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Last week’s podcast featured an interview with Vicki Hillman, a fashion stylist friend of mine who gave some great tips into this season’s major knitting trends. The big stories for Autumn/ Winter 2014 knitwear trends were knitted trousers, chunky knits, the sweater dress and blanket scarves. To celebrate Wool Week 2014, I’m sharing my top tips for British sourced yarn that’s perfect to make your own fashion forward knitwear.

The Sweater Dress:

Things can get hot and bulky with that much knit fabric and something breathable and a little airy is key here. The great dilemma then comes if the yarn has too much drape- a sagging, shapeless dress is not a good look! I think John Arbon’s Alpaca Supreme 4ply. This is the perfect mix of British sourced 40% Alpaca, 40% Organically Farmed Falklands Merino and 20% A1 Mulberry Silk. This yarn will give all the breathability from Alpaca with the strength of Silk and Merino. A fabric with great drape without the risk of losing shape in your garment! Go with Grey for the best Normcore colour palette.


(c) JAT


Knit Trousers:

There’s a few basic requirements that would have to be in place for this particular trend- the yarn mustn’t be itchy and needs to keep it’s shape! I’m thinking something like the Corriedale Sportweight, sourced & spun in the UK exclusively for Old Maiden Aunt Yarns. Corriedale combines the best of the wool world: the kind of fine fibre we’d associate with Merino alongside the kind of elasticity we’ve come to associate with Blue Face Leicester. This is a much overlooked fibre but one I think would be perfect here, especially in jewel tones- another trend that featured highly on the catwalks during London Fashion Week.

(c) OMA

(c) OMA

Chunky Knits

I think this trend needs something really soft as most of the knits have simple ribs, oversize cables and so the stitch definition doesn’t have to be as high as you might need for more intricately worked knits. This is where softness, plump twists of yarn and great colour are key. My vote is for Eden Cottage Yarn’s Whitfell Chunky, a Worsted spun 100% Baby Alpaca. Get it in the Echinecea colour if you want to be right on trend- soft pink was everywhere this season!

(c) ECY

(c) ECY

Blanket Scarves:

This trend is about serious layering and cocooning with your winter style and it means you can work up any scarf or stole pattern you like in double the size to get the desired look. I love the look of the ‘Braes’ palette from Shilasdair, natural dyed yarns produced on the Isle of Skye. There’s a wonderful selection of fibres whether its Cashmere/Angora/Lambswool blend or a local Hebridean. Great choices for whatever trend influence you want but those braes look good for the growth of a military palette on the catwalks- a trend that can only grow. Will we see the rise of the combat trousers once more??


(c) Shilasdair

(c) Shilasdair

The Unwind Brighton fibre festival, 12-13 July is hosting a design competition.

I entered the beachy-inspired Pebble Beach Shawlette design and I’m so excited to have been selected as one of the finalists!

You can vote until 31 May on the Unwind Brighton site here.

Pebble Beach Shawlette Curious Handmade

I was greatly inspired by the divine Kettle Yarn Co yarn I chose for this project. It is Westminster which is a very luxurious and unusual 50% baby camel and 50% silk in the “Gold Rush” colour way. You can get hold of some here for the knit along we’ll be having when the pattern is released. (tip: if you sign up to the KYC newsletter you can get 10% off your first order!)

Pebble Beach Shawlette Curious Handmade


Curious Handmade PodcastThis week I have a special guest on the show for a cup of tea and a chat about natural remedies and skincare with Amanda Cook from Vintage Amanda.

We have a lovely chat about some super simple items from the kitchen cupboard you can use as highly effective beauty products.

Be prepared for some surprises!

Some of the links mentioned in the episode are:

Vintage Amanda

Honey Face Mask

Coconut Lime Deodorant

Facial Oil

Rituals vs Routines

Kale – Thyroid Connection


CH 6 : Knitvent 2013 Windows 1 and 2

Helen —  November 29, 2013 — 2 Comments

Curious Handmade PodcastHappy Thanksgiving to my American listeners. I am feeling very thankful today.

Last week I launched Curious Knitvent 2013, a mystery collection of accessories being released over the next couple of weeks.

The pattern behind window #1 on the Knitvent Calendar was Red Robin Shawl and #2 was the Checkerboard Mitts.

We have over 30 people knitting along on the Curious Handmade board for Knitvent so please pop along and join in.

Curious Community

I mention the Hands Across the Water Charity for orphaned children in Thailand.

Events in London:

Crafty Fox Market

Selvedge Winter Fair


Debbie Bliss British wool

Calling all Brits to get your knit on – Wool Week week kicks of today.

In London and Edinburgh, John Lewis is getting into the knitting spirit in a big way with Knit Nation events all week.

There are events and free classes happening all week with Erika Knight, Rowan, Milla Mia among others so go check it out if you’re in the area.

And next weekend, up north, is another knitterly event The Glasgow School of Yarn and I’m very excited as I’m heading up there to attend! There are classes with Amy Singer and Liz Lovick as well as talks with Deb Ronson. Not to mention lots of tempting vendors in the market place. If you see me please say hello. I’ll be the one muttering “yarn diet, yarn diet” over and over to myself.


If anyone has any more Wool Week events or pictures do let us know in the comments. We love all things sheepy around here.

sheep wool


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.

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.

Simple Sunday Pleasures

Helen —  May 20, 2013 — 2 Comments

After the incredible excitement of the launch of the Curious Collective Shawl Project it was difficult to calm down on Sunday (and has been since!).

I decided to try a “soft launch” with a few friends to test out the new polling gizmo I am using and that the instructions were clear. But as soon as I posted it on Ravelry it went crazy. I am so happy that people think this is a fun idea!

I can’t believe what a close run race it is between lace and texture so far! It really isn’t clear what the final result will be this week.

I did manage a few more down to earth activities on the weekend.

I finally cast on and managed a few rows of my Radiance shawl for the Curious Handmade KAL.

Sweet Clement yarn

This colour is electric. Miss L was rather taken by it too. I think she is appreciating the cashmere content!


I did a bit of cooking on Friday for meals for the kids and to stock up the freezer. I made a massive batch of spaghetti bolognaise. In an attempt to include veggies I followed a tip from my friend Oliva who told me about her Green Brew trick. This is a bag of baby spinach and head of broccoli after being steamed and pureed with the cooking water. Mixed in with the mince, the kids were none the wiser. I also added grated carrot to the sauce. I didn’t think it impacted the taste much but the texture was a little weird!

Green Brew

A lovely BBQ with friends on Sunday evening finished the weekend on a very relaxed note. The kids ran around and we caught up on life. Everyone was happy.

Welcome to the very first week of the Curious Collective Shawl Project.

For this project you can join in to help create a new shawl design!

It is a choose-your-own-shawl adventure and you will collectively decide on various design choices through a series of polls over the next five weeks.

Now the first thing I want you to know that this is not a knit along. Not just yet anyway. I’m not even sure there is a name for it as I haven’t seen it done before, but let’s call it a “design along”.

The only design decision I have made at this point is that it will be a two colour shawl. Other than that I have no idea how the final shawl will look – everything else will be up to you!

For the next five weeks I will post a poll here every Monday with a question about the design of the shawl. Then on Friday I will check the results and announce the collective choice.

There is a pattern page for the Curious Collective Shawl on Ravelry where you can sign up to receive the pattern. Until we get to the end of the design process, this will only be a placeholder. Once you have made all the selections then I will spend a week or two finalizing the design, writing up the pattern and testing and anyone who has purchased the pattern will then have access to the full pattern when it is released.

The price of the pattern will be free until 24 May and then gradually increase to full price after the full pattern has been released. So the earlier you go in the better deal you will get!

You don’t have to purchase the pattern to play along with the polls and likewise you don’t have to vote on the polls to buy the pattern. But I think it would be more fun if you do both!

Once the pattern is released I will host a knit along for the pattern.

So for week one here is the poll. Vote away, share the Curious Collective Shawl Project with your friends, and please comment on any other thoughts you have about the design choice!

[polldaddy poll=7113714]