Neons & Neutrals

It has been a hectic few weeks of shows (and snow!) Thank you to everyone who came to see me at Unravel, Olympia or Edinburgh Yarn Festival. If you didn't make it to Edinburgh I launched brand new NEON colours in Socks Yeah! there, they are now in the shop for everyones eye-searing sock knitting enjoyment! I commissioned the amazing Yarnistry to make me some sets of stitch markers for the show and the bundles of five skeins and stitch markers sets that were left are in the online shop here.

I have also launched the Neons and Neutrals Socks Club - I am very very excited about this! The club is structured as follows:

5 parcels, each containing 3 x 50g skeins of Coop Knits Socks Yeah! yarn and a digital PDF pattern for the yarn (to be emailed separately).

The parcels will be shipped on or before: 
1st May
1st June
1st July
1st August
1st September

Photo 03-04-2018, 18 02 07.jpg

Each parcel will contain one of the new neon colours paired with one or two more muted shades, a new sock pattern will be provided each month using the colours sent out. There might even be a few surprises on the way! The patterns will be cuff down. If you would like to sign up, you can do that here.

Im looking forward to a few weeks at home before Wonderwool Wales, I'm very close to finishing a collection of DK sock patterns and I'm working on Socks Yeah! volume 2 which will be published in the Autumn. Spring is in the air and I'm so ready for it!

A Love Letter to Lyme Regis

There are four places in the world that the moment I arrive, I feel like a weight lifts from my shoulders. They are Ibiza, Squam Lake, Florence and Lyme Regis.

I visited Lyme Regis as a child, it was the first place that my husband and I went on holiday together, I have taken my children on holiday there. It is beautiful. 

Last weekend I was invited to teach at a retreat there and it was every bit as lovely as I hoped it would be. Daisy from Devon Sun Yarns has been running these retreats for a few years now and it runs very very smoothly. 

The house we stayed in was beautifully decorated and is definitely a house 'by the sea', it is full of details - driftwood, sea glass and model ships. 

On Saturday morning we started my Choose your own Adventure Sock workshop, people brought their leftover balls of sock yarn and Daisy had some amazing 20g mini skeins on hand. After lunch the attendees dyed a skein of self-striping sock yarn with Daisy. On Sunday morning we decided what heels to use for our adventure socks and by the afternoon everyone was on their way home, well on their way to having the happiest socks on earth on their feet. 

It was a magical, restorative weekend and I will be back! Daisy and I got our diaries out before I left to travel home and I will be returning to Lyme Regis in January 2018 - the house has real fireplaces and I'm looking forward to walking on a winter beach before curling up in front of the fire with my knitting. If you'd like to join me, all the details are here

Coming Home

This week I'll be travelling to Scotland for my third trip to Edinburgh Yarn Festival, I'll be in the market place with yarn, books and few other lovely things. I'm really looking forward to it!

After last years show, Lilith asked me if would be part of a book she was going to put together to celebrate Old Maiden Aunt Yarns 10th Anniversary, I love Lilith's yarn and I was honoured to be asked. The design I came up with is Blashy and here is what I wrote about it for the Old Maiden Aunt blog

I haven’t visited Scotland anywhere near as much as I would like and I’m making plans to fix that as soon as possible. My first trip to Scotland was a visit to Shetland for sort-of-Wool Week a few years ago. We made a bit of a calendar error and ended up mainly going the week before Wool Week. All’s well that ends well and we have an amazing holiday and I fell in love, I even saw a double rainbow – if that’s not a sign of a magical place, I don’t know what is.

I’ve been trying to go back ever since. I have since had flying visits to Edinburgh and Glasgow but I haven’t had nearly enough non-work time to explore.
The rapidly changing weather was one of the things I most loved about Shetland and I used that as inspiration for my design for Lilith’s books. One day we walked along the beach to the tombolo, we didn’t need coats and we sat on hill and had a little picnic. As we ate our sandwiches in the sun, we watched the seagulls on the cliffs. The next day, we were trying not to get blown in to the sea by a mean wind and rain that was coming in sideways. Coats were on and hoods were up, and we struggled to open and close the car doors.

The swirling lace and cable pattern is inspired by this wind. I love inclement weather like this as long as I haven’t got to go outside in it. There’s nothing better than being curled up in front of an open fire while a storm rages outside – it’s my absolute favourite. I love doing it in my own home, I love doing it on holiday, I loved it in Shetland and I hope to return there soon to love it again.

If you're picking up your copy at EYF (there will be plenty on the Old Maiden Aunt stand) you can take part in the bingo - all the details are here

if you can't make it to Edinburgh, you can order a book here.

Nearly December News!

This morning was so frosty, winter has definitely landed here and nothing makes me want to knit socks more than having cold feet!

Photo 30-11-2016, 14 10 27.jpg

In the Coop Knits Ravelry group we are kicking off our Socks Yeah Volume 1 knit-a-long. This is how it will work; there will be 2 patterns allocated to a 2 month window, you can knit either or both during that time to qualify for entry in to the draw for prizes. This is the line-up: 

December & January - Twylla & Maud
February & March - Alonzo & Hortensia
April & May - Amandine & Harriet
June & July - Coraline & Linnea
August & September - Shirley & Hilda
October & November - Willa & Dave

So Twylla and Maud are first up, come over to the group and join in!

My online shop is open and ready for all your Christmas shopping needs, I am ready and waiting to pack up and send Coop Knits books and yarn to you or people who may be buying you gifts! The last posting day for orders from my shop is 16th December so get your orders in!

I will be at the Pom Pom Christmas Party, selling my wares and generally being merry. on 16th December, you can find all the details here. It's always a LOT of fun so if you can make it you should come along!

Rhinebeck Ready?

Well Hello. It's been a while! I've been super busy doing lots of exciting things (new yarn colours out now and a new book coming soon!). But I'm BACK! You can expect lots of blog posts in the near future, I'm going to try really hard to make it a habit. 

In two weeks I'll in Rhinebeck NY for New York State Sheep & Wool Festival, I went last year and it was nothing less than AMAZING. 

I'll be on the Merrett Bookshop Stand, they will be selling copies of all my books and I can sign them if you want me to. I will also be giving a talk on Sunday as part of their Tales of Yarn event, so come along and listen!

It's traditional to knit a Rhinebeck Sweater. I'm terrible at knitting sweaters for many reasons, but I'm giving it a jolly good go. Last year, at Jill Drapers Open Studio (which is happening again this year, so worth a visit!) I bought a skein of Empire. This yarn is amazing, the colours she dyes are amazing, and the skein (singular) is as big as my head. And I've got a big head.  

It's pink and lilac - I've fallen in love with pink a little bit, which is very unlike me. This skein of yarn has been dyed in such a way that when knitted, it looks like a winter sky. 

After much deliberation, I ordered a normal sized skein in an olive green for contrast cuffs and button band and decided to knit a Ramona cardigan. Will I finish in time to wear in at the fairground? Will I finish it at all? Only time will tell. 

Sidney and Eugene KAL round-up

I really don't know what's slower - my knitting, or my writing up a post about a long-finished KAL.

The January and February KAL in the Coop Knits Ravelry group was Sidney and Eugene, both from Coop Knits  Socks Vol. 2. Serial sockists Mandy and Gail both maintained their reputations for being prolific as they managed pairs in both patterns.

Eugene: writergirl3 (Gail)

Eugene: writergirl3 (Gail)

Sidney: mandyscragg (Mandy)

Sidney: mandyscragg (Mandy)

Random pattern prizes went to Sarah and Penny for their Eugenes and Sidneys respectively.

Eugene: sarahpurpleflower (Sarah)

Eugene: sarahpurpleflower (Sarah)

Sidney: pennybro (Penny)

Sidney: pennybro (Penny)

There isn't a KAL running currently, but keep looking here or on the Ravelry group for notice of the next one.



Have you seen these: card games for knitters

Rachel, you asked yesterday for recommendations for board games for you and your boys. This is a game you'd probably enjoy, just not one maybe to break out after Sunday lunch with your family since the themes are very adult in nature. 

Scary hand reflection available separately

Scary hand reflection available separately

It's an expansion for the pre-existing game Cards Against Humanity, where as far as I can see, the aim is to complete an innocuous phrase with the most outrageous statement you have in your hand.

These are from the tamer end of the spectrum

These are from the tamer end of the spectrum

Knitters Against Swatches was thought up by Sarah and Robyn, who run ReBelle, a yarn store in Lexington, Kentucky. They are offering the chance to win a free deck of cards to those who post funny combinations to Instagram or Twitter using #horribleknitters before the end of March.

With Edinburgh Yarn Festival next week, I'm sure you'll see these cards around.


Socks Yeah! but not just for socks

Socks Yeah! has been available for a few months now and there are loads of brilliantly executed socks out there. I'll share some of the best at some point soon. What has interested me recently though, is what else the yarn has been used for. A little digging through Ravelry and Instagram threw up some really impressive projects.

Super Eyelet Fine by Fiona Wright; Photo:  The Woolly Brew

Super Eyelet Fine by Fiona Wright; Photo: The Woolly Brew

This Super Eyelet Fine shawl has been designed by Fiona Wright, a partner in The Woolly Brew yarn shop in Pitenweem. It is available as a free download from Ravelry now, and should knit up fairly quickly so you have something new to keep you warm during cool spring evenings.

This shawl, made by Aiko in Rachel's favourite shade, features a textured section that will look good at the back or the front of your neck, depending on how you wear it. All proceeds from the sale of this pattern go to a scholarship fund at the Australian National University in memory of the designer's brother.

Northallerton Hat  by Rachel Coopey; Photo:  Carol (UnfadingSpring)

Northallerton Hat by Rachel Coopey; Photo: Carol (UnfadingSpring)

This Northallerton hat, made by Carol, from Coop Knits Toasty Volume 1 shows that Socks Yeah! looks good in stranded colourwork, as well as in lace patterns. I could certainly do with wearing it to protect my head from the piercingly cold wind that I've been out in this week.

If crochet's more your thing than knitting, be sure to have a look at Crochet Yeah!, a book of crocheted accessories in Socks Yeah! from The Crochet Project. More on that soon! 

Socks from everywhere: Blue

I may have mentioned this before, but the most popular colour to have in socks, at least according to Ravelry, is blue. Whether this is because blue is an easy colour for dyeing, that it has the widest range of hues, or simply that it goes well with jeans, I really don't know. Whatever the reason, here are four of the best blue socks.

First up are the well-defined cables of these Seudagan socks, designed and made by Mona NicLeòid. Seudagan is Galic for "little charm," or "little gem," and they certainly have a charm of their own.

Pattern and Photo:  Seudagan by Mona NicLeòid

Pattern and Photo: Seudagan by Mona NicLeòid

Strictly speaking, these could go into a post on orange socks, but these had to be featured.

These were made by Tiffany, who does her own video podcast, Knitting at Tiffany's. I can't decide what the contrast colour makes me think of, but definitely an animal of some sort: a tiger, or some kind of exotic tropical fish? Either way, the waves of colour and asymmetry make these socks stand out.

I realise I've done a number of these and haven't yet featured a Coop Knits pattern. These Deccas, from Coop Knits Socks Vol. 2, made by Glen (Glennz on Ravelry) are great examples as you can see the lace pattern so clearly.

Pattern: Decca by Rachel Coopey; Photo:  Glen (Glennz)

Pattern: Decca by Rachel Coopey; Photo: Glen (Glennz)

I had to look at this last pair over and over again to believe they were actually knittted.

Photo:  PurlsB4wine

These Royal Copenhagen socks are modifications of not one, but three General Hogbuffer designs, Eisern, Skandium and Onopordum. The effect is nothing short of stunning as the combination of yarn and design work perfectly together to match the feel of Royal Copenhagen china. Who knows, maybe in the future we'll see vases in the shape of socks?

With only one weekend left in February, there's still time to finish off your Sidney or Eugene socks for the Jan/Feb KAL. Head over to the Coop Knits group to see what's been going on.


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.