Tag Archives: knitting

What a great weekend that was!

9 days on and I’m just about recovered from a very exciting working week – and thought I ought to let you know about it all.


On Friday 9th September I was lucky enough to spend the evening with the fabulous Erika Knight and Arabella from her team! They came to do a pop-up shop at Fringe, where I teach my workshops and generally sort out the knitty things. We had such a lovely time – we invited our regular knitting fans, and people from the twice-monthly Meet and Make group. There were sample garments to adore, gorgeous yarns to squish and lovely books to leaf through. Erika and Arabella are just so interesting and fun to be with, everyone loved talking with them. AND – [drum roll] – as they really love Edna, and Erika is working on some dog sweater designs, I think she has her first modelling gig! She was not entirely with the program about this, but I’m sure she will get into the swing of it once she is being fussed at their studio. So watch this space, she may become a diva.

Then, after a hectic day of the pop-up shop the following day, I headed up to Avenue Mews where my studio now is. It was the annual MewsFest, a really fun event that’s organised by  Jet from Can’t Buy Me Love, and Ruth and Meghan from ChaChaCha Vintage. There’s music, food, vintage clothes and cocktails, all with a cool retro vibe inspired by the little news community. Open studios were planned, and at Lavender White, my next door neighbours, they had book readings organised. Can’t Buy Me Love had a DJ and old-school decks, and a mojito bar.


By 5.30 it was absolutely chucking it down with rain, so my ever-patient partner put up my gazebo in the wet, and we tried to set up my little stall of wares out on the mews. It was extremely soggy, and I was soaking and bedraggled. I felt like packing up. All around me others were setting up food and vintage stalls, and the valiant musicians were starting to tune up. By about 7.30pm the rain finally cleared, JUST as I’d got to the point of thinking I might give up and go home – and suddenly, within a few minutes, the tiny mews was packed with people. The mojitos were flowing, the ukulele band got going, tasty food smells started wafting about and we all got much more into the party vibe.

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by 11.00 I’d had more than a few mojitos, I’d sold lots of things, met new customers who want to come to commission pieces and have lessons, seen brave friends who came to support me (thanks Kelly, Monica, Nic, John and Jude!) and generally had a really great time. Dismantling our stall was a lot quicker than putting it up had been, and we trundled off home in a very good mood indeed. I’m already planning how we can do a Christmas version – Phil Spector anyone?


Where am I? instalment 1

How cryptic…I guess this is a double-edged post so I’ll write in two parts: firstly, I’ll explain my quietness over the last few months and lead you neatly to instalment 2…

After such great intentions about writing a blog, I haven’t managed to achieve what I aspired to – which was regular and entertaining or informative posts. I’d love to pretend I was totally on top of my social media output and that it was a breeze to keep up. But in fact, being of a generation who’ve had to sort of get used to this sort of stuff, I’ve found it’s slipped to the bottom of the task pile some days when in fact it should have been at the top. So, I’m going to try and be better. I’ve also been having something of a business re-jig: I participated in a couple of craft markets in September and when I displayed my knitted wares, I thought that something was missing….couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I wasn’t happy with how things looked. Luckily for me, my dear friend Jacqueline Curry was visiting me from Australia at the time, and she was kind enough to agree to give me a brutal and honest critique. Jacky is a really talented woven textile designer for InStyle textiles in Sydney: she comes over for London Design Festival and totally has her finger on the pulse. You can see her discussing some of her designs here.

So, we went along my display and literally did “yes/no” for each product. With Jacky’s help, I agreed to jettison some items that are not as current, and we were left with a much more coherent range of colours and pieces. My next task was to create a display for the foyer at my studio complex – here it is: do you think it looks like a ‘together’ range now?

Here is a little collage of my display at the Chocolate Factory's foyer (I am usually only to be found upstairs!) during October 2015.

Here is a little collage of my display at the Chocolate Factory’s foyer (I am usually only to be found upstairs!) during October 2015.

IMG_0798 IMG_0799 IMG_0800

You might notice I’ve got some natty new green boxes now, as well. They are from a brilliant company called SelfPackaging who are based in Barcelona, but their service is so speedy they might as well be based down the road! They have an amazing range of flat-packed boxes available to choose from, so do check them out if you need to create interesting packages for your own goods or for gifts.

IMG_0972 IMG_0956  IMG_0967IMG_0966 IMG_0969IMG_0968 IMG_0975   sale colours!!

So now that I have had something of a purge, I have also been able to make a big sale section in my Etsy shops: I’ve almost finished listing the sale pieces in Cheese at Fourpence, and Lord and Taft will follow next. These pieces are all perfect (unless stated as “samples”) so it’s a good time to get a pre-Christmas bargain (oh no, I went and said it, didn’t I?)

Right – if you want to know what’s come next, then stay tuned for instalment 2, coming next…

The lure of a new season

So it’s July, and I’m making fluffy winter hats. Maybe it’s a little deranged, it’s certainly a hot business, but there’s method in this madness. You see, the warm, wool-free summer months are the best time to devise and make a new winter collection. Not only do you have the luxury of feeling you have time to play, to experiment and get things wrong (because nobody needs to actually wear this stuff yet, right?, I’m looking at you, English summers!) but it feels exciting to be using a new selection of materials, colour combinations, textures and fibres. In case you are wondering about my process, it starts with a lot of trend research. A little snooping and being a flaneur in the right parts of town. And a degree of gut feeling. Twice a year, I will treat myself to the new issue of Textile View magazine, which I have used for years. It’s a textile nerd’s delight and probably dull as dishwater to anyone looking over my shoulder and seeing  photos of squares of fabric and linear fashion doodles. But to me, it’s like breaking news. I love it, and I spend days poring over it, absorbing the new season’s feel so that I really understand it before I go on.  Then, I’ll look in edgy stores and I’ll people watch in the East End, Brixton, or wherever a new vibe seems to be going on, and I’ll make notes on any new street trends I can see. Finally, I’ll come back to the studio and start gathering yarns, colour chips, images and swatches. I’ll doodle and sketch before playing about on my needles, hooks and machines to produce some samples. Then tweaking goes on for a bit, before I decide whether to put a design into my shop or not. This coming season, there are 4 main stories, only one of which I don’t think I’ll use much. It’s pale and neutral and doesn’t really suit my work much.     There’s a bright story, full of unexpected yarn combinations, like sheer striped with thick and chunky, and with blocky, graphic colours, some of which haven’t been round for a while (I really like that emerald green). So far, my work on this one has yielded thoughts about geometric patterned knitted ties, colour work crochet purses, 80s Memphis-type patterns knitted into socks and bags, and busy patterned scarves. I’m enjoying playing about with these ideas.       There’s also a very wearable country-tweed with a twist story, that knits fine yarns together to produce subtly-changing shadowy stripes. I’ve done some pieces like this before, and I’m adding in more texture this time, to keep it fresh. The colours of peacock, grass green and gold are really new and lovely to combine. I’m still at the early stages with this story but it feels like it will inspire some new colour combinations.               Finally, my favourite story is season has to be the ‘interesting darks’ theme. Maybe it’s the old Goth in me but I am so happy when colors you can’t quite define come into vogue like this: a plum shot with deep violet, a greeny-black that is as rich as a beetle shell, a dark grey petrol…Within this theme there is the idea of adding a toot of metallic or glitter somewhere. Just a touch, mind, nothing ostentatious. When paired with the fluffy, furry and feathery textures that are also in fashion, this is intriguing, as the glint of metals iridescence peeps out at irregular intervals. I’ve been gathering yarns for this theme, and am leaning towards fluffy hats, snoods and big cosy scarves, all with a hint of shine somewhere. It’s fun combining yarns I wouldnt have paired before, and I am even using some of my archive Italian yarns from the 1990s, which seem to suit this look so well. I’ll add photos of the new finished pieces to my gallery page as they are complete, and they will be in my shops by the start of September. Just in time for the really early bird shoppers! So you see, it’s not so mad after all to be knitting warm hats in July….

As publishing day approaches…

I’m allowed to now share some sneak peeks of some of the projects from my upcoming book, Knitting Basics, to be published by CICO Books in April 2015. Over the next few weeks I will show you a few images from the photo shoot, and some of my own process photos taken on the journey.

Let’s start with the cover, shown above.

Besides the project shots on the cover you can see some of the instructional diagrams taken from the workshops. There are 20 workshops in all, and each has a project that follows on and gets you putting the skills learned into practice. If you’ve seen any of CICO’s other successful books in this series, Sewing Basics, Sewing School Basics, Sewing Machine Basics and Crochet Basics you’ll be familiar with the concept. If you haven’t, then I encourage you to seek them out.

OK, so here’s the first project I’m going to share: it’s from workshop 3, which covers various ways to combine knit and purl stitches into a rib pattern, amongst other things. The project is a sweet baby beanie, topped off with a very oversized pompom. I was a bit worried that the pom would be too big but it worked out OK. If you use a pompom maker then it’s easy-peasy to chop down your pompom to the size you want. I use the Clover large size pompom maker and find it saves a ton of time. It’s really easy to use too.

Baby bobble hat

photo © PENNY WINCER, KNITTING BASICS published by CICO Books (£14.99)

And here is a sneak peek of some of the detail of another project, from workshop 16, which focuses on the colour work technique of intarsia: a terrifying prospect for some knitters, but with patience and careful organisation of your yarns it’s a really exciting technique. I’d say it’s like painting with yarn, because you can create whatever you like. We cover this step by step, but a top tip if you’re going to start designing your own intarsia motifs is to get hold of some knitter’ s graph paper, which will make the whole process much more intuitive.

This project is a child’s sweater with a central animal motif: what do you think it is? I’ve used lovely Debbie Bliss Rialto DK to knit this up: gorgeous colours and great stitch definition.

photo TRACEY LORD, KNITTING BASICS published by CICO Books (£14.99)

More sneak peeks to come over the next few weeks, and details of where I’ll be talking about the book, and which publications you can find excerpts in. Let me know what you think!