There are lots and lots of other things you could have but you’ll probably decide for yourself as you go along what you would like and what you need and what you can very easily live without!!

 

What’s the best way to learn?

This is another question to which there are probably as many answers as there are people who are looking to learn to knit!!

There are a number of options or combinations of options.

Most people would prefer to be taught by someone who really knows what they are doing. If you have a family member or friend close at hand who can get you started and then be called upon when needed for further assistance then you are probably very lucky and should make the most of it!!

There are lots of books available Vogue Knitting – The Ultimate Knitting Book, is a very good book and has clear instructions and illustrations.

Youtube has many videos which will show you what to do and I have met lots of people who have successfully taught themselves to knit this way.

Make the most of any resources you can find such as Ravelry, twitter, facebook. Find out what works for you, give things a try and don’t be frightened.

As a small business, I am always happy to help people out with any problems they are experiencing and it is one of the best parts of my job to be able to show them the answer. You may not get this service from some of the larger retailers out there but I’m sure most small yarn shops are able to provide a similar service to customers and with the same joy and pleasure!!

I run regular Beginners Knitting classes in Knaresborough and York, for those who would like more focused attention. These are for one full day which is generally enough to go through casting on, knit stitch, purl stitch, rib stitch, casting off, changing colours or joining in new balls of yarn. The aim is to equip you with the basic knowledge you need to start knitting and we provide enough yarn for you to make a simple rib stitch scarf which you will start making during the class and then take away to finish at your own speed.

Because different people will have different aims for their knitting, each persons next step will be slightly different, however I do run a Beyond the Basics workshop.

If you have learnt knit and purl stitch and are ready to move on to knitting something more than straight scarves this workshop is for you. The aim of the workshop is to give you all the knowledge you need to make a simple garment. You will receive a kit containing 50g of quality double knitting yarn, 1m ribbon & 14 buttons.

You will learn different increasing and decreasing techniques to create some triangular pieces in stocking stitch.

We will look at blocking the work you have produced, and we will pick up stitches to make a buttonhole band.

Add a few pretty buttons and you have your own knitted bunting!!

Just a final warning. Knitting can be addictive. Once you’ve started you may not be able to stop and I think that’s absolutely fantastic!!!