Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter - the challenge continues

Happy Easter everyone! 

The husband and his football team decided today was ideal for a casual game against some friends, so I did the supportive wife thing and went along. I missed my husband's goal. I was busy with my Easter Challenge!

She's coming along nicely, but I am a bit worried about the amount of decreases I've done for the yoke. - I think I've got the row repeats a bit wrong with some less than clear instructions.

Here they are:
Begin Yoke shaping
Next rnd: dec rnd *K1, k2tog, work to 2 sts before m, ssk, slide m; rep from * 3 times—8 sts dec’d.

Rep dec rnd every 4th rnd 3 (3, 3, 3, 3, 2) times, then EOR 9 (10, 12, 13, 15, 18) times, changing to shorter circ needle when necessary.

My confusion is here - should I have done the decrease round four times in total? Or just three?

It says Next round - decrease..... 
Repeat this round every fourth round three times. 
Does that mean three MORE times? So a total of four? Or Just three? Just me who's confused?

I've done it four times. Worst case scenario is I'm eight stitches short at the end, and my head might not fit into my jumper. Then I'll have to unpick a couple of rows and undo the last decrease row, and just knit it up evenly. But that will be a tad frustrating. I'm hoping for the best!

I am on schedule to finish this challenge though, so that's really good!

Friday, March 29, 2013

My Easter knitting challenge - 2013 edition

Last Easter I challenged myself to finish my Funchal Moebius. I failed. I set the bar too high, and was a bit disappointed with myself at the end of it. It did eventually get finished, but not for another couple of months. My failure last Easter has not put me off though. I have four whole days and can dedicate a lot of the time to crafting, so I'm going to finish my Camilla Sweater.

I've already done the body, finished one sleeve and I'm half-way through the second. Then I've just got to join them up and knit the yoke. If I can do the sleeve today, I think I've got a good chance of finishing.

And my reward for finishing - reading the new issue of Extra Curricular and deciding what to make with my new Soft Like Kittens Unicorn Sock in Prototype #68.

Wishing you all a happy and crafty Easter!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Knitographer Interviews... Twisted Angle

This week I interviewed Vicky from Twisted Angle - an online magazine bringing fashion trends to knitting needles. I'm very excited to be helping Vicky with a little bit of knitting for her next Trends e-book, and I thought it would be a great chance to share a bit more about what she does.

Tell us a bit about your magazine, Twisted Angle - who is it for?
Well we started as a printed magazine in 2009. I really wanted to inject some current knits and some fashion into knitting. My job as a retail fashion designer means I do this all day every day, but I wanted everyone to have access to the information I design with and patterns that have more of a fashion based edge.
In 2010, our yearly members survey suggested we go online. It was a very easy transition and made subscription really affordable for people as we didn’t have the overheads of print. It also meant I could concentrate more on current information as there wasn’t the problem of print deadlines for production. At the same time I really wanted to concentrate on trend information and dissecting trends and catwalks for those who love to design their own knits.
I think a lot of people assume that Twisted is just for young trendy knitters, but we have all types and ages of members. Some knitters look at the trend information for their own design work and others just want the patterns. We do have a lot of students also, as buying accurate industry trend information can cost upwards of £35,000 a  year. The really affordable nature of the site makes it amazing value for their courses.
I really don’t want people to think that it’s a fashion brand or website. That ‘f’ word can have a negative effect sometimes and people assume it means the extreme over the top designs. Really it’s just taking an element or detail from a trend and incorporating it. I like to make patterns for any age, that wants a bit of an edge. Something trend based but not so over the top that you could never wear it.
What's your background and how did this enable you to start Twisted Angle?
The company itself was a long time in development and was a passing thought when I was at uni. I was studying fashion with a knitwear specialism at the London College of Fashion. During the course you learn how to machine knit as, of course, in the world of retail knits everything is made on industrial machines. So you need to know their capabilities. But I was 19 or 20 then and I wanted to find patterns that were fashion based. Of course, the internet was not what it is today. We’re talking 13 years ago and there wasn’t much on the web back then, but I really couldn’t find any patterns I wanted to wear. After 10 years, I thought about it again and still couldn’t find what I was looking for, so Twisted was born.
In terms of my skills, I think people assume that fashion designers just draw and make. In the retail world it’s more 80% trend prediction and 20% design and production. I design on computer and have to know what a garment will look like just from a swatch. Retail designers don’t actually knit for our jobs, but we have to be highly technical with the yarn properties and machines.
Luckily for my job, I always had a knack for trend prediction and after working for 11 years full time and 4 years part time, predicting trends for retail, I think that skill is very well tuned. That is the part that makes Twisted Angle work. It’s the point of difference. The part that I can offer, that no one else can or currently does.
Strangely, my retail experience was also detrimental. I remember writing my first pattern and I had some lovely people write to me telling me, very politely, that all my terms and spellings were wrong. It wasn’t until I consulted a friend of mine who was also a retail designer and hobby knitter, that knitting patterns had completely different terminology. That was a steep learning curve, but a fascinating one. But I suppose I’ll never stop learning. It’s the nature of any craft.

A lot of your patterns cater for machine knitting - is this your preferred method?
Well by nature of my uni course I can use domestics and a range of industrial machines but actually the patterns are fairly evenly split between hand and machine. I’m definitely more comfortable on a machine but I think my preferred method is really down to what I’m trying to produce. Naturally the machine is better for some items over hand knitting and visa versa.
I think I’m more confident taking about the technical aspects of the machine but I do love hand knitting too. I just have to look up the ‘official terms’ sometimes for hand stitches. It’s great though, I’m learning new things all the time and it really engages me.
You have a real focus on fashion-forward designs - did you see a gap in the market for the knitting community?
Oh that’s a great question. I didn’t actually start TA to make money or make it a business. It has always been a non-profit with everything going back into the business to make it better. The main idea was a very simple one, in that I just wanted to provide the same ideas and information I used for my ‘day job’ to those who wanted it and had no access to it.
There is definitely a gap in the market so to speak, but it’s a small one. I find that a lot of knitters love different  aspects of it. Some knit for friends, others like the technical aspect of it and others just like the process of making something. The most surprising aspect of it for me was that it wasn’t always about the end result for everyone. In my retail job of course, that is all it’s about. People buy items they like aesthetically. The fashion part really only applies to a smaller community, but if that community is happy with what I’m giving them, then I’m happy to provide it.
I suppose as well, I’m not as integrated into the ‘knit community’ as some other pattern designers are. I come from the purely fashion side of the tracks, even though I’m a knitter. It makes a huge difference in just getting your name circulating. But the TA community is growing, slowly but surely and I love seeing what my fashionknitsters are trying with knits and fashion. They really are great people and very passionate which I love.

What do you look for when predicting knitting trends? It must be hard to find a balance between craft, which is a slow movement, and fashion, which is constantly changing.
Well interestingly enough, knit specific trend prediction is a lot slower than general fashion trends. It’s mainly to do with yarn production and the process of creating garments, but with online retail it’s had to radically speed up. I approach my TA patterns like I would if i was designing for Topshop or H&M. I take a trend and look at how to make a knit garment incorporate into it. The focus is always around the trend prediction first. Looking at what they are, the details and fabrics as well as colours and then working through shape and stitches till I produce something that works aesthetically.
I find the most difficult thing in working between the two worlds is yarn colour. Yarn retailers are of course, stocking yarns that are current now, but I’m working between 6-12 months in advance and sometimes the yarn colours and textures are just not available. For example, SS13 this year, I had some great deigns based around tape yarn, but back in October it wasn’t available. Eventually I had to drop the designs because I really could find a good substitute.  I do have the option of course of knitting with yarn from my industrial contacts, but when I post a pattern, no one would be able to buy it anywhere, so it can be tricky. It just means I have to be creative in my yarn choice and maybe adapt the design. I do love a challenge.
What's your design process for your patterns?
Well as I’ve said the trends are the most important. I spend a lot of time going through industrial information and attending trend trade shows in Europe. I also really love this part, finding the correct colour combinations, shapes and texture. At this point though it is purely about the theme itself, there’s no preconceived ideas for garments. I find that designs can become a bit stale if I try and do both together. Then next come catwalks. If I can attend any of the shows I do try to get there but it’s mainly about going through as many shows and pictures as possible. Then it’s interpreting the designs which can be a little tricky  as the catwalk shows are sometimes styled in such a way that you miss the garments. So I spend a good 2 months going through garments and design based elements. All designers have their own method, but I just pull out designs that really catch my eye immediately for whatever reason, as inspiration.
The last part which I tend to do fairly quickly is the pattern itself. Because of my retail job, I can tell pretty quickly if an idea will work in a particular yarn texture or colour without a lot, if any, sampling. My main focus is the design, shape and texture here though. I have to get the idea of what I want to achieve before I decide how to make it knit. But this is why knit is so fantastic. You can make anything work as long as you have the right yarn, stitch and texture. Nothing is impossible.

What can knitters be looking out for over the next season? Chunky knits? Cables? Something completely different?
It’s funny, but there are always things that repeat every year regardless. Cables tend to appear somewhere every winter so that’s a great place to start for anyone new to trends. Some 40’s inspired knits were in most themes this year too. So a great vintage jumper or cardi in a grey or rich vintage red will be a key essential regardless of the trend. AW13 will be interesting though. There are some really collective trends coming through which basically means that anything goes and it’s more about the combination of garments, stitches and colours, rather than one particular piece. I’ll definitely be focusing on really simple knits with menswear inspired shapes for a very masculine, but vintage theme. There’s also a very gothic theme that was all over the catwalks, so blacks and really deep purples, blues and reds are great colours for this mixed with some lacy effects, shiny textures and areas of translucent panels with opaque. In terms of specifics, big pussy bows on the neckline and volume sleeves are great little details to look out for in tops.
If anyone is new to trends though I would definitely suggest finding things you love because many garments can be accessorised to fit any trend. It’s amazing how the right necklace or shoe can change the look of something instantly.
What are your favourite tools of the trade?
Oooooh well my trade is at a computer for a majority of the day so I really can't do without Adobe Illustrator, my graphics tablet and pen, but in terms of knitting a friend just got me into Designaknit which is a knitwear programme. It’s fab, but I really haven’t had the time to explore all the benefits properly yet. Of course my machine is essential and some great knitting needles but my favourites are a set that was given to me as a a gift, from Knit Pro and I’m doing a lot of colour work at the moment so my yarn bobbins are a really big help.

And favourite fibre to work with?
Well it’s controversial on the hand feel front, but I do love a bit of Mohair. As well, coming from retail I’m not overly precious about the fibre content of yarn, but more about the hand feel. If it feels soft on my skin, then it’s mine!
What do you hope to achieve with Twisted Angle in the next year?
As well as the trend information and patterns there are going to be some exciting things coming up. We do a customer and member survey every October, just to see what improvements can be made and as a result, in July we are making the site free to use. The patterns will be shop based, but I want to get the trend information out to more people so it will become a free site to join. There will also be some great benefits to those who join the site in the ‘Shhhhhh’ program (also free), but that will all be revealed at a later date.
As you know of course we have the second book coming out in our Trends series, which this year will be based around florals. The book though is always secondary to the little community it creates. It’s the opportunity to really get to know more of my followers and volunteers much better, like yourself and of course businesses that they have and the other crafts they practise. So the community is definitely a real highlight. This year we’ve made some improvements to last year’s book and as a little exclusive, I can reveal that we’ve just had our first yarn sponsor, Stylecraft sign up to support it, which is really exciting. The book itself will be out in late August.
I’ll also being doing some trend seminars in July as well as a course on how to spot trends through a company called The Old School Club in Clapham, south London so if anyone is around, I’d love for them to pop in and say hi.
After that I’ll be concentrating on SS14 so it will be a busy year, but a really rewarding one.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Extra Curricular 11 - out in time for Easter!

Enjoy the upcoming Easter break with the latest issue of Extra Curricular Magazine!

I was very lucky to interview a heap of crafters this time round including Tash from Holland Road Yarn Company, Rachel from Bluebird Pottery Oratia, Gem from The Little Details and Lucy from

These amazing ladies discuss how they turned their hobbies into crafty businesses, and give advice and tips on how to give it a go yourself. 

Pre-order your copy here today!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A successful charity shop

On Friday I went along to Dress For Success' charity sale. It's a great cause, providing women with clothing for job interviews and giving them the confidence to return to the workforce.
Every so often, they sell their excess donated clothing as a fundraiser and you can fill up a shopping bag with as many items as you can carry for $20. 
We went in our lunch break and there was a queue half way down the street to get in.

I got  a few bargains. A nice floral top, a couple of scarves, two white embroidered tops, a grey Witchery top, a wooly navy jumper that's way too big for me and a Country Road skirt. 

The grey Witchery top is great quality but I'm not a fan of the high neckline. I've just bought this DIY collar pattern from I Make It You Make It on Etsy, and I'll use the mustard floral fabric in my stash to make it. 

This floral top is my favourite from the haul. But there are some serious marks under the arms that I didn't notice when I was competing with 100 other women for my share of clothes.

The fabric was almost glued together - I've managed to clean most of it up but there is still a lot of staining. I've decided I'm going to remove the cap sleeves, which will remove most of the damaged fabric.

Not quite sure what I'll do with the jumper yet - it's way too big for me so maybe I'll try shrink it. Or just wear it at home when no one will see me!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Knitographer interviews... Soft Like Kittens

I'm pretty excited to introduce my first blog interview in what I hope will become a regular feature on The Knitographer! 

I'm chatting to Annette Russell, the indy-dyer behind Soft Like Kittens, about her yummy yarns with the cutest label bands I've ever seen. Who can resist a yarn brand with kittens in the name? Annette also hosts the knitting and crochet podcast, Gentle Ribbing

How did Soft Like Kittens begin?

I started dyeing just for fun but rapidly found I had so many ideas and was producing so much yarn it was going to become a bit of a problem if I didn't start selling some of it! I left my job (for unrelated reasons) just as my passion for dyeing started to build up steam so it all worked out quite well.

Do you fit it in around other work or family commitments? 

I don't do any other work, beyond the odd bit of freelance design, but I have a toddler at home who keeps me very busy. My days are quite naturally divided at the moment, as I do my own knitting and crochet during the day while I'm with her, and save the messier dyeing work for the evenings after she's gone to bed. I do find that I don't get as much personal crafting time as I used to, but dyeing is a craft in and of itself and just as enjoyable.

I dye in my kitchen, but have an area in the garage set up for storing my equipment and supplies and doing my skeining and re-skeining so I don't take over too much of the house. I'd love to have a proper studio space one day, but this works fine for now.

Do you have favourite tools to work with?

My main tools are my pots (I use crock pots and also large stainless steel stock pots) and my measuring tools. I have a scale that weighs in 0.1g increments that I use for turning the dye powders into stock solutions, and for measuring the solutions I like syringes in various sizes, from 1ml up to 50ml. You can get those at most pharmacies or in larger quantities from medical supply shops. I aim for my repeatable colours to be as consistent as possible, so I'm big on measuring!

When it comes to skeining and re-skeining I have a couple of "contraptions" I built out of random bits of hardware - the spinning part from a kitchen lazy susan, a piece of wood from an old shelf, nails and a hook - though I'd love to upgrade to an electric skein winder one day.

Do you have a favourite yarn you like to work with?

My favourite yarn base from the current range is my Noodle Sock, which is a very smooth and round merino/nylon blend. It's a workhorse yarn but it takes colour like a dream, is lovely to knit, and wears very well. I've been testing some beautiful merino/silk blends and other fibers lately too, and I'm looking forward to adding some of those to Soft Like Kittens soon.

Where do you get the inspiration for your dyes and colours?

I get most of my inspiration from the natural environment, either directly from the plants and animals and landscapes around me or from photographs. One of my favourite things to do when I have a little spare time is to browse photo sites like Flickr or Pinterest. I particularly look at flowers, food and travel pictures - if you squint a bit you can see the colours without being distracted by what the photo is actually of!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Designers I'm loving right now

The Knit Kid. The colour blocking and very modern shapes are amazing. I've already raved about this German knitwear brand on here before, but the designs just keep getting better!

Anna Wilkinson. Just published her first book, regularly featured in Pompom and I've seen her work in Mollie Makes and in many blog posts. I have her book. I plan on making this soon.

This is Anna's Fair Isle Band Sweater - I scanned this from my copy of her book, Learn to Knit, Love to Knit.

And I can't wait to buy the latest adults' pattern collection, Colour Coded, by Millamia.

Colour coded by Millamia

The patterns are clean, without any fuss, and great colours. As you can see, I'm a colour blocking addict at the moment, and I need to bring this into my knitting. I'm going to go get this pattern collection right now. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Required reading

1. Pompom issue four. It's awesome. 
2. Vintage Cakes. There's a nice looking lemon chiffon cake in there.
3. Cake Couture. Decoration ideas. 
4. Norwegian Handknits. I need the bag on the cover.

Not for reading, but for making notes - my new Nora Whynot notebook from Pencil Boutique.

And in between the reading and note-taking, I'm knitting my Camilla jumper. 
I've finished the first part of the body and I've just started the first sleeve. 
Loving how she's coming out, and she's so easy to knit that I should be done in time for winter!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Slouchy hats in action

Today I woke up to rain. Day three of autumn, and it finally delivers. I've always said I'm more of a winter gal than a summer one, and the last month or so has been so hot and dry in Auckland that lots of us - not just me - have been wanting a downpour. It didn't last long. A couple of hours this morning. 

It did freshen everything up a bit, but all the brown grass around the region and the tired vege gardens will need a lot more than that. It's back to being boiling now, but it was nice to think that winter might eventually get here and I can wear all these hats without melting.

Here is my honey mustard cabled hat. I designed her myself - totally surprised that it actually worked - with one chunky cable up the size. She's made in Rowan Big Wool and way too hot to wear right now.
She will get lots of use this winter.

And here's the first Rikke I've made for me. She is my favourite. I would wear her all the time if I could avoid my fringe sticking to my head with the heat. She is knitted in DyeforYarn's Black Damson Falling off the Twig DK Merino/Silk. It's the perfect shade of navy, and so soft. I had to order an emergency skein to finish knitting her and now I've got about 80g of the same colour left. 
Matching fingerless gloves maybe?

And here is Rikke number four. This one's for my pal Neil.
Bus knitting for the next two weeks me thinks.

I'm also putting together a baby blanket from a bunch of knitted squares I was given.

Almost done. I have until April.