Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Rowan Summerlite Mystery Crochet Along

IMAG1869.jpg


For the past eight weeks, I’ve been crocheting along with Rowan’s mystery crochet along project. Mystery knit alongs and crochet alongs (or MKALs and MCALs) have been really popular in recent years, but they do rely on a strong degree of trust in the designer. The idea with these mystery projects is that you receive the pattern in weekly installments and make it gradually, without knowing what the finished piece is going to look like. Is there a risk that you won’t like it after putting in all those hours of work? Sure, but that’s all part of the fun!

Summerlite 4 ply was a great yarn to work with. As well as giving me a chance to play with this recently released yarn, it quickly became clear that the decision to use Summerlite was ideal for this project. The fine gauge of this yarn meant that it was possible to get more motifs per ball of yarn (appealing to my sometimes frugal nature) and that more motifs could be fitted into a single project, as each one was only 10-12 cm across. The yarn itself has a very smooth, even texture and is remarkably soft for a cotton yarn. It is also unmercerised, and I really like the matte finish on my crocheted motifs. 

I’ve finally reached the stage of assembling my crocheted motifs into a cushion cover. The project has been fun, and a good chance to practice some crochet techniques I hadn’t really tried out before. Unsurprisingly, I opted for the ‘bright’ palette of 422 Still Grey, 432 Aubergine, 428 High Tide and 426 Pinched Pink.

IMAG1870.jpg
Motifs are crocheted together on the wrong side, so that these small stitches like zip teeth are visible from the right side.

To assemble my cushion cover, I started with the bottom row of motifs and pinned several together before crocheting, in order to minimise the chance of sewing things together in the wrong place. This was a pretty effective techniques and also allowed me to join several motifs with one continuous length of stitches.


IMAG1871.jpg


Although initially unconvinced about these four colours together (I worried that the blue was too green next to the red pink or that they grey was too pale against the dark, dark aubergine), I definitely like them a lot better now that they are so thoroughly mixed by the pattern. There is not one colour that dominates the others and it was the right choice to make the small  joining stitches in the brightest of the four colours, i.e. Pinched Pink. Combined, they now have a bright, summery feel that I like very much :)


Crocheted together inside out; lots of ends to weave in

The hexagonal shape of the cushion cover might have been a problem if it had required a hexagonal cushion pad to stuff it. Those are pretty thin on the ground by the looks of things. Fortunately, it is also possible to buy a square cushion pad, sew across the four corners and trim them off to leave a (more or less) hexagonal shaped cushion pad. It is a bit taller than it is long, but it’s also pretty malleable so I don’t think this will be a problem. Another good solution would be to use a round cushion pad, but I didn’t have one of those to hand either, so this DIY effort it was!


The completed cushion

So, although the M part of this MCAL has now come to an end, the patterns are still available to download for free from our website here. One advantage to starting it now is that you can also see what a nice cushion cover you’ll be making before you even chain a single stitch. My project used one ball of Still Grey, one ball of Aubergine, one ball of High Tide and just over one ball of Pinched Pink, so to make one just like it would cost less than £20.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Meet the Designer: Karie Westermann

 Karie Westermann in a lovely Big Wool cowl

1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started in crochet and knitwear design? Do you come from a crafty family?

I was taught to knit by my great-grandmother when I was five or six years old. I grew up in rural Denmark – mine was the local arty family. Everybody was creative in one way or another. We never had much money, but there was a steady supply of handmade garments, knitted jumpers and interesting paintings. Of course my family still obsessed over football results and pop music, but there was a definite sense of self-expression and creative exploration. I learned to knit, crochet and sew as a very young girl and I have never really stopped wanting to make stuff. 

I got into designing when I worked for a yarn company and they needed a quick project to sell some leftover beads. My pattern did really, really well for them. Then in 2011 an indie dyer friend was launching a new yarn line at a prestigious London event and pressured me into doing my first self-published design. And that pattern did really well too. I began thinking that maybe I should look at doing more design work and now I'm a full-time self-employed knitting designer. It's amazing.  

2. What is your favourite part of the designing process?

I am a process designer as much as I am a process knitter, so this is a tough question! I really love pattern writing. I have a background in technical writing and I think that has helped me a great deal. But you know what I love best of all? When I look at something that looks exactly like the idea I had in my head and somebody else is wearing it. It's an amazing feeling.

 
Karie's Picycle Shawl can be found in Rowan Bespoke

3. Do you have a favourite type of yarn or fibre to work with?

This may be the best question ever! I like working with all sorts of different fibres but I love wool above all else. I have been working a lot with rustic yarns recently - yarns where you can still sense that the wool's come from a sheep and it hasn't been processed beyond recognition.On the other hand, Rowan Kidsilk Haze is as far from rustic as you can get. It is such a versatile yarn that makes even the simplest design shine. I also love how many colours you can get with KSH – you can either knit it on its own or combine shades to get new combinations. I have been working a lot with Rowan Felted Tweed DK recently and it's amazingly versatile as well. So, in short, every yarn has its right time and place (apart from fun fur). As long as I'm working with natural fibres, I am happy.

Juniper hat from The Knit Generation
made with Kidsilk Haze and Felted Tweed DK

4. What’s the best thing you've ever knitted or crocheted? And the worst?

My latest design is always my favourite. I always say that! But there are designs that have huge personal significance for me because I remember where I were when I came up with the idea or when I knitted the sample. Right now I'm really proud of the Vedbaek Shawl which has resonated with knitters around the world since the moment I released it. As for worst.. my very first garment was a crochet jumper I made out of my mum's cotton scraps. It was yellow, orange, pink and lime green. A hideous thing, really, with granny squares stretching across my bosom and strips of colours down the bottom. I was 17 or thereabouts. I was really proud of it and wore it around town. I am very thankful that no photos exist.  

5. Where is your favourite place to knit or crochet?

Living in Scotland, I don't get to sit outside and knit all that often but I love when the weather cooperates. I live close to the Botanic Gardens in Glasgow, so I love sitting there during the summer. I also have a weird love for knitting on the train! I travel a lot for work, so maybe that's why I love knitting on long train journeys.  

6. What is the best knitting tip you’ve picked up over the years?

"Always keep a safety pin with you". It sounds strange but a safety pin is amazingly versatile. It can function as a stitch holder, secure drop stitches, stand in for a stitch marker or help you during the sewing up process. As a result I have tonnes of safety pins scattered around my home and in all my bags!

 
Safety pins: don't leave home without one

7. How many projects do you have on the go at the minute?

I try to keep to three things at any one time. If I have more than three things, I get really stressed. I try to have an easy project for knit nights and late night knitting; a project that'll keep my brain challenged; and a big project that'll keep me entertained for months. Right now I have a pair of socks on the needles, an accessory design, and a garment. It's a nice mix. 

8. Could you please teach us an important knitting-related phrase in Danish?

Strikkepind! That means "knitting pin" in Danish. "Strik" meaning knitting and "pind" means .. well, *pin*! So, strikkepind. Go ahead and use that one all the time.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Ready for the summer: Sirdar Beachcomber

Sirdar has brought out a new summer cotton for this season - Beachcomber.  This 100% cotton yarn is un-mercerised and has a very soft feel to it. The yarn has been spun with a purposeful irregularity reminiscent of the thick'n'thin wools, this slub texture allows for even simple stocking stitch garments to have a unique texture with no extra effort.


To try out the yarn I decided to go for the lacy cardigan (7283) in the accompanying Sirdar Booklet 482 for Beachcomber. Not a very experienced lace knitter, I found it a good starting project with a straightforward lace panel that was repeated over 18 rows. I used locking stitch markers to keep track of the lace panels on the pins and found them very useful in making sure I was not missing any stitches of the pattern. The yarn is quite forgiving though as the texture helps easily mask small mistakes :) To really bring out the lace pattern, I am using the KnitPro Lace Blocking Mats to block the pieces before sewing up.


For knitting I used the Pony bamboo needles in 4mm.  I found they worked well with the cotton, having enough grip to keep my stitches from falling off the needle by accident (important with lace and all those yarn overs!) but still very light and warm to the hand.


The pattern is very straightforward and easy to follow and the smallest size (to fit 32/34) takes just three balls to knit! I am using shade 257 Breeze, a very nice lilac.

Post by Linda K in our Edinburgh branch.