29 Apr 2015


There are many different websites and on-line sources where you can view and buy knitting patterns, including Craftsy, Etsy, Kollabora, LoveKnitting, Ravelry and many more. 

They seem to operate very happily next to each other as they each have their own character in terms of what they offer and their range of interests. It is also true to say that people get quite attached to one or another of these sites and will usually make it their "Go To" place. Perhaps the pattern search might suit you better on one site or the photo displays and knitting details might be appealing in another.

One of the sites that I like working with is Kollabora. It is a fairly recent on-line source and I love the vitality and energy of the team behind it. You can feel their enthusiasm when you post a new project or upload a pattern. Their newsletters and updates fairly pulse with bright ideas coming from all different styles of textile crafts.

So, I felt very honoured when they asked if they could feature me in their series Nora Meets the Maker and the interview was published this week. I was initially wondering if I could find some pictures of me knitting outside, only to realize that in almost every photo I had knitting in my hands! Ah well, it's good to have obsessions...

Kollabora are also featuring my FFCT Wrap - Feather & Fan, Cables & Tulips this week, with a 20% discount just in time for some great Spring-time knitting. There are more details about the FFCT Wrap here, and I also posted about the inspiration for the wrap here

The Kollabora offer is running until May 5th, so please head over to my Kollabora pattern collection and have a look at that soon. 

I hope you enjoy reading the article - let me know what you think!

Happy Knitting!


Last Blogpost: Small is beautiful


22 Apr 2015

Small is beautiful

This week sees the celebration of the 45th annual Earth Day, an event aiming to concentrate our eco thoughts for the year ahead. It's almost like making New Year's resolutions for the planet.

So my resolution for this year is to continue the battle against plastic bags. I made my first BYOB - Bring Your Own Bag! in 2007. That was after I saw reports that more than 12 billion plastic bags were used the previous year in the UK alone. Although the numbers are a bit less than that now, there were still an estimated 8.4 billion bags used last year in the UK - that's about 130 bags per person, which is an incredible number.

I saw a chart this week which showed a timeline for the average plastic bag. It had a tiny line which represented the typical usage for a plastic bag (15-20 mins) and underneath there was a very long line which showed the 1000 years it would take for that bag to break down. Focuses the mind somewhat, doesn't it.

So in celebration of Earth Day 2015, I have revamped the BYOB 2.0 pattern and added a new Small size to the line-up. There are now 4 different sized bags to choose from! 

I had some great messages when I added two extra sizes to the last BYOB - Bring Your Own Bag! update and I am pleased that they proved so useful. I was also pleased to hear that the Junior size in that revision had worked out so well for gift bags and kiddy party bags! I hadn't thought of them for that but it seems such a lovely practical extra gift in addition to what's inside.

However, recently I had a couple of requests for an additional size intermediate between the Extra-small size and the two larger bags, so I am happy to oblige.

So (drum-roll...) please welcome the new "Small" size BYOB 2.0 - Bring Your Own Bag!, shown here in rather a dashing blue colour. The turquoise bag behind is the "Medium" size. The pattern also includes an Extra-Small bag and a Large size too.

The yarns used here are Lily "Sugar 'n Cream" in Mod Blue (Turquoise) #18111, White #18001 & Blueberry #18725.

I have found the new Small size is perfect for trips to the shopping mall or to pick up a few items on the way home. I hope you find this newly expanded range of BYOB 2.0 sizes useful, and that you'll enjoy both knitting them and using them when you next head to the shops.

You can find the newly-updated pattern on Craftsy, Kollabora, LoveKnitting and Ravelry, but please let me know if you have any difficulty in downloading the pattern from these sources and I'll send you a DropBox link instead. The more bags we make and use the better!

Happy Knitting!


26 Feb 2015

The village of Chalfont St Giles

Some years ago we lived in a small village in Buckinghamshire with distant views across waving fields of wheat. It was wonderful to sit on the deck at the end of the day and watch the sun go down behind the large manor house on the far hillside.

Well, that and the London express trains on the nearby railway line! Yes, it wasn't completely the rural idyll that you might read about in a story-book, but it was beautiful none the less.

It was an interesting area to live in, with a yarn store only a few miles away (let's get our priorities right about local attractions shall we), a network of canals nearby and rolling countryside courtesy of the Chiltern Hills.

One of our favourite Sunday pastimes would be to drive through the Chilterns and then walk for a few miles, ending up at a scenic pub for lunch. One such excursion took us to a delightful village called Chalfont St Giles, complete with a duck pond right in the centre.

This is an old village and was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1068. The Feathers pub there was established in about 1580 and there are many wisteria-clad cottages dating from the 16th and 17th century.

The church in Chalfont St Giles is Norman with a large square tower and an old wooden lychgate. It has some wonderful mediaeval wall paintings and wood carvings inside.

John Milton retired here in 1665 and his house is now open to the public. It is said that he completed his epic poem "Paradise Lost" in this cottage.

Another local celebrity is William Penn who was buried in a Quaker cemetery nearby after his return to the UK from the colonies, as they then were. There is a town called Chalfont in Pennsylvania named after Chalfont St Giles and by co-incidence, we ended up living close to that town when we moved to the USA.

There are several other places with the "Chalfont" name in the area, including the old village of Chalfont St Peter and the newer town of Little Chalfont, which arose with the coming of the railways.

We visited the area around the Chalfonts a number of times and always enjoyed walking in the hills in all seasons - through the colourful shades of autumn, then walking in our wellingtons through the dusty snows of winter. The following year we could stand, leaning on a fence rail, and watch the spring lambs in the chalky fields.

So it seemed a natural choice of name for the Chalfont Scarf that I wrote about in my last blogpost. This is a real three-season scarf - just right for country walks and gentle meanderings.

Happy Knitting!


Last Blogpost: Chalfont Scarf
Next  Up: Small is beautiful

Website: www.wyndlestrawdesigns.com


14 Feb 2015

Chalfont Scarf

The news is full of stories about yet another blizzard in Massachusetts this weekend. There has been so much snow this winter! Yet we can all see the calendar and realize that it really is only a few weeks until Spring arrives. 

So now's the time to plan for some Spring-time knitting: stay indoors in front of a cozy fire today and knit a lovely scarf which will be useful for the sunnier days ahead.

Time to introduce the Chalfont Scarf. This is a real three-season scarf which can be worn right the way from the autumn-time through the depths of winter and into the cool of a spring evening. 

The photo above shows one great feature of this pattern: the scarf is completely reversible even when worked in two colours! No bi-colour purl bumps when you turn the scarf to the wrong side. There are so few lace patterns which can be worked with more than one colour, so this is a real bonus. 

I wrote about this in a previous blogpost: Reversible Stripes, so have a look there too for more details about this great stitch.

The pattern includes three different sizes so you can tailor the scarf to your own requirements. The widest of these is a plain version worked in a soft winter white. This is a lovely cozy style which is perfect for wrapping around your neck to really keep the winter chills away. 

There are also two narrower scarves which can be draped a little more openly and add a welcome transitional layer for the spring or autumn.

I have included two different striped colourways: a two-tone blue and a wonderfully earthy dark brown and russet combination. The scarves are worked in Valley Yarns Amherst, which is a beautifully soft merino wool yarn. Amherst come with a good range of colours so you could choose some other great combinations too.

Please click here for more details about the Chalfont Scarf, or visit my website: www.wyndlestrawdesigns.com for more information about this scarf and my other knitting patterns.

Happy Knitting!



25 Sep 2014

Kingsfold Dorm Room Throw

If you are ever touring in the beautiful Box Hill area of Surrey, South England, you might well find yourself driving through the village of Kingsfold. It is only a small place, although there's a pub called "The Owl" where you can find some old beams, cozy log-burning fires and a warm welcome.

However, Kingsfold is famous not so much for its beer but instead as the location where the composer Vaughan Williams heard an old folk song when he was visiting in 1904. He was enchanted by the tune and arranged it as the setting for a hymn. It became known as "The Kingsfold Hymn" and has become a firm favourite for choirs and organists across the world. Here is a delightful version played as a duet for piano and hand bells.

I heard it recently at St Johns' College in Cambridge and the mesmerizing melody stayed in my mind long after we had returned to the blustery quadrangle outside. The students were making their way to their dorm rooms, coats well buttoned-up and scarves madly flapping in the breeze. I sat in a cafe with a steaming cup of tea and started casting on what would later become the Kingsfold Dorm Room Throw.

This first one was worked using in a two-tone grey colour-block pattern. I so enjoyed working on it, that I went on to work a second one with stripes (pictured in the last blogpost) and a third in a lovely bright green! I stopped then, but I might well return to this again as it looks so different in each new colourway. 

I love working throws and blankets at this time of year anyway because it keeps your knees warm as you work! The knitting seems to keep pace with the weather, growing steadily as the temperatures start to fall. This one proved to be super-cozy as the stitch pattern is very textural and holds pockets of air very well.

The throw is a good size to go over the back of a sofa but can also be used as an extra layer on top of a bed. And of course if your dorm room is as cold as mine was, then you could wrap yourself up in it so that you keep the draughts away while you are studying!

Please click here for more details about the Kingsfold Dorm Room Throw, or visit my website: www.wyndlestrawdesigns.com for more information about this throw and my other patterns. 

Happy Knitting!



18 Sep 2014

In praise of covered bridges

Flume Bridge, Pemigawasset River, Lincoln NH
I love covered bridges. I hadn't been aware of these until we moved to the USA and came across the Cabin Run Covered Bridge in Pennsylvania (pictured below). We have roofed stone bridges such as the famous Bridge of Sighs in Cambridge, but nothing like the wooden structures that we found in America. 

They are truly fascinating and all so individual in their design. The ones still standing tend to be constructed of large solid beams, but often seem remarkably graceful considering the weight of timber involved.  

Cabin Run Bridge, Plumstead PA
We like to plan driving routes which include a bridge or two and it is amazing how many other wonderful sights we find along the way: the oldest country store in America, a state park filled with the sound of crickets, or an old textile factory now with trees growing out of the chimney.

Our last trip to New Hampshire included no less than four covered bridges, all within a very small area. One was a tiny bridge and we wondered if it was really strong enough to take the large builders' van we saw crossing it. Needless to say we traversed the span on foot!

Another was a very long bridge with weathered grey wood over a deep pool of green water. Scrambling down the bank (and trying to avoid the hungry mosquitoes) gave a wonderful view of the bridge with the early autumn colours reflected behind. 

Cilleyville Bridge, Andover, NH
However, the one that stood out in my mind was named "Cilleyville". I'd love to know how to pronounce that. Is it really like "Silly-ville"? It certainly had a sense of fun, as someone had placed a picnic table and an easy chair inside! There was an enormous flag pinned to one side, the red white and blue showing through the spaces in the latticed walls. 

I draped a blanket over the fence at the entrance to the bridge and the evening light gave a wonderful side-lighting for the stitches. This is the Kingsfold Dorm Room Throw, about which more next time. 

Many other countries have covered bridges, of course, and some of these are centuries old. If you have the opportunity to look for covered bridges in your area, then do plan an excursion! They are well worth the effort. 

I'll come back to knitting next time and will include more details of the new Kingsfold Dorm Room Throw then!

Happy Knitting,


Last Blogpost: Henley Blanket


23 Aug 2014

Henley Blanket

I have posted a new pattern just in time for the winter ahead: the Henley Blanket

The pattern features three different sizes to fit Single/Twin, Double/Full and Queen-sized beds. Whichever one you make you will be sure to keep the worst of the winter chills at bay. The added advantage is that if you start working on this project now, then when the cooler evenings start to come in you can keep your knees warm as the blanket grows! A double benefit.

The blankets are worked in 100% wool - always the best choice for warm and cozy throws and bedspreads. You can either use handspun yarns, as here, or "Cascade 220" which is one of my favourite yarns. It always gives a wonderful result for this type of project as it is nicely soft and has great stitch definition.

The blanket features a reversible stitch pattern, Ridged Rib, which is easy to memorize and work. I love this type of stitch when I am knitting a large project. It becomes almost meditative as your hands work across the rows. Before you know it, another repeat has been done and then another. Then very soon the blanket is finished!

The stitch gives a regular, cellular texture which traps the air and holds the heat in beautifully so you can be assured of extra warmth when you need it.

The body of the blanket is worked in one colour while the turn-back is in a contrasting shade, giving a modern feel to a classic design. The version in the photograph is in rich tones of plum and cyan, but the design would lend itself to being worked in a variety of different colours and contrasting tones for a very different 'look' to each project.

The pattern is available on Craftsy, Etsy, Kollabora and Ravelry. Please also see my website for further information on this and my other available patterns.

It should be a cozy winter ahead!

Happy Knitting!


Last Blogpost: Blanket Coverage



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