Cute Comfort Knits…coming soon!

This week has been very exciting…my new book went to print!

Cute Comfort Knits is my first venture into self publishing and it’s all gone beautifully smoothly thanks to the fantastic people who have helped with pattern checking, knitting, cake baking and compiling everything into an actual book.

This week I went to watch the book being printed and had a guided tour of Lion to see all the different stages. Unfortunately I didn’t get many interesting pics/videos for you…but I do love this one of the sheets coming off the press!

It’s so quick! Can you tell what it is?

Watch this space for more details and sneaky peeks coming soon x

The Niddy Noddy

What an exciting week it’s been!

I’ve been very busy this year working on my third book which will launch in the Autumn, and this week (after some manic last minute knitting…) we had the photo shoot down in Frome.

I’d been struggling to find a location for the shoot and a friend suggested looking at Airbnb, which is where we found the Niddy Noddy – suggested by my photographer Jesse Wild. It was perfect! The owners were really happy for me to use it as a shoot location and they were really friendly and helpful. My good friend Rosie came along to assist and make cakes – so it was the perfect opportunity for us to have a mini break in Frome!

For those who don’t know… a Niddy Noddy is a spinning tool used for winding yarn into skeins and the name was chosen for the cottage because the manufacturing woollen cloth was Frome’s main industry as far back as the 15th century.

Sheppards Barton, where Niddy Noddy Cottage is located, was owned by the Sheppard family who had the homes built for workers from their woollen mill. I love the fact that it has this link to the wool industry – the perfect location!

As well as being great for the shoot – it was simply a lovely place to stay. Small but perfectly formed with comfy beds and just around the corner from lovely shops, restaurants and cafes. There is a fire in the living room which looks like a real wood burning stove, but is in fact a gas fire which you can switch on with a remote control. Instant hygge!

A huge thank you to Rosie, Jesse and Rowena for all their help – and if you fancy booking a trip to the Niddy Noddy you can find them here.

Keep your eye out for sneaky peeks of my new book!

Busy Times = Moody Blues

I’m always busy at this time of year – no matter how well I plan ahead it just always happens. This year it is the result of being offered a few great opportunities around the same time and not wanting to say no to anything!

I’m loving my new day job with Rowan and I’m very excited about the freelance project I’m currently working on. But all the travelling, designing and secret knitting means I’m working seven days a week. As much as I love knitting – working to a deadline is completely different to selfish knitting!

This has definitely started to effect my mood over the last couple of weeks and my Moody Blanket’s starting to look a bit blue….

So I’ve got into the routine of giving myself a bit of down-time during the day at the weekend and then working from late afternoon until the wee small hours (I’m a night owl!). This means I get to spend some time with Beardie, go for lunch, have a walk and pootle around the garden before settling down to work knitting while binge-watching Netflix!

I can’t wait to finish this project and tell you about it! x

Secret Knitting 

It’s that time of year again where I’m very busy working on projects that I can’t tell you about yet…but I really want to!

So I thought you might like a little sneaky peek at the yarns and shades I’m working with….

I’m not normally a pink kinda person but I absolutely love this soft pink shade in Big Wool. And it looks fab with the rest of the palette I’ve chosen (which of course includes teal!).

I’ve been enjoying working with Summerlite dk for the first time… and I’m particularly excited about the project I’ve knitted in the yummy shades above.

I’m rediscovering my love for Cocoon…so soft, so cosy and so quick to knit!

And of course there will be some Felted Tweed. Always a favourite of mine and the colours are just beautiful.

I can’t wait to share more with you later this year!

Yarn provided by Rowan.

Summer Hibernation

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It’s that time of year where I retreat into hibernation! With very few workshops during the summer months, I make the most of having time at home to get ready for the knitting season ahead.

I’m busy knitting up samples for new patterns which will launch in time for Yarndale. And even more excitingly – I’m preparing a knit-along for 2017, which you will be able to sign up for from late September. I can’t wait to tell you more about that!

And of course I’ve also been making the most of the sunny days and working in the garden (when it’s not been too hot or rainy!).

I love reading whilst knitting in the garden – although it does slow me down a bit. I’ve joined a book group where we’ve read The Girl With All The Gifts which gave me nightmares and The Song of Achilles which I thought had a good beginning and end but a bit boring in the middle! We’re now reading Us by David Nichols which I’ve read before so I’m re-reading for a re-cap. I think I’m enjoying it more this time because I haven’t spent the first half of the book lamenting the fact that it’s not One Day! It’s very different to One Day but still good.

In between book club books I’ve also re-read Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy. This is my comfort blanket book that I always go back to if I’m not sure what to read. I think it’s my fourth read and I’m sure it won’t be my last!

I hope you’re enjoying the summer so far, whether you’re hibernating or holidaying or staring dreamily out of the window! x

Yarn Substitutions

This is going to be a long blog. Make a cup of tea and get comfy!

If you’re a big fan of Rowan, you may have heard the rumours that their range of yarns is being cut rather dramatically for Autumn/Winter. On first hearing the news – I must admit I panicked! But once I knew all the details, I thought it was brilliant.

The new streamlined ‘core’ range incorporates all of the old favourites such as Kidsilk Haze, Felted Tweed, Big Wool and many more. New yarns with pattern support will still be introduced each season, but these ‘Rowan Selects’ will be limited edition while stocks last.

Over the years, the Rowan range has grown and grown. It had become rather complex, and I think this streamlining process will mean more focus on our favourite yarns and stronger pattern support. It will make it easier for small independent retailers to stock Rowan and for larger retailers to stock the whole range (if they couldn’t fit it in the shop before!).

Long term – it will make it easier for me to design with Rowan because using the core range means I can be pretty confident that the yarns will remain more consistent and not be discontinued quickly. I always try and use yarns that I feel are ‘safe’ and I also try to stick to standard weights where appropriate so that it’s easy for you to substitute the yarn if you want to. For this reason I wouldn’t normally dedicate a whole blog to yarn substitutions because it’s normally just the odd yarn or shade that we’re losing. But because some of my most popular patterns will be affected by the changes to the Rowan range – I thought a blog might be helpful for you.

If you’re planning to knit any of the projects below – don’t panic! Yarns don’t disappear immediately after being discontinued so you should still be able to get hold of them from your local Rowan stockist or online. However – I would highly recommend that you start panic buying Fine Tweed and Rowan Fur immediately!

Wool Cotton

Used for the Lovebirds and Tile cushions in Cute Little Knits, Wool Cotton is 50% wool and 50% cotton. It’s a standard DK weight so very easy to substitute. The content of the yarn doesn’t matter too much, as long as you go for a DK it will be fine. I would recommend Rowan Pure Wool Superwash DK – there are good substitutes for all the colours used (apart from the brown).

Creative Focus Worsted

This is the only yarn discontinuation which will effect patterns in my new book The Knitted Nursery Collection. Creative Focus was used for the Circular Felted Rug and Felted Toy Basket, as well as the Bobble Bathmat in Cute Little Knits. For these three projects the finished size isn’t too important, so it could be substituted for any felt-able yarn of a similar weight. To ensure the yarn will felt you will need to check it is 100% (or mostly) wool – and also that it is hand-wash only.

Creative Focus is also used in my Bow Slippers from Cute Little Knits and the mens’ Felted Slippers above. Size starts to matter a little bit more here – but bear in mind that the size after felting can vary a bit anyway (read my tips on felting here).

I tested swatches in Kid Classic and Cocoon against the Creative Focus and here are the results:

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These were all knitted on 5mm needles (same number of rows and stitches) and washed in the machine at 30 degrees. The Kid Classic is pretty much the exact same size – just fluffier and the texture isn’t as thick. Cocoon is very slightly larger, the texture is very similar but is more dense. I think either of these would be an okay substitute – just make sure you do a test swatch in your machine!

Fine Rowan Tweed

I’m trying to keep emotion out of this – but I love this yarn so much! However – it is a 4ply and therefore pretty easy to substitute. I think Superfine Merino 4ply would be lovely for the Triangle hat and the Tweed Tie would look great in Summerlite 4ply. Or if you want to keep the tweedy look, you could go for something like Jamiesons Spindrift, which would work really well for the Little Hearts from Cute Little Knits and Shuggie & Steve Sheep faces, but if you’re knitting the hat you might want to check it’s not too itchy!

The yarns I used for the Rowan Winter Animals (Mohair Haze, Fine Tweed & Fine Boucle) have now all been discontinued, but I still have kits for these available on my shop.

I will have limited stock of Triangle Hat kits at Yarndale, which aren’t currently on my shop – so please contact me if you would like to buy one now to collect at Yarndale.

Rowan Tweed

I have only just discovered how beautifully this yarn felts, so I’m sad to lose it. But as per Creative Focus above – choose a felt-able yarn and test it in your machine.

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I tested Rowan Tweed against Kid Classic, both knitted on 4mm and washed at 30 degrees. Kid Classic is a lot fluffier and it shrinks more. The Gadget Cosy and Satchel patterns are felted at 40 degrees and I think you might be okay with Kid Classic washed at 30. However – I think the tweed effect from felting this yarn is so lovely that I would suggest trying to get hold of the Rowan Tweed. If that’s not possible – then perhaps try Jamiesons DK. Whichever you choose – make sure you felt a test swatch to check you’re happy with it before starting the project!

Rowan Fur

Okay – so this is where I really struggle to not be emotional! I understand why this yarn wouldn’t become part of the ‘core’ range, but I really love designing with it! Shuggie and Steve Sheep are my favourites and you’ve all given them lots of love. And my Fur lined Bow Slippers are so warm and cosy!

Because both of the yarns used for Shuggie and Steve are being discontinued, I won’t be making any more kits. All of the Steve kits have now been reserved for collection at Yarndale apart from one – so please get in touch of you want to reserve the last Steve! I also have low stock of Shuggie kits because he was very popular at Woolfest. Shuggie is available from my shop.

I have limited stock of Panda & Big Bear kits (£25 for Panda/£30 for Big Bear). As these are limited edition they aren’t available from my shop so please contact me if you would like to buy one to collect at Yarndale or to get a price for postage.

With Harrie Hedgehog and Sammy Squirrel being brand new (patterns not available yet!) I was hoping the Erika Knight Fur Wool would work as an alternative, but it’s a lot thicker and comes out far too dense on small needles.

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So I’m afraid the only options are to use one of the many acrylic eyelash/fur yarns out there. Or to panic buy Rowan Fur!

I hope this blog has been helpful for you. As I mentioned earlier – the yarns are still available out there so if you have one of these projects on your list it would be a good idea to stock up on the yarn now. I will start a thread on my Ravelry group regarding substitutions so if you have any questions please get in touch there. Also – if you’re a retailer and have stock of any of the above yarns please comment below or post in my Ravelry group so that we can all panic buy from you! x

Forest School Friends

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It’s been slow going and there have been a few sleepless nights – but this week I finally completed the Forest School Friends for Hollies Nursery and dropped them off ready to be played with!

Hollies nursery are a ‘Forest School’ and participate in activities, helping children to develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environments with trees.

They asked me to design an owl, a squirrel and a hedgehog to be used as learning tools with the children. Hollies have developed a story based around the characters and wanted an extra eight of each toy to animate their story-telling and for the kids to play with. Parents will also be able to buy the patterns so that children can have their own knitted set at home! Hollies are currently working with a local college to create a book based on their story, using the knitted characters as inspiration for the illustrations. I have also been asked to design a badger to add to the family!

Sammy Squirrel was the first toy to be completed. I normally go for a fairly neutral expression on toys as I find that smiles can look a bit creepy! But as these were for a nursery, I wanted them to have happy, smiley faces and  I’m really pleased with the results. I love how they all have a slightly different expression and particularly like the one at the back with the wonky smile who looks like he’s saying ‘how you doin’?’.

My friend Pat did a lovely job of knitting these up for me and then I did the sewing up because that’s my favourite bit (yes- I’ve been told I’m weird!). Thanks for your help Pat! x

Ola Owl went through a few colour changes before Hollies Nursery settled on shades of brown and a yellow beak and feet. Sort of like a tawny owl but not 100% true to life! When I’ve designed owls in the past I have always used big 4-hole buttons for the eyes, so I was a bit worried about getting the eyes to look right without adding buttons – which would obviously be a choke risk for the smaller children. I think the intarsia has worked really well and they look suitably wise!

Harrie Hedgehog is my favourite! But I had the same issue as with the squirrel – I wanted to make them smile without looking sinister. I think the little grin works. They look like they’re saying ‘doop de doop de doo – just pootling round the garden’. Although the one on the bottom right seems to be saying ‘mmph – I’m getting squished’.

My friend Steph (aka Nettynot) knitted the pieces for these. Thanks Steph! x

I will be making the patterns for all the Forest School Friends available in my Ravelry shop and they will also be available direct from Hollies. I’ll let you know when they’re ready! x

Felting Knitting

Slippers2_vsmallYou’ve still got plenty of time to knit something for Fathers day on Sunday 19th June!

You can enjoy a 15% discount on my Felted Slippers pattern until midnight tonight. They come in two men’s sizes: Small/medium, measuring approx 25cm and Medium/Large, measuring 29cm long.

Felting knitting can be a bit daunting, because it is by nature a bit unpredictable. Washing machines vary, your pre-felting tension might vary and even using the same washing machine twice might produce different results depending on how it moves around within the machine.

Slippers4_croppedBut don’t fear! If something felted doesn’t come out exactly right – there is a lot you can do after felting. For starters – if it doesn’t felt enough – just put it back in the machine! If it hasn’t felted at all it might be that you’ve used the wrong temperature – so double check the pattern. Another mistake may be putting the knitting through on a delicate or wool cycle. In order to felt well, you need heat, moisture and agitation. Delicate and wool cycles have less agitation, so even if the temperature is the same your knitting will felt less or not at all. If you’re sure you got everything correct but it still hasn’t felted enough – put it back in at the same temperature for a second time. If you go for a higher temperature you risk it felting too much!

If it comes out too small – don’t panic! When it comes out of the machine it will still have a lot of give so you will be able to stretch/re-shape. I normally get prepared before putting something in the machine to wash. With the Felted Slippers I prepared two pieces of stiff card to slot into the cuff section to ensure they would be the same size & shape.

I stuffed the foot sections with scrunched up magazines – but if you have the feet that will be wearing the slippers then that would be best! Wearing damp slippers doesn’t sound like much fun – but it’s a wonderful way to shape felted slippers to size. Simply put plastic bags on your feet to keep them dry and wear/walk around in the slippers for an evening. They will mould to your feet and fit like a glove.

The Felted Slippers are the second pattern in my Men’s Spring/Summer Collection and if you’re looking for a quick knit for Fathers day- check out my Tweed Tie pattern which is also available as a kit.

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There are two more Men’s Collection patterns to come on Friday 3rd June and Friday 10th June – so make sure you’re following me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter to see the new patterns and get a bargain 15% off if you buy them in the first weekend!

 

The Story of Cute Little Knits

IMG_7097I can’t believe it’s been almost four years since my first book, Cute Little Knits launched!

My idea for the book began back in 2006 when I was working in a haberdashery and wool shop in Leicester, starting up a Stitch & Bitch group and submitting patterns to knitting magazines. This is when I designed Chunky Monkey, who is definitely the star of Cute Little Knits (or as many people refer to it – “the book with the monkey”).

Getting my first job with Rowan in 2008 was a dream come true and all thoughts of designing went on the back-burner for a while. But ideas kept bubbling under, and spending all my time with knitters made me even more keen to create a small book of cute little knits.

So in 2011, after changing my role to free up my weekends, I approached the Rowan design team with my book proposal and secured a book deal with Berry and Co, who develop third party books for Rowan.

The process of completing all the designs and knits for the book was quite intense – with just a few months to pull everything together alongside my full time job as a Coats Crafts Territory Manager. My friends at knit group were really supportive while I hibernated to work on the book, and it didn’t take long to shake off the eye twitch I developed from lack of sleep!

Cute Little Knits is still available in yarn shops around the UK, and also from my online shop – but the news that Rowan have sold out, feels like the end of an era! It has opened so many doors for me and I know I wouldn’t be doing what I love now if it wasn’t for this book.

I’m looking forward to the cute little knits coming home to enjoy their retirement and I will always think fondly of my little book with the monkey!