Did someone say FO?

Another month has whizzed past and, quite frankly, I can’t believe it is the end of July already! This post was scheduled for the end of June but, ahem, life happened and here we are.

This is a bumper post filled with finished objects (FO’s). There are two main reasons for this 1) I made a pact with myself to stop casting on and start finishing knits that were languishing in my knitting basket and 2) I had a fair amount of car knitting / general knitting time while I was on holiday in the UK.

I have also retrieved my long lost camera charger, found under my husbands amp in the bottom of the cupboard (don’t ask) so I can finally take pictures again.

Where do I start?

The first item I finished when I got to the UK was the Rikke Hat, I knitted a fair amount of this on the plane. It is made from the most heavenly Hartlam yarn and the pattern is perfect for showing off the subtle sparkles in this yarn.

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Next I finished two pairs of socks, both of which had been hanging around for quite some time.

The Thelonious Socks by Cookie A in Nurturing Fibres Supertwist Sock and some good old Vanilla Socks in Nurturing Fibres Self Striping yarn. This was my first pair of afterthought heel socks, I’m sorry to say I don’t think I am converted and may prefer a good old heel flap.

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Talking about socks I also finished the Mona socks by Cookie A in more Nurturing Fibres Supertwist, more on these in a later post for the Cookie A KAL series.

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The next piece I am immensely proud of. It took me a very long time and was cast on long before the LO came along. In all honesty I thought it would never be finished. It was a long hard slog, but I made it and the result is certainly worth the effort.

The Rock Island by Jared Flood was in my queue for a very long time and when my mom and sister gifted me the perfect yarn it was a sign to cast on, almost a year later I have a FO.

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On the subject of shawls I also finished my Rondelay in Manos Maxima, it is soft and squishy and very warm (pity we are having one of the warmest winters I remember – it has yet to go on an outing).

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Last but not least I finished My Son’s Hero by my dear friend Sally Cameron aka Pink Hair Girl Designs. I loved knitting this shawl, the garter stitch was soothing and the lace added that extra bit of interest at the end. The yarn is beautiful and I can’t wait to get some wear out of this when we move north later this year.

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Now I have finished all these projects what do I have on the needles? The answer is, not much. I am still working on Common Ground and I have my p/hop KAL that I need to get moving on. I also have a super exciting knitting project that I am working on, more details in a month or so.

Have you finished anything recently? Or are you in the world of “cast on all the things”?

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Exciting times …

Shhhhhhh….. it’s been a little quiet round here lately ….

There is a very good reason though. I have been working on a super exciting project!

Martine of iMake fame, the brilliant Guernsey based podcast and blog is launching an e-mag soon and I have been fortunate enough to work with on her the magazine design and layout. It has been a brilliant project and I have enjoyed the work immensely, Martine is fab to work with and I can’t wait to see the e-mag when it is released.

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Interested in finding out more about this e-mag? Pop along to the magazine blog and sign up for updates via RSS or email subscription. 

I also highly recommend Martine’s podcast and blog! 

I will be back later this week with more knitting related news and adventures. Thanks for sticking around through the silence.

Thelonious Socks – Cookie A KAL

This was the third in the Cookie A KAL series, and boy was I in for a steep learning curve. Couple the challenging and “attention required style” design and more than a few sleepless nights, this sock was a true test. It took me forever to finish these and they totally derailed my KAL schedule, but I finished them and I love them!

Thelonious is from the Diagonals section of the Knit.Sock.Love book and consists of travelling lace panels which flow around the sock, using paired increases and decreases. This gorgeous patterns plays out on a simple but striking ribbed background. I used Nurturing Fibres Supertwist Sock in Silver Lining, the soft grey was the perfect colourway for these intricate and striking socks.

Travelling lace panels equals lots of moving parts, which required lots of stitch markers and copious notes and post-its for the charts.

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Due to an error on the first sock gusset this pattern also required some serious sock surgery. I refused to rip back and decided to drop down along the side of the gusset and fix my error. I had reversed my rib, so the purls needed to be knits and vice-versa. I completed the sock surgery and was pretty impressed with my handy work, nothing like a quick (okay very slow) drop down and fix it to boost your confidence as a knitter.

I knitted both socks at the same time but on different needles, this helped me as I did one section at a time and it meant I could keep track of everything and plod along.

I started these socks on the 29th of March and finished them on the 4th of June. I used a little over 100g of yarn (I am not sure exactly how much as I knitted from two skeins and don’t have an electric scale). Blocking was the key to these socks beauty, it is such a stunning pattern.

My finished socks in all their grey glory!

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As always I wanted to sample some of the other lovely examples of this sock pattern made by fellow Ravellers.

Naturally I think grey is the perfect colour to show off the detail of this sock design.

Clockwise from top left: Kate (KTE), Tracy (Tracylw), (Tara) Reese and (Theresa) DearKnits.

I really loved this show stopping red version by Jean (Demetria).

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And last, but certainly not least. Another example of gorgeous socks, gorgeous shoes and excellent photography. I love this Malabrigo colourway, Ochre and Mariana (CMYKchick) socks are simply stunning.

Have you knitted these socks by CookieA? If you have ever considered casting these on I highly recommend them. Just make sure you have lots of stitch markers and oodles of concentration time available.

Interview: Gina from Natural Yarns

This week I am interviewing Gina from Natural Yarns. NaturalYarns.co.za is a fairly new online shop selling the most gorgeous natural fibres. Gina filled a huge gap in the South African market and her shop was very much needed by local knitters who wanted good online options for natural yarns.

Gina sells both local and internationally sourced yarn and her service is impeccable. Without further ado I bring you the interview with Gina ….

Natural Yarns

When did you first start knitting? What drew you to the craft?

My Ouma (grandmother) who was hardly ever seen without her knitting taught me my first stitches. Both my parents are compulsively practical and I have always felt that there is virtually nothing the two of them cannot make or do! After school I studied Fine Art, spent some time abroad, then studied again, qualifying as a Digital Designer – web and graphic. For the past 8 years I have immersed myself in developing my web design business, which offers a great outlet for my creativity. Against this ‘virtual’ creative backdrop, I felt a need to work with a more traditional and physical medium….one that I can take with me wherever I go: knitting was a natural choice!

How would you describe your knitting style?

I enjoy projects which challenge & teach me new skills.
I love experimenting with different techniques and stitch combinations. I enjoy improvising and have often found myself drawn to projects which combine knitting, crochet and/or felting. I also love creating texture with different yarns in my crochet projects.

What is your dream fibre.

I love all good quality, natural fibres. They make it a pleasure to spend precious free time working on a project.

If you could pick one project to be your dream project what would you choose?

I think it would be Cladonia by Kirsten Kapur, which I have no doubt I will knit a number of times in my life as I adore this pattern. I already have a number of yarns picked out for my first (few)!

What is your favourite knitting tool?

I don’t have a specific favourite – I sometimes find myself without my regular ‘tools’ & have to get inventive … for a long time I used some awesome spiral paperclips, as stitch markers. I have also found ordinary paperclips very useful on occasion – as makeshift cable needles, stitch markers or to assist in correcting a dropped stitch. I love knitting with my Ouma’s old knitting needles & other vintage needles I sourced from abroad and I’m enjoying my ChiaoGoo bamboo interchangeables too!

What are you knitting at the moment?

I am knitting the Tempest Shawlette by Tabetha Hedrick in MANOS Serena. Other WIP’s include a pair of socks and a crochet blanket for my daughter. I am also putting together a pattern for a very pretty crochet hot water bottle cover.

You recently opened an online shop. Tell me a little bit about your motivation for doing this.

When I started knitting again, I very quickly found myself only working with yarns with high or 100% natural fibre content. Wherever we go, I find myself on the lookout for lovely yarn!  A few years ago I accompanied my husband on one of his business trips to Argentina. We took a road trip, and in my quest to find hand spun / dyed yarn, we found ourselves ascending to great altitudes in the Andes to where the air is thin, temperatures are extreme and one sees Alpaca grazing freely. We visited a variety of yarn producers, both family-run and commercial. We encountered inspired spinners, crafters, designers and shops working passionately with (mostly) Merino and Alpaca. As a result of the trip, I became even more absorbed in my passion for natural yarns.

This is how Natural Yarns was conceived!

Your shop has a gorgeous selection of yarns from both South Africa and abroad, tell me a little bit more about how you choose the yarn you stock.

Thank you!  Natural Yarns is all about quality yarns that have the highest possible natural fibre content, Environmental consciousness is also important to me, so I have selected suppliers who are environmentally aware in the production of their yarns.

MANOS del Uruguay kept coming up on my Ravelry pattern searches and the more I read about MANOS & their Fair Trade yarns, the more I became convinced that I needed to bring these yarns to South Africa. Being a website designer, I could make these yarns available online so that, no matter where local yarn lovers live, they can buy good quality, natural yarns in South Africa! Snuggling in my stash was a ball of Nurturing Fibres yarn from my LYS that I had been treasuring for a while.  I made contact and met up with Carle’ and we started working together on an exclusive range for my shop. It is important to me to support South Africans who are living their dream in creating something special. LeLana yarn is so airily spun & beautifully hand painted by Lana … and Adele’s yarns are quite well known both locally and abroad (where they are marketed under the BeSweet label) — all are a popular choice amongst my customers.

What do you have planned for the rest of 2013? I know you are looking at Malabrigo, when can we expect that gorgeous yarn on our shores? Any other exciting news?

I am presently finalising my Malabrigo order. Something I enjoy about my business is investigating other yarn sources & new opportunities. I am very excited about a friend’s *secret* yarn project which is currently in the development phase.

You have been developing some unique colourways with Carle from Nurturing Fibres. Can you tell me a little more about the process and the inspiration behind this collaboration?

Working with Carle’ is an organic experience. Firstly, I select images and colours that I am drawn to and decide on a potential range of colourways. I present them to Carle. We then discuss them, shift them, plan, change direction; sifting, filtering all of the possibilities…Carle’ adds her stories, knowledge and expertise…I love the process – We often find things to laugh about as we work our way to a final selection. The reward of seeing this process unfold & become gorgeous knittable yarn is very exciting!

With all that gorgeous yarn I feel like so much of it would slip into my stash. How do you restrain yourself with all that gorgeous yarn about?

It is VERY tempting, but it is so rewarding to send out gorgeous yarn, knowing it will be loved and (hopefully) knitted up sooner than I can get through my current WIP’s to enjoy working with it myself! The quantity of this gorgeous yarn in my studio actually forces me to be quite selective when stashing for myself. I often do set something aside & pretend it’s in my stash…just for a while… until I’m ready to let go or absolutely know I want to stash it 🙂

You are also looking at stocking ChiaoGoo, could you tell me a little more about your plans. What other gorgeous knitting goodies can we expect to see in the shop soon?

I plan on having ChiaoGoo here as soon as possible – their range is so extensive that it has been hard to choose! The exchange rate at the moment makes things tricky so I have decided to start with a basic selection and expand from there. There are some really cool stitch markers and some fun Book Line Markers (for keeping one’s place on a pattern page) which will be available soon. I have a lot of other ideas and plans for the future.

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I really enjoyed chatting to Gina about her shop. It was inspiring to hear about her journey to the Andes, and I always enjoy browsing her shop.

Gina has a very active Ravelry group with KALs’ and special offers and is also on Facebook and Twitter.

I have picked some yarn candy for you to have a look at here, but I highly recommend a virtual trip to Gina’s shop.

This gorgeous selection of LeLana yarns would work so well together.

I can’t help but smile when I see this sunshine yellow yarn.

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Copyright: NaturalYarns

The new Nurturing Fibres Winter collection has many stunning new shades, carefully designed by Gina and Carle. There are also many new exciting bases.

I love this colour combination in Adele’s Skinny Wool. I think it would make a gorgeous shawl.

Last, but certainly not least is the gorgeous Manos…

Something to knit with…

I think it is fairly obvious by now that I am just a little obsessed with knitting … I do have some other passions though and one of them is food! I thought I would do the occasional post about food, because every knitter needs fuel to keep those hands going and those needles clicking!

Earlier this week I collected 1.8 litres of pure joy in the form of the most amazing maple syrup I have ever tasted. As with all maple syrup it travelled a very long way to take up residence in my fridge. What makes this syrup infintely more special than the stuff I can buy in the shops is, I know who tapped it from a tree, bottled it and carefully wrapped it for its long journey. I love buying lovingly crafted food directly from the producer, it always makes it taste that much better.

Cheryl Wright is a fellow knitter who I met on Ravelry. She lives in Vermont and makes the most amazing maple syrup and delicious maple goodies with her husband Tom. She sells all of her goodies from her etsy shop. Trust me if you like maple syrup it is worth saving your pennies for this stuff!!!

One of my favourite things to do with maple syrup is to use it to sweeten my homemade chai. I am not a sweet drink fan, I never have sugar in a hot drink but maple syrup adds more than just sweetness, it adds pure joy to every cup.

I don’t follow a strict recipe for my homemade chai, I’m not very good at sticking to directions when it comes to cooking. Also, chai is one of those things that you can adjust as you go and depending on what you have in the cupboard. After all it is spiced tea so as long as you have spice and tea of some kind and you think it tastes good, you are onto a winner.

Clare’s spiced chai tea (sort of) recipe

Grab a medium sized pot and chuck in the following:

  • A couple of cinnamon sticks,
  • Cardamon pods (about 8-10)
  • Whole star anise (about 5)
  • Whole cloves (about 8)
  • A teaspoon of fennel seed (I actually just give the jar a good shake!)
  • A teaspoon of whole black pepper corns
  • Whole all spice (about 5)
  • Thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped into large chunks

Next, fill the pan with water and bring to the boil, simmer the spices for about 15 minutes. This is a vague guideline, to be honest I often just boil them until I remember to stop. Then add some tea bags. I don’t really like black tea so I use Rooibos tea bags, this also had the added advantage of being caffeine free. I sometimes add a Twining’s Vanilla teabag for a short time to infuse the vanilla scent into the tea. Do whatever takes your fancy. Leave the tea to steep for as long as you see fit.

I am the only chai drinker in my household so at this point I strain the tea into a big jar and allow it to cool. I then drink it by adding some soya milk to a cup of tea and heating it up. You can also serve it straight from the pot, with your choice of milk or have it black. Either way it is delicious.

To get the best mileage out of the spices I re-fill the pot and simmer them again, then add fresh tea bags for even more chai tea goodness.

Oh yes, of course, I sweeten it with Cheryl’s delicious maple syrup.

Finally, serve with cake of some description, because cake is lovely and knitters are lovely, so naturally knitters should be served cake.

I whipped up some Carrot Muffins because I bought 5kgs of carrots at the supermarket the other day and realistically there are only some many things you can do with carrots before you need to turn them into cake. This recipe is pretty healthy and they are very moorish. 

Have a wonderful weekend. I hope it is filled with lovely things including knitting, tea and cake!

Want to treat yourself to some utterly delicious maple syrupe – pop along to Cheryl’s Etsy shop. 

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Knitting Inspired Jewellery

I am often drawn to things knitting related in shops, on Etsy or the glorious world wide web in general. A while ago I stumbled across some gorgeous knitting inspired jewellery made using recycled or repurposed vintage knitting related items. That was it, I was hooked, the search for knitting related jewellery commenced. I am yet to splash out and buy anything, a weak exchange rate and general distrust of our postal system rules that out – but fear not, once I am happily settled in the northern hemisphere I shall be perusing these shops to look for knitting related items to adorn every inch of my being.

In the meantime I thought I would share some of my favourite finds from my meanderings through the world of Etsy. I have been in touch with each designer to ask permission to use these pictures, the copyright remains with them. I found all of these items on my journey through cyber space and was not approached by anyone to promote these products.

The first shop to catch my eye, and start me on this journey was Sassafrascreations run by Nancy Thompson from Georgia in the USA. I love dangly earrings, although I’m not able to wear them much these days thanks the the grabby little fingers of a certain little one. Anyway, I digress … I spotted these in an advert on Ravelry and once I landed in her shop I was hooked. The combination of knitting inspired jewellery, bright colours and unique ideas had me racing through her shop, wishing I could jangle the earrings and hold the necklaces up to a mirror to see what they look like on me. I love the internet because it brings us closer but I do miss browsing items in real shops.

Here are some examples of the gorgeous wares in Sassafrascreations. The earrings that first caught my eye. Identical dangly earrings…

Copyright: Sassafrascreations

Copyright: Sassafrascreations

Some more dangly earrings! This time each with their own unique style.

Copyright: Sassafrascreations

Copyright: Sassafrascreations

Finally this gorgeous necklace. I love the colours.

Copyright: Sassafrascreations

Copyright: Sassafrascreations

The next designer that caught my eye also uses recycled and repurposed knitting needles, but her items could not be more different from Nancy’s.

Claire Griffiths from Hove in England started off making these funky items of jewellery for herself and friends and has gradually expanded her business and now has a thriving online shop. I am so glad she decided to branch out and start her Etsy store YellowBearWares, when I saw her rings and bracelets it was love at first sight.

Carefully crafted from vintage plastic needles in bold colours and eye catching designs these really are unique pieces. Couple this with outstanding product photography and she is onto a winner. I wish I had placed an order when I was recently in the UK. I think I will be adding these to my wish list of things to get once we are back in the UK later on this year.

This is the piece that stole my heart – see what I mean about bold colours, unique design and excellent presentation.

Copyright: YellowBearWares

Copyright: YellowBearWares

While I may have thought it was love at first sight, I have to admit I am finding it very hard to choose a favourite from her shop. There are so many other pieces that appeal to me.

These two rings are simply stunning. I especially like the detail on the red one, a purposeful nod to its previous life as a knitting tool.

Copyright: YellowBearWares

Copyright: YellowBearWares

Copyright: YellowBearWares

Copyright: YellowBearWares

Finally this monochrome bracelet is pure understated style. Have I mentioned how much I love this stuff?

Copyright: YellowBearWares

Copyright: YellowBearWares

The next designer does not focus solely on knitting inspired pieces, but I just had to include these bright and colourful pendants and earrings.

Rhonda from Neat Eats creates these little gems using polymer clay. She also makes incredibly intricate replicas of your favourite foods and meals, I’ve spotted some Marmite charms and avacado earrings – I’m firmly in the ‘love’ camp for both of those food items.

The last piece I want to show you today is from a design team called VividPlease, they make all kinds of brilliant things including this utterly delightful wooden brooch. It is the perfect adornment for any self respecting knitter.

Copyright: VividPlease

Copyright: VividPlease

This brooch is laser cut from Obeche wood (which is interestingly enough used in the building of saunas). I highly recommend a little browse through their etsy shop. You can also read more about Vicky and David’s adventures on their blog. 

Do you have any knitting inspired jewellery?

On Tour: iKnit (LYS)

This visit was a mad rush and I am gutted that I did not get a chance to soak up the knitterly vibes.

We only really had two days in London, with a small baby and so many people to see there was never going to be time to stroll around knitting shops.

We decided to walk along the Southbank and I reminisced about days long passed in this beautiful and vibrant city.

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By the time we found the shop I only had 5 minutes before needing to rush off and meet a dear old friend for lunch. This shop really deserved so much more than 5 minutes! It was brilliant and the tag line for the shop is so true. It really is a sanctuary amidst the chaos of the busy surrounding streets.

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I did not really get much of a chance to look around but there were some really gorgeous yarns. High end luxury silks, hand dyed sock yarns and stunning lace. They also stocked Manos, Artesano and Debbie Bliss to name but a few.

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One selection of skeins really caught my eye. I was in such a rush I did not take proper notes of what it was but I do have a picture. The yarn is gorgeous sock yarn in vibrant almost neon hues. Shoreditch socks, most certainly. I love this yarn, sadly it was a touch out of my budget at the moment. Maybe another time.

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We did make a purchase here but it was not for me (sob). My lovley husband had to pruchase a thank you gift for my sister after she posted him his suit jacket a few days before we had to attend a wedding – anyway, long story not yarn related. Sam was the lucky recepient of a skein of Artesano British Wool in Teal, its a lovely sturdy aran weight which I believe she is going to craft into mitts. I don’t have a picture (sorry), secretely I think I was a bit miffed that I did not get to indulge my yarn addiction here.

After that swift purchase my 5 minutes was up and that was to be the only yarn shopping I did in London. I completed this day with lunch and dinner dates with very dear friends and a few glasses of good red wine, so really it was all good.

Dinner at Moro – well worth the visit. I think it is my favourite restaurant in London.

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London: the city that stole my heart all those years ago, still makes my heart flutter.

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P/HOP KAL – Decisions, Decisions …

I am joining in with the Pennies per hour of pleasure (P/Hop) KAL being run by my good friend and fellow South African (sort of) blogger and podcaster Jo aka Shinybees.

P/Hop is an excellent concept whereby you knit a gorgeous pattern and make a donation of your choosing, in line with how much enjoyment you gained from said pattern to MSF. You can learn more about the P/Hop concept on their website. 

What is MSF? Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is an international NGO who provide medical care. The strap line on their website sums up their work perfectly.

Medical aid where it is needed most. Independent. Neutral. Impartial

In a world of ever more complicated conflicts, disasters and emergencies the concept and practical implementation of neutrality is a complex but key element in the humanitarian sector. This is a subject close to my heart, and I think p/hop is a fantastic way to engage people and raise funds for this very worthwhile organisation.

Onto the knitting element of this post. I decided to join the KAL at the end of June but have taken a little while getting my act together. I also have to make a decision … never an easy process, even if it is just choosing between two patterns.

The first pattern to leap out to me was the Waterhouse Mitts by Patricia Martin, I have been meaning to do some colourwork and these looked like an ideal project to get me started. I have my sights set on colourwork jumpers in fingering weight, but I think realistically this is a far more achievable challenge for me at the moment.

While browsing the other patterns I was reminded of these gorgeous mitts that have been in my favourites for ages Cranford Mitts by Jane Lithgow, they are really pretty and I think they would be a fun and interesting knit.

I thought I would stash dive to help me make a decision, but having found perfect yarn for both projects I really don’t know which one to cast on for this KAL…

For the Waterhouse Mitts I have some Regia Sock Yarn in blue and grey, a winning combination for me.

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For the Cranford Mitts I have this gorgeous Old Maiden Aunt Alpaca Merino in the colourway Morning Sky. Its since been discontinued, but it is stunning and I really need to make use of it.

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Oh decisions, decisions … remind me again why I have some strange self imposed one project per category rule?

Hopefully I will be casting one of these on in the coming days, why don’t you join us?

There is a really friendly group thread on the Shinybees group for this KAL, and while you are there I highly recommend the Shinybees podcast and blog!

You can also follow p/hop on Twitter or read more about the initiative on their blog.