8 Apr 2014

Sunshine and Daffodils

Spring is such an amazing time of the year, isn't it. About 10 days ago the cars and roofs around here were under several inches of snow after an intense storm blew through. Then just 3 days later, on April 1st no less, it was so warm that everyone was walking around in T-shirts!

I took the opportunity of the warm day to have a walk too and I spotted this little clump of narcissi in a sunny, sheltered spot. They reminded me of the ones we used to have in our garden when I was a child. These had originally come from my grandparents' house in South Wales where they grew in profusion by the back wall. 

These tiny perfect flowers would come up every year at the end of February, and on March 1st (St David's Day - the patron saint of Wales) we would all go to school with one or two of them in our buttonholes. 

Now just one week later than the photo above, all the main daffodil varieties are in full bloom and everywhere is a carpet of yellow and white. 

I love having several knitting and spinning projects on the go at the same time and they often involve quite large items such as this one here. However, I also enjoy smaller and less challenging items which work up rapidly and can be used in the current season!

So I was especially pleased when I found a lovely cotton yarn in just these Spring-time yellow shades and it has been washing and drying over the last few days. This is Drops Yarn Safran in 100% cotton, and it is absolutely beautiful. I am going to sit out on the porch now with a cup of tea to hand, the scent of the flowers in the air and try out some stitch patterns.

Happy Spring Knitting!


Next Up:


31 Mar 2014

It's good to have options - Beckenham Scarf v2.0

Thanks for all the feedback on the Beckenham Scarf knitting pattern - I am glad that everyone is enjoying this so much. I am posting an update today as I have had a number of requests for additional sizes, so I am happy to oblige. 

In this new version "Beckenham Scarf v2.0", I have included three different widths and lengths so you can really tailor your project according to the recipient. There are now charts and instructions for a Slim, Medium and Wide size each with a slightly different look - and of course all are completely reversible like the original.

Slim scarf:

The stitch chart for this scarf has deep "V" pattern shapes. This gives a dynamic, modern edge which could be further emphasized by strong colour choices.

Working in a worsted weight yarn such as the beautifully soft Amherst by Webs this scarf will measure 7½ ins (18.5 cm) in width and 60 ins (150 cm) in length. 

A thicker yarn such as Berrocco's Vintage Chunky will give a comfy width of 9½ inches (24 cm) x 60 ins (150 cm) in length.

Medium scarf:

The medium scarf has a slightly wider chevron patterning which gives a pleasing, classic result. This works very well in a worsted weight yarn, with a good standard width of 8 ins (20 cm) and length of 66 ins (165 cm).

In a chunky yarn this will measure 10¼ inches (26cm) wide x 66 ins (165 cm) long.

Wide scarf:

This is the original version of the pattern and features a wide chevron design with a low 'rise' in the V-shape patterning, giving a sophisticated feel to the final fabric.

It has a width of 8½ ins (21.5 cm) when knitted in a worsted weight wool, and 11 ins (28 cm) in a chunky yarn - perfect for the fashion-forward set. Both measure 72 ins (185 cm) long.

I hope you enjoy working with these variations. As I said in the title: it's good to have options! The samples have been worked in another of my favourite yarns, Cascade yarns Eco Cloud, a beautifully soft 70% merino wool : 30% baby alpaca mixture with great stitch definition.

Please also see my earlier blogpost, "How long shall I make this scarf?" with some suggestions for different widths and lengths of scarves, and my original blogpost on the Beckenham Scarf.

I shall be posting the new pattern update to everyone who has purchased the Beckenham Scarf pattern so far, but please let me know if you don't hear from me or if you have any trouble downloading it from the site. There will be both UK and US versions available, so please choose whichever you prefer to work with.

If you haven't purchased this pattern but would like to do so, you can find it on Craftsy, Etsy, Kollabora and Ravelry.

For further details of this and my other available knitting patterns, please see my website: www.wyndlestrawdesigns.com

Happy Knitting!



24 Mar 2014

IBM - CIA - SSK ... k2tog?

I remember meeting someone at our driving test when we were first in the USA. As we all waited for our turn around the driving course he said that he was going to "really make something of himself - go to work for some three letter organization." 

I really had no idea what he meant at first and then figured it out. "Oh, like IBM or the CIA, you mean?" I said. "Yeah, that's it." Quite a surprising difference between the two, of course, but he didn't seem to mind. Once you were with a three-letter organization of some kind then you had really achieved something. 

And it's the same in knitting, isn't it? When Barbara Walker was putting a name together for her new stitch technique: "Slip two stitches, one at a time, to the right-hand needle, pass them back to the left-hand needle and knit the two stitches together through the backs of the loops", she coined the term "SSK". This elegant shortening captures a lot of information in just 3 letters: Slip, Slip, [remember to do all that bit in the middle without another letter coming into the name], Knit [two stitches together tbl]. Simple, easy, catchy.

So why do we still have k2tog and p2tog? Why haven't these morphed into K2T and P2T? Personally I think this would be an improvement, and surely the magazine folks would prefer an acronym with just 3 letters instead of 5. Fewer column inches and much easier to read. It is also is a better mirror of the SSK, since these often occur together. For example:

Row 1: K1, SSK, wk to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1.
Row 1: K1, SSK, wk to last 3 sts, K2T, K1.

The second one there definitely gets my vote! Of course we can say it's tradition, but we have long since lost the "K1, sl 1, psso" abbreviation [Knit 1, slip 1, pass slip stitch over]. This is now reduced down to the much more succinct "KSP" [Knit, Slip, Pass]. 

Over time we have changed many other knitting terms such as "widen" [increase] or "narrow" [decrease]. The term "narrow" was our dear friend "k2tog" and even that was sometimes abbreviated to just one letter: "N", but that has long-since gone. There have been some attempts to produce standardised lists of knitting terms, such as the US Craft Yarn Council's List of Abbreviations, but still there are many variations in different books, magazines and individual patterns. 

There are also international differences which just adds to the complexity. For example, I still can't get used to using the term "rep" for "repeat" instead of "rpt" which is frequently used in the UK and Australia. I always feel like I should be doing an exercise routine when I see the numbers of "reps" I need to work in a pattern!

 Still, the 3-letter "K2T" doesn't seem to have made the suggested lists, but perhaps I should be radical and sneak it into the next pattern... 

Happy Knitting!



17 Mar 2014

Time to Kollaborate!

I try to wear something hand-made every day, even if it is just a pair of hand-knit socks or a super-cozy sweater. In recent times this has become considerably easier since our daughter Anna now has her own design company, Knitted Wonderland. Now I can just add one of her brilliant lacquered paper necklaces to my outfit and I'm good to go!

Of course, this isn't an absolute rule but more in the nature of a guideline (can you tell we've been watching "Pirates of the Caribbean" recently?) However, I find that the day feels better when I have hand-made things around me. 

I love coming home to a house with knitted cushions, a hand-spun rug, or warm and fluffy woven blankets. Shopping seems more colourful with hand-knit bags to supplement the plain linen ones. Sweaters are so much warmer when they are made from 100% wool.

So I was especially pleased when I found Kollabora.  The tag line for the site is "We are what we make" and that is the basic idea: to link makers, crafters and DIY enthusiasts so that they get inspired, share projects and connect with each other. And it's not just for knitters - the site is expanding to encompass many different crafts and techniques. They say their aim is to include everything from sewing to soldering!

The maker movement has been growing in strength in recent years, trying to provide an alternative to simply heading to the shops to buy everything. Making something from scratch or repurposing an item that would otherwise be cast-off and thrown away just feels like the right thing to do. 

Not only is it good for the environment, but good for the soul too. Here's a quote from Kollabora: "If you have ever made anything, you know how good it feels: looking at it, wearing it, hearing others' praises for it. It becomes part of you. We are what we make." 

I couldn't agree more.

Thanks, Kollabora, for helping me set up my home page on your great site - it's good to be part of your vision! 

Happy Knitting!


Previous Blogpost: Planning Ahead


25 Feb 2014

Planning Ahead

I like having at least one large project on hand at all times. Of course, it's good to have several smaller items on the go too, but there's always one large basket in the corner of my sitting room where I can pick up my needles and add a touch more. 

And I'm not sure why exactly, but it always seems to be about this time of year when I start these. Perhaps it has to do with the end of winter being in sight and, funnily enough, planning for the next one! 

If you had to ask yourself what was the one item you most missed this season, what would it be? A large shawl to wrap around while you sit by the fire? A muffler and hat so you can keep cozy while shovelling snow? Perhaps that gorgeous Norwegian sweater you've been promising yourself for years...

Well for me, it was the idea of a large colourful blanket to throw over the bed for some valuable extra degrees of warmth overnight. I wanted a king-size blanket but I wanted to make sure it wasn't too weighty. This pointed to a lace pattern, or rather a series of lace patterns for interest both during construction and in the final product.

I had some yarns left over after knitting the Ocean Currents Rug, so those became my starting point. However, I quickly realized that I could actually use up all kinds of remnant yarns in my collection and incorporate them. The more I added, the more interesting the blanket became. Slight variations in shade between batches just lent a "country" air, and completely different yarns just melded together to give a lovely result. I even incorporated some thinner yarns used double.

It became, in short, the knitterly equivalent of an American quilt, where many different fabrics are patched together to give a wonderful finished article.

I am just writing this pattern up now, so keep a watch out for the "Ocean Currents Blanket", coming very soon. 

Have a look in your stash of yarns and think which could be used in a good-sized project such as this. And of course, a new blanket would be a great gift project too. Perhaps you have a teenager going off to college in the Fall. I'm sure they would really appreciate a bedcover for their new freezing dorm room! Or a wedding gift for the newly-weds maybe. Just perfect for the next Winter!

Happy Knitting!


Last Blogpost: Never-Ending Winter
Next Up: Time to Kollaborate!


14 Feb 2014

Never-ending Winter

There are very definite reasons why Florida seems a good place to be in February. I love New England - well I love "Old" England too come to mention it - but memories of shovelling huge quantities of snow on a very regular basis serve as a powerful reminder of what a true winter can be. 

My DH is currently in the Washington area and is digging himself out of a 40cm / 15" snow accumulation with an added ice layer too, just to make life interesting. Fingers crossed he can get home from there later today. And yes, that rounded 'blob' in the front of the photo is the car!

MInd you, it can get cold here too. Not the -20ยบ C wind-chill kind of cold, but chilly enough that a large knitting project is a definite bonus. In the photo at the top of the page, I am sitting on the life-guard steps at Nokomis beach just to the north of Venice, FL. It might actually look reasonably warm, but there was quite a cutting breeze and a rapidly-growing blanket was perfect to keep my knees warm.

That's what I love about knitting. In the summer you can sit under a beach umbrella and finesse your latest sock, and in the winter you can create instant warmth just with the infusion of a number of skeins of wool. There's not many crafts quite as flexible and rewarding as that!

Keep warm - and keep knitting!



7 Feb 2014

One week to Valentine's Day

It's February already! How did that happen... It's hard to believe that a whole month has gone by in 2014 so far. And still no sign of an end to the Winter weather everywhere. I am working on a blanket pattern at the moment and that serves to keep the chills at bay somewhat.

But here we are: it's February 7th and only one week away from Valentine's Day! Time to think of something quick and easy to knit as a gift I reckon. So here are two suggestions for scarves that would be great for your loved one this year.

The pattern above is the Lamberhurst Scarf. It is an easily memorised pattern so is fairly fast to knit and would be perfect for your boyfriend or significant other. And there's no "Boyfriend Curse" for scarves the way that there is for sweaters! A double bonus.

And here's a great scarf for ladies: the Elizabeth Scarf. This pattern is written for several different yarns weights and lengths of scarf, so it should be easy to find something in your stash that would be just right for this project so you can get started straight away.

When we lived in Japan there were actually 2 events around Valentine's. On the day itself, the ladies gave dark chocolates to men. Then a month later there was "White Day" when the guys gave white chocolate or other gifts to the ladies and also their co-workers. It made for a lovely month-long celebration and lots of wonderful chocolates everywhere. We definitely should institute that tradition over here!

So perhaps give a gift of a scarf to your loved one on February 14th, and then maybe some chocolates will come your way in March!

Happy Knitting!




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