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Sven Cardigan

If you haven’t already started, now is a good time to get cracking with the Christmas gift knitting. There are approximately 7 weeks till Christmas, which is plenty of time to knit up things that are a little more complex as well as simple last minute projects. Babies and toddlers are ideal recipients for knitted gifts. They are small enough to make the knitting process reasonably quick, they’re unlikely to complain about your choice of colours, and they’re bound to look super cute wearing anything that you make!

If you’re looking for a project for a little person in your life, I’ve just released my Sven Cardigan. This was originally published in Knit Now magazine, and is a stranded cardigan featuring a pattern of reindeer, snowflakes and pine trees. The yarn is Cygnet Superwash DK, a soft but durable yarn which is ideal for children’s clothes. It comes in a wide range of 25 colours, so you can select a colour palette to suit your personal taste.  I’ve knitted my sample in Christmassy red and white, but my lovely test knitters chose different colour schemes in white, blue and grey.

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The cardigan is sized to fit babies and toddlers aged between birth and 4 years. It’s knitted in one piece to the armholes, and has a ribbed button band and dropped sleeves.

I also have a number of other patterns which would work well as Christmas gifts. Check out my Ravelry store to see if there’s anything else that takes your fancy! If you’re a beginner knitter, my free scarf pattern might be ideal for you – find it here.

 

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Stash Busting

A few weeks ago I pulled some long forgotten cotton yarns out of my stash and thought I had better do something useful with them. Very quickly I realised why they were long forgotten – I don’t particularly like working with 4ply weight mercerised cotton! I decided that crochet would be the quickest solution, and spent some time looking out patterns.

The first yarn was actually one that I quite like working with, Rowan Handknit Cotton. It’s a lovely smooth cotton that falls somewhere between a DK and Aran weight. I found a pattern on Ravelry for crocheted washcloths in a really simple stitch, and managed to get two cloths out of one ball of yarn. They’ve gone into the Christmas gift box, probably to be wrapped up with some nice soap.

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Next was another yarn that I quite like, but which is very splitty – Rowan Milk Cotton DK. I should have made things easier on myself and chosen a knitting project, but instead I went for crochet because it works up faster. I opted for a baby blanket, which was billed as an easy pattern using groups of treble stitches. Somehow I managed to mess this up, and my rectangular blanket started to look a bit triangular at the edges after only a few rows. I managed to recover the lost stitches however, and finished the blanket with a simple improvised shell edging. This is the hardest colour to photograph, a soft purple which looks brown in a lot of pictures. The blanket used all six balls of yarn from my stash, and is a decent size for a baby moses basket or car seat.

The final project was one which I regretted starting at times. I had a ball of Patons 100% Cotton 4ply and a ball of Sirdar Pure Cotton 4ply, both of which are mercerised cottons in shades of blue. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with them, but I knew that it had to be crochet in order to use the maximum amount of yarn in the shortest possible amount of time. Browsing through old issues of Crochet Now, I found the Storm Shawl by Annelies Baes. The original was knitted in a woolly yarn, but I thought it might possibly work in cotton. The first dozen rows of the shawl were quite difficult, and at several points I almost unravelled it all and gave up. However once the basic shape was established, the pattern was very intuitive and easy to follow. I omitted the last pattern repeat mainly because I couldn’t be bothered crocheting any more, and finished with the border row as set. I’m not sure how much I like the finished result – it’s a lovely pattern but I get the feeling that it would work better in wool than in cotton. It was a great stash buster though, and helped me develop my crochet skills.

After all that, I still had several other balls of Patons 100% Cotton yarn in 4ply and DK. I really couldn’t bring myself to make anything else with them, so they have gone to the charity shop. All in all, a successful stash bust!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I Don’t Have That Much Yarn, Honest

The title of this blog is what I tell myself from time to time. I look at the two stacking boxes of yarn on top of my wardrobe, and think “that’s not much, really”. Recently, the stacking boxes have seemed to get a bit fuller, and there have been bags of random yarn lying round the living room. Then I decided to catalogue it all in Ravelry, and the site kindly printed me off an Excel spreadsheet that told me I had 14,200 metres of yarn approximately. That seemed like quite a lot, but I hadn’t even gone through the box of scraps or any of the stuff in project bags. So I decided that a bit of a sort out was in order. This post will probably be super boring for anyone who doesn’t like looking at yarn, but I’m going to look back at it every time I think I need to buy some more.

I took out all my boxes and bags of yarn and half finished projects, aided by the cat and the four month old baby. I’m sure you can imagine they were very helpful. Then I arranged my main stash on the floor like a big colour wheel, because it looked pretty and also a bit smaller. Here it is, in all it’s glory.

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This is a significantly smaller amount of yarn than I used to have, but it’s still a lot. Most of it has been picked up in charity shops, bought from Wool Warehouse, or left over from design commissions. Most of it was bought without a project in mind, because it was pretty and I thought I’d probably use it one day. There’s some lovely wee bits in there, Jamieson and Smith Shetland yarn, soft alpaca, a nice skein of lace yarn. I started to get ideas about what I could knit with it all, but then I thought I should really pull out all my projects and see what I could finish off first.

First up, and a work in progress for about three years, is this fair isle cardigan. It’s knitted in Drops Alpaca, which is lovely and soft. Normally I get stranded projects knitted up quite quickly, but this one has been my nemesis. The pattern isn’t as intuitive as I’d like, and it just seems like a bit of a slog.

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Next is the Bornholm Satchel, one my own patterns which I knitted up for publication in a lovely wool yarn. This sample is knitted in Drops Bomull-Lin, a cotton/linen yarn that’s a total pain to work with. It’s very splitty, and although the finished fabric is perfect for a bag, it’s not fun to knit – especially in this kind of herringbone pattern. I’ve done most of it though, so I just need to build up the courage to finish it off.

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Then we have a lace shawl in 2ply baby yarn, started in a moment of madness when I thought I could knit something enormous and lacy. I haven’t even knitted the garter stitch centre square yet, so this might not be finished for another few years.

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Next up is Kilda, a lovely fair isle cardigan. I started knitting this in two colours of Rowan Felted Tweed, and then discovered that the pattern didn’t show up. So I’ve started again, and will be using the basic pattern but making it striped instead. I’ve done approximately one inch of rib on the back, so again this will take a while!

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Then there is my current favourite project, a top-down sweater for my daughter in the most amazing pastel sparkly yarn. This is Papatya Batik Silver, and the pattern is the Contrast Sweater from Petite Knit. I love it, really simple to knit and working up quite quickly in a DK weight yarn.

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In contrast, my next WIP is working up very slowly. This is a cardigan I’ve knitted once before, Evie by Kim Hargreaves. I’ve been working on this one for a year, and I haven’t gone back to it because I forgot where I was in the complex shaping.

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I also have a few bags of yarn which are allocated to particular projects, but I haven’t cast on yet. There is a whole pile of Drops Nepal, which is going to be the Utivist cardigan by Helene Magnusson. I love the colours, but the idea of steeking is scaring me a bit, so I haven’t started yet.

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I’ve got some Drops Fabel all ready to start a pair of Sanquhar Duke pattern gloves for my husband, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll have to adapt the pattern to fit his hands, and that’s not a job I want to do anytime soon.

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Then a new parcel arrived from Wool Warehouse today, with two cakes of Caron yarn to make a Flax sweater for my friends’ daughter. This is the Mixed Berry colourway, and it’s lovely and bright and cheerful.

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I also bought some Cygnet Boho Spirit. I don’t normally like to knit with acrylic yarn for myself, but this stuff seems lovely and soft and it was quite cheap. This is earmarked for a cardigan from the new West Yorkshire Spinners Croft Shetland Colours book.

The final project waiting to be started is another Yves sweater – I’ve made two of these already for my son and my nephew, and it’s a great pattern. I have lots of the Scheepjes Colour Crafter yarn left over, so I’m making one for my friends’ son.

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After all this, I thought that I probably didn’t need to start anymore projects just yet. I remembered that I had a whole bag of Drops yarn on top of the wardrobe which is set aside for future designs, so that would keep me going for a wee while. Then I turned out the scrap bin, and realised that there was a LOT of yarn in there. This is where I put all my odds and ends of yarn that aren’t really enough for a project, and are useful for swatching new designs.

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So, after all this, I formulated a plan of action. I’m going to try and get all my WIPs off the needles, whether that means finishing them or unravelling them if I really can’t face finishing them. Then I’m going to knit up all the projects that I have plans for, and try not to start any more new ones in the meantime. After that I will go through all my patterns and yarn and try to match them up. And if anyone sees me buying any more yarn, remind me of this post please!

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Borders Scrapstore

There’s a wee place tucked away in a community centre in Musselburgh, which sells second-hand art and craft supplies. It’s great for a bargain, and I’ve picked up everything from a guillotine to oilcloth there. The shop is called the Borders Scrapstore, which seems a bit odd until you realise that it’s linked to a much bigger store down in Selkirk. I’ve always wanted to visit the real Borders Scrapstore, and today I finally got my chance. It did not disappoint! First, there was a lovely drive down to Selkirk along roads lined with autumnal trees. Then we passed lots of old textile mills, some of which are still in operation. Finally we arrived at the store itself, hidden in the corner of what looked like an old stable block. There were quite a few abandoned buildings nearby, and the store didn’t look that exciting from the outside.

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Then I went inside and was immediately greeted with a huge bin full of yarn cakes in all different colours. I felt totally overwhelmed and super excited when I saw just how much was there! The space is huge, a small warehouse full of supplies. It’s so big that you have to have a good dig around to find what you want, but it’s also organised into rooms based around a theme which makes it a little bit easier. Just inside the door were art supplies, including a few new items such as chalks, painting canvases and air dry clay. Everything was really cheap, with a huge block of clay costing less than £3 for example.

In the centre of the room was a massive table covered in fabric. There were some fabrics which were still on a roll and sold by the metre, and others which were offcuts. I found an abandoned patchwork project, consisting of hundreds of hexagons, and some beautiful cotton prints that were cut into squares ready to be sewn together. There’s every kind of fabric – fleece, corduroy, silk, tartan and jersey. Under the table there were bins of fabric scraps, perfect for quilting and patchwork. There was also a huge pile of cross stitch and tapestry kits, and a tray of buttons, zips and haberdashery trimmings. It’s obvious that some of the stock has come from shops or wholesalers, as there were full reels of ribbons and braids. I enjoyed digging through a wicker basket of dressing up costumes and hats.

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Off the main warehouse space was a room entirely dedicated to yarn. If you’re a machine knitter or weaver, this is definitely the place for you! There were so many cones of Shetland yarn in all different colours. Another huge box on the floor was full of proper woolly wool wound into cakes, in bright colours and neutrals – these were 4 for £1, and were probably around 100g each! I found vintage baby yarn, mohair, and some interesting ribbon yarns.

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Just next door was another room – my personal favourite – filled with craft magazines, books, sewing patterns, knitting needles and much much more.  The space under the tables was filled with more reels of ribbon, and there was lots of upholstery fabric piled up. There were some fabulous patterns from the 1930s onwards, using vintage yarns like Lister Lavenda 3ply. I picked out some of my favourites to photograph.

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The main room of the store also has a wide variety of totally random things – for example unprocessed sheep’s fleece, doll’s house electrical fixings, and this box of old 78 rpm records! Do you need envelopes, framing supplies for a print, wholesale amounts of sticky labels or sparkly cardboard? You’ll probably find it at the scrapstore. Of course, the stock is donated second hand and therefore ever changing, but there’s bound to be a wide variety of stuff whenever you visit.

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I spent quite a long time trying to decide what to buy, and eventually came away with 17 craft magazines, two circular knitting needles, 50 luggage tags to use as product labels, some pink jersey, corduroy and flowery dress fabric, and three vintage Clothkits – a pair of trousers, shorts and some dolls’ clothes. This haul only cost £17, so I was really pleased with the bargains!

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After this we drove back along the road to the Lochcarron Tartan Mill. They had a topiary deer outside with real antlers, and inside there was a mill shop with some gorgeous knitwear and gifts. I loved these little cashmere mittens for children, so soft.

I enjoyed a hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows, and had a toastie on the squishiest leather sofa. Then it was a leisurely drive back up the road in the autumn sunshine – definitely a lovely day.

The scrapstore is a charity, and aims to reduce waste and make affordable art and craft materials available to all. I’ve always loved a bargain from a charity shop, but I’m starting to think more about the environmental bonuses of buying second hand rather than just the financial ones. It’s great to see so much stuff that would otherwise be in landfill, but now has a chance to be used for creative purposes. If you’re ever in or around Edinburgh or the Borders, I’d definitely recommend you check out either store. They have limited opening hours, which you can find on their Facebook page here.

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Etsy Shop Open

After a lot of online admin, all done with a squeaky wriggly baby on my lap, I have finally opened my new Etsy shop! Although I normally work on knitted and crocheted designs, I’ve looked out all my old art materials and started illustrating again. It’s been great fun, especially since I’ve discovered Photoshop and realised that it can be just as fun to draw digitally.

I’ve released five designs as greetings cards, and hope to have more products on sale in the near future. They’re all printed on deluxe quality 300gsm textured card, which is FSC approved. The printing is done by an independent UK company, and each card comes with an envelope.

Here are the five designs, and you can head on over to my Etsy shop to find out more!

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Christmas is Coming!

It’s October, which means that the shops are gearing up for Christmas. Yes, we haven’t had Halloween or Bonfire Night yet, but the festive season is approaching fast and it won’t be long before we can’t escape it! I’m not the biggest fan of Christmas, but I do enjoy creating handmade gifts. It’s one way to make the holiday a bit less commercialised, and I think that a handmade present is always more personalised and special. The other thing I really like is a good Christmas jumper. If you’re going to be festive, you might as well go properly over-the-top festive. That was my motto when designing my latest pattern, a Christmas jumper that will be published in Issue 95 of Knit Now magazine.

Xmas jumper

The jumper is knitted in King Cole Fashion Aran, Comfort Aran and Tinsel Chunky. I’ve embellished the tree with snowflake buttons and tinsel crocheted from Twilley’s Goldfingering, but you could add any decorations that you wanted. My husband suggested adding twinkly fairy lights! The jumper is a pretty quick and simple knit, although the intarsia tree and candy cane cables might prove more of a challenge for beginner knitters. It’s designed to fit a huge range of sizes, so will fit most adults.

If you’re looking for a quicker festive knit, pick up the current issue of Knit Now to find lots of little things to make as gifts!

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Stockbridge

Stockbridge is another area of Edinburgh that is packed with independent businesses and interesting shops. It’s also full of charity shops, and as it’s a rather nice area you can often get some lovely things at super cheap prices. I always enjoy the walk into Stockbridge, as the path from my house leads along the cycle path network. During the summer the trees almost meet above your head, creating a canopy of greenery. It’s very restful to walk through the dappled sunlight with the sound of birdsong all around you.

Once you leave the cycle path, you cross the bottom of Broughton Street and head out to Stockbridge itself. This area is at the foot of Edinburgh’s New Town, so there are many grand townhouses with basement flats. Some of them have been made into hotels, and one in particular has a great display of flowers outside, grown in and around bicycles and wellington boots amongst other things. The road leads past Benjamin’s Barber Shop, which has a unique bench outside made of skateboards.

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The Stockbridge shops are mostly independent businesses, from bakeries to opticians and every type of shop in between. It would take hours to mention them all, but there are a few in particular that I always like to visit. First up, unsurprisingly for someone with a sweet tooth, is the chocolate shop. Coco Chocolatier is great for a fancy gift – they sell chocolate bars with original wrappers designed by artists, as well as chocolates and truffles. These aren’t your everyday bars of chocolate, flavours include gin and tonic, rhubarb and ginger and Earl Grey tea.

Further along the street is Caoba, a family business selling authentic Mexican goods alongside cards, soaps and other gifts. The shop smells amazing, the scent of incense hits you as you walk past. They also have a great blog where they feature projects that customers have made with their wall tiles, recipes, and background information about their products. The website outlines their fair trade policy and their aim, which is to sustain traditional handicrafts.

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A few minutes walk away, and a little closer to home, is the quirky An Independent Zebra. This little gift shop exclusively stocks products from Scottish based designers and makers, with a wide variety of goodies for sale. Just inside the door are some prints from the amazing Grey Earl, and then this little shelf which always makes me smile. These cacti are crocheted by Emily Sian Hart. Each one is unique and super cute! I was also admiring these beautiful geometric knit scarves from Frances Teckkam, knitted in wonderfully soft wool.

The shop stocks a wide selection of greetings cards, but there’s a stand in the corner which is particularly suitable for those who don’t take things too seriously! I love these cards designed to welcome a new baby, made by The Fuzzy Bee.

Talking of babies, Stockbridge has a shop mostly dedicated to babies and young children. The Willow Boutique sells accessories by Sass and Belle, clothes from Blade and Rose, and toys by Jellycat. However they also have a great range of greetings cards from Wee Blue Coo and cards and prints by Kate and the Ink.

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There are lots of other places I could have mentioned – the vintage clothes shop, the children’s shoe shop with a hairdresser’s inside, and the Skylark Cafe where folk singer Gill Bowman leads a song circle for toddlers with her acoustic guitar. However I hope this brief tour of Stockbridge makes you want to hop on the bus and have a wander round!