30 Jan 2016

New pattern - Okehampton Tie


Knitted ties have a special place in a man's wardrobe. They fill the void when the invitation states "business casual" yet you wish to wear a tie. A knitted tie adds a dash of panache, an updated fashion edge that a simple open-necked shirt does not provide. 

And what do you do if you are not sure of the dress code for an event? You don't want to be the only person without a silk tie or the only one with one! A knitted tie bridges this divide. It can gently tone down a crisp work-day shirt but also sharpens up a more casual one so that you hit just the right note for the occasion.

There is another advantage of a knitted tie. In keeping with its more informal nature, you can now select a completely different shirt for informal events than you would for your next Board meeting. It can be in a stronger colour or with a pattern that you wouldn't normally consider for the working day. The collar can be a little deeper or it could sport a modern silver collar pin to match your cufflinks.

The Okehampton Tie pictured here is perfect for these occasions and features a strong graphic pattern that shows well on both the tie and the knot. It is worked in a crisp cotton/linen DK yarn, KnitPicks Cotlin, which holds its shape well.

The tie is designed with a bottle-neck shaping which gives a small, neat knot. This is important for a knitted tie since they are usually a little bulkier than a standard tie. Here, the shaping reduces the bulk of the tie so lends itself to several different knots. The usual knot for a knitted tie is the simple Four-in-hand knot that you learnt at school. That one is easy to work and gives a good finish, as you can see in the photo above.

However, how about trying a Pratt-Shelby knot? That is featured on the blue denim shirt in the previous photo and gives a very stylish symmetrical knot with a pronounced central dimple.

Another great thing about a knitted tie is that you can choose to make them in a wide range of colours. The green one above would be perfect for a country look, but you could go bolder for the summer and select yellow, orange or a bright sky-blue to accompany your Chinos. In the winter you could opt for deeper colours and make several in a navy blue, maroon, charcoal or black. Or theme your tie for your next event, such as a bright green one for a St Patrick's Day gathering.

And knitted ties are not just for men! Designers routinely feature them in their collections both for men and for women seeking a masculine look. 

The Okehampton Tie pattern is available for instant download from my website, and is also available from Craftsy, Etsy and Ravelry.

Happy Knitting!


Last Blogpost: The frosty side of cool

. 30/1/16

25 Jan 2016

The frosty side of cool

Charles Dickens had it about right when he wrote about an old porter at the end of a long winter's day: 

"Toby's nose was very red, and his eye-lids were very red, and he winked very much, and his shoulders were very near his ears and his legs were very stiff, and altogether he was evidently a long way upon the frosty side of cool."
"The Chimes", 1844.

Oh yes, it's cold right now. Snow-drifts, howling gales, sharp northerly winds - brrrr. We even had frosts down in Florida this morning. However, ever an optimist, I can see that the official start of Spring in less than 2 months away! It's hard to believe, isn't it? The months go by faster every year. 

So I have been enjoying working with some cotton yarns and there are a number of projects on my needles right now in lovely soft cottons. I have just finished a few men's ties in KnitPicks Cotlin yarn, a crisp cotton/linen mix, and a bathmat in DMC Natura XL chunky cotton, which is pictured at the top of this blogpost. I have to say the bathmat has already been pressed into service to keep my toes from contacting chilly tiled floors.

I also have some placemats started in Rowan Denim yarn and a little girls' dress planned too. I am certainly living up to my blogpost where I suggested starting several projects at once! My yarn drying racks are filled with cotton yarns in varying stages of washing and drying and I have a pleasingly large number of skeins waiting to be wound back into balls again. 

I hope everyone is keeping warm, and finding enough projects to do in front of a cozy fire. Perhaps think towards Spring and start swatching the cotton yarns in your stash.

Happy Knitting!


Thanks to my DH Tim for his photo of the DMC Natura XL yarn. 
For more of Tim's photos please see his Flickr Site.

Last Blogpost: Without the Ocean

13 Jan 2016

Without the Ocean

It is amazing how different a pattern can look when you work it with a different colour, an alternative yarn or with slightly larger or smaller needles. Here's a recent example of a multi-coloured pattern being worked in a single natural colour and looking completely different from the original.

This is the Ocean Currents Blanket pattern I was writing about a few weeks ago, but this time without the ocean!

I have recently been knitting a few projects with Cascade "EcoCloud" which is a gorgeously soft merino / alpaca mix with a very interesting chainette structure. The yarn is, in effect, like a slim i-Cord and really holds the heat well. Between the two ultra-soft fibres in the blend and the airy-ness of the structure, it is super cozy in use. 

I had a ball of the Cream colour left over after I had finished a little baby jacket and have just worked up a swatch using the Ocean Currents Blanket pattern. The result is a lovely retro sampler effect which really highlights the different patterns used in the design. The yarn shows the stitches well and I think a blanket or throw worked in this colourway would be perfect to add an extra layer to a chilly bedroom.

Here's a photo of the yarn from the PurlSoho website where you can also see the other natural colours in the range. The yarn is 150m/164 yds:100gm ball, so is a little thicker than the one suggested in the pattern. I worked the sample on one size larger needles to compensate for this and to maintain the open feel of the fabric and it worked out beautifully.

OK, who has some good offers on Cascade yarns right now..? I feel a creamy blanket moment coming on!

You can see me knitting the original Ocean Currents Blanket in this blogpost, and read more about the knitting pattern here and here.

Happy Knitting!


. 25/1/16

6 Jan 2016

Roc-ing into 2016

I always love this time of the year. It's cool outside and the garden is sleeping. The leaves are cleared, the bushes are trimmed and fragile plants are bedded down with straw for the winter. Even the frenetic build-up to the holiday season has ended and everyone is feeling well-fed and ready for a change of pace.

And I find, year after year, that this is the time I turn my attention to dyeing and spinning. It just seems to come naturally with the change to the New Year. And I'm not alone, for across many countries today is celebrated as a special day for spinners. It's called Roc Day or St Distaff's Day and happens the day after Twelfth Night. 

Back in the day when spinning was a long and arduous daily toil for many women, it would be understandable if they might have a bit reluctant to return to their tasks. However, it was made considerably more pleasant by celebrating with other villagers for one final day of merriment before the real work started again.

If you fancy celebrating Roc Day this year, then check your local paper as a number of local spinning groups have events planned for the weekend. And even if you're not a spinner you can join in the fun by knitting a project using hand-spun yarn from your local yarn store or Farmers' Market.

I have a number of patterns that can be worked with hand-spun yarn:

At the top left there's the Henley Blanket in a two-tone blue and purple combination. The photo at the top right shows a scarf, the Sawston Infinity Scarf, which is worked in a beautifully soft Blue-Faced Leicester yarn. If you have never tried this fibre then see if you can find some soon - it may be the softest wool you have ever worked with.

The centre photos show the Rare Earth Rug and Rare Earth Cushions which use natural coloured yarns. 

And lastly, the Ocean Currents Blanket that I featured in my last blogpost is shown alongside a co-ordinating rug, the Ocean Currents Rug

Of course, you can choose to use hand-spun yarn for any knitting pattern if you have the right weight of yarn for the pattern - feel free to experiment!

Until next time, enjoy your spinning, knitting and merry-making,


Last Blogpost: Keep warm this winter
Next Up: Without the Ocean


28 Dec 2015

Keep warm this winter

Large projects are perfect for this time of the year. You can add an extra log onto the fire, curl up with the cat beside you and just knit all through the afternoon if you like. There's no gardening to do, especially if the snow is falling gently outside. It's a quiet time. The holidays are over and you can sit and take your ease with an audiobook playing along. Your knitting will grow steadily as the story unfolds. 

So here's a new pattern that will give you many happy hours of knitting and also help make some real inroads into your yarn stash, the Ocean Currents Blanket. What's great about this blanket is that it's designed to use any kind of yarn you have to hand. If the yarns have a similar weight and composition and you think you can make the colours work, then feel free to use them! 

I have always loved American pieced quilts - they just have a charm and a character all of their own. You can find quilts from early settlers where many different materials have been incorporated: old shirts, dresses, left-over scraps etc. So this blanket emulates this idea and is made more beautiful by using a variety of yarns and colours. 

I chose to use a range of complementary blue yarns, but you could work a multi-coloured version for a lively look, or choose a series of natural yarns instead. Let your bedroom decor dictate your starting point and see what yarns you have to suit. The blanket here started with left-over hand-spun yarns from the Ocean Currents Rug, but then I added in all kinds of other wool yarns that were languishing in my yarn basket and teamed these with some new Cascade Yarns "Cascade 220". 

There are different dyelots in there too, just for good measure. Have you noticed that you can often get really good bargains at the local yarn stores if you just want a ball or two of a different dyelot? Well, here's you chance to raid those sale bins! The slight change of tone or colour will just add to the charm of the final piece. 

The pattern includes three different sizes for a Single/Twin bed, a Double/Queen size and a King-sized blanket. 

You can find the pattern for the Ocean Currents blanket on my website, along with details of all the other patterns in the #KnittingAhead series. The pattern is also available on Craftsy, Etsy and Ravelry

And if you'd like to see a natural-coloured version of this blanket, please see my blogpost: "Without the Ocean".

Thank you for all the great messages about this series - I am glad that you enjoyed the blogposts and the 12 new patterns! If you'd like to go back to the start of the series and read them in sequence, then please see the first blogpost here and follow the links through.

I'll be back in the New Year but until then, keep warm and Happy Knitting!


Last Blogpost: So now what?

Website: www.wyndlestrawdesigns.com

. 17/1/16

26 Dec 2015

So now what?


The apr├Ęs Christmas time can be a bit disquieting for a knitter. There has been such a buzz about getting knitted presents finished, timelines seemingly getting shorter and shorter, what to pack, what to leave behind, whether they'll like it, whether it will fit.... It can all be a bit stressful. 

But then the next day comes. 
And you feel like saying, "So now what...?"

Well, this #KnittingAhead series has been all about planning for the whole season, so here's the final suggestion: start two projects that will be useful as soon as they come off the needles. 

Why two projects? Because you want one design that will be finished quickly, and one larger one to work on steadily through the long winter chill. Then when you finish the smaller item, start yet another one. 

Soon, you will have a large project growing steadily and impressively, plus a pleasingly large pile of finished objects keeping you and everyone around you warm through the winter.

The projects can either be well within your comfort zone, or a step ahead to develop your skills for the New Year - you decide. Do you feel like some easy knitting to de-stress, or do you want to challenge yourself and try something you've never tried before? This is "You" knitting, so even if it goes wrong no-one else is going to be wearing it, so now's the time to experiment if you fancy.

It has been remarkably warm on the East coast of the USA so far this winter, but cooler weather is coming very soon and I am going to suggest two projects to start your post-Christmas knitting: one is a great Beanie-style hat and the other is a bedspread / blanket. You couldn't get much smaller or much larger than that! I'll start with the hat and then post about the blanket next time.

The Delamere Hat has a pleasing rounded shape and features a wide turn-back brim to keep your ears warm. It's worked in Pinnacle Chevron pattern which gives a deep texture to hold the heat well. The shaping around the crown provides a wonderfully symmetrical pattern like a Spirograph star design.

There are 3 different sizes in the instructions but as the hats can be worked on either slightly smaller or slightly larger needles, there are actually 6 possible sizes from 45-60cm/18-24 ins. You'll only need 2-3 balls of a Worsted-weight yarn, so have a dig through your stash and see what you have already then you can make a start right away. 

You can download the Delamere Hat pattern from my website, and it is also available on Craftsy, Etsy and Ravelry.

Back next time with the last blogpost of the year, and also the last in this #KnittingAhead series!

Happy Knitting!


. 2/1/16

24 Dec 2015

No time to knit him a scarf.....

OK, let's not be sexist about this. There's no time to knit anyone a scarf for this Christmas. It's Christmas Eve and unless you're Miriam Tegels (the current record holder for the faster knitter in the Guinness Book of Records), then there isn't even the faintest chance this will get done in time. 

So, what to do? Well, here's this week's #KnittingAhead idea: package up your Work in Progress! It will still be a wonderful surprise and now they can watch the item taking shape.

So here's what you need:

#1 - A colourful paper carrier bag or box: You can find these at the Post Office or supermarket, and pharmacies often have a great selection too. And if you can't find a ready-made container, then you can ask for a box at the supermarket and wrap it with some colourful paper.

#2 - Tissue paper / lining paper: Place a couple of sheets of lining paper in the bottom of your box or bag and then scrunch another piece to add some volume. Loosely place a couple of sheets of tissue paper on top so that the sides of the bag are covered and you have made a "nest" in the middle.

#3 - Your yarn or work so far: If you have already made a start on the project, then place several unknit skeins or balls of yarn into your tissue paper nest. Now take your knitting needles and put an end-stopper on the open end(s) - you don't want some troublesome nephew to pull your precious work off the needles! Fold it up artistically and place it on top of the yarn. If you are working with straight needles then you can have the rounded ends showing at the top of the bag. 

Add another piece of tissue paper or two to cover the contents with a decorative flourish at the top.

#4 - A large envelope and your pattern: Print out a copy of your pattern, or at least just the first page showing what you are working on. If you have already left home, then you can find many places where you can print a page or two, such as hotels, pharmacies and stationery stores. Add a colourful sticky note or write on it: "Work in Progress" or "Some construction required." You'll be sure to get a smile when they read that!

Fold and place it inside the envelope then put that into the top of your bag, and you're good to go! Deadlines met and a touch of fun added as well.

Have a wonderful day tomorrow, full of good knitterly cheer all round.

Oh and if you want to know: Miriam Tegels hand-knitted 118 stitches in one minute in Swalmen, Netherlands on 26th August 2006. Amazing!

Happy Knitting!



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