Sunday, 14 December 2014

Étude in Stripes

My next project to share here after our mammoth photographing session the other day is my Étude in Stripes. This is a free pattern by Diana Rozenshteyn and although it only comes with instructions for one size, it is easy to scale up or down by the number of increases you do around the shoulders etc. Fortunately it's easy to try on as you go to get a perfect fit. I made sure mine was roomy enough under the arms as I hate being restricted moving my arms about.

I chose to knit it in Garnstudio Drops Alpaca and Drops Delight. Drops yarns are amazing - they are so cheap and often cheaper due to deals, and are mainly natural fibres. The alpaca in particular is great - I have quite a bit stashed with other projects in mind, it is so soft. The Delight is quite sticky to work with but I like the colour changes of the yarn. Because it was so cheap, I didn't mind breaking into a couple of new balls to match up the arm stripes as far as possible.

Although this knit involved a lot of stocking stitch, it went quickly due to the stripes - it was interesting seeing what would come next. And being knit top down in one piece, there was virtually no sewing up to do which is always a bonus.

The only problem with this cardigan is that the border has a tendency to roll which can be irritating, despite multiple attempts to block or iron it flat. However, it hasn't stopped me wearing it several times.

In other knitting news, I now have 10cm of Boxy knit - yay! And I now have my eyes on the new Veera Valmaki pattern, Coal, which she released as part of her Knit You Advent Calendar on her blog. The pattern may have just fallen into my Ravelry shopping basket...

Finally, today is the last day to get your hands on a free copy of Knit Today December 2013. It is available to download on the Newstand App on iPhones/iPads. I don't usually buy this magazine but like to pick up the odd cheap/free copy when I can. So if you fancy a read later, get downloading!

In family news, we finally got our tree and decorations up yesterday - little J was beyond excited, as we even found two old crackers in the box for him to pull. It's been a really difficult end to a busy year for a variety of reasons, so it was nice to embrace the season and enjoy ourselves for an hour or two. Here's looking forward to a happy and relaxing Christmas.




Thursday, 11 December 2014


When I first saw a photo of Ramona on my pattern highlights feed on Ravelry, I knew I would have to knit it. The design appeared in Let's Knit magazine and is by the very talented Anniken Allis (I love so many of her designs). At the time I was on maternity leave and couldn't justify the expense of the gorgeous yarn, so instead I waited for my birthday and my Mother in Law bought me the Manos Del Uruguay Silk Blend Fino as a present.

The jumper knit up soooo quickly - it had simple waist shaping, short row shaping on the back button edge and short row shaped sleeves knit in one piece. Next to no sewing up - awesome.

However, it wasn't until it was more or less finished (at least the body) that I realised the first skein of yarn was a decidedly different colour to the others! I soaked it several times and put it out in the sun in a bid to lighten it, but to no avail - there is a distinct line across it.

Despite the disappointment of this, I have worn it several times - it's really comfy and a nice fit (though I am carrying something in the way of a bump out front at the moment...). The yarn does have a tendency to felt in places of friction/heat such as under the arms though - I'm not sure I'd use it again for a garment.

It was all a great learning curve though - a bottom up sweater knit in the round with a three needle bind off on the shoulders and short row sleeves - fantastic construction that I would definitely repeat one of these days.

As for my Boxy, I now have just over 5cm knitted - only 35cm to go till I divide for the front and back... :/




Monday, 8 December 2014


I've written a number of blog posts about my knitted hoodie, Hudson. A Martin Storey design that I saw in an issue of The Knitter several years ago, I liked the easy, slouchy look of the garment and decided to attempt it.

As often happens with knit projects, I put it down after completing quite a large proportion of it, being tired of the endless moss stitch and needing a break with other projects. What made this a bit of a disaster in the case of Hudson was that I had decided to knit it in Knitpicks Wool of the Andes, only available from one shop in the UK, and I (horror of horrors) ran out of yarn! 'How can this be?' I hear you cry. Well, I had decided to substitute a yarn without knitting a tension swatch. Note to self: never, ever do this again.

Fortunately for me, the wonderful world of Ravelry exists and I was able to find some in exactly the same dye lot that a very kind Raveler sold to me and sent all the way from the U.S. Hudson has in fact been finished now for quite some time, but it was only last weekend that I actually got some photos of the finished object.

So here we have it, Hudson in all its glory!

It's not quite as slouchy as intended, probably because my tension was so far off.

However, it is comfy and that is the main thing.

So what am I working on now? I have picked up my Skuld shawl again - I may even get that finished by Christmas. And I have also cast on all 390 stitches of Boxy by Joji Locatelli in Easyknits Dandy Blizzard. There is some pretty endless stocking stitch involved in that so might have to intersperse it with a few smaller and more interesting knits. I think I will really get some wear out of the finished article though.


Saturday, 6 December 2014

Square and Stripe

So I'm back again, only a few weeks later. Work is still tough but I think the secret to survival is about trying to maintain the right mindset. Ultimately, as much as I care about my students and being the best teacher I can be, there has to be a balance. I am first and foremost a mummy and that is always going to have to come first. If that means I can't differentiate every lesson as much as I'd like or plan exciting tasks for every class all the time, then for the moment so be it. Anyway, enough of work, because I have something to share.

I started this jumper in August and finished it a few weeks ago (not long after my previous post). The design is by the very talented Veera Valimaki - I have so many of her designs in my favourites on Ravelry, and after knitting this I can confirm that her patterns are well-written and straightforward, at least this one was!

The jumper is so comfy to wear - it is very loose-fitting which makes it easy to sling on over a vest top, and looks good styled with skinny jeans and boots. I think it is quite flattering, particularly as I'm not as slim as I once was. I knitted it in Rowan Felted Tweed DK after seeing a few examples of others knitted in this yarn. The tweed gives it a rustic feel which I like. The flash of pink brightens up an otherwise neutral colour.

I definitely want to knit another of Veera's designs soon - I have my eye on Juniper, and also like Dusk and Hip and Pop. I might treat myself to some Knitting Goddess or Easyknits yarn for one or other of these in the new year. But next on the agenda I am thinking maybe a Boxy or Snowflake Sweater...


Saturday, 1 November 2014


Every now and then I get the urge to return here to my blog. Sometimes it's because I've been feeling especially creative and have lots to share. Sometimes it's because I'm feeling sociable and want to reach out to all the people who share similar interests to me (or who read my blog for other random reasons!). And other times it's because I feel the way I do now.

I've been struggling a bit. There has been a lot going on in my life over the last year. Things that have been difficult and stressful and at times even traumatic, though ultimately very positive. Exciting and happy times lay ahead. I may share them here soon.

But getting to that point has taken a lot from me. I feel like my natural creativity has been sucked out of me somewhat. I feel like I have lost the happiness that I used to find in the everyday things - in particular my work.

I have been teaching since my PGCE in 2004. Despite a couple of difficult years learning my craft, I came to enjoy what I did. Kids enjoyed my lessons. I know because they told me. I enjoyed coming up with different ways to teach things. I enjoyed telling the stories and little anecdotes that helped make history come alive.

When I returned to work after my maternity leave just before summer in 2013, I had completely lost my confidence in myself. The first time I stood back in front of a class, I burst into tears afterwards. The world of teaching had changed for me. I felt like I had to measure up to something and prove myself. I felt like I had to fit my lessons to a certain mould. I couldn't teach in my way any more.

I got through last year by working harder than I ever have (despite being part-time!) and desperately trying to jump through the ever-growing number of hoops that seem to be placed in front of teachers these days. Teaching in this way didn't feel natural to me. I couldn't get a sense of flow. I was terrified of being accused of talking too much - the latest big no-no in the teaching world. I stopped having the long discussions that used to form a large part of my lessons. I stopped enjoying passing on my love for and knowledge of my subject.

A few weeks ago I had an observation that seemed to confirm my feelings. It was 'good'. Not bad in itself, but hardly inspirational. The trouble is, while some valid points were made, I disagree with quite a bit of the spirit of the feedback. I feel like we are trying to create a version of what teaching has to be in order to be effective. But there are so many ways to skin a cat. Last year I achieved outstanding sixth form results. I did not teach in the way that would have (currently!) achieved me an outstanding lesson observation. And yet it worked. My students did extremely well. They learned what I wanted them to. We enjoyed our lessons. Isn't that a sign of effective teaching?

And yet I find myself with my confidence in my abilities now at rock-bottom. Why have I allowed myself to feel like this based on other's opinions when I have plenty of evidence of the good I have achieved with my pupils? Partly it is what the government has done to the profession. Performance related pay and continual scrutiny have made it feel like teachers are in a goldfish bowl at all times, waiting to be pounced upon for failure. The word 'good' in relation to your work now means 'not good enough'. The passion and individuality feels like it has been replaced by fear and conformity.

This may be an over-reaction on my part. But it doesn't deny the fact that this is the way I feel. And it is no reflection on my school, which I feel is one of the best around. It is a reflection of the current environment of the profession. It is a reflection of my own self-esteem in returning to the classroom. It is a reflection of the difficulties of balancing home and work life and being a working, part-time mum, especially with small children.

So what am I going to do about it? I don't want to leave a job that I have loved in the past. I am fairly certain that, as is the way of these things, it will change. Things will come full circle. Someone will tell us that another way of teaching is more effective. We will move on. I will learn to love what I do again. And the only way to deal with it is to keep on doing what you know works, what inspires and engages, what reaps results. Even if this doesn't tick all the boxes of current educational dogma.

So why blog about this? Well, I sat down the other night and thought about the things that make me happy. That put work in perspective and give me balance. And it ultimately comes down to two things - my family and my hobbies. Spending time with my loved ones is always a joy. I love to watch my little boy grow and change and discover the world. Lately I have been so caught up with worrying about work, I haven't done that. I have allowed my worries to stop me from sleeping and stop me from taking pleasure in the everyday activities - a trip to the park, rhyme time, choosing books from the library, coffee and cake at the cafe. I need to embrace the little things again.

And I also need to be creative. At a time when I feel my creativity is stifled at work, it is even more important that I give it an outlet at home. I haven't done anything creative now for about two months. This isn't good for my health and wellbeing. I know books need to be marked and lessons planned. But ultimately, a stressed and unhappy teacher leads to stressed and unhappy pupils who won't learn as well as they should.

To that end I've decided to try to finish a few WIPs. I'm going to share them here. It will hopefully give me the impetus to actually finish some of them!

The first is a shawl I started knitting for my mum. I whizzed through the first half in a few days, then inexplicably put it down at the halfway point and haven't picked it up since. The yarn is some gorgeous Araucania Botany Lace which will look lovely when finished and blocked. I need to get this done!

Next is my Lady Penelope cardigan, made in beautiful Sublime Lustrous Extrafine Merino dk. Completed the back, both fronts and one and a half sleeves! Why did I put this down? The colour is divine and I know it will look fantastic (even if I messed up the lace decreases at the front...).
Next up is a pair of socks. The colours are garish (half price yarn at Hobbycraft) but the first sock fits like a dream and I got so far as finishing turning the heel on the second. I only have the foot to knit. One and a half socks are somewhat useless...

Finally we have this beautiful little jumper for J. All the knitting is done on this one. It just needs sewing up. It's been sitting there since March. Surely this is an easy win?!

Writing this blogpost has been cathartic in the build up to another busy half term at work. I need to get some perspective, I need to realise what is important, and I need to make sure I don't put myself under the kind of pressure that makes me an unhappy and unhealthy individual. I'm hoping that getting back to blogging and sharing my hobbies, a process I always used to enjoy, will help me to do that.





Friday, 1 March 2013

Cables and Twists

Today I thought I'd share a project I completed a few months ago - my Folklore Cables and Twists jumper by Sublime yarns. It's knit in Sublime Chunky Merino Tweed which was recently discontinued so there were a lot of bags of it floating around the Internet going cheaply. I picked up a couple of colours, including the lovely bright pink shade Dilly.

The Cables and Twists jumper turned out to be a bit of a steep learning curve. I had cabled before but never so many different types on one garment - it could be difficult to keep track of the pattern which ran over something like 26 rows, each one a little different, especially when tired.

Suffice to say I made a few mistakes. Some weren't that visible such as some around the neck shaping, so I left them as a fitting tribute to my cabling education. Others were obvious, such as a knit stitch on the purl section or a completely forgotten cable crossover. This taught me some other tricks for correcting mistakes in your work - I unravelled the offending stitches right back to the offending row and then reknit them all the way back up again. It doesn't look perfect, but it's better than the original mistake! I also had the common problem of a loose stitch on the left of each cable. Is it true you can knit into the back of a stitch to tighten it? I'm not sure, but I was never able to solve this problem.

When I had finally finished the knitting and sewing up, I tried it on and realised it was way too short for my liking. I had achieved the correct tension by going up a needle size, so it wasn't that. I can only assume that either I have a long body or I just don't like the fashion for short jumpers that seems to be prevalent in a lot of knitting patterns these days. I just don't see how it is flattering to stop half way down your waist - I like to have at least a bit of my hips covered.

I knew that in its current state I would never wear the jumper, and after all that work I wanted at least to be able to wear it casually/around the house even if it wasn't fit for best. So I took a deep breath and made the scary decision to cut into my work and pick up the stitches above the bottom ribbing, with the help of the excellent Tech Knitting blog. This was not the easiest project to do this with as the cables started just above the rib, so I have to admit I fudged it a bit. Since the garment was already sewn together I just unpicked the seam to above the section I was cutting, then knit downwards in rib in the round. It does all sound a bit botch job, which it is, but it turned out alright and you would have to look closely to see the errors.

I used every last scrap of yarn to add length, even the unravelled pieces. I added about two inches, and would have added more if I had any yarn left as I still think its a bit short. But I was proud of myself for actually cutting my knitting and for all the techniques I had learned.

It's not my favourite jumper - it looked good in the book on the skinny model but the cabling on the arms and drop shoulders make me look a bit like a rugby player, especially combined with the short length! I will have to be more careful with my pattern selection in the future. But it's soft and warm and fine for sobbing around the house in.

In other news, J's Stripy Jacket is finished and I have cast on something new...

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Knitter 55 Review

As promised, here is my review of the latest issue of The Knitter magazine. On first glance, I wasn't sure if this issue was really for me despite having loved the preview photos in the previous issue. None of the patterns had that standout wow factor and I wondered whether I would actually knit anything form this issue (given the time!).
And admittedly, there are a couple of garments that are just really not me. The cover project, Winterbloom by Martin Storey, while a pretty jumper, is not my style at all, big roll necks like this tend to make me too hot and uncomfortable and they don't fit under my coat properly. Delft by Judy Furlong is far too fussy and floral for my tastes, and Emma Vining's Sugar Kelp, while classic in its design, is also not for me.
This sounds quite negative for a review, but actually this issue is a grower - the rest of the garments aren't especially statement pieces but you begin to see aspects of each that you like, and sometimes these kinds of designs make the best wardrobe staples.
One such design is Yui by Kyoko Nakayoshi - I'm quite a fan of her designs, and while this is probably one of her least complicated it is quite elegant - in a neutral tone I could imagine this cardigan being a good general throw over. Similarly the Kimono style jacket by Sirdar - I'm a fan of cardigans like this as I always feel the cold, and I like a collection of slightly quirky versions like this.
Curlew, by Twilleys of Stamford, is in the same vein although a little more vintage in style and fitted at the top, so you would not be able to wear any heavy layers beneath.
The Herring Girl Wrap by The Wool Shed is a lovely rustic wrap in organic tones, which could be knit up in pieces as you have the time, though there is part of the pattern missing so be sure to check The Knitter website.
Ravish is a simple tee shape, but with an slash opening down the front. Knit in Kidsilk Haze Glamour it does have an impact, and would look very striking over a plain camisole or something similar, but it is not my favourite Marie Wallin design and I probably wouldn't grab the needles to start it.
My favourite design in the magazine is definitely the Eriskay Gansey by Beth Brown-Reinsel. It is based on traditional ganseys but has such a modern look and shape, I have already been thinking about a substitute for the suggested yarn which is not available in this country. This is one failing of The Knitter - I wish they suggested alternative yarns for garments, particularly where a yarn is especially hard to source or very expensive. Other knitting magazines do this and it is such a useful addition.
An extra booklet of Nordic inspired knits provides some pretty sock and mitt patterns, and there is an interesting article on Estonian knitting traditions, though I'm not a huge fan of this sort of heavily coloured knitwear in general. The Masterclass is on how to avoid RSI, which I don't have as I don't get enough opportunity to knit - most of the advice is pretty obvious, but there may be some tips which help you out if you suffer with this problem.
Overall, not an outstanding issue but a solid one which contains a few 'inoffensive' patterns that would probably suit most wardrobes.