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The first clue of The Stillness MKAL was just revealed, and we have new participants signing up daily…and a few still on the fence! That makes this a great time to dispel any questions or worries you might have about taking part. Whenever we embark on a new adventure, lots of questions come my way. Since I’m being deliberately mysterious about this mystery knitalong, it makes sense that there will be even more than usual!

So let’s get started with some answers to set your mind at ease and help you get even more excited for what lies ahead:

How do I join the MKAL? Do I need to sign up somewhere?
All you need to do to be a part of The Stillnesss MKAL is to buy the pattern on Ravelry and select three skeins of lovely yarn!

There’s no official signup, but being part of the community really enriches the experience. Make sure you set up a project page for your Stillness Shawl to track and share your progress as you go (just use a photo of your yarn or the placeholder images below as your first image: it keeps the mystery for everyone else!) You can also join us on the chat thread in the Curious Handmade Ravelry group. As the weeks and clues go on, we will have separate spoiler and non-spoiler threads for each clue where you can discuss your knitting experience and find support and encouragement to finish your shawl!

I have my three skeins of yarn but I don’t know what order to use them in! How will I know if they’ll look good?
Figuring out yarn is the most nerve-wracking part of a mystery knitalong, I know. To help put your mind at ease, my last two podcasts have had some extra clues and reassurance. Episode 298 has the most info: you can listen or read the transcript at this link. There are no big spoilers in there, just some hints on placement. The most important thing is to choose three skeins that you love and that you think look beautiful together, and then you can’t go wrong. I promise!

I have joined, but I’m having issues accessing Ravelry right now. How can I get my clues?

If you cannot visit Ravelry right now and have purchased the MKAL, please email support@curioushandmade.com and we will do our best to help you!

The listed gauge for the pattern looks loose to me. Are you sure it’s right?
The gauge of 18 stitches and 32 rows = 10 cm in stockinette is correct. It’s a fairly loose gauge to create a drapey fabric. But gauge is not critical at all for this shawl, as long as you have enough yarn. Swatch to play with your colours and to make sure you like the fabric your yarn is creating, but don’t stress out over getting exact gauge.

I’m so excited I’m counting down the hours! What time of day do the clues come out?
It’s a surprise! We are working across several time zones and are sometimes at the mercy of technology, so to avoid disappointment or letting anyone down, I can’t be more specific than Thursdays! Once you’ve purchased the pattern, you’ll be notified through Ravelry as soon as each clue arrives!

This is my first MKAL. What can I expect?
First of all, thank you for your bravery and trust taking a leap and a chance on a pattern you haven’t seen before. I am honoured!!

A mystery knit along is all about surprises: you buy the pattern without knowing what the finished design will look like and get one clue a week until the whole pattern is released. The community aspect is huge, too: people share their progress each week and speculate on what might be coming next. Knitting a project with a group is lots of fun and supportive  – you will find lots of company in the MKAL chat threads and people to ask questions if you run into any problems.

This is my first Curious Handmade shawl. What can I expect?
Enjoyment, on the whole! Relaxing, satisfying knitting. And of course, a beautiful accessory at the end!

On the more technical side of things, you can expect clarity. My patterns are clearly written in the unique Curious Handmade Percentage Checklist style with stitch count for every row and percentages of stitches knit to help you pace yourself and estimate yarn needed. Directions are written in full and also include charted instructions for any lace sections.

I’ve knit many Curious Handmade shawls before. What can I expect?

Well, you’ll recognise the checklist format, and if you’re a fan of my patterns (thank you!) I think you’ll find that this project is quite “typical” of my designs: some lace, feminine, easy-to-wear, and a little dreamy. I also think it will keep you guessing until the last clue is finally revealed!

What is the level of difficulty?
It is beginner to adventurous beginner/intermediate throughout.

It is a slight step up from beginner in places due to some easy lace and the amount of knitting involved but it definitely isn’t difficult in any sense. There might be a handful of rows where you really have to concentrate on where you are setting up a new pattern – but it is very achievable for an adventurous lace beginner. And lifelines are always helpful if you are worried! Here is a helpful tutorial on adding lifelines to your knitting.

How much does it cost?
The price for the whole MKAL is £5 (plus applicable VAT).

I think the amount of the price is wrong, it looks higher than £5?
The price of the pattern does not include VAT. Ravelry automatically adds VAT to all purchases of patterns in the EU when you check out. The amount varies by country, so it may show as a higher price than £4, depending on your location. I’m sorry about any inconvenience, but it is out of my control.

When will the clues be released?
Clue #1 release: Thursday, June 25th
Clue #2 release: Thursday, July 2nd
Clue #3 release: Thursday, July 9th
Clue #4 release: Thursday, July 16th
Clue #5 release: Thursday, July 23rd

The final pattern reveal on social media will be Friday, July 31st. We’ll be avoiding spoilers until then. From that date you can share your finished shawl anywhere you like without spoiler alerts!

The knitalong will continue until Friday, August 28th to allow plenty of comfortable knitting time. So you can go at your own pace and still be in with a chance to win a prize for your finished shawl!
At the end of the MKAL I’ll compile all the clues into one pattern document so that you have everything in one place if you’d like to knit it again.

I don’t have time to commit to an MKAL right now, can I still participate somehow?
Life sometimes gets in the way of knitting, and not everyone can keep up with the weekly clue releases. That is perfectly okay! You can jump in and out at any point, or even wait until all the clues are out before you begin. The KAL will run for about a month after the last clue is released, so you can still join in and post your finished shawl on your own schedule. For a taste of the lovely MKAL community experience, hop into the chat threads now and then, and don’t forget to check in on Instagram with the hashtag #StillnesssMKAL

These answers should cover almost everything, but of course if you have other questions that I didn’t address here, you can pop into MKAL Chatter Thread on Ravelry for more answers, or email support@curioushandmade.com for help! As you can imagine, this is a very busy time, so your patience while waiting for a reply is truly appreciated.

Are you feeling more prepared to take the leap now?

Buy the Stillness Shawl MKAL and join the fun!

Join the Curious Crew as we spread our knitting wings and explore the far reaches of our stash and skills with #Knit20for2020! 

Discovering new things is one of the most exciting and rewarding parts of being a maker. The small improvements we make with each project add up to a lifetime of knowledge and skill, so gradually that we don’t even notice until we take a step back and see how far we’ve come.

This year, I wanted to branch out with my knitting and nurture my creativity. Although I knit every day for work, my personal knitting projects often take a back seat. The Knit 20 for 2020 project began as a way to encourage myself to try new things, reach beyond my comfort zone, and cross a few things off my wish list. And once I’d made the plan for myself, it was only natural to invite the Curious Crew to play along with me. 

To take part, you can download our Knitting Checklist, and start to tick off boxes as you complete projects. If you want to really push yourself, you can knit a separate item for each item on the list, or you can tick off several boxes with one project. For example you could knit a pair of colourwork socks from a new-to-you designer using deep stash yarn and give them away as a gift, and you’d already have 5 boxes ticked! You can also get creative and substitute your own ideas for any of the items in the list, if something doesn’t suit you or you have a personal knitting goal that’s not included. 

As you work through your list, don’t forget to share your progress with the community!

There’s the #knit20for2020 hashtag on Instagram which you can visit, follow, and use to tag your projects. 

We also have a thread in the Curious Handmade Ravelry Group where people are sharing their plans, their lovely makes, and a lot of praise and encouragement!

The chance to win a lovely prize and support your favourite yarn business with the #Knit20for2020 KAL and monthly giveaway!

As something positive for us all to focus on and look forward to, and to help support small businesses who may be struggling as a result of the pandemic, I decided to add an ongoing KAL for the whole community. The Knit 20 for 2020 KAL will take place in our Curious Handmade Ravelry Group and Instagram. Here’s how it will work:

Every month I’ll post a #Knit20for2020 Finished Object thread in the Ravelry group. This will be a no-chat thread. At the end of each month I’ll draw a winner from this thread, and another from the #Knit20for2020 hashtag on Instagram.

To enter on Ravelry:

  • Post a photo you’ve completed as a part of the challenge.
  • Nominate an independent yarnie business, indie dyer, or local yarn shop you’d like to receive a gift certificate for, if you are a winner. 

To enter on Instagram:

  • Post a photo you’ve completed as a part of the challenge.
  • Nominate and tag an independent yarnie business, indie dyer, or local yarn shop you’d like to receive a gift certificate for, if you are a winner. 
  • Use the #Knit20for2020 hashtag and tag @curioushandmade so I can find your post!

Each monthly winner will receive a $50 USD (or approximate equivalent currency) gift certificate to the business of their choice!

I hope you all have a lot of fun with the project: I can’t wait to see all the wonderful things you make and hear about all the new things you learn. 

Photo Credit: Deb Hickman

We’re getting ready to begin The Handmade Sock Society Season 3! We’re just days away from the start of presales! I’ve really been looking forward to this launch: sock knitters are such a fun and adventurous bunch, and these secret pattern collections always have such an exciting build up. Since the buzz began, I’ve heard from a lot of new sock knitters, or knitters who really want to join in with the fun but have been too intimidated to tackle the mystery of the sock. First of all, you’re not alone! A lot of people find the prospect of socks daunting. But the secret is that they’re not all that tricky. Honest.

Over the last two years, I’ve put together something we’ve taken to calling “The Sock Series”. They stated as emails and ended up here on the blog by popular demand. It a collection of tips, tricks, and resources on sock-knitting techniques that should make your first foray into the wonderful world of socks a little less scary. I’ve collected links to all those posts here:

Part 1 of The Sock Series: Choosing Yarn

Part 2 of The Sock Series: Needles and Techniques

Part 3 of The Sock Series: Casting On

Part 4 of The Sock Series: Avoiding Holes in the Gusset

I’ve also just posted another episode: it was sent to Curious Handmade Newsletter Subscribers last year and it’s a subject I still get a lot of questions on:

Part 5 of The Sock Series: Closing the Toes

I hope you find them helpful! And if there’s anything else about sock knitting that worries you, or if there’s another sock-knitting topic you think we should add to the series, let me know!

In the run up to the launch of The Handmade Sock Society Season 3, I’m bringing back our handy “Sock Series”. These are simple go-to-guides for the parts of sock-knitting that tend to scare off beginners.

This is our fifth guide to sock-knitting techniques! Today I’m going to discuss the Kitchener Stitch, a brilliant way to get a seamless finish on your socks.

Once you’ve knit to the very end of your sock’s toe, you need a way to close up that hole. You could just run your yarn tail through all the stitches and pull it tight (like the top of a hat) but that’s not very true to the shape of most feet. You could bind off and then just whipstitch the edges of the toes together, but that would result in a fairly bulky seam: not the most comfortable, especially when pressed against the toe of your shoe. So how do you take those live stitches and end up with a smooth finish (with no annoying seam)? Our friend the Kitchener Stitch.

I’ll be the first to admit that as a newer knitter I found this technique daunting. I’m afraid it was a major contributor to my Second Sock Syndrome for years! It’s not at all difficult, but I kept having to look it up every time I wanted to finish a sock. In the end, it was just a matter of practice. Now I think it’s very satisfying, and even quite fun. Hopefully, by the end of this email, you’ll think so, too!

The Kitchener Stitch is also known as grafting or weaving. It’s a very clever method that allows you to marry two sets of live stitches together into an invisible seam. It can look pretty complicated when you see the steps written out, but in reality, it is very simple, and it’s easy to get into a rhythm. All you have to do is start.

The very clever and generous Very Pink has made a few excellent video tutorials for the Kitchener Stitch

She also has a brilliant slow-mo version!

For visual learners, I think videos (and especially those slow-motion videos!) are hard to beat! I know some people do prefer to see the written instructions, too. Sometimes it’s just a bit quicker to glance at the instructions to refresh your memory than it is to rewatch a video.

How to do the Kitchener Stitch:

First, distribute your stitches evenly onto two needles, with the ends of the needles pointing the same way. You can use two double pointed needles, or just the two needles of a circular. Make sure the wrong sides (the inside of the sock) are facing each other. You’ll need a yarn or tapestry needle, threaded onto the tail of your yarn. Start with the yarn tail coming from the BACK needle.

First, you’ll work the Set Up instructions, once:

  1. Insert your tapestry needle into the first stitch on the FRONT needle as if to PURL, pull the yarn up and leave the stitch on the needle.
  2. Insert your tapestry needle into the first stitch on the BACK needle as if to KNIT, pull the yarn up and leave the stitch ON the needle.

Now it’s time to Kitchener:

  1. FRONT NEEDLE: KNIT OFF — insert the yarn needle as if to knit the first stitch on the front needle, pull yarn through, drop the stitch off
  2. FRONT NEEDLE: PURL ON — insert the yarn needle as if to purl the next stitch on the front needle, pull yarn through, leave the stitch on the needle
  3. BACK NEEDLE: PURL OFF — insert the yarn needle as if to purl the first stitch on the front needle, pull yarn through, drop the stitch off
  4. BACK: KNIT ON — insert the yarn needle as if to knit the first stitch on the back needle, pull yarn through, leave the stitch on the needle

Just keep repeating these steps until you reach the end of the seam. (It can help to keep muttering “Knit, Purl, Purl, Knit” as you go!) Then just pull the working yarn tight and weave in the loose end as usual. And there you go! You are the proud owner of a fully finished sock.

For a hybrid approach of words and photos, this classic Knitty tutorial has always been my go-to.

I hope that helps! By now, even the newest knitters in the Curious Crew should be well-prepared to take on their first socks (there is always plenty of encouragement, help, and community in the Ravelry group, too.) And if you’ve been making socks for years and years, and have a smart or sneaky grafting or finishing tip up your sleeve, please share it. Let’s never stop learning!

Happy knitting,
Helen x

Part 1 of The Sock Series: Choosing Yarn

Part 2 of The Sock Series: Needles and Techniques

Part 3 of The Sock Series: Casting On

Part 4 of The Sock Series: Avoiding Holes in the Gusset

Knitvent through the years

Helen —  October 21, 2019 — Leave a comment

This time of year naturally invites a bit of nostalgia. Our brains make much stronger memories any time there is a strong emotion involved, which is why we remember how we’ve spent most of the holidays in our lives but not what we were doing on most random Tuesdays in June, for example. Making and giving handmade gifts is another good way of creating a lasting memory. All the love and care and all the hours that go into each project have a way of working them deep into our hearts.

This will be the 7th Knitvent, a number that’s a little boggling when I look at it typed out there. Just like the holidays, each year is a mix of the comfortingly familiar and the unexpectedly new. It is astonishing to think about how many memories and gifts we’ve made together over the years, and I am so looking forward to doing it all again very soon.

I know we have many knitters, readers, and listeners with us who remember all the way back to the very first Knitvent, but we’re also lucky enough to have new friends joining the Curious Crew who have never taken part before. I love taking a moment before the season kicks off to look back. If you’re a long-time Knitventer I hope this retrospective shakes loose some happy memories and maybe inspires you to double back and knit something you always meant to make from a previous season (or to knit another version of an old favourite.) And if you’re a new knitter who is not quite sure what to expect, I think seeing all the past collections lined up together like this will give you some idea of what you’re in for if you join in!

We have a buy-one-get-one free sale happening right now, and all of our Knitvent collections are still available to purchase as full collections or as individual patterns, so if you’d like to revisit Knitvents past, now’s your chance to spoil yourself a little while you wait for this year’s fun to start!

Two-for-one sale on all Curious Handmade Patterns and Collections (Including past Knitvents!)


Knitvent 2018

Last year’s Knitvent explored the theme of Peace, drawing inspiration from some of the most beautiful poetry on the subject. Finding peace in a busy, conflicted world at a particularly hectic time of year isn’t always a simple task. I find that using knitting and stolen quiet moments of reflection as a kind of meditation, as a way to find my centre, helps me show up in the world in a more peaceful way. This was an introspective Knitvent, and I was very moved by the thoughtful response (and of course, gorgeous knitting!) from the community.

A collage of the knitting patterns from Knitvent 2018 by Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade

Patterns:

Large photo: Dust of Snow Wrap

Small photos, clockwise from top: Peace of Wild Things Shawl, Frost at Midnight CowlWinter Sleep SocksHow Quiet Mitts, How Quiet Hat

Buy the whole Knitvent 2018 Collection


Knitvent 2017

This was the year of our Nutcracker Knitvent, and it was one of my favourite collections to date. The community response was spectacular, with floods of happy memories sparked and shared by the Nutcracker theme. Favourite childhood moments, pure holiday magic, the real-life-fairytale of ballerinas and sweeping orchestral music: it was all incredibly inspiring and it was an absolute joy to see how much fun everyone had with these patterns.

A collage of images showing all the knitting patterns from the Knitvent 2017 collection by Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade

Patterns:

Large photo: Land of Sweets Cowl

Small photos, clockwise from top: Marzipan LegwarmersClara’s CapeTchaikovsky MittsTchaikovsky HatTulle Shawl

Buy the whole Knitvent 2017 Collection


Knitvent 2016

This year’s collection had a fun colour story with lots of pops of teal, one of my favourites. I was inspired by old fashioned travel posters and postcards, and by the idea of a ski holiday in an alpine forest. In 2016 we had a guest designer, which was exciting and brought a new perspective to the collection: Renée Callahan of East London Knit designed the very stylish Boreal Forest hat and cowl, featuring retro-styled graphical colourwork.

A collage showing all the knitting patterns from the Knitvent 2016 collection by Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade

Patterns:

Large photo: Alpine Sunset Shawl
Small photos, clockwise from top: Fresh Tracks HeadbandBoreal Forest HatBoreal Forest CowlJuniper SocksJuniper Mitts

Buy the Knitvent 2016 Collection


Knitvent 2015

The theme for 2015 was “light and bright” and captured the glitter and sparkle of wintertime and the cosy warmth of comforting, texture-rich yarns. From twinkling fairylights to far-off stars, from crisp unbroken snow and frosty icicles to the crackling glow of the fireplace, we reveled in everything that makes the season bright.

A collage image showing all the knitting patterns from the Knitvent 2015 Collection by Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade

Patterns:

Large image: Winter Wander Shawl
Small images, clockwise from top: Ice River HatIce River SnoodCabin Path ShawlKindling MittsKindling Hat

Buy the Knitvent 2015 Collection


Knitvent 2014

The second year of Knitvent played with texture and detail. The shine of sequins, beads, and ribbons contrasted with the tactile softness of mohair, cables, and tassels. I love seeing these patterns pop up again and again through the years, bringing more happiness to new people every season. Every time I come across a new project someone has made from the Knitvent archive my heart just glows.

A collge image showing the knitting patterns in the Knitvent 2014 collection by Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade

Large image: Adorn Gift Bags
Small images, clockwise from top right: Candlelit Beaded ShawlIce Skating Scarf and WrapLind CowlCrisp and Even Cowl

Buy the Knitvent 2014 Collection


Knitvent 2013

Our very first Knitvent together was ambitious and exciting and so, so much fun. I didn’t know how I was going to pull off releasing eight designs so quickly, but we managed it and I think it really gave me a burst of confidence as a newish knitting designer at the time. It’s been a remarkable journey since then, and I still see people knitting these designs all the time: the Red Robin Shawl and the Warm Wishes Hottie Cover in particular have really gone on to lead rich lives of their own since then!

A collage of the first 4 patterns in the Knitvent 2013 Collection by Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade
A collection of the next 4 patterns in the Knivent 2013 Collection by Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade

Patterns:

Top row, right to left: Red Robin ShawlCheckerboard MittsFresh Powder CowlWarm Wishes Hottie.
Bottom row, right to left: Stardust Infinity ScarfRella MittsQuicksilver CowlNaughty or Nice Hat.

Buy the Knitvent 2013 Collection


I want to say a huge and heartfelt thank you to everyone who has ever been a part of Knitvent and to everyone who is considering joining us in 2019. Your joy, enthusiasm, and generosity make this event so special, and I’m so grateful that I get to do this again with you this year! If you would like to make sure that you don’t miss any information about Knitvent 2019, make sure that you are signed up for the Curious Handmade Newsletter. That’s where you can hear all the news about our theme this year, the early bird special, upcoming giveaways and pop-up sales, and every bit of the Knivent magic. Happy knitting!

As Knitvent time approaches, I know many of you are already deep in your planning for this year’s gift knits. Handmade gifts are truly precious, and so much preparation and anticipation goes into the process: making a list, matching patterns and yarn, and somehow scheduling all that knitting into our busy days. It is one of the great joys of the season, as long as you have a plan, give yourself plenty of time, and remember that this is supposed to be fun!

There will be exciting new gift-knitting patterns on the way when Knitvent begins, but to help you in your early stages of gift knitting, here is our annual Curious Handmade Gift Guide. We’ve curated some tried-and-tested favourite designs which are sure to delight your dear ones this holiday season.

As a Knitvent warm-up treat and to make sure the season gets off to a glorious start, I’m running a buy-one-get-one free sale across all Curious Handmade patterns and collections from now until Monday, October 21st, 2019. Now’s the time to stock up on any patterns you might have missed. There’s no code necessary to get your free pattern. Just put any two of my patterns or collections into your cart by the end of Monday, October 21st and the least expensive item we be automatically free as a gift from me to you and your loved ones!

Shop The Curious Handmade Gift-Knitting BOGO Sale!

I hope you find some perfect patterns to keep you busy while we wait for the Knitvent launch: maybe you’ll be able to cross a few names off your list a little early this year!


One Skein Wonders

A smallish shawl makes an ideal gift. You don’t need much time or yarn to whip up one of these beauties. Easy to knit and easy to wear, these one-skein shawls are great for showcasing a special yarn. Choose something lacy and delicate for a special-occasion shawl (you can even add beads) or look for something solidly comforting to wrap them up warm for every day.

Large image: The Peace of Wild Things Shawl. Small images, clockwise from top left: Tulle Shawl, Little Meg Shawl, Alpine Sunset Shawl, Rewilding Shawl

Perfectly Matched

Any one of these items would make a fabulous quick-knit gift, but if you have the time to make a matching set you can really make your knitworthy loved one feel cherished. Pair a stylish hat with a coordinating warm cowl or a toasty pair of mitts. Almost all of these patterns come in multiple sizes or are easily adjustable, and with the right yarn choice they should suit just about anyone on your list.

A collection of accessory knitting patterns from Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade
Left to Right: Ice River Hat, Ice River Snood, How Quiet Hat, How Quiet Mitts
Left to Right: Kindling Hat, Kindling Mitts, Tchaikovsky Hat, Tchaikovsky Mitts

Snug Socks

A handmade pair of warm woolly socks is a wonderfully nurturing gift. Choose a squishy DK-weight yarn for the ultimate cosy kicking-around-the-house-pair or look for a sock yarn with a little touch of luxury (a bit of cashmere never went astray) and your lucky recipient will be dancing for joy.

A collection of five pairs of socks designed by Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade
Large image: Vintage Fairy Lights Socks. Small images clockwise from top left: Winter Sleep Socks, Juniper Socks, Red Robin Socks, Winter Rose Socks

Cuddly Cowls

Much quicker to knit than a scarf but just as warm and comforting, a cowl makes an excellent gift. If you have a bit of time before you’re exchanging presents, you can chose a delicate yarn, but for knitters in a hurry, a chunky, cosy cowl is often the answer. With large enough yarn and needles, anything is possible: many a knitter has been known to work a one-evening miracle with a super bulky cowl!

Large photo: Land of Sweets Cowl. Small photos clockwise from top left: Crisp and Even Cowl, Frost at Midnight Cowl, Fresh Powder Cowl, Laveer Kerchief

Grand Gesture Shawls

Reserved for only the most knitworthy of all your loved ones, a grand gesture shawl is a magnificent way to show how much you care. If you’re planning to knit a present on this scale, be extra sure to start early. With their interplay of colours, lace, and fancy stitches, these designs are a joy to knit, but it takes an investment of precious yarn, time, and energy to create a shawl like this. A true labor of love. The final result is sure to be cherished for a lifetime. This is how heirlooms happen!

Large photo: Inkling Shawl. Small photos, clockwise from top left: Sprite’s Fen Shawl, Maytham Shawl, Surprise Party Shawl, Snowmelt Shawl

Hopefully this guide has given you an idea or two to get you started! If you’d like even more inspiration, why not pour yourself a cup of tea and spend a little time exploring the whole library of Curious Handmade designs? Remember, every pattern and collection is buy-one-get-one-free from now until Monday 21 October 2019. Happy knitting!

The Knitting Pipeline Ireland tour was a triumph. What an incredible group of ladies. What a magical place. What beautiful memories. Even though Paula wasn’t there with us in person, her unmistakable touch was everywhere for each of those wonderful days.

I joined the group after they had toured around Ireland a little bit. They had settled into the glorious Mount Juliet country house estate for the knitting retreat portion of the trip, and I was so delighted to be a part of this company of amazing women. There was so much relaxing free time to chat and knit and soak up the surroundings, but we also had a few marvelous field trips, including a visit to a woollen mill and a rare breed sheep farm. I’ve recorded a podcast episode all about our time together, which you can listen to here.

I also have some really beautiful photos to share. Just look at this place!

Our home base, Mount Juliet, was a glorious spot, and it also inspired the shawl I designed for this retreat.

This is the Mount Juliet Shawl

Hidden amid peaceful woodlands and velvety green fields in Kilkenny Ireland sits a glorious old manor house called Mount Juliet. It was completed in 1760 and named for the bride of the Viscount of Ikerrin. Juliet Boyle, daughter of the Earl of Shannon, brought with her a generous fortune and an exquisite eye for beauty. The estate was built with her money and named in her honour. It was a tribute to young love and remains a masterclass in elegance and harmony.

At this time of year, the woodland walks are carpeted with bluebells, the hedgerows are dappled with hawthorne blossom, and the walled garden is bursting into colour. 

It is a stunning setting for the Knitting Pipeline Ireland Retreat, and I was honoured to be asked to design a pattern for the attendees.

The Mount Juliet Shawl is inspired by the compelling history and lovely Georgian architecture of its namesake, and dedicated to the vision and courage of women who make things happen, particularly our dear Paula Emons-Fuessle, who planned this wonderful gathering for all of us.

This asymmetrical triangle shawl features bands of simple but lovely lace in two colours, to recall the graceful lines and beautiful windows of the great house. Fittingly, the sample was knit with yarn from Olann, a brilliant Irish indie yarn company. 

This is a relaxing but engaging knit with enough gentle repetition that it is easy to memorise for long chatty evening with friends, but the final result is striking.

S I Z E 
One size

FI N I SHED M EASUREMENTS 
Approximately 150cm/ 59” on the curved edge, 135cm/53” straight edge and 97cm/38” cast off edge.

YARN 
Olann Sock Lite 80% superwash merino; 20% nylon; 425m / 465yds per 100g skein, 2 x 100g skeins, 
Colour A: Muir (Grey) 
Colour B: Annex (Pink)

Sample knit in a light fingering weight yarn used approximately: 
Colour A: 90g 382m / 420yds 
Colour B: 75g, 320m / 350 yds

NEEDLES 
4mm (US 6), 100cm (40”) long circular needles (or size to obtain gauge)

NOTIONS 
Tapestry needle 
Safety pin or detachable stitch marker

GAUGE 
24 sts/30 rows = 10cm (4”) in stockinette stitch after blocking 
Exact gauge is not critical but may affect the amount of yarn needed if different.

I love designing shawls for retreats. They seem to capture a little of the energy and magic that happens in these little pockets of sacred creative and social time. They mean a lot to those of us who were there, but they also provide a welcoming doorway for those who couldn’t be there…it’s a kind of sharing that I value highly. The Mount Juliet Shawl Pattern is now available to purchase on Ravelry. I hope that whoever casts this on feels a measure of the excitement and togetherness we felt in Mount Juliet, and enjoys every single stitch.

Buy the Mount Juliet Shawl Pattern on Ravelry!



Yesterday, I sent out an email to my mailing list that gave a peek into part of my design process. The response was so lovely that I decided to share it with the whole community as a blog post here. I hope you enjoy it!

The launch of TSS 4 is just a few days away and I am bursting to begin. I’m just tying up the last loose ends before this mystery collection is available to buy on Ravelry on May 4th. In the meantime, I wanted to share a bit about how I approached the design for this season.

One of the most beautiful things about knitting is that the design process from pattern to finished object is actually a collaboration. As a designer, I bring together concepts, shapes, stitches, and textures, and I am almost always deeply inspired by colour and the character of a specific yarn. After all the scheming and experimenting in solitude, the real magic happens when the pattern leaves my hands and goes out into the world. New hands, new minds, and new imaginations interpret what I have begun, and it is always a thrill to see the flow and swell of new ideas from the knitters who create from my designs. 

We talk a lot about choosing colours for our projects, because it’s such an exciting process, and I think because it can be a bit daunting as well. I often see knitters fretting that they might not choose the “right” yarn or that the colours they are drawn to might not go together well. To begin with, I don’t believe that there is such a thing as a right or a wrong yarn, only yarns that you love or don’t love. If you choose colours that spark inspiration and happiness for you, you’re already halfway there. With that said, I get so many questions about how I choose my colours and where I get my inspiration that I wanted to offer a bit of help to anyone who is having trouble getting started. 

Because The Shawl Society is all about building that collaborative community and deepening our creative confidence, I thought I would let you in behind the scenes to see how I gathered inspiration for this collection. I hope it gives you some inspiration as well, while you begin to gather your yarn choices for the upcoming patterns. 

The Theme

Choosing a theme or story for a pattern or a collection is an amazing jumping-off point for colour and design inspiration. Sometimes that’s a very literal interpretation: a design based on spring flowers might immediately bring to mind the fresh pastels of hyacinths or the sunny yellow of daffodils. Other times it can be more emotional and abstract: for example, last Knitvent had a theme of peace. Peace might not have a specific or defined colour, but we all know which colours and shades feel peaceful for us, personally. Thinking about colour in this way can lead to a very personal and beautiful palette.

For the upcoming season of The Shawl Society, my approach was a little of both. The sea has a million shades of blue, soft sandy neutrals, warm and glowing sunrises and sunsets, and all of those references spoke to me. But there’s also that feeling that I wanted to capture, that sense of being exactly where you want to be, of time slowing down, of pure quiet happiness. I had to search for colours that reminded me of what it feels like to spend a day by the shore. 

One of the most powerful tools I know for exploring these kinds of ideas is a Pinterest board. Here is the board I put together for this collection. I think the best way to build a board like this is to go in with a very loose idea of what you’re looking for. Just create a board and start pinning. Don’t hold back or try to curate anything at first, just add everything that speaks to you. Over time, you will probably start to identify themes and similarities developing: certain colours and textures that appear over and over again. This is an excellent way to start to understand your own tastes in a deeper way. 

True Collaboration: What Inspires You?

I chose an ocean theme for the six secret patterns of The Shawl Society Season 4, but you don’t have to. Maybe you also feel the draw of the waves, but maybe your “happy place” is somewhere completely different, and you’d like to explore that creatively. I’m imagining Shawl Society Members choosing far off cities, fictional locations, or even their own back yards, and building a palette from the inspiration they find there.

Maybe you don’t have a place or a theme in mind and your response to certain colours is instinctive: you just love it because you love it and it is as simple as that. That pure attraction to a yarn is pure and thrilling and I know it well…there doesn’t always need to be a concept! There’s a chance you might visit your local yarn store and a certain skein will sing out from the shelf, even though it’s completely different from what you thought you were looking for. Listen to those promptings and see where they take you! The first and only rule is to knit with what you love.

What About Colour Theory?

Colour theory can be a helpful tool in design. It shouldn’t be an intimidating subject or a set of hard-and-fast rules that dictate what’s “wrong” or “right” and it shouldn’t cramp your creative freedom. If you haven’t explored it before, there’s a wealth of inspiration online. We’ve visited it a few times on the podcast and blog, if you need something to get you started. 

I did an early podcast on the subject: Episode 46 has some handy definitions and links. 

A few years ago during a Curious Handmade MKAL, we were fortunate enough to have two guest bloggers share their wealth of knowledge about colour, colour theory, and shawls. These posts both have some really lovely inspiration photos with a wide range of colour combinations that might spark some ideas:

Kristen from Skein

Anj from Meadow Yarn
Watching what creative and talented knitters add to my design with their own colour and yarn choices is one of the most rewarding and heartwarming parts of this job. I absolutely cannot wait to watch that miracle unfold again for the 4th season of The Shawl Society. As you start to experiment and play, I’d love to see the choices you are considering: please share them on Instagram with the hashtag #TheShawlSociety so we can all begin to get inspired together!!

Happy Knitting!

Helen x


 

Our friends at A Yarn Story are hosting a special event at the Apex Hotel in Bath from 10am to 4pm, 11th May 2019. It is partly a goodbye party: a chance to spend a bit of time together before I move to Australia.

Come join us for a day of tea, cake and knitting. We will have a lovely sociable day and there will be the chance to meet and knit with other yarn lovers. There will be a marketplace with some of my very favourite indie dyers and crafty businesses full of delights.

An advance ticket of £10 will give you access to the marketplace and knit group, plus beverages and cake. Tickets will also be available on the door for £12. All are welcome!

Tickets are now available to purchase here.

There will also be a more intimate dinner event later that same evening: dinner tickets will be offered for sale later, to those who have already bought a ticket to the daytime event.

I hope to have a chance to see and chat with many of you in person!

I hope you enjoyed catching up with or reviewing the first three installments of The Sock Series. It’s lovely to hear from newish knitters who are building their confidence around sock knitting. By the time the first pattern of this new season drops, you’ll be unstoppable! I know we have a lot of expert sock knitters in our community, too, so if you have a special tip or trick you’d be willing to share with the rest of us, please let me know: sharing with—and learning from—each other is one of the great joys of the knitting community.

I’ve had a lot of questions about when we’re going to kick off this season, and I’m excited to say…

Membership for The Handmade Sock Society Season 2 opens TOMORROW!

I’ll send out an email with links as soon as it’s live with more details and everything you need to know. I can’t wait!

In the meantime, I want to celebrate this community and the around-the-corner kickoff of The Handmade Sock Society Season 2, so I’ve started a giveaway thread in our Ravelry group! The winner will get a hand-picked special skein of sock yarn from my stash…I’ll choose something I think you’ll like! I’ll also be offering a free pattern of your choice to six more lucky winners (one for each design!) To be in for a chance to win, all you need to do is

  • Make a project page for THSS Season 2 Socks #1
  • Post in the giveaway thread with your favourite seaside memory or place…if you’re landlocked and haven’t spent any time by the sea, where would you love to spend a peaceful week on your own, with your knitting? Share your dream seaside escape with us! Photos are highly encouraged but not required. 🙂

Now…back to the Sock Series!

Today I want to share a technique that I learned from a very dear knitting friend of mine, Paula from The Knitting Pipeline. Paula is an incredibly skilled knitter, and always so generous with her knowledge.  She showed me this very helpful sock-knitting tip on one of her wonderful retreats, and I’ve been using it ever since.

Anatomy of a Sock: The Heel Flap and Gusset

A feature of sock knitting (and one of the bits that scares most newbies the most) is the need to “turn the heel” of the sock. This is how you achieve the “L” shape that makes a sock a comfy, well-fitting sock instead of just being a scrunchy tube. It’s one of those things that sounds so much more complicated than it is. Once you’re actually doing it, it’s not so complicated at all, especially if you have a clearly-written pattern (and maybe a patient knitting friend online or in real life) to walk you through it. There are several different ways to create a heel, but one of the most common (and one of my favourites) is the heel flap and gusset. 

The actual knitting of the heel flap and gusset is actually pretty simple, as you’ll know if you’ve ever knit a sock of this type. But there is one issue that can haunt even experienced knitters: the hole in the gusset. What causes these pesky holes, and how can you avoid them?

When you create the heel flap of a sock, you’re only knitting half the stitches. Once you’re done, and after you’ve shaped the “cup” of the heel (usually with short rows…don’t worry, it’s actually quite easy!) you’ll need a way to resume knitting in the round. So, you pick up the stitches along the side of the heel flap you’ve just created until you reach the waiting stitches at the front of the sock. You could just keep knitting across, but if you do, there will always be a little gap there. This gap is what creates the holes (also known as pig’s eyes!) and it can be very frustrating. Who wants a little hole in a brand new sock?

The solution is usually to pick up an extra stitch or two in the gap, but as I learned, if you’re not careful how you pick up those stitches, you can sometimes inadvertently create an even bigger and more noticeable hole. There are a few different ways to tackle this, but the one I learned from Paula is so easy and foolproof that I’ve used it on every single sock since. 

I could try to explain it, but luckily, I don’t have to. The amazing Paula has already made a fabulous, easy-to-follow video, which makes it crystal clear:

Isn’t that ingenious? It’s so simple and so effective. I hope it’s as helpful to you as it has been to me!

If you are a regular listener of Paula’s wonderful podcast, you’ll know that right now she’s dealing with some scary health stuff, with all the grace and good humour we would expect from her. I know that messages of support and encouragement mean a lot to her right now. You can drop by her Ravelry Group to say hello and keep up with her health updates on her Caring Bridge site. She is very much in our hearts and I know so many knitters are sending her so much gratitude, love, and strength right now. 

Happy knitting,
Helen x