Project – Marian Cowls

Pattern: Marian
Designer: Jane Richmond

Yarn:
Rowan Big Wool
Rowan Big Wool Colour

Shades:
Black 008Zing 037Jamboree 104
Ravelry:
Marian Cowl – Black
Marian Cowl – Green
Marian Cowl – Colour

A few years ago I was in a yarn clearance sale (I know, as if that ever happens!) and there was a single ball of Big Wool in black that I was sure I would be able to find a use for, so I grabbed it along with my other purchases. It then sat in my stash for ages as I had big plans for garments and other things, but no inspiration for this one cuddly ball of yarn. Eventually I decided it needed a fate, so I turned to the trusty Ravelry pattern search, and found Marian. The yarn it was intended for is even chunkier than Big Wool but I figured it would still work, and I was right.

The pattern is just very simple moss stitch in the round, but with a twist – literally! Before you join your cast on stitches to begin knitting, you do what you are always told not to do when knitting in the round – you take the first stitch on your left needled and twist it 360 around the needle. This creates a Möbius strip effect which gives the cowl its distinctive shape.

Having knitted the cowl, I had no real idea what to do with it. I hadn’t made it for me specifically and I thought maybe it could be a good gift, but I didn’t really decide and it sat around unused for a while. One day I think I was a bit chilly at home so I tried it on and realised that I absolutely loved it! In fact, between the Check That Cowl that I designed for Rowan’s launch of Kidsilk Amore around the same time, cowls became my new favourite thing in the whole world.

Marian Cowl - Black

Later that year I found another lone ball of Big Wool in green which I knew my brother’s fiancée would love, so I made her one in the same pattern as a birthday present. Unfortunately I never got a photo of it, but it looked brilliant in that bright shade of green.

Finally, when Rowan launched Big Wool Colour they sent me a ball for review. I knew just the thing for it by then, so that is now my second Marian cowl! I think it looks even better in Colour, the stitch and the curve really show off all the gorgeous flecks of colour in the yarn. Plus I can wear it with all sorts of outfits, because there’s a bit of almost every colour in there.

I really can’t recommend this pattern enough, just one ball of Big Wool or Big Wool Colour and an evening or two can make you a really versatile accessory. It’s brilliant for a gift in rush, too! You will need big needles though (I used 15mm) but I think they were worth the investment.

Marian Cowl - Jamboree

Marian Cowl - Jamboree close-up

Project – Camellia Shrug

Pattern: Camellia Shrug
Designer: Cassie Castillo

Yarn: Rowan Amy Butler Belle Organic DK

Ravelry: Camellia Shrug

 

Camellia Shrug - front

This is a project that I finished over a year ago, it’s just taken me so long to get some good photos and blog about it! Sometimes I am pretty useless at getting round to things… I bought the yarn on clearance at John Lewis, intending to make a shrug with it. I really wanted a couple more for work as they’re great for when it’s a bit too warm for a cardigan but not quite warm enough without one. I plugged the pack of yarn into Ravelry’s pattern search and Camellia came back – the lace won me over right away so I knew it was the one.

Initially I made the size 38 as I was worried that 34 would be too small. Actually, 38 was way too big so I had to rip out the edge banding, the sleeves and the outer part of the body. Luckily the lace pattern for the body is the same regardless of size, so I didn’t have to work that again! Size 34 is a much better fit, although the body is still a big long from top to bottom, but that’s just the style of the pattern rather than an issue with the size I made.

The lace pattern is gorgeous on both body and sleeves, and it turns out this yarn was a great choice for it because it gives fantastic stitch definition in the lace panels. Sadly it’s been discontinued (that’s probably why I got it in the clearance sale) as I’d definitely knit with it again.

In the end, the hardest part of the project (other than having to rip it out and start again!) was actually getting the body lace panel started. With just a handful of stitches on DPNs, my needles kept slipping out of the stitches and it was really maddening for a while. Somehow I managed to push through it and once I had enough stitches to move onto circulars, I was easily away.

Now it’s spring time, this has come out of the wardrobe again recently when I wore it to work. I still love it more than a year since I finished it so if that’s not a great review, I don’t know what is!

Camellia Shrug - back

Camellia Shrug - lace detail

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.

A Summer of Light

As promised, this is the first of my reviews from the Rowan spring/summer collection for 2015. Summerlite 4ply is a sumptuous new cotton yarn which uses 100% of the finest quality cotton. The finish of the yarn is matt, but it still feels beautifully soft. There are 12 shades in a lovely summer palette:

417 Pure White418 Washed Linen419 Duck Egg420 Blushes421 Buttermilk422 Still Grey424 Periwinkle426 Pinched Pink428 High Tide429 Navy Ink431 Pepper Pot432 Aubergine

To accompany the yarn is a collection of patterns from Martin Storey which show the yarn off to great effect with a mixture of cables, lace and colourwork. These are just a few of my favourites:

AmandierHellebore
Amandier
Hellebore

These two are lovely little garments that would be great for the slight coolness of a summer evening, just to keep the chill off. The lovely lacework and stitch textures used show this fine yarn off to great effect.

ArgentineLunaire
Argentine
Lunaire

I’m a big fan of cables so these both get my vote! There’s something just so delicious about a little cabled jumper. Both of these also rather excitingly feature beading! That isn’t a technique I’ve tried before and I think it’s great to see Rowan including it in their latest designs. The best thing is that either jumper would work fine without the beads, so anyone who doesn’t want to be quite that adventurous could simply leave them out.

RoseanBelle Du Jour
Rosean
Belle Du Jour

My last picks feature stunning colourwork in simple shapes, which is a great combination. Rosean in particular is a very simple and flattering shape, but made really special by the lovely rose pattern. Belle Du Jour adds some extra interest by having lace sleeves and hem which I think makes that a fascinating project.

If you’d like to see more, you can browse the whole Summerlite 4ply collection on Rowan’s website.

This yarn has enchanted me so much that I will be knitting a design from the collection. Hortensia struck me as a really wearable design that should be good for in-between seasons as well if dressed in the right way. I’ll be knitting it in shade 428 High Tide, watch this space for a project post in the future!

Hortensia

Kid Classic Inspiration

Some months ago I chose a design to make with Rowan’s Kid Classic. Since then I’ve cooled to the idea of the design that I’d chosen, so now I have a pack of gorgeous yarn and nothing in mind to make with it. As yet I’m coming up stumped with ideas of what to make so I’m looking to you, dear readers, to give me some inspiration!

Kid Classic

What can you suggest that I might like to make? Here are your criteria…

  • Must be knitting, not crochet
  • Must be a jumper, cardigan or similar garment (tunic, vest, etc…)
  • Must require 10 balls or less (for a 36” bust / medium size)
  • Could potentially require a mix of Kid Classic with another yarn, although it would be better for my bank balance if not!
  • Must not require colourwork as all 10 balls are the same shade (unless alternate colour is a different yarn, see above)
  • Does not necessarily need to be a free pattern, could be a paid download or from a published book or magazine (current or back issue, as long as I can get my mitts on it for a reasonable price)
  • No zips, I’m not a fan of them in handknits

I think that’s about it! I’d love it if you could get your thinking caps on and share some lovely pattern inspiration with me in the comments below. If it helps, here is the shade I have:

KC 872 Earth

And lastly, if your suggestion gets cast on then I might just have a dig in my stash and send you a little something as a thank you!

%d bloggers like this: