Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Midsummer in Winter

There must be some keen knitters at BBC Radio 4 to come up with the idea of a knitting challenge to cheer up the grey days of January.  I certainly hope it does have a general cheering effect, it's certainly got knitters in a flurry.

The challenge is to knit an item that references R4, anything from bits of radio equipment, to characters and journalists, or even whole programs.  Now you might be forgiven for thinking that my new year's resolution to knit from stash this year, including a pair of socks a month, is quite enough for one body but how could I resist?  So I reposted the R4 Facebook plea on my timeline and asked my friends for suggestions.

The one I liked best was "Gardeners Question Time" based on the lines from A Midsummer's Night's dream

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine
with sweet musk roses and eglantine

And so I give you the Midsummer (in Winter) Hat

kindly modelled by TLM (who was wearing a high pony tail today)

This is how I set about making it

A dive into my stash for some suitable colours (in Drops alpaca), my book shelves for books on colour work and the internet for some photographs of the five flowers I need to represent.

 I decided that the thyme was well enough represented in words  and that I would knit woodbine (honeysuckle) and eglantine (dog-rose) in stranded colour work and oxlip (cowslip), musk-rose and violet in 3D

A bit of planning with pencil and paper

The lettering template is a free Ravelry download, the pictures from google images and my lovely notebook with squared ruling is by Clairefontaine the brilliant French exercise book company

Some messy swatching
The hat is for TLM so I needed a slightly smaller head circumference than my own and the stitch count needed to allow for the repeats in the flower motifs.  However perfunctory, swatching is a must when winging a design.  I got 30 stitches to 10cm with the Drops Alpaca 4 ply on a 2.75mm needle.  As always with such a simple shape (a tube sewn at the top into three points) I planned to go off piste for the most part but these are the instructions I gave myself

  • Cast on 126 stitches and join in the round (I knit in the round with two shortish cable needles but the hat is just as easily knitted in magic loop fashion or with DPNs)
  • Knit 2 cm in K
  • 4 rounds P
  • 1 cm in K1P1 rib
  • 4 rounds P
  • 2 rounds K
  • knit the words the wild thyme blows over 10 rounds K (filling in the space at the end of the words with little flowers)
  • 2 rounds K
  • 4 rounds P
  • 2 rounds K
  • Knit the woodbine (honeysuckle) pattern over 15 rounds K

  • 2 rounds K
  • 4 rounds P
  • 2 rounds K
  • knit the words I know a bank where over 10 rounds K (filling in the space at the end of the words with dots)
  • Knit the eglantine (dog rose) pattern over 15 rounds (I know that gardeners question time listeners will tell me the flower has 5 petals but knitters may agree with me that five is a tricky number in stranded colour work!)
  • 2 rounds K
  • 4 rounds P
  • 4 rounds K
  • cast off
  • sew cast off edges together to make three points
  • knit three flowers (Oxlips, voilets and musk-rose) and sew one to the end of each section

a bit baggy and bumpy

It is better when knitting in two colours to keep the work a little too loose than too tight.  It looks bumpy at this stage but it will even out when soaked and blocked

close-ups of the flowery top-knot

The flower stems are i-cords and the leaves and flowers are a combination of crochet and knitting.  I consulted the flower patterns in Knitted Edgings & Trims then rather heavily adapted them and the crochet petals of the (over large) violet and cowslip I made up as I went along



Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Who needs new year's resolutions?

Today,  unsurprisingly, my social network feeds are full of comment on the New Year.  Some friends hate it and intend to spend the evening on the sofa with their heads under a cushion, some will party. There are posts, full of hope and optimism, others simply wishing good riddance to 2014.  And there are the resolutions...  I have always gone with the flow and accepted invitations if they come but not really initiated anything but when it comes to resolutions I  have always thought these just set me up to fail, but sometimes I would like to rid myself of the tendency to over commit.

Always dreaming of new projects

Lately I have been thinking vaguely about sitting back and taking stock, to try and be more mindful, not keep up my usual frantic pace which is sometimes just displacement activity. So much of what I do is an excuse not to deal with one or two big issues that have been plaguing me for a couple of years. So in 2015 I'm going to shape up!  But this is a crafting blog, primarily a knitting one, so I will concentrate on one big area of displacement activity, my yarn buying habit.

I couldn't risk it's super chunky squooshynes
My stash is out of hand.  Once I would buy yarn for specific projects and although it often went straight into stash at least it was bought with something to make in mind.  Lately yarn has been bought simply because I liked the colour, the texture or like some demented collector 'ooh I don't have any Madeleine Tosh sock yarn, must buy!' (actually I don't...) I just had to have it.

Then this morning I followed a hashtag on Instagram #personalmysterysockclub2015 . The idea is that many of us don't need to join sock clubs we just dive into our stash and find enough sock yarn to knit 12 pairs of socks from right there, bag it up and label it one for each month.  This bit is easy

Socks around the clock

Although I have cheated slightly and included two UFOs

And following around the clock the yarns are :-
1. UFO#1 half completed sock in Sweet Georgia Yarns Tough Love Sock
2. Sweet Georgia Cashluxe fine
3. (just peeping through) Lopi left overs from these socks (I'm sure there will be enough for a second pair)
4. Opal self striping
5. Fibrespates Vivacious
6. John Arbon Alpaca sock
7. Tiger 100% wool sock (extra cheap this stuff)
8. Manos del Uruguay sock
9. Bergere de France cotton and linen mix
10. NiMu summer sock club 2014
11. More Sweet Georgia Tough Love Sock
12. West Yorkshire Spinners 4 ply spice collection

There is still the question of whether I will stick to my resolution but it's all bagged up ready


(In bags that tell the tale of my yarn buying habit!)

sheepish labels

And, of course, I still have some much larger projects on the go to, like the Lead Light cardigan which I'm knitting in Fybrespates Scrumptious

the yoke in colour work and cables

And a baby blanket for the next arrival in the family, due in April (I'm using the pattern Vivid from Tin Can Knits)

the new mum's choice of baby colours

So No More Yarn Buying This Year.  If I make the socks and knit up some of my stash specifically earmarked for sweaters and shawls I may let myself shop in 2016.

I'll keep you posted



The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

My Christmas card to you

My usual pattern of behaviour at Christmas is to be in total denial until the first card hits the mat on 1 December (Christmas? Oh, is it Christmas soon?) then some frantic activity so that 2 days before Christmas I'm feeling smug as it is all done.


Two days left before the present opening, the wine drinking and the turkey eating and I have not wrapped a thing, have three more presents to buy, one to knit and batches and batches of sausage rolls and mince pies to make.

But I have been having a lot of fun and doing a bit of foreign travel

Before that I managed to get the presents that needed posting off, including the hand knit ones

And put up the tree

And just to give me a little extra to do decided to make a gingerbread house with a difference with TLM (I haven't mentioned her for a while so in case you have popped in for the first time she is The Little Model, my granddaughter who likes to try on the things I  knit) - we made a nativity scene

But what about the foreign travel bit? Well a little on the spur of the moment my friend The Famous Writer and I flew to Berlin last Friday for nearly three days in the luxurious Hotel Adlon.  I'll tell more about the fabulous hotel and our wonderful time in a later post, it was so lovely the hotel deserves a post all of it's own. But for the moment, here is the view from our Breakfast table at the hotel

And this the Berliner Dome in the part of the city that was once East Berlin so wonderfully lit (as are many of the buildings) and where we heard Bach's Christmas Oratorio on our first night there.

Finally last night the holidays really began chez chopkinsknits when ten friends from my knitting group came for our Christmas supper in my studio

Happy Christmas Everyone



P.S. that present I have yet to knit? It is likely to be given as a promise on Christmas day, a promise that it will be finished in time for the recipient to keep warm on the station platform as he returns to work in the New Year

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Didn't we have a 'loverly' day, the day we went to...

...Bath and I discovered a new yarn store. I know, I know! This will receive one of two reactions from you. Knitters will ask - Where? then be checking Google maps to see if its in an easy day's drive and either crying 'don't tease me'* or be checking diaries to see when they are next free to drive to Bath. OTOH if you are a non knitter and yet still occasionally wander into this knitter's space you might say 'so what, chopkins? You know so many wool shops, why the excitement?' But you see no matter how many yarn shops we addicts visit there is always the desire to discover the next one.  And this one is a gem.  The bunting over the door spells out its name. 

*It's OK they sell on-line as well

A Yarn Story is situated just outside Bath in a new little clutch of shops occupying an old cider press, called The Shed.  Carmen is the knitterly owner of A Yarn Story and her small-but-perfectly-formed  shop is a treasure trove of yarns you won't find on the high street. She stocks wonderful yarns from independent producers, including my all time favourite Superwash DK by Sweet Georgia, fluff to spin from Porpoise-Fur and several yarns by Malabrigo ...............

The brand new shop is hung with several lovely shawls that demonstrate how fab the yarns are knitted up (the cognoscenti will spot a couple of color affections amongst the cobwebby delights) 

and Carmen positively encourages people who hover on the threshold to come in and squish* the merchandise.

*A technical term

There are plenty of accessories too, including the whole range of Soak Wash products, buttons, stitch markers and of course needles.  To mis-quote William Morris, everything in the shop is both useful and beautiful. You can even pick up your copy of Pompom Quarterly here too. I bought more but these two are particularly photogenic

a skein of Malabrigo and a bundle of Porpoise fur from A Yarn Story

There's enough to see at the Shed for a whole morning with a cook shop, deli counter, cafe and of course a cider shop as well as a little gallery selling beautiful jackets and scarves in hand painted fabric, ceramics and more buttons

But I wasn't just on a visit to The Shed, I was on a Yarn Crawl (too much I hear everyone call, in different tones of voice) and Bath beckoned. At this point I should mention that the yarn crawl was organised by my two friends Porpoise Fur and Champagne & Qiviut  who together are Yarn In The City and who organise the annual Great London Yarn Crawl.

So after an hour or so at The Shed we got back on the bus for central Bath and the Christmas market. Wow it was crowded but we split up into small groups and headed off into the melee, lunching on Bratwurst and gluhwein before exploring the stalls. 

After a call into Country Threads (where I just may have added to my not insignificant patchwork fabric and ribbon collections)

we crossed Pierrepont Place into Old Orchard Street and collapsed in heaps of shopping bags into Wool to be revived with mulled wine and tiny cakes in the shape of Christmas puds.

Despite full shopping bags nearly all of us managed to add to our stashes in between glasses of wine before meandering off to find our coach.  I have written about Wool before, having discovered it three years ago when I had a tiny part in the Bath Literary Festival.  It is still the same lovely welcoming place with lots of interesting yarns, a squishy sofa to sit while looking through their huge supply of knitting pattern books and lots of helpful advice from Laura and her staff

Oh and I forgot to mention the knitting that was actually done on the day, two long journeys meant lots were achieved, now I just need to find time to finish the second mitten!

And finally, as Alli and Rachel said, it wouldn't be a yarn crawl without a goody bag and - look what was inside!

So sweet!  An entire kit to make a beautiful Christmas ornament including a pattern from Renee of East London Knits and Yarn from Linda at Kettle Yarn Co.  The ribbon (can you just see it says 'Hand Knitted' and 'Sew Happy") was a gift from Country Threads.

Bath is not my last adventure before Christmas, I have one more very exciting trip (more about that in a couple of weeks) but now I really must knuckle down and finish my Christmas knitting. I have been told some people's expectations are riding high (I wonder if they will be OK sewing the ends in themselves?)



Beautiful hand-made buttons from the gallery shop in The Shed

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

No! they are not my knitting/sewing/reading glasses!

There was a time when we used to tease my Mother-in-law about her spectacle collection.  She would be cooking and searching for her glasses. Because there were pairs everywhere around the house, one of the grandchildren would quickly rush up with a pair 

'no no they are my television glasses'

'these grandma?'

'no they are for knitting'

And so it went on till about the fifth pair was produced.  This pair was usually pretty ropey, often had an arm missing and certainly scratched lenses.  She had a system you see. Once a year she would visit the optician for new glasses for embroidery, strong magnifiers that enabled her to make the finest cross stitch for wall hangings, Christmas and Birthday cards.

This is some of her work

part of a sampler made for my second daughters birth day

Then the older glasses would be passed down the supply chain, knitting, reading, television and lastly cooking.  Now I'm older and need my own battery of spectacles, it's not quite so funny.  I may buy them off the peg these days but I still need one pair for screen, one for reading, one for knitting etc and now I understand. And now I am for ever searching for the right ones.

So, when I saw these from Which Glasses Are Which in the National Maritime museum shop


I sent out a cheeky tweet "Great idea but where are the knitting glasses?" and guess what?  They were in production.  It is so lovely when you make friends with someone on twitter, progress to e mail and when you meet for coffee you really like them and a proper friendship begins.  Hilly is the graphic designer behind these fab glasses and the reason she began with musicians glasses is she plays the viola and noticed she was not the only musician who had more than one pair of glasses with taped labels on them (in her case four!)

So here is the big TaDa!! moment, the sewing and knitting glasses case is here!

sewing and knitting

Hilly has sent me two, so I can show you the lovely velvety black lining (there is a high quality polishing cloth in there too).

mine, all mine

You can also see them in the wild with my own knitting and glasses

In the wild

If I did not already have a case I would be hoping for one in my Christmas stocking.  There are now six designs (reading, driving, cinema and gardening as well as music and sewing/knitting).  We always found it so hard to think of what to give, not just mother-in-law but all the grandparents, for presents.  We wanted something that was pretty, useful and not just a gesture, something like these would have been brilliant, although no cooks glasses case yet MIL was also a crossword fiend so the readers case would have been good as well as the sewing & knitting and TV & cinema ones.

You can buy them from the Royal Maritime Museum shop of course but much more conveniently (unless you live in Greenwich) from Not On The High Street or (if you live in Australia) from hardtofind [edit] they are on Etsy tooThey have all the different designs there and I have also put photographs of them here, below. You can have them personalised too







PS This is not a paid for post.  While I may in the future carry advertisements in the right hand column for which I will charge if I write about a product in the blog itself it will always be because I personally like it and wish to chat about it

Monday, 17 November 2014

WW1 Knitting update

Do you remember my April post about knitting for a community film project? Well, a couple of weeks ago I (and JTH, the cast, crew and over 100 knitters) went to the premiere.  There was such a sense of excitement in the cinema, in fact, so exciting it was that I forgot to take any photographs, so I have borrowed this one from Stewart

I talked about how the film (documenting real lives and losses in a Lincolnshire village during WW1) came about and how I became involved in my April blog post it is a lovely story and as well as reading about it in my previous post you can follow links from there to the film company's website which has been considerably updated since April.

I think that there are still discussions going on about how widely the film will be shown and whether it will all be available on line, but you can watch three little clips on YouTube. The film, focusing on the lives of the Crowder family, is beautifully drawn, the music wonderful and there are moments of real sadness.

But this is a knitting blog and I want to tell you about the work done by the huge team of knitters. Nearly all were recruited by word of mouth after the costumier of the film tweeted a plea for knitters. Elizabeth Lovick of Northern Lace and many other knitters responded and a Facebook group was formed.  Elizabeth with her encyclopaedic knowledge of knitting led the group of knitters who could make costumes for the film project.  The list of knitters on the film's credits was the longest list of all, well over 100, making things from tiny dolls clothes to coats. Practically every item worn in the film is on show in The Collection, a museum and exhibition space in the centre of Lincoln until 6 December

There are literally dozens of sweaters, (you can just see the brown waistcoat I knitted on the left of the third row back)...
sweaters and cardigans in all sizes
over 20 shawls, I also made the dark pink shawl in the middle on the right (more of that later)...

All the shawls
and entire outfits displayed on mannequins

Manequins in full costume

Although as a knitter I felt that the knitting was the star, there are some other lovely things to see at the exhibition, like  Violet's diary, below.  She was a VAD, nursing wounded soldiers in the local hospital, marrying one of the Crowder brothers after the war.

Violet Crowder's war time diary

Not all the costumes were made new for the film, these stunning blouses are vintage

fabulous lawn blouses with beautiful lace and hand stitching

I loved these small items, can you see the rifleman's gloves in the bottom right hand corner, that have thumb and trigger finger exposed?

Hats and gloves made to army regulation patterns

And now, for more excitement,  over 70 of the patterns that were developed for the film are available in a fabulous book, Centenary Stitches.  My copy arrived yesterday!

All our work, in print

But it's not just a book of knitting patterns, it also tells the story of the Crowder family, central to the  story, and lots about the making of the film and the search for contemporary knitting patterns.  I love the way the photograph below of Grace Crowder, the star of the film and the narrator... 

Grace Crowder

 led to Elizabeth Lovick designing a new pattern which closely follows the design of the original

Close up of Grace Crowder's cardigan, designed by Elizabeth Lovick (I love the collar detail)

There is a lovely photograph of the shawl I made in the book too

Pine cones shawl

If you buy this book (and I hope you do) a proportion of the proceeds will go to Combat Stress, the veterans mental health charity and the restoration fund for Thimbleby Church, the church at the centre of the village where the Crowders lived and one of the sets used in the film. You can buy it directly from the Northern Lace website and eventually (when a couple of glitches have been sorted) from Amazon UK as well as in the USA, In fact please do buy it from Northern Lace as this will mean more money goes to these two worthwhile charities

I have loved joining in with this project, it has felt so worthwhile, and lovely to be a part of something big.  Nice too, to see all we knitters acknowledged in the credits of the book as well as the film.  We intend to keep the Facebook page up for a while so that we can show off the projects we have knitted for ourselves from the book.  I am beginning with a hat.