monday stuff

pompommakers

Can one develop an addiction to pompom makers? If so, I fear I am sorely afflicted, for I am now the proud owner of several different varieties in a range of sizes — the most recent of which is pictured above. These tiny and rather pleasing contraptions will enable me to turn out miniature fluffy balls under an inch in diameter — which will hopefully add the final ridiculously festive finishing touches to these mitts . . .

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. . . and these mittens

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(I do apologise for the quality of these photographs — daylight is a rare commodity in Scotland right now.)

In other news:
If you would like to WIN a signed copy of Colours of Shetland, you have two opportunities to do so: first in the Visit Shetland December Newsletter, and second in the latest issue of Let’s Knit, in which I and the book both feature.

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Finally, Tom is about to celebrate an (ahem) significant birthday, so we are taking a few days off and going somewhere really exciting to celebrate over a dram or two as old as he is.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TOM!

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I confess that I am really looking forward to a wee break as I have been rather occupied of late, as you can imagine. For us, Tom’s birthday signals the start of the festive season, which round here is a time of maximum relaxation / pie eating / film watching / long winter walk-taking. Bring it on!

When we return I will have some Snawpaws to show you. . .

Until then x

Jean Moss interview and giveaway


(Ceilidh)

Today I’m really pleased to bring you an interview with Jean Moss, as part of the blog tour for her new book, Sweet Shawlettes, which has just been published. With twenty-five different designs, this book is a veritable showcase of cowls, shawls, capelets and collars. Small projects provide an ideal canvas for exploring new techniques, and one of the most distinctive things about Jean’s book is the sheer range of knitterly styles and techniques it covers. So if you have never tried entrelac, intarsia, or shadow knitting, there’s a nifty project or two in here for you.


(Penumbra)

Perhaps contrarily, given its impressive technical range, my favourite design in Sweet Shawlettes is possibly the simplest – Enigma – a dramatic and contemporary two-piece shawl. Knit in plain stockinette with two sweet-shop shades of kidsilk haze, it has a truly elegant simplicity.


(Enigma)

Working with Rowan, and Jamieson and Smith, as well as international brands like Ralph Lauren and Benetton, Jean has been at the forefront of British knitwear design for more than three decades. Based in the UK, but traveling all over the world, the trajectory of her career really interests me, so I began by asking her how it all started.

Could you tell us a little about how your design career began?

Originally I learned to knit before I went to school because I wanted to please my beloved grandmother who spent hours teaching me. A fallow period ensued but my interest was rekindled in my teens when I started to make my own clothes. It was the swinging sixties and I loved what I was seeing on the street and in magazines, but had no way of achieving anything similar other than to pick up my needles again. From then on I was hooked. It never occurred to me that I’d ever be able to make a living out of it, especially as I had no formal training in design, but after getting requests for sweaters I’d made for the kids, I decided that it might be a way of making some extra cash from home. No-one was more surprised than I was to find that very quickly I was presenting my designs to luminaries such as Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein and they were placing orders! It was a meteoric learning curve!

. . .and how you began to create designs for hand knitting?

When I started, I was living in an ramshackle old farmhouse with my husband, two toddlers and a menagerie of pets miles away from anywhere. My husband was commuting daily to teach miles away, so we were wracking our brains to find another way of making a living, which involved less travelling. So… we bought a knitting machine! My designs sold well so we quickly had to get more people to knit them. At a London show an agent for Ralph Lauren asked me to do some handknits for him. I jumped at the chance although at the time I had no production capacity and handknitting was definitely not my forte, but within six months we had 2000 knitters in the UK producing handknits for the Polo/Ralph Lauren label as well as selling my own collections to boutiques in the US and Europe. Obviously, as I had no design training whatsoever, there’s a certain amount of luck involved, but this was the eighties when the ethos was go for it and anything can happen.


(Treasure)


From your perspective, how has British knitting and knitwear design changed since the 1980s?

The internet has changed everything. When I started I saw myself as a fashion-led knit designer, producing fair isle, aran, lace and intarsia sweaters which were difficult to knit, had limited production and therefore had a very high price point. However, the cult of the knitted stitch has superseded the fashion angle now. Knitters are into techniques, relaxing with their knitting and sharing the fruits of their labours with their friends and the web is a fantastic tool for facilitating this. If you look at the most successful books on knitting right now they are all about techniques – there are far fewer book which are purely collections of designs. This is fine with me as I’ve always been interested in both – I love fashion, but I’m also a technique junkie, so I try to make each design a mini tutorial for at least one technique.


(Harlequin)


How would you describe your style? Do you feel this has evolved over time?

My signature style has always been a combination of colour, texture and form. However, I’m interested in exploring as much of the art of knitting as I can and I like to think my designs are ever-evolving as I learn more and more. I keep my camera to hand and I take many pictures of interesting objects, people and places – looking back over them often sows the seeds of new patterns. Fashion is essentially ephemeral, and what gives me a buzz is creating timeless pieces that transcend fashion, which hopefully will look just as good in twenty years time as the day they were knit.


You have a great knack of selecting exactly the right yarn for a design. What’s most important to you in a yarn?

I’m flattered that you think that as I do try hard to find beautiful yarns for my designs. I make a list of the yarn requirements for each project and then try to find one that fits the bill. Having said that, it’s become impossible to be au fait with every yarn on the market at any given time, so I always start with yarn companies I love like Rowan, Sublime or Jamieson & Smith. You can never know how a yarn will behave until you’ve swatched it, some projects demand drape, others need stitch definition and every pattern is different, but for me it’s important for the yarn to feel good in the fingers whilst being knit.


(Twine)

Some of the most distinctive of your “Sweet Shawlettes” are inspired by vintage fashions. Do you have a favourite era of fashion history? Or a favourite fashion icon?

I love the glamour of the 1920s and 30s. Poiret’s orientalism, Fortuny’s sumptuous pleats and the fashion drawings of Erte and Iribe are all hugely inspiring. Women were trying out all sorts of new ideas as they threw off the shackles of the Victorian era and fashion design was innovative, outrageous and chic – all the things I love. It’s hard to name one fashion icon, but having done a whole book on Audrey Hepburn, I must say the research was a delight. She was the perfect muse, as Ralph Lauren famously remarked: “Who wouldn’t want to drop everything and design for Audrey Hepburn?”


(Grace)

Your work takes you all over the world, but is there a particular place that you love to visit again and again?

Definitely Morocco, but I love the theatricality of Venice too. I’ve been hosting knitting holidays with my partner Philip Mercer for ten years now, mainly in the UK, but our trip to Morocco last year was one of my favourites – design inspiration wherever you look.

Your love of plants and flowers has inspired many of the designs in “Sweet Shawlettes”, and your garden is clearly very important to you. Do you see any similarity between the processes involved in knitwear design and gardening?

Yes I do find many similarities. At the start of each book I have to have a couple of weeks of cooking time, when I do nothing but displacement activities like gardening, cooking, playing guitar or going on long walks. This gives me a chance to mull over and crystallise ideas and it’s amazing how the seeds of designs are often planted years before and given the right conditions they spring forth – much like growing plants.


(Evergreen)

Thankyou Jean!

Now, a giveaway! Courtesy of the nice people at Taunton Press, I have a copy of Sweet Shawlettes set aside for one of you. Following Jean’s remarks about gardening and knitting, to enter, please leave a comment on this post telling us the name of your favourite garden flower. We’ll (randomly) select the winner on March 21st, the date of the final stop on Jean’s world blog tour.

Good Luck, Everyone!

If you’d like to follow the Sweet Shawlettes world blog tour, here is the full list of destinations:

Wed 7 Mar Jen Arnall-Culliford Knitwear Jen Arnall-Culliford
Thurs 8 Mar Yours Truly
Fri 9 Mar Rock and Purl Ruth Garcia-Alcantud
Sat 10 Mar Woolly Wormhead Woolly Wormhead
Mon 12 Mar Yarnscape Alison Barker
Tues 13 Mar Confessions of a Yarn Addict Anniken Allis
Wed 14 Mar Joli House Amanda France
Thurs 15 Mar This is Knit Lisa & Siobhan
Fri 16 Mar The Knitting Institute Katy Evans
Sat 17 Mar Life’n Knitting Carla Meijsen
Sun 18 Mar ConnieLene Connie Lene
Mon 19 Mar Just Call Me Ruby Susan Crawford
Tues 20 Mar Tiny Owl Knits Stephanie Dosen
Wed 21 Mar Ulla-Bella Anita Tørmoen

Renaissance Dyeing Giveaway

Would you like to win a kit to knit upyour own Hazelhurst? I’ll provide the pattern, and my friends at Renaissance Dyeing have kindly offered to give away two skeins of lovely worsted-spun organic Poll Dorset in shades ‘Ecru’ and ‘Carmine’ to one of my readers. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post telling me your favourite theme tune. (Here’s mine for today: it’s exciting and new). I’ll close the comments next Tuesday – February 14th. Someone is going to win themselves a tasty, woolly Valentines treat!

Because not all of you can win, Renaissance Dyeing are also offering a 7% discount on Hazelhurst yarn packs to all readers. All you have to do to claim the discount is to enter the coupon code “Ronnie” (as in Ronnie Hazelhurst, with a capital ‘R’) when checking out.

To close, I thought you might be amused by this outake from our photoshoot / walk last weekend. I really have no idea why I am looking so troubled / appalled . . . but Tom says this isn’t my natural expression, which I suppose is reassuring.

Good luck in the giveaway, everyone!

ETA: comments are now closed!

real shetland competition and offer

Happy Friday, everyone! After the release of the rams & yowes blanket, this week really has been all about Shetland sheep and wool for me. And today I have a bit of Shetand woolly news for you:

In support of the Campaign for Wool, my friends at the Real Shetland Company have organised a competition for a new slogan to promote British Wool. The winning slogan will be printed up on bumper stickers, and distributed and used all over the UK. The slogan can be serious, humorous, bold or brash – – the only important thing is that it is catchy and memorable.

It is not the first time such a competition has been organised – you may have read the Wovember post I wrote about the International Wool Secretariat’s popular “There is no Substitute for Wool” campaign in the 1950s. . .

I am very fond of the ‘no substitute’ verses, but they are very much of their time – plus, an 8-line poem will not fit on a bumper sticker, so. . .

British Wool now needs a slogan to take it through the next decade!

The rules are simple: you can hail from any part of the world to enter the competition; you can enter as many times as you like – just let your woolly imaginations run riot and have a go!

The writer of the winning slogan will be invited to visit the world famous Haworth Scouring and Combing Company , to receive an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of all the processes that transform raw sheepy fleece into glorious wool. (If you are from outside the UK, then you will have to make your own way to Yorkshire to take the tour!) The winner will also receive a beautiful Shetland wool throw in a design of their choice from the Real Shetland Company.

To enter the competition, just send your slogan, together with your name and contact details to adam@realshetland.com.

Or you can send your entry by post to:
The Real Shetland Company
Campaign for Wool Bumper Sticker Competition
Huby Court
Harrogate Road
Huby, Leeds,
LS17 OEG
UK

The closing date for entries is January 31st – so you have two weeks to enter. The winner will be announced on the Campaign for Wool and Real Shetland Comapany websites in early February.

I am the proud owner of two of these Real Shetland throws and I absolutely love them. They showcase the range of beautiful, natural Shetland sheepy shades and their subtle designs are inspired by those historically used by the famous Shetland weavers, Thomas Adie & Sons, whose sample books can be seen in the Shetland Museum.

Even if you aren’t interested in entering the competition, The Real Shetland Company is offering my readers a 10% discount on all of its Shetland wool rugs and throws until the competition ends on January 31st. Just use the code TEXTISLES when checking out to receive the discount.

Good luck to all competition entrants!

Boreal giveaway!

Would you like to win a kit to knit up your own Boreal sweater over the holidays? Well, my nice friends at Artesano are providing the yarn for you to do just that! One lucky winner will be able to select their own colourway from Artesano’s great range of aran shades, and I’ll send you the pattern. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post telling me your favourite thing about Winter. We’ll announce the winner on the 20th December. Good luck, everyone!

COMMENTS ARE NOW CLOSED! JENNIFER HAS WON!

a parliament of owls . . . and a competition

I promise this will be the last owl-related post . . at least for a while . . . but I just had to show you this version of the sweater, made and worn with great style and aplomb by my friend Kate B, who, along with Hannah, was one of the pattern’s original test knitters.

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It is knitted in Rowan cocoon, which makes for a deliciously luxe, warm sweater. And check out Kate’s fantastic owl brooch too . . .

kate2

Kate’s owls spent the morning knitting in Falko, and then made their way over to the meadows, where, with the assistance of Ysolda, they attempted to take flight . . .

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thanks for your help, Kate B!

Since a few of you have suggested it, I am going to set up an owl gallery . . . or more properly, a parliament of owls (see tabs at top of page). There will also be a competition, into which every member of the parliament will be entered. Your owls could win a prize!! Here’s how the competition will work: please email a digital image of your completed owl-sweater to the address you’ll find at the bottom of the pattern. Include your name, location, and the date you completed your owls. Your sweater will then join the parliament, and be entered into a draw to win some beautiful Scottish yarn, a handmade knitting bag (sewn by me) and some other tasty goodies. The closing date will be March 1st. Show me yer owls!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to put my haggis on and prepare to toast the bard

win a pincushion!

I was recently very impressed with my sister’s sashiko stitching. I had to try it. A few weeks ago I bought sashiko materials for a wee pincushion, and tried stitching a simple design with the intention of impressing her back:

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Now, I enjoyed the stitching, but the thing I found most pleasing was the resulting pincushion-object. It was so neat! so wee! such a simple and satisfying design! And it fastened with *bobbles*, for crissakes.

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bobbles!

sashiko2.jpg

how canny a thing is that?

Then a worrying haze descended. I was so enamoured of the prototype, I had to make another. This was clearly an appealing object that might be rendered in different ways, without sashiko stitching, using different fabrics . . .

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. . . or several different fabrics . . .

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Mr B returned home from a long run to find me frenetically turning out pincushions. “Look at them!” I shrieked, “they have bobbles!” “That’s right,” he nodded, backing nervously towards the door, “whatever you say. . .”

I have now managed to stop forming bobbles and Mr B has not packed me off to the puzzle factory. I do, however, have more pincushions than I know what to do with. I have given several away as gifts, but there are a few of the beggars left as testimony to my craft insanity. To save me from myself, just leave a comment on my blog between now and March 20th. I’ll select the ‘winner’ at random, and post you a pincushion.

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