Thursday, November 27, 2008

Finding design inspiration

As well as teaching a range of knitting techniques workshops I also teach City and Guilds Design and Craft courses in both hand and machine knit textiles. On this course design is as important as the craft skill so I encourage student to always keep looking for design sources - anything that interested them visually.

My current mobile phone does have a good camera in it but I keep forgetting that I can use it. When going into Fareham town centre I frequently walk past the multistory car park. Several years ago when the council was spending money to smarten up the town centre they installed these blue railings around the lower level of the car park.

I've always found them interesting. As I was walking past them this week I was thinking about the C&G course and thought they would make an interesting starting point under the design theme of line so I decided to take some photographs.

Whether I get around to doing something with the images is another matter but I thought it might be helpful to my students to remind them you can find inspiration anywhere if you just look.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Knitting group and Beret pattern

I went along to the local Borders knitting group last night. They are a very friendly bunch of ladies who meet every Thursday from 6ish till the shop closes. I usually get there about once a month or so.

One of my friends mentioned she read my blog about teaching at Made but couldn't find the beret pattern I mentioned. I should have said it was in issue 1 of The Inside Loop so you have to look in the archives. The pattern is called Frances (after my daughter who is also the model). Here are a couple of picture of the beret. It is also linked on my Ravelry designer page.

One of the other ladies also asked if I was the person writing in Knitting Magazine as my name is mentioned on the front cover. I've written a third article on 'changing or adjusting' a pattern to suit you as an individual in the December issue. The previous articles where changing the style of a garment e.g. from a short sleeve jumper to a long sleeve cardigan with collar which was published in the September issue and an article on adjusting a pattern for size in the October issue.

I also have 2 patterns in the December issue, the 'Creme de Cassis bolero' and 'Magical Miser's purse'.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Teaching at Alston Hall

After teaching at Made I went on to Alston Hall as I was booked to teach a one day workshop on 'Introduction to Crochet' and then a residential weekend on 'New fibres, eco friendly yarns and traditional stitches'.

Alston Hall is a lovely old manor house that is owned by Lancashire Adult Learing. They run a huge range of courses throughout the year both during the week and over weekends. I have taught a one day and residential weekend course there for the last 3 years of so.

Both the crochet and the weekend course where fully booked so it was a busy weekend. The atmosphere at the hall is very relaxed and fully catered so all the students have to do is enjoy their course.

The 'Introduction to crochet' went very well and all the students could crochet by the end of the day. The centre will be offering this course again but not until next November 2009. Next November we will also be offering a follow on crochet day workshop to develop basic skills, read patterns and understand how to shape garments.

Some of the students on the crochet workshop stayed on for the weekend course on new fibres etc. Having given the students an overview of where many of these new fibres come from and how they are made on the Friday night we moved on to trying out these different yarns in a range of fibres.

I provided yarn packs for each student which included samples of bamboo, hemp, linen, cotton/soya mix, ramie, milk fibre, milk fibre/wool mix, corn fibre and wool/seaweed mix. We started looking at knit and purl patterns and I explained how a traditional Gansey is knitted including demonstrating the knotted (Channel Island) cast on. Later in the day we moved on to cables, travelling and twisted stitches and on the Sunday we looked at lace.

I also arranged for a friend, Bev from Knitting4fun, to bring some of her yarns, kits and other bits and pieces to the hall. I should apologies to the students for tempting them to spend money or more nice yarns!

Although it was tiring I enjoyed teaching the course and hope the students enjoyed it as well.

Teaching in The Wirrel

Last week I was invited to teach a one day workshop at 'Made' in Wallasey. I arrived on Tuesday evening to teach Wednesday. Val, the owner of the shop was booked to demonstrate the 'Knifty Knitter' to a ladies club so arranged for the knit and knatter group to look after me at Weatherspoons. we had a very enjoyable evening and I would like to thank the ladies for looking after me.

The workshop was Fair Isle knitting. After introducing the subject and showing everyone samples of how different ways of combining colour can completely change the look of a pattern they all got stuck in to knitting a beret (the pattern I designed for The Inside Loop). I demonstrated knitting Fair Isle in the round with a yarn in each hand and most of the ladies had a go and found it wasn't as difficult s they first thought it would be.

I have asked Val to send me some pictures of the completed berets so hope to be able to post them at a later date.

I enjoyed my day teaching very much and hope the ladies who attended also enjoyed the day.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

John Allen Design Group and IKnit

A couple of weeks ago I went to London for the day. I run the Farnham based John Allen Design Group and this year we went to the South Bank for our study day to collect inspiration for next year's class.

This year John set us a slightly different project using the area in and around the Festival Hall as out source of inspiration. Looking out of the Festival Hall at various views or starting from outside the Festival Hall and looking around the views and into the Hall.

Although I have run the Farnham Group for the past 13 years and used to take part in the course, in recent years I haven't had the time to participate but this year I am being strongly 'encouraged' (told) I should join the class again.

There are lots of interesting areas to work from so I will have to see how I get on. I may even be brave enough to post some of my work at a later date!

While in London I also took the opportunity to visit IKnit as it is very near Waterloo station.

The shop has lots of different yarns including a long wall of sock yarns. I decided I could resist buying yarn this time as I do have a not insignificant stash at home (even if it is my day job as well as my hobby). However they did have some interesting DVD's from America including some of the Lucy Neatby DVD's and the new Lace DVD from Meg Swanson. They also had Addi Lace needles in sizes I don't already have so I did have to spend some money there.

While I was browsing I also got chatting to a very nice lady who had only just discovered the shop which is very near where her father lives so I think she will be visiting again. Unfortunately when I visited neither Gerard or Craig where there but I was served by a very helpful lady (sorry I didn't ask her name). Although there where nice settees to sit on and knit I couldn't wait around as I had to catch the train home.

I'm sure I will visit again particularly as it is so close to Waterloo station. Here are a couple more pictures of the shop.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Back to Knitting

I recently wrote an article on substituting yarns for Knitting magazine but due to limited space I didn't give any information about the yarns used in the swatches. Here is some information about the swatches and some more that wheren't included in the article.

The yarns in this first image are as follows (reading from left to right, top row then bottom row). The red swatch is Debbie Bliss Cashmerino DK; 55% merino wool, 33% microfibre and 12% cashmere with 110m per ball. The green swatch is Sirdar Country Style DK; 45% Acrylic, 40% Nylon and 15% wool with 318m per ball (100gm balls). The multi-coloured swatch is Knit Cole Candy DK; 80% Premium Acrylic and 20% Nylon with 290m per ball (100gm balls). The cream/brown swatch is King Cole Big Value DK; 100% Acrylic with 290m per ball (1oogm balls). The raspberry swatch is Elle Elite DK; 50% wool and 50% cotton with 114m per ball. The cream swatch is Sirdar Snuggly Babybamboo DK; 80% Bamboo and 20% wool with 95m per ball.

The second photo includes 2 extra swatches that where not included in the article. (Again from top left). The green swatch is Wendy Mode DK; 50% pure Merino wool and 50% Acrylic with 142m per ball. The red swatch with moss stitch border is King Cole Landscape DK; 70% Acrylic and 30% wool with 254m per ball (100gm balls). The other red swatch is Patons Diploma Gold DK; 55% wool, 25% Acrylic and 20% Nylon with 120m per ball. The pale blue swatch is Sublime Cashmere Merino Silk DK; 75% extra fine Merino, 20% silk and 5% cashmere with 116m per ball.

All these swatches where knitted on 4mm needles (the size recommended on the ball band) and washed before measuring. They all gave a tension gauge of 22 stitches and 28 rows to 10cm, again the recommended gauge on the ball band.

The last group of swatches where also knitted on 4mm needles and washed before measuring. They all give a stitch gauge of 22 stitches to 10cm but the row gauge is different; they all need more row to knit 10cm.

The swatches in this final group are (left to right); the raspberry swatch is Sublime Extra Fine Merino Wool DK; 100% extra fine Merino wool with 116m per ball. The cream swatch is Rowan Cashsoft Baby DK; 57% extra fine Merino, 33% microfibre and 10% cashmere with 130m per ball. The dark blue swatch is Sirdar Denim Tweed DK; 60% Acrylic, 25% Cotton and 15% wool with 170m per ball. The lilac sample is Patons Washed Haze DK; 50% Cotton and 50% Acrylic, and the last swatch is Rowan Wool Cotton; 50% merino wool and 50% cotton with 113m per ball.

As you can see I have sampled quite a wide variety of yarns both in fibre content and yarn supplier. The main point you have to remeber if you are going to substitute yarns successfully is that you match your tension gauge to that given in the pattern. The results for all these yarns are with me knitting but that doesn't necessarily mean you will automatically acheive the same gauge.

I hope this information helps some of you to experiment with the yarns you use to knit patterns. You don't have to be tied to the yarn (and colour) the pattern is originally knitted in. A little time spent doing a gauge swatch can save time and money later.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


So, this is the last blog of our holiday, then normal knitting service will be resumed.

How can you summarise what we saw in Singapore in just a few pictures? First impressions - expansive airport, which could have been anywhere in the world. The midnight journey to Dave's cousin's place did not shout out "Singapore" - all the signs were in English. And they still use the UK plugs!!!

After a sound sleep we started on a two day personal tour - Jenny was fantastic and very keen we saw everything.

So, we took a trip to Sentosa Island (via Cable car), saw the huge Merlion (a big symbol in Singapore), visited the butterfly garden (which also featured parrots - see below!)

We were taken to the "beach" for lunch - actually a gravelly shore, covered with tons of imported sand and kitted out with palm trees, but with the odd background of oil tankers. Still, very warm (we were 50 miles north of the Equator) and although humid, not intolerably so.

In the evening, Jenny took us to the midnight safari, a must-see attraction. Basically, all the creatures of the night were out and feeding and we saw a Fisher Cat tiptoe across a small dam, grab a fish and disappear off into the night… lions…tigers….elephants…all far too dark to take pictures of.

The next day we were taken to the Singapore Botanical Gardens. A wondrous place, with the Orchid Gardens taking pride of place, a “cool house” (for alpine plants) and a mist house. Our first clap of thunder happened here and all those in the know started frantically looking for shelter. Apparently when it rains here, it really rains. But we were having none of that!

We were then taken for a bum boat ride on the Singapore river – very beautiful with the gaily coloured Merchant’s Houses, bridges, another Merlion and the magnificent design of the Esplanade Theatre…

Then off to China town and the incredible Buddhist temple…. Where everything was for sale (to assist in your redemption).

A visit to a Singaporean food hall (everyone eats there – it is so cheap) and then finally the piece de resistance – RAFFLES! One Singapore Sling later we were on our way home after an incredible few weeks and the horrific prospect by all our friends of endless reminiscences of a truly great holiday!

Now, back to knitting…

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Last days in Sydney

Fi is now very involved in her workshops and has given two talks already to clubs near Canberra and Newcastle. Today it is Sydney itself and then she has a half day break before we head off to Singapore for two days. The talks have been very well received and are deemed a success. Fi will tell more when she has a moment or two!

In the meantime Dave has been given a free reign to tour Sydney harbour at length and make full use of his travel card. He has been to Parramatta - the first outpost to successfully start a farm and therefore ensure the survival of the pioneers in Sydney. The first Government House was established there and therefore the oldest "modern" buildings in Australia. A very interesting place.
The Parramatta river flows from there into Sydney harbour and is a 1 hour trip. So that had to be done. The Cat Ferry fills the river at that point and is an "interesting" journey until the river widens. A great trip!

Dave has also been to Bondi (well you have to, don't you) and a beautiful bay it is too - amazingly to my mind not too commercialised and full of what I call 2 second amateur surfers - i.e. they never last more than two seconds standing up on their surfboard before they spectacularly crash back into the surf to wait for another try.
I then took a bus to Watson's point, which is the last outpost of the Harbour before you enter the Pacific (or to be exact, the Tasmian Sea). A beautiful place and with spectacular views of both the ocean and the harbour. I think this Harbour trip beckons again today as my last view of this amazing place before we reluctantly leave and start the final part of our holiday.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Opera House. Bridge. Harbour. It must be Sydney!

We can't believe we are here. We have spent most of our time taking in the Harbour, the bridge and the opera house. We have photographed each site in extreme detail, down to each tile on the opera house and each rivet on the bridge, from all directions and time of day. The place is awe enspiring and we love it, although our feet are worn down to our kneecaps.

We got a travel card so have used all modes of transport - especially the ferries! We are about two miles from the harbour so the busses have taken a bashing.

Fi found a wool shop on the first day (Needle Craft and knit bar) which took up some time...

Yesterday we took a tourist trip into the Blue Mountains, where we saw massive forested gorges, waterfalls and sites to please the eye.

We took a ferry to Taronga Zoo and saw (and photographed) many exotic creatures with an amazing backdrop of the harbour. This was especially obvious during the bird display and all photos incsude the bridge and opera house (we'll add photos when we can get reasonable internet access).

Today we walked through the Botanical Gardens and sat on Mrs Macquaries' seat! (she didn't complain).

Fi now starts 3 days of intensive workshops, so for her the sightseeing has sort of come to an end (until we reach Singapore next week).

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Manjurah and Leaving Perth

Our final experience in WA was visiting friends Fi had made before I arrived. They had made us very extemely welcome and were very generous to their guests.

When we arrived, after a cuppa we were whisked away to their friends' house on one of Manjurah's many canals (Murray Lakes). They had a view from their house to die for, topped off by the presence of a boat bobbing up and down, about to take us, with some wine and nibbles, along an eye popping journey of the residences along the canal. This was followed by a real Aussie BBQ - our first (and last) this trip. Everyone there was so friendly and generous, we had a wonderful evening. The only way we would be able to reciprocate would be to offer a trip along the english canals by the gas works. Well, Dave would enjoy it anyway.

The following day saw us at the Manjurah inlet quays on another boat this time to spot Dolphins. It went along more astonishing canals with even more astonishing and apparently often empty properties of A$2m plus value. We saw no Dolphins on that trip, but were rewarded with some sightings while we were eating at a cafe later. The Estuary at Mandurah.

A resident of Mandurah.

After sad goodbyes it was a long drive back to Perth, retuning the car and the trip to Sydney.

More later!

The Treetop Walk and Manjimup

We left the hotel at Walpole and went East to the treetop walk. There was a LOT of rain around, but we managed to avoid all that. The TreeTop walk was situated in a Tingle Tree forest and consisted of platforms which you walked along which took you to 40m above the jungle floor - along the treetops. What was quite disconcerting was that the whole structure swayed (it was designed to!), but it meant that Dave hung on for grim death inbetween frantic grabs for the camera and amazing pictures. What was strange was that there were NO birds to be seen or heard...

Quite an experience!

We then had a 120km drive to Manjimup our next stop. We went thought some delightfully colonial towns such as Bridgetown and Balingup. A chance viewing of the signpost to a "Craft Shop" led us on a 2km detour to the Old Cheese Factory. This was a Tardis of a place with room after room of souvenirs and antiques. Each room led to another room which could not possibly exist stuffed with, well, stuff.

Finally we found Dingup House - an old colonial residence built in 1870 and lovingly restored by its current owners, who housed resident in the old building while they occupied a newer part. Not what other landlords would have done...

It was truly beautiful with period furniture and a very welcome log fire. They were not expecting us despite confirming by phone, but it didn't matter -we were the only ones there and they made us very welcome. It was amazingly quiet expect for some really spooky bird noises all night and the following morning. A great stay and highly recommended.

We spent a little time in Manjimup, but it was suffering from a lack of cash investment and has a run down feel. Fine for residents but not a must stop experience for tourists (apart from a good set of shops).

Next stop was Manjurah.


It was sunny when we woke up so we decide to do the WOW ECO-cruise through the Walpole and Nolunup inlets in the morning. It was a lovely cruise with a very entertaining and informative host. Most of the way down it was sunny. We then had rain for about 10 minutes and then it was lovely and sunny again. We stopped at a jetty on the south peninsular and walked over the hill to the beach on the ocean side. The beaches are amazing, sandy and empty but the sea can be quite dangerous as there big waves and quite a strong undertow.
We walked back to the boat and had coffee. While we were sitting there a number of pelicans few over. It was amazing to see they gliding on the wind currents. We then travelled back to Walpole through another rain squall and arrived in sunshine again!
This is the Swarbrick Saw Mill (this is for our Swarbrick friends - the Swarbs were BIG in Walpole...).

After the boat trip we went for a car drive to Conspicuous Bay. We had to go down a gravel road to get there and were the only people there. Another amazing beach with lots of surf waves and we even paddled in the Ocean. This is the Southern Ocean but it was pretty warm. We will have to go for a paddle in the Indian Ocean before we leave WA and when we get to Sydney we can paddle in the Pacific Ocean!

More around the Pemberton Area

The main attraction in Pemberton is the Gloucester Tree (named after the Duke of Gloucester who was a Governor General in the 9130s). In the '30s they developed a system of putting lookout posts on the top of very tall Karri trees to use to spot forest fires. The Gloucester Tree is one of 3 lookouts still in use and if you are OK with heights you can even climb up the tree using the pegs as you can see in the photo. Dave was about 8 meters off the ground. The lookout is about 70 meters off the ground!

As we left Pemberton we visited the Cascades, a small rapids type waterfall. We were able to walk on some of the rocks as the water level was fairly low.

After Pemberton we continued south to Walpole.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Pemberton Area

After 2 nights in Margaret River we moved on to Pemberton but on the way we visited the Jewel Caves and Cape Leeuwin light house. Much of this area is limestone so there are a number of caves yu can visit. We visited the Jewel Cave which was quite stunning. I haven't seen such a variety of stalagtites and stalagmites including 'straws' which are very thin straight stalagtites up to 5 meters long.

We continued on south to Cape Leeuwin the most south westerly point where the Southern Ocean and the Indian Ocean meet. We didn't actually go up the lighthouse but we could see the 2 oceans, one on each side of the point.

After lunch we travelled north and east to Pemberton on the middle of the Karri forests. Karri trees are one of the many varieties of gum tree that grow very tall with very straight trunks. On the way to Pemberton we stopped at the Beedelup falls. Due to the very dry weather (before we arrived) the falls where not as spectacular as they can be after the winter rains

We stayed in a chalet at the Lavender and Berry Farm. The chalets overlook a lake with the farm shop/cafe and gardens on the opposite bank. Another very pretty area which was more landscaped than most places we have stayed. They also do excellent pancakes!

And here are some roos we saw on the way!