Creative stash diving: re-purposing a knitting kit

A few weeks ago, I found myself between projects.  It was just a few days before I planned to head to Unravel and hopefully buy yarn.  But I wanted something on my needles right away, so went digging through my stash.

For an avid knitter, I have a fairly small stash.  And it has very few SQs of yarn.  (An SQ is a “sweater quantity”; obviously it is much easier to knit accessories from stash than sweaters, as you can easily use a single skein to make a hat or a pair of socks.)  I did, however, have a kit to knit this sweater:


© Marie Wallin

This sweater is called Wren and was designed by Marie Wallin.  I bought the kit for myself as a birthday present in 2016 (blogged here) and spent some time in 2017 contemplating whether to knit the yoke bottom up from a provisional cast on (blogged here).  I eventually became dis-enamored of this pattern and put it away to languish in the stash.  I can’t fully remember my reasons for this, but do remember spending hours, and more hours, trying to make sense of the directions.  I really didn’t like the way they were written, which seemed very counter-intuitive.  (I find this in general with Marie’s patterns, though I think her designs are gorgeous.)  I wanted to knit a between size and couldn’t calculate it, despite lots of math-fu.  And I decided, in the end, that I didn’t like the way the sweater fit.  So into the stash it went.

Upon finding this in my stash a few weeks ago, I decided to re-purpose it into something else; the question is: what?   I have for a long time wanted to knit something designed by Mary Annarella.  I remember falling in love with her very first published design: the Inaugural Sweater, designed at the time of Obama’s first inauguration.   I’ve been following her designs ever since, but have never knit one of them.  I did some swatching with the kit yarn – Titus, a fingering weight wool from baa ram ewe here in the UK.  And then I poked around Mary’s patterns for designs knit with the same gauge, and decided on Knit me Baby One More Time:

© Mary Annarella

This pattern had the right gauge, and allowed me to fool around with the lovely shades of the Titus from the Wren kit.  I cast on with the blue-grey and then switched to the lovely rich blue for the main colour:


The knitting just flew off my needles, in part due to the fantastic pattern.  (I love the pattern.  I plan to gush about it in my next post.)


I decided at the very start to do some cool colour blocking with the small mini-skeins of Titus from the kit.  I chose one of the greens for the bottom ribbing and the rust shade for the sleeve ribbing.


I am totally loving this detail of the colour blocking at the sleeve (ignore the terrible photo of me, taken late at night with bad lighting):


I exaggerated this detail by picking up the sleeve stitches with the light blue and knitting a row before switching to the main colour.  I think it looks super cool.  One of the things that is so great about this pattern is that it is so beautifully written and fitted, that you can use it as a canvas for all sorts of lovely colourwork.  I am very much enjoying picking and choosing the colours from the original kit and deciding how to use them in this tee.  Stay tuned for the neckline ribbing!

On a more somber note, we are staying at home, trying to be responsible and stay safe in the face of the rapid spread of Covid-19 through Europe.  I was in Copenhagen early in the week, and returned home just three days before they closed their borders.  The UK is so far following a different strategy than the rest of Europe, and this means that we are still open for business.  Doug and I are working from home as much as possible, though I have teaching scheduled all week.  I imagine that things will continue to change on a daily basis.  We are prepared, however, for some period of isolation. We have knitting, books, and guitars to keep us occupied.  This is a very scary time, but we know that knitting and other creative hobbies can help to allay anxiety.  Please stay safe!

A quickie

I will be teaching all weekend, and then hopping on a plane to Copenhagen Sunday evening.  I will definitely not have time to write a post this weekend, so I thought I’d put up a (very) quick post this evening to show you what I’m working on.

Here is my newest project:


The pattern is called Knit Me Baby One More Time and is designed by Mary Annarella.  Although the above photo shows how much progress I’ve made, it doesn’t show the colours all that well.  The below photo is a truer match; the light colour is more grey than blue, and the deep blue is richer.


I am knitting it with yarn from deep stash, which makes me very happy.  (By the wonders of knitting mathematics, the fact that I bought the yarn some years ago means that this project is free!)


Doug and I spent the weekend in London.  On Saturday, we went to Collect: The International Art Fair for Modern Craft and Design, held at Somerset House.  This was an amazing event.  It will now go on my yearly calendar of must-see events.  We spent today walking around in the sunshine and then catching the Troy exhibit at the British Museum.  While in town, I managed to get some photos of a project I finished a few weeks ago.


This is the Hyggelig Hat, designed by Verena Cohrs.  Hyggelig is a Norwegian word meaning “nice, pleasant, cosy, comfortable.”  I think that right now we could all use a bit of huggelig.


I saw this hat at Yarnporium in 2018, where I bought the yarn (I blogged about it here).  The yarn is Tulliver Yarn British Masham Blue-faced Leicester in the colour Scarlet 60, which I think is the perfect shade of red.


One of the things that makes the hat so cosy is the brim, which is a double layer.  The inside layer is cast on provisionally and knitted in stockinette stitch.  The decorative brim is then knitted, and the brim is folded in two and the two ends are knitted together. It makes a thick, warm, brim which is incredibly neat and tidy.  Here is the inside of the hat:


Here I am with Achilles, who seems to be indifferent to my hat:


Doug, however, isn’t:


I think this is a lovely project.  It was fun to knit and is lovely to wear.  However, chances are good that it won’t be mine for long!


On Friday afternoon, I was happy to spend a few hours at the Unravel festival of yarn in Farnham.  It was the first day of the weekend festival, and yet there were so many people there – it was lively and fun, and we both had a great time.  I wandered around looking at everything until I realised that I had only 40 minutes left to shop, and then I went a little wild.  Here is my complete haul:


Surprisingly, most of it was not yarn.  I bought Felicity Ford’s Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook, a book I had wanted for a long time.  We stopped and chatted at the BIPOC in Fiber booth, and were happy to purchase a canvas tote and pin to help show our support for diversity in the knitting community.


I bought three knitting bags from Pink Hazel.  One is a project bag, and the other two are needle holders – one for DPNs and one for interchangeable needles.  I asked Doug which one I should buy, and he said “Buy all three”.  This might be an indication of the the mess that my needles are currently in, or the fact that I can never find a particular needle when I need one.


I bought six skeins of Kettle Yarn Beyul DK, a blend of Baby Yak, Silk, and Ethical SW Merino,  in a lovely sandy grey shade.  I have a particular project in mind for this, of which more later.


I spent some time admiring the buttons at Textile Garden, and couldn’t resist buying these unusual ones:wp-1582476344895.jpg

I had a lovely time chatting with others. I was completely thrilled to meet Jeanette Sloan, who is not only a talented designer but is also charming and friendly.  (I love her latest book, Warm Hands, co-edited with Kate Davies.)  I spent some time with Jen and Jim Arnall-Culliford (that’s me and Jen below):


One of the best things about a yarn festival is that there are so many samples to try on and to fondle.  I particularly liked this cowl from The Little Grey Sheep:


(There is a pullover to match the cowl which is fantastic, and which Emma has already claimed an interest in.  Now that I’ve seen it in person, it has moved up my list.)

I was also thrilled to see a knitted sample of Olga Buraya-Kefelian’s shawl, Koko.  I was 80% decided to knit this shawl, and now that I have seen it in person, I like it even more:


I’d love to post more photos from the festival.  Unfortunately, I asked Doug to take on the role of photographer, and when I came home nearly all of the photos were of me handing over my credit card:


Doug apparently thought this was funny.

For his part, Doug seemed just as happy to wander around and chat with exhibitors.  Later that evening, when we arrived home, I discovered that Doug had bought me the really cool Flight of Stitch Markers from Coco Knits.  Also, wrapped up in a small package slipped among the other goodies, was a gorgeous sterling silver shawl pin, crafted by Lyn Roberts Design:


It is clear that I should always take Doug with me when I attend a yarn fair!

All these lovely knitting goodies, and I have a new project on my needles to boot:


I’ve had a nice, relaxing yarn-filled weekend.  I hope that you have as well.

The “Cool Boots” Shawl goes Neutral!

Here is my finished version of the Cool Boots Shawl in neutrals:


I designed this pattern a few years ago and offered it for free on the blog to celebrate my 300th post.  The original was knit in shades of red, coral, and fuchsia in fingering weight wool:


I am a bright colours kind of girl and I love this original version – I have worn it everywhere – but I had an inkling that it would also be great in neutral tones.  I had some beautiful skeins of Blue Sky Fibers Metalico in Opal, Gold Dust, and Silver, and decided to give them a try.


I purchased the yarn at Tribe, a lovely yarn store in Richmond, London.  Doug and I wandered in there last summer, and I spent at least an hour picking out yarn, and then just as I was checking out, I spied these beautiful skeins of Blue Sky Metalico.  Milli, the very charming owner of Tribe, told me of a lovely shawl she had made some years ago from these same three shades, and I ended up putting away the other yarn and buying three skeins in each colour.  They then sat in a box at home for quite a while before I had the idea to use them to knit another Cool Boots.


The yarn is gorgeous.  It is a sportweight yarn, 50% alpaca and 50% silk.  It is soft and silky, and has lots of bounce.   It is a bit splitty to work with as it is unplied, but so soft on the hands, and it is truly luminescent.  Notice the way the colours change dramatically against the white background of the top photo and the warm beiges of the photo above.  (The fantastic Gold Dust really pops against the white wall, while the Opal takes prominence against the warm bricks and stone.)  Notice also how transparent and airy the yarn looks against the light:


While I was knitting this, I became fairly skeptical about it.  It looked so plain and unexciting compared to my more usual brights, and in particular compared to the original Cool Boots Shawl.  But I must say that my opinion changed dramatically (as did the shawl) once it was blocked.  The texture, post blocking, is so fantastic; its hard to describe but it is bouncy and springy.  It has weight to it, but it also flows and drapes and catches the breeze:


The shawl is knit sideways, with long triangles formed by short rows; it leads to the lovely assymetry of the two sides as above.   (You can see the shaping clearly if you look at the pattern post.)  The only changes that I made to the pattern were to accomodate the sportweight yarn.  I used a US5 needle instead of a US4, and I cast on 348 stitches instead of 380.  It turned out almost the same size – it blocked out to 19″ x 70″.


There is a storm battering the UK today, but yesterday we took these photos in the lovely town of Watlington.  The sun came out and the town made a perfect backdrop for a photo shoot.  It even provided the answer to life, the universe, and everything:


Nevertheless, I was very happy to get back into my coat afterwards, and enjoy a coffee:


While I love the original shawl, I must admit that I do find it a bit itchy on my neck.  It was knit with a very wool-y wool, and while I love the way the wool holds the garter stitch so beautifully, I have found that I am wearing it less often because of the itch factor.  This shawl is cozy and soft with zero itch.  So it not only looks fabulous, but it is very comfortable.  Even this guy thinks it deserves a toast:


I am now cozy inside while the storm rages.  I have been working on a hat this week, and it has turned out too small, but there is something rather fitting about ripping out a project during a storm; don’t you think?  I have a box of homemade truffles and a cup of tea.  Bliss.

Knitting: science not fluff

In my previous life (not very long ago) I was the manager of a neuroscience centre -CINN, at the University of Reading, UK.  While there, I was very interested in knitting and the brain, and in the therapeutic benefits of knitting.  I connected with Betsan Corkhill, who is a trained physiotherapist and an expert on the therapeutic effects of knitting, and together we tried to thrum up an interest in funding scientific research on the topic.  (If you haven’t done so, you should read the interview I posted with Betsan here.)  While I’ve moved back into an academic post, I continue to be involved in the knitting research at the centre.

I am happy to report that we have now started a research project into knitting and wellness, run by Dr. Etienne Roesch.  Also engaged in the project are Felicity Ford and Lorna Hamilton-Brown.  Felicity (better known as Felix) is the author of the Knitsonic Stranded Colourwork Playbook which encourages knitters to find inspiration in the everyday and translate it into stranded colourwork design. She recently won a Best Practice award from the International Women’s Day for her collaboration with Kate Davies on a commemorative knitted quilt.  Lorna is an artist and film-maker, and an exuberant “knitting evangelist”.  Her Masters Dissertation from the Royal College of Arts is called Myth: Black People Don’t Knit, and she was awarded an MBE by the Queen.  I very much enjoyed meeting with them this week and look forward to our collaboration.

Lorna, Kelly, and Felix

Lorna Hamilton-Brown, Kelly Sloan, and Felicity Ford

Over 6000 knitters have already completed our questionnaire.  You can too!  Here’s how:

Do you like knitting or crocheting, regularly or even not so regularly? Would you like to be part in a study to explore the psychological effects from knitting and crocheting? If so, you can fill in our set of questionnaires at the address below. This should take only 10-15 minutes of your time. You will also be given the opportunity to play an online game and enter a raffle for a £50 Amazon voucher.

It’s a very stormy Sunday here in the UK, but I am happily holed inside with my knitting.  Hibernation is not just for bears!

Ease into the year

I’ve finished my first knitted project of the year:


(It perhaps helps that I started it in September.)  This a a design by the designer Torhild Trydal, for Isager.  This pattern is not on Ravelry; I purchased it at the yarn store Sommerfuglen in Copenhagen.  The pattern is called Torhild’s Snoning, and I bought both a print copy, and the yarn there.

The pullover is knit with two strands of yarn held together: Isager Strik Aran Tweed in Green and Isager Strik Silk Mohair in 37 Bottle Green.  It knits up really fast on a US10.5/6.5mm needle, at a stitch gauge of 13.5 stitches/4 inches.  It took me four months to knit this because I spent most of that time either not knitting at all, or knitting something else.  If you were monogamous, you could easily finish this in under a month.


This was a gift for my daughter Emma, who is modelling here. Emma is very slim and willowy, and the pattern is “One size fits all” with a 54 inch circumference.  This means that there is LOTS of positive ease.  In fact, on Emma, it has 22 inches of positive ease:


While this massive amount of ease looks cute on someone like Emma, and is clearly in style, I think it could have been made with a wee bit less.  You wouldn’t fit this under a coat.  You can really see the extra volume from the back:


Emma, I might point out, likes the drape of this pullover.  Blocking made a really big difference to the feel and the resulting fabric is very warm, very soft, and with lots of movement – it doesn’t have a heavy feel to it.  That said, both Emma and I agree that if I were to make it again, I would probably aim for about 6-8 inches less ease.  (By the way, if you are not as slim and willowy as Emma, and want to make this for yourself, you might want to keep it as written.  It looks good on me as is – with 12 inches of ease – but it is way too warm for me to wear.)


I like the way Emma has styled it.  It looks cute with these flowered trousers and red boots.  It is a very rustic looking pullover, so I had imagined it with jeans or leggings, but as usual, Emma manages to mix up styles in an engaging way.

A special thank you to Ina, who helped me to translate from the Danish.  I made a few changes, mostly to the neckline.  I changed the way that I made the decreases along the neck edges, and also added 30 stitches to the neckline, which I then knit with a smaller needle.  I really like the way this turned out.


I almost didn’t post today.  This weekend, the first after the UK has left the EU, has left me terribly sad and angry.   But then I realised that I could show you a beautiful project, designed by an EU designer, knit with wool from an EU company, bought in an EU yarn store, and modelled by my lovely multi-national daughter, who was raised in the EU.


Best wishes to all my readers, wherever you live, with hopes that knitting has no borders.