Archives For June 2013

Well wasn’t that an absolute nail biter?!!

Raisin and Heather Shadow squeaked in by .5% and just 8 votes! The Potpourri and Boudoir combo was so close in second place!

Juno Alice in Raisin and Heather Shadow

Juno Alice in Raisin and Heather Shadow

Regarding the Juno Alice yarn, as I mentioned last week, it is hand dyed by Asti and is therefore only available from a few places.

I bought mine at Loop, London and also from Fabstract online.

There are some limited colours available on the Juno Etsy store and Asti has kindly offered to custom dye orders for the KAL but said it will take a few weeks to fulfil custom orders.

The Velvet and Bittersweet colour ways are exclusive to Loop.

Thank you SO MUCH everyone for voting, this week and all along – it has been so much fun coming up with a question and seeing what everyone thinks each week! I am feeling quite sad the voting bit is over.

But no time to dwell on it, as I have some designing to do! I started playing around with some stitch patterns and seriously trying out some different ideas this week.

I have a concept, and it seems to be going in a little bit of a whimsical direction. I am also trying out a slightly different construction from anything I’ve done or seen so it will either be great or I will be doing some ripping back in the next few days.

Some, all, or maybe even none of these ideas might make it into the final shawl. Here is just a little sneak preview of where I’m at today.


curious collective shawl swatch

Whatever direction it goes, I will make sure you will be able to make the shawl from two average 100g skeins of sock yarn (approx. 400 yards). So while I’m busy on this part, you can start to organise your yarn for the project. A few people commented that they prefer a single colour shawl and that is fine too.

As always I would be delighted to hear your thoughts in the comments, and to hear what yarn and colours you are choosing for the project.

When I turned 40 last year, some of my girlfriends gave me a voucher for the Make Lounge (they know me well – thanks girls!). Nearly a year later, I hadn’t managed to get to one of their classes so I decided it might be really nice to buy some fabric and make a quilt as a keepsake of the occasion instead.

(I’ve just noticed that the Make Lounge have closed down. They have posted a long list of other similar resources in the UK which has meant several hours of surfing have ensued since I innocently went to grab that link!)

Shortly after buying a stack of gorgeous fabrics, I noticed a feature about quilter and author Cassandra Ellis in Molly Makes. A mention of her workshops in London caught my eye. I was very taken with the idea of doing something a little bit more free form and less traditional. I also thought that a workshop would help to kickstart a big project that might otherwise remain “in stash” indefintely.

Cassandra’s lovely book Quilt Love describes her style as “freeform design techniques, which rely in part on intuition and improvisation, to enable you to create your own contemporary heirloom”. I was really inspired by most of the projects in the book so I was really looking forward to the workshop.

We were asked to bring only the fabric we wanted to use. On the day, there were just two of us in the class. My fellow student Emma was making keepsakes from her Grandfathers shirts. During the workshop she decided that instead of making mini quilts she would make small patchworks to frame. This is one of the projects in the book (Forget Me Not Artworks) and is such a lovely idea.


Cassandra’s loft workshop was a little oasis set up for sewing, with great workspaces and heaps of natural light (studio envy, moi?).


After chatting about design options and looking at some of Cassandra’s amazing quilts for inspiration, I decided to wing it and go totally free form.


For someone who doesn’t really deviate from patterns or recipes at all, this process was so liberating and fun!


Cassandra set us up at a bench with these super cute sewing machines and we went for it!

sewing machine

These machines are really basic but get the job done. They’re quite slow compared to my old but trusty machine, but are much smaller and lighter. I’m definitely going to get one in one of the colour block options for when I teach Miss S to sew (I can’t wait!). They’re a total bargain too – they look like toys but they’re real!


It was such a wonderful afternoon and I would love to attend one of Cassandra’s workshops again if I had the chance. She has another book coming out later in the year called “Cloth”. After having a sneak preview of some of the images and projects I can’t wait for it to come out.

Simple Sunday Pleasures

Helen —  June 17, 2013 — 3 Comments

Peony season makes me very happy!






I have a little treat for you this week. I am very excited to announce that the Curious Collective Shawl Project is being sponsored by Juno Fibre Arts. I will be knitting the knitting the shawl in the exquisite Juno Alice sock (70% Baby Alpaca 20% Silk 10% Cashmere) and this week you get to decide on the colour combination for the sample.

Juno yarns are hand dyed by Asti Grafham in her studio in Devon and the colours are absolutely luminous. I used Juno Alice for Glitz at the Ritz and it is divine to knit with.

Here are the colour combinations to choose from for this week’s poll. I’ve included larger pictures here and then smaller images in the poll itself.

Juno Alice in Pewter and Goldmine

Juno Alice in Pewter and Goldmine

Juno Alice in Canopy and Sage

Juno Alice in Canopy and Sage

Juno Alice in Bittersweet and Velvet

Juno Alice in Bittersweet and Velvet

Juno Alice in Raisin and Heather Shadow

Juno Alice in Raisin and Heather Shadow

Juno Alice in Corn Dolly and Oyster

Juno Alice in Corn Dolly and Oyster

Juno Alice in Potpourri and Boudoir

Juno Alice in Potpourri and Boudoir

There is no way I could choose the colourway combination out of these beauties myself and I think you have a very tough job ahead of you this week!

[polldaddy poll=”7181798″]

If you haven’t yet purchased the Curious Collective Shawl pattern it isn’t too late, and it is still a bargain at half price – $3 (USD).

I’d love to hear any comments you have about the poll this week. Have your vote and have fun!

The poll will close Friday 21 June at Midday (GMT).

That was my favourite week so far! It was a pretty close result between narrow stripes and colour block and there were so many fantastic comments! Thank you everyone who took the time to vote and especially comment. I read all the comments with great interest. Colour block was the winner with 51% of the votes.

A few people considered that for textured stitches to really shine the colour block option would be better, and I think this is true. I do love narrow stripes but it would be a lot going on at the same time.

Now that there have been quite a few decisions made about the shawl I can really start to focus on the design. My shawl designs usually start with a spark of inspiration which can be from a variety of things. Sometimes it is a particular skien of beautiful yarn (Radiance was like that) or a stitch pattern (e.g. for Câlin I really wanted to incorporate chevrons).

In the case of Elemental Things which is a new pattern I’ll be releasing very soon, it was my desire to capture a mood that led to the design. I was at a cafe in London on a really gloomy February day so it ended up being quite dark and gritty. It was also photographed on a freezing day in November last year which adds to this mood (this one has been in the pipeline for a loooong time!).  It ended up being my go to neck warmer throughout last winter and I wore it to work nearly every day.

For the Curious Collective shawl, now that I have some constraints to work with (positive ones) I will be flipping through stitch dictionaries and magazines, letting ideas float in and out, turning them over and upside down and see what takes shape.

I’m not sure what the final poll is going to be yet! I know that is cutting it fine but as it’s the last one I want it to be a goodie. Stay tuned and I will have it up by Monday at the latest.

Elemental Things Shawl

Elemental Things is a semicircular, lace weight shawl. This sample is knit in MadeleineTosh Prairie.

It is very exciting that after months of keeping a secret I can finally share Glitz at the Ritz just out in Knitty, First Fall issue.

It is a great issue with a fantastic pattern by Amy Hertzog called Jackaroo that I really want to make.

I also love the Solidago socks by Mary Jane Mucklestone and the Sugar Stick Scarf by Kristine Byrnes. And Sinnesfrid by Madeleine Nilsson. Lots more goodies, go check it out.


The location for the photos is the Horniman Museum in South East London. Its claim to fame is an absolutely enormous stuffed walrus. There is also a cool aquarium. As you can see from the pics the gardens are stunning too.





Its a little bit “Gatsby” don’t you think? I think it’s enough of a nod to wear to a Great Gatsby themed party this weekend anyway!

Glitz at the Ritz Knitty

Now, normally on a nice day this area would be packed full with families. The fact that not a single other person is there on a Saturday morning gives you a clue how cold it was. I tried not to include the shots where the goosebumps were too obvious.

As you can see from this last pic, it was actually snowing. I really love this shot, but it does look a bit grim doesn’t it?!


I’m knitting another one in variegated Posh Yarn to see how it looks and have started a knit along going on the Curious Handmade board on Rav if you’d like to join me.

Postcards from Squam

Helen —  June 12, 2013 — 2 Comments

The kind you send when you’re back home. Perhaps with a little love note scrawled on it.

Squam Art Workshops spring 2013

Squam Honeymoon

Honeymoon cabin – my home at Squam

Squam misty

Squam pinecone

Sweet Creature

Sweet Creature from Ysolda’s class by Tatiana


Ysolda taught us the best short row method and other knitterly secrets

Squam Lake

The lake was way too chilly for me to venture in. Others were much braver.

Yarn Bombed Canoe

A yarn bombed canoe

Stephen's shawls

No mistaking whose these are

Stephen West

Stephen West’s colour play class was lively and inspiring.


Colour Play!




Winding some Juno Alice in the appropriately named “Misty” colour way.


Stewart in her gorgeous cardi

yellow flowers

Elizabeth Duvivier

The luminous Elizabeth Duvivier – the woman with the vision who makes it all happen at Squam.

I feel so lucky to have been able to go to Squam, meet many wonderful people and be inspired. My heart is full of joy.

PS I posted a few other pics on Curious Handmade Facebook page too. Have a peek if you’re on FB.

This week is all about colour (or color to many)! This is the most exciting aspect of creating a design or planning a new project for me so I hope you have fun this week too.

I’m planning this to be a two colour shawl. You have two specific choices and an open ended option in the poll this week.

The two options I have been thinking about are narrow stripes – fairly even across the shawl or big blocks of colour (perhaps one colour for body and a different colour on the border).

To illustrate what I mean here are some non-shawl examples here so we’re not too influenced by other shawl designs – although there are many many beautiful shawls that use both these colour choices.

You can see what I mean by narrow even stripes in this super cute cardigan Outback by Amy Miller

When I say colour block I mean big blocks of colour like this pullover Tea with Jam and Bread by Heidi Kirrmaier and Asa Tricosa’s Simple Ziggurat.

I have added an option for “other” as you might want to get a little crazy and suggest intarsia or colour work, or other things I haven’t thought of. So rather than have to have an extra vote on something I hadn’t considered like last week, I thought I would experiment with an open option this week (yikes)!

[polldaddy poll=”7167368″]


ETA: I see the poll results don’t seem to show the “other” suggestions. If people would like to post in the comments what they suggest that would be fun for others to see – otherwise I will do a summary and try to do little updates as we go along too.

As in past weeks the poll will close at Midday, Friday 7 June (GMT).

Please enjoy, vote and leave comments and I can’t wait to see what you decide!

I’m writing this to you from Logan Airport in Boston, on the way home to London from Squam. It is wee hours in the morning in the UK and getting well into the evening here. My flight has been delayed by a couple of hours, it has been a long day and I’m a little bit emotional!

I find travelling through a lot of time zones quite disorienting at the best of times, but it will be even worse going back to London bustle after a peaceful few days beside a lake doing not very much apart at all, apart from a lot of gasbagging with fabulous women and a lot of knitting. Oh yes, and eating, there was a lot of that too.

I really wanted to send you lots of pretty postcards from Squam via the blog but unfortunately the wifi wan’t up to posting pics. You might be subjected to a few pics later this week.

I am not too surprised that sock weight is the favourite weight for the CCS. I’m just not too sure if that is because we have all those many single skeins of pretty sock yarn in our stashes or for other reasons. And after all the comments last week about the crescent shape it wasn’t a big surprise that people really like that shape, although I am still vey partial to the half-pi shape and find it really great to wear.

I have been doing a little bit of swatching this week and had a massive injection of shawl and colour inspiration in Stephen West’s Color Play class. That, combined with Stephanie Pearl McPhee’s Speed Knitting class, will hopefully contribute to a really great design and a super fast sample knitted up.

Look out for the Week 4 polll coming soon.

Here we are at Week 3 of the Curious Collective Shawl Project.

This week I’d like to know what weight of yarn you would like the shawl to be. Keep in mind we have already decided on textured stitches and a semicircular or perhaps crescent shaped shawl. It maybe isn’t the most exciting question but it will have a big impact on the drape and overall effect of the shawl so choose wisely 😉

As with all the polls I’m very happy to work with whatever the collective chooses and intrigued to find out the results.

[polldaddy poll=”7146800″]


And taking all the feedback in the comments into account from last week, I’ve decided to add an extra question in this week to clarify details about the shape as my question last week was a little vague.

[polldaddy poll=”7146834″]

Both the polls will close at Midday, Friday 7 June (GMT).

I loved reading all the comments last week and am totally inspired by your feedback. I’d love to know how you feel about the choices this week.

I’m going to be travelling this week to the Squam Arts Retreat. It looks amazing and I’m looking forward to knitting by a lake! I’m still hoping to have an update for you next weekend but in case I’m not able to it will be next Monday.


I think I’ve caught up with most people who were missing out on updates. But if you sighed up or bought the pattern on Ravelry and you don’t receive an update this evening then do message me on Ravelry or email and I’ll sort it out.