I’m so pleased to finally be able to share this project…for me it’s very much been where a love of knititng and sewing and embroidery and of course wool has all come together….
You might remember, back in November I wrote a couple a couple of posts on here about my love for wool and for knitting, how during the past year I’d been on a bit of a knitting adventure and had been knitting with various different British Breed yarns, not really to do anything with them, more of a get to know you, how do you do sort of thing….all this really can be laid at the door of Knit British podcaster Louise Scollay…her podcast has really inspired me to look for local yarn and to find out a bit more about the yarn I use….this background and story to my knitting has really fed my story/need to know addiction….whether it’s patchwork (so and so’s auntie Flossie had this leftover from a pinnie, this was a pair of pyjamies, this scrap was from one of my dad’s shirts etc) or knitting (what’s the breed, the story of the shepherd/ess, who bought me my needles and what do I use as stitch markers….)
Waffling aside, November is also Wovember…a month long celebration of wool and how wonderful it is….most of the focus tends to be on yarn and fibre, knitting,spinning, felting and the sheep…Wovember 2015 was such a revelation for me, it really opened my eyes, and by the end of the month I was very much all about the wool. So I was very excited thinking about Wovember 2016 and wondered how I could give the organisers a thank you.
Earlier in the Autumn I’d been in touch and asked if they would like a prize for one of their competitons, and I’d be happy to make a bespoke made knitting needle-wrap made from and lined with all wool fabrics…..
Various Wovember competions take place including one on Instagram, all set up by Louise and Felicity (Felix Ford)…you needed to add #wovember2016 to your pictures…you can see the amazing photos just here ….
I’m really lucky becasue we have an amazing fabric shop in Norwich called Anglian Fashion Fabrics on Magdalen Street and they often have very limited runs on the most beautiful wool cloth….and I happened to pop in when they had some hand woven Donegal tweed…..
I had to wait until the winner was announced and then got in touch with the lovely Sherrie @woollykindknits (this was her winning picture…) and asked her what sort of wrap she would like…Sherrie lives in the US so this was all done with text messages rather than being able to chat with her on the phone…in the end we decided to go for a wrap for her dpns…she has possibly one of the largest collections I’ve heard of though I think Evaowl could possibly come in very close….
Once I’d drafted a pattern for the wrap that would not only hold all the needles Sherrie has at the present, but which would also allow space in case she buys some more….I cut the fabric and embroidered particular areas of it using a selection of vintage wool threads, mostly crewel-work yarns for the fifties.
I tried to highlight the tiny flecks of colour that is worked throughout the Donegal tweed cloth….the sprigs of embroidery were worked in small areas on every side, as I felt that would be like little surprises whenever the wrap is opened……
As well as choosing Donegal tweed for the wrap I also bought a very lightweight wool cloth for the lining….this is a slatey grey/blue colour which complimented the tweed.
The wrap was sewn so that there’s room for two rows of needles, the left hand front pocket is designed to fit both 6 and 7 inch needles….and then the pocket behind fits the 8 inch needles.
The wrap is kept closed with a piece of vintage leather thonging, and folds over quite snug so it will fit nicely into a knitting basket.
I was starting to fret a little as it was a bit slow in arriving, and thought it might have got lost in the post so was all about to make a second one but I was worrying over nothing as I had a lovely message from Sherrie this morning saying it had arrived safely and was already full of needles….
Huge thank yous to the inspiring team at Wovember, for encouraging me to learn all about the woolly wonderfulness that is just on my doorstep, and big hugs and thank you to lovely Sherrie who was so patient while I sewed so slowly….
July was really glorious this year, early sunshine filled my work room and many was morning where I found myself waking around 5 and with a pot of tea would settle down on the back door step or at a table on teh patio and have a few quiet moments knitting…..
We’ve got a big laurel tree at the bottom of the garden and I can always hear when the wood pidgeons are in there, shufling about and sounding all the world like someone fussing with their umbrella….even though the house and neighbourhood is still sound asleep the garden seems a hive of activity in those early hours…… the rosemary gets the first of the sunshine and by 8 the garden is filled with a nose tingle of fragrant herbs, the air almost shimmers with it’s oily aroma…..I like to pick the delicate blue blossoms to scatter over goats cheese and salad…….
July was also the month of the Karise shawl…..I’d asked on ravely if anyone could suggest a nice easy shawl pattern that I could knit for my boyfriend’s mum and lots of people suggested looking at Karie Westerman’s patterns….I ended up choosing Karise and even though the lace work was charted which made me have a bit of a panic at first, within stitches I found the chart much easier to keep track of what I was doing…… I’ve ended up knitting 4 of these shawls now, 2 were knitted in the Tamar yarn from Blacker Yarns (I’d won one of the skeins a month or so earlier) and this yarn loved lace work so much……I still can’t really believe I made these…almost as soon as I cast off the gift shawl I started knitting a Karise for me, all pollen hued and sheep kissy….and the others were knitted using the yarn I’d un-ravelled in June….I found I did need to use stitch markers as I was a bit nervous in case I made a mistake and wouldn’t be able to correct it….I’d already made stitch markers in the Winter from some vintage glass beads but this time I made some more using beads which I’d been given by my friend who’d died in the Spring……I use the markers a lot and can’t see or touch them without thinking of happier times with her…..
And I also picked up some rather excellent vintage sewing and knitting books along with vintage haberdashery notions….zips, binding s and threads…., none of them cost very much and the quality is superb….
I finishd my third Karise shawl in August, this was using the yarn I’d ripped out, washed and re-skeined earlier in the Summer…..this was a gift for my sister Rachie and I think it was a nice surprise for her to receive in the post as the last time I’d sent her a hand knit it had been a dish cloth……and I also knitted my first Ishbel shawl…this was a really big deal for me as I’d bought a skein to knit this with 5 years before, back then it was just a “one day when I can knit” dream so actually being able to wear the finished shawl was more than a little special……
On nice days we try head out for walks over the marshes and while there had been some wet days for the most part the marshes and surrounding pastures are dry enough to walk from what seem like meadows of wild flowers….the Rosebay Willowherb and Purple Loosestrife grow shoulder height and higher,there are smudges of vetch and swaithes of meadowsweet wherever you look…..this time of year the colours are now fading though. Look close at any blossom and you’re bound to see bees tumbling around and getting covered in dusty pollen……the blackberries seem a bit small again this year but we’re able to pick enough for some jam and junkets…..
Another rather special knit was knitting a pair of socks for my friend Anne and also making her a needle wrap from an old coat that had belonged to her mum… I embroidered on the fabric and used some vintage thonging to keep the wrap closed……and decided to make some wraps for my Folksy shop…..
We also got to experience the naughtiness that is the cat next door…we soon find out that she is a knitting needle thief and will happily rip out and play with any knitting that gets put down even for 5 minutes……
September was a real Indian Summer, the days were still hot and full of sunshine, the hedgerows fair teeming with fruits but the nights soon felt they were drawing on in and on more than one occasion a huge hairy spider is spied scuttling across the living room carpet (you should see me move, legs up off the floor and tucked underneath me on the sofa)…… the huge copper jam pan is un-packed once more and seems to live on the stove as I simmer hedgerow fruits into panty jams and jellies…..the joys of a pan of bubbling blackberries fills every sense with pleasure….
Towards the end of the month I realise it’s now been about a year that I’ve been knitting, at first it’s just been wobbly practise stitches, knitting up tiny swatches and then slowly gaining in confidence…..
I had a lovely email from Blacker Yarns asking if I’d be interested in having a play with a couple of new yarns they had coming out, the answer is “yes please” and I’m in for such a treat….firstly it’s Cornish Tin II which is all full of bounce and plumpness, so stuffed full of goodness like a Christmas pudding…..and then I’m sent a wee skein of St Kilda laceweight, hand-dyed by Joy of The Knitting Goddess…the swatch card is as bright and vibrant as the can can dancers in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulon Rouge…..
And finally himself gets a day out on the bus to the vets for annual vacinations but this is when he finally gets the all clear with his cancer….I’m so thankful that my vet was suspicious about the lump and advised getting it removed before any further tests and what not, without her I don’t think we’d have our boy today…. (currently sitting alongside me having a right good wash)…so huge huge thank yous to Chantelle at Chapelfield Vets….we think you’re awesome.
Right at the start of October my boyfriend felt rather unwell and when he went to the doctors was told it was shingles….as he doesn’t have the best of health this was a bit of a worry and so the month passed rather quietly….I went out for a few marshy meanders and did some foraging but a lot of days were spent at home where I was able to potter in the kitchen making more syrups and jellies and apple falvoured vodka when the cat wasn’t napping in the jam pan……
Even though this is the second year the blackberries here haven’t come to much, the other wild fruits have been amazing, the leaves seem really slow to turn and the lane is beautifully lit with sunlight glowing through vivid green leaves, illuminating acorns like tiny lamps….
The yellow socks were actually knit during August and Spetmeber but it’s been so mild I just tucked them away…the pattern is called Hermione’s everyday socks but I don’t know what happened but the tension is rather different between the two and so one is a bit bigger than the other….it looks like Hermione’s been at the butterbeer….
I also knit two more Ishbel shawls but as my boyfriend is poorly it’ll be a good few weeks yet before I can get them properly photographed…..one is knit using the Cornish TIn II I’d had a sample of…the yarn is a bit greedy soon gets all gobbled up and only the kindness of Montymouse on ravelry means I have enough for my shawl….the other is knit with yarn that I’d previously crocheted into a scarf but hadn’t worn for ages…..
November was for me all about the knitting, all the wonders of wool, local yarn and celebrating all the people who create beautiful yarns for me to knit with…..
Last year I’d not been knitting for all that long when I found out about Wovember, but reading all those woolly, sheep praising posts was what made me really fall in love with what was on my needles…. Anyone who has been a reader of my blog knows I love using vintage haberdasheries, vintage fabrcs that friends and family have passed on to me, fabric that has a bt of a story to it, needles that came from a friend’s mum’s workbox…. over the years I’ve really struggled to find that same connection with my knitting but thinking about the different breeds the yarn comes from, who’s spun it, where the sheep live, how local to me they might be has fare captured my heart and swept me good and proper right off my feet…I love story, I love a good yarn (whether it’s a yarn on my needle or a right good chatty catch up) but hadn’t ever thought that that might be the way I would fall in love with what a pair of pointy sticks could do……
The best part of December was that my boyfriend was finally feeling a bit better, we took a couple of leisurely ambles across squishy meadows and marshes, and were even able to take some pictures of my two Ishbel shawls I’d finished back in October…(and yarn has already been tucked abway for Ishbel 4 but that will be a 2017 knit now)…..the shawls are rather chalk and cheese, one is small and rather plump and the other is like a waterfall of soft stitches…..both equally beautiful.
Another smiles and heart warming knit was knitting a pair of socks for my boyfriend’s dad’s birthday….wish so much I’d have been knittingn while my own dad was alive but Phil is lovely and very knitworthy so it was a pleasure to make these, and seeing him wiggle his toes as soon as he tried them on felt more than a bit special……
I’ve got a bit of chocolate and cheese head confusion as I clear forgot to mention that one of my wee little stockings was featured in the December issue of Country Living magazine and felt proud as punch at seeing my work in such a high quality publication….
The needle wraps I’ve made have been selling well, and I love that by knitting and finding out about interchangable needles that I’ve thought to make these wraps…..and I’m hoping to make some project bags that compliment them in the coming months….
It’s been lovely to look back and review my year….I hadn’t realized there’d been quite so much knitting, sadly not so much sewing this year which I hope to ammend rather in 2017 as I have bolts of fabric for new frocks, and a stack of resting patchworks that really need to get made up into quilts,many thank yous to people who’ve bought from my shop or requested commisions, and lastly thank you to you for reading my blog this past year…..but for now lets raise a toast, whether it’s a glass of something cheering, or a cup of tea, and wish each other health and happiness, peace and kindness for 2017…..
Over the Summer I was able to combine my new found love of knitting alongside my older love of sewing….previously when I’d attempted to do any knitting it had been on 12 inch or even 14 inch straight knitting needles, but since trying out the wonders that are interchangable circular needles my heart has been rather taken with them however it did seem that tips and cables were soon scattered about in almost everyroom…. over the Summer I started making needle wraps where I could store all my interchangeable needles together ..I’m rather a fabric horder so I had plenty of materials with which to tinker …..I made a couple and sold some to very kind friends and found I really enjoyed working to their specifications….I also made some wraps for double pointed knitting needles too as I had a rather large collection of those as well (many thank yous to lovely Isla at Brit Yarn who sent me no end of beautiful wooden ones she wasn’t using)…..
Something I’d not initially thought about was the different tip length for needles, mostly I like a short needle tip but other friends have said they like longer ones or more often…half and half….. but none of the cases or wraps I’d seen were made where you could store both types of tips so a bit more tinkering was in order…..what I had wanted to sew though was a wrap that you could store all your needle tips, cables and a couple of other pieces like a needle guage and some short stubby needles for when you’re knitting softly flowing cables……
Most of the fabric I have in my stash is more often than not special in someway to me…perhaps it’s the same floral print I had in my bedroom curtains when I was little, a cushion or chair cover from an elderly friend or relative or it’s a fabric I’ve found in the bottom of a box at a car boot or flea market, one that makes my heart all skippy ….and while these all make me happy I’m aware other people have equally special fabrics themselves……while I’m happy to hoard fabric or notions, I really love being able to make it into something that I will use, so I see that cloth and get all those memories every day with every touch…..
Last year my lovely friend Anne gave me an old wool coat that had been her mums, sadly it had a really bad tear so would have been a bit difficult to repair however she thought the fabric might be useful for me…..so I used it to make her a series of needle wraps and a big knitting bag to keep them all in…….the fabric was nice but not very interesting so I embroidered small wild flowers over it in vintage crewel yarn……when she opened her gift she straight away recgonized the fabric, and said “it’s mum’s old coat”, pressed it to her face and sighed “ooh, it still smells of her”….to which we then had to blow our noses because we got a bit teary.
So while not really a comission that was such a meaningful make because that fabric meant such a lot to one of my friends……she’s pretty sure it would have been her mum taught her to knit so seeing and using that wrap everyday holds a whole lot of memories…..
A more recent commission has been for my friend eva, one wrap very sensibly is for her (fixed circulars this time so it was made with deeper pockets) and then 2 long wraps were made for a couple of her friends which were designed for interchangables…eva didn’t want the space made for a needle gauge but instead wanted them filled with spaces for lots of tips and while similar in construction ended up looking quite different because of the fabric used…..
Last year when I started knitting I began listening to a couple of podcasts (KnitSonik and Knit British) and started reading all the wonderfully woolly and sheepy articles on Wovember…..both podcasts and woolly articles really lit such a fire in my heart, on days when my knitting was mis-behaving I was able to put it aside for a little while I’d listen or read…and then return back to my yarn and pointy sticks a little bit more relaxed……
Anyway, I’m very grateful to Felicity (Felix) Ford and Louise Scollay who both do so much hard work preparing for all that is Wovember and I wanted to show my appreciation in some way so I emailed Louise and offered a bespoke wool wrap as a prize for one of their competitions…..so I’m very excited to say I will be making a special, custom made, all wool fabric, needle wrap for the winner of the Wovember Instagram competion…..the winner will be announced today over on the Wovember site….(if you look for #wovember or #wovember2016 you’ll see some beautiful knits, wonderful sheep, and some amazing woolly goodness going on…a real celebration of such an incredible fibre) ….
I’ve bought some beautiful hand woven donegal tweed especially for this and have some very fine weight wool cloth for the lining…..over the holidays I’ll be working on this special bespoke wrap to suit the winners needle specifications and will be posting progress here and on Instagram (yes, I’ve finallly bought a phone that has a camera)…..thank you so much Team wovember for your wonderful enthusiasm for wool and for all the interesting essays and features on the Wovember site….if you’d like to help support Wovember there is a little donate button at the bottom of the Wovember site page.
I’ve mentioned my friend Sasha on my blog a few times now, I love her colourful creations and happily pile up empty chairs or sofas around the house with her handmade cats and rabbits…. walking into a room full of these never fails to brighten up my morning and it’s only because our house is quite small that I don’t have more of them…(I’ve even got them in the bedroom and my work room too)……
Each creature is completely unique so is a real treasure as Sasha makes them by hand using vintage fabrics from all over the place, more often than not there’ll be just enough fabric for one lone toy….which was the case with this lovely rabbit, the soft grey corduroy is so fine and she said it was a handful of scraps, but just enough to make a face, paws and feet…..
What I’m so excited about is that finally you can contact Sasha online…..she doesn’t have an online shop (yet) but does at least have a facebook page where there are photos of a small selection of some of her amazing makes, and you can contact her directly there….previously it was just a case of finding her at a few random craft fairs throughout the year so I think this will be much easier if you’re interesting in buying one of her beautiful creatures.
This lovely grey bunny is one of her very latest makes and I would happily have given her a home. I love those delicate doiley cheeks and the hand stitched floral ears…..
Like I say, I already do have a fair few of Sasha’s beautiful creations….and as you can see I’m not the only fan of her work in our house…….this is one of our sofas. When we have guests I quickly lug all of these upstairs so there is room to sit as it’s a bit rude to expect people to sit on the carpet….the orange cat is huge, he’s about 4ft something tall. He was one of Sasha’s very early makes but I think he’s great…there are also toys on here that I’ve had since I was right little, and a much loved elderly auntie knitted the bear in the orange dress (she even has lacy edged knickers on)….from time to time Bernard decides to cuddle down amongst them, he’ll throw a few on the floor to make room for himself and then just sprawl out quite happy….and often a good bit of time goes by before I realize where he is.
Another favourite from my personal collection is this gorgeous rabbit, she’s so glamourous. When Sasha first showed me her I just fell in love…..Her little fur jacket is a vintage dolls coat…I always think she looks like she’s off to a fabulous party where it will be just full of amazing people….she’s quite large, a good two foot as she’s got quite long legs….she also makes me think of music hall girls with those pink silky cheeks.
All the face details are carefully embroidered with antique silk floss and vintage threads, in the past Sasha used to use lovely old buttons for eyes but I think she even embroiders those nowadays too……
And these are some other toys she made from a few years back, they all live upstairs and keep me company when I’m sewing….it’s been really amazing seeing Sasha’s style evolve slowly over time, I know she always laughs when she sees some of her earlier toys on display here but I thik they’re brilliant.
All of her creatures are made by hand and more often than not are dressed in vintage doll’s clothes or are wrapped in delicate scraps of antique doileys or cloth. Sasha doesn’t really do bespoke or custom pieces to order as the fabric she carefully chooses to use to sew the toys is already very unique as it’s been brought from flea markets and brocantes, antiquey type shops and carboots and it’s pretty much impossible to then make doubles of anything made…..sometimes her toys come with beautiful vintage accessories like painted beds or prams but sadly she says these are becoming much harder for her to source.
My most favourite toy she’s ever made though is my darling Miss Enid……in part because she was a present from my boyfriend but I also know Bernard adores her….if we ever had a fire Bernard would be tucked under one arm and Miss Enid the other….I love it when he snuggles up with his head in her lap, all purrs and contentment.
I hope you’ll pop over and say hi to Sasha, and have a gander at her beautiful makes. As well as cats and rabbits she also makes ribbon cloud mobiles and very pretty bunting which would be ideal if you are decorating a nursery or bedroom and want that vintage aesthetic…she also makes the most incredible swan cushions but I’m not sure if she has any of those left for sale.
I’ve mentioned before my love of second hand shops and bricety brac markets, while I normally regard general shopping with a deep sigh, I can always be persuaded to stick my head around the door of a charity shop and will happily spend several hours if I’ve got the time to spare. I’m really lucky because Norwich has umpteen charity shops and while they aren’t as good as when I first moved here they can still turn up gold…… a case in point, I bought this gorgeous knitting bag for the princely sum of £2 a month or so ago….. it’s made really beautifully, fully lined inside with a very Autumnal gold fabric. I thought the little star stitch detail worked over where the granny squares join up was particularly eye catching….and while I’ve got various fabric project bags which are home to needles and wips, I’m always particualry fond of this style of bag.
Lately one of the Oxfams (Norwich has at least 3 to my knowledge) has had a fantastic selection of knitting and sewing books….I bought some vintage sewing books at the start of the Summer and then last week when I went in I found these gems…..the cover of the Modern Knitting is a bit worse for wear but inside it’s in top condition (with the prettiest end papers) and there is a whole section on knitted underwear, including the best photshoot of three gorgeous and glamourous young ladies all kitted out in knitted drawers and camisole tops…the weather was really hot and scorchy so the thought of knitted knickers made me laugh out loud (I’ve noticed that this year’s Shetland Wool Week Annual will have a pattern for a beautiful Shetland spencer so while I’d be happy to knit one of those I’m not so sure about the lower undies)
The other book is a great little pamphlet full of rather cheesy knits but you know what, there’s more than a couple that I’d like to cast on, and the instructions all seem reasonably easy so perhaps I’ll try out a couple and share on here for fun.
I’m currently taking part in Joeli Creates Designer’s Bootcamp, it’s a free on-line workshop and runs for 12 weeks…it’s now about 2/3 of the way through but you’ll get the previous emails that she’s already sent out so you can soon catch up. There’s also a weekly question and answers session which is live. While it’s probably really geared towards people who want to create patterns to publish and sell, the advice she gives has been really helpful and she’s so full of little tips and thoughts for making your knitting even better….I’m really enjoying it and think she’s been very generous to offer it free.
While I’m not particularly interested in creating something to publish however, so often now when I’m going for a walk over the marshes or meadows, having a poke about the hedgerows to see how the Autumn berries are ripening, I’m being inspired and would love to know how to incorporate some of that into my knitting or to work out what I need to do to cast on some of the things that are in my head, sort of “where on earth do I begin” and so Joeli’s Workshop has been particularly helpful in helping me make sense of some right tatty old scribbles and sketches.
And then in Oxfam, I saw this book on one of the bottom shelves of the charity shop…it felt more than a little heaven sent… I love Montse Stanley, she’s very thorough in her descriptions and I’ve got one of her other books which I find helpful for explaining particular techniques. While some of the photos inside are rather dated with scary children, the information is great and I enjoy reading how she writes (she doesn’t waffle on and is straight to the point).
What’s so nice about the book is how it explains really clearly about putting a design together, from considering stitches and yarns to the shape of what you’re knitting…there’s a nice section on different buttonholes. She then shows a range of different styles of garment details including body, neckline,sleeve, collar and then along side them is a clearer diagram explaining what you need to consider to knit that shape. There is also a guide on where you need to take measurements for a garment and whether you need to add an allowance for ease…..it’s very well written and was mine for £2.50.
I love old fabric, all time softened and a bit sun faded, it always conjures up memories and stories when it’s hand me downed or even found in a dusty box in a charity shop or car boot when I then get to wondering who did this belong to, what did they do…..some of the most treasured fabric I own is pieces of a pink and white sheet that belonged to our Nanny C, and some fantastic red and white fabric that originally was a chair cover belonging to my dear Joyce’s mum……I’ve bought familiar looking curtains not quite being able to place them, to be told later by my mum they are the same as the ones that hung in my bedroom when I was little…..everytime I look at these fabrics I can’t but help remember moments and times spent with people I’ve loved…
Other special fabric has been gifted by friends old and new, and while I could keep this all stored away and kept for best or fancy, I much prefer to use it, to be able to see and handle it day to day when I’m sewing or knitting….looking up from a sewing a tricksy hem or sighing when I’m having to un-knit a row (or two or three) when I’ve not followed a pattern properly, my eyes can rest on these familar fabrics and a little wave of reassurance and comfort helps to make me feel calm again.
A few years ago I made some knitting needle rolls for some beautiful wooden Brittany needles from my boyfriend’s mum and dad, the needles are really special and every time I use them I think of Kathy and Phil, and wanted the fabric in the roll to be equally dear to my heart.
Now I’m knitting with different styles of needle, double pointed ones which look like you could have someone’s eye out with if you’re not careful and ones where you can change the tip size to the length of cable, I thought it was about time I made some rolls and wraps to keep all these new types of needle safe and in one place.
While I was making the rolls and wraps for myself I was thinking about some of the podcasts I’ve been listening to this year, namely the Shiny bees one…often when Jo aks the people that she interviews who it was taught them to knit they reply it was a granny, nanny, elderly relative or their mum and I began thinking how I love seeing the fabric that is special to me when I’m working….. while Nanny C could knit (she’d knit brightly coloured little squares that a neighbour would sew together into blankets for the local old people’s home….Nanny C was still doing this in her early eighties) I don’t remember her ever showing me how to, or if she did I was pretty bad at it….a great aunt did try to teach me but my hands were always hot and sticky, and the stitches would get tighter and tighter, painfully squeeking as they pulled over the needles and dear Joyce was always out in her garden to bother about knitting or sewing …..so while when I knit and am quiet I’m not quite remembering them teaching me to knit and purl and pass one over, the fabric wraps are familar prints and textures and helps recall the laughter and chat, cups of tea and tins of biscuuits I associate with them.
As well as making wraps for my own ever increasing collection of needles, I’ve also made a few for my Folksy shop….at the moment there are two styles….the first one is designed for those pointy and pokey double tipped needles….they have two rows of pockets inside and are long enough so they’ll fit needles up to 20 cm. They also have a wide space in front where you can tuck in a needle gauge and the pockets at the other end are sewn shallower so you can store your cable needles in them and they won’t slip all the way down. These will also fit skinny types of crochet hook such as the Brittany ones.
When you want to store your needle roll away, it rolls up like a jam roly poly and is kept secure with either a length of velvet ribbon or a piece of vintage leather thonging.
The other design is a longer needle wrap and these are made with a front pocket that has been divided into lots of sections where there is room to store your different needle tips as well as a needle gauge. The three far right spaces are a bit shallower and are designed to store your cable needles. The wrap is deep enough that there is also room for short needles (for lace shawl edgings) or the odd crochet hook.
The two pocket lengths behind are divided into three so there is plenty of room to store loose cables.
The wraps fold over on themselves and keep all tucked up and secure with either a length of velvet ribbon or a piece of vintage leather thonging.
Both designs of wrap have long flaps inside that cover all the needles so stop anything from flying out or getting lost in your bag.
I’ve really enjoyed making the needle wraps as sewing is very much my first love and it’s been nice to incorporate my interest in knitting with fabric and thread.
As well as the ones listed in my Folksy shop I’m more than happy to work on bespoke wraps and rolls to fit your own particular needle requirements and with your own fabric if you have some that holds a special place in your heart.
In the past I’ve made memory quilts which were pretty special to sew and I guess these are a bit like that…..
I’m currently working on a few more styles which I hope will be ready to appear in the shop over the next week or so along with a couple of designs for project/workshop bags and pockets.
After having both my head and heart proper turned over the past some months by the joys of knitting, the last few days have seen me pottering about in my work room, mostly it’s involved tidying up, sorting out, but there’s also been some sewing…..One area of tidying that needed to be taken in hand were my needlework books, they’d started to spread out around the house, a small pile here, another few there… so I tried to gather them up all into one place…there’s been a couple of new additions to the sewing reference library, they’re all oldies but goldies.
On Friday I saw 3 different editions in just one charity shop of this classic, it’s such a great book and was one of the very first sewing books I ever bought. There’s a few different printings but it’s pretty much the same information inside each time. It’s a really great book for beginners and it also has plenty of information for more confident sewers too. As well as explaining how to draft (draw up and design) a pattern it then explains how the garment is put together, with chapters covering pockets, collars and a a very thorough easy to follow section on button-holes.
A little while back I bought the More Dress Pattern Designing by Natalie Bray, I’d already bought the Dress Pattern Designing book by her years ago and had been on the look out for the sequel ever since but it’s one of those books that is hard to find or is really expensive…I must confess to a squeal of happy when I spotted it on the shelf of a local charity shop, an absolute bargain at £1.99…….it might seem a bit daunting to a beginner at first look but it’s certainly worth buying it if you see it cheap… all Natalie Bray’s books are so well written and as they were first written in the sixties there’s plenty of “vintage” lines/shapes to the pattern drafting.
Possibly a more easy to follow book for a beginner is Clothes by Margaret G Butler…(this is a 1975 copy) inside it’s full of helpful information about fabrics, threads, patterns, how to cut out, how to lay patterns on fabric….the chapter on zips and buttonholes is especially well written and has plenty of clearly drawn illustrations with easy to follow instructions….it’s handy to have if you’re working from a commercial pattern and aren’t really sure of some of the techniques…there is also a nice section at the back of the book about how to care for your clothes including laundering and repairs. There’s no photos so it doesn’t feel dated and the information inside is very sound.
Another two recent purchases (both bought for less than a posh coffee) was Mary Thomas’s Embroidery Book and Complete Needlecraft by Agnes M Miall.
The Mary Thomas book is such a wealth of embroidery know how, it dates from 1936. The subject headings contain a bit of back ground information including some history and then the instructions on how to work the type of embroidery (it also includes quilting, patchwork and smocking) are very clear and easy to follow….there aren’t many photographs but it has lots of clean and well drawn illustrations.
Complete Needlecraft covers a much wider range of needlecrafts (including dressmaking, repairs, knitting and crochet) and has quite a lot of photographs (including a rather scary looking crochet bra) but no drawn illustrations. The copyright is 1945 and has a Book Production War Economy Standard brand inside, however it doesn’t read as make do and mend book in the slightest as there are suggestions for some rather swishy items inside.
Okay, I know this isn’t a sewing book but it’s another classic by Mary Thomas…..I nearly did a little dance of joy when I found this beautiful 1948 edition of Mary Tomas’s Book of Knitting Patterns…it’s very nicely written, pretty clear and reasonably easy to follow, but I must confess it was the charming illustrations that made me smile so much all the way up to the till with my money….my favourite and there are so many inside I love…( the stocking stitch /garter stitch illustration, the puppy with the un-ravelled knitting, the squirrels popping nuts into a stocking hanging onto a tree,the college professors having a quarrel over their knitting……) has to be this young girl winding her yarn off from the antlers of a reindeer…in real life it probably wouldn’t work but makes for such a sweet image…I’ve seen more modern day printings of the book for sale online but I don’t know if they have the illustrations in or not….
The knitting patterns are written out as well as having a little chart so if the instructions seem a bit complicated then the chart might make things a bit clearer….there’s also a very helpful texture index at the back which suggests some stitches which suit particular garments or knits..
One of my favourite past-times is having a nose around and poke about in odd corners and dusty boxes in charity shops or bric a brac shops, sometimes I come away all empty handed and that’s fine but other times I manage to pick up a gem, often for very little money and which becomes a much valued addition to my library or hoard of haberdasheries. The above items were all sourced for very little money and generally I find the quality of older pieces to be a lot better than what I can afford to buy new.
The zips were a real bargain, although I only bought one at first as I wanted to check for rust (because the zips were all in their original packaging it wasn’t possible to check without undoing and tearing the cellophane) but it was all fine so the next week I went back and bought a few more….the zips are metal and the teeth are nice and strong. They also run nice and smooth (which I was a bit concerned about at first)…the colours of the fabric are very nice…peacock, glen green, sage green are just some of the ones I ended up buying.
I prefer to do a lot of my sewing by hand and mostly use vintage Sylko Dewhurst thread as it’s such good quality, it’s brilliant for both hand sewing and machine sewing, the thread slips through the eye of a needle so easily. While the above threads aren’t that brand, they are all still nice to use, and I’ll often use a finer cotton to use as a tacking thread….I also prefer using vintage needles as I find they are a bit stronger and seem to be finer, and sharper….
I love little packets of vintage bias binding, sometimes it comes with thread in a matching colour (not something companies tend to do nowadays)…depending what I’m sewing I might carefully wash and then press the binding before using it as sometimes it shrinks and then will make the seam it’s sewn to pucker up a bit…if what I’m making isn’t going to be washed then I don’t worry….
As well as having umpteen charity shops nearby I’m also lucky enough to have a wide circle of friends and family who’ll gift me bags of buttons, threads and sewing what nots…even my accountant has given me small bags of leather thonging and embroidery silks, bindings and lace trimmings…..I’d like to say everything is tidied away and is in it’s place…hmmm, for the most part that’s probably true but there are still little tins and and suitcases that hold an assortment of haberdasheries from all over….From time to time I like to empty a box of notions and doo dahs out onto my work table, more often than not I’ll find something I’ve forgotten all about and which can get me thinking about who these little treasures used to belong to…inspiring me with thoughts of a new dress or skirt….
For the most part, I’ve bought any special pieces I use slowly, in dribs and drabs…some fancy shmancy pieces of equipment (like gridded rulers and fabric shears) were bought for me for my birthday or Christmas (which makes using them extra special), but most of my quilts were made without a lot of flashy stuff.
I had a message the other day from a friend regarding my quilts, and well, you know what I’m like, there’s never a short answer with me (I see it as being thorough)….but it reminded me of my original post and thought it was time for a follow up.
This is a break down of what I use to make my quilts once I have a patchwork top ready to work with…first up I’m a hand quilter and while I have made one quilt using a machine, I really do prefer to use my hands..(but if you like making them on a machine then that’s great, I’m just saying it just wasn’t for me). I also tend to quilt quite small stitches but I think stitch size is very much a matter of personal choice.
I don’t live in a particularly big house so there isn’t the space to store more than a couple of quilts. If a quilt takes me a couple of years to make by hand then that’s okay, I’m fine with that….obviously the ones I make for commissions don’t take as long as that but there’s still a lot of hours in all those stitches…the real pleasure for me is in the handling of the fabric, finding an inner quiet time in those tiny stitches….the rhythm and motion of the needle passing through the fabric, joining pieces of patchwork into a whole and then later embellishing with quilting……
But this is just what I like, what I find to be my essentials… What another quilter thinks will probably be quite different depending on the type and style of quilting they do.
As I say, funds for quilts that are made for our home are quite limited…the biggest expense tends to be the wadding becasue I like to use a pure wool one, I’ve found that buying wadding in bulk (I buy a kingsize pack of wadding and then cut it down into smaller pieces) works out more economical but it is still pricey……next comes fabric for the backing, then thread and needles and a quilting hoop, something to mark your pattern out with and something to draw around like a template….anything extra is just that…extra.
I try to keep all my quilting/patchwork tools and equipment together though there are bits and bobs that cross over from one sewing box to another…but while you’re making your patchwork top you might like to keep an eye open for the items you’ll need later to make your quilt…it’s surprising how often I’ve seen a quilting hoop in a charity shop or beautiful vintage needles at a flea market…. I think a mistake people can often make is to feel that you need to buy everything all at once or everything has to be bought new.
I think it’s much better to buy slowly, repurpose where you can and if you’re lucky enough to have friends that quilt they’ll probably be happy to lend you things so you can try them out first.
Marking your quilt
You can buy special silver pencils or chalk pencils from quilt shops to mark up your quilting design. Both of these wash out really easily. I don’t get on so well with the silver pencils myself and prefer a white chalk pencil. HB pencil isn’t generally suggested to use as the graphite rubs off against your hand which then brushes against the fabric making the quilt become rather grubby, however I use them although I only press very lightly, but I do wash all my quilts as soon as they are finished (this also helps the fabric scrunch up and look a bit “time softened” rather than something I’ve just made as well as sprucing it up) Not that long ago I read in a recently published book to mark up your quilt using tailor’s chalk…personally I wouldn’t suggest this as tailor’s chalk is waxy and it doesn’t always wash out properly. I’d also suggest getting a top quality pencil sharpener from an art supplies store to keep the pencil tips sharp (cheap ones always seem to chew up the “silver lead”/chalk inside).
Depending on your quilting design you can also use strips of masking tape, ( I tend to buy big reels of it from a local Ironmongers as it’s cheap as chips from there)….you just stick this to the patchwork and quilt either side of the line and then it just whips right off, you should be able to use it a couple of times before all the sticky has gone….it’s quite handy for quilting squares or diamond shapes in the middle of feathered circles….and you can stick it diagonally across the quilt, and quilt along like that, though you’ll need a sturdy ruler to guide you so the line is kept super straight (or spread your quilt out flat, and tie and pin across a piece of thread across the corners, then run the tape along the thread line.)
I’ve also got a couple of hera markers which are made from plastic which you score on the fabric against a ruler. They look a bit like a butter knife (which you can also use though be careful there isn’t any chips or rough bits on the blade) and I used to have a lovely hera made from bone but managed to lose it. You can also get wooden ones and I’ve also used wooden tools that are used in clay work, again pressing the ‘blade’ against a ruler to score a line on the fabric.
You may prefer to get fancy and want to quilt cables around the edges of your quilt, if so then you can buy plastic sheets that are A4 and 3 sized but you can also use plastic from yoghurt containers and certain packagings…. you can also use this to make a bar for baptist fan quilting.
Wadding or Batting
When I have the money I prefer to use a pure wool wadding by Hobbs…it’s expensive but it hand quilts beautifully, and when washed carefully gives the most wonderful drape and lightness to your finished quilt. I’m happy to save up the extra money this wadding costs as it is such a delight to work with. Wool wadding is warm in Winter but it is also light for Summer as it actually weighs less than cotton. It only needs washing if it gets dirty, and then I bundle my quilt up in the washing machine, put it on a gentle wool cycle and allow it to dry outside draped over a rotary line.
I also use cotton and cotton/bamboo blend wadding. Though I tend to use it more on smaller projects like wall hangings, book covers, project bags rather than lap quilts or big bed quilts but if you want to make a quilt and were on a bit of a budget then it is a good second choice. Most quilt shops sell this on a big roll so I don’t know a brand name, however I’ve bought cotton wadding from 3 different places and it has all been about the same so I think it’s quite generic.
I save all my pieces of wadding and regularly sew them together to make a larger piece…when you make your quilt you get left with strips from the side, rather than throw these away I just save them until I’ve got a few and then just slightly overlap the pieces and then sew them together with a slanted tacking stitch. You can use these in smaller projects but I have also used them in a larger quilt. So basically you get to use every last bit of it and it doesn’t get wasted.
However if you don’t want to buy new wadding/batting you could always use an old wool blanket that’s worn thin for the wadding which will give you a lovely warm Winter quilt. This is also really good for pot holders and oven gloves. You won’t be able to make the smallest quilt stitches as the wool in a blanket is denser than that used in wadding so you might find yourself needing to use thicker thread like Sashiko or top stitch thread and a thicker needle (darning ones are good if you can’t find the Sashiko ones). You can also use brushed cotton fleece like what is used for sweatshirts or you could stitch together old sweatshirts and jogging bottoms that have seen better days, or old fleece sheets that have bobbled a bit to make a batting for lightweight Summer quilts that you can take to the beach or fling over the sofa. Large wool cloth scarves/shawls from charity shops stitched together also make a good batting.
Generally I find synthetic waddings seem to resist the needle, and it’s harder to make my stitches. If you’re constantly fighting with your needle then it becomes a chore not a pleasure to sit and hand quilt the stitches so I’d rather look for natural fibre alternatives at a car boot or charity shop than buy a new synthetic wadding from a shop. But when my funds have been limited and I needed to use what was to hand then I’ve quilted with old duvets (between 1-4.5 tog), and used pieces of polar fleece fabric as wadding though I had to go up a few needle sizes when I quilted them.
Different battings/waddings will give different effects, some will plump up and be nice and lofty, some will drape and be nice and squishy, but never feel that you are doing something wrong just because you are using different materials to those you might see in books/blogs/quilt shows/social media etc.
I think it’s a good reminder to sometimes tell yourself that it’s up to you what you want to quilt with, no one is going to come round and stop you. In the past, the majority of quilts were made with what was at hand and quilt shops that sell all the fancy stuff are relatively recent where as quilts have been being made for hundreds of years.
American muslin/quilting calico
For the most part this is what I’ve used to back several of the quilts I’ve made…it’s available in really generous widths so you could buy a couple of metres to back a quilt with it without having to join the fabric….it tends to come in two colours, bleached and un-bleached..so white or natural. It’s not the prettiest fabric in the world and I know most quilts in more modern quilting books seem to use printed fabrics for their undersides (this is what I’ve done in the above picture) but I like how quilting stitches show up really clearly on a plain background… American muslin holds dye incredibly well so you could also dye some if you’d rather it a different colour
Generally I wash all my fabric for quilting before I begin sewing with it, and I make sure to wash the muslin/calico to soften it before sewing. There isn’t a particular brand of calico I favour, I just ask for American Muslin at my local quilt shop, however don’t ask for English Muslin as that’s cheesecloth and isn’t suitable to back your quilt. American Muslin is also softer than dressmakers calico so I find it’s best to buy it from an actual quilting shop.
If you wanted to make a wholecloth quilt (a quilt which doesn’t have a patchwork top but instead is a single piece of fabric which is then beautifully quilted) then this is the fabric you’d want to use as the plainness of the fabric would really highlight and show off the pattern of your quilting.
You can also use old bed linens for the quilt back, the only downside to these is they are woven quite tight so they aren’t always as easy to quilt as the American muslin but it depends a lot on how small you want your quilting stitches to be. Charity shops and carboots are great for sourcing pretty vintage sheets and tablecloths for not much money.
But you can just as easily make the back from fabrics that have been pieced together in a patchwork effect. Having it made from bigger pieces will make it a bit easier to quilt than if you are making it from lots of very small pieces as the seams of the fabrics add an extra thickness that has to be sewn through.
I really like using Star brand hand quilting cotton, it’s incredibly well priced and makes for very nice quilting. It’s a bit thicker than regular quilting cotton so is a bit hard to thread really tiny needles. It’s quite hard to source in the UK and I’ve only seen it available in a few colours (although mostly I prefer to quilt in an ecru shade or grey) but I’m told it’s widely available in the US and Canada.
However, I also like Gutterman hand quilting cotton. It’s finer than the Star brand so it’s easier to thread your needles, but is a bit more expensive. It’s available in a really wide range of colours. I always use proper hand quilting cotton and don’t touch the synthetic threads.
(Updated to say that Star brand has possibly stopped being made, but YLI quilting thread is very nice as is the hand quilting thread from Empress MIlls)
If you’re quilting a patchwork top made with brushed cotton then you could also try using coloured button thread or top stitch thread by Gutterman, it’s thicker but the brushed cotton isn’t woven so tightly as regular quilting fabric so it doesn’t damage the weave. This is what I used on a very early quilt I made (actually it was a pair of quilts for two of my nieces, just large squares of brushed cotton hand sewn together and then I quilted rows of heart/star motifs on them…) it’s also what I use when I’ve made quilts for the cats…(which were made from an old pair of pyjamas and some plaid shirts)
I know a lot of people also like to use Sashiko thread for quilting and this is available nowadays pretty much everywhere.
Traditional quilting needles are often called “quilters between” but sometimes it just says “quilting” on the packet. The needles are short, and slightly stubby. They need to be nice and strong to go through all the layers. (unlike the straights or applique needles you use for the patchwork, those are super skinny and a bit longer.)
Depending on what I’m quilting I go on and off different brands of needles, mostly I prefer the tiniest little needles imaginable, the sort you’d expect the mice in The Tailor of Gloucester to have used on those buttonholes…but I appreciate these aren’t for everyone. Some brands sell little packets with a selection of quilting needles in them, and while you may not end up getting on with all the different sizes, it gives you the chance to try out and find what feels comfortable for you ….also, don’t expect to find the teeniest needle comfy the first time you quilt…like most things, it takes a bit of practise and when I started quilting I preferred a longer needle to what I like to use now.
If you are using a thicker thread like the button hole/top stitch/Sashiko then you will need to use a larger needle.
Millward and John James are both good basic brands, you get about 20 needles for around £2.00, you really want to store them in-between sewing in a needle case as the quilting needles are so short they’ll soon disappear to be forever lost if you push them into a pin cushion.
I’ve also used Clover Black Gold which are very very tiny and skinny, they probably aren’t so great for a beginner and they are very pricey, the last ones I bought were £4.50 for 6 needles, but they are super sharp. (their applique needles in this range though are excellent but again, expensive)…from time to time in brickety brac/flea markets I’ve been able to pick up Blue Dorcas vintage quilting needles, these are my all time favourite and never cost me much. Always check for rust though if you look to buy vintage needles for your sewing (I like using them as I find they are stronger and sharper than modern needles)
In an ideal world I would live somewhere where i could have a big old wooden quilting frame but I don’t so…. but I manage fine without.
If I’m quilting something small, anything less than a foot square I’m not likely to use a quilting hoop, I still like to baste it the layers with thread but find I can handle the fabric better without a hoop, but when I’m working larger than that I find using a hoop makes things a lot easier…and there’s much less chance of you quilting yourself to your work (it’s incredibly easy to catch a dress or skirt fabric on to your quilt when you don’t use a hoop…I speak from experience)…a quilting hoop is bigger than an embroidery hoop, it’s also fatter, generally about an inch thick.
A hoop will help give the right amount of tension to your work as you quilt it…some people like their work to be held super taut like a drum, I prefer a bit more slack, but there isn’t a right way or wrong way, it’s what feels right for you.
I know a lot of people baste with safety pins and quilt their layers without a hoop so while I find I need one for my quilting, you may find otherwise. It does depend a bit on the type of quilting stitches you want to make.
I’ve got 2 different sized hoops, a couple that are 14 inches wide which I tend to use for most of my quilting, and a bigger one that is 18 inches wide and which I don’t use quite so often, even though I’ve got what I think must be freakishly long arms (cardigans and coats never seem quite long enough to my liking and cuffs often sit well above my wrist bone) I find the 18 inch hoop quite hard to manoeuvre when it’s in my lap….I imagine it would be perfect for quilting feathers and cabling when you need lots of space to manoeuver and perhaps I’ll do some fancier quilting like that again when I quilt up “dear ethel”.
Some years ago when I made a huge sampler quilt that my mum now has, each of the blocks in the centre was quilted with a different pattern, cabling ran along the sashing and a double or triple cable ran over the flying geese border. Using the hoop helped me focus on each block as I quilted it without being distracted by what was happening in other parts of the patchwork. It’s nice to do fancy things like that for other people but I rarely bother for myself.
My favourite hand quilting book is The Essential Quilter by Barbara Chainey….it was recommended to me by the lady who taught me to quilt and I’ve not found better for the basics….it’s very clearly written and easy to follow. The only downside is that the quilts in it are a bit dated and fuddy duddy looking in my opinion but the workmanship is amazing. In the back of the book are some simple shapes which you can trace or photocopy to make templates to quilt around.
And as I mentioned in my patchwork essentials piece, I’ve also got a book which was like 25p or something from a car boot simply called Patchwork. It’s part of the traditional needle arts collection and is written by Diana Lodge……it covers a nice range of patchwork designs and although some of the colours and fabric choices aren’t really my cup of tea, the information inside is very sound.
And to be honest that’s it, little extras like fabric grips have only come much later in my quilt making. I do use a thimble and mostly just use a regular metal one from nannys workbox that is a bit of a loose fit, I wrap a bit of scrap cotton fabric around my finger tip to protect my finger nail and it also helps with the thimble sweating (I find the thimble gets warm which I don’t like the feel of)… My dad made me a couple of little leather ones which were really comfy but I managed to lose those in a house move. I’ve also gotten on well with shop bought ones, preferring the all leather ones to any with bits of metal in them, but they are a bit pricey.
I also have a little velvet strawberry needle sharpener that was from the Royal School of Needlework, this was bought with birthday money from my dear friend Joyce so now she’s no longer with us it’s become very dear…but a cheaper one filled with emery will work fine to keep your needle tips sharp. (note, if you do buy the Clover Black Gold then don’t sharpen them, the emery removes their black coating)….for me a quilt is all about time, slow stitches rather than a fat purse in which to go wild at a local fabric store with.
If you ever get the chance there is a fantastic collection of quilts at The American Museum just outside of Bath…the collection regularly rotates what’s on display. There are some really breathtaking quilts on show and may of them incorporate scraps and would have been made with what was to hand.
Most important though, please don’t think you need to have a lot of money to make a quilt, at the end of the day all a quilt is is layers of fabric stitched together. It shouldn’t be something that only people with big purses and endless pockets are able to make. I remember that I found it very daunting when I first started quilting, like I was the poor relation and felt ashamed that I wasn’t able to buy metres and metres of fabric brand new, but then I got to wondering why was I thinking like this and began to think of the possibilities and opportunities in using fabric and fibres sourced from other places.
The house is quiet, the heating hasn’t come on yet so I’m all bundled up with a blanket pulled down from the back of the sofa, Bernard is feeling somewhat sociable and has decided to cuddle up close to me, half on my lap, half on a cushion, his purring vibrates and trembles along side me and it’s one of the most comforting all is right with the world sensations I know…. the feel of my knitting is close becoming a second one.
The last couple of days have seen him wriggle up under my knitting where he can sprawl out on my lap and be enveloped in sheepy scents and warm stitches….he’s so contrary as he’s gone right off bed time cuddles but is perfectly content to be a lap cat when we’re alone.
I’m not far from finishing the shawl now…I’m sure it feels like I’ve been knitting it an age and rabbiting on about it forever, (my first shawl I started back in October) but actually it’s taken me just under 3 weeks so I’m quite pleased with my progress from those first struggling and wobbly stitches, and wholly appreciate everyones patience while I’ve knitted it. This started out as a blog about my sewing, what inspires me and from time to time bread and baking and Bernard would all make an appearance….of late though sewing projects have been properly neglected but not forgotten about…often when I’ve been knitting, I’ve needed to stop and scribble down new ideas for ideas and thoughts for projects that had only been hazy at best seem somewhat clearer……allowing my mind to wander off while making woolly stitches has allowed those ideas to grow, and jumbles of thoughts seem to be making more sense now.
When I was knitting the first shawl which had to then be un-ravelled, I asked a group on Ravelry that were discussing interchangable needles how they went about choosing the ones they ended up buying, and several knitters were kind enough to give me some advice which boiled down to try a few different brands to see which feels good for you, look through the sets a brand offers and buy a needle size that isn’t in the set (often the 3 mm isn’t in there) see what cable size is offered in the set, and like the needle, think about buying one that may not be in the set…and then have a play, try them and see which suits you.
A few years ago for my birthday present, my boyfriends parents gave me a voucher for an on-line knitting shop and I spent it all on wooden Brittany knitting needles…at the time I only had a couple of pairs but I really liked the feel of them in my hands so much. I was only able to do garter stitch and stocking stitch but knew I liked those needles and it made sense, even as an absolute beginner, nice needles would inspire me to get better…..every single time I open the wrap I made for those needles, pick out a pair and use them I think of Kathy and Phil…so when they gave me money for my most recent birthday I knew I wanted to get some interchangable needles……
I had a look at what was available locally at first and the only ones I could find were Knit Pro ones with the swirly patterns on them…..I’ve tried them but just looking at them makes me feel all swirly myself, and I know if I knitted with them for any length of time they’d make me all headachy…..anyway I then had a look on-line and wanted to try the three brands that had been suggested to me…Knit Pro, HiyaHiya and Chiaogoo….now this is another one of those wonderful serendipitous moments which I seem to be experiencing a lot with my knitting…..I only seemed to find one place* that sold all three brands, and they had both the Knit Pro Karbonz and rosewood Cubics which I’d really wanted to try……so I ordered a selection and a few days later my parcel arrived, all beautifully packaged.
It was only when I turned the parcel over and saw the return address that I had to stop and shake my head…the return address was Bramfield…it’s the next village along to where I grew up and where some of my family still live. I emailed Anj to say the parcel had arrived and mentioned how I was orignially from just down the road and she laughed as her and her family regularly take walks over Blackheath, which is part of the common land that surrounds Wenhaston…..
(I just needed to show a picture of the goldenrod and sorrel…..as soon as I started using the Knit Pro Cubics with this wool I felt I was back in the late Summer, walking around our favourite blackberry bush, picking berries and noticing the mustard and rust colours of the wild flowers that were growing there then)
My dad had always lived in Wenhaston, and often on Sunday afternoons we’d go for family afternoon strolls around the village…this was back in the seventies and we’d often see other families out, walking off Sunday lunches…even when me and my sisters had all grown up and moved, my mum and dad would still go for walks……when he died my mum received permission from the village to have a bench made in memory of my dad, and then had it placed on Blackheath, this was where he’d played and had gotten up to all sorts of larks and high jinks as a boy…anyone tired can have a sit, rest their legs awhile and admire the view.. ..there’s a little plaque on the bench with his name…..Anj has told me since that she often sits on this bench, watching her dog and boys have a right good run around, and it means a lot to her as her dad is/was also a Brian……
So even though this was quite by chance, it seems knitting this shawl has in a most roundabout way bought me back to thoughts of home and where I’m from…….I can’t not hold this knitting and think of people I love…from birthday money for wool and needles, thinking of Anj sitting on dad’s bench to the sound of her family playing, beads threaded up by little grubby hands, squirreled away and re-found in a vintage sewing box bought by my boyfriend for me…….While I’ve often thought about the connections when I’m hand piecing patchwork, remembering who gave me the fabric, (I’ve often described my patchworks as feeling like I’m looking at a photo album, remembering so many people that have meant the world to me)…..this morning looking at my shawl it seems I can really feel it in my knitting too…..
*Meadowyarn is a lovely on-line shop, they have a brilliant range of needles and yarn, and notions and patterns and oh, everything else I can think that would make a knitter feel they were in paradise.
I wanted to say that these rosewood needles by Knit Pro are really lovely to use, admitedly they look a bit odd as they are square sided, but they look a lot stranger than they feel, they’re nice and comfy, the wood means they feel warm in my hands (as I suffer from Raynaud’s warm needles is a plus)….I decided to buy the shorter length as I hold my needles right at the top so I didn’t think the longer ones would be quite as suitable. Their look make me feel like I’m knitting with something that has been made from my nanny’s sideboard, as they are all polished/laquered, but this is just me having a passing fancy……I haven’t had the chance to really test out the other needles I bought but I plan to very soon, however, I have really liked these ones and wanted to give a mention to Meadowyarn as I’ve been very impressed with their customer service.