Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Marshmallow Twist Bag

Wendy is one of my most talented knitting friends. I met her through my local knitting group and she has been my knitting guru ever since. I've written about her awesomeness before in my Knitting Magazine article, but now I have an additional reason to blow my Wendy-is-awesome trumpet.
Not content with being just generally great at knitting she has turned her hand to designing some stunning little kits under the name of Muddy Sheep. My favourite at the moment is the Marshmallow Twist bag which Wendy has kindly let me test knit for her.

First thing to say is that the yarn is lovely. Squashy, warm, rub your face in it snuggly. It's easy and a pleasure to work with. 
The pattern was well written and had enough interest in the stitches and construction to keep me interested. 
There is as little sewing up as possible, which is always great.
But my favourite feature of the kit has to be the gorgeous little finishing touches. As well as a cute little wooden button you also get a board insert to keep the bottom of your bag sturdy and a colour matched oil cloth insert. I think this is genius. You get the squish of the yarn on the outside but the benefit of a sturdy, wipe clean and colourful inside. It just adds that special something to an already great kit.

I managed to finished it just before Christmas and gifted it to my Mum as I know she will use and enjoy it, plus she deserves it. Look at her happy present opening face on Christmas day!

Wendy has several other patterns in the Muddy Sheep range such as the Never Knit Before Cowl which is a perfect kit for beginners and the Striped Messenger Bag which comes with a soft cotton lining to sew. All the patterns are available as downloadable patterns or in a complete kit. These kits are great gifts for a friend (either in kit form or knitted up as I did with my Mum) or indeed are a lovely gift for yourself! 

Obviously everyone's a little cash strapped at this time of year but Muddy Sheep Knits also has free patterns, an online needles and notions store to peruse and clear video tutorials to help you conquer those tricky techniques.

Right that's enough trumpet blowing for one day. All that's left to say is Happy New Year to all of you and your families!

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Pay it Forward #3: Mitts for Leila

Back in January I got involved in the Pay It Forward posts that go around on Facebook. I agreed to make something for three people within 2013 and in turn they then had to make something for some of their friends. I churned out my first two gifts in March, a scarf for Zoe and some socks for Katie, and then let this final one drag on for no particular reason. As we're now at the end of the year, and as I was feeling inspired by the Pom Pom Christmas party, I decided it was time to Pay It Forward for the last time in 2013.

I had wanted to make the Skipworth Mittens from Pom Pom Magazine issue one for ages. They look so squashy and cosy! I used some Rowan Plaid from the horrific first jumper I ever made, but thankfully the variegated yarn is much better in a small project like this. Leila and I used to work together in my first job out of Uni. She's a super bubbly, Scottish lass who always puts a smile on my face. The yarn has all the tones of Scottish heather and so I thought them fitting for lovely Leila.

Did you take part in Pay It Forward this year? Did you manage to get yours made?

Come to think of it I can't remember who was meant to be paying it forward to me! Come on, own up...

Saturday, 14 December 2013


May I present to you the Fieldwork Cardigan from Pom Pom Magazine issue five. I have been working on this cardigan for ages and am very glad to say that I finally got it finished!  The last push I needed was the Pom Pom magazine Christmas party which took place last weekend. I wanted to wear the cardi to the party to show solidarity to this lovely little mag. Every issue is like a beautiful coffee table book and there are plenty of gorgeous patterns too.

The Pom Pom party itself was lots of fun. There was live music, free popcorn machine, free crackers with two huge wheels of cheese, a rack of all the knitted up garments from the magazine to try on, a handful of luxury yarn stalls and a bar with some delicious mulled wine. I went with a bunch of friends from my knitting group and we started up our own little knitting corner which soon became popular with others.

Theodora Burrow was there with Alessandra Rigillo, the owner of a new yarn shop in Walthamstow called Abstract Yarns. I have made a promise to get down to the shop in the new year and will of course let you know what it's like! Theodora has a new range of knitting kits selling in the shop at the moment under the name of 'Theodora Goes Wild'. Both ladies were wearing hats knitted from the kits, aptly with pom poms on them.

Back to the cardigan; I initially meant for this to be finished in time to wear it for late Summer, but I forgot how much attention was required for lace knitting. I often couldn't keep up when watching gripping TV shows or if I had things on my mind. Not to say that the lace was hard, just that I don't do a lot of it and so it was a challenge for my mushy brain.

My only modification was the final cast off. It was meant to be a sew cast off, which is supposed to be very stretchy but I must have done it totally wrong as I couldn't get the buttons done up! I picked it back and did a regular cast off which was much better.

Buttons are wooden Hawaiian flowers. CUTE!

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Knit Weekend 2013 aka Shitknits

Last month I went away on a knitting weekend with some of the ladies from my awesome little knitting group. We all needed a weekend dedicated to 'me time', a bit of a get away from it all and above all lots of knitting. And that is what we got.

We stayed in a great little barn in Suffolk and ate, drank, knit and visited a couple of nice fabric and yarn shops to round it all off. We mainly knit though. Did I mention that there was a lot of knitting?

There were certain points where the drink and the knitting converged, which produced some disastrous knitting issues and the catch phrase of the weekend 'Shitknits!' This was exclaimed each time someone messed up their pattern, dropped a stitch or generally did something wrong/ stupid/ drunk with their knitting. There were a lot of Shitknits moments over the weekend.

Although we were all busy stitching we did manage to get out and about too. We went to Fabric Rehab which just so happened to have a sale going on. As you can see there was a bit of a fabric frenzy among us, with Nicola, wearing purple above, who was simply a blur of fabric hunting. This has nothing to do with my poor photography skills I assure you.

Then we went to Twist in Woodbridge, which is a great little yarn shop, with lots of lovely stock, from the regular Rowan and Debbie Bliss to Fiberspates, Noro and Jamieson Smith. 

I didn't really want to leave.

So we stayed and rubbed some more yarn on our faces.

Finally, some fabulous skeins got bought and then wound in the shop by the lovely staff and we left with wallets a little lighter but heads full of inspiration and happiness. That large prosecco at lunch time probably helped too.

Our highlights of the weekend, apart from the shopping, were the gorgeous wood burning stove in the barn, some terrible singing to the Les Miserable DVD, a hell of a lot of cake and getting sore hands from the many hours of knitting we managed to do. The pain was so worth it, look at what we accomplished:

Katie, did a ton of work on her chunky cardigan. It was her baby.

Adela was insanely productive finishing 2 kids hats, a cowl and some teddy bear trousers. Although there were a fair few shouts of 'Shitknits' along the way.

Karen finished her chunky cardigan which was a bit bigger than expected but extremely squishy and comfy. 
Karyna started her fist pair of boot socks and knitted all this over the weekend.

 Aarti started this oh-so-cute rainbow baby blanket.

And Nicola spent a lot of time sewing up this gorgeous cardigan for her daughter. She did some other stuff too but this was her biggest victory.

Finally, I worked on my Fieldwork cardigan and even managed some sewing up. There were a lot of shouts of 'Shit Knits' while I did this as I sewed one piece on completely the wrong way round. Doh!

We had such a good time we started planning the next one before we'd even left the barn. Can't wait for Shitknits 2014.

Sunday, 8 December 2013


Sometimes there are unavoidable forces in our life that keep us from doing the things we love the most. Late nights at work that keep us from a tasty dinner, cash spent on Christmas presents that keep us from buying that skein of sock yarn and packed, standing room only trains that stop us from knitting on the commute home. But in the last few weeks there's been a much fluffier and altogether cuter thing that has kept me from my knitting and blogging. Meet Kiefer. He's the newest addition to our family and my snuggly distractor.

We got Kiefer from Poorly Paws, a cat re-homing organisation in Essex. The lovely lady there called Deana was so helpful in choosing a suitable cat for our home and family. Although it really was as if he chose us with lots of head-butts, cuddles and purrs. Check out their website and Facebook if you are thinking about getting a cat. Rehoming is so much better than adding to the supply and demand of breeding cats for new kittens. There are so many cats out there who need your love already!

Kiefer was dumped in a box outside the vets with his brothers and sisters and was only 3 months old when we bought him home. He settled in very quickly but being a cat obviously has an intense interest in all things string and yarn like. This, along with him wanting to lay on my lap or chest every time I sit down, means that knitting and using the laptop was almost impossible in the first few weeks. Slowly I have built up his tolerance for yarn and he is learning now that I'm not happy when he attacks my works in progress. He also has realised that stepping on the computer doesn't make me too happy either, so has worked out some kind of compromise by sitting with the Mr. instead when I need to type.

Well I guess now it's official, I've finally turned into the crazy knitting cat lady.


Sunday, 17 November 2013

It's Not Blue!

I finally broke my blue streak with a lovely little baby knit called Skye by Martin Storey. I made it for an old friend who's just had a baby girl. Of course I could have knitted it for her in blue to continue the blue period I've been having, but I had this raspberry hand-knit cotton in the stash and it was begging to be made into this little posh coat from the Rowan Miniature classics book.

I actually started this project on a plane on my way home from a work trip. However mid-flight, when the passengers next to me needed to get passed me to the loos I put the needles on my seat and someone sat on them. It might have even been me! What's worse is that usually I would only ever fly with my trustly Denise interchangable needles. These are made of resin and so are 'flight safe' and slightly bendy, so accidentally sitting on them wouldn't be a problem. But the hem for this project required a much smaller size needle than the Denises go down to and so I had to bring a sadly more breakable bamboo pair. I was gutted when I stood up and saw the splintered little needles there, but being a resourceful woman, who didn't want to spend the rest of the flight wishing she was knitting, I managed to get some tape and patched them up enough to finish the hem.  Although it was sticky, hard work to get the stitches on and off the needles, it was a joy when I moved onto the less splintered size up.

The pattern was pretty quick and easy. The only issues I had were around the way the collar sits but I think that with wear this will flatten out a bit.  As I was going fairly 'girly' on the colour I used some heart shaped buttons I got at Ally Pally. They're a bit over the top but I think they work.

I'm actually till working on a blue project so I'm not out of the woods yet, but this has been a nice splash of raspberry in my very blueberry knitting at the moment.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Ally Pally 2014

It's that time of year again when The Knitting and Stitching show rolls into Ally Pally and empties our pockets, but leaves us with a ton of inspiration and a big smile on my face. 

This year I went on a Sunday for the first time and it was no more or less busy than any other time I've visited the show during the week, so tactics for trying to visit during a quiet time should be thrown out of the window from now on. It was just Mum and I trawling the halls this year but I had such a great time catching up with some of the stall holder and meeting some new ones too. Here are my show highlights.

Rowans ball gown/ knit wear mash ups were beautiful and a really nice way of showing off the knits in a high fashion and sophisticated way. It's a look I'd love to rock to the office, but perhaps I haven't lost enough of my marbles yet. 

Eljo's were a newcomer to the show this year and people seemed to love their coconut buttons with a cute, shiny, enamel finish. The colours really popped and you could have found a shade to suit anything you were knitting. It's a wonder I resisted buying any! Must have been the fatigue setting in late in the day.

Bessie May were also being talked about quite a lot this year. I have to admit that I'd hadn't seen them at the show before, but their stand this year looked great with lots of bright colour choices and items knit up to their cute kooky patterns. I stood talking to the guy at the stand for ages, he nearly offered to get me a cup of tea at one point! Top marks for customer service.  

It was great to catch up with old friends like Dixie from Nichols buttons who hasn't been to the show in a few years. She had a great stand right by the coffee place in the smallest hall. All her wears were delicious as usual. 
The Milla Mia girls were showing off their adult collections at the show for the first time and it was great to hear from them how well received these have been. I have yet to invest in making myself one of the adult designs but I will one day. In the mean time I'm still totally in love with everything they do for little people!
I bumped into Sharon from Taylor Made Yarns who looked like she bought a whole bundle of beautiful things. 
And Purl Alpaca Designs had a gorgeous stand which really showed off their latest collection so well. The ladies were all very busy so I didn't get to chat for long but my collection highlights have got to be their Icon dress, the Esme jumper and Isis Tailcoat. Please go check them out they are lovely!

I went with the mission this year not to buy any yarn as I have so damn much of it sitting at home. The sign above (that I saw at the show) really is my mantra at the moment. But guess what? I failed. It was just one (bag of 10) for a too-good-to-miss price as usual. And it's in my colour of the moment BLUE! My subconscious must be on a real downer at the moment with all this blue. 

I also bought some buttons for a specific project or two and a Sublime pattern book for just £1 which i couldn't pass over. So it was a rather restrained year really. I mean this could have happened:

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Baby Blue

My friend Nina is most fabulous, she needs no help from me for that. However, when she couldn't find the perfect fitted, cropped, baby blue jumper she wanted and asked me to make her one, I agreed to help her to reach her next level of fabulousness. 

I really enjoyed knitting this; mostly as it was the project I took with me on holiday to Cornwall in August, where everything was extremely relaxing and suited to a knitting mood. The yarn is Rowan Soft Knit Cotton which was lovely to work with and easy to wash, which I feel is important when you're making something for someone else. You don't want an embarrassing felting issue, ruining the item and possibly your friendship.

The pattern was heavily modified from a basic top down jumper pattern to include a wide ribbed neckline, cuff and hem. I also created waist shaping front and back to keep it fitted to the waist. It was all a bit of an experiment but after some tinkering it came together and I was really pleased with the result. Nina also loves it, which is handy!

And so my blue period continues! I'm still working on the blue Fieldwork cardigan for myself, but the lace pattern on it hurts my brain from time to time so that's why these other projects creep in so easily. I also have a baby project on the needles which is actually in RASPBERRY PINK! It's crazy times when a change of yarn colour elicits that kind of a response, but perhaps the blue period is coming to an end?

I'm off to Ally Pally tomorrow for the Knitting and Stitching show. I'm super excited and have no idea what I'll buy, if anything, but I'll be sure to report back.

Friday, 27 September 2013

The Blanks

If there's one thing a Parkinson loves it's a blanket. We're famed for being found curled up on the sofa underneath what we call a 'rug' in almost any weather. And perhaps that's why, wether crochet, quilted or knit I love to make blankets.

The photo above is a rather strange looking blanket being dried on the washing line. I started this particular project over a year ago in January 2012! But with blankets you're not really looking for a quick knit, it's something you need to be able to pick up and put down when you like and also to forget about until you need a 'filler knit' in between projects. This one started off as I stared at a mound of acrylic yarn I had in my stash and wondered what to do with it. I began making a scarf in moss stitch and as I changed colours the idea of a blanket came to mind. Searching for colour combination ideas I found this picture of a modern quilt top and loved it.

So I continued knitting moss stitch scarves or strips, randomly changing colours as I knit. With each strip complete I checked on the length of the blanket, hoping for a single bed size; enough for two people to snuggle under on the sofa. The blanket's strips are too thick to be a replica of the quilt top above, but it was the general idea and colour combination of brown, yellow, grey and blue that I took as inspiration.

I had never intended to keep the blanket for myself. It was something I always thought I wanted to give as a gift for a special occasion. And so when my Sister in Law Brooke moved to a new house recently I thought it was time to finish the blanket and give it a loving home. To give the project a nice finish I used some baby blue brushed cotton as a backing, which makes it extra squishy.

The blanket was given to Brooke and her boyfriend Andy this week at Brooke's birthday dinner in their new home. My sister in law is certainly a worth recipient of the blanket as she loves cuddling up under mine at our house and 90% of the time will fall asleep when under it. However the Davis family don't call it a 'rug' their name for it is the 'blanks'. So here are Brooke and Andy enjoying their first snuggle under their new blanks.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Not sure what happened there

So my 'Blue Period' Seems to have stunted my blogging! What happened to the whole of August Laura?  It must have been all the lovely summer that we actually had this year, meaning that I was outside enjoying life, which was of course lovely! Here's a summary of the fun had by all:

Not a lot of knitting going on in those particular photos but I promise you, it has been happening. Although all the yarn does remain blue!

There was the Baby Sophisticate for Henry which is a lovely free pattern and knitted up quickly over a couple of weeks. I have yet to see him wear it but hopefully it still fits him now the cold weather is setting in.

I used some lovely (of course vintage) buttons on it from a vintage fair I went to yonks ago. I love it when all these bits and pieces you collect come into use in the end. It makes more hoarding acceptable.
I also sewed in one of my labels which makes it look that little bit more shop bought in a weird way! Hopefully people will recognised its handmade merits.

A friend from Uni had a baby called Charlotte, so out of the leftovers from the cardigan I made an initialed washcloth. I sent it with a bar of baby soap all wrapped up in pink ribbon, but it's nice to have some things that aren't pink for a girl, which is why I thought of the blue for the cloth.

I've made these little washcloths before and they're really great little projects that don't take too long but are lovely and personal as well as being totally useful.

I have no current pictures of the (of course) blue cardigan I'm still working on from Pom Pom Magazine called Fieldwork, but I can report that I have finished the back sections and am now onto the first front section. It's slow going because I started another, you guessed it, blue project! But I'll tell you all about that in another blog post, because I'm back in the game people: BACK - IN - THE - GAME.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

My Blue Period

Picasso's blue period spanned three years of his works from 1901 - 1904 where he was hugely depressed and painted mainly in blues. In contrast I am not at all depressed, it's actually sunny in London, but I do happen to be knitting exclusively in blues at the moment. Yes, what you've just witnessed here is a very tenuous link between one of the greatest painters of our time and me based on the use of the word 'blue' only.

First I made some blue Kanoko pants, which is the secret baby knit I mentioned in my last post. It's the third time I've made these little baby trousers and the second time I've made them in the dreamy Mirasol Hacho. I love how it's quite sturdy and makes the stitches defined without being harsh to the touch.  I modified the pattern to eliminate the moss and garter stitch patterning, finished with a simple garter stitch hem and used elastic in the waistband again instead of ties. They're very cute and I can't wait to hand them over to the recipient!

A few days ago I started on a new project in the blue Rowan All Seasons Cotton. I bought it for a bargainous price from Liberty on a naughty lunch break and have four balls which will be enough to make the Baby Sophisticate cardigan by Linden Down. It's a free pattern and although there are warnings on Ravelry, that it comes up on the small side, I'm going to give it a shot in the larger size option anyway. He's 7 months now, I'm hoping to be finished in a couple of weeks - it's going to fit, right?

Finally I've made a good start on a new project for myself from the latest Pom Pom Magazine. A friend and I are a bit obsessed with this independent gem of a mag, but this is the first thing I'm going to be making out of it. I bought the yarn at Knit With Attitude last month and it's a brand I haven't used before called Du Store Alpakka Mirasol. However, I really must recommend it for it's soft as a kitten stroke-able qualities. I can hardly knit with it without wanting to rub it on my face for a bit.

The construction of the cardigan is quite different from anything I've made before. The back is in two pieces knit from the sleeve cuffs in towards the centre back. It took me a while to figure out exactly what I was knitting when I started out, but it's fun to be knitting something with an interesting construction as well as some lace for a bit of a challenge. It is of course blue.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Our Neighbour

Our next door neighbour died a few weeks ago. She lived in the bottom flat with the garden next to ours. We would often see her pottering about in the garden, filling the bird feeder and putting her washing out to dry. Although almost completely deaf I always said "hello" when I saw her and would attempted to have a conversation with her. One day I found out that she was a knitter and although the conversation flew off on a tangent quickly I think she understood that I knit too. 

When she died her Son in Law, who always had a chat with us when cutting the grass, told us the news. We passed on our condolences. She was a lovely lady, who was devoted to the church, helped at play groups, coffee mornings for new Mums and probably a lot of other things I never found out about. 

Then this weekend her Son in Law popped a bag of yarn and accessories over the fence and told me that she would want her knitting bits to go to a good home. I was so excited to open up the bag and as I went through it I felt a mix of emotions for the nice lady these things belonged to. It made me smile to read through her hand written pattern notes.

It made me smile to read her hand written pattern notes. Pulling out the button box was very exciting as you know I can't resist buttons. The little tin in the picture above was another exciting item. It makes me wonder where it came from, what it was originally used for and why she owned it. The same went for the box of cotton reels below, which was so pretty. Did the cotton reels come in this box or where they collated into it over time? 

All of the yarn was acrylic, which I will most likely pass on or donate to charity, but I felt particularly sad when I pulled out a half knitted square, with a small stack of identical squares underneath it. She was obviously making them for someone, perhaps it was for a charity, or even for herself. I think I will finish the square for her and send them to one of the many charities that collects them. I'm hoping that's what she would have wanted. 

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Still Knitting With Attitude

I visited the ethical and environmentally conscious knitting shop, Knit With Attitude, back in June 2011. Today, two years since my last visit, I went back to see owner Maya's new premises and of course check out her gorgeous yarns.

Arriving at the shop the overwhelming thing to mention is that it is in a much better location than before. The tiny wedge of a shop occupied previously was definitely cute, but difficult to track down and a bit too cosy for comfortable browsing. The new shop is right on Stoke Newington High Street and is perfectly sized with a wide aisle, great for buggies, and lots of light and space to consider your purchases.

The premises is split between Knit With Attitude (on the left) and Of Cabbages and Kings (on the right) which sells quirky and cute products all made in the UK by British based designers and makers. It is the collaboration between these two businesses that has made it possible for them to have this lovely new shop. It's tough for small independents out there right now, so coming together into one space makes so much sense. The products work really well together too; one of my friends came to browse yarn and came away with two gorgeous art prints from Of Cabbages and Kings instead!

Maya's yarn is conveniently sorted into yarn weights, ranging from Super Bulky on the left to Lace weight on the right. It makes narrowing down the yarn for your pattern really easy! You can see my handbag on the floor overflowing with yarn around the Aran and DK section. 

All of the yarns are still environmentally friendly and produced with ethical consciousness, so you're shopping guilt free here. There is a nice selection of books, a wall of needles and notions (including Knit Pro interchangeable tips), lovely kits from Purl Alpacas and some ready to wear hand knit garments too. 

I bought some secret yarn for a baby knit, which is hiding underneath the yarn you can see above. The blue you can see is Mirasol 100% Alpaca which is going to be something for ME! Because I don't have enough yarn. Obviously.

It was a bit of a 'Mum's day off' as two of my friends came with me. We all left the kids with the Mr's and indulged ourselves with yarn, then lunch and a spot of cake at a deli down the road. BLISS!

So if you're looking for a nice yarn shop experience and to sample the delights of trendy local Stoke Newington then why not drop in and say 'Hi' to Maya? But if you're never going to make it down there then the online shop has a sale on at the moment to tempt you instead.