Greens and blues…

Today, this bundle of loveliness arrived in the post…

Shilasdair Luxury DK in gorgeous greens

Shilasdair Luxury DK in gorgeous greens

Yes, that is a whole pile of Shilasdair Luxury DK in the most beautiful contrasting shades of green, and, yep, I know I’m a lucky girl to receive stuff like this in the mail on a regular basis! It’s one of the most fun aspects of what I do. Unfortunately I can’t give any details on what this heavenly stuff will become, but you’ll hear about it here eventually, I promise! Or, get on my newsletter and you’ll be the first to hear once the veil of secrecy has been lifted…

I recently got a beautiful new camera and I’ve been obsessively photographing everything within sight. I’m still getting to grips with all the settings, but it’s so much fun! And it’s arrived just in time for my new self-published pattern, Taliesin, which should be released in the first or second week of July.

Cables, cables and more cables!

Cables, cables and more cables!

This pattern is still in the test-knitting/editing phase, but if you’d like to find out as soon as it’s released, you can either sign up for my newsletter or drop me a PM on Ravelry. I also have a new Ravelry group for my designs too – come and join if you’d like to discuss my patterns – or pretty much anything else!

Glasgow Rose stole…

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New design that I’m currently working on… it’s a rectangular stole version of my original Glasgow Rose shawl (inspired by the style of Charles Rennie Mackintosh). I’m using some stunningly beautiful hand-dyed cashmere/silk laceweight from K1 Yarns. Absolutely gorgeous to knit with, and lovely drape and stitch defnition.

Because I always find it interesting to see how other designers work, here’s a photo that conveys the general sense of organised chaos that seems to typify my design process:

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Usually everything I do starts with scribbles in my notebook. I’m not particularly artistic but I do find that I need to sketch in order to conceptualise things like construction and proportion I work entirely from charts and only work out written instructions right at the very end of writing up the pattern. I do all my maths and draw out basic charts with pencil and graph paper, then knit from these, correcting as I go, and once I have something I’m reasonably happy with, I do a proper printed chart (seen on the right), which I continue to knit from. By the time I have a pattern ready to send out to test-knitters, it’s already been test-knit at least once (sometimes more!) by me.

In other news – quite proud of my handspun merino yarn! This the third skein I’ve spun since I’ve started teaching myself and it’s very exciting to watch my yarn getting more even and fine with each attempt. Hopefully it won’t be long until I’m spinning laceweight, seeing as that’s practically all I seem to knit with these days…

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Progressive rock. And lace!

With a deep sigh of relief, I just posted off my entry for the Glasgow School of Yarn Design Competition. I don’t think I’ve ever done so much knitting in such a short time period. Over 300 yards of laceweight, on 3.0 mm needles, over the course of two days. Rather heavy going. My neck is stiff and my hands feel like they’re about to fall off, but I finished it in time! And, just as importantly, I managed to assemble all the charts and instructions into a nice-looking pdf.

The one thing niggling at my inner perfectionist (who has mostly been mercifully quiet since I realised I was running out of time) is this: I had wanted to continue the edging (which is knitted at the same time as the rest of the shawl) over the top of the shawl. Seems like this should work, no? Short rows at one corner, then do the edging knitted on across the top, instead of a BO. For some reason, my brain could just not compute how to juggle all the numbers and get the short rows to work properly (and the number-juggling is usually my favourite part). When I get the sample back, I may have to have another go at it. Might be easier without a deadline looming ominously over my head.

Here’s a little detail from my Rennie-Mackintosh-inspired shawl, ‘Glasgow Rose’:

I kept my sanity during my two-day lace knitathon by listening to lots and lots of my favourite progressive rock. There is something about prog that goes very nicely with lace-knitting. That does seem like a rather bizarre comparison, I know. Perhaps what I mean is – I get the same thing from listening to prog that I get from knitting and designing lace. An appreciation of complexity, depth, structure, beauty, thematic movements (I shall stop before I get too pretentious).

Funnily enough, I just realised that the song I have been listening to the most whilst working on this shawl is “La Rossa” by the incomparable Van Der Graaf Generator (isn’t that Italian for ‘rose’…?). Coincedence!

Glasgow School of Yarn competition

For the past month or so, I’ve been working on an entry for the Glasgow School of Yarn design competition. The brief is to design an original knitting or crochet pattern inspired by the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Now, I am a huge fan of Art Nouveau and Deco style, and as soon as I heard about this, I knew had to enter. I had half a skein of lovely yarn sitting in my stash and just waiting to be made into a small shawl – Abstract Cat alpaca silk laceweight. (A funny story about this yarn… last year, I was knitting a lace scarf for a Christmas present. I slept through my alarm one morning, woke to discover I was running late for work, shoved my knitting in my rucksack and ran out of the house and down the street. Got about halfway towards the bus stop before being pulled to a sudden halt. I turned around and witnessed yards and yards of laceweight yarn, strung across the street; I had put the knitting in my bag but left the ball of yarn in the house! It’s a testament to the strength and resilience of this lovely yarn that it didn’t snap…).

I’m designing a bottom-up triangular shawl, with Mackintosh-style motifs, roses and geometric patterns. Here’s a picture of it in progress:

The main problem is: I am my own worst enemy as a designer, sometimes. Particularly when working to a competition deadline, it would seem. I guess I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and I also I have a bad tendency to plough on regardless, even when I know I’m going to have to rip back and change something. Because of the construction of this shawl, starting with just a few stitches at the tip and then increasing on every other row, mistakes/changes at the beginning were easily fixed. But now it’s getting bigger and bigger, and I just had to rip back several hours worth of work. Not even to fix a mistake, just to make a design change! I only have a few days left to finish the sample before the deadline, so I suppose I’m just going to have to get my inner perfectionist to shut up, and make a vow to myself not to frog again… anything I knit from this point on is staying in the shawl, whether I like it or not!

Design-in-progress… Averin shawl

Averin – an old Scots word for the cloudberry, Rubus chamaemorus.

Here’s a little preview of my next shawl design. It’s currently being test-knitted by some lovely Ravelry members. They all seem to be enjoying the pattern very much, which is great, and there haven’t been too many errors weeded out so far – always a good sign!

This shawl was inspired by Shetland shawl constuctions methods. The main panel begins with a provisional CO, then an inner border is picked up and knitted in the round, around the perimeter of the main panel. Finally, an edging is knitted on to the live sts of the inner border. I’m very pleased with how my sample turned out. I knitted it in Knit Picks Shimmer (Elderberry) and it looks very elegant over a black dress.

The pattern will be available around about the first week of November (possibly a bit sooner if all the testers finish early…).