Tuesday, 29 August 2017

How to Knit a Granny Square

I've tweaked the knitted Granny Square that I showed you last week and added a Granny Circle to go with it and you can now download the free pattern for them both from Ravelry

I had a lot of fun working on this design. For a start I got to play with rainbow colours and then there was the challenge of trying to do something that at first seemed impossible. How to knit something in the round that looked like crochet? As crochet works with one stitch at a time and knitting doesn't, this was tricky.

It turned out that the answer was I cord. This is a way of knitting a thin tube on very few stitches, using double pointed needles. As the technique I developed meant that I would only have two or three stitches on my needles, I needed some nice short ones. The ones I went for were Knit Pro Zing 15 cm needles. These are sharp enough too find the spaces between the stitches but not so sharp that they split the yarn. Also - they come in lovely colours!

You can see my needles here, along with the seven shades of Patons Diploma Gold DK that I used for this project. I have to say that it takes a lot longer to knit a Granny Square, rather than crochet it but I rather enjoyed it. The finished shapes are quite thick so would make good mats or coasters. Seven rounds of knitting will give you a 10 cm / 4" mat.

I love this sort of designing where I feel I'm doing something new and exciting - it helped that it was a quick project too. It made a nice change from all the big designs I'm working on at the moment.

I hope you'll be tempted to have a go and knit your own Granny Square, why should the crocheters have all the fun?

Monday, 28 August 2017

Quilt Show

A couple of weeks ago I had my annual trip to the Festival of Quilts at the NEC in Birmingham. I've been going to this show for years, initially with my Mum who was a very good quilter and, lately, with my daughter and my knitting buddy Pat.

We enjoyed out day but were to sad to see that the range of crafts represented was, yet again, narrower than before. Obviously, most of the exhibitors are linked to Patchwork and Quilting in some way but there always used to be a few good cross stitch stands, some general book stands and so on. We also thought there were less exhibitors from mainland Europe than before - maybe a result of Brexit. It would be a shame if they no longer felt they would be welcome here.

Despite this we managed to find lots of good stuff to inspire us and plenty to spend our money on. We also met up with one of the regular members of my ravelry group for coffee - it was lovely to meet an online friend in real life.

So, this is what I bought ...

Where shall I start? The red spotty thing in the middle is a kit for a sewing bag from Dandelion Designs. It was quite expensive and will take me a while to make but it's lovely - shaped like a small suitcase and full of little details. Mandy Shaw is a prolific and very talented designer; we always like exploring her stall.

I bought a Sizzix die and some clear, plastic templates ready to start on a Patchwork of the Crosses quilt, inspired by the quilt pieced by Lucy Boston, author of the Green Knowe books. I've talked about it before here but I'd really recommend this book if you're interested in her fantastically detailed quilts.

I thought the plastic templates were particularly good. I bought them from Sew & Quilt and, as well as being clear so that you can position the template exactly where you want it on the fabric, they have the seam line marked and tiny holes at the corners and in the centre to take a pin to hold the template in place. I'll use my Sizzix machine to cut the papers and the templates for the fabric.

Hiding away in the main picture is a little scissor keeper kit from Sue Hawkins which I'm looking forward to making. I don't even need another scissor keeper but Sue's designs are such fun to sew and the vibrant colours are lovely. Also, it's only a small kit so I might have a chance of actually finishing it quite soon. I can just hang it up and admire it when it's done.

See those brightly coloured plastic shapes at the front of the picture? Now they're very exciting. I bought them from Tactile Treasures who sell all sorts of bits and bobs to add interest to children's toys and quilts. There are squeakers, rattles, crinkly paper and mirrors - all of which can be sewn into things and washed. I bought a selection to play with including some coloured teething shapes which are the things you can see. I'm wondering if I can incorporate some of them into knitted designs ...

... speaking of which, as you can see I also managed to find some wool. I bought a ball of  James C Brett's new Stonewash DK which comes in some very nice, subtle colourways. The cream yarn at the back of the picture is very special. It's Superfine Alpaca 4 ply from UK Alpaca, a family farm in Devon. Now this yarn isn't cheap and I didn't need it but it's so soft! I could just imagine how wonderful it would be to knit with - sometimes the process of knitting is more important than the product. So I treated myself to four balls and plan to knit some sort of shawl or wrap. Of course I'm constitutionally unable to use a pattern I haven't designed myself so it will have to wait until inspiration strikes.

In fact, all these lovely things are still sitting there, hopefully waiting for me to start using them. I keep looking at them longingly but there's still Too Much Knitting Work To Do! When it eases up a bit, I shall start one of these exciting new projects as a treat. Which one shall I do first, I wonder?

Monday, 21 August 2017

Running fast ...

... to stay still - that's what it feels like I'm doing at the moment. Other sayings that come to mind are 'All work and no play', 'Time flies', 'Bitten off more than you can chew' - you get the general idea.

At the moment I'm working frantically on The Big Pattern Series for 2018 and wishing I'd never thought of it! I shall feel better once the knitting is finished and I can concentrate on the writing. As for this year's big Christmas pattern, every time I think of it I start to panic. Maybe I don't actually need to sleep?

Calm down Frankie, deep breaths ... I have actually had a few days out in the past couple of weeks which I'd like to write about but, in the meantime, what do you think of this?

This is what I was working on late last night and it's my first attempt at a knitted Granny Square. I need to try again with some bigger needles as it comes out very thick but I quite like the rippled outside edge. It takes a lot longer than a crochet one would but I think knitters who don't crochet might like it. Can anyone guess how it's knitted?

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

A Long Look at a Small Bookcase

This little bookcase lives in my hall and, during the great book sort last weekend, I decided to use it for some of my smaller collections of children's books. The bookcase itself is about seventy years old and was made by my Grandfather out of old packing cases. I have a workbox that was made in the same way.

Anyway, back to the books. On the top shelf are my Ladybird Books; some are my original childhood books but most have been bought more recently.

Since the 1940s Ladybird books have been popular and affordable small books for children. Printing each book on one large sheet of paper meant that quality books could be sold at reasonable prices.

I loved this book as a child and used to pore over the pictures. Children's books with coloured illustrations like this were a real treat in the early 1960s.

These two were mine as a child too. I like the picture of the school milk - those were the days.

The next two are more recent acquisitions.

I particularly love this one, it's just my sort of thing.

And of course I had to have the Ladybird Book of Knitting.

I think I may have to add to this collection soon. Books & Ink have lots of old Ladybirds, just waiting to tempt me.

Next to the Ladybirds on the shelf are three small books.

These are King Penguins, they were published in the 1940s and 50s and are a similar size to the Ladybirds. They're beautifully designed - just look at this one ...

This is 'A Book of Toys' written and illustrated by Gwen White. Nearly all the toys pictured can be found in London museums so you could visit them and look for the originals.

'Wild Flowers of the Chalk' by John Gilmour

This last one is an amazing book. The maps are from John Speed's Atlas of 1627; it's fun to see how much (or little) counties you know have changed since then.

On to the second shelf of the bookcase now. 

I expect these are familiar to most people - some of the Arthur Ransome series of 'Swallows and Amazons' books.

I do like books with map endpapers - this one's from 'Picts and Martyrs'

In this illustration from 'We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea' you can see the rescue of Sinbad, the ship's cat.

I only read 'Swallows and Amazons' as a child (thank-you Puffin Story Books - more about those in another post) but have since read and re-read the whole series as well as sharing them with my two children. This led to an Arthur Ransome themed holiday in the Lake District where we climbed Kachenjunga and found the Dog's Home, as well as visiting Captain Flint's houseboat and picnicking at Darien. If none of this means anything to you, go and read the books - they're wonderful.

Next to the Arthur Ransome are some non-fiction books. First, a few books from the Blackwell's Learning Library, school books from the 1960s and 70s.

I like these for their social history as well as the illustrations. Here are a couple of pages from 'Edna Johnson's Summer Book', first published in 1963.

In 'Dancing in Britain', as well as the expected references to Morris Dancing and Maypole, I also found this ...

Scottish soldiers from the 51st Highland Division dancing in a German prisoner of war camp during the Second World War. The book says that they invented a new dance which is still called the Reel of the 51st Division.

Next come these two books which I expect were also school books.

These were published by the Blandford Press, I would guess in the 1950s. As you can see, I have yet to find Book 2 of the series. More lovely illustrations in these pages from the two books.

The tiny little books at the end of this shelf are my collection of old I-Spy Books.

Modern versions of these little books are still being published by Collins; the idea is to spot things around a theme. You get different numbers of points for each thing you spot, depending on how hard they are to find and, when you have enough points, you can send off for a certificate. You used to get a badge which I think was nicer but the books are still lots of fun.

'I-Spy Wild Flowers'
'I-Spy History'

Not that my house is full of old things but I have everything on that page from 'I-Spy History'!

And now for the bottom shelf of the little bookcase.

These are my Little Grey Rabbit books. I had just one of these as a child which I read and re-read, 'Wise Owl's Story'.

I didn't know that it was part of a series so imagine my delight when, as an adult, I found that Alison Uttley had written more than 30 little books about Little Grey Rabbit and her friends. The stories are lovely, full of details of the countryside and they have the most beautiful pictures by Margaret Tempest.

Here are just a few of my favourites ...

Two books featuring Fuzzypeg the Hedgehog 

How wonderful is it that there's a book about making lace?

I bought 'Little Grey Rabbit's Christmas' just last week and it's already one of my favourites. There's sledging and snowballs (Fuzzypeg gets stuck in one), carol singing, primrose wine and lots of kindness between neighbours. 

And we've finally got to the end of the bookcase. I hope you've enjoyed this look at some of my collections and that it's brought back happy memories of your own childhood books. 

I have more book collections on other bookcases, including hundreds of first edition Puffin Story Books and Green Penguins But they will have to wait for another day.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

August Quilt

Today I've published the eighth in my year long series of mini knitted quilts.

August Quilt is full of flowers, much like my garden at the moment - although mine are hiding behind the weeds and brambles. The little flowers are quick to knit and could be used to decorate all manner of things Summery.

It was a bit of a race to get this pattern ready as we spent the weekend sorting and moving all the books on the bottom two floors of the house into new homes. By which I mean new bookcases, not many actually left the house. When I can get some decent photos I'll show you what I mean.