Saturday, 28 January 2017

Choosing Colours

I've just published a pattern for a Knitted Mandala and thought you might like to see how I set about choosing the colours for it. For this one I started with a piece of fabric and then looked for colours that were in the fabric.

I decided to use Sirdar Country Style 4 ply and started off with these four colours: Parchment, Garnet, Soapstone and Purple Sage. They don't have to match the colours on the fabric exactly - near enough is good enough.

Then I looked for shades of those four colours and added three more.

So, there's a darker beige, a bright pink and a deep blue / green (Camel, Rosehip and Prussian). That bright pink isn't really in the fabric but you often need a bolder colour to bring the rest to life. If you look at these two twists of yarn, one without the pink and one with it, I think you'll see what I mean.

Twisting the colours together like this is a good way to see how they'll work together. 
So, after all that theory, here's the finished mandala.

It's knitted back and forth and then joined and blocked. I'm hoping that knitters will use this pattern to create their own mandalas in all sorts of wonderful colours.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Images For Science

Yesterday I went to an amazing exhibition at my local museumInternational Images For Science 2016 is a touring exhibition produced by The Royal Photographic Society. As the photographs are under copyright I can't share them with you here but you can see the finalists in the competition here.

There was paint on a speaker, dancing to the music, a balloon popping in slow motion (the skin peels back rather than bursting), the milky way seen above the clouds ... The photographs were inspiring, thought-provoking and just beautiful.

After it finishes here, the exhibition will be going to Worcester, Derry, Edinburgh, London and Cheltenham. Full details are on the RPS website. You can also buy the Exhibition Guide which has 100 of the photographs, complete with detailed and interesting captions.

Has anyone else seen this exhibition?

Monday, 23 January 2017

Making it up as I go along

I've just finished a new scarf design, Red Zebra - so named because it's red, it's striped and the yarn I used is called Zebrino which I thought sounded a bit like zebra.

This scarf is one of those where I played about with the yarn until I came up with a combination of stitches that gave me a look I liked. By working double increases and double decreases all across one row of the two row repeat, I got a textured pattern where both sides, though different, are equally pleasing. The other row is plain knit by the way, just to give you a rest. The only slight drawback was a tendency for the knitting to pull to one side; I got round this by working blocks of the stitch pattern separated by five rows of rib. This meant that the 'right' side of the scarf changed with each block so I ended up with a straight scarf.

Here's another scarf where I used lots of increases and decreases to come up with a heavily textured pattern.

With this one you get puffy triangles on one side of the scarf and a lattice pattern on the other. Somehow, this made me think of dragon scales so I called this one Jabberwock Scarf after the wonderful poem Jabberwocky by  Lewis Carroll. Here's just one verse ...

                                                   'Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
  The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
                                                   Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
                                                   The frumious Bandersnatch!'

Definitely one of those poems to learn by heart. Rhythm and nonsense are an ideal combination when sharing poems with children. Edward Lear is a great favourite with my family; I learnt The Owl and the Pussy-cat off by heart when my son was a baby so that he could watch me saying it. We also loved his Alphabet - who could forget King Xerxes, 'Xerxy, Perxy, Turxy, Linxy Lurxy, Great King Xerxes'?  Dr Seuss's ABC is another wonderful one to chant along together.

What are your favourite nonsense poems?

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Green Knowe

I chose the names of my cats, Linnet and Tolly, from one of my favourite books The Children of Green Knowe, the first in a series of magical books written by Lucy Boston.

The book starts in winter with Tolly arriving to stay with his great-grandmother in the middle of a flood. As the snow falls and Christmas nears, she tells him stories of other children who lived in the house and it’s as if they’re still there …

The books are set in and around Lucy’s home, The Manor, Hemingford Grey and were illustrated by her son, Peter who took the house and the things in it as his inspiration. Built in around 1130 and set in beautiful gardens, it’s one of the oldest continually inhabited buildings in Britain.

If you visit Green Knowe you will see many of the things mentioned in the books; Tolly’s room in particular will be very familiar to readers with the rocking horse, bird cage and chest.

You can buy the Green Knowe books and many other exciting things from Lucy’s daughter-in-law, Diana at the Green Knowe Shop. I can recommend the DVD of the BBC series from the 1980s of ‘The Children of Green Knowe’ as well as ‘From Time To Time’ which was based on ‘The Chimneys of Green Knowe’.

But, most exciting of all, you can buy a copy of Tolly’s little mouse, taken from the original model. The book and a mouse would make a lovely gift for a reading child.

And as if all that wasn’t enough, Lucy Boston was also a quilter. But that will have to keep for another day.

Monday, 16 January 2017

The Silent Piano

It looks like a normal piano, doesn’t it? But when you press the keys, there’s no sound. It’s been in this sorry state for a few days now, ever since the piano tuner took away the mechanism inside to do some repairs. All the felt pads and little leather tabs on the hammers are being replaced which means that the dreaded ‘clicky keys’ will be a thing of the past. Of course, now that it’s silent, I keep wanting to play it every time I walk past …

The piano is about ninety years old so it’s not surprising that it’s a bit worn. It belonged to my Grandmother who gave it to me when I started learning to play at the age of nine. My best friend was from a musical family and I think going to play with her was the first time I saw a piano in someone’s house. So thank-you Heather for a lifetime of music.

The other person I have to thank is my Great-Grandfather who bought the piano in the late 1920s. He took Granny up to London on the train when she was about thirteen and bought it for her on a whim in Selfridges. They weren’t a well-off family and nobody played so that must have been quite a day.

This piano has moved house quite a few times and even survived the ceiling falling on it a few years ago so it deserves some care. I can’t wait to be able to play it again.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

On My Needles

I thought you might like a glimpse of some of the designs I'm working on at the moment. So ... let's start with the basket. That holds what's going to be a rug, made up of thickly textured squares. There will be 150 squares when it's finished and so far I've knitted 88. I've got to the stage where I've made a little chart so that I can tick each square off as it's finished. It will probably have some sort of border too but I don't know what yet.

The red stripey thing is a scarf - that'll probably be the next thing to be published as it's quite a quick knit. It's another one of those designs where I made up my own stitch pattern as I went along. The yarn is Adriafil Zebrino - a variegated yarn, about halfway between a DK and an aran weight (125 m / 50 g). I really liked this shade (68) with its strong reds and oranges contrasting with the grey.

What's next? That pile of shapes is the start of something - I don't know what yet - that I'm making with the yarn from last year's Opal Advent Calendar. This was a big box with 24 doors, one for each day of Advent, and behind each door was a mini ball of yarn.

I had one of these calendars last year too (thank-you Rose) and that became a Patchwork Pelerine and a set of Advent Stars . In case you're wondering, a pelerine is a shawl that's square at the front but dips to a point at the back. I was inspired by the garter stitch pelerine in Elizabeth Zimmermann's book Knitting Workshop .

My pelerine is made up of squares;
it's very handy if you live in an old, chilly house as I do.

The stars were knitted with the leftover yarn from the pelerine - I used up every scrap.

This year I'm planning to alternate my knitted shapes with plain ones in a dark grey yarn ... although I'm wondering if that will be the right colour. If not, look out for a design in the future in dark grey 4 ply.

Do you see that little bit of green knitting at the back of the picture? That's the start of a scarf or wrap, using yarn with little beads in. The yarn is called Moonstone and I have no idea how this pattern is going to develop. So far all I've got is a little holey piece that's starting to twist.

And finally ... not on my needles but on my hook, the squared fabric underneath everything else is two sections of a crochet blanket. Quite a lot more to do on that one.

I hope you've enjoyed seeing some of the things I'm making. I always work on lots of designs at the same time like this, trying to plan ahead while still finishing things regularly. Those of you working on my mini quilts will notice that there's no sign of the February Quilt. That's because it's all done - knitted, photographed and written up - and I don't want you to see it until it's published.

Let me know if you'd like to see more 'On My Needles' posts in the future.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Meet the Cats

Yes, that's right, I am indeed one of those people who likes to talk about their cats. In my defence, my two only came to live with me a few months ago. Both came from Cats Protection so they are rescue cats. I've had rescue cats before, including Tripod who was a three-legged feral cat (well, what else do you call a cat with three legs?). I might tell you about them one day.

Anyway, back to the present. First of all, I got Linnet. She's a young cat who had been kept in a rabbit hutch and was very scared of people. If anyone went near her, she just froze. This is what she looked like when I first saw her; look at the fear in her eyes.

Linnet spent the first three weeks here hiding under the bath, only venturing out at night or if she was sure I was out. I sat on the bathroom floor a lot, avoiding eye contact and talking to her until she eventually ventured out for a stroke. The big breakthrough, though, came when this arrived ...

This is Tolly soon after he came home. Once Linnet realised he was in the house she started coming downstairs to keep an eye on him. She spent the next three weeks hissing at him but also watching him play. She would wait until she was alone in the room and then I'd hear her playing with whatever toy he'd just left.

Tolly was the only kitten in his litter and his mother wasn't interested in him so he arrived with no cat social skills whatever. His approach to anything or anyone new was to bite and scratch. It was a great relief to me when Linnet finally accepted him and took over kitten training duties. He bites her, she licks him and slowly he's getting better. She even lets him play with her tail which I think is beyond the call of duty. So, here they are now ... Linnet posing at Christmas and Tolly in a box.

This reminds me of a lovely picture book My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes by Eve Sutton. Does anyone else know it? Interestingly, it was illustrated by Lynley Dodd who went on to write the Hairy Maclary books for which she is better known.

One more picture - I think it's safe to say they're friends now.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Let's start with some knitting ...

Although I plan to talk about lots of other stuff in this blog, I thought I would start with the bread and butter of my life – the knitting.

I’ve been designing knitting patterns and publishing them on Ravelry for quite a few years now. If you visit my designer page you’ll see there are hundreds of free patterns to download, ranging from blanket, scarves and shawls to toys and the purely decorative (what do you mean, you don’t want to knit a rainbow?). There are also quite a few crochet patterns but ‘Frankie’s Knitted and Crochet Stuff’ is a bit of a mouthful.

Instead of charging for my patterns I ask that people consider making a donation to the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation which is a small charity that funds research and supports children and their families. Every day two children in the UK are diagnosed with a liver disease, making it more common than childhood leukaemia. Most liver diseases are life-threatening, the causes are unknown and there is no cure. Treatment involves a lifetime of care and medication which can include liver transplants. So far generous knitters and crocheters (is that a word?) have helped me to raise over £14,000 for this very good cause.

So, back to the knitting. This year I'm publishing a series of patterns as a sort of knitted calendar, in the form of mini quilts. Here's the first month's pattern.

This is the January Quilt. A friendly looking snowman, complete with jacket and a battered hat.

Each little quilt is only about the size of a postcard and, as you can see, they can be hung on a mini hanger. I've added a button down sleeve to the back so that the quilt can be changed at the start of each month.

The next quilt is all ready to go and will be published on 1st February.

This would be a good time to mention my Ravelry Group where you'll find lots of friendly people, comparing notes as they work on their patterns and generally chatting. Some are going to turn their little quilts into bigger projects - perhaps blankets with the addition of some plain blocks - but lots of people are still at the 'I want to do this, just need to find the yarn and the time' stage.

I also made a fabric mini quilt from my original sketch which I've sent to my daughter. Whether or not she gets another one each month remains to be seen.

Is it just me or does this snowman have a bit of an evil look? 

By the way, the little clips holding the quilt on to the frame are Clover Mini Wonder Clips. I got mine at Cotton Patch. I had been planning to use mini wooden clothes pegs but they were too big.

So, that's my first blog post. Is there anyone out there reading it?