15 Aug 2017

Teversham Cowl and Headwarmer

It's great when serendipity changes your plans, at least where knitting is concerned. In my last blogpost I was recounting the story of what happens when you discover a new wool shop with a treasure trove of yarns. That was how I discovered a new-to-me merino-mix yarn in a lovely colour pallette, Socks Yeah DK. I was especially taken with the combination of a soft graphite colour and a lighter silver grey. 

I walked around the store for a while with a skein of both in my hands and then decided it was perfect for a man's cowl. Later on I decided that I should have purchased more as it proved so good I wanted to make a ladies' headwarmer too, as a mix-and-match set.

I remember reading a newspaper article earlier this year about a Japanese couple who like to wear co-ordinating clothes and accessories every day and have done so for 37 years! However, they are not alone. Many young couples in Korea and Japan like to demonstrate their love by couple-dressing. Indeed, sometimes it has even become a subtle way of announcing that they are actually now a couple - much like the wonderful "in a relationship" announcement on Facebook. 

So I decided that I would make some mix-and-match sets for both men and women and here is the first of these: the Teversham Cowl and Headwarmer.

Men's cowls are hot fashion items right now - understandably since they are so easy to put on and provide instant warmth just where you need it. Cowls are great for stopping those chilly draughts that seem to find the gap at the back of your collar or that annoying cold spot where your jacket doesn't quite close at the front. 

They are so easy to slip on, don't flap around like a scarf does when you are cycling, and are small enough to stuff into a shoulder bag when you get to the other end of your journey. Just perfect for these end-of-season days when a small change in the wind direction can take the temperature down 20 degrees.

The Teversham Cowl uses a reversible stitch from our e-book Reversible Knitting Stitches and this gives this cowl another great advantage - you don't have to be especially careful when putting it on since both sides look good.

I loved the way the colours worked for the cowl and was quite sad when I finished it so quickly. So I immediately cast-on a smaller number of stitches and made a matching headwarmer. Gosh this is cozy! I always find my ears are the first things that get cold in the autumn and this headwarmer works perfectly to give that lovely extra feeling of warmth around the head without the bulk of a full knitted hat.

If you are lucky enough to have long hair then you'll also appreciate the open top so you don't smush your hair-style while wearing this. I used to love having long hair and still remember the joy of finding head-gear that worked well with pony-tails and plaits.

So here's the first of these couple sets - a gorgeous fashion-forward men's cowl and a cozy ladies' headwarmer. I suppose there might even be a few ladies who would like to wear the cowl themselves, but I won't tell if you don't!

To see more details about the Teversham Cowl and Headwarmer knitting pattern, please click here. The pattern is available in both UK and US formats for printing onto A4 or letter-sized paper or can be viewed on your computer, tablet or phone.

Next time, a set of hats for him, her or them.

Until then - keep warm!


Last Blogpost: Daughter to the rescue

Our new E-Book: Reversible Knitting Stitches

My Website: www.wyndlestrawdesigns.com
Anna's Website: www.kikuknits.com

. 15/9/17

20 Jul 2017

Daughter to the rescue

I am currently listening to an audiobook by Elizabeth Peters in which the redoubtable lady Egyptologist Amelia Peabody Emerson frequently says "I am the most fortunate of women!" 

Well, I suppose that could be my catch-phrase too. In my last blogpost, I recounted the sorry tale of what happens when a full cup of airline tea soaks into a large amount of cotton-yak yarn. The result, I am sure you can imagine, was not pleasant. 

Under normal circumstances this could have induced a degree of panic - arriving at the start of a long visit with no knitting on hand... However, our first port of call on arriving in the UK was to our daughter, Anna, and she is blessed with a wide and varied yarn stash, filling not just a few boxes but a whole room! 

She listened to my tale of woe and supplied the two things I needed - a fresh cup of tea (I had, after all, spilled the last one!), and a pointer as to where I might find some suitable replacement yarn amongst all her baskets and boxes. I settled on a beautiful combination of greys and by the afternoon was happily swatching for a cowl.

We then went down to a knitting store in Faversham, Kent to purchase some additional supplies. Neither of us had been to this shop before but it was an absolute treasure. 

The store is called The Yarn Dispensary and is right in the middle of this beautiful old town. They were kind enough to allow my husband to take some photos in the store so you can see what a great selection of yarn they have. The building dates from the 13C and used to be an old pharmacy. Now instead of liver pills they dispense yarn therapy! 

The central square of the town is used for a thriving market under the famous Guildhall building, and there are many other wonderful old houses in the area such as the one above which is just around the corner.

The yarn I settled on was a beautiful merino mix from CoopKnits, called Socks Yeah DK and it is a dream to work with. In fact I loved it so much that when I returned to the USA, I ordered some more and am now happily knitting up a storm with this fabulously cozy yarn.

I'll post some information about the first few items from this yarn next time.

And if you'd like to see some of the wonderful items Anna makes with her room-full of yarn, then head over to her new website, www.kikuknits.com.

Until next time - Happy Knitting!


Anna's website: www.kikuknits.com

Many thanks again to Tim for his great photos. See more on his Flickr site here.

. 16/9/17

13 Jul 2017

Trays tables, wet yarn and difficult decisions

I was faced with a difficult decision recently - shall I allow some scalding-hot tea go over my legs or soak my yarn instead... OK, only a knitter would see that as even a remotely sensible choice to be made, but when you're only one hour into a long international flight it seemed logical at the time.

We were on one of these new Dreamliner planes and had read ahead of time about how uncomfy the seats are so were prepared with extra cushions, shawls and so on. These were carefully stowed into the tiny spaces under the seats along with my knitting yarn and other flight essentials. 

I then unlocked the tray table which came down into place with a loud 'clunk' and a decided list to one side. I tried to make it go flat but when I placed a pencil on the table, it rolled off and went under my neighbour's seat. Not a good start. We retrieved it, had a brief conversation about how to get his overhead light on (not an easy task either) and I put the pencil along with everything else on my lap.

Soon our meal came along and I left my knitting where it was as I couldn't manoeuvre down to place it into a bag. The meal finished and a cup of tea arrived which was scalding hot. I held it on the sloping table for a while and then made the mistake of deciding it might be better if I folded the tray table over so it was slightly more stable.

It was at that point that I discovered that even folded, the table was not flat. This was just after I had let go of the cup. I saw the teacup tipping over and realized I had to make a snap decision as the tea was heading straight for my legs! But if I moved them out of the way it would soak my brand-new cotton-yak yarn, together with my bamboo needles, notes so far and the ill-fated pencil.

Good sense did, I am happy to say, prevail - but it was a close-run thing. The tea duly drenched everything in sight and I briefly looked at the sodden mass, before placing everything into a Ziplok bag and sealing it up. We dealt with as much of the tea as we could with the available paper towels and then I retired, as gracefully as I could, to the bathroom to try to dry my skirt out.

The rest of the journey was spent with a cold, wet skirt clinging to me and keeping me awake. I wouldn't have minded being awake if I had had some knitting, but with nothing to do the time dragged until we arrived at our destination.

Fortunately, my skirt was nicely dried by the time we landed but everything else was in a sorry state. The wood of the bamboo needles was raised and rough and the yarn was beyond saving. I am afraid to say that the combination of aircraft tea and yak yarn was decidedly unpleasant, especially after it had sat in a hot closed plastic bag for 10 hours! So I had to abandon it and come up with another solution for my holiday knitting. 

Fortunately, I found an excellent substitute, but more about that next time...

Until then, Happy Knitting!


Last Blogpost: Welcome to Kiku Knits

Anna's Website: www.kikuknits.com

. 13/7/17

6 Jul 2017

Welcome to Kiku Knits

Have I ever mentioned I like reversible knitting stitches? Well, yes, OK, maybe just once or  twice... Or perhaps I should make that three or four times! 

I suppose I am slightly obsessed with reversible patterns, but as I've said before, they just draw me in. I love the way the fabric drapes when you use a reversible stitch, their ease of use, their versatility, their range. 

And I know I'm not the only one who loves this category of stitches, judging from some of the lovely messages that you have been sending us after the publication of our E-Book, Reversible Knitting Stitches. Both Anna and I have been so pleased to hear your feedback, so many thanks if you have taken the time to write to us.

A few weeks ago we asked the question: any suggestions for how to make this even better? And one of the really interesting ideas was that it would be great to be able to go to a single source to see all the projects that are featured in the book, rather than having them split between my website and Anna's.
Kiku Knits
That suggestion came at a very opportune moment for us because Anna had just decided to set up a brand new venture, Kiku Knits, focussing specifically on knitting patterns. She is still selling her beautiful finished items in her Knitted Wonderland Etsy store, but now she has a specific venue for her knitting patterns

So, it only took a little bit of extra work for me to move my patterns into a brand new boutique store on the KikuKnits.com website - perfect.

So now if you go to the information page about our Reversible Knitting Stitches book you will see a link to view all the patterns available using reversible stitches from the book - yes, all 60 of them as of today's date! 

We're going to keep adding new pattern links into that collection so please go back and revisit it from time-to-time to get more ideas and inspiration for items you can make with reversible knitting stitches.

Thank you so much for that suggestion and for all your great ideas. I am happy to say the print version of the book is now in its final editing stages and we hope to be able to get it to the printers in the not-too-distant future. More news about that soon!

Until next time, 

Happy Reversible Knitting!


Pattern featured at the top of the blog: Scottswood Stole

My Website / Wyndlestraw Designs: www.wyndlestrawdesigns.com
Anna's Website / Kiku Knits: www.kikuknits.com

Reversible Knitting Stitches E-Book: Book details and pattern links.

. 25/7/17

15 Jun 2017

Of Castles and Kings (to be)

A few months ago, I blogged about Wool Week and headed the blogpost with a photo of Prince Charles, who launched the Campaign for Wool in 2010.

Little did I know that only a few months later we would get to meet him in person! The photo above was taken by my husband Tim when Prince Charles came to speak to us at Chartwell, the former home of Winston Churchill and now an important National Trust property in the south of England.

The Prince had been touring the house and seeing the recent renovation work. He told us that he was keen to encourage people to visit from the United States, as we were. 

So I thought I would take a brief divergence from knitting for this post and say about some of the wonderful places that we visited on our recent trip.

We were in the UK for my mother-in-law's 90th birthday, but took the time on the return journey to meander through the Welsh borderlands and explore some of the rich treasures in the area.

The first of these was Chirk Castle, a National Trust property near Wrexham in Wales. This is a large structure with a commanding view of the surrounding countryside. I have to admit that I sat for quite some time, knitting a cowl and listening to the bleating of the lambs in the fields below. It was delightful. I am truly blessed that I get so much knitting time in these amazing locations while Tim is taking photos. 

Of course, in addition to Tim taking photos of the castle, he also took one of me knitting! If you'd like to see it, then please have a look at the "Where I like to knit" slideshow on my website. Just scroll down to the middle of the "About" page to find it. There's also one from our previous visit to Chartwell!

We then went to a village just north of Oswestry to visit Whittington Castle, which is surprisingly managed by the local community - quite an undertaking! The Castle Keep dates back to the 12th century but it was built upon a much earlier structure so the history can been traced back over 3000 years.

The scenery in this area is stunning, and the following day saw us walking along by the Montgomery Canal which was built to transport limestone, coal and other materials but is now a haven for wildlife and much used by locals walking along the towpath.

We then arrived at another castle, Powis Castle, also managed by the National Trust. The gardens here are amazing, forming terraces ablaze with colour down the side of the slope. I found another perfect place to knit under an archway overhung with wisteria, nicely sheltered from the super-hot sun (a comparative rarity in Wales!)

We so enjoy visiting National Trust properties and have a membership from the USA through the Royal Oak Foundation, so were able to enjoy free visits and parking at all these locations. If you have not heard of the Royal Oak before, it is well worth exploring membership if your future plans include a few days in the UK. There are occasionally discount codes that you can find, too, so keep a watch out for those if you are thinking about joining.

We hadn't planned on visiting any more castles on that trip, but what to do when you see a sign saying "Stokesay Castle 1/2 ml"... We had always wanted to visit there but hadn't realized that it was on our route! Even a spot of horizontal rain didn't dampen our enthusiasm and we happily explored the various nooks and crannies of this fascinating building. Tim's photo shows the magnificent gatehouse - now also the location for the castle tea-rooms. 

Well I hope you have enjoyed seeing some more of Tim's wonderful photos and if you do ever get the chance to retrace our steps, then you will not be disappointed. These are only a few of the many castles and interesting sites in this area, too, so if you have a few more days then you could easily locate some more wonderful places to visit!

Next time, I will return to writing about knitting and some exciting news about Anna's new website, Kiku Knits.

Happy Knitting!


Photo credits: All photos by Tim Ravenscroft. If you'd like to see some more of his photos, please visit his Flickr site.

Last Blogpost: Thinking about the sea

. 6/7/17

22 Apr 2017

Thinking about the sea

It's Earth Day today, so perhaps it seems odd to be thinking about the sea. However, I was drawn to the problem of plastic in the sea just the other day.

We were walking on South Venice beach in FL and my husband Tim's photo shows the beautiful calm Gulf waters alongside us. The sun was shining in a clear blue sky, and at the horizon it just seemed to melt into the turquoise water. It just seemed so clear, so calm, so perfect.

But further down the coast there were three plastic bottles washed up on the sand dunes, and a plastic bag wrapped around a twig. We have all seen something similar but after that perfect vision of sea and sky, it just seemed so jarring.

The problem is that plastic is a brilliant material. It is light, flexible, can be formed into an endless variety of shapes and doesn't break easily. It would seem to be one of the best inventions in our modern world, but like many things there are some real downsides to this wonder material and it is the ocean that is suffering. 

We didn't even have plastics when I was young. You purchased milk or soft drinks in a glass bottle and returned the bottles to the shop for a refund. You took your own bags to the greengrocers or the corner store, and covered foods in the larder with a damp cloth. Now, it's all plastic. Cling-wrap to keep the food fresh, plastic bottles, plastic bags. And all of this is just a few decades.

However, I saw a statement the other day which struck a chord with me:

"Behind each and every piece of littered plastic debris there is a human face. At a critical decision point, someone, somewhere, mishandled it, either thoughtlessly or deliberately."

The water bottle someone left when they stopped to take a photo, the plastic bag that blew away as you were getting into the car, the fishing line you can see snagged around a rock. We've all made decisions about these things, haven't we. It's only one plastic bag after all and it's too hard to chase it, especially as the car is open and the baby's inside... It's depressingly easy to cause one more piece of plastic pollution.

Knitted Bags. Top  Left: Nokomis Beach Bag, Right: Sarasota Shopper,
Lower Left: BYOB Market Bag, Right: BYOB - Bring Your Own Bag!
However, I like to keep positive and see the pluses rather than the negatives with issues such as this. So the positive side of this issue is that we don't have to go back far in our history to see solutions! Take plastic bags. My mother or grandmother would use a string bag or basket for all their shopping, so that's what we can do too! Not that this will sort out all the issues of past pollution, but it's a way of at least reducing some future problems.

So, here's a resolution for this year's Earth Day: "No plastic bags for me!"

Let's make this the year in which no single plastic bag comes home with us! Instead, we can delight in knitting or making bags to make our shopping trips plastic free.

The photo above shows just some of the many knitted bag patterns that are available to choose from. At the top L is Anna's Nokomis Beach Bag, a lovely pattern worked in Cascade 200 wool.

The photo at the top R is the Sarasota Shopper, a lovely bright linen-lined bag - super strong and cute too! This pattern can either be purchased on its own or in the Southampton Collection, which includes three other styles.

Then the two lower bags are free patterns for all those lighter-weight or awkwardly shaped items that we need to carry home. On the right is the BYOB -Bring Your Own Bag! pattern, with 4 sizes of bag to choose from, and on the left is the BYOB Market Bag, a long-handled bag with a tutorial series that you can follow as you knit your bag.

Happy Plastic-free knitting!


Last Blogpost: Zen Knitting
Next Up: Of Castles and Kings (to be)

My Website: www.wyndlestrawdesigns.com
Anna's Website, Kiku Knits: www.annaravenscroft.com

E-Book: Reversible Knitting Stitches

Photo credits:
Top: Tim Ravenscroft, "Where the sky meets the sea"
Centre: Ferdi Rizkiyanto "What lies under"

. 15/6/17

11 Apr 2017

Zen knitting

There is something delightful about Spring. The long still evenings, the scent of flowers in the air, the quiet buzzing of insects and a gentle glow in the sky as the sun goes down at the end of a warm day. 

Even in Florida, where daffodils and tulips never appear (except in other people's Facebook photos), we have the same feeling of change. The oaks are greener and the palm trees are bedecked with heavy fronds of waxy yellow flowers. Bright orange butterflies flit past and the sun is noticeably further round before it finally fades away.

It's evenings like this that call for some Zen knitting. Something where your hands can do all the work while your mind is somewhere else. You can even let your hands be still for a moment and pick up the work again without forgetting where you are.

I was musing on this the other day as I sipped a perfectly chilled glass of wine, my knitting waiting patiently for me to resume. I had decided to knit another Kimpton Scarf in a beautifully soft cotton/bamboo yarn. A cool breeze suddenly blew into the courtyard where we were sitting and I wrapped the previous Kimpton Scarf around myself. Aha! Now I knew what I wanted to knit - a wrap!

I dived indoors and counted the number of balls of yarn I had left and calculated what I would need. 
Yes, I had enough - whew.

I returned outside and continued to cast on. The sun filtered through the palm fronds and it didn't take long for the zen feeling to resume. The breeze had settled down as fast as it had come and I relaxed, knowing that I now have enough knitting for a few more glorious Spring evenings.

I'll post some pictures here when I have a bit more done on this. In the meantime, here are some photos from the newly renamed Kimpton Scarf and Wrap pattern. I have updated the pattern already so if you'd like to knit a summer wrap, then please join me! 

Until then, enjoy your Zen Knitting!


Anna's Website: www.annaravenscroft.com

. 17/5/17


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