Coop Knits at Unravel

Need something to lift you from the murk and gloom of February? Farnham Maltings is hosting Unravel 2016 on the 19th-21st February. There are exhibitions, talks and workshops throughout the weekend. Rachel will also be manning (or is it womanning?) the Coop Knits stall, so do drop by to see what's new from Coop Knits, she'll be launching a new book Crochet Yeah from the The Crochet Project, which features Socks Yeah yarn. She will also be bringing all her books and the beautiful Dyed in the Wool yarn from Spincycle (on the left below).

Day tickets are £7 in advance (workshops are extra) and, if previous years are anything to go by, there will be plenty to keep you busy and to tempt your wallet all weekend.

I'll be there on the Saturday for Veera Välimäki's workshop on shawls. Are you going? If so, what are you looking forward to?


Socks from everywhere: Red

Many years ago I had a student whose father was a doctor. He would come along to parents' evenings in his sombre suits that he clearly wore to work, but you could pick him out from the crowd as soon as he sat down as he was partial to alarmingly bright socks, usually in vivid yellows or reds. 

I've done a little research on Ravelry and found that red is far from the most popular colour for socks. Perhaps it's the look-at-me quality that this dad was going for that some knitters shy away from. I would not presume to know, but here are four pairs that caught my eye.

Pattern: Im Kreis der Familie by Regina Satta; Photo: duesselhexe

Pattern: Im Kreis der Familie by Regina Satta; Photo: duesselhexe

These just look good. The variegation of the Drachenwolle yarn doesn't detract from, or disguise the cabling. Instead it adds depth to the design. The pattern name is In the family circle in English and these fine examples were made by prolific sock knitter Alexandra (duesselhexe on Ravelry).

In looking through thousands of sock projects, I've seen this pattern many times and these, from knitter and designer knittymelissa are good examples. I'm a relative newcomer to colourwork, but like the simplicity of the idea here of the gradual change in colour which works well. It would be a shame to wear shoes with these since the instep colourwork would be hidden from view.

Stephanie van der Linden's designs seem to really stand out from the crowd and could easily have chosen two or three for this post alone. The leafy lace pattern on these Esther socks, made by knittyliciousuk, is accentuated by the hint of sparkle in the Easyknits Twinkle yarn.

This came up as one of the top hits when i went looking for red socks and I couldn't resist putting them in. It's just a fun design that made me smile when I first saw the photos. Maybe these are for you and you can be the one standing out from the crowd with apples on your socks.....


Tips and techniques: Colourwork without the worry

I had planned to put out tips and techniques posts in a logical order. This probably isn't going to happen as I'm not that organised and also because I'm better at writing on a subject that is in my head at that time.

There are vast numbers of colourwork sock designs around, such as Rachel's Alfrick pattern.

I always wondered how you would keep track everything if the floats were hidden in the centre of the tube. The answer of course is that you don't have to. 

Quite simply, you work the sock inside out. It's easier to ensure that the floats don't pull too tight if you can see them, after all. For me, working a tube inside out hasn't ever been a problem as I picked up magic loop a bit wrong. In fact, if someone demanded that I knit the right way out, I'd really struggle. 

There are a couple of ways to flip around your work. The simplest is to work the edging as you normally would and turn the work inside out when you came to the colourwork chart. Or you can do what I do and work magic loop with the cable between me and the tube from the start.  

If you're eagle eyed, you'll have picked up that this isn't a sock, but a sleeve. That doesn't really matter since the idea is the same. What you will notice though is that there are places where I had to carry the yarn across the back of 5 stitches. With everything on show, I can ensure that the floats don't pull too tight, puckering the fabric.

I don't profess to being a colourwork expert and I'm sure there are many people out there with a wealth of expertise, so if you have any tips of your own, please do share.

If colourwork isn't your thing, but you do like cables, there's a KAL for the Sidney and Eugene patterns on the CoopKnits Ravelry group.

Useless information?

In looking for candidates for the Socks from everywhere posts (next week it's red socks), I've made extensive use of the advanced search features on Ravelry. On a whim, I wondered which were the most popular colours for socks.

Of course a simple question always lacks a simple answer. While you can search for single colours, there is the option, for somewhere-inbetween colours such as yellow-orange. For simplicity's sake, I counted these as both yellow and orange.

Far and away the top two colours are blue (roughly 124,000 projects), followed by green (102,000). Red is third, with a little over half the number of green projects (56,000), with purple just behind (55,000) and, perhaps surprisingly, pink in fifth (38,000), closely followed by orange (35,000).

I would take these numbers with a slight pinch of salt since when I went back later on and performed what I had thought was the same search, the numbers had shifted slightly. however, the pattern was pretty constant.

So should this be anything more than passing curiosity? Certainly it leads to even more questions. Are knitters predisposed to buying blue or green yarn over more muted browns or greys? Or is it the case that the photographs of the samples on the patterns sway yarn purchasers? Do designers influence yarn choices that strongly?

All and none of these could be factors, but there is another angle. My house is full of yarn purchased, sometimes without even a vague notion of a project, so it lies in storage. It may be that pretty colours sell, but just never make it as far as the needles.

Maybe I'm better spending my time on more useful pursuits. I fancy some nice new socks, blue perhaps.......


Tips and techniques: Reducing the mending burden

I am hard on my socks.

I don't think I particularly mistreat them in any way, but beyond simple wear, I seem to have a habit of snapping the cast-on edge when taking them off or putting them on. To a degree, this is probably something I should expect: I have the dainty ankles of a runner, and the feet of a 6ft tall man, so for socks to stay up, there is literally a tension between keeping the stitch count down at the ankle, but up around the heel. Snapping and swearing are an inevitable consequence.

Having a loving and patient wife who is happy(ish) to mend my socks for me, I possess a few pairs of colourfully repaired socks. 

The big question is though, how do I prevent breaking the socks in the first place while keeping the cast-on stretchy? I think I have one possible answer. In future, when casting on for socks for me, the yarn needs to be held doubled. This should drastically reduce the likelihood of the dread sound of snapping, my contributions to the swear box and the pile of mending.

Have you got another idea to solve this problem?

Wilbert and Orville KAL round-up

The last KAL of 2015 was two patterns from Coop Knits Socks Volume 2: Orville and Wilbert. What you can see from the pictures of the finished socks is how much the yarn used changes the look of the same pattern. 

These pairs of Orvilles were made by, from top to bottom, cvd-aviatrix, MissFrances and writergirl3. You can see how the middle pair were knit with a far less fluffy yarn than the other two, giving a much sharper stitch definition. It could be the differing light conditions in which the photos were taken except.....

These Wilberts, made by, from top to bottom, mandyscragg, writergirl3, have far less variation.

I guess that's one of the fascinating things about knitting: that you're never going to know exactly how things will turn out until you've made a good start.

The randomly selected winners from the KAL are MissFrances, mandyscragg and writergirl3, and yarn winners are agita and cvd-aviatrix. There are other KALs running currently in the CoopKnits Ravelry group. Have a look and join in!

Socks from everywhere: Yellow

Way back in the distant past I was a postgraduate research student. I moved into a house with friends and was horrified to discover, a few days later, that my supervisor's girlfriend was my new next-door neighbour. The adjoining walls weren't all that thick, so I was regularly treated to the fruits of his, hitherto unknown, knowledge of hilarious (to him at least) jokes. The thing is, I never heard the body of the joke, only ever the roared punchline followed by gales of self-congratulatory laughter. Early one Sunday morning I was treated to a cry of, "......... and it was yellow! Ha ha ha!" Ever since, I have not been a fan of the colour. 

It turns out though that the rest of the world seems to disagree with me. So here's a selection of yellow socks: cabled, colourwork, lace and fun patterns.

Pattern: Linesx3 by Jeannie Cartmel; Photo: LizzieLace

Pattern: Linesx3 by Jeannie Cartmel; Photo: LizzieLace

These, made by LizzieLace, caught my eye because of the changes of direction. With the spiralling band, I bet they're snug fitting too.

Pattern: Fibonacci by Stephanie van der Linden; Photo McFrazzled

Pattern: Fibonacci by Stephanie van der Linden; Photo McFrazzled

These, made by McFrazzled, may have made my eyes go a little funny if I looked at then too long, but I do love the overall effect and the fact that the soles are completely different. This picture, with the strong line dividing the motifs, would be a good one to use if trying to explain how socks are constructed to a beginner knitter. 

Pattern: Monkey by Cookie A; Photo: Heikku

Pattern: Monkey by Cookie A; Photo: Heikku

These look great in the photo and this design was one of the first that Jen knitted. I think it's a great example of a simple idea, well executed to make something special. Heikku made this pair and after last week's post, I wonder what's on her sock blockers.

Pattern: No. 2 Pencil Socks by The Yarn Enabler; Photo: TrishKnits

Pattern: No. 2 Pencil Socks by The Yarn Enabler; Photo: TrishKnits

When I saw how this photo was composed by TrishKnits, I had to smile. It took me back to the couple of years I spent in the US as a kid, always in need of a No. 2 pencil for day to day work, but particularly for tests. I may never make a pair, but I am glad that the design exists.

If you think I've missed out a stunning pair of yellow socks, please do leave a comment.

Have you seen these: sock blockers

Every time I go to get a CD out of the cabinet where we store them, I knock the wire sock blockers that hang from the knob onto the floor with a huge clatter. This poses two questions for me. Firstly, why do I persist in putting them back in exactly the same place, knowing full well that I'll only knock them off again? And secondly, do quieter sock blockers exist?

Plastic seems like a suitable substitute material and there are options available from the big brands, these for instance:

KnitPro AQUA sock blockers

KnitPro AQUA sock blockers

However,  for something a bit different, some of these from Etsy might suit:

Fruity themed sock blockers?

Fruity themed sock blockers?

Just in case you forget.....

Just in case you forget.....

One adjustable set so you can knit for the whole family........

One adjustable set so you can knit for the whole family........

As a bit of a cheapskate though, I think I should really follow Eskimimi's advice and simply make my own.

Intentions 2016

I do love a New Year, there is something hopeful and clean about it for me. It makes think about what I want to do in the upcoming year (not what I need to do, and often not anything to do with work - that stuff gets planned way in advance).

Last year I had 2 intentions, you can read about them in the post I wrote last year here. The first was to learn to crochet and I did just that: 

It was glorious, I am in love with having a yarn hobby again, I'm a total beginner and it has given me a much better appreciation of how difficult it can be when you're not familiar with terminology, it's difficult to remember that when you've been doing something for a long time. 

My second intention didn't really get going. I did go to some exhibitions and museums (not nearly as many as I would have liked), the William Morris Vs Andy Warhol exhibition was amazing and I really enjoyed the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. I didn't do any sketching on location though, I think because I visited with others and I really need to go to more places on my own if I want to do this. I did have a magical afternoon with a sketchbook on the shores of Squam lake and my trip there did wonders for my creativity.  

Intentions for 2016

Number One: Inspired by Kenneth Rocafort, who draws and paints in a page-a-day diary everyday (I think for 4 or 5 years now) I have bought a tiny pocket diary and intend to do something in it everyday. It might be a drawing, a painting, a print or something else. It might be something I saw that day, it might be something random. The only rule is to put something on the page everyday. I'm hopeful this will be a path back to things I used to do that I haven't for a long time, I can't remember when or why I stopped - I'm working on forgiving myself for that. 

Number Two: To keep track of the books I read. I think I'm using GoodReads for this but if you know of a better way, please let me know. 

My rolling Intention is to be kind. I hope 2016 is a kind year to you and everyone you love. 

Have You Seen This: Colouring Book for Knitters

Adult colouring books seem to be everywhere this year. They have been around for longer than you might think. A long time ago in a career far, far away, Jen had a botany colouring book while she was doing horticultural training. And I know that there are practising doctors out there who got through their anatomy courses with the aid of a colouring book.

The range of subjects has multiplied, with things like Moose Allain's Advent Calendars becoming an annual staple.

In the language of the season, "And lo, in the fortnight before Christmas Ann and Kay did publish a colouring book for knitters. Jen did see the book and squeal with excitement and did instantly order two for delivery before the final posting date. And verily, Jim rolled his eyes."

Time to break out the pencils!

Time to break out the pencils!

If you haven't come across Mason-Dixon Knitting, Kay and Ann have been corresponding on their blog for well over a decade. Set aside a good hour and wade into their take on life, the universe and knitting.

Get hold of your copy from Amazon (make sure you go to Amazon UK if you're in the UK). Then you, like me, will truly have seen it all.

Don't forget that you will get a free Coop Knits pattern when you buy two skeins of Socks Yeah! 

For the Tree

In a panic about what to get for your child's teacher? Need a bauble for your knitting group's annual decoration swap? Want something classy, but quick to make for your tree?

The mini-stockings from the For the Tree set could be your answer. Re-edited for 2015, pattern instructions for all five come together:

Choose from stranded colourwork, beaded or cabled stockings. Or even better, make all five! Because the projects are relatively small scale, these are a great opportunity to try out something new.

I've been told that I should have a go at the cabled and beaded one on the far right. The trouble is, I've never put beads onto a knitted piece before. Fortunately, Cat Bordhi's YouTube video, featuring Wayne's World stye extreme close-ups, has come to my rescue.

The For the Tree set is available now from the Coop Knits Ravelry store. Be sure to share your progress and photos with the Coop Knits Ravelry group. If you have previously purchased the set, your Ravelry library will have an update waiting for you.


Festive Feet and Christmas Post!

I LOVE Christmas socks!

I'm planning on knitting myself a pair with this West Yorkshire Spinners yarn in Holly Berry and Cherry Drop:

I went looking for my Grinch project bag (The Grinch is number 3 on my favourite Christmas films list, number 1 is It's A Wonderful Life, number 2 is Santa Claus The Movie). When I found it, there was already a pair of socks in there! I had completely forgotten these Dave socks I knitted last Christmas, all they need is for me to knit the afterthought heels and they are DONE!

It's like a present I managed to give myself by virtue of my sieve-like brain! I used The Knitting Goddess Same Difference yarn, I don't think it's currently available but I know there are Christmas colours in her update tonight. I am having a little KAL in my Ravelry group so if you're planning festive feet, come on over!

If you would like to do a spot of shopping in my online shop, these are the last postage dates around the world:

Friday 4 December Africa, Middle East

Monday 7 December Asia, Cyprus, Far East, Japan, Eastern Europe (ex. Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia

Tuesday 8 December Caribbean, Central & South America

Thursday 10 December Greece, Australia, New Zealand

Monday 14 December Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Poland

Tuesday 15 December Canada, Finland, Sweden, USA

Wednesday 16 December Austria, Iceland, Ireland, Portugal, Spain

Thursday 17 December France

Friday 18 December Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Switzerland

For orders in the UK: I will be shutting my online shop on Saturday 19th December at 9am and it will reopen on 1st January.

If you going to the Pom Pom Quarterly Christmas Party next week, I will see you there!


Friday Favourites: Lorna's Laces

This week Beth Casey, the driving force behind Lorna's Laces gives us an insight into her world.

What is your favourite colour?

Hmmm.... That's a pretty broad question.  My favorite color to look at is orange. The orange you get in the 8 pack of Crayolas. Nothing fancy, just plain orange. Black is my favorite color for a car. Everyone should have a pair of red Chuck Taylor's. And there's nothing quite like a crisp white shirt.

What is your current favourite yarn/fibre?

I'm always going to be a sucker for wool. I like all kinds of wool from the softest merino to the scratchiest Shetland.

All the wool in one place at once

What is your favourite season?

Without a doubt, Fall. And just for the record, you can keep summer. This girl wants nothing to do with being hot. Bleh.

So much yarn, so much potential......

So much yarn, so much potential......

What is/was your current favourite knitting/crochet project?

I've been on a long jag of small projects. Mostly shawls, although lately, sweaters are finding their way back onto my needles. Now, I need to get them off my needles. I've been suffering from startitis these days.

If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be?

My dad. He died when I was 25 and was the smartest person I've ever known. I'd like to show him how I turned out. I like to think he'd be proud.

Where do you feel most inspired or get most inspiration?

I do most of my best thinking very early in the morning. Many times I'll get great ideas during that limbo time between sleep and waking. The trick there is to remember it once I'm fully awake. Oftentimes, those eureka moments grab me and wake me right up!

Quick fire questions! What is your favourite:

Book? To Kill a Mockingbird
Film? Sabrina (The Audrey Hepburn version.)
Quote? Never let making a living prevent you from making a life. John Wooden
Cocktail/drink? Vodka martini, up.
Cake? Red Velvet. With my mom's icing. Not that cream cheese stuff.
Cheese? Any creamy blue cheese.

Every business needs a mascot like Sam.

Every business needs a mascot like Sam.

All photos ©Lornas Laces

Have You Seen All of This?

Rachel, I thought of you and your love of stationery when I looked through my pencil case for a pencil today. I have a very sorry collection of pencils I have found lying around the house, under sofas, under car seats, in coat pockets. In fact I think I've a pencil from every room in the house. As you can see, I have no brand loyalty and most of these are rather unloved.

So I thought that with Christmas on the way, it's time I actually got myself some decent pencils for work rather than these cast-offs. I fell down a bit of a rabbit hole.

The first question is one of quantity or quality. As a teacher I had visited the Pencil Museum in Keswick more times than I care to count, so I looked at Cumbrian pencils first. After a little digging, I found this:



With that box, I'll never be without a pencil again. The problem is, they just aren't special enough, so off I went on my search and discovered a new world of pencil review blogs, such as Pencil Revolution. What I learnt was that the world is slightly more interesting than I had realised and that I should check out these pencils:



These Blackwing pencils really are fine, but I was more amused by the homepage of the website that invites you to become a Blacking dealer. I had images of someone creeping furtively through school corridors offering unwitting students a try of this wonder pencil to draw them in.

Eventually though, it wasn't the pencils that held my attention, but the notebooks. I'm a fan of squared paper for notes, sketching and so on, but as with pencils, I seem to end up with something cheap or left over. These however are something else.

from palomino

from palomino

I can practically smell the leathered feel the thick paper between my fingers. All of a sudden I've stopped caring about pencils and think that one of these will be my next purchase.



Too Many Choices?

It's officially autumn and aside from repelling a soaking wet cat, who is determined that the best place to dry off is my lap, my major concern while working is how to stay warm. The simple answer is of course to put on more layers and this means knitwear. The problem I have is that my wardrobe is slightly light in that department since it is largely made up with suits from my days bellowing at teenagers. Furthermore, my favourite jumper has recently disintegrated from wear. 

The unravelling neckband is the least of my worries with this jumper

The unravelling neckband is the least of my worries with this jumper

So here's the big question: What should my priority be to stay warm in the office? Do I cast on for a new jumper, bearing in mind that I already have two unfinished baby cardigans sitting in project bags? Do I return to socks (look back a few posts to see my first effort)? Do I cast on Woolly Wormhead's MKAL hat for this year that I've been donated on the understanding that it is good for me? Or is there something else I should make?

Please help!



Decca and Delbert KAL Round-up

The first autumn KAL came to a close a little over a week ago. The two patterns were Decca and Delbert from Coop Knits Socks Volume 2. Here's a selection of the finished socks posted to the Ravelry thread.

First are the Delberts. From left to right, the projects of agita, Rubywool and pookiebb.

Then the Deccas of aiko1122, writergirl3 and gillianrp.

As ever with knitalongs, there is a random prize draw, with two yarn prizes and three pattern download prizes.

Using a random number generator, the randomly selected yarn winners are MissFrances and jillrlambert, and the pattern winners are mandyscragg, aiko1122 and writergirl3. Congratulations to you all!

The next sock KAL has started already (Wilbert and Orville) and you can post your progress on the Ravelry thread.  Happy sock knitting!


Socks Yeah! in the wild

Socks Yeah! has been in yarn shops and available in my online shop for a few weeks now and before that the members of Yarnbox socks got 2 skeins in their packages for October, I am so excited to see it popping up on Ravelry and Twitter and Instagram:

Left to right: Princesstiaraknits knitting with Sphene, Sue's sock with Ammolite and Axinite and Pollyknot's sock in progress in Danburite.

One of the most interesting things is packing the orders and seeing what colour combinations people are putting together and seeing which colours are the most popular, so far every week has brought a new favourite. 

Rachel is knitting a kind of new pattern for me with Kunzite, it was a club pattern for Magpielly a while ago and it will be available soon! Jen is knitting Betula, an old favourite, in Malachite and Carol is knitting Orville in Iolite. 

I made some bunting for my studio using a pattern from Mango Tree Crafts, I love the way these crochet squares look and I feel like my crochet pattern-understanding skills are improving slowly but surely!