Friday, 26 September 2014

'Scarves & Cowls' book review & finished object

As regular readers will know, my favourite knits are 'quick win' projects that don't take too long to complete, that are easy to knit and that result in a cheery accessory. So when the new Fiona Goble book turned up for review (you are sure to know Fiona's other books including 'Knit Your Own Royal Wedding') I was delighted to see it contained 36 such projects.

There are ten patterns for children (although I'd be tempted by some of them myself) and the rest are a mix of adult sized scarves/cowls (many are unisex) and a headband. The photography is bright and cheerful and there's even a model with a massive red beard. What's not to love? 
"Scarves & Cowls" by Fiona Goble - reviewed at Crafts from the Cwtch blog
As you can tell from the pictures, the knits are pretty straightforward, and it's a really lovely collection for a new knitter, but would equally suit someone who has been knitting a little while and accumulated oddments of yarn they are not sure what to do with - many of the projects require only one or two balls, and none of them will take very long to knit.

I like to knit something from a book as part of a review, and whipped up the twisted headband ( I couldn't resist another!) in just a few hours from a stashed ball of Red Heart Soft*, and am now on the hunt for a vintage brooch before it gets cold enough to wear it. The pattern was well-written and easy to follow, with detail on all techniques provided, should you need them.
Twisted Headband FO
If you're a more experienced knitter, you may not need a pattern to create these types of projects, and will probably have seen similar designs before, but it's such a lovely collection and so nicely presented, I can imagine making more projects from it (gift knitting!!!). Yes, it gets a big thumbs up from me, and I'd recommend for beginner/intermediate knitters. If I'm honest, I wish I'd written it myself!

The book is called "Scarves and Cowls" and has an RRP of £12.99 (it is currently £9.09 at Amazon ) and is published by CICO books.
* I hadn't used this yarn before which had been sat in my cupboard for a while, and was pleasantly surprised - it's very inexpensive acrylic (100g/167m for £1.99) and feels nice next to my face. One ball is enough to make this and another for Little Miss. It'll be interesting to see how it stands up to wear and frequent washing as it might be a good one for bigger items for the children, which I wouldn't want to spend too much on, and which need to be thrown in the washing machine. 
Wednesday, 24 September 2014

WIPs and books, lots of books!

WIPs and books
I've put down my (secret) sample knitting and have cast on a very quick new project - a(nother) headband/wrap - from a pattern in the new book by Fiona Goble. I'll tell you more about the project and the book on Friday, by which time I should have a FO*, and hopefully no excuse to wear it - for surely the completion of a warm and cosy project will summon sunshine? (It's starting to get a bit chilly.) 

Those who are participating in the "CftC Fitalong" - which is still ongoing if you'd care to join us - may have already seen I've been very active since the children returned to school. This has given me time to listen to the first half of the new Sarah Waters novel, The Paying Guests (TPG).  If you've enjoyed any of her other novels then I'm sure you'll like this one too. It is the story of Frances Wray, a high-society spinster in her mid-20s who has lost a lot as a result of the war - her brothers, her father, and - some might suppose - her diginity, as she and her mother have to resort to opening their house to lodgers from a very different background. Set in 1922, the changing role of women and the blurring of the 'class divide' are all integral to the story, as well as the aspect of forbidden love that is an expected feature of Waters' work.

As well as listening to TPG, my bedtime reading is Happy Accidents by Tiffany Murray. I'm not enjoying it as much as I did her previous novel (Diamond Star Halo) but perhaps that's because I'd rather be reading The Paying Guests, which I only have as an audiobook, and I dare not listen to that at bedtime or the book would be finished by the time my alarm goes off and I'd have no idea how much I'd missed (ask me how I know!). This is why I was particularly interested to read about Kindle Unlimited today. It's a new Amazon subscription service where you can read as many books (from the KU list) as you like and plenty of them also have audio versions, so you can slip between the ebook and audiobook seamlessly (it'll remember your place). Unfortunately not all the books I'd like to read are on there, but I think there are enough to give the 30 day Free trial a go, once I have finished listening to TPG. 
*FO = finished object. I never know whether to write "an FO" or "a FO" - the former is better if you read it literally as "an eff oh" but the latter is correct if you read it as "a finished object"..... what do you think? 
Sunday, 21 September 2014

Beyond the comfort zone - 'The Handmade Fair' post

In my previous "life" I was used to travelling throughout the UK for work, and was no stranger to meeting lots of different people - I'm not at all shy (but do tend to talk too much when nervous) - and didn't think twice about heading off somewhere and doing something different. So it came as a surprise to find myself driving to The Handmade Fair* in Friday's rush-hour with an anxious feeling in my stomach. I realised I was stepping out of my comfort zone for the first time in years! 

For starters, it was the first time I wasn't around to take my children to school and to pick them up. It was also the first time I'd left the dog all day. Realising I was completely reliant on others made me feel completely out of my comfort zone. I know this might sound unremarkable to mums who work outside the home all the time, or maybe you remember...

Secondly, it's been YEARS since I've driven in busy rush-hour traffic. I know the area well enough and passed two of my old homes to get there, but I've become accustomed to a tiny West Sussex village and walking everywhere (47 miles last week). Multiple lanes of hectic traffic and aggressive driving was totally out of my comfort zone!

As a punctual person, I realised pretty quickly that the two hours I'd allowed for the "1hr 12 min" drive was nowhere near enough, and this could have pushed me over the edge and ruined the start of the day. Chanting the phrase from my notebook charm as a mantra - "it is what it is" - I calmly continued the journey. Then got to Hampton Court, drove straight past the entrance to the car park (pre-booked for ease and punctuality!) and got stuck in more traffic getting back to it! Urgh! It is what it is. It is what it is.....

The 5 minute walk to the entrance, through the morning mist, was something else. There was a tangible feeling of excitement from the groups of visitors, several dressed up in vintage clothing. If you have ever been to Hampton Court Palace, you'll know what a spectacular setting this is - it was Henry VIII's favourite palace for a reason. 
The Handmade Fair
Different tickets had been available to pre-order - VIP and standard - and there was already a queue for each. (I heard one lady complaining to an exceptionally calm and composed attendant that she was special too, everyone is special even if they can't afford more expensive tickets - "of course you are, madam" - and she should be able to go in the VIP area too. "Errr, no.") Waiting with the press for Kirstie to arrive, I could see why the VIPs had paid more - and this is a tip for future events - they had an exclusive area for use throughout the day, a goody bag filled with samples and marketplace discounts (I got one too - some lovely stuff), champagne, plus entry to workshop/events and seats at the front of the Super Theatre. Good value if you can afford to pay the extra.

Perhaps Kirstie had been stuck in traffic too - shortly after she arrived, she was whisked off to meet someone and then quickly off to open the first event.  No time for mingling. This post was very nearly called "The Day I Almost Met Kirstie Allsopp"... but I did get to within a couple of metres of everyone's favourite crafting celeb, and can confirm that (a) she is as gorgeous as she looks on TV, and (b) she is just about the only woman in her 40s who could carry off this awesome headpiece and pompom shoes...
Kirstie Allsopp at The Handmade Fair
Yes, I wish I'd had the chance to speak to Kirstie, but the rest of the day more than made up for it. Here are some of the highlights...

- The Mollie Makes Mash-Up event where Deadly Knitshade/Lauren O'Farrell (of Whodunnknit, which I've followed for some time) and Jamie Chalmers (Mr X Stitch) battled for the public vote on behalf of stitchers and knitters/crocheters everywhere. I wasn't sure quite what to expect but found this to be a really fun and educational start to the day, and I will certainly be perusing Jamie's website as a result - lots of fascinating things and a whole new approach to what is typically seen as an 'old lady' craft. (Who knew that people embroider something and then sew some graffiti over it - like this?)
- Visiting the Rowan tent where Sarah Hatton, Susie Johnson (rocking a petticoat skirt), Stuart Hillard and Jane Crowfoot were based (I talked too much). Sadly Kaffe Fasset wasn't there on Friday *sob* and I'm seriously envious of those who got to meet him at the weekend.
The Handmade FairThe Handmade Fair
- Some very interesting meetings during which plans were made and plots hatched. Exciting times are ahead, and I can't quite believe some of the opportunities that are opening up and which will most certainly take me beyond the boundaries of what's currently 'comfortable'.
- I got to meet Lara Watson, editor of Mollie Makes and even got a "selfie" (I follow her on Instagram). What a lovely lady!
- There were LOTS of vendors I hadn't seen before, selling wonderful handmade items and yarn, haberdashery and all sorts of supplies. (I'll be including some of my favourites in a separate post, although I really didn't get to spend enough time in the marketplace and could have done with another day to get around everything!)
- The food was fantastic, including a gluten free caterer - worth the long queues, which provided an opportunity to chat to people and find out more about their visit and their crafting. It seems that a lot of the visitors came in groups and had pre-booked various workshops. It was a day for having a go!

The Handmade FairIn fact, 'having a go' was the cause of much hilarity as I decided to have a go at Jewellery making with the 'wire-wrapped cocktail ring' workshop hosted by the London Jewellery School. This seemed a good choice as it was something I wouldn't have normally done (comfort zone again) and the participants I sat with had also never tried it before. Looking at the rings, you'd think they would be really easy to make, but it quickly descended to chaos when it was much harder than it looked! What a laugh we had. I think this is the best thing about a fair full of good things - it was all about getting involved and trying something new. It was fun... despite my ring being a total disaster! (When I showed it to some of the ladies from Love Knitting, they agreed that I should stick to yarn.) I would love to show it to you but I gave it to Little Miss when I got home (for use as a Barbie crown as it was too big to be a ring) and she's lost it already. I can't help thinking it wasn't an accident...

I wasn't the only one with a disastrous make. In particular, there were some very 'interesting' looking macamé lampshades around the place. I chatted to a couple of ladies who'd come out of the workshop in fits of giggles at what they'd made, and they agreed - it was a lot of fun, although they weren't sure whether they disliked anyone enough to gift their lampshades for Christmas. I took a fabulous photo of them, but the upgrade to my new iPhone and the loss of my photostream means it has disappeared into icloud - the other photos here were, luckily, also uploaded to Instagram and I could still access them. I'm determined to find it and will post it when I do as it speaks a thousand words and is sure to make you smile.

So what was the highlight of my day? Wandering around the fair in the afternoon sunshine with Jane Crowfoot, someone whose work I have admired for a some time (I'm sure you'll recognise Jane's work from Pinterest boards!) as she has an amazing eye for colour.
Had a lovely time chatting with @janiecrow at #thehandmadefair #hamptoncourtpalace.
As I came to crafting in my 30s and am dabbling in design, it was fascinating to chat to someone who is a 'proper' traditional designer with impressive credentials including formal training at Winchester, design work with Debbie Bliss and Rowan, varioubooks, and a crochet club with over 450 members worldwide.

Both Jane's knitting and crochet patterns are stunning, but it's clear that crochet is her real passion. It was interesting to hear how she goes about designing for her crochet club - a very organic process. I'll be writing more about Jane's upcoming projects, there is too much to tell you about here, but if you haven't already taken a look at her website, I would recommend it.

So why is this post about comfort zones? Every time there is an event like this (or Unravel, Unwind etc) a surprising number of people tell me that they would like to go but don't have the confidence, or that they went but didn't sign up for workshops in case they were difficult. But here's the thing - it's totally worth it. If mistakes are the portals to discovery**, then there's a lot of scope for discovery! Stepping beyond what's comfortable and easy can be a fun and very rewarding, but you have to take that step.

I really hope The Handmade Fair becomes and annual event, and if so I would definitely recommend going. If you can, get a group of friends to go with you, dress up in your gladrags if you like, but book some workshops. Don't expect to come away with perfect FOs, but do expect aching sides and faces (from laughing) and hopefully a new confidence to give things a try - even if you normally wouldn't.
*I was kindly provided with tickets for a giveaway and a ticket for myself, however this post is entirely my own personal and honest opinion after spending a day at the event and chatting to other visitors about it. 
** Get me, quoting James Joyce!
Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Tutorial: Knitting Backwards

Since figuring out how to knit backwards for the Miss Winkle Knitalong, I've been surprised quite how useful this skill has become. Two of my latest projects have been made much easier thanks to this quick and easy way of working back and forth along a row without turning the work. In effect, it's just purling with the right side facing. When it was discussed previously, it seemed some were reticent, thinking it to be difficult, so today's post aims to show you just how simple it is - if you can purl, you can do it!
Knitting Backwards

Knitting Backwards

Knitting Backwards

Knitting Backwards

Knitting Backwards

Knitting Backwards
Although I usually knit 'Continental style', this is one of the rare exceptions (binding off is another) when the English/throwing style works better for me as it gives more control over the tension of the reverse stitches - if you knit both ways, you might like to see whether you get the same result.

There are a few more tutorials coming up which build upon this method of knitting. It's especially useful for any project where only a few stitches need to be worked in reverse, such as on short rows, bobbles, entrelac and so on.

If you haven't already tried it I do hope this will encourage you to give it a go, and if you are already using this method, I'd love to hear what you find it to be most useful for. 
Monday, 15 September 2014

Monster Finger Puppet (and knitting maths) for kids

Thanks to everyone who left a comment on the last post, or emailed about their experiences of teaching kids to knit. I've had a few people ask for the stitch counts etc to make the little Monster I showed you so the details are below in case you'd like to use this with your own children.

Notes: Adults will be casting on for the brand new knitters and when they are ready, we will show them how to bind off. The children are aged 7 to 11 and as part of our school's strategy of demonstrating that maths underpins everything, we will be asking them to work things out and get a better understanding of what they are doing and how it all relates. We use maths language they are already familiar with (estimating, rectangles, increasing and decreasing, measuring, tally, half, etc),
Monster Finger Puppet
Skills required for this project: ability to make a knit stitch.
You will also learn: how to bind off and how to sew up your project.

You will need: 
  • Small amounts of Double Knitting (DK) yarn, in a few colours for the monster and its hair. 
  • 4mm knitting needles 
  • Needle to sew the monster together
  • Buttons or other embellishment for the face
  • Measuring tape 
  • Your finger measurement
  1. Start with 12 stitches - after each row, check that you still have 12 stitches
  2. Knit all stitches on each row until the work is 5mm - 10mm shorter than your finger 
  3. Bind off all stitches, leaving a long tail for sewing  - you have a rectangle! 
  4. Fold your rectangle in half (from side to side), and then sew the top and sides together
  5. Add a face and hair with buttons and yarn, or anything else you like! 
Monster Finger Puppet
For discussion:
- The best way to learn is by spotting mistakes and then fixing them, let's see how many mistakes are made today, and use a tally to work out which are the most common. 
- After five rows, how tall is your knitting? 
- How many rows do you think you'll need until it's big enough? 
- What are the measurements of your finished rectangle? 
- How many rows did you knit to make it that size? 
- If you wanted to have a monster which was 10cms tall, how many rows do you estimate you'd need?
- What do you think you'd need to do to knit a square?

Last year, most children only took a few sessions before they were knitting independently and chatting away as they did so. It was so lovely to see! Of course I can't post photos of the children, but I'll see if anyone wants to have their finished monster photographed instead. 
Saturday, 13 September 2014

Teaching kids to knit

With the first full week of the school term over, we are all a little jaded today. There's a chill in the air too so I'm planning an afternoon of knitting, and it looks like someone else will be joining me, for LITTLE MISS CAN KNIT!! (Sorry for shouting, but I'm rather excited about it!) 
Little Miss is knitting!
Little Miss' first knitting. Only a bit of "Swiss cheese"!
She has tried before and didn't have the dexterity, until this morning - when she suddenly decided she'd like to knit - and it just clicked. Although I knit Continental, I've shown her how to knit "Granny style" (which is how a friend refers to 'throwing' the yarn), as that's how I'll be starting with the children at Knitting Club on Monday, and she's coming with me.

Their first project will be a little finger puppet. With a mix of girls and boys and I wanted a quick project that might be fun for all of them, something they could customise and really make their own. This is what I came up with...
Knitted finger puppet
Knitted Monster Puppet made from scraps of Scheepjes Stone Washed in 'Canada Jade' & 'Moon Stone'
I'm hoping it'll take just a couple of sessions for everyone to make one of these as it's such a simple project, and it won't matter too much about tension or holes.

Having the opportunity to teach other children to knit it a real pleasure but I have to be honest and say there's something extra special about seeing your own child doing it. The joy in her face as she mastered the stitch, and how she ran around the house in delight to show everyone what she had done, is something that I will always remember.

Have you taught any kids to knit? I'd love to hear your experiences too.
Friday, 12 September 2014

FO & Book Review / Giveaway: Faux Taxidermy Knits

I never understood why it is considered lucky to have a rabbit's foot - I mean, it didn't turn out to be a very good omen for the now-dead rabbit, did it? Never-the-less, when I spotted this fun project I had to make one (it was a perfect "FO fix" alongside bigger projects). You see, it reminds me of my childhood - one of my family members did indeed have a real dead rabbit's foot hanging from their keys, which was the cause of as much fascination as revulsion to me then... and now. Yes, I'm much happier with a knitted version - in fact a passing ladybird also loved it!
The foot is a slightly modified* version of one of the 'beginner' patterns in a brand new book by Louise Walker called "Faux Taxidermy Knits" which I was kindly sent by the publisher as part of a book lunch blog hop.

The book: I'll be honest, when I first heard it, the title made me a little dubious about what might be inside - I don't like glass cases full of dead things - but when I spotted Louise's name (which I knew from her blog and animal heads) I suspected it would be fun rather than sinister - thankfully this was correct.

There are fifteen different knitting patterns included in this quirky collection, which covers 'wearables' and various fun accessories for the home. Projects range from the quick and easy rabbit's foot above, to a more advanced Tiger rug which would be perfect for any little adventurer's bedroom! I am especially fond of the Raccoon Hat (beginner), Owl Cosy (intermediate) and Mole Doorstop (beginner) which would make super gifts.

Louise's patterns are very clearly written and easy to follow and her love of animals shines through in the way they are represented - they are all so cute. It's a really nice book and I think there is something for everyone, whether you're an expert knitter looking for something different, or a novice knitter wanting to try something new. It gets a big thumbs up from me, and I'm looking forward to seeing what Louise comes up with next. She is exhibiting at the Knitting & Stitching Show, so hopefully I'll get to catch up with her there in a few weeks time - watch this space!

The giveaway: One lucky reader can get their hands on a copy of the book for free, simply by leaving a comment below, together with your email address or Ravelry user name (so I can get hold of you if you win). A winner will be randomly selected on Saturday 20th September. Entry is open to all readers worldwide. Good luck!

The links: You can find this and other knitting books from the same publisher here, and also on Amazon. Louise Walker has a fabulous blog (with more patterns, many of which are free), a facebook page, and can also be found on TwitterAt the time of writing, the designs are not yet on Ravelry, but you can find the book listed here
*You can find my modified way of attaching the foot to the key fob on my Ravelry project notes
Wednesday, 10 September 2014

All the things

If you read Truly Myrtle, you will be familiar with the new regular feature - 'Share All The Things Friday'. If you don't read it, you should check it out - great blog with fabulous projects, and Libby is lovely. Today I'm channeling Libby as I have a long list of things to tell you about, and as I'm busy working on some secret (for the moment) projects, there is very little I can show you! So here are all the things from my list - you may want to grab a cuppa and settle in for a while as there are plenty of links...

Image (c) Truly Myrtle. Image links to Ravelry
As I've mentioned Libby, it's probably a good time to tell you about her gorgeous new Settler Shawl pattern which is high on my list (of "things to make when I've finished the things I'm working on right now"). It's a long thin crescent shape with garter stitch and a funky border. Crescent shapes can be tricky to wear but the length makes this very versatile and wearable. I can't wait to cast it on.

Scheepjes Stone Washed XL
I'm currently working on three projects - all of them my own designs. One will be a free pattern on the blog, one will be available on Ravelry, and the third is for publication. I am so happy with how they are going and can't wait to share them with you... but you'll have to wait a bit longer. I am giving you a sneaky peek at the yarn for one of them, as I am absolutely in love with it! It's a relatively new yarn (Stone Washed XL) and the colours are just gorgeous - I'm totally blaming Wink for what might be a new addiction. If you follow me on Instagram you might get a few more peeks, otherwise you'll have to wait a little while longer. 

(c) Emma Block
There are various events coming up in the UK which are worth a shout-out. The first (and biggest) is the Knitting & Stitching Show, London - most often simply referred to by it's venue - "Ally Pally". It's an enormous event with a lot of different exhibitors in the fields of knitting, sewing, quilting, weaving, you name it. It's the event that most of the big brands attend, and is incredibly busy! I'm planning to head up on a weekday as the weekend was just too overwhelming for me last time. You can find details here.

Thread is a relative new-comer, having launched last year at Farnham Maltings (home to my favourite show, Unravel) and is a "Festival of Textiles" running from 26th to 27th September. If you're a fan of the Great British Sewing Bee then this is the festival for you as you'll find artisan fabrics, haberdashery and some workshops.

In October, the Maltings will also be hosting the 18th annual Festival of Crafts, which includes homewares, jewellery, textiles and ceramics and has a great festive marketplace.  Tickets are only £3 with under 15s going free. You can find an exhibitor list here

Image (c) The Handmade Fair
And on the subject of events, with The Handmade Fair only a week and a half away, plans for 'World Pomination' in support of charity Sense are gathering speed. You can read about Sense and enter the draw to win a pair of tickets to the event here - but hurry as the draw takes place tomorrow!

Finally, I have a special (sponsored*) link for you for the Craftsy sale where some of the best-selling knitting, sewing and quilting classes are on offer (up to 50% off) until September 15th! Once you purchase a class, it's yours to keep and if you're not totally satisfied you can get all your money back. (If you haven't tried Craftsy before, you might like to try out a free class.)

Phew - that was a long list! While I was writing it some more yarn arrived for one of the designs so I'm off to swatch. Hope you have a great day.
*I am proud to be a Craftsy affiliate as I love their classes. Read more about affiliate links here
Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Book Review: Woolly Woofers by Debbie Bliss

This week sees the launch of the latest book by Debbie Bliss - a book of knitwear for dogs - called 'Woolly Woofers'. As a fan of her designs, a book-lover, and 'pack leader' to Archie (a black Mini Schnauzer) I was delighted to get my hands on a preview copy.

At this point it is probably worth interrupting myself to say that a year ago, before we brought Archie home, I was made to promise I wouldn't dress him in knit-wear, jumpers were most definitely banned, and if I so much as looked at any doggy hat patterns he'd be given to the pound. For this reason, I have only ever made him a crochet bed - nothing else - so you'll understand that my interest in the book was purely theoretical. Ok, so back to the book review.

Debbie Bliss is a devoted dog owner to Monty and Smiffy. Here's what she had to say about this new collection: 
This book combines two of my great loves; knitting and dogs. I am not interested in a snooty pet who can take or leave you (fellow dog-lovers, you know who I mean). I want unconditional love. I want a pet who, when you pop out to the kitchen for a few minutes, will behave as though you had been gone for months on your return. Surely all doggy devotion should be rewarded with the best possible wardrobe lovingly knitted by their owner.
(Note to my husband: All of that sounds exactly like Archie. Surely he deserves a little something...? After all, he is Head of the Welcome Home Committee, the enthusiastic accomplice to much mischief between the kids and my constant laundry helper - and by 'helper' I mean he's great at scattering the dirty socks all over the house, which is of course, just where I'd like them to be!)

The book contains 22 different patterns ranging from simple bandanas to costumes. There are six basic coat/jumper shapes which are designed to fit a range of dog shapes - some are very flexible (a simple coat with straps) while others are closer fitting and require a bit more measuring (basic guidance is provided). The various motifs (a star, paw print etc) can be used on different projects and there is plenty of scope to add to remove rows/stitches to get a good fit, whatever the size of your dog. If you want something warm and practical there are various options, and if you have a more outgoing pooch who likes to be the centre of attention then the bee, sheep, Santa or Pierrot costumes (yes, really!!!) may be for you.

Of course I wouldn't attempt to dress Archie like that (!), but this basic coat design looks perfect on a Schnauzer, and might come in very handy during the winter, don't you think?

Without the hat, this is actually quite practical too.... 

As I have come to expect from Debbie Bliss, the patterns are well written and easy to follow - the font and charts are clear and easy on the eye (something I'm quite pernickety about these days) and I suppose if those lovely Schnauzer pics don't convince my husband, there's always a bandana or two that I could easily get away with...
All images used with permission of Quadrille Craft 
Woolly Woofers is available to pre-order on Amazon now at £10.49 (the cover price is £14.99) and will be available on general release from Thursday 11th September.

I'm busy swatching for some exciting new designs today, but before I go, a quick reminder that you have until Thursday to enter the draw for a pair of tickets to The Handmade Fair !
Friday, 5 September 2014

Yarn Review: Louisa Harding Susurro

When I was asked to review a new 100% alpaca yarn from Louisa Harding, I readily agreed. I haven't used Louisa Harding yarns before, and this is a yarn that looks a lot like an icord (I love icords), and I hadn't used one of those either.
Louisa Harding Susurro
The Details: The yarn arrived in a 50g / 90m hank, with a recommended needle size of 6mm. It can be hand washed at 30 degrees but not tumble dried. Gauge is 18sts x 24 rows to 10cm. The yarn is priced at £6.25 per hank from Black Sheep Wools where it's available in twelve different colours.

You can probably see from the photos that it is a very light, soft and fluffy yarn with a slight sheen. It is also clear that it snags really easily - there were a few pulls before I wound it into a ball, and I had to take my rings off to work with it.
Louisa Harding Susurro
I had 90m to try and a few sketches later I came up with a little project that wouldn't need much yarn and which would satisfy the need to feel it with my hands...
Louisa Harding Susurro
I made the mitts 2-at-a-time (from either end of the same ball as I didn't know quite how much I'd need) and they were constructed as follows. Total time was a couple of hours, so a nice quick fix!
  • Using 6mm needles, cast on 30 stitches per mitt, with the long tail cast on
  • Work 2x2 rib for 18 cm (which is 2cm less than the widest part of my hand) 
  • Bind off in pattern and cut yarn, leaving enough yarn to sew up
  • Decide which is the RS, and that both mitts match before sewing, then turn so that the right sides are together
  • For a mitt with thumb-hole: leave a gap in the required place while sewing up, 
  • For a cuff: sew the entire cast-on and bind-off edges together
  • Using a 35mm pompom maker, make two or more pompoms (contrasting colours would be fun!) and sew them onto buttons so they can be moved/detached if wearing the mitts with long sleeves etc. (The pompoms double as a cute brooch/shawl pin!) 
Louisa Harding Susurro

After completing the project, there are some really clear pros and cons to this yarn.

The Pros:
Susurro is an incredibly soft and tactile yarn 
- It is really warm while being lightweight
- It makes awesome pompoms
- This yarn is very stretchy and would be really good for gift items like hats and cowls that benefit from some variation in size,
...but bear in mind the following...
The Cons:
- It is really easy to snag which is really the only real downside for what is a lovely yarn, and because of this, care is needed when knitting as it's easy to put the needle through the yarn.

Overall I like it and the feeling of the knitted fabric is wonderful. (Did I mention how soft it is??)  I am thinking about getting more to make a hat as it feels lovely against the skin. However the snagging is an issue that can't be ignored. You'd need to choose wisely when deciding what to knit with this... and you'd have to stay well away from cats!!! 
Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Happy Colourful Kind-of-New-Year!

I don't think it's necessary to have your own children to think of September as the beginning of a new year - I recall feeling the same way pre-kids. Since I was in school myself, the summer holidays marked the end of one year and new beginnings - new pencil case, new coat, new shoes. Over the last few weeks, especially as we've been busy with other things, I was starting to feel that my knitting mojo had vanished. I didn't realise it was actually on holiday and would be back with a bang for September. I have a serious case of startitis. 

First a Noro triangle. I thought I had two balls of this unidentified yarn (purchased long ago, the ball band is missing and I don't know what it is) but by the time I'd knit this much of a garter triangle bandana....
.... I realised the other was another colourway entirely. I'm not sure what to do with it now but it's so pretty the immediate answer is "nothing". So I cast on something else...
WIPs and books September 3rd 2014 - entrelac
I've never tried Entrelac knitting before but have a fun project coming up which necessitated figuring it out! This is just a practice swatch using Drops Fabel, but you can expect more in the coming weeks - it's fun and much much easier than I expected it to be. (Yes, you're right - I'm using children's needles. My 4mm circulars are all in use on other projects and I can't bear the weight of long straight needles so these are perfect.)

I am also working on ANOTHER new colourful project which I'm already completely in love with. I can't wait to show it to you... but that's for another day, so I'll bid you farewell for now. Before I go, a reminder of The Handmade Fair giveaway - head on over to the this post and leave your comment to be in with a chance to win a pair of tickets!
Monday, 1 September 2014

Help #WorldPomination ('The Handmade Fair' ticket giveaway!)

If you're a UK crafter (or you live elsewhere but read UK craft press)  I'm pretty sure you will have seen details of The Handmade Fair which will be hosted by Kirstie Allsopp later this month in the grand surroundings of Hampton Court Palace.
Amid the excitement of a great expert line-up and various workshops, it would be easy to miss the details of the Guinness World Record attempt being made there in aid of deafblind charity Sense.

Sense is a national charity that supports and campaigns for children and adults who are deafblind - with multi-sensory impairments that are congenital or acquired - and offer a range of housing, educational and leisure opportunities. You can read more about the help they provide here. To raise awareness, Kirstie and the team are hoping to break the record for the longest line of pompoms and they are looking for your help.

If you'd like to take part, simply make three or more pompoms, attach your name and bring them with you to the Fair, or drop them into your local Hobbycraft store. (Once you've started you might find you become addicted - if so, check out some of my recent pompom project ideas!) You can also make a £3 donation to Sense by sending an SMS to 70111 with the word POMPOM in the text. 

To thank you for your help, the event organisers are offering one lucky Crafts from the Cwtch reader a pair of tickets to the event (the date of your choice - I'll be there on the Friday with my pompoms, it would be lovely to see you!).

The giveaway is now closed and the winner has been emailed - thanks to those who entered!
To enter, simply leave a comment below with the following information:
(1) Which of the experts you'd most like to see, and 
(2) Either a contact email address OR your Ravelry name, if you check your messages. 
*If you don't leave ALL this info, I won't have time to find you!!!!* 

The winner will be randomly selected on Wednesday 10th September - good luck!
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