Project – Bobble Bathmat

Pattern: Bobble Bath Mat
Publication: Cute Little Knits
Designer: Jem Weston

Yarn: Rowan Creative Focus Worsted
Shade: Teal (03360)
Creative Focus Worsted - 03360 Teal

Ravelry: Bobble Bathmat Teal

Last year my boyfriend and I bought our first home. All my life I’ve been a serial renter and have never actually made it to 2 years at any single address since I left home to go to university at the turn of the millennium! So I was indescribably excited that we would finally have a home that was ours and which we would definitely be in for some years to come, for many reasons but in particular because it would now actually be worth kitting out our home with things that matched, rather than cheap fixes which would do the job and hopefully work in the next place, and the next, and so on…

Obviously I was super excited to knit some things for the new house and so I started looking for some inspiration. The first place I looked was Cute Little Knits because I knew it had some lovely homeware items in it and also because Jem Weston is a good friend and so I would be very excited to make one of her designs as I hadn’t done so before. As soon as I turned to the page with the Bobble Bath Mat on it, I just knew it was destined for the new house. We bought a new build and during the construction process George and I had spent a very long afternoon at the sales office going over and over and over the options for bathroom tiles because there were so many. Plus we had to choose for two bathrooms and a downstairs WC, so it wasn’t even like we had to make our minds up only once! In the end we were very proud of our choices and I definitely couldn’t wait to see the bathrooms finished. For the family bathroom we’d chosen a mixture of white and dark grey tiles. I immediately knew that teal accessories would look fantastic in there and it just so happens that Creative Focus Worsted comes in the most amazing shade of teal. So I was sold!

I’d never worked with Creative Focus Worsted before and wow had I been missing out! It’s so soft and luxurious, and the colours are just divine. It is a very soft weave so just be careful you don’t split any stitches as that could be easily done. I’m definitely going to be using this yarn again in future!

The construction of the bathmat is done in three parts – first the centre panel which has a moss stitch top and bottom border (that’s American seed stitch), garter stitch main panel with lovely big bobbles on it. Then you knit separately two side panels in moss stitch and sew these on using mattress stitch. The side panels are a different number of rows in length to the main panel, which is intentional due to the fact that the mat needs to be felted. The main panel is garter stitch because the bobbles stand out better against that than they do on moss stitch. As garter stitch and moss shrink by different amounts when felted, the moss stitch edges are knitted to a different length to ensure that they felt down to the same size as the main garter stitch panel. That is why they have to be made separately and sewn on, so don’t be tempted to cut corners by sewing it all in one piece, or it will felt very badly out of shape!

So here is my mat, all made up.

Bathmat - before felting

Unfortunately I could see once I’d sewn it together that I cast on too tightly, which is a common fault in my knitting. I should cast onto two needles more often than I do. I’m just a bit complacent, I suppose!

And here is a close-up of the bobbles which I’m really pleased with. Just occasionally I can get my little camera to do great things! To make the bobbles you work into one stitch five times then turn and work twice before passing the extra 4 stitches back over the first.

Bobbles closeup - before felting

When knitting the row following each row of bobbles, I often had trouble with my working yarn getting caught around the bobbles as I worked past them. I think this is probably most likely to happen if, like me, you are a continental knitter and so the yarn goes from the right needle to your left hand. English knitters wouldn’t have the same issue as the yarn wouldn’t go across the bobbles. Anyway, if you are leftie then just make sure you watch out for your yarn catching on the bobbles and make sure it’s properly snug between each stitch.

So now came time for the scary and magic part – felting! I’d never felted anything before so I was completely petrified that it would go wrong and I’d ruin this beautiful mat that I’d just spent a whole month knitting for our new home. But there was nothing for it except to be brave and go for it! Luckily I’d had a great tip from Jem when I was working on the project which I remembered to use before the mat went into the washing machine. To make sure that you get really nice bobbles after felting, you need to get them to stand up as much as possible beforehand. As Jem so elegantly put it – tweak those nipples! So I went down every bobble, pinched it between my thumb and forefinger and gave it a pull/twist. You can really see the difference as you go down the mat so I fully advise doing this right before it goes in the wash.

I put the mat into a standard wash cycle at 30C as advised in the pattern and then paced nervously round the house as it spun. At this point I totally envied anyone with a top-loading washing machine – with a front-loader you’ve got no option but to wait for the cycle to end and hope for the best…

Luckily Jem’s design and my washing machine were a match made in heaven, and I almost cried with relief when this perfectly felted bath mat emerged!

Bathmat - after feltingMat closeup after felting

It’s still a little damp in these pictures as I didn’t have the patience to wait for it to be completely dry before I photographed it, I was just too excited! The eagle-eyed among you may spot the one row I did wrong, but that’s the charm of a hand made item in my opinion. You will need to pull it to shape a bit when it comes out of the wash, but that’s easily done. And it evens out very well as it dries, mine actually looks a bit better now than it did when I took these.

Bobbles closeup - after felting (1)Bobbles closeup - after felting (2)

The bobbles weren’t all completely even after felting, but I still think they look brilliant.

Best of all, I can’t describe how soft this mat is on my feet when I get out of the shower, it’s complete luxury! I don’t think I will ever use a bath mat that I like more than this one. Luckily I managed to have it finished just a week before we moved house and I was so happy when I put it in the new bathroom along with the matching blind, toothbrush cup, soap dispenser, pedal bin, toilet brush and eventually a whole new set of towels. It looks amazing! I have a second one planned in grey for the en-suite bathroom and I can’t wait to go again with all the experience I now have with this design.

If you only knit one homeware item this year, I would highly recommend you make it this one.

Project – Finntastic Legwarmers

Pattern: Finntastic Legwarmers
Designer: Lucy Barkley

Yarn: Millamia Naturally Soft Aran
Shades:
Stone (202)
Ivory (221)

Yarn: Rowan Pure Wool Worsted
Shade: Breton (147)

Ravelry: Finntastic Legwarmers

Legwarmers Full LengthLegwarmers Slouched

When I’m knocking around the house on the weekends I usually wear tracksuit bottoms and I always seem to get cold and drafty ankles, so knitting some legwarmers seemed like the perfect solution to this problem! A few months ago the lovely Spins and Needles ran a giveaway on Instagram to win 4 balls of Millamia Naturally Soft Aran. I’m never one to pass up a yarn giveaway at the best of times, but I could see that this yarn would be ideal for some legwarmers so I absolutely had to enter. Clearly it was fate because I won!

The first thing I have to say about this yarn is how amazingly soft it is. When it arrived and I took it out of the packet, I couldn’t stop touching it. Honestly, it’s the most wonderfully soft and springy yarn I’ve encountered in ages! The shade range is mostly natural shades, with a smattering of deliciously bright and intense shades to set it off. In the giveaway I won 2 balls of Stone (grey) and 2 balls of Ivory (white/cream) and they are just amazing. They were pretty much the colours I had in my head when I was thinking of the legwarmers that I’d like to make, so I couldn’t have been happier!

After trawling through the fantastic advanced pattern search on Ravelry looking for just the right pattern, I completely fell in love with Finntastic Legwarmers. Sadly I only had 2 colours so I was trying to work out how I might adapt the fairisle to work without the 3rd shade, when it finally occurred to me to go have a look in my stash. Duh! That was when I found some Pure Wool Worsted in Breton that I’d completely forgotten that I had. It was absolutely perfect, the right colour and the right weight (more or less), so the project was on.

The fairisle is brilliant, simple to work but with a really stunning result. It helped that the chart was nice and easy to read and also that the colours were very rarely floated too in the back..

Sadly I started to run out of the first ball of the grey when the legwarmers were still a bit shorter than I would have liked them to be. In fact I had to cut out quite a few rows during the calf shaping which means it’s a bit sharp on mine, although you can’t see it in the photos. Luckily the pattern is helpfully written top-down so that you can make them as long or as short as you want to suit yourself. Thank heaven for considerate designers!

I briefly considered doing the rib in the white (I could have ripped out from the top of the first one and re-knitted the rib upwards) but I wasn’t sure if the benefit would be worth the effort and I also didn’t want to change the designed appearance because they are so pretty as they are. So in the end I stuck with it and I’m happy that I did. Most of the time I wear them all slouched down anyway (in fact they tend to fall down if I try to walk around with them pulled up) so you can’t even tell.

The project used less than a ball of the white so I’ve got plenty left over to make something else scrumptious. I’m almost tempted to buy some more shades and make a another pair in a different colourway! Or maybe I could make a hat or some gloves with it. Only time will tell!

For now, I have the prettiest, warmest and happiest ankles in the world. What more could a girl ask for with winter closing in?

Have you you ever won any wonderful new yarn in a giveaway? What did you make with it?

Project – Cliona Beret

Pattern: Cliona
Designer: Marie Wallin
Publication: Fazed Tweed Collection

Yarn: Rowan Fazed Tweed
Shade: Holly (007)
Fazed Tweed Holly 007

Ravelry: Cliona

Cliona FrontCliona SideCliona BackCliona Detail

I received 2 balls of Fazed Tweed from Rowan for review, in this gorgeous Holly shade. Lots of people have commented that it’s just my colour, which it absolutely is! As I already mentioned in my recent review of Fazed Tweed, this yarn has a fascinating construction which gives it a unique appearance and an interesting texture. When I first had a chance to play with this yarn, I was really surprised at how it knits up, as it looked nothing like I expected it to from what the yarn looks like in a ball. I really can’t recommend this yarn enough, I think it’s a real winner for this autumn/winter.

So, the project! I was really chuffed to find a pattern in the Fazed Tweed collection that only required 2 balls, but initially not too enthusiastic that it was a hat. You see I only started driving a car about 3 years ago, before that I walked or caught the bus everywhere which meant that in the winter I needed lots of warm accessories because I feel the cold very sharply. Hats, scarves, gloves and plenty of them! But since I’ve started driving most places, I don’t need quite so many accessories. Especially not hats because they are a bit unnecessary when you drive and could even impede your vision which would not be good. However, I’ve changed my stance on hats in recent months because my partner and I are in the process of buying a house in a village out into the south Nottinghamshire countryside. Once we’ve moved I plan to do more walking, whether it’s to the leisure centre, the shops or longer walks out into the countryside. Walking = hats. Hurrah!

This pattern is super easy and, due to the chunky weight of the yarn, it knits up in absolutely no time. It’s worked in the round, with a large ribbed cuff, double moss stitch for the body and then reduce down evenly at the top and tie off. I finished it in less than a fortnight of intermittent knitting. The yarn is lovely to work with. My only slight issue was that on occasion the tip of my needle would get caught up in the outer fuzz of the yarn. I suspect that this happened more for me than it would for most knitters because, due to my really loose knitting tension, I had to go down to 5mm needles instead of the recommended 6mm. I think with a fatter needle like the 6mm, it wouldn’t be so much of a problem.

Now I just can’t wait for winter in the country when I’ll have an excuse to wear this wonderfully snug hat!

Project – Hands Of Purple

Pattern: Hands Of Blue
Designer: Lucy Hague

Yarn: Rowan Alpaca Colour
Shade: Garnet (139)
Alpaca Colour 139

Ravelry: Hands Of Purple

Towards the end of last winter, I lost a lovely pair of leather gloves which left me without any nice gloves to use. I bought some cheap black synthetic ones to get me through to the end of the winter and decided to buy some nice ones for the next winter. During last year I realised that what I should obviously do was knit myself some nice gloves rather than buying them. I reviewed lots of patterns on Ravelry and got it down to a short list of two. Both patterns are gorgeous and I was completely unable to choose between the two, so I decided to make both! This pattern appealed to me not only because the design is visually stunning, but also because the name is a Firefly reference, so I was powerless to resist it.

Regular readers may recall that I was gifted a giant cloud of soft lovely Alpaca Colour by my colleagues when I left my job of 10 years back in October. I was also lucky enough to have a skein of this gorgeous yarn for review, which it turned out would be perfect to make Hands Of Blue. One skein wouldn’t quite be enough to make the full-fingered version but, being part way through my Harewood scarf, I was quite confident that I would have some yarn left over when I finished it. As such, I pinched a bit from the second skein I hadn’t started for the scarf yet, and off I went.

This pattern is really gorgeous, the combination of the twisted rib and the curved lines from the lace pattern produce a stunning result. Alpaca Colour has now taken the crown as my favourite super-soft yarn, it’s like wearing clouds on your hands! Sadly the slight fuzz to this yarn loses the stitch definition a little and my not-great photography skills mean you lose it a little more in the photo, but regardless I could not be more pleased with these gloves. They are so soft and warm and pretty, what more could a girl want? I’m especially pleased with the length of the gloves, as there’s nothing I hate more than a glove that skimps on length and leaves me with draughty wrists!

If you’re looking for a new pair of gloves, I couldn’t recommend this pattern enough. It even has fingerless, half-finger and full-finger variations so that you can match exactly to your style and warmth needs. I’m also fairly confident that you could get a fingerless pair out of just one skein of Alpaca Colour, so great value too!

Project – Forest Footballer Doll

This project was one of the few commissions I’ve done to date. A friend forwarded me a tweet from one of his friends seeking someone to knit a project on request. I got in touch with the friend of a friend, Andrew, to ask more about what he had in mind. Andrew said that one of his friends was expecting his first baby, a boy, and he wanted to gift the new father with a doll of a Nottingham Forest footballer. Having knitted a teddy bear once before, I figured I was up to the challenge of another soft toy so we agreed to go ahead.

My first search for a footballer doll pattern lead me to the wonderful Jean Greenhowe and her book of Mascot Dolls. I’ve never felt more fortunate because the footballer was absolutely perfect and even pictured in exactly the right colour strip for Nottingham Forest!

 

Pattern: Footballer

Designer: Jean Greenhowe

Publication: Mascot Dolls

 

Yarn: King Cole Dollymix DK

Shades: White (1), Red (9), Taupe (37), Black (48), Flesh (149)

 

Ravelry: Nottingham Forest Footballer Doll

Forest Footballer Doll (front)Forest Footballer Doll (back)

Good

  • How cute is this pattern?! Every single example in the booklet is beautifully crafted to be a wonderful little caricature of almost any mascot you could want.
  • Full marks to King Cole for having such a great set of colours and in little 25g balls, they are just perfect for this kind of project. I can’t recommend Dollymix DK enough if you need to do a soft toy like this one.
  • Also a glowing mention for Knit Nottingham, for having all the exact colours I needed in stock. Thanks, Eleanor!
  • On request, I altered a couple of things in order to make the doll look a little bit like Stuart Pearce. Firstly I changed the hair to brown and secondly I embroidered a number 3 on the back of the shirt. Not a bad little set of adjustments!

Bad

  • I don’t think my stuffing skills are quite up to scratch yet, so I didn’t quite do this guy justice. Still, not a bad job for only the second soft toy I’ve ever made.
  • Unfortunately I think the hair looks better in black, as it takes the edge off the stitch definition a bit more and gives a softer appearance, but not to any great detriment in the final result.
  • The facial details (including ears) were a bit fiddly and not my best work.
  • There was a lot of making up to be done in this project. Many seams to be sewn up, embellishments to be sewn on, and ends to be sewn in. If, like me, you pick up any of the patterns from this booklet, allow plenty of time for your finishing phase as it took me quite a long time, due to a combination of a lot of work and, towards the end, a lack of motivation to keep my yarn needle moving!

Conclusions

  • Jean Greenhowe is a masterful designer and I cannot recommend her patterns enough if you have any little ones to knit for. You are bound to find something they’ll love in her library, including firemen, ballerinas, cowboys, fairies, and much more.
  • Some more practise on stuffing soft toys and embroidering fine detail is probably required for future.
  • Yes, finishing remains my nemesis.
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