Brioche Knitting Part 2: One-colour Rib Wrap Recipe

Part one of the 'Brioche Knitting' series included detailed instructions on how to work the 'brk' and 'sl1yo' stitches which are the foundation of brioche. I also showed you the wrap I made as my first brioche project. Today I'll tell you how to make it. 


The one-colour rib wrap is essentially an up-scaled swatch - it is made in exactly the same way, just with more stitches and rows. As it's knit with big yarn and needles, it can be finished in a weekend or a few evenings, giving you a sense of accomplishment as well as a warm snuggly accessory! By the time you've made the wrap you should be ready to move onto the next stage which is two-colour brioche rib. Are you ready? Let's go! 

Materials: 

  • 300g / 225m Scheepjes Peru ❣  in shade '70' - it looks different in every light! 
  • 12mm circular needle, at least 60 cms long (for the cast on and bind off)
  • 10 mm circular needle,  at least 60 cms long  
  • Needle suitable for sewing in the yarn ends (large eye) 

Stitches & Additional Notes:

The stitches and cast-on/bind-off are all detailed in the first post in this series. If you haven't read it, please go back and do so before continuing, or this post probably won't make sense.

- Long tail cast on (or other stretchy cast on method of your choice) 
- Slip stitch: slip one stitch to the right needle as if to purl
- K1: knit 1 stitch
- Sl1yo: put the yarn to the front, slip a stitch, put the yarn over the top of the needle/slipped stitch
- K1tbl: knit one stitch through the back loop
- Brk (brioche knit):  knit the slipped stitch and it's paired yarn over (from the previous row) together
- Standard bind off using bigger needles (or other stretchy bind off method of your choice)

- When changing to a new ball of yarn, be sure to do so at the beginning of a row, leaving a tail of at least 15cm for sewing in (attempting to sew the ends in mid-row is very tricky with this reversible fabric).
- The first stitch of each row is slipped, and the last stitch of each row is knit through the back loop. When you have bound off, the yarn tails should be threaded into these stitches (not too tight!) to finish off, as indicated by the arrows in the image below. They become invisible!

L: Invisible!, R:The red arrows show the direction of sewing

Instructions:

  1. Using 12mm needles and the long tail cast on, cast on 69 stitches
  2. Continue using 10mm needles
  3. Set up: Slip 1 stitch, *sl1yo, k1; repeat from * to last 2 sts, sl1yo, k1tbl
  4. Row A: Slip 1, *brk, sl1yo; rep from * to last 2 sts, brk, k1tbl
  5. Row B: Slip 1, *sl1yo, brk; rep from * to last 2 sts, sl1yo, k1tbl
  6. Repeat Rows A and B until the wrap is to the desired size or you are almost out of yarn
  7. Change back to 12mm needles and bind off loosely 
  8. Sew in ends as pictured above 
  9. Wrap around yourself in all sorts of ways and secure with a shawl pin, or one or more button 'cufflinks', as pictured below
I sewed two buttons together to make a 'cuff-link' which can be threaded through the stitches to replace a shawl-pin
I've been wearing this all week - I love that it can be worn as an extra over-shoulder layer indoors and adjusted to wear beneath a coat too. Simple versatile knits are always a winner with me. I hope you enjoy yours too.

COMING SOON: How to knit a two-colour brioche rib swatch! 

❣ Many thanks to Scheepjes for supporting this series. In the UK, Scheepjes yarns are stocked at Deramores and Wool Warehouse.  Find a full list of international stockists here

Five Years, Three People, One Knitalong and a Giveaway!

Image (c) Lulu Locket Photography
It hardly seems possible that I've been blogging here for five years, but as Unravel 2016 approaches that must be the case, as the first post I ever published* followed my solo trip to Unravel 2011. It was a time when I was just learning to knit and found myself completely overwhelmed (and overjoyed) by the amount of different yarns and fibres on display. I was too nervous to attend any of the talks (in case I should be revealed as an imposter), or to chat to many of the stall-holders. Little did I know that I would come to regard Unravel as an annual highlight and that it would represent so much in terms of friendship, knowledge and a sense of community... not to mention the extensive opportunity for 'stash enhancement'!

If you don't already know, Unravel is an annual 'Festival of Knitting' (and handspun/ indie dyed yarns, crochet, spinning...), held over three days in the historic market-town of Farnham in Surrey. Since it's launch in 2009, Unravel has attracted visitors and teachers from around the world - as well as a wonderful range of carefully selected exhibitors, there are numerous talks and workshops.

The official logo, by Holly Exley, will be on this year's Unravel Tote bag - always a great souvenir!
I have written about my experiences of Unravel many (many!) times so this year I decided to ask some of the people who will be exhibiting their wares and/or teaching, to give their own perspective.

Joanne Scrace of 'Not so Granny' & 'The Crochet Project'

Despite knowing Joanne via her blog for a few years, we finally met in person when she came to Unravel 2015 to run a crochet workshop. Before she left, Joanne had already decided to come back again this year. I wanted to find out why...

Maker, Designer, Teacher and Tech Editor, Joanne Scrace. Image (c) Victoria Magnus
What were the highlights of Unravel for you last year? 
Last year's trip to unravel was my first and I am so pleased to be going back. Its such a lovely intimate feeling festival with a really choice selection of stalls. I think the people were my highlight of last year. I spent all the time I wasn't teaching, chatting and barely had time to buy a skein! I think Unravel is the best way to kick off the festival season for the year!

What are you most looking forward to this year? 
When I'm not teaching or chatting I will be hanging out on the Coop Knits stand where we are launching a very special collaboration between Rachel and The Crochet Project. We've been whispering about it for a while now and sharing sneak peeks - I can't wait for the big reveal! Its going to be suitable for novice and experienced crocheters alike so even if you are only just learning to crochet or not very confident following crochet patterns, you'll want to head over and see what we have made! 

You're teaching again this year, what can people expect to learn from your class? 
Yes! I'm teaching Textured Crochet. Its a really fun class where we look at a lot of the more unusual stitches that you can incorporate into your crochet to add interest and texture. I always used to get terribly confused between popcorns, bobbles, puffs and clusters. This class will sort all of that  (and much more) out and have you wielding them like a pro! Its suitable for anyone who has at least a knowledge of the basic stitches but I always make sure that there is plenty to learn for more experienced crocheters too. The class practice piece makes a lovely scrubby face cloth as a little bonus too.

Julie Nelson Rhodes of 'Tilly Flop Designs'

The Tilly Flop Designs stall is always a real attention-grabber - if you ask people what their favourite purchases were, Julie's designs frequently feature! This year you'll find the stall on the stage in the main hall and she has an Etsy Shop too.  (Tip: If you like something, get it asap as they sell like hotcakes!)

Image (c) Tilly Flop Designs
How would you describe Unravel to someone who hasn't been? 
It’s a yarny magical mystery tour - the Maltings is such an unusual place in that there are lots of rooms squirrelled away around the old buildings so you discover something new literally at every turn. The calibre of exhibitors is always high - I’ve really no idea how anyone can stick to a budget at Unravel. So pick up the programme as you’ll need the map and the list of exhibitors!

What are you most looking forward to this year?
I always think of Unravel as being the first show of the ‘season' so love seeing what everyone has made over the winter months - it’s a constant catwalk of knitted [and crocheted] goodness! My ravelry queue always grows exponentially after Unravel. And it’s always great to see what new yarn and designs and everything else associated with yarn is launched there too. Plus it’s one of the friendliest shows you can go to.

What do you predict will be your most popular product[s] this year?
Oh goodness - well, since I was last at Unravel I do have quite a few more card designs and they always sell well … if the God of Production is on my side I will be launching a new tea towel design there which will complement the existing ‘Oh how I’d rather be knitting’ one … but I suspect that the car stickers will be popular - I launched them in September and they caused much hilarity and sold really well … so fingers crossed!

Louise Zass-Bangham of 'Inspiration Knits' 

You may remember how much I loved Louise's book (reviewed here) and her playful designs using beautiful yarns so I was really pleased so see she would be at Unravel. When I got in touch, Louise was very excited about the festival, because she is not only teaching a workshop on yarn selection, but she has also designed the pattern for the first Unravel Knitalong!

(C) 'Maltings' by Louise Zass-Bangham, shown in The Little Grey Sheep's Stein Fine Wool, colourway: 'Her Other Life'
The design has been inspired by the barley which was originally processed at the 'Maltings' venue. The pattern includes three sizes (with DK and 4 ply/ fingering options), and 'Mini Maltings' - a more simplified version - perfect if you are pushed for time, or new to knitting. There are options to play around with the design too. 

Image (c) Louise Zass-Bangham. 'Maltings' shown in Kettle Yarn Co. Beyul 'Steppe',
Kettle Yarn Co. Beyul 'Iceberg', and Bee Ram Ewe's Dovestone DK 'Rhubarb'
Louise's patterns are really clearly written and easy to follow and here's the best thing about it - you can join in even if you won't make it to event. The pattern is free to download until February 21st, and you can participate via social media using the tag #UnravelKAL or via Ravelry. The pattern is also listed on Ravelry, so you can add it to your favourites/queue.

ALSO LOOK OUT FOR: An exhibition of Amanda Perkins' work, Veera Välimäki teaching a shawl class and the launch of the third instalment of her collaboration with Joji Locatelli Interpretations - by Pom Pom Press at the event (find more on the Pom Pom Press blog). As well as the official exhibitors and teachers, I happen to know that plenty of awesome designers and bloggers will be attending the show as visitors too, so you never know who you might bump into!


THE GIVEAWAY!!

Update: The draw is now close and the winner has been notified. My thanks to everyone who entered, and if you are going on Saturday or Sunday and see me there, please do come to say hello! 

The festival organisers at Farnham Maltings are kindly are offering a pair of tickets to one lucky reader. To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post, letting me know which day you'd like to go, and what you'd most like to see/do there. Be sure to leave your Ravelry user name or some other way of getting in touch if you win! I'll be randomly drawing the winner on Tuesday 9th February 2016. Good luck!

----
*There were two earlier drafts which I went back and published later, when I was feeling a little more confident about the whole 'blogging' thing. Those old posts do make me cringe a little now but remain in the archives as part of my journey. 

Scratching an itch, or 'Further thoughts on colour inspiration'


Scheepjes Rhythm Mohair in Disco, Cha Cha and Flamenco, mug from Sainsbury's, vintage needles and fabric

Oh how I love 'matchy matchy' things. Like these tulips and this yarn. They also match a woven cushion cover I found in an antique shop while looking for vintage needles (as you can see, I found those too). With no time to knit something in these three co-ordinating colours - for now - I'm hoping the photo might be sufficient to scratch a certain itch. Let me explain.

You may remember that I made a surprising discovery a few months ago - a realisation that my yarn purchases seemed to be heavily influenced by the changes in nature that I'd photographed. At the time I posted a collage (below) which showed various Instagram photos I'd taken on my walks, and the startlingly similar yarns I'd bought, quite subconsciously, in the following weeks.

Designette Naturino in Rubia, Malabrigo Rasta in Lluvia & unmarked Manos del Uruguay yarn rescued from a charity shop  

As I have yet to use any of these purchased yarns for an actual project, I'm trying to be mindful of this interesting, but potentially expensive, trend. In fact, the bare trees and grey skies have been something of a relief as I concentrate on photographing things found around the house instead. Like these papercraft ornaments - surely they wouldn't inspire a knitting project! 


Yet, somehow, this happened - quite subconsciously... 

Scheepjes Nooodle* yarn in shade 11009, baubles from TK Maxx 

I have come to the conclusion that the tendency to bring environmental colours into my craft has less to do with being inspired by nature than becoming obsessed with anything I happen to find visually appealing. As I don't have the money (or storage space!) to match all the things with new yarn, it seemed obvious that a fresh approach was necessary. So when I chose this week's tulips (above) I selected a colour that went with the yarns already in my cupboard. If this strategy (of photographing things together) works, you can expect more 'matchy' pictures - feel free to take any colour inspiration that appeals, and do with it what you will... just don't blame me if it starts to get expensive!!!

(As for the bauble-inspired Nooodle yarn, that has become an actual project - or a swatch for a new project at least - I decided to go with the 'mini' version but I'll post more on that soon - it's likely to take a little while to finish, but I think it will be worth it.)

*Scheepjes Mini Nooodle Print yarn is available in the UK at Wool Warehouse (affiliate) - find international stockists on the Scheepjes website.  

Brioche Knitting Part 1: The Basics (One-colour Brioche Rib)

These days I find it more challenging to learn a new skill than it was just a decade ago and so it's much better if I can break things down into simple progressive steps which I can practice. In my quest to learn 'brioche' my first project needed to be an easy one - something to get to grips with the 'brioche basics' and using just one colour. I came up with a simple wrap which is proving impossible to photograph well in the (lack of good) natural light today (see this post for a better picture of the yarn and a close-up of the fabric).

Made using Scheepjes Peru (Acrylic/Alpaca) on 10mm and 12mm needles
Photography aside, it worked! Making the wrap has given me the muscle memory for the two fundamental brioche stitches - the 'Sl1yo' (slip one stitch with the yarn over the needle) and the 'Brk' (brioche knit) - so they feel completely natural. From your comments I know that many of you are also keen to get to grips with this technique, so I've put together some instructions and a short video clip to help you make a little swatch. If you can make the swatch you will be ready to move onto two-colour brioche, and will be able to make the wrap as a practice project.

Making the swatch 

I used bulky yarn and big needles for the wrap, but for the swatch you can use any weight you have to hand. Then select two different needle sizes which are appropriate - so where a range is given on the ball band (as below), try the largest suggested size for the cast on/bind off and the smallest size for the main body. If you don't like how the swatch is knitting up (eg if your knitting is more tight or loose), just change the needles until you are happy with the fabric.


I used Scheepjes Soft Fun Denim with 4mm and 3.5mm needles, as per the ball band. As this post is only concerned with brioche basics, I'm assuming you can already knit, and have a basic knowledge of standard knitting terms. Notice that  I am a 'Continental Knitter' so I hold the working yarn in my left hand. If you hold the yarn in your right hand, the stitches will look the same, the only difference is that you'll be bringing the working yarn from the right and not the left. 

Casting On / Binding Off

Brioche fabric is stretchy so you need to use loose/stretchy 'cast on' and 'bind off' methods or the fabric won't sit properly. Using the bigger needles to cast on and bind off also helps. I've used the Long Tail Cast on and a loose traditional bind off using bigger needles, but you can use any methods you prefer. 

Loose cast-on using 4mm needles and the 'long tail' method

Brioche Yarn Over / 'Sl1yo'

In order to create the characteristic brioche fabric, a stitch is slipped at the same time as a yarn over. However a 'brioche yarn over' is not the same as a regular 'yarn over' which is a misnomer, as the yarn is actually wrapped around the needle. In brioche, it literally means "lay the yarn yarn over the needle [and the slipped stitch]".

To perform the brioche yarn over, put the yarn to the front of the stitch, slip the stitch and put the yarn over the top of the slipped stitch. Unless specified in a pattern, the stitch is always slipped purlwise, as pictured.

Slipping a stitch while laying the 'yarn over' the top of the needle
In the picture above and in the short video clip below, you'll see that the continental style of knitting is especially well suited to this technique, as it's very easy to scoop the right needle behind the working yarn while slipping the stitch. If you don't knit this way, remember to put the yarn in front of the work before you slip the stitch or you won't be able to lay the yarn over the top of the slipped stitch. 

Brioche Knit / BRK (aka 'Bark')

This is more like a traditional 'k2tog' as you are actually knitting the slipped stitch and it's paired yarn over together to form a single stitch. 

Knit the slipped stitch and it's yarn over together  
MAKING THE SWATCH:
All rows in the swatch start with a slipped stitch and end with the final stitch being knit through the back loop. This is because the wrap is knit the same way and if you can make this swatch, you can make the wrap - I've done that on purpose as the recipe for the wrap will follow next week.

REMEMBER: The 'sl1yo pair' counts as a single stitch when knitting, counting stitches, and when binding off. 
Cast on: Using the largest size needles, loosely cast on an odd number of sts (at least 17)
Switch to the smaller needles to knit the set-up row

Set up: Slip 1 stitch, * sl1yo, k1; repeat from * to last 2 st, sl1yo, k1tbl (through the back loop)
Row 1: Slip 1 stitch, * brk, sl1yo ; rep from * to last 2 st, brk, k1tbl
Row 2: Slip 1 stitch, * sl1yo, brk; rep from * to last 2 st, sl1yo, k1tbl

Repeat rows 1 and 2 until you are happy that you understand how to work the stitches, and get into a rhythm (of sl1yo where you had a brk on the previous row, and vice versa). It will take a few repeats before the brioche fabric can be clearly distinguished, so don't worry if it doesn't look like brioche for the first few rows.
Bind off loosely.

In this little video clip, I'm knitting row 1 of the swatch pattern, very slowly and from behind a tripod (!) but hopefully you'll be able to see how straightforward it is.


Brioche Knitting Part 1- The Basics from Sarah Knight on Vimeo.

So next week I'll post the wrap recipe, and after that, if you have found this post useful (please do let me know) I'll post further instalments on knitting a two-colour brioche swatch and project.

If you can't wait to learn this technique, you might like to check out Nancy Marchant's essential Brioche book, or one of her Craftsy classes (affiliate links).

Show & Tell: Textile Processes of Old

A friend recently showed me this video from the Land of Legends Centre for Historical-Archaeological Research and Communication (in Danish "Sagnlandet Lejre"), a 106-acre open-air museum in Denmark. The centre is currently researching ceramics and textile technologies and this video gives a sense of the many different processes behind early textiles, when all of the tools had to be handmade before the textiles or garments could be made.


 You can find out more on the Sagnlandet Lejre Website and on Facebook

Watching this makes me so glad that I am able to carry on some of these traditions myself - teaching the children to knit and spin, and passing things on via this blog too. It's also fascinating to think how much harder our predecessors would have had to work to be able to practice the crafts we still use. It looks like it would be fun to try making my own tools and fibres but I really don't think I'd have the patience for it all of the time. Would you? 

Embracing Knitting Mistakes (as a metaphor for life)

As you may have realised, I'm on a bit of a mission. The knitting time I've had in the last week has been all about learning 'brioche' stitch (so I can make a particular shawl I've fallen for). So far, I've managed to start two projects:  one which is knit flat in one colour, and this one which is knit in the round using two colours. Learning this technique / stitch has not been as difficult as I expected. Knitting is like most other things in this respect, if you are willing to give it a try it can often turn out to be easier than you think. It only becomes frustrating when things go wrong. 


Earlier today I spent at least five minutes looking at my knitting (below) to figure out where the mistake was - no doubt you'll quickly spot that there's a missing 'yarn over' which should be paired with the fourth purple stitch along. It's obvious to me now, but at the time I couldn't see the wood for the trees. I knew that something was wrong - but not what it was or how to fix it. As in life, there are a few choices in this situation: ignore it and spoil the project, give up entirely, bodge it in some way, or figure it out and put it right. 


As I am determined to become competent in brioche knitting, the latter was really the only thing for it, so I put it down and had a few minutes break. When I came back to it, the error was clear and could be easily remedied. It was a very small mistake, but a useful one because I had to read and understand the row below to be able to pick up the correct yarn for a 'yo'. A little while later, when I noticed that I'd done a 'brioche purl' instead of a 'brioche knit' a few rows previously, I didn't hesitate to get my crochet hook out, drop the stitches down, correct the mistake and pick up the intervening rows again. It was easier because of fixing the earlier mistake. Familiar territory. 


I firmly believe that making and fixing mistakes makes us better knitters. It doesn't stop at knitting - this also applies to most other things, although it's taken me four decades to embrace this idea. Mistakes give us the opportunity to develop our skills, and make us more competent - they are not something to be afraid of. I am certain that there will be plenty more mistakes to come but I'm planning to keep on practicing and figuring them out. How about you? Do you embrace your mistakes, or does the thought of doing something wrong terrify you? 

PROJECT DETAILS (Amazon affiliate links included) : I'm using Scheepjes Soft Fun Denim* yarn in shades 515 and 511 and my favourite Chiaogoo needles. Oh and the keyboard is a standard Apple Mac keyboard with a rainbow overlay - many people asked about that last week when I posted photos on Instagram. 

*In the UK, Scheepjes yarns are available at Wool Warehouse and Deramores. Find a full international stockist list at Scheepjes.com

New project: Brioche (knitting) in (Scheepjes) Peru

After weeks of rain, the weather in Southern England has turned perfectly wintery - bright and sunny but cold with frosty mornings. So this week I've been knitting brioche in Peru. Not the country in South America (sadly), but a very warm and snuggly - yet lightweight - yarn from Scheepjes*. Combining 20% Alpaca and 80% acrylic, Peru comes in 100g / 75m balls in a range of nine neutral shades and I can't quite decide if this one is grey or brown because it seems to change colour in different lights - when I ordered it I thought it would be more brown, but it could really be worn with / as either. Originally intended for another project, it caught my eye while learning to knit the brioche stitch and seemed like a cosy option for such a squishy stitch. 


So what am I making? After being reminded of my button-cufflinks from five years ago, I decided to whip up a really simple wrap, using some buttons (pictured) to hold it in place. As it's a very relaxing knit, I've been able to pick it up and put it down easily between other things - the basic brioche rib stitch is very straightforward, once you get the hang of it. 


To the uninitiated, the stitch could be confused for a standard 1x1 rib, but on closer inspection you can see that the stitch produces a more intricate, thick and lofty fabric with a lot of stretch. Combined with this thick and airy yarn, I think this should make a really cosy winter accessory. As it's knit on 10mm needles (12mm for cast on/bind off), it shouldn't take too long to finish and I'll be back with the completed project next week. I plan to take some step-by-step photos for you to see how the stitch works too, so stay tuned if you'd like to give it a go!

*Find links to lots of free crochet and knitting patterns using Scheepjes yarns on the Blogger Inspiration Pages, where some of my own projects are featured. 

How to access PDFs / patterns on your Kindle

After some recent photos and discussions via social media, a number of people have asked how I download PDF patterns to my Kindle. You may have noticed that I use both a Kindle Fire* and a Kindle Voyage  - I find the former (the ad free version of the cheapest tablet) is great for patterns and instructional/technical books, while the latter (the most expensive 'reading only' tablet) is much better for reading novels, especially at night. You can use any Kindle to view your PDFs. This post will show you how I do it.  (Affiliate links are included, read more here. )

Pictured: Kindle Fire 7 in optional case, headphone make-over from this post

Direct Download - Kindle Fire

1. FROM RAVELRY:
If your pattern is purchased via Ravelry, and you have a Kindle Fire tablet, you can download a copy of the PDF to your device any time you are connected to the internet. Simply log into your Ravelry account, search for the pattern you wish to download and either purchase it, or if it's already in your library (as in the example below), click on the "in library" link - that's the one in the boxed area, which is underlined.


Clicking this will open a pop-up box from which you can simply click on the "download" button.
Your device will tell you when it's downloaded and it will be stored in the 'Docs' folder located on the home screen. If you need to zoom into the document, you can double-tap on it, and then use your thumb and forefinger to pinch-zoom in and out. 

2. FROM A 'DOWNLOAD' LINK:
Similarly, if you have a copy of the PDF file by email or via a trusted website (e.g. materials lists and patterns from Craftsy or Creativebug, patterns purchased from Etsy...)  you can download directly from the attachment link and the document will be saved in your 'Docs' folder. 

Using 'Send to Kindle' - any kind of Kindle

If you have a document less than 50MB which is stored on another computer, there's an easy way to send it to your Kindle device! Each kindle has a unique email address - sending a document to that address will automatically make it available on your device (when connected to the internet / synced). To do this you need to:
- Find out your Kindle's email address 
- Add the 'sender' email address to an authorised list. Items from these email addresses will be automatically accessible on your device.
Full instructions on how to do both of these things can be found on the Amazon website. 

To find the documents you've sent this way, go to the 'Docs' folder, and click on 'Send-to-Kindle'. If, like me, you have more than one Kindle device all of your sent documents will be available for download, even if they were sent to another device on your account. 

FINALLY: If you have a wi-fi only Kindle, remember that you'll need to complete the download / sync while you have internet connection! If you don't have a Kindle/eReader, you might like this post: How to read electronic books and PDFs without an eReader.

*Yes, I'm known as an Apple Fangirl, but on Black Friday we picked up a couple of Kindle Fire 7s for the kids as 'extra' gifts.  They were inexpensive (although we upgraded to the ad-free version) but excellent value for money, and coupled with a Kids Unlimited subscription turned out to be their favourite gifts over Christmas (even though they already use more sophisticated iPads), mainly due to access to lots safe inclusive content. A few days later I decided I needed one too - at full price. I love it! It's perfect for accessing my Prime and Kindle Unlimited content and both smaller and more robust than my iPad so I'm happy to toss it into my handbag without a second thought. 

Show & Tell: How to stop Tulips from drooping

Tulips are my absolute favourite Spring flowers and have been getting me through the persistent rain and grey skies of the last week. You may already know this little tip, but I was already in my 40s (and had bought hundreds of bunches of tulips by then) before I heard it, so think it's worth sharing. Here are my tulips three days ago when they had started to droop.... 


Here are the same flowers this morning - yes, that's sunlight (it actually stopped raining!)...


Simply pierce right through the stem using a pin (Edit: only pierce, don't leave the pin in place!). I do this approximately 1cm below the flower head, as indicated below. 


These have already lasted five days, and there are a few more days of joy left in them yet - excellent value for less than the price of a coffee! If you haven't tried this before and need an excuse to buy yourself some flowers, I invite you to grab a bunch of tulips in your favourite colour and to try it out. 

Single colour brioche knitting progress (& 'fixing' a wooden needle tip)

*Although I intended to start with a Nancy Marchant class, it was actually a reader's tip that got me started on my plan to learn brioche knitting, by reminding me about the simple scarf pattern (from Anne Weil) in issue 59 of Mollie Makes (thank you Sara!). I popped the magazine and some yarn in my handbag and followed the step-by-step photos to make a swatch while waiting for the children to come out of school. It's not a perfect swatch but is good enough, and was just right to get into the rhythm and to learn to 'read' the knitting. I have to let you into a little secret here - it was really much more straight-forward than I thought! 

Swatching with Scheepjes Peru (on 10 mm needles) and Stone Washed (using 3.5mm needles)
Based on my download of Nancy Marchant's essential brioche book, Amazon recommended another which I have found very useful (and which is also available on Kindle Unlimited) - if you're interested in this technique, the book is Brioche Chic by Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark - I am finding it easy to follow and it also includes some very nice patterns (see them on Ravelry here).  


Next, with an idea for a new project, some yarn and new buttons, I decided to try a bigger swatch, only to discover one of my 10mm knitpro tips was broken. Knitting with a soft fluffy yarn and a rough needle tip wasn't ever going to work so it was time to come up with a quick bodge solution. I managed to use a nail file to smooth it well enough to use, although one tip is now considerably shorter than the other (see top picture). I'm hoping it'll last long enough for this project!

Later this week I'll be moving onto two-colour brioche, which will make more sense now that I have grasped basic brioche stitches - 'barking' and 'burping' (yes, really!). I'm happy to be one step closer to knitting Askews Me which is patiently waiting in my Ravelry queue. I feel that I've also made some small progress on my other goal of improving my photos, thanks to the Makelight Taster Course. Baby steps, but it's a start. 

*Affiliate links are included in this post - click here for more information

A Year of Learning: Part 1 - Photography and Brioche Knitting

While I don't like making resolutions, there are various things I'd like to improve and new skills I'd love to learn in 2016. All being well, it'll be a 'Year of Learning' for me, and hopefully for readers too. There are various posts coming up which include tips, tutorials and techniques for you to try. But first I'll bring you up to date with the things I've been taking on this week. 

After mentioning that I need to work on my photography, specifically in relation to photographing projects for blog posts, my friend Kate (A Playful Day) got in touch to let me know that there are still a couple of spaces left on the 'photographing knits and crochet' class she put together with Emily from Makelight Studio

Photo credit: Emily Quinton

I have loved watching Kate's photography develop - her blog and Instagram photos are beautiful - and she's both fun and inspiring, so I feel sure that this is the class I need! Unfortunately the date doesn't work for me this time. If you are free on Jan 16th and would like to spend a day learning how to photograph your creations, you can find details here - but be quick as there are just a few spaces left. I'll be signing up to a future date, so would love to hear from you if you take the class!

Photo credit: A Playful Day

In the meantime, I decided to take Emily's free online taster class on how to improve Instagram photography. What a revelation! I hadn't ever given my Instagram feed much thought - I mainly use it to record interesting details, things that inspire me and to generally 'snap' what we are doing. I enjoy capturing moments when we are out and about...

 
From my feed: Reminders of our holiday in Cornwall and a day out in Summer

... but most of the time - at home - I have no inspiration for "photography". This little taster course has really made me think about how I could be using Instagram as more of a creative outlet and to improve my photography in general. Emily's suggestions are practical and achievable, starting with just one photo a day. It only takes a short time to work through the daily exercises but I am finding them quite enlightening. If you want to give it a try, you can sign up here for free. So that's the first thing I'm working on. 

The second thing is a knitting technique. Since attending Stephen West's shawl class, I haven't stopped thinking about 'Askews Me' - an asymmetrical shawl which captured my heart.  There is no doubt that it would have been cast it on that very day if I had even the slightest idea how to knit 'brioche stitch'. 

Close-up of one of Stephen's samples - see the original post here
Being a creature of habit, I did what I always do in these circumstances -  downloaded the 'essential' book* by brioche expert Nancy Marchant, then enrolled on one of her *Craftsy classes too.  I made a start already, but the needles were too big for the yarn and gave a sloppy gauge, so it'll be necessary to start again. It's fun - and also a little frustrating - to be learning something new completely from scratch (new terminology, a new way of knitting), but I am determined this will be one of the things I learn this year - if only to make that gorgeous shawl!

What are you hoping to learn this year? Do you have anything you'd like to master? If you have any specific requests for new 'tips and tutes' please leave a comment and I'll see what I can do. 

*Affiliate. The book is also available as part of Kindle Unlimited and the class is currently on sale. 

Show & Tell: First FO of 2016 & the creative process in action

A few weeks ago, while listening to a podcast (the one that had me photographing drains) I came across the "pillow speaker" which features in a Knitsonik project (you can read more about it here). I'd never heard of a pillow-speaker, but knew I needed one - not for anything artistic, simply for listening to podcasts in bed without disturbing anyone or wearing uncomfortable headphones. After a little searching, I went for this one.* It's not the same speaker as Felicity's so I devised a little 'speaker sock' for it, which became my first 'finished object' of the year... 


It's basically a variation on a 'hexipuff' - with less stitches and an opening at the top so the spare cable can be tucked in. If you've made toe-up socks, you'll realise it's like the toe - increased to fit the widest point - followed by matching decreases. The yarn is a little scrap of the half-knit jumper I salvaged from a charity shop. It's tiny and silly but I love it! And I loved making it, which took about 15 minutes, after a few weeks where I didn't feel inspired to knit a stitch. 

Now here's a funny thing about the creative process - once I made this frivolous little thing, more ideas started coming. It is as if the seal was broken (I've been reading Big Magic* - I need to grab them quickly!). If you like colour, relaxing knits, and if you love putting your own twist to your projects, stay tuned - I am working on something I  am really excited by and I hope you will be too...  
(*Amazon affiliate)

Fancy a challenge?

Happy new year! It's been a fairly relaxed one here but it still feels like a blur. While I'm taking advantage of a few hours alone (so much to catch up on!) I wanted to tell you about a couple of fun things I'm taking part in during January and which you might like too. They involve two of the people I find greatly inspiring and have written about before -  a sew-along with the lovely Cal Patch and a daily drawing challenge with Lisa Congdon. Both require access to *Creativebug which I know many of you already have - if you're not a subscriber, you can get your first month free (HERE) with the code COZYCRAFTS .

DAILY DRAWING CHALLENGE WITH LISA CONGDON

I'm a huge fan of Lisa's work and thoroughly enjoyed taking her classes last year, so was delighted to see new content from her, and it's perfectly timed to get back into the creative 'swing' after a couple of weeks off. It's also a very small and manageable daily commitment. 


The Details: This is a fun challenge which anyone can join in, no matter how 'good' you are at drawing. Each day in January, Lisa will have a new short class which you can work alongside. Each class will feature a new topic - day 1 was 'trees' - and is designed to embrace the imperfection of hand-drawing. Using stylised simplified shapes, you'll be able to follow what Lisa is doing, and then to carry on with your own ideas, if you wish. 

All you need is some paper, your favourite pens or pencils (Lisa uses *Sakura Micron pens, which I also love) and a few minutes to access the class. If you miss a day, you can easily catch up as the classes will remain online after January.  If you use Instagram, tag your images with #creativebug and #CBDrawADay - if you post every day you can also be in with a chance to win a giveaway from Lisa and Sakura pens. 

CAL PATCH SEW-ALONG 

Since I started crafting I've been aware that many people wanted a 'Ravelry for sewing'.  It looks like it's finally here, in the form of Textillia which was recently launched. It's early days for the site which is still being updated and improved, but it already looks great and has a growing community as well as an expanding database of patterns and fabrics, so it's a good time to start using it to record your sewing projects for 2016. (You can find my profile here, I've added a couple of projects to see how it works and will be using it this year in the way I use Ravelry.)

I first heard about Textillia from Cal Patch, and when I found out the sew-along would be using Cal's pattern drafting classes, I quickly decided to join in. I'll be back to tell you more about my own plans for this project when the children are in school (next week), but if you'd like to take part you can get started as soon as you like. 


The Details: Participants will be sewing something with knitted fabrics using a self-drafted pattern. I suspect many of you might already think this is beyond you, but as my own first sewn garment was self-drafted and made from stretch fabric, I can tell you with my hand on heart that it's much easier than you might think, and it's the handmade item I wear the most! If you fancy giving it a go, here's what you need to do: 

- Join Textillia (it's free) 
- Pop over to the Cal Patch Fan Club forum where you'll find all the details (here's the original thread
- Watch the classes (starting with the original classes for woven fabrics which teach you how to draft  to your own measurements)
-  Choose your knit fabric and gather your tools (all explained in the class materials)
- Get stuck in! 
- Post your progress updates (and any requests for help!) on the forum, and remember to tag any Instagram posts with #textillia and #calpatchsewalong so they can be easily found! 

I'll be posting updates on both of these challenges on Instagram too - hope to see you there! Next week I'll be more or less back to my regular posting schedule, in the meantime I hope you have a lovely weekend. 

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*Creativebug and Amazon affiliate links are used in this post

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