Friday, 30 January 2015

Free Pattern Friday - Polka-Dot Sweater and a pair of cozy mitts

I received some lovely pattern books for Christmas from my in-laws, so in the same spirit of giving I thought I would share a couple of the patterns with you.

It is from 'Woman's Day Knitting Annual', an American publication from 1948. It is the cover sweater. I chose it chiefly because of that, as it is a large image, and it is in colour. The images for the rest of the garments are all tiny and in black and white. I don't usually post patterns that are this 'new', preferring the older ones, but it is so pretty, I had to. It is offered in three sizes, although the largest is still only a 36 inch bust! It can be easily be upsized if you use a 4 ply or even d.k. yarn and larger needles.

I couldn't resist throwing in a pair of mitts too, considering the time of year. They are knit in 'worsted' weight wool. I thought it meant a d.k. weight, but not going by the tension - 4 sts to the inch. I was slightly baffled, until I read the pattern properly. 'Use double strand throughout'. So it will work with an aran weight yarn.

I love cables, but haven't made much using them. I've done a 1940s jacket, (which I have no pics of), and a Copleys jumper from 1940.


I also have a pair of mitts, which I made last winter, from Sarah Dallas's 'Vintage Knits'. 

I added a few lazy daisies with some vintage embroidery wools I found in a charity shop. I love the colour combination - grey with dark and light coral. Yummy. And they're warm.

The next cable project I want to tackle is Tri-Cable Stitch Jumper. I just need to pick a yarn from the ever growing collection. I've already broken one of my resolutions - I ordered more wool! It was sale wool though, so not too naughty. I'll show it off when it arrives. It is coming from the States with my in-laws at half term. I think I want to use Excelana for it, I have some Sweet Chestnut, but I also want to use that shade for my skirt pattern. Decisions, decisions.

Here are those patterns:

And the mittens:


Thursday, 29 January 2015

A Brace of Acorns - a new brooch pattern

Photograph by R.B.

Introducing 'A Brace of Acorns'. I can't remember where I got the name for this brooch from. It makes no sense, (since they aren't grouse or pheasants), but it has a nice ring to it.

When working on the design, I was influenced by the brooches made from found materials in WW2. Most were made from wool and felt, but all sorts of odd materials were put to good use; such as cellophane, beech nuts, wood, wire and plastic cord. Clothes were being worn out through over-wear during the war, so anything that could 'cheer them up' was very welcome.

This ethos really appeals to me, as I am not one for constantly renewing my wardrobe, preferring instead to find new ways to spruce up my small collection of (vintage and new) pieces with accessories. And knitwear of course. I'm wearing a calf-length vintage cape with it, (from the 1950s I think, judging by those buttons). It's lovely and warm, as it is a wool tweed.

I originally designed this pattern for a knitting workshop I taught for Craft Guerrilla several years ago at The Rose & Crown pub in Walthamstow. I had three patterns for people to try, using different techniques, and they seemed to enjoy it. Some even finished one of the projects by the end of the night.

Photograph by T.G.W.

I made three versions, in different colourways. To purchase the pattern from Etsy, click here.

Photograph by T.G.W.

I photographed them in my garden, very simply, just against the dark stain of the fence.

Photograph by T.G.W.

They are a quick make, you can rustle one up in a couple of hours.

If you are interested in the pattern, here is what you will need:

Small amounts of 4 ply yarn. I used 4 ply wool, and cream alpaca for the acorns, as that is all I had in that colour. It gives them a slight halo effect, which I quite like. You could try cotton as well, as it gives a crisper, more defined look.

A small piece of felt in a colour to match or tone with leaves
Brooch pin
Blunt and sharp sewing needles
Cotton thread to match felt

2 3mm double pointed needles
3.25mm straight needles

Measures approximately 10cm/4 inches wide, and 8cm/3 inches long.

Tension is not crucial for this project, as the 3mm needles will make it nice and firm.   
To purchase the pattern from Etsy, click here.

This is the first of three brooch designs, which I will be releasing over the next few months.

I hope you like it, I do, and wear them whenever my well-loved outfits are in need of a bit of cheer.


Friday, 23 January 2015

'Frilly Neck To Melt The Heart'

My newest and current favourite knitted of the moment, (I'm a fickle gal, and will be on to the next thing in no time. In fact, I'm on to the fourth thing already)!

Meet 'Frilly Neck to Melt the Heart', originally in Woman and Home, June 1936. It is from 'The 30s Family Knitting Book' by Jane Waller. I started it about the middle of December, I remember, because I took it on a long Tube journey with me and even did a bit of ribbing when I got to my destination. The destination was a little '30s place called The International Club. I have started a bit of a precedent there, in that I always try to wear a vintage knit to it. The first month I wore my 'Jumper in Munrospun', in green with a knitted belt. (Sorry about the gin-grin).

This month I wore 'Frilly Neck To Melt The Heart'. I don't know how I completed it in less than a month, but I was very pleased with it.

Something I have noticed about some 3 ply patterns I have knitted is the tension on them is actually quite loose. The usual tension you get asked to achieve is 7 sts and 9 rows to 1 inch using 3.25 mm needles. The tension required for this was 6.5 sts to the inch using 3.75mm needles, which considering the fine ply and relatively large needle size makes it appear quite 'airy'.

I modified the pattern quite a bit as the size stated was for a 37 inch bust, and the length 20 inches. It looked too big on the model, I noticed that the shoulders sloped on her, which I hate in vintage knits. My tension came out at 6.25 sts and 8 rows to the inch, which worked really well in giving that slightly airy look, but not lacy. It certainly makes it easier to wear in a warm environment. I stayed positively cool.

Still, I wanted a close fitting version of this, so I scaled it down and shortened it, so that it would sit high on the waist. Actually I didn't shorten it, I added 8 rows, but it is much shorter than the original. It was 11.5 inches when I started the armhole shaping.

The finished bust measurement came out at just under 33.5 inches, and the length is 18.5 inches. It has a little negative ease, but I like it. I had to scale down the shoulder too, which I thought would turn out too narrow, but it worked. I did lengthen the armhole, though - not just to give me a bit more wiggle room, but also so that I could start the neck shaping a bit sooner. I'm glad I did, as it would have been a bit of a struggle to get it over my head otherwise! The sleeves I didn't change except to work more rows to fit the armhole. They are knit from the top down, which is rather a change, and makes for a nice fit.

The collar was fun to do, at first anyway, until the increases got out of hand - more than 250! But not for long. As my neck was deeper than the original, I cast on a few more for the collar. I also ignored one of the pattern rows which had some purl sts on the right side, just on their own, which I didn't think looked right. I finished it with a row of slip stitch, which neatened it up nicely.

Now the yarn.

I found myself in Loop last year, I don't know how that happened, but there was a sale on, so I really had to take advantage of it. It would have been rude not to. I spied a box under a table, and I love a good rummage, so this was the result. Tvinni by Isager, in shade 19, a sweet pink. The only other colour on sale was an almost neon yellow, which just screamed in terror at me. It is a merino lambswool, spun in Denmark. Yardage/meterage is quite generous, 510 metres = 100g. I bought 2 skeins, and used less than 700m.

When I asked about it I was told it was a 4 ply, but it felt more like a 3 ply to me. When I checked the site just now, it comes under lace weight, which doesn't fit either. It knits up to 3 ply patterns that is for sure. It might even work as a substitute for 2 ply as well. It will be interesting to see how it feels after washing, something I don't do before wearing. Lots of people recommend it as the yarn 'blooms' after it hits water with a bit of soap thrown in, but frankly I'm too lazy. I just want to wear the thing! In fact, I try to get as many wears out of my knitteds before I wash them, as however careful you are, they do start to felt ever so after a few washes. Dress shields.

It was a lovely, simple pattern, but not too dull, the slip stitches kept me interested.

The crucial part of the knitting really is the blocking. Lots of steam and a very damp tea towel or muslin. I used to be scared of putting the iron on the garment, but for this I knew spreading out the pattern would only improve it. This doesn't apply to all knitwear though, some patterns need only the slightest press, and others only need the steam from the iron shown to them, the same way a good Martini only needs to glance at the Vermouth.

I blocked it very carefully and thoroughly, pinning and measuring as I went. At first, I pressed it too long, so went back and re-did it, which I didn't think you could do, but the wonder of steam made it possible. The collar spread out beautifully with some fearless pressing.

I wore it with my Blackberry Cardigan, and Shell Pattern Cap.

Which one to wear next month?


Friday, 16 January 2015

The Red Lipstick Challenge

What is it about red lipstick? I have far too many - more than I will ever use, and yet I still can't stop trying and buying new ones. At last count, I have thirty-five. I need red lippie rehab.

I have seriously cut back on my makeup buying over the last decade or so, but I just can't resist a red lipstick. It can rejuvenate you: your wardrobe, your skin. The right shade can give your complexion a real boost.

There is something primal about red lipstick. It's not for shrinking violets, you have to have a bit of confidence to wear it. Do you need to be perfectly groomed to carry it off? Hell no. It draws the focus away from those jeans you've been wearing every day for the last two weeks.

Is it the most purchased colour on the market today? Can I be arsed to do any research? Hell no.

I certainly didn't start my lipstick-wearing career with red. I was in the first year of secondary school, aged 11. The year of the perm in fact. It was a clear lipgloss from Avon, (very tame beginnings), which would thicken up so that you couldn't even get the top off. My best friend and I would sit near the radiator and put our lipglosses on it, and by the end of the lesson they were in liquid form again! Just in time for break, when we would swan around with our shiny lips thinking we looked like goddesses. Poodle perm with spots more like.

Red lipstick is essential kit if you dress vintage. It is central to the whole look. It connects you with history too. It is the 'war paint' worn by women during the Second World War in the factories, in the dance halls, and in the grand houses. It makes me feel good when I put it on.

Today I want to do a comparison between a high-end and a budget brand. Mac versus Collection.

From left to right:

Unfortunately, many of these shades have now been discontinued. Isn't it always the way? Thirteen has been unlucky for me.

From the Collection range, only four appear on the website now: Ruby Red, Cherry Pop, Valentine and Queen of Hearts. All the others are nowhere to be seen. I think some are still lurking in cosmetic stores around the country though, (if you're interested, and have the time and inclination to hunt them down). And when I say cosmetics stores, I don't mean Harvey Nichols or Selfridges. More like Superdrug or Boots.

As for Mac, they have discontinued everything except Russian Red, Lady Danger and Ruby Woo, which is out of stock at the moment. I only bought Dangerous last summer, so that was a short run. To be fair, it is quite similar to Lady Danger, a 'Retro Matte'.

Russian Red                                                                                   Ruby Woo

Lady Danger


Queen of Hearts                                                                            Ruby Red

                                                                Cherry Pop

The overwhelming difference between the two is the price. Collection is £2.99, whereas Mac weighs in at around £15. To be fair to Mac, their lipsticks do have a stronger pigment, and the matte texture of many of them mean they are very long lasting. That said, they do need a bit of help to actually get them onto your lips. A slick of lip balm before applying helps. I am personally  not a fan of that dry, claggy feeling on the lips. I much prefer the glossier feel of the Collection colours. The down side to that is that they do need to be 'built up' by blotting and re-applying, and also need more regular touch ups, but I don't mind that.

I am quite sad that So Scarlet by Mac is no longer available, as it is the shade I used when I did my makeup for the cover of A Stitch In Time Vol 2.

Image courtesy of Susan Crawford

This shade is a glossy one, and glides on beautifully.

                                                                    So Scarlet

For the cover of A Stitch In Time Vol 1 I used Ruby Woo. It is probably my favourite. A matte brick red. I tend to prefer the warmer reds, as the blue tones don't always flatter my slightly olive skin.

Image courtesy of Susan Crawford    
I have to admit that I am a Mixer! I never go out with just one shade, it is usually two or three. I mix them depending on the texture as well as the shade I want to achieve.

Overall, if you are on a budget, I would highly recommend Collection. The consistency is good, and the range quite wide, (less so now). For luxury, strong pigment and packaging, it has to be Mac. While perusing the Mac website I noticed a couple of new reds, which I will be checking out soon, if I can face going to the horribly loud Mac counter in Selfridges. It is very off-putting. All that modern noise. Or I could just go to the shop.

So, how many red lipsticks do you own? And how many do you actually wear?


Friday, 9 January 2015

New Year - New Resolutions

It's that time of year, you're full of good intentions and hope for the future, even if it is still dark until eight o'clock in the morning.

I am sitting in my kitchen listening to the rain and looking out on my soggy garden, hoping it doesn't flood. Still, I am in good spirits. I have a lot of plans for this year. They involve wool.

Lots of wool.

And some of these books.

I am so glad I started this blog in earnest last May, (thank you, nagging husband). Sad as it sounds, it has given me purpose. I've always been a flighty, never-stick-at-anything kind of gal, (except for knitting that is). Which is why I am so surprised that I have lasted this long.

I've really had to discipline myself, and knuckle down, but it has really focused my mind on what really needs to get done. Which is my designs. And all the work that goes into them. Not just the pattern checking which is the crucial bit, but the photography, and layout. This blog supports all that and is the platform for getting them out there.

I have published one hat pattern so far, A Beret for Everyday, (below), and have three more hats waiting in the wings. Two of them are crocheted, which is very exciting as I am fairly new to crochet. Along with three knitted brooches. I have garments on the needles too, but they are very far from finished.

I am also about to embark on some youtube tutorials, to support the techniques used in some of the designs. I am anticipating lots of frustration and swearing at inanimate objects. And maybe a bit of throwing of wool and needles. And I'll hate how my voice sounds. I always do. Heigh ho, don't be a negative Nelly, you haven't even started yet!

There will be much finishing of projects too! Yes, there will...

There will be more of this. Hopefully.
My hubby and I played a set at the Buffalo Bar on New Years Eve, their last night, as the building was being sold. We had such a blast, playing vinyl from our Prom Night club. It was a very nostalgic night for us, as we had run our club there for years, and had such a wonderful time doing it. We made so many good friends at Prom Night, and some of them came to share the last night with us, which made it very special.

I'd really like to do events around here, where I live, in Walthamstow. We'll see. It has become trickier now we have two kiddies.

But it is tremendous fun. 

Got to go and video my hands now. While listening to Flashdance...What a Feeling.


Saturday, 3 January 2015

The Hall of Shame - The Neglected Knits

Happy New Year.

At this time of the year I'm sure I am not alone in making lots of New Year's resolutions. At the top of my list is to FINISH my projects. It is going to be quite a feat of patience and willpower, but I pledge to try.

These little babies have been sorely neglected. I started the turquoise one a couple of years ago; it is The Prettiest Collar from Stitch in Time Vol 1.

Using Drops Alpaca, I knitted the first size. It has since been sized up and down, giving five sizes now in the new version of the book. Mine will be OK, about a 36-37 inch bust, if I don't press/block it too wide. I'm on the last sleeve, but something came along and caught my attention, and that was it. Stuffed in a bag, into the box next to the sofa.

At the top, Golden Eagle 'Lady's Jumper', from Vol 2. I did the second size, as I had worn the sample from the book and it fitted beautifully, but being lazy I didn't bother to do a tension swatch, and it has turned out too big - about three inches too big. And too long. I actually didn't want the fit of the original, I think it is too tight, I much prefer the fit of the sample knit. Darn! I also really wanted a navy jumper in my wardrobe as I have quite a few navy skirts and trousers to wear with it.

Photo courtesy of Susan Crawford

I have only sewn up the shoulder seams, but if I want to reduce the size there is nothing I can do except re-knit the body. (I might sew up the side seams and try it on again. I won't press it). 

Next, Panelled Effect Lady's Jumper from Vol 1, in the first size. I've taken ages with this one, as I had so many other things on the go at the same time, but it is growing slowly. The pattern has no 'rest' rows, i.e, no purl rows, they are all in pattern. I kept making mistakes, and had to rip back countless times. I couldn't be happier with the result so far, though. I'm using Fenella wool (a true, 3 ply weight) in Atomic Red, which is giving me the exact tension. I can tell from just the front that it is going to fit beautifully.

Another almost complete jumper from Vol 2 of A Stitch in Time - Quick Work in Thick Wool. I went for the same colour as the sample, but not the yarn. I chose Drops again - Nepal. The only thing missing is buttons. I just can't find the right ones. 

Lastly, a turban I started in January last year, which I've put down and picked up many times. It WILL be finished by the end of January this year!

This isn't everything. I haven't included the jacket that I can't get to (Xmas tree is blocking it), in my wool cupboard: Box Coat, from Vol 2. For that, I have some Lopi wool in tweedy brown that I had bought for absolutely no reason that I can remember, about ten years ago!

I also haven't included my new designs which I am still tweeking - one jumper, three hats and three brooches. I am going to release them all at some stage on Etsy, if I can work out this new EU tax mess!

How many UFOs have you got lurking?

What are your New Year's resolutions?

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