For the most part, I’m a bit bah humbug about Christmas. The muzac carols and obligatory gift exchanging mostly just give me the grumps. But there’s something about a Christmas tree which still holds the magic in a it’s-not-a-real-birthday-till-you-blow-out-the-candles kind of way.
Blinking lights, shiny tinsel and tatty old gewgaws with outlandish names from childhood; the tackier the better. Maybe it’s because the tradition of celebrating evergreens at midwinter goes right back into prehistory and spans several continents.
Or maybe not. Even now, memories of sleeping on a rickety truckle bed under a sweet smelling tree on Christmas eve, watching the coloured lights dance their syncopated jitterbug can still make me wax lyrical.
This Christmas we are a long way from home, but we couldn’t not have a tree. It needed to be small and portable, and because everything on our trip needs to be multipurpose, it had to be practical as well as decorative. (And besides, it’s getting cold!)
So it’s a cowl that moonlights as a tree.
Fold it in half and admire it on the mantelpiece, and then snuggle it around your neck when you head outside for a walk in the woods, or possibly to leave food out for the reindeer..
And in the spirit of Christmas, Winter Solstice, Yule or what you will, I wanted to share it to say thank you for all your support over the last year and a half.
Merry Christmas Tree!
We’ve been slowly making our way from the Netherlands down to Turkey over the past 4 months, and along the way we frequently read about, and occasionally meet, refugees heading the other direction.
I can’t imagine doing what they are doing. It must be hell. We see them most often outside supermarkets. We walk out carrying bags of supplies, and they are sitting outside in the cold, looking very tired, and often with small children just like ours.
And reading the news.. well, let’s not go there.
As a small way of doing something useful, I’m releasing Shawl of Many Shapes.
Full proceeds go to Médecins Sans Frontières. Every time I read about some new awfulness, they are already there helping out.
The pattern includes 4 separate shawls made from the one lace, and is a mini lesson in shawl shaping.
Each shape includes a simple repeatable chart which can be worked to any size, in a range of weights.
Beginners can can keep it simple and work a stockinette shawl, using just the edging for an elegant finish.
The lace has a short repeat which is quick to memorise, and is interesting enough to be knit more than once. (Several of the test knitters went back for a second shape, and one decided to knit one of everything!)
Many thanks to the test knitters, who did a wonderful job in record time, and also to all those who buy a pattern for a worthy cause. Happy knitting!
Dragon’s Breath is a beaded lace weight cowl, named for that last burst of heat that sometimes flares up in autumn, before the fire-breathing summer flies away to the other hemisphere.
Simple to knit and dramatic to wear. Both the width and length of the cowl can be adjusted, and the beads are optional but fun. This would make a good first project for working in the round, or trying beading.
Best of all, it comes to you thanks to Knitty!
(Please forgive me tooting my own trumpet but I had to share as I feel like I’m on top of the world just now, and not only because I’ve just flown 20,000 kms northward to begin our year long vagabonding travel adventure!)
Special thanks to my dear friend Lizzy for being a fire breathing dragon for me.
It’s been very quiet here since November. Usually when the kids are quiet it means they are Up To Something, and usually something dubious.
In my case I’ve been head down, knitting up a storm, so here is a catch up post. Apologies for the number of links.
So far this year I’ve been working on 3 series; Oriental Tales, the Little Book of Fairy Tales, and am just finishing up a series about love – Love is like friendship caught on fire. (I’ll leave it to you to decide if this is love of the interpersonal variety, or for the love of knitting!😉
The Nimble Knits group has grown, and the community continually blows me away with its warmth and kindness. We now have regular knitalongs (check out the KALendar here for updates if you like to knit with friends.) Currently there is a knitalong of the Leaf Cycle shawls.
I’m excited to say there’s been a lot of leaping of the language barrier, with a number of patterns now available in French thanks to the delightful ladies of Madlaine Yarns, in German thanks to TinaStrickt, and in Italian thanks to Unfilodi Knit House (who hosted a KAL of the free cowl pattern Whimsycowl in April).
And soon I’ll be doing some leaping of my own as our family of 5 is about to embark on a year of vagabonding. After several years of planning and dreaming, we are finally only days away from setting off to travel around Europe and the UK for 12 months. In a bongo van. Wish us luck! (We may need it..)
I’ll be keeping some sort of record of our journey here, for any who are curious.
I’m going to release a dragon into the wild tonight!
I’m really chuffed by The Dragon’s Tale as I had to step right out of my comfort zone to make it, and would have been thoroughly lost if it hadn’t been for a number of very kind helping hands. (Thank you Catnach, Sandra8981, Madquilter, Alpacaspinner, and the whole group of testers..)
I’ve been quietly in love with this stitch pattern ever since I first saw it. I spent several hours just looking at its construction, and I’m honestly in awe of it. Apart from its sheer rippling beauty, the amount of experience and understanding that went into working out where to place the increases and decreases to get the scales to lean and flow as they do is quite remarkable. My sincere respect to Marjorie Bialkowski for either creating it, or passing it on to the wonderful Barbara Walker.
However turning it into a sideways shawl presented some challenges, for me at least.
I’m airing my ignorance woefully here, but I figure that if even I could manage to knit this, then anyone could.
– I hadn’t worked side to side before.
– I hadn’t tried an integrated I cord edge.
– I hadn’t worked pattern on the WS before and I had to turn my brain inside out to figure out how to work a ssk on the WS, (I was still turning my work around to work out which way I was supposed to lean for the first 3 pattern repeats! Fortunately there is only one decrease and a yarn over worked on each WS row, and the placement and direction is established on the previous row, so it doesn’t take long to get into the swing of it.)
– And I hadn’t used anything above fingering for a couple of years, so this was a stretch in every direction.
In my (albeit limited) experience, dragons tend to be rather opinionated creatures, and this one proved no different. In my imagination, it was originally going to be a shawl, however it was determined to be more lithe and serpentine than I had envisioned, so it became a scarf instead.
Then it needed a tail tip. Apparently all the really cool dragons have them, and this one wasn’t happy without one.
And once it had a little barbed tail, it just didn’t look complete without a head, so back to the graph paper we went again. This time we (the dragon and I, that is) played around with cables for dramatic effect, and then got way too carried away with the button jar trying out different eyes, which was great fun. (If you happen to be looking for some serious dragon eyes, I can highly recommend ArtistJP on Etsy, he has a great variety, and is very helpful.)
But we still weren’t quite done. All this was merely a scarf, and ‘we’* wanted to spread our wings and truly fly, so Dragonflight, the shawl version, was born. This is a deeper crescent (and adaptable to become deeper still, and or longer/shorter) with a wider border, and designed to work with lighter weight yarn, in this case from fingering up to DK, compared to the DK and up for the Dragon’s Tale scarf. It’s testing at the moment and should be out in a couple of weeks.
So the moral of this tale seems to be ‘beware of dragons, because they’re bossy’. Or perhaps that following your imagination can get you into all sorts of fun mischief.
*Dragons apparently believe they are entitled to use the royal ‘we’.
The amazing Solstice Yarns ‘Sea Fey’ is a beautiful green gold by day, and turns to secret dragonish gold at night.
The Dragon’s Tale is the second in the Oriental Tales series, along with The Peacock’s Tale, Scheherezade’s Tale, and the tale of the flying carpet, which will hopefully come off the needles in the next day or two. And after that there are a bunch of fairy tale archetypes I am itching to play with, and then.. well, the list is getting rather long.
How to care for your new shawl
Knitting lace seems to be addictive. Possibly it’s the jigsaw-like puzzle of lining up every stitch form a pattern, or perhaps it is the exhilaration of the butterfly-from-a-chrysalis moment of blocking your shawl and discovering what you’ve really been making over those many hours.
Whatever the reason, the reality is that each of us has only one neck, and you can, generally, only wear one shawl at a time.
What to do with the others? Frequently they become gifts.
Gifting them provides the ideal excuse to make more, and makes an excellent justification for indulging in more yarn shopping. Not to mention cheering the recipient.
However, if you’ve ever given someone a lace shawl, they have probably asked you ‘how do I wash it?’ And you’ve probably noticed their eyes glaze over as you describe soaking and blocking. No one wants their gift to become a burden, after all.
Blocking is simple enough once you’ve done it a time or two, or seen a picture, but can seem daunting to the novice.
To make the first-time-blocking process less scary, I’ve made up a variety of little A6 cards which can be slipped in with your precious gift, and referred to at leisure by the lucky recipient.
You can download the PDF here, then print and share at will.
Please note some I’ve included some for silk, which requires more gentle blocking, some with the lazy clothesline method, and some which recommend a protective covering over the blocking surface (highly recommended for shawls which will either hold a lot of water, or which you found to be non-colourfast when you soaked them yourself). Please consider which card best suits the needs of your shawl.
You may like to include the yarn label with the gift too.
So now you’ve got the perfect excuse to knit more!
As part of the Ravelry Giftalong, I’ve been given the opportunity to interview the wonderful Terri Kruse of Ninja8tofu Designs.
Tell me about yourself
My name is Terri Kruse and I am the designer behind Ninja8tofu Designs. I live in North Dakota where I am given ample opportunity to wear knitted items.
And how did you come up with your name?
It was really random. I had to think of a username and I happened to be making tofu that day and I like ninjas…so I just put the two together. 8 is my favorite number. Together it all kind of sounded slightly humorous.
How would you describe your style?
Also, sometimes kind of random. I have ever-shifting tastes I think. I like classic styles, but I also like a bit of quirkyness. Personally, I like things that are really comfortable. Some might call it “lazy”.
The beautiful Foster.
What got you started designing?
After I learned to knit, I started modifying things almost immediately. It was kind of in my nature already, I had been sewing clothing since high school and I modified almost everything I sewed, too.
What aspects of designing do you most love, and what do you find most challenging?
The actual knitting is the easiest and most fun part for me. Writing out the first draft of a pattern is the hardest, sitting down and putting it all to paper (and I do this before I knit) is just almost like torture!
What’s your design process? Where do you start?
I start, generally, with sketches and swatches. I will sketch something out and file it away and when I’m ready for it, I will pull it out and swatch, usually several swatches.
Extremely cute Pigwidgeon mitts and matching hat.
Do you have a pattern that you’ve most loved designing, or project you’ve most loved making?
Pretty much any of the kids’ patterns. I really love knitting up little things. They are more instantly gratifying, though not necessarily easier, sometimes it’s hard to fit things on so many fewer stitches. Or colorwork. I love colorwork.
If someone was to knit just one of your patterns, which would you recommend?
Hmmm…that’s tough. It depends on what they like knitting. I think I would pick a kid sweater, maybe Go Buffalo. I liked it so much I just finished the adult version (though in Kings colors).
<a href="http://Go Buffalo
Have you planned what will you be knitting for the GAL?
Well, I don’t have a lot of time to do “fun” knitting, but I think I may do a hat or some sort of colorwork. I don’t know what yet. I will have to look over the patterns and see which I will want to do.
I will have several patterns coming out during the KAL…Likely the Adult version of the Abernathy, which will go on presale in about 2 weeks. I don’t have a definite on that one but approximately 2 weeks. I’ll be running a KAL for that and the little version.
Thanks very much Terri!
Some other examples of Terri’s work, just because they’re beautiful –