Saturday, November 26, 2011

Tiny Tea Leaves for a Growing Girl

Is it normal to envy the wardrobe of your toddler daughter? I have to admit to having wished in the past that I could do ditsy prints and stripy tights the way she does and now this Tiny Tea Leaves is bringing on the green eyed monster even more.

It wasn't as if I didn't have enough projects in progress, all of them design development or commission samples. Hell, one of them is even a sweater that's destined for little M whenever I finally get around to it- being a large 'frog and re-do' job it keeps getting bumped for smaller projects with newer and therefore more exciting yarn. But she's outgrown her summer cardigans, and a friend had given me this pattern and I had more than enough Rowan British Sheep Breeds DK in Brown BFL from an idea for a pirate design boys sweater that I have struggled with, frogged and in the end given up on (possibly for good, not least because the boy in our household is resolutely opposed to hand-knitted garments of any kind).

It's a pattern that well deserves its popularity. Easy to follow, even when picked up and put down in favour of other projects or the occasional tokenistic domestic chore, the result is lovely in its simplicity. I can see myself making further versions for her as she gets older, and different yarns could make it anything from a fluffy party dress cover-up to a sensible school cardigan.
As for the yarn, well first of all it's held up remarkably well considering the several times it's been knitted, frogged and re-knitted on its journey from pirate to tea-leaf. The small amount of frog-based kinking that could be seen on some of the stocking stitch parts of the body disappeared without trace with blocking and the finished result is soft and springy. As is so often the case with colours created by Mother Nature herself, it would be hard for a dyer to come up with something better than the warm greyish-brown. The sheep also still makes itself known in the scent, faint but comfortingly present even when the cardigan is dry.

When it came to choosing buttons I could quite easily have gone for the natural options of wood, shell or bone, which would have suited the yarn. I felt that this might make it feel just a little bit too serious for a one-and-a-half year old and that colour was needed instead. These very pale pink ones seemed to have just the right amount of delicate prettiness for a little girl.

I say little, but the smallest size on the pattern is listed as 2T, which in theory should be on the large size for M. I think the yarn used was a bit lighter than the recommended and I have to admit that rather than matching the gauge, I just knit on the right sized needles for the yarn, made the smallest size and hoped for the best. It seemed huge when on the needles and I thought it would end up with a lot of growing room, but it appears my baby has been growing up without me noticing it, and actually the size is perfect for her right this minute. Now I just have to find room on my knitting 'To-do' list to make the grown-up version for me.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wovember- in praise of Wool

When it comes to the work of Kate Davies I have to admit to being a bit of a stalker. I love her knits- I've never had a sweater that gets me more compliments than Owls , I more or less live in Manu and a Sheep Heid is on the cards for the near future. More than that though, I love her passion for design and real wool. Is there another type of wool? The more fibre aware among you may well wonder, but as Kate's 'Wovember' campaign highlights, there is an increasing tendency on the High Street and beyond to use and abuse terms like 'wool', 'woollen', 'tweed' and so on whenever it suits the marketing aims and regardless whether the actual fabric content has ever known a sheep.
Kate's blog, which I wanted to mention before November was finished (although Wovember is an ongoing cruade), includes some fascinating, thought provoking and at times anger-inducing information about the role wool has had in the textile industry of the past as well as how it needs to be respected and cherished in the future. Whether you're a knitter or not, I would urge you to visit and read- if nothing else the beautiful photographs of gorgeous designs and Scottish landscapes will soothe and inspire.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pattern Development

You could say that my knitting life has undertaken something of a transformation recently. This time last year I was dipping the tiniest toe in the water of coming up with and sharing my own designs. Since enjoying a small amount of success, I'm a woman possessed and I seem to have projects under development everywhere, from sketches and proposals, to swatches and samples and things that still only exist in my head. Some of them promise much then just don't work out, others change and evolve and end up completely different from the original idea, while others just seem to fly straight away. It's a fascinating and exciting new process for me.

Inspiration has to come first, of course, and it would be hard not to be influenced by the wonders of the late autumn Lake District- the leaves pictured are caught in a beck running down the side of Yewdale, near Coniston. Further inspiration arrived in the post last week, in the form of this glorious 'Autumn' coloured yarn from Eden Cottage Yarns. Eden Cottage is the new name for Wild Fire Fibres, reflecting dyer Vikki's recent move to Cumbria's Eden Valley. The baby alpaca yarn is so very soft and colours speak for themselves really.

A recent charity shop find was the great vintage Paton's design seen above, which I picked up mainly for the interesting stitch pattern. I'm not using it in a sweater as the leaflet shows (although you never know, one day we too may be a family clad in matching jumpers like the ones in the picture!) but have found that it adapts really well to the project I'm working on. I'll reveal more at a later date, I hope.