Tuesday, November 26, 2013



I've been working for some time now on a throw using cable patterns from Barbara Walker's "Third Treasury of Knitting Patterns".   In 2003, I dropped into the Oxfam shop in Penrith and snapped up a full pack of Rowan Cork for £4.99.  It's been waiting for the right project to come along.

 Last year I decided to reclaim the yarn from an aran jumper knitted for my husband, but about two sizes too big for him.  I used some of this on an earlier throw, but there was still plenty left.

My idea was to knit strips of random widths in a variety of neutral tones, but this turned out to be more of a challenge for me than I had imagined.  I actually prefer symmetry.  I bought 100gms of another greyish yarn, but was surprised to find that it read as a dull green against the grey and beige of the completed stripes.  I decided that this did not matter as it was such a muted tone, not really a colour.  I bought another ball to make a second stripe.

So, then, how to arrange the finished strips?  One of the Cork stripes was a little wider, and had a more complex pattern.  This would be the central strip, with the other Cork stripes forming the end pieces.  The green looked better next to beige, and there were four beige strips, so that organised itself.

As I was assembling the strips it became obvious that there was some variation in length, which could not be fixed by blocking.  I added some moss stitch or took away a motif in some cases.  This was the most fiddly part of the process.

Finally, I also reknitted the opening rows of some pieces where the moss stitch needed fewer stitches because the cables pull in so dramatically.  This was quick to do and made a huge difference to the neatness of the finish.
One last ingredient: sunshine!  With side lighting the sculptural qualities of the cables really come alive.  I love the complexity of the finished item and the muted tones of the yarns.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Last week to the wedding of my brother's daughter, at Brownsover Hall Hotel in Rugby.  As a family we are spread the length and breadth of England, so the wedding involved a gathering of the clan, a rare event these days. My niece looked lovely and all went according to plan.
Like many weddings these days, the ceremony celebrated an established partnership, rather than the beginning of a shared life together.  I always feel that this is a social change of some magnitude - and that it has happened quite quickly, within fifty years.  Oddly, the traditions built up around weddings have not kept pace with the realities of people's lives - the rituals seem to me to be even more formulaic than they once were.

Then, my other niece, daughter of my elder sister, invited me to join her for lunch in Buckden.  In this small Cambridgeshire village is Buckden Towers, once the seat of the Bishops of Lincoln.  Here, Henry the Eighth confined Catherine of Aragon in 1533.  Now, it is a retreat and study centre for priests.

After lunch, we visited an avid quilter and textile collector in the village.  We spent a very enjoyable afternoon inspecting a huge and varied collection.

Finally, I am assembling my Farrow and Ball throw.  The grey Rowan Cork has a velvety handle and a dense texture.  Apparently, it does felt rather easily, although I am not planning on washing this any time soon.  The last strips are just being knitted - there will be nine in all, and each is the length of a respectable scarf.  All of the patterns are taken directly from the Barbara Walker "Treasury".


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Inside Out

Much discussion recently on vintage Fair Isle garments.  My favourite winter cardigan was made by a now-defunct company called In Stitches, on a knitting machine.  I was lucky enough to find it in Oxfam in a pristine state, perhaps because the fastenings suggest a male garment, while the colourway, while not girly, is rather pretty.

I have worn it to the point where major repairs are needed to cuffs and elbows.  I'm thinking brown leather patches.

Secondly, a more recent purchase, again from a charity shop.  This is an oversized cardigan from In Stitches, which was brand new with tags.  The level of detail on this one is very appealing: picot edgings and little cables incorporated into the ribs and cuffs.  In the summer, when I bought it, I wondered whether it would be too big to wear comfortably, but the first cold snap made it seem snug and cosy.

Finally, a Per Una cardigan from the M&S Outlet store.  This has a pleasing denimy look to it, but the surprise is that the design is worked as a standard colourwork pattern - but the inside, stranded side is the right side in wear.  Interesting how this makes it more modern as a design.


Sunday, November 03, 2013

Pick up sticks

About this time last year we were shown how to warp up our rigid heddle looms at the meeting of the guild of Weavers, spinners and dyers.  Following on from that, I was able to weave quite convincing lengths of fabric.  It had got us started, but I felt that the two expert weavers who had led the session had more to teach us. 

At the last meeting we were given a quick rundown on how to use an extra loom stick to introduce simple surface texture.  Once we had grasped the principle, we were away.  About twenty people took the class and there were twenty very different outcomes, because the yarn combinations were so varied.  I had picked up a ball of tan acrylic on my way out of the house, thinking it was unlikely to be needed any time soon for another project, so I was surprised to see how it produced a successful fabric.

This image shows the heddle in place and, behind it, the loom stick picking up the warp to create the pattern.  Once the pattern row is woven, the stick is turned on its side and pushed back so that the heddle can be used in the normal way.  This is much easier than it sounds.Newspaper is used to separate the layers of warp on the loom.
It was my birthday this week, and we went to Norwich to have lunch at Jamie's Italian for a treat.  We also looked around the fifteenth century Dragon Hall - a merchant's trading hall which had been hidden within a row of houses for centuries.  Its position, between the river Wensum and a main trading street gave a good idea of how life was lived in those times.  We really enjoyed the exhibition.
One of my gifts was this fascinating book, recommended to me by the people at Gawthorpe.  On the cover, behind the main images, is the white quilt from Gawthorpe which I examined on my study visit.  Inside the book the writer, who had worked at Gawthorpe, analyses a large number of costume items, focusing on how the embroidery was carried out.  I don't think that I have ever seen this done in such detail before.  This, and the many quotations from eighteenth century sources, make it a delight.