Sunday, 15 July 2018

Colour Planning

I love designing really colourful patterns but, when it comes to choosing colours, I do have a tendency to get stuck in the 'rainbow rut'.


See what I mean? It's just so easy to use the shades of the rainbow for a bright result that's always popular. These patterns are Colour Wheel ShawlTiddlywinks BlanketPaddle Ball and Rainbow by the way (although I think I can be forgiven for using rainbow colours to knit an actual rainbow).

Anyway, last week I accidentally designed a new Ten Stitch pattern. It was accidental in that I was just doodling on some graph paper and an idea suddenly clicked into place. Apart from a bit of fiddling about while I worked out exactly where to place the shaping stitches, it came together pretty quickly. 

So, I've knitted a small test piece and am now ready to start on the actual blanket - yes, it's a blanket. This one is slightly different from the others in that it's not worked continuously but in 'rounds', using a different colour for each round. I say rounds but it's not actually a circle or anything remotely resembling one. I thought this would be a good opportunity to use lots of different colours as I know many people use the Ten Stitch patterns as stashbuster projects. So I turned out my baskets of Stylecraft Special DK ... which is when it started to get complicated. With so many colours (now all over the floor), where should I start? So, I put them all back in their baskets and did something else.

What I did was to crochet a couple of little mats to see if I could be a bit more relaxed when choosing colours ...


... apparently not. Exactly the same colours in both of them! At this point I gave up and went to bed.

The next morning it dawned on me that what I needed were yarn pegs for all the Stylecraft Special colours to do my colour planning with. Not only would this save me being overwhelmed by balls of yarn all over the floor but it also offered the prospect of many happy hours procrastinating as I wound the pegs. 

The first problem was that I don't have all the 80 solid shades of this yarn. What to do? Obviously I went straight to Wool Warehouse to order the 26 colours I needed to complete the set. I know, that's a big order, but I justified it by remembering how much I use this yarn in my designs.

Having done that, I set about making yarn pegs with the 54 colours I already had.


Don't they look nice? The trickiest part was writing the colour names on the pegs. I deliberately covered a wide section of each peg with yarn to give me a nice big band of colour which then meant I had to write very small using a fine drawing pen.

My yarn order arrived from Wool Warehouse the next day in a big box - I've never ordered so much from them that they had to put it in a box before. Yet again I have to say how impressed I am  by their speedy service; their yarn elves must be super quick workers. When I unpacked the yarn I could see why these were the colours I'd never used before.


They're either a bit dull or, well, neon. When it came to wrapping them round their pegs though I got to like them a bit better. I suspect that some of these not-so-exciting shades might be just the thing I need to bring a colour scheme to life. Spending time making the pegs like this is also a good way to absorb some of the colours, if that makes any kind of sense.

And here they are - 80 shades of Stylecraft Special DK in their own little suitcase ...


Of course, I immediately started playing with them, lining them up ...


... fanning them out ...


... and then seeing how many different groups of colours I could put together.




I'm resisting the temptation to pick all the colours for the new Ten Stitch blanket in advance (relax, Frankie) and am, instead, going to start with just one colour I like and then choose the others as I finish each round. How scary is that? (No Frankie, not scary, exciting).

Now all I've got to do is decide on that first colour. You're not in a hurry for this pattern are you?


Saturday, 7 July 2018

In Search of Badby Wood

On Tuesday I packed a picnic and set off to explore some local woods that I've never actually been to before. Badby Wood is near Daventry in Northamptonshire and is best known for its displays of bluebells in the Spring. There are also badgers to be seen if you go late in the day and are prepared to wait patiently.

I decided to park outside the village and walk across the fields to the woods from a handy lay-by on the main road. There was a gentle breeze as I set off across this barley field so the walking was quite comfortable.


Is that the wood I see ahead?


It was but there were a few obstacles to deal with first. Like this overgrown stile ...

should have taken my secateurs with me

... and more than one section of path swamped with ferns as tall as me ...


It was a case of arms above your head (in case of nettles) and feel the way with your feet. Every stream I saw was dried up like this one ...


But finally I reached the trees.


I'd like to say that it was cool and shady in the wood. Shady, yes but it was also really close and the air was full of thunder flies. I was quite pleased with myself though as I managed to find my way through the wood to the high point in the centre which is called Hazeley Knob.

Oak Tree

It is a beautiful wood though and I shall come back when the weather isn't quite so challenging. There were lots of trees down which gave me some extra exercise climbing over them but they're also handy when you want to sit down for a rest.


I walked back to the car along a slightly different path so that I could see this ...


This is a small earthworks known as Badby Grange which dates back to the 13th century. As you can see, it's completely overgrown now but, if you venture inside, you can still see its shape.

After walking in the heat I was glad to get back to my air-conditioned car. I called in at Banbury Antiques on the way home for a pot of tea and came away with this lovely little collection of old buttons ...


I'll add these to my rainbow button jars.


Friday, 6 July 2018

Half a Blankie

We're now halfway through knitting Frankie's Blankie on my Frankie's Knitted Stuff ravelry group and the blankets are getting quite big now. Well, those that are sewn together are anyway. The sewing up fairy still seems to be a bit slow at getting round to everyone so there are quite a few piles of knitted blocks awaiting her attention.

Anyway, I thought it would be nice to share some of the different blankets that people are knitting from the same pattern. Let's start with one using the same yarns that I chose.

Pat, from the United States

Doesn't that look good? And there are as many blocks again to be added yet, each one with a different stitch pattern. By the end of this year the blanketeers will all be expert knitters.

Of course, lots of people are using different yarns for their blankets and it's lovely seeing how they all turn out. This one is knitted with yarns from Bendigo Woollen Mills and, as you can see, Dora has chosen a range of colours inspired by water.

Dora, from Australia
I think this is going to be a very sophisticated looking blanket once it's finished.

Something as simple as just changing the main colour can make a huge difference. Erika has chosen a dark grey to set off the colours in her blocks and don't they look great?

Erika, from England

Erika only started knitting her blanket recently and she's already caught up. I like the effect she's got by crocheting her blocks together too.

This next one uses Patons Merino DK with a dark brown as the main colour.

Jill, from England

Again, this looks to me like it's going to be a very grown-up blanket. Why do darker colours seem more sophisticated to me I wonder? This picture makes me want to knit something with brown, pink and green ...

Instead of using one set of colours for the whole blanket, Lida is choosing a colour theme for each month which I think is a brilliant idea. Here are her squares for April ...

Lida, from the Netherlands

... and May ...


I don't know much about this next blanket (other than it looks great) as the picture was sent to me by Marianne who translates my patterns into Danish.

Bente, from Denmark

The slip stitch patterns stand out really well when only one contrast colour is used, don't they?

Last, but definitely not least, is Jackie's blanket. She's using up stash yarn, some of which has come from her 91 year old mother who no longer knits.

Jackie, from the United States

I think the nicest thing about this blanket is that Jackie's mother is enjoying seeing its progress and talking about the different stitch patterns with her. Knitting at its best.

The last of the 50 block patterns will be published just before Christmas but, just in case everyone thinks they'll be finished by then, I'd like to remind you that there will be two more patterns in January 2019, for a plain knitted border and then a colourful edging. And be warned - that edging takes forever to knit!


Monday, 2 July 2018

More Pretty Books

Oh yes, I've been buying secondhand books again. This time from The Shakespeare Hospice Charity Bookshop. My son and I were in Stratford on Saturday for one of our regular theatre visits - Miss Littlewood since you ask and yes, it was very good thank-you. Anyway, we varied our normal bookshop trawl to include this shop  where I found this lovely book.


This is one of a series of nostalgic Scrapbooks compiled by Robert Opie; I've already got a couple of the others. They're huge books and each page is packed with things from his vast collection of consumer memorabilia. Here's the page on Women's magazines of the 1920s ...

Look at those lovely copies of Weldon's.

Or how about this page of toys ...

Those rather sinister looking toys in the middle are characters
from the Winnie-The-Pooh books.

There's something to appeal to everyone in these books, whether it be trains (yes Stephen, this picture's for you) ...


... or just lots of lovely old adverts ...


There are ten of these giant scrapbooks all together, covering much of the twentieth century and they're all beautiful. You can buy them new from Robert Opie's Museum of Brands which, by the way, is a great little museum. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting it a few years ago; it's absoulutely crammed full of memories.

The other book I bought at this shop isn't quite so pretty but it'll be very useful.


I bought The Quilter's Bible by Linda Clements for my daughter a few years ago and thought at the time what a comprehensive book it was for a new quilter. Now I've been quilting for a while but I mostly learned from my Mum so I was pleased to find a copy of this book for myself.

It's full of detailed information on just about every technique you could think of and has lots of inspiring pictures too. I love the section on creating the illusion of curves with straight lines.

I've made a Storm At Sea quilt (the purple design at the bottom) but my Snail Trail quilt  - that's the main picture - is languishing in a bag half-finished. 

I love pages like this one that show lots of designs from just a few simple shapes ...


You could turn any one of these into a knitted or crocheted blanket.

After the charity bookshop, we still had time to pop into the Chaucer Head Bookshop, where I found this treasure ...


This may well have been the prettiest book in the shop ... well I thought so anyway. It's 'A Medieval Miscellany' by Judith Herrin and is a collection of medieval texts and images, translated into modern English.

'A Shepherd's Duty' and 'Magic'
'Pilgrimage' and 'Travel'

As well as being beautiful, the book is a wonderful history of daily life many hundreds of years ago. I love this sort of book - history and art combined. What more could you want?

Sunday, 1 July 2018

It's all about the colours

Sometimes I feel the need to start another project just because nothing on my needles is colourful enough. This happened to me a couple of days ago so I went in search of a big, dramatic crochet stitch that I could work in bold stripes of colour. This is what I came up with ...


How about that for some serious texture? This is my version of the marshmallow stitch and I'm using a rainbow of Patons Diploma Gold DK for it. Of course this sort of stitch just eats yarn so I shall have to order some more soon. I'm hoping that three balls of each colour plus some sort of edging will make a small blanket.


I've also started using this Catona Colour Pack that I showed you the other week. 


You get one little 10g ball of each of the 109 shades of Catona in the pack and, after playing with them for a while, I decided it was time to actually start using them.

I'm going to knit straightforward squares and then sew them together to make a blanket. Deciding on how to arrange them is going to be exciting. I'll probably only do 100 squares so that I can make a 10 x 10 blanket but just think of all the possible ways of arranging 100 colours. I'm seriously considering taking a photograph of each square so that I can create pictures of different ways of putting them together ...

... but I'm getting ahead of myself here. So far I've knitted one green square. It's a very pretty square though.


As you can see, I've also crocheted a tiny square and made a yarn peg to use in planning designs. Just another 99 to go then.

Monday, 25 June 2018

Handicraft Medal

I'm wondering if anyone can tell me something about this ...


I bought it a few years ago from an antique stall in Burford. The person I bought it from had got it from a dealer who found it in a collection of military medals. It had been kept with the husband's medals but the dealer didn't want it. I thought that was rather sad.

Anyway, as you can see, it's a medal for Handicrafts awarded by Woman's Own magazine. The front shows a scantily dressed woman proudly displaying what looks like fabric, made up of strips of different designs. Personally, I think she'd be better off making it into something warm to wear but there you go. The back has a garland border with space to have a name engraved.


There's no name on this medal but luckily it came in its original box which has a name pencilled on the back.


Without any more information I've been unable to find anything out about Mrs F M Webb or indeed  about these medals and when they were awarded. I wonder what she did to win hers.

If anyone knows anything about the Woman's Own Handicraft medals (or indeed Mrs Webb who may or may not have lived in the Cotswolds) then do let me know by leaving a comment below.