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Playing with colour

Last week I was lucky enough to be in Scotland with my family.

I have to admit that when it was planned that we should spend Easter in Scotland to celebrate my in-laws Golden Wedding Anniversary I was a little apprehensive, fearing that we would get snowed in at the very least!

As it turned out, we had the most gloriously sunny days and some fantastic walking in the beautiful countryside. We saw all sorts of wildlife and spring was definitely springing.

On the last day of our holiday we decided to take one last walk in the hillsides around Loch Tay. On the way up what was a short but very steep climb, I took several opportunities to look at the view as I needed an excuse for a rest! As we were returning to the valley I started noticing what was closer by and became slightly obsessed by all the variety of colours and textures of lichen on the rocks. I began photographing all the different ones I could see and once I’d started found it hard to stop.

I often like to play a little game when I’m on my own in the shop, trying out different colour combinations and seeing how many different ones I can come up with. This morning I’ve been looking through my holiday pictures and using them to create colour schemes with some of our yarns.

First of all I looked at this picture of part of a drystone wall and immediately went for these 3 balls of Sirdar cotton 4ply.

This picture made me think of this laceweight combinations of Sublime and Sirdar Hush. Maybe it could be used to make a fancy shawl or flowing jacket. Then I went to the Snuggly DK shelf and picked out 4 colours, wouldn’t they make a fabulous modern baby blanket.

These Countrystyle DK yarns seemed ideal for this fabulously speckled sample. I’m thinking moss stitch stripes would look great in these colours.

This little patch on this rock is amazing. I have no idea what it is but really wanted to find some yarn to match with it. I love the spicey colours of these West Yorkshire Spinners DK’s which are 75% british wool but we don’t have a creamy colour like the one on the rock. I found a slightly off-white Countrystyle but it’s a bit too pink really.

I could have played around all day looking for colours to go with this fabulous sample. First of all I grabbed some balls of Hayfield Fiesta and Baby Sparkle which are quite bright but they look scrummy together. I made my way to the Sublime baby cashmere shelves as there were some softer colours which match the original a bit better and took some pictures which remind me of ice cream. Then I spotted some Calico DK, the orange shade is just right don’t you think?

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little game. Here’s my favourite photo from the day.

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Nursery Knits for Boys (or beep beep roar roar)

bk4871When we were shown this book I thought it was just great and that we had to have it in the shop. I wish I could knit loads of things from it and make a window display because I think it would look fantastic but I fear that there may not be enough days in the week to achieve that – we’ll see!!

The book contains 17 hand knit designs for toys and garments on a dinosaur theme. I think the photos really do speak for themselves.

If you’re not into dinosaurs, or just fancy a bit more variety then just take a look at this cute play mat with lots of textured stitches which make it more fun for baby and more interesting to knit. Plus you can create all kinds of accessories,there’s even a knitted car!!

Call into the shop or visit our website to pick up your copy of this truly inspirational book.

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Knitting in the garden on skis.

This is a post in which I am going to talk about some of my favourite things.

Lets start with the garden! I could write a whole blog about my garden and it’s predecessors but I won’t because I need to get to the knitting. There are lots of things I like about gardening but it all comes down to colour in the end and lots of it. Many years ago I bought a copy of this Geoff Hamilton book Paradise Gardens. Ever since then I have been striving to achieve a garden which looks a little bit like this front cover and, since we’ve moved house twice in that time, each time to a house without what could be described as an actual garden, this is still a distant aim which I refuse to give up.

A few years ago our current garden had a big overhaul and we decided that we needed a bench for it. We wanted to put the bench in the last bit of the garden to get the sun in the evening in the summer but we just couldn’t find something we liked at a price we wanted to pay.

This is where another one of my favourite things comes in. My family has one thing that we love to do altogether and that is to ski.  What has that got to do with garden benches you may ask? The answer to that involves me remembering 2 things. Firstly this bench we’d seen in Switzerland made from snowboards and probably part of a ski-lift.

 

The second thing I remembered was that we had a stack of old skis which we didn’t know what to do with. Add these 2 things together and a bit of creativeness from my husband et voila…

 

one ski bench.

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t resist just showing this one from springtime where you can see how it works in the corner of our little garden.

 

 

 

 

So now I get to talk about my knitting!! Whilst the bench looks fantastic, it’s not exactly comfortable to sit on and I’ve often said it would be good if I made a cushion to go on it. A few months ago I needed to make a decision in relation to a City and Guilds course I am doing in Knitted Textiles. I needed to make an ‘item for interior use’ which would be accessed and I thought it would be fun to make a cushion for our bench. I asked if it would be ok to make something which was going to be used outdoors and the tutor said that would be fine.

I chose to look at images of old fashioned ski resort posters as my inspiration. This kind of thing…

 

and I came up with a few ideas for designs.

Once I’d chosen the design I liked, and after consulting my tutor, I got on with knitting some samples in different yarns and trying out various needle sizes. I wanted the cushion to be practical and hard wearing so yarn selection and stitch tension were crucial.

Whilst I was going through the design process, I decided to try to make the cushion pad myself. I found 2 old duvets and used them to make a pad in the correct size and then I used an old sheet to make a cover for it in the correct size. I was very pleased with the results and proud of my up-cycling efforts.

 

I also took the precaution of painting the design full size onto the back of some spare wallpaper just to check how it looked on the bench before I went any further.

 

 

Finally I was ready to knit my cushion. I had chosen Sirdar Country Style DK because I liked the way the design worked in my samples. It is a good quality yarn with some wool content, but will also be hard wearing and easy to care for as I can wash it in the washing machine. I also chose one shade of Click DK as we had the right colour in the shop and it is a very similar yarn.

The cushion is enormous. I had to knit a piece 36cm wide and 140cm long on dk yarn using 3mm needles, so it did take quite a long time in those dark winter evenings. I knitted the sun motif onto a blue background in 3 different colours (red, orange and yellow) using a mixture of intarsia technique and stranding as in fair isle knitting. I chose the colours to match the colours in the skis on the bench as I wanted it to be a really fun item.

The cushion is 10cm deep so I knitted a 10cm wide strip, inspired by the mountains of Switzerland, using a combination of garter stitch, moss stitch and reverse stocking stitch to give it variety of texture. The underneath of the cushion is knitted completely in garter stitch in blocks of colour designed to match up with the side of the cushion.

Having sewn the top, bottom and sides together, I knitted a narrow strip along on long edge of the underneath of the cushion and attached small plastic press studs to fasten it up and make it easy to remove and wash when needed.

The pattern has been written up for the City and Guilds course but I am doubtful that anyone else will want to knit one. I am intending to do a smaller version and make the pattern available before the summer.

It was a very exciting moment when I was able to try out my cushion on my bench, and although it was a cold and windy day I managed to get a photo of myself trying it out.

I can tell you this is the most comfortable cushion I have ever sat on and I am very pleased with the finished results.

We have even managed to get it out again and sit on it with a cuppa.

 

 

 

 

Now I just can’t wait until the summer when I will be knitting in the garden (sitting) on skis!!!

 

 

 

 

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Alpaca my bag.

I had a grand day out on Friday.

I visited the a lovely show called p-Lush which was an Alpaca show and trade stands selling gorgeous yarns and related items.

Don’t you think that Alpacas are fabulous? So cute and they produce such fantastic yarns and fabrics. Here I am with family and friends doing a spot of Alpaca trekking a few years ago.

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I’d heard about his show on twitter and thought it sounded lovely but maybe a bit far for me to venture on my own. I’m just not used to traveling very far alone these days!! Then when Helen Jordan visited us in February to teach our Beginners Crochet class, she told us that she would be having a stand there.

So I thought if she could go then so could I!!

It was lunch time when I arrived so I relaxed for a while and had something to eat. Then I wandered around the lovely stands looking at all the beautiful colours and having a bit of a squish of all the gorgeous fibres.

The show was not crowded with people like some shows can be and it was a very relaxing yet inspiring experience.

It was great to see Helen on her stand. IMG_0794

 

 

 

 

 

There was the opportunity to sit and knit for a while, making a contribution to this lady in red.

IMG_0795I was feeling a little shy so instead of joining the crowd of ladies happily knitting together I sat quietly by myself, picked up some knitting needles and a ball of red UK Alpaca yarn which was delightful,  and created a something that I hope they will have found a little place for. I don’t mind admitting that I wish I’d been brave enough to sit a and chat but never mind…

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I had a little wander around and looked at the beautiful animals which were being shown.

There was a nice atmosphere to this show

I was very pleased with myself for making the effort to visit this show and I could not have come home without adding to my stash. I am studying for a City and Guilds qualification in Hand Knitted Textiles and we have to knit lots of samples. I need to use a variety of types of yarns and fibres and, although I have a choice of fantastic yarns at Needlecase, I like to collect samples of special yarns, especially from small and independent spinners and dyers. I didn’t make it to Woolfest (where I often pick up lots of goodies) last year and we had a stand at the British Wool Weekend, but I didn’t indulge in any yarn so my stores were looking a bit depleted. I seem to have quite a bit of 4ply and laceweight though so was keen to lookout for some thicker yarn weights, especially chunkies. I found a reduced bin on one of the stands, Rosies Moments, and had a great rummage, coming up with some treasures.

I also picked up some interesting mixed packs

IMG_0808and some Camel hair yarn in one of my favourite colourways.

 

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I headed home very pleased with my newly acquired stash!!

 

 

 

 

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Look holes- and now it’s a Bunny Bag

Karen has been catching the knitting bug…

”When I was at Needlecase teaching the last Sew it’s Friday Garden Patch embroidery earlier this month Judith showed us some gorgeous Easter Bunny Bags she had made. Having then written a free knitting pattern for them several of us were tempted to have a go so Judith kindly handed us all a copy.

I haven’t knitted anything since I threw a bootee across the sitting room when I was about 20 years old, I was struggling and struggling again with the shaping and it got the better of me!

That was about 25 years ago or so and I swore I would never knit again.

Anyway getting back to the Bunny Bag; I have been thinking about picking up the knitting needles again but worry that I just don’t have the time and energy for another aspect of making but I just couldn’t kick the idea out of my mind.

Well when I saw the Sirdar Americana cotton blend double knitting wool in a gorgeous pinky, cream and duck egg combo I just couldn’t resist!

I cast on and got started and couldn’t believe how the therapeutic clicking and wrapping of the wool around the needle came back to me – loved it. And when I’d made my row of holes!! Whoopee! Sorry, I know you clever knitters will probably think I’m a bit silly getting so excited about a row of holes but believe me those bootees have haunted me off and on throughout my adult crafting life – I had been defeated! But not any more!!

Everyone in my household have been very impressed at my cleverness – except my mum who calmly declared “we’ll of course you can knit, I taught you and it’s like riding a bike, once you know what to do you can do it” (I had been hoping for a bit more of a wow but I suppose she is my mum…)

I looked through my scraps of wool, bits I collected together after I’d been on The Introduction to Crochet workshop Judith regularly runs at Needlecase a year or so ago, in order to knit the inner ear in and came up with a pleasing shade of purple.

Bunny knitted up very quickly though I did find all the counting a little hard to do when I was on the last purple ear and I was tired. At one point I did have to ring Judith though as my knitting all became ‘reversed’ and I has the nice smooth knitting on the back and the bumpy bits were on the front. A couple of unpicks, recounts and knit agains soon sorted that out thankfully and this Bunny didn’t fly across the room – oh how I have matured and grown up!!

I followed Judith’s advice on blocking my knitting before stitching up.  Here it is all pinned out onto the back of one of my cutting boards.  I sprayed with water and left it to dry.  How clever and simple that process is.

It took me a couple of good sessions to knit it, two evenings worth of time maybe and I made it up last night. Instead of using a running stitch to sew the ears up as Judith suggested I used a blanket stitch which I’m pleased with as it means that you get to see the plain purple wool colour on the outside of the ears.

I also found some matching purple ribbon in my stash that I’ve threaded through those lovely holes. The ears are a little bit over stuffed I fear, so they are a bit heavy but perhaps he’s just eaten a lot of chocolate. I have to say I’m not certain about this Bunny’s expression though, as I took these photos I wanted to shout and encourage at him ‘smile’, ‘say cheese!’ as he does have a bit of a solemn – or do I mean sullen face?

Never mind I am chuffed to bits that I have knitted something after all these years and a craft you once enjoyed has got to be worth a revisit at some stage.

Will you be able to find time to knit a cute Bunny Bag in time for Easter? Have you ever had break from a craft and come back to it with renewed energy? I know Judith and I would love to see your Bunny Bags, do share.

Happy Easter

Karen x”

 

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Nursery Knits for Girls

We recently received 2 gorgeous new books in the shop, Nursery Knits for Girls and Nursery Knits for Boys.

Nursery Knits for Girls is described 19 hand knit clothing, nursery and toy designs for little girls from birth to 3 years in Sirdar Snuggly DK.

The book begins with this fabulous blanket 486 Blanket smallin a very colourful palette (just to note that the new snuggly colours are available in the shop but at this time not on our website although we can do mail order if you’re unable to get here!).

 

 

Turn the page and you come to this lacy angel top and stripy leggings  for your little one, and a ‘dolly snuggle’ knitted in Snowflake DK. Love the curly hair on  the dolly and how about some of those leggings in adult sizes?!!

486 top and leggings (2) small486 comforter small

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The little girl in your life can have a dolly with clothes to match hers 486 Doll small

 

486 yellow shoes small

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and little shoes too.

 

 

 

There is a bit of a birdie theme going on – there’s a padded mat to go on the nursery floor, 486 bird rug (2) small

 

a sweater, a cushion

486 bird cushion small

 

 

and a toy! 486 bird toy small

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And it continues, a bib, a hat, onesie, adorable blanket, cot bumper and fabulous mobile for the nursery.

486 bird bib small 486 bird blanket small  486 bird hat small  486 cot mobile small

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A lovely book packed full of lovely things!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As if all of that is not enough, you can make this pretty raglan cardie with dollies border and, finally this lacy blanket in any colour you like!!486 doll cardi 1 small 486 purple blanket small

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Knitting Beginnings

Four ladies came to Needlecase last Saturday for our Beginners Knitting class. In reality, as is often the case, one of them wasn’t strictly a beginner but I think they all went away having learnt something new.

It’s always interesting to meet new people at our classes and to find out what their hopes and aspirations for their knitting are. Some people just want to see how they get on, one lady told me she really wants to knit a Christmas stocking (fuel for a future project for me there I think) and another was able to knit already but wanted to move on from the basics. We spent the morning going through those basics, starting with casting on, then learning knit and purl stitches. IMG_0778

Everyone moved on at their own pace and there was lots of giggling at each others mistakes and excitement when someone felt that they’d really picked up a technique and could feel that they were making progress.

After a busy morning of learning we were ready for a rest so we headed down the road the The Granary for a delicious lunch.

After lunch I decided that we practised doing some rib stitches.

Ann had already produced a fantastic sample of different stitches, including moss stitch which was new for her, and refreshed her memory on how to cast off.

Ann's knitting

She spent the afternoon exploring the different increasing and decreasing techniques and everyone else started knitting a scarf in Hayfield Superchunky yarn.

I like this project as it allows people to practise combining knit and purl stitches, it is simple to do and, because it grows quickly it is very encouraging for new knitters.

 

This is me wearing a finished example – I’m told I look stern in this picture which is a shame but when I want a photo and I’m all alone here in the shop it’s the best I can manage!!scarf

 

 

At the end of the day I for one was exhausted but really proud of the ladies who were well on the way to their first knitted project. Good look with it girls and I’m really looking forward to seeing your finished scarves.

 

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Eggs, bunnies, ducklings and daffodils – it must be Easter

Last week we were visited by our Easter ducklings.

IMG_0734These ladies are knitted in Snowflake dk from an Alan Dart pattern which is available from his website. I caught sight of them waddling along the top of the wall and coming into the shop through the back door. They have now taken up their usual Easter positions in our shop window.

We think they are the best fun and one day may even complete the whole set!!

 

 

Another Easter-time visitor is the Easter buuny and we have some of those too.

This is our lovely floppy bunny knitted by my mum Jean and much admired by customers young and not so young all year round. You can knit your own in your own colour choice – buy the wool and pattern here.IMG_0760

 

 

We have some new bunnies in the shop which have arrived recently.

Having spent lots of time on Pinterest looking for Easter crafting ideas I saw lots of little gift bags with bunny ears but non of them were knitted so I thought I would write my own pattern for one. I have knitted it using Bergere de France Ideal and also Sirdar Simply Recycled DK both of which are yarns available in our sale. As this is a just for fun knit, any dk yarn you have will do. You need about 25g of the main colour. You could experiment with other yarns to make different sized versions. I think it would be fun to knit one in a superchunky yarn which would make a larger bag. My bag is about 10cm x 10cm when completed and will hold a couple of cream eggs or lots of little chocolate bunnies. You can order the pattern free of charge to make your own Easter gift bags.IMG_0737A delightful source of ideas for Easter and all year round is this lovely book Knit Pretty which has patterns for daffodils and other pretty flowers which have many, many potential uses for decorations and embellishments.IMG_0762

 

 

 

You can knit some cute chick egg cosies or these colourful birdies.

Cheeky chicks

It really is a very  useful little book with lots of gift ideas to use up your stash.

 

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Garden Patch Embroidery

On Friday evening we enjoyed this months Sew It’s Friday session with 8 lovely ladies.

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Karen began by explaining how her mum came up with this relatively simple but extremely effective technique for producing your very own original piece of hand embroidery quite a number of years ago. In fact one of our ladies said that she was fulfilling a long held ambition, as she’d wanted to try it our many years ago having seen it at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate!

 

 

 

 

Having shown the group lots of examples, including one beautiful piece done by a 6 year old! Karen encouraged everyone to prepare their piece of Calico using some water colour pencils. We saw how simply adding a small amount of colour to the background sets off the creative process and gets your imagination flowing.

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We learnt lots of practical tips for getting the best results and everyone tried out using an embroidery hoop which was a new experience for some!IMG_0748

Now it was time to have some fun and start stitching.

People started off using green embroidery threads to give shape to their ‘picture’ and then it was time to get stuck into adding colours, shapes and textures with lots of imagination thrown in. IMG_0751IMG_0754

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Karen was constantly on hand to give people ideas and advice about which stitches to use and everyone got a useful leaflet to take home explaining how to use a few simple stitches.

We have more sessions planned for Sew It’s Friday. We are intending to make a set of 3 co-ordinating items which you can use for a holiday. The first is a book cover. The book could become your holiday journal or maybe you could use it for making your lists when planning your holiday? Next we are going to decorate a bag to use as a beach bag or for carrying all those essential items on a day trip. Finally we’ll make a sunglasses case. The idea is to make them all as a matching set for yourself or as a gift. Karen has come up with this very summery hand applique design which I think will look great. IMG_0756

We want to be flexible about things though. You could make the 3 items and add your own design ideas or use the embroidery techniques we did on Friday to make your own totally unique items. If you haven’t been to one of our Sew It’s Friday groups before and fancy a relaxing evening of creativity why not book your place now?

 

 

 

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Fabric Temptations – The Power of Restraint

Karen has been fabric shopping again!! Here’s a message from her about her latest purchase –

”I’ve been really sensible today and despite going to bed and getting up everyday for a week

with the thoughts of this gorgeous fabric in my head I didn’t buy it when I went back to the

shop this morning.birdie fabric

In my head I’d decided it would make some sort of lovely blouse or top for myself but I hadn’t

settled on a pattern. I’m a bit low on good patterns for tops and despite having a couple of

ideas the patterns I’d been thinking of are all a bit on the expensive side. I need to ‘invest’,

not just ‘buy’ a good couple of patterns that preferably have a few options, you know,

different neck lines and sleeves. I think this fabric needs a pattern without many darts as I

don’t want the little birds to be all broken up and looking strange but I do like my tops to

have a reasonable shape and fit.

Another reason for not buying was because I feel it might be more suitable for my girls aged 4

and nearly 2 rather than a grown woman on the wrong side of 40. I love a novelty print but

don’t want to look silly. What do you think of novelty prints, are they just for the young? Can

you suggest a suitable pattern for a top or blouse?

However, you don’t think I could go to a fabric shop and come out empty handed do you? No I did a very sensible thing (told you I was sensible) and bought a meter of this gorgeous ‘wool mix’ to make an ‘A’ line skirt with as it will go with a lovely White Stuff’ top I had for Christmas.puple fabric 2

Best of all I’d been looking for a suitable RTW skirt and couldn’t find one and this fabric only cost £4.99 p/m so with a bobbin of thread and a zip it came to just over £7.00. I already have some lining in my stash and I think I will make the Delphine skirt from my copy of Love at First Stitch by Tilly Walnes, so I reckon it’s a win win!purple fabric

What fabric have you been tempted by recently or are you being good and working your way through your stash?

Karen x”