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Footstool Workshop in Tadcaster

This year for my birthday my sister very kindly booked me a footstool making workshop with Louise at Scruffy Upholstery in Tadcaster.

I haven’t done any upholstery before but it’s something I’m keen to try.

The first challenge (and I didn’t have much time) was to find a piece of fabric to take along with me. I checked my stash and found nothing to inspire 🙁

Then I remembered that I’d seen a pile of different remnants of fabric in the Home Farm shop where I meet up with a group of ladies (aka the good humoured ladies) every week for a crafty, cakey, tea drinking morning. So, the next time I was there, we got it all out and enjoyed a good route through.

Some of the fabrics were truly vintage and we had a fine time deciding which ones were suitable, and what we might/could/would/should make from the rest. Here a selection of some of my favourites.

Finally I narrowed it down to 2 contenders.

Then came the workshop!! Run by Louise in her studio in Tadcaster we were well looked after with lots of instruction and information so that we knew what we were doing every step of the way.

It took place over 2 evenings. We were only a small group, we learnt a lot about how the footstool is constructed and which materials to use.

 

None of us had every used a compressed air staple gun before and we were all a bit cautious…but we survived!!

 

Here you can see some of the stages of construction that the footstool went through. Louise was excellent at showing us where to staple and how to fold the fabric so that everything was held in place without it showing.

Thank you Deborah for buying me the class, thanks Angela for allowing me to buy some fabric from you (even though you wanted to keep it all for yourself!) and thank you Louise for running such a great workshop xx

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Why Learn to Knit?

To many people this may sound like a silly question! All the same I thought it was worth thinking about it.

If you’ve been taught a skill such as knitting, crochet or sewing at an early age then it can seem like the most natural thing in the world. If you’re not that fortunate then you may be thinking ‘I love making things for myself or as unique gifts and I’d like to learn a new craft so why would I choose knitting?’

I believe that knitting can be a relaxing hobby (maybe not so much at the first steps, but certainly when you get the hang of it) which engages the mind and fires creativity. There is always something new to learn or try if you wish to push yourself, on the other hand, some really easy straightforward knitting can be just the tonic when you’re feeling tired and stressed. You have the brilliant satisfaction of being able to spend your relaxation time productively with a beautiful finished item to be proud of as the end result.

Most people seem to have the desire to learn to knit for a specific purpose. The most popular one is probably the arrival of a new member of the family which seems to spur people into action and get them picking up the needles. For other people, the desire can be sparked by a specific item they’ve seen and really want to make for themselves. This is the reason I myself wanted to learn the ‘sister’ craft of crochet so that I could make things which had previously been untouchable for me because I didn’t know how to use a crochet hook.

Still need some inspiration? What might you be able to knit with just a little bit of knowledge?

Simple scarf like this one can easily be made with just basic stitches and you can make it for yourself or give as a gift!!

If you attend one of my Beginners Knitting workshops you will make one of these. You will take away the materials and pattern to make one for yourself, and when you’ve done that you can make more in different colours 🙂

 

These teddies are a really lovely easy knit which would be great to make for a new baby or small child.

Why not try making a baby blanket in a soft chunky baby yarn they’re really easy and quick to do for your new arrival.

You can make cushions for your home or as gifts. Try one of my simple but effective chain stripes cushions in beautiful but hardwearing Jakob aran yarn.

 

Will I need lots of expensive equipment?

Basically, no you won’t. Having said that, you will need some core items to begin with, and there are lots of products out there to tempt you, but it is up to you. If you would like to have lovely needles and notions you can do, but you don’t have to you can just stick to basic items.

A simple starter kit should probably contain –

  • a selection of smooth inexpensive double knitting weight yarns (you can move onto the fancy stuff and gorgeous natural fibres when you are more confident)
  • needles – again nothing too fancy needed unless you really want to, just some basic needles in the size appropriate for your yarn ie double knitting yarn 4mm needles or check your ballband to see what needles are recommended
  • pins
  • scissors
  • tape measure
  • yarn needle
  • safety pins
  • row counter and/or pencil and paper

There are lots and lots of other things you could have but you’ll probably decide for yourself as you go along what you would like and what you need and what you can very easily live without!!

 

What’s the best way to learn?

This is another question to which there are probably as many answers as there are people who are looking to learn to knit!!

There are a number of options or combinations of options.

Most people would prefer to be taught by someone who really knows what they are doing. If you have a family member or friend close at hand who can get you started and then be called upon when needed for further assistance then you are probably very lucky and should make the most of it!!

There are lots of books available Vogue Knitting – The Ultimate Knitting Book, is a very good book and has clear instructions and illustrations.

Youtube has many videos which will show you what to do and I have met lots of people who have successfully taught themselves to knit this way.

Make the most of any resources you can find such as Ravelry, twitter, facebook. Find out what works for you, give things a try and don’t be frightened.

As a small business, I am always happy to help people out with any problems they are experiencing and it is one of the best parts of my job to be able to show them the answer. You may not get this service from some of the larger retailers out there but I’m sure most small yarn shops are able to provide a similar service to customers and with the same joy and pleasure!!

I run regular Beginners Knitting classes in Knaresborough and York, for those who would like more focused attention. These are for one full day which is generally enough to go through casting on, knit stitch, purl stitch, rib stitch, casting off, changing colours or joining in new balls of yarn. The aim is to equip you with the basic knowledge you need to start knitting and we provide enough yarn for you to make a simple rib stitch scarf which you will start making during the class and then take away to finish at your own speed.

Because different people will have different aims for their knitting, each persons next step will be slightly different, however I do run a Beyond the Basics workshop.

If you have learnt knit and purl stitch and are ready to move on to knitting something more than straight scarves this workshop is for you. The aim of the workshop is to give you all the knowledge you need to make a simple garment. You will receive a kit containing 50g of quality double knitting yarn, 1m ribbon & 14 buttons.

You will learn different increasing and decreasing techniques to create some triangular pieces in stocking stitch.

We will look at blocking the work you have produced, and we will pick up stitches to make a buttonhole band.

Add a few pretty buttons and you have your own knitted bunting!!

Just a final warning. Knitting can be addictive. Once you’ve started you may not be able to stop and I think that’s absolutely fantastic!!!

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Intarsia Knitting

Intarsia is a technique used in knitting to create patterns with multiple colours. It is possible to introduce areas of colour in any shape, size, and number.

The Intarsia technique is often used for sweaters with large, solid-colour features or ‘picture jumpers’ with designs such as fruits, flowers, geometric shapes or Christmas motifs like snowmen and robins.

Here is a new cushion I have designed (pattern available to buy) using the Intarsia technique to create these cute sausage dogs. There will be a workshop available in the New Year where you can learn how to make one if you’re not confident to do it alone!

Unlike other multicolour techniques (including Fair Isle, slip-stitch colour, and double knitting), Intarsia fabric is lightweight because it is only one strand thick, and yarn is not carried across the back of the work.

Not unlike a paint-by-numbers canvas, you place the coloured stitches in an intarsia design by following a chart row by row. It is much more difficult to follow a pattern written out line by line than to use a chart for this technique.

The most popular stitch for Intarsia knitting is stocking stitch but it is possible to use other stitches or combinations of stitches with often very attractive results.

Here reverse stocking stitch has been used combined with Trinity stitch.

 

This ‘M’ was an experiment which didn’t quite work out. A combination of Trinity stitch and stocking stitch for the ‘M’ shape may work out better.

 

When working in intarsia, it is easiest to use untreated yarns. Cotton, silk, and synthetic fibres are much more challenging to use because they are slippery.

Changing colours – When changing colours, you drop one strand of yarn and leave it hanging for use in the following row. Following the chart, work all the stitches you need in the first colour. Drop the old strand and forget about it until you need it again in the next row. Twist the new strand around the old one. Work with the new colour according to the chart. To change strands, bring the new colour up from underneath the old one. This twists the strands together, preventing holes from forming on the front of the work.

Knitting in intarsia theoretically requires no additional skills beyond being generally comfortable with the basic knit and purl stitches. It is important that your tension is even as it is easy to pull the yarn more tightly where the colours change and create uneven tension which does not look attractive.

Each area of colour in your design requires its own individual yarn supply, resulting in many strands hanging from your work. One way of keeping control of all these yarn ends is by winding a few yards of each colour onto its own bobbin.

Weave in the ends –Your intarsia fabric won’t be finished until all the ends are woven in on the wrong side, using a wool needle. If this is not done well it can spoilt the finished look of your work so take time to do it well. Because there will be so many ends to weave in, the very best thing to do is  weave them in every now and then as you work , rather than leaving them all to be sewn in after your knitting is finished.

Take time to play – If you are not familiar with this knitting technique it is worth taking some time to play with some odd bits of yarn and practice knitting from the chart you are about to use. Allow about 6 stitches either side of the motif and knit at least one sample. This will help you to choose what type of yarn to use. If you’re not sure try it in different yarns to make a comparison as the results can be surprisingly different in different fibres. Use simple geometric shapes to begin with, from squares and rectangles to diamonds and triangles. As your confidence develops, move on to more complex shapes and combinations of shapes. This is also a brilliant opportunity to incorporate small amounts of different textures and types of yarns into your knitting. Some exciting effects could be achieved by using multicolour yarns with the Intarsia technique, adding yet another dimension to your work.

 

 

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My 50th Year-part two!

It’s finally over. I’ve had a fantastic year celebrating and now my 50th birthday has been and gone.

As I said a couple of weeks ago I had 50 treats spread out over 50 weeks. It was brilliant fun sharing some treats with friends & family and doing some other things I really wanted to do on my own.

Here’s the last lot of treats to complete the picture…

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Officially a Knitter!!!

Yesterday was a big day for me when the fabulous piece of paper arrived in the post.

This is the culmination of almost 7 years work (if I’d been quicker I’d have received a proper City&Guilds one) and I guess it now means that I’m officially a knitter & designer!!!

I have been knitting for a very long time, since I was taught by my grandma as a child. My grandma and my mum were always knitting and I wanted to be able to do it so much.

Grandma enjoying some riverside knitting!

I learnt so much from both of them, and from trial and error.

I was very lucky having someone on hand to ask when I was struggling and as a result of  learning at a young age I’ve had a lifelong passion for knitting and everything connected to it.

Early in 2010 I decided that I wanted to build on my passion and add some more formal learning to all that I’d managed to learn so far. I did a bit of research and chose to sign up with Loraine McClean of Knit Design Online. There was a waiting list so I had to wait a few months to get going and I think I began the course early in 2011. If you are at all considering doing something similar I would recommend having a look at Loraine’s website & thinking about the courses she is offering.

It is no exaggeration to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed working through the 12 modules that would arrive in the post.

It has been a marvellous opportunity to experiment with so many different techniques, stitches & yarns which is something that I’d never thought to do for myself before. I wasn’t afraid to substitute yarns and try things I hadn’t done before, but always following a pattern.

I have learnt to be much more strict with myself and re-do things until they are spot on as Loraine doesn’t accept anything less than your very best, and I hope this means that I will always produce items of a high standard which I can be proud of.

I’ve never had any training in art, as I was not considered creative enough to do art at school, so I was a little scared of some of the artwork we had to do. I had, however, had alot of experience doing painting, gluing/sticking & making creative messes with toddlers, and I just approached most of the tasks from this level, followed the instructions in the module and managed to present some pleasing results most of the time.  It was always a delight when the assessment came back and I found out I was actually quite good at some of these tasks.

I’m more confident now but there is definitely room for new skills to be acquired!

We also studied different types of yarns and fibres and learnt about their properties and which ones work best for certain projects and why. Finally we had to design and knit our own garments which I now have the courage to do independently. I have so many ideas and inspirations which I now can’t wait to follow up over the next few years.

Doing this course has been an absolute joy and I never ever ever want to stop building on the foundation it has given to me.

Here are the main items I have produced throughout the process.

 

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My 50th Year – part one

Warning…this post is a bit self indulgent!

Having taken a year out after closing the shop I’m being a bit slow getting going again and finding it hard to discipline myself around settling down to do some work.

There are so many distractions and other things to do!

Also it’s my 50th year and I’m celebrating  in style by giving myself 50 special treat so I’m rather busy!

There are a number of reasons I decided to do this but the main one is that, I feel like sometimes we don’t allow ourselves to be spoilt and tend to say ‘oh yes I’d like to do that one day when the children are older/we have more money/we have more time ‘etc etc, when really we should be living life as fully as possible, doing the things we love.

It’s also been a fabulous opportunity to share the fun with some of my fantastic friends.

So here’s a taste of some of the things I’ve been getting up to over the last (almost) 12 months.

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Let’s Talk About Fair Isle Knitting

I am really looking forward to the first of my new knitting workshops which will be at York School of Sewing on Friday 17th November.

The workshop will be an Introduction to Fair Isle knitting. You will receive a knitting kit to take away and complete your own version of my Petal Cushion Cover which is available in several colours, including those shown here.

If you’re keen to start creating beautiful designs using one or more colours, but have never tried, then this workshop could be for you.

You will need to be able to do both knit and purl stitch with confidence, if so, you really can progress onto Fair Isle knitting.

If you’re at all apprehensive about the thought of using more than one colour at once, then remember that traditional Fair Isle knitting uses lots of colours but never more than 2 per row!

The workshop begins with getting to grips with the techniques needed to get started with 2-colour (more if you like) knitting.

Contemporary knitting involves using any colour and knitting with frequent colour changes. This might sound a bit daunting, but once you know what you’re doing you can create some very impressive results and expand your enjoyment of your knitting hobby.

This type of knitting is also known as Jacquard, stranded or two-colour knitting. The knitting is usually done in stocking stitch but it is ok to experiment with other stitches if you wish!

I have been a bit silly in the past and seem to have either lost, given away or donated to charity most of my pieces of Fair Isle but this is something I knitted 30 years ago when I was 19.

I can remember seeing this in a magazine and loving it. I bought the wool stated on the pattern, for probably the first time in my life, and I think I even used the same colours which is something I rarely do. I like to come up with my own colour combinations because I really really want my hand-knits to be unique and individual.

In the workshop we learn about and practice, stranding and weaving the yarns at the back of the work, (as can be seen above) how to follow a chart, then we look at choosing yarns & colours for your fair isle knitting.

Here you can see I have been experimenting with doing some simple Fair Isle, choosing my colours from some inspiration and trying them in different sequences.

As I’ve done, its’ a good idea to use inspiration to help choose colours which might go together. Tear pages from magazines, collect fabric swatches or use your own personal photographs.

One thing to remember with this type of knitting is that you will use more yarn than when just knitting using one colour and your work will be alot thicker and warmer.

For Fair Isle wool works better than other more slippery fibres such as cotton. It is worth spending some time experimenting with different yarns to see how they knit up. If you are using a yarn which is more suited to this kind of work then you are more likely to be happier with the results. It’s so easy to be disappointed and to think that your work is no good when all you may need to do is change the yarn!

For this kind of knitting it is much easier to work from charts than from words so if you’ve never knitted from a chart now is the time to get your head around them. Once you do then that’ll be another knitting hurdle you’ve passed and as with most things you’ll probably find it’s alot more straightforward than you thought.

Once we’ve practiced the techniques you’ll be able to make a start on your cushion before taking it home to complete.

I love spending time helping people to make new steps with their knitting. It’s so rewarding when someone moves on from having never tried a technique, or they’ve tried on their own but not been able to conquer it, and you can see them filled with pride and enthusiasm over their new-found skill. Contact myself or York School of Sewing if you need to know more 🙂

 

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Easter Bunnies

This is my first blog this month as I’ve been away on holiday with my family. We had lots of fun in the snow and arrived home totally exhausted!!

Now we are home winter is on the way out (almost) and, as we are rapidly heading towards Easter, I decided to dig out a project I  created a couple of years ago.

It’s a little gift bag (it holds a couple of Cadburys cream eggs) and I think they look very seasonal just sitting around with the eggs inside waiting to be discovered!! If you’re having an Easter egg hunt then you could maybe hide some special eggs inside just to add to the fun.

They are quick to knit and you can use any oddments of yarn you like really. I have used about 25g of dk for mine but you could definitely experiment with different yarns. If you made them using some really chunky yarn then you might even get a full sized Easter egg in there!! We have blogged about this project before when I had given my friend the knitting bug and she re-discovered the joys of knitting after a break of many many years.  Although Karen is very clever, I do think the fact that she was able to knit her own bunny after such a long time away from the craft, shows that it is a project for all levels of knitters. I am also very pleased to say that she has kept on knitting and this week proudly showed me her very first hand-knitted sock 🙂

If you love easter and chocolate and knitting and would like to make your own little bag then I have added this pattern to my website for you and it won’t cost you anything to download it. If you do then I would be thrilled to see photos of the finished results and share them on my social media.

Happy Knitting x

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Our Day Out

I am on a bit of a mission at the moment to explore, and learn from experiencing, new techniques and different crafts. I am calling it a ‘gap year’ and combining it with celebrating #my50thyear!! This week, my mission found myself and my lovely friend Karen (who came occasionally to the shop in Tadcaster to run workshops) enjoying a workshop at Blacksmith Shop Crafts which is in the little village of Foggathorpe near York.

The workshops take place in the home of Anna who was a very friendly host. There was a small group of us and the morning began with a welcome coffee or tea as we admired the creations of Linda Hoyle our tutor for the day.

Linda makes beautiful wire sculptures and we were all going to make our own wire hares.

The process was reasonably straight forward which was great because none of us had ever worked like this with wire before. Linda was a calm and patient teacher and explained each individual step as we went along. This is how things took shape…

This workshop was made extra special by having a break for a delicious home-made lunch in Anna’s gorgeous kitchen.

It is obvious that Anna takes great pleasure in providing a quality experience for her guests, in her own words ‘It is so wonderful to be with people who love making things or at least are prepared to have a go of making things! I love the company too and find it definitely makes my life more interesting’ which is a sentiment I can totally agree and identify with.

There was so much about this day that I found completely inspiring – the setting was so pleasant, Anna and Linda were both fab, we were enjoying experiencing something different,  plus it was so very nice to spend the day with Karen as we don’t ever get to spend so much time together.

We are very pleased with and proud of our hares.

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Crazy Lazy Daisy Cats

Just thought I would share something I did last week.

This little project has been hanging around since the summer when I did some insane embroidery whilst on holiday.

I was in need of a new make-up bag so decided to make one for myself.

Having routed out some suitable contrasting fabrics and a zip I was ready for action.

 

It didn’t take long to construct a little zipped bag which I lined with the cheerful pink and green fabric in what looks like a roof-tile design. I have 2 bags now…one to keep my embroidery projects in and one to store make-up 🙂

The finished embroidered design is definitely more than slightly over the top, but I am pleased to have put it to good use. I am always underwhelmed with my zip fitting skills and this occasion is no different. The zip is fitted and it works fine and it looks ok, but could most certainly have been done much better. Therefore I have booked myself a day out to learn how to do it properly at York School of Sewing. I’ll let you know how I get on!!