I do seem to have got my enthusiasm for designing back though; I've got masses of new ideas and am desperate to get to work on them. Which brings me back to my yarn shopping.
This is a selection of what I bought. The red at the back is destined to be turned into two related but not-quite-the-same mitten patterns. The brown is some more Stylecraft Special DK which, with a few other colours, will be some slip stitch legwarmers. Yes, I know it's not the 1980s, although I was very keen on legwarmers back then ...
The variegated blue and green is a big ball of DK weight sock yarn as I thought I would work out a pattern for some thicker socks. It's freezing here as I type (even with a cat sprawled across my lap) so these seem like a good idea.
So that leaves me with two more lots of yarn. First of all, that cream at the back ... I know it doesn't look very exciting but it feels great. It's Rowan Wool Cotton which is 50% wool and 50% cotton (just in case you didn't guess from the name). The bad news is that Rowan have discontinued this yarn, the good news is that it's in the sale at Bicester Wools so I bought eight balls. Want to see what I'm going to knit with it?
Ever since I found a copy of Mary Thomas's Book of Knitting Patterns in a secondhand bookshop on a wet day in the Lake District about thirty or more years ago, I've been fascinated by the Garden Plot Square in the chapter on Medallion Knitting.
It's a traditional leaf square, knitted in fine white cotton in the 19th century and used to make a blanket or counterpane. I always thought that, one day, I'd knit a blanket like this. What with my new 'only working three days a week' thing, I found myself with a free afternoon last week so I rooted out some old cream cotton (I don't knit with white ... or black, come to that) and had a go.
Guess what? It's huge. I was using 4 ply yarn and the square came out at about 10" which, given that you'd need four to make a block, would make each block 20". I suspect that the original knitter would have used much finer cotton than mine but I didn't really want to go any thinner than my 4 ply.
So, I decided to design my own leaf square, inspired by this one but smaller. I also changed the shaping as I didn't like the holes you got from increasing with a yarn over at the start of rows. This is what I came up with.
That's the square knitted from the original pattern on the left and my version on the right. I've kept the leaf, albeit a bit smaller, and the welts on the first half of the square but replaced the leaves in the centre with a panel of moss stitch. I did want to include some more motifs though so I put in a section of bells, adapted from the stitch pattern in the same Mary Thomas book. My eyelet welts at the end are again an echo of the original, just with a bit more spacing between them. My square is about 6" so four sewn together will be 12". I'm planning to knit a small blanket, four squares wide and six squares long and then add some sort of border. I'll see if I can find the inspiration for that in the book too.
I may make a few more changes once I start knitting with the new yarn but I'm looking forward to making a start on this.
The rest of the yarn in the basket (the pink, blue, yellow and cream) is going to be used with some other colours of Sirdar Country Style DK that I've already got. This is a lovely yarn and I've been using it for years but recently I've become disappointed with the range of colours. Nearly all my favourites have been discontinued and what's left is rather subdued and uninspiring.
Anyway, this is what I'm using eight of my shades of Country Style for ...
I know, crochet circles in pretty colours - so what's new? Well, if you look closely, you'll see a ring of tiny holes on each circle; they show up on the yellow one. Those holes are there so that you can turn plain circles into something much more exciting.
Aren't they good? I've been so excited about this idea and couldn't wait to put it into practice. Many late nights (and a lot of graph paper) later, I came up with eight different designs to embroider or weave on to the circles. It's a combination of both really, mostly embroidery but you do have to do a bit of weaving to make the patterns look continuous.
I'm going to turn some into decorations and join others together to make a wall hanging or maybe a table runner. I wouldn't actually want anyone spilling tea on them though so maybe the wall's the best place for them.
And yes, in case you're thinking those patterns remind you of something, I did have one of the original Spirograph sets as a child in the 1960s and I loved it. I've just bought myself a new set to play with; there are so many lovely pens to use with it now and they don't make holes in the paper like the old biros used to.
That's about it for now. If you're in the area, Bicester Wools has lots of reduced yarn and some really nice fabric in the sale too so do go and have a look. I bought some more fat quarters to make bags with. Which reminds me, I really must write up that pattern ...