High Street Hat – pattern update!

I’ve reworked my popular High Street Hat knitting pattern with new photos, new sizes and clearer instructions.

High Street Hat 4

I’ve decided to offer the new pattern for sale. You can purchase it for £2.50, from Ravelry or from the I Knit London stand at the Ideal Homes Show (Earl’s Court, 20 March-5 April).

For more info, see my blog pattern page here or the Ravelry pattern page here. I hope you like it!

What Women Want

… or at least, what they talk about.

I was talking to Paul-the-Riverford-vegman this morning, and mentioned the awful Daily Mail article that basically said knitting groups are like Sex and the City except with knitting. That women meet up, drink cocktails and gossip about men while we knit. We don’t!! (and yes, I know I should be well above moaning about a Daily Fail article) For starters, there are often men at knitting group. But even when there are no men present, we don’t talk about them! Paul asked “well, what do you drink, and what do you talk about?” “Cider, or tea if it’s in the day time, and we talk about knitting” I said.

But it got me thinking. We don’t talk about knitting ALL the time. So unbeknownst to the rest of my knitting group (I didn’t want them to be self conscious as it would ruin the exercise), I scribbled down the topics of conversation at this afternoon’s group – consisting of five women of various ages and nationalities – over the course of about an hour or two. I went along with the conversation but tried not to propose topics myself or steer it in any way. Here’s what I wrote:

Work (troubles at), science, publishing, shopping, chocolate, cake, diabetes research (and irony of bake sale in aid of), knitting, hot cross buns, Italy, Wales, languages, Canada, cold (in Canada and London), emigration (to Canada), immigration (to London), knitting, cake (again), cafes near Earl’s Court, whinging (re work (troubles at)), home improvements, knitting (lengthy discussion of different bind-off methods), names (common and uncommon), rope-making (a man who had been making rope at another table came over to talk to Helly and she invited him to join our group), crochet hooks (comparison of), chocolate (again), atheism, racism, postcards, marmalade.

At this point I stopped writing, told the group what I had been doing and read out the list. They hadn’t been at all suspicious about my scribblings, they must have thought I was writing pattern notes. They all agreed the list was fairly representative of what we tend to talk about – not many highbrow philosophical discussions there, but certainly no gossiping, and no talking about men apart from a passing reference by Helly to her partner Ed (re home improvements). I know knitters are fairly preoccupied with cake but even I was surprised at the amount of time we spent speaking about food.

“You should write a blog post about this”, Helly said.

“I intend to”, I replied. “I’m going to flesh it out by talking about that test they judge films by, I can’t remember what it’s called though”

the Bechdel Test” said Jenny. “In order to satisfy the test, a film has to have at least two women in it, who talk to each other, about something other than a man”. This happens in real life all the time (as we just evidenced), but not very often in film and TV.

The conversation moved on to lectures, museums, art, the Daily Mail Oncological Ontology Project, and garden centres.

Then we all ate some cake.

Baby knitting

Ahhhh, babies. They are cute. And my friends keep having them. I feel slightly guilty to say that I haven’t managed to knit for the last couple of babies.

Anyway, it’s always useful to have a baby knitting book or two on the shelf. So when Quadrille offered to send me a couple of books for review I accepted quite gratefully!

001

Blankets Bears and Bootees by Debbie Bliss
Debbie Bliss has already published countless baby knitting books, and every couple of years she comes out with a new one, to support her range of yarns. Debbie Bliss yarn is very widely available in the UK, although I must admit I’m not a huge fan – too much synthetic fibre for my liking (especially at the price point), a tendency towards pilling, and often an unacceptable amount of knots in the ball.

The yarn aside however, Debbie Bliss seems to have carved out a niche among new knitters. Her books seem to be aimed at people who aren’t skilled knitters, perhaps people who are motivated to knit by the impending arrival of a friend’s baby! This book is no different. There are 22 pages at the front of the book dedicated to techniques, from cast ons to stranded knitting and seaming. The pictures are very good, and the instructions for seaming are excellent. I find it’s good to have at least one book with such clear instructions on hand, however I would hate to have a whole bookshelf full of books with a huge “how-to” section at the start.

The patterns are lovely. As the title suggests, the book focuses on blankets, bears (toys) and bootees. There are a few more little things thrown in as well, like fairisle hangers, a memory book cover, and a couple of tops.

005

There is a cabled sampler blanket in there that I’d love to make in adult size for myself. For non-selfish knitting options, the bootees are all gorgeous and would make a quick gift. A couple of the blankets are double-sided – I think they’ll have to wait for an extra-special baby!

003

Debbie Bliss often comes under criticism for her instructions. The instructions are almost all written, there are no charts for cables or lace, only stranded knitting. On second thoughts I would only do the cabled blanket if I could be bothered charting it out before starting. However this reflects the fact that her books are written for beginner knitters, and although written-out instructions are a frustration to most of us, chart reading is one more skill to learn and may put beginners off. Construction is always flat, circular needles are not used even when it would appear sensible to do so. This is a bit of a nuisance.

006

The photography in the book is stunning. I also have no idea where they found so many adorable, happy babies. I defy anyone to keep their hormones under control flicking through this book…

I’d recommend it to anyone needing a go-to book for baby knits, especially for beginners. More advanced knitters may be a bit annoyed by the instructions and construction of her patterns however.

Natural Nursery Knits by Erika Knight.

Erika Knight’s book had me excited from the moment I head about it. Erika is a really interesting designer and I love using natural fibres, especially for baby items. The book has a very different feel from Blankets, Bears and Bootees. While the former is glossy and gorgeous, Erika’s book has a matt, vintage, sophisticated, more coffee-table feel to it. The introduction runs through different types of natural yarns and dyes. The babies look like porcelain dolls, unlike Debbie Bliss’s book where you want to pluck the babies off the page and give them a squeeze.

The patterns themselves are very classic. There are some tops, a couple of blankets, trousers, soakers, booties, bonnets, and a few more “heirloom”-type things like a lace cushion and a lavender sachet. There’s a recycled rag basket I really like – another thing I could make for myself instead of a baby!

007

There’s a gorgeous little fair isle papoose that would be perfect for a newborn, a lovely teddy, and a giraffe. The photographs, while “arty”, do show details quite well.

008

Yarns are recommended for each pattern, without sticking to one particular company. There is a lot of Rowan Milk Cotton, which I’ve never used but which comes highly recommended by friends. There are some yarns I haven’t come across before but everything seems to be readily available in the UK. Again, it would be nice to have a chart for the lace. The lace cushion is gorgeous but I would never do it without charting the pattern first.

There’s a free sample project (a rattle) from the book on the US publisher’s site, as well as other photographs. I found it when I was looking for errata. Which I couldn’t find for either book. There is no such thing as a knitting book without mistakes. I’ve asked the publisher, so I’ll update this post when I hear back.

Fifteen

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited to Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Fifteen. Jamie Oliver set up the restaurant in order to train disadvantaged young people to be chefs and give them a start in life. What a fantastic idea. The restaurant is funded through takings, donations and merchandise. Which brings me to why I was there – the launch party for Fifteen’s new knitting kit.

woolbox_web

What’s knitting got to do with a restaurant, you ask? Well, the wool in each kit comes from Fifteen’s lamb supplier in Wales. So I think it’s rather fitting!

The food was absolutely divine: (photos courtesy of Stitch and Bitch seeing as I forgot my camera)

4043970883_454c8cff79

4044699588_023c86a63f

4044002215_0c9459ca9f

4044018927_7aba0899c7

4044805896_a0a0ed5183

The limited edition knitting kit (complete with beautiful wooden needles and patterns) can be purchased here.

Camp Bestival

A few weeks ago Gerard from I Knit asked me to help out on the knitting tent at Camp Bestival. At first I was a little hesitant as I’m not really sure I’m the camping type. But I said yes, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I had an absolute ball.

I only took my little camera with me and it turns out I completely forgot about it most of the time, and didn’t take many photos at all.

004

The set-up was really quite beautiful so I wish I had taken more pictures.

005

On the first night we ate from disposable bbqs. I had some buy one get one free veggie alternatives from Morrisons. The sausages cooked over charcoal really did taste great, proper camping-style with 45p white toast bread and a generous squirt of tomato sauce. There is something immensely satisfying about cooking outdoors, that primitive “Make fire. Cook meat” impulse.

003

In terms of other festival food, I couldn’t wait to try the offerings over at the River Cottage Cafe. Hugh Fearnley-Whatsit wrote a piece in the festival programme about how often, the only vege alternative at festivals is veggie burgers. He would, however, be offering some kind of beetroot hoummous wrap thingy. Then on his website (I just checked) he mentions something about goat cheese. All very promising. But when I turned up to his stall, what were they cooking? Bloody vege burgers. Not actual burgers, mind, but a few bits of slimy roast vegetables in a bun. Apparently there was also supposed to be salad and a tsatsiki-style sauce in the bun as well, but they forgot to put mine in and I had to ask for it. It was bland and disappointing.

The best food I tried was from the Mash Shack, and I got quite addicted to their bubble and squeak with beans and vege bangers. Good hearty food to keep you going through a busy work day.

I somehow never got around to visiting Chocstar, where I later found out MsMarmitelover was working. It would have been good to say hello.

Speaking of work, we worked hard all weekend teaching people how to knit and finger knit. It is actually really intense work as you really have to focus hard all the time. But it was supremely rewarding to be able to pass on a new skill to people, and see the light in their eyes when they “got it”. We definitely created a few new addicts. There is a video of our fun here.

On the way home we stopped at the Popham Little Chef, the one transformed by Heston Blumenthal. At first we were slightly disappointed as they were out of the mixture to make scrambled eggs and omelette. They had a kitchen full of proper eggs but weren’t allowed to make us omelettes with them. Gerard and I ended up opting for the kippers instead, and all was forgiven as they were delicious. We also blagged extra toast to make up for it. I was a little outraged however when I ordered extra mushrooms for £1, and got one. measly. slow cooked. mushroom. £1! For a mushroom! The orange juice was slightly pricey too, but it was freshly squeezed and tasted amazing. Still can’t get over that £1 mushroom though. Ness ordered extra tomatoes too and only got one. (I just checked the menu and Ness’s meal – the Olympic Breakfast – was supposed to come with a tomato, yet she was charged extra for it. Sigh.)

I would go back to the Popham Little Chef. I’d just remember not to order any extras. And check the bill carefully.

We were given Jelly Belly sweets on our exit, which provided some fun in the car as I fed them to Gerard and he attempted to divine the flavours: “Definitely coconut. Yes. Or maybe cream soda. No, it’s coconut”.

Gorilla knitting

That’s not a typo. You may have heard of guerilla knitting; perhaps even on this very blog. But have you heard of gorilla knitting?

I thought not.

On Sunday I was invited to join a group of people teaching knitting by the gorilla enclosure at the London Zoo. Sadly this did not involve teaching gorillas to knit. In fact it did not entail teaching anyone to knit, as they were all far more interested in the gorillas. So we sat and knitted blanket squares for shivering Afghan children instead.

One of the highlights of the day was when the keeper gave a gorilla a piece of Tina’s knitting to play with.
097

Unfortunately at first she didn’t think much of it:
098

But we arrived back from lunch to this:
107

We decided that ripping it in half was a sign the gorillas liked it.

Near the end of the day we got to explore the rest of the zoo, which was great as although I live practically next door to it I’ve only looked in from outside before. To be honest it’s quite a small zoo and I’m not sure how I feel about keeping animals in those conditions. But it’s also the world’s first zoo, with animals brought there and studied by Darwin among others, so has a lot of historical significance. The zoo also does some great conservation work in the wild.

We also found the Guy the Gorilla statue and made sure he won’t get so cold the next time it snows:

guy the gorilla