The snow has started to fall in London this morning.

These are the mittens for the set I have knitted for my daughter.

They are knitted in sock wool, as it gives a thin but warm mitten. And the variety available is so good. I think this was one of the Opal ones. To produce a pair (as I have) rather than fraternal twins, start your cast on at a recognisable point in the yarn. Then you can start the second cast on at the same point in the yarn. You will probably have to wind on the yarn a bit to get to the same point. Save this discarded yarn for another project.

The pattern is just a variation of my usual fingerless mittens one (which you can find details of in October 2010's list of blogs).

With the thumb it is an easy matter to carry on in stocking stitch to the required length and then decrease rapidly for the tip.

For the finger section, remember to put a marker in the centre of the stitches you cast on after the thumb. Work straight until the knitting reaches the tip of the little finger. Then decrease both sides on every other row until the work has reached the tip of the first finger. Then add decreases both sides of the marker on every other row. This gives a mitten top that follows the shape of the hand (which many patterns do not) and stops the end of the mitten being loose and flappy. Once the mitten is almost long enough to reach the tip of the longest finger you can start decreasing more rapidly . But, remember that you have more stitches for the back of the hand than for the palm so at this point decrease the excess number of stitches for the back of the hand evenly across the row, leaving you with the same number of stitches on each side of the marker. Once you are down to a few stitches each side of the marker you can either graft the tip of the mitten together, or cast off. Then you just sew the mitten up.


Linen Stitch

Our snow is forecast for later this week, but my daugher already has knee-high snow, so I have been knitting to keep her warm this winter.

Interweave Knits Holiday issue has a pattern for a hat and gloves in linen stitch. I wasn't keen on the pattern they offered, but it did serve to remind me how much I like linen stitch. So here is my linen stitch hat.

The interesting thing about linen stitch is that it produces a very dense, warm fabric, attractive on both sides (useful for hat brims!), and which looks more woven than knitted.

On an odd number of stitches:
Round 1: Knit 1, ( slip the next stitch but with the yarn at the front of the work, Knit 1)
Round 2: Slip the first stitch with the yarn in front, (Knit 1, slip the next stitch with the yarn in front)

You can either use one colour throughout, or you can work 2 rounds in one colour and 2 rounds in another alternately. In this case I have gone a step further. I used two different Twilleys Freedom Spirit yarns. These are shaded yarns. But to give a more unified effect, and make a warmer hat, I used 2 strands of yarn A held together for two rounds and 2 strands of yarn B held together for the next two rounds.

As this stitch is dense and has less stretch than ordinary stocking stitch you really do have to swatch to determine how many stitches to cast on.

Measure the head around where the brim of the hat will sit. For a well fitting hat you need a little negative ease (as linen stitch is not very stretchy you don't need much) so you should cast on a few fewer stitches than the total equal to your head measurement. How many fewer depends on taste, hair style and conditions in which you are going to wear the hat.

Once you have cast on, work in linen stitch until the hat, with rolled back brim if wanted, is long enough that when tried on, the top is at the point where the crown begins.

Because of the construction of linen stitch, you need to do double decreases (ie, decreasing 2 stitches, not 1, every time you decrease.)

In this case I have decreased gradually to give a rounded crown to the hat, but the rate of decrease is a matter of choice.

As I was given some fine soft yarn (composition unknown) that was a good colour to go with the hat, I also knitted a Feather and Fan scarf.

Manufacturers tend to want to sell sets of matching hat, scarf and gloves, which is natural enough, but I think that a good hat yarn a good scarf yarn and a good gloves yarn are rarely the same yarn, so I tend to make sets that go together without exactly matching. It also makes the elements remain useful even when one bit has got lost (my daughter is a loser of gloves, scarves and hats!) I'll show you the gloves another time!


More tatted flowers

It is very easy to create a little 3D bouquet of flowers with tatting. Here, the leaves are worked in inverted tatting. Some of the flowers are just different sized individual rings, with masses of long picots, (double picots look very good), piled one on top of each other. Others are made of a cluster of josephine rings worked with the bases close together.

The daffodils are easy too. The base starts with a centre ring with something round it. Then the trumpet, which can be in a different colour, is made of concentric chains joined in to the centre of the base. By varying the number of stitches in the chains on each round it is possible to alter the shape of the trumpet as it grows. It doesn't matter whether you start with the base or the trumpet provided you work the centre ring, which is common to both, on whichever piece you start with. Alternatively, you could work both parts with central rings and put them together afterwards but that may be a bit clumsy in thicker threads.

This is the pattern I worked out for my daffodils, but a lot depends on the thickness of the thread used and on the tatter's tension, especially when it comes to the trumpet. This is a case for experimentation to see what looks best for you!


Elephant Quilt

Here is Ginger getting in the way of my showing you the Elephant quilt. The bump in the quilt in the photograph below is Ginger, still refusing to move!

When my daughter was at school the art teacher started a batik club. Since we had seen batik making at a workshop on the Isle of Skye the summer before, my daughter was keen to have a go. After some practising she was ready for a big piece and we agreed that she should make the centre of a medallion quilt for me.

She chose an elephant, but wasn't very happy with the results and I had to nag her to get her to give it to me. With some fancy work with fabric pens to bring out the details and quilting to bring out the design, it really came together and even she has to admit that the quilt is a success!



Some years ago I bought a cashmere dress that I really liked. I wore it endlessly, to the point where I had mended it way beyond what was reasonable. I would have liked to buy another, but unfortunately the company that made it had altered the style soon after I bought mine and the new version had features I disliked.

So eventually I decided the only solution was to make my own similar dress. And I'm wearing it as I type this.

It is not at all difficult to do if you already have a garment you can measure as a basis.

I wanted a long-sleeved dress (the original had had three-quarter length sleeves), I wanted it a bit below knee length (longer than the original), and I wanted it to be raglan instead of with set-in sleeves.

I started with a large swatch on 2mm needles in a black 100% cashmere yarn. As my yarn was an oiled industrial yarn I washed and deoiled my swatch before measuring it.

Then it was a matter of drawing an extremely basic sketch of what I wanted and putting in measurements. As I was going to knit seamlessly in the round I started with circumference measurements (of the existing garment, not of me!) I adjusted these measurements to add length to the skirt and sleeves.

Then I could convert these measurements into stitch numbers on the basis of my swatch. The lengths between the points with different numbers of stitches gives you the number of rows, making it easy to see how often to decrease or increase to get the right numbers.

As this dress was stocking stitch with turned up hems, I did not have to consider ribbing, and I knew that my basic raglan decrease could happen every other round.

 I'm about to start knitting another dress to this pattern, and the only change I am going to make is to start the front of the neck a centimetre lower and raise the back of the neck slightly.

As long as you have an existing garment which you like the fit of, it really is easy to create your own garment!


Memories of summer

It's cold and set to get colder, and stay colder for days. Snow is forecast for many parts of the country. So here are some summer memories to warm us up.


Tatted Fan

I made this tatted fan in 1996 from a pattern by a Dublin-based tatter called Anne Keller. She also provided the fan sticks, which were painted to order by her with white wisteria blossoms. She also put me on to the gentleman who made the shaped frame for the fan though I haven't put a note of his name in my album.

It was tatted in DMC 100 thread, which was not difficult once I had got used to it. The part that drove me to distraction was hiding all the ends of thread as the pattern involves lots of tiny motifs which really are not big enough to hide the ends easily.

When I look at it now I feel it is far from perfect but people are always struck by it so I have to remember that I'm the only person who sees its imperfections! But that is always the way with people.

 I remember once trying to comfort a lady who was living in an expensive rented flat. A accidental flood on the floor above her had left a mark on the ceiling of her dining-room and the agents were dragging their feet over fixing it. Her husband's job meant she hosted quite a lot of dinner parties and she was mortified by the stain on her ceiling. I couldn't get her to see that probably none of her guests would ever realize it was there. People do not look at ceilings in other people's homes in the normal way of things. She had frequently been in my flat and I asked her, without looking, to tell me what colour my ceiling was. She couldn't! But she still was sure everyone would notice her ceiling.


Monday Morning

I did rather too much yesterday and today I am a bit stiff, sore and tired, so here are a couple of lilies from my garden this summer.


Scanning my albums

Yesterday I finally worked out how to scan stuff into my computer!

This will be a big help as I have volumes of  old-fashioned photographs of my work. Although we now have a digital camera, there are pieces of work that have been given away and other pieces, especially things like cushions, that wore out long ago and are just not there to be rephotographed.

This is a page from one of my albums. The top picture is the wedding sampler I worked for myself in 1981 when we were married. It was an American kit which I bought on a trip to Tokyo from northern Japan where we were living at the time. I altered my husband's hair colour to a more natural shade and added a lace collar I had bought to the bridal dress.

 The other picture was another American kit, 'A home should be clean enough to be healthy and dirty enough to be happy'. I think this was my rebellion against the influence of my mother-in-law, who believed that a kitchen floor should be scrubbed three times daily and that a vacuum cleaner didn't do nearly as good a job as a brush and pan used on one's knees!



This is a cross stitch design by Julia Froggatt of Lyndisfarne Designs. It is some years since I worked it as my eyesight is no longer up to working charted designs.

For those who can't work out what it is I must explain that it is the Discworld from Terry Pratchett's numerous Discworld books. I have been a keen reader of these since the very early days. They take place on a flat world which rests on four elephants which themselves rest on a turtle which swims through space.

Those who enjoy the books always enjoy the cross stitch picture which hangs in my hall. Everyone else is completely bemused.


My Second Quilt

My second quilt, started in my teens, was, though I didn't know it at the time, a seriously major undertaking, and kept me at it through my last days at school, my University days and my first years living and working in Japan.

This was a design, a special offer, in Good Housekeeping, some time in the early 1970s. You sent off for a pack of transfers and a list of thread colours and stitches. It was described as a French Potager Garden, with beds of vegetables, herbs and flowers surrounding a lily pond in the centre. It still strikes me as unusual and attractive, but I do wonder how many other people ever managed to finish it!

Actually I found it quite convenient as I could put one piece of fabric with the design transferred onto it, the threads for that piece and a small pair of scissors into a very small box, so it was a very portable project. I should add that this was before I knew about embroidery hoops. I was working from one of those little booklets, probably produced by Coates, which showed basic instructions for the most common embroidery stitches, that being all we had at home on the subject apart from Mary Thomas' book.

At University I was very lonely since I was both studying a very obscure subject, at that time there were only 4 of us in the year studying Japanese, and I was from Northern wilds that I don't think many other students had ever heard of. I overheard one girl say to another, "Oh, but she's from The North, Coventry, you know".  As someone who had always thought of Coventry as 'way down south' I kept extremely quiet! My little box of sewing helped me endure between-lectures breaks in the junior common room.

And it went with me when I went to Japan to a home-stay with a Japanese family and a 6 week summer school there. This family had been told such strange and alarming things about foreigners by the school (that we would not be willing to eat Japanese food or use chopsticks, and that we would expect steak for breakfast) that they were terrified of my arrival. The fact that I am only 5ft 2inches helped a bit as they were expecting some sort of giant, but what really broke the ice was when I brought out my bit of embroidery. The mother of the family was a keen embroiderer herself and if I embroidered I must be human!

I took it with me when, after University, I went to Japan to teach English in a remote northern town where a foreigner with blonde hair walking down the street was apt to have the sort of effect an escaped lion would have. If I wanted to buy anything in a shop I had to speak very quickly, before the shopkeeper got a proper look at me, or they would escape out of the back of the shop at a run!

Naturally, my skills improved as I worked so there is quite a noticable difference between the earlier and the later blocks. But eventually I got them all finished and stitched down onto a piece of green cotton. I was very proud of myself for getting it finished even if it had taken some years!


Faroese Shawls

I'm very fond of Myra Stahman's Shawls and Scarves book. Knitting top down Faroese shawls is great fun and they are very easy to wear.

So when I was recently given some Jamieson and Smith's laceweight  yarn I immediately decided to use it for an old favourite from Myra Stahman's book, her Susan pattern. And I got is finished a few days ago so here it is.

I always like leaf patterns in lace, they are easy to knit and very effective.

The pattern has a very attractive balance of solid and openwork to it.

And here is another Susan. This one is in pure silk yarn from 21st Century yarns. I knitted this a number of years ago when Myra Stahman's book first came out, and it has been much worn. Silk shawls are very goodtempered, needing minimum blocking if any, and are surprisingly warm to wear.

Since I now have two Susans, I'm keeping my old silk one and my daughter will be getting the other for Christmas!


Knitted Lace Doily

I knitted this lace doily so many years ago that I can no longer remember where the pattern came from. The thread is 100% silk and will have been from 21st Century yarns.

I have very limited space to display doilies though I have always loved making them, either knitted or tatted. Tatting stands up even to cats kneading on it and can be easily washed and ironed if subject to muddy paw-prints (and everything in my home IS!) But knitted lace is a little more fragile and needs to be blocked after every wash. So I found a solution.

I dressed a doll and used the doilie as a shawl for her. The doll lives in my china cabinet, safe from the attentions of my cats.

I long ago decided that I could have either ornaments or cats, but not both. If there isn't room for something fragile in the china cabinet then there isn't room for it in my house.


Ginger and Tigger

I woke this morning from a nasty nightmare and got up to find a grey damp Monday. So here are Ginger and Tigger, to cheer me up.

Ginger loves climbing the old lilac tree in our garden. I wonder what he was looking at. Whatever it was it certainly has his attention!

And here is Tigger being his usual quietly composed self.


Christmas Tree Ornament

I live in a tiny flat and have cats. Neither is conducive to normal size Christmas trees, but this year I thought I would knit a little one. The pattern comes from this year's Irresistible Christmas Gifts to Knit, produced by Simply Knitting. It is the Twinkling Trees pattern by Elizabeth Jarvis.

In my case, I made a fabric lining for the tree and filled it completely with rice. I used one kind of eyelash yarn in knitting the tree and another as 'tinsel'. Then I added an assortment of  beads, charms, buttons, ribbon flowers etc. that I already had in my oddments box. I even found I had a little angel charm to put on the top of the tree!

My husband has watched me knitting this with some bemusement. He just doesn't see the point! He hasn't seen the finished item yet though so it will be interesting to see what he thinks of it then.


Teddy Bears

My love of teddy bears started with Teddle-eddle-eddle (on the right). He was made for my first Christmas by a colleague of my Mother's (before her marriage), Dr Bachelor.

 He was knitted at quite a fine guage but grew fragile over the years and ended up mostly covered in patches taken from my Father's old vests.

 I also made him his clothes, knitting them to fit basically because, as a child, that seemed the obvious way to do it, and I had no access to any suitable pattern. His jacket is wool left over from the cardigan I had knitted for my father. I can't remember what the trouser wool was left over from. His shirt was sewn from left over dress material. In those days no one would have thought of buying new fabric or yarn for such a purpose. The rag-bag was quite good enough for that!

The bear on the left, Pistachio, was one I made myself. I expect I made him from a pattern or from instructions in a book as he was one of the first bears I made, but I can no longer remember where I got the design.

I really enjoyed making teddy bears, though sadly these days they are too hard on my arthritis and I have had to give up.

These two are my own designs, in fact, two variations on the same design. The one on the right is in a mohair that I dyed myself.


Tatted Silk Shawl

This is one of Teiko Fujita's pattern, available in English in the book Tatted Fashion from Lacis. I've always really liked her patterns and use them frequently. She makes good use of negative space in her designs. I particularly enjoy the effect of different density in this pattern, with some areas almost solid and some very open.

I tatted this in silk thread from au ver a soie using the thread double. That is to say, I wound it onto the shuttle double and treated the two threads as one. This is a handy trick if, as in this case, you can't find the thread you want in the thickness you want.

I have always loved tatting patterns where two or more motifs create interesting shapes between them. Teiko Fujita is good at this, and so is Mary Konior.

One minor point is that I had trouble with the smell of this silk yarn. I assumed the odd odour would wash out when I blocked the finished piece, but in fact I had a lot of difficulty with this. Nothing I tried seemed to help and in the end only time cured the problem. It is now a number of years since I finished this piece and it no longer smells unpleasant. I understand that this may be something to do with the methods used in producing the silk. Anyway, if it is likely to bother you, it is worth sniffing any silk yarn before you use it and deciding if you will be able to live with the smell in case it proves hard to get rid of.


The Cap Shawl

This pattern is the Cap Shawl from Jane Sowerby's lovely book Victorian Lace Today.

The colour is a pale yellowy-green that the camera just can't cope with whatever I do! It is a much prettier shade than the photo suggests.

Because I wear my circular shawls mostly for extra warmth folded in half under my cardigan or jacket I have knitted it in a 90% silk 10% cashmere yarn that is easy to wash and doesn't need blocking. With such a high proportion of silk in the mixture I hand wash it, spin dry it and then just shake it out before I leave it to dry.

This is a good option if making a shawl for someone who won't be able to block it but will want to wash it. Any yarn with a high proportion of silk will fall naturally into shape with a bit of shaking and gentle pulling. The same would be true of a cotton yarn but that would be quite heavy, significantly heavier than the silk version, which is a disadvantage in a big shawl, though it may not matter so much with a smaller shawl.

For anyone who hasn't seen Jane Sowerby's book, it is one of my favourites, and enjoyable for the lovely photographs alone.


Rainy Day

It is one of those miserably wet, dark days, raining steadily from a leaden sky. Yesterday was just the same. And the forecast for the next few days is for more rain. Most of the leaves are off the trees and everything looks damply depressing. So, here is a picture from my garden this summer to cheer us all up.

This one is a dahlia from a mixed 'bargain' pack, so that is all I know about it.


Busy Mother

No, I don't mean me. My daughter is grown up and living in Scotland and my husband and I thoroughly enjoy our empty nest.

Here she is in front of my dolls house with baby, toddler and dog.

I really enjoyed knitting miniature clothes and accessories. I used patterns from Farthing Patterns and Period Miniature Patterns.

Mostly I used number 80 lace crochet/tatting thread, not least because that was what I had around.

For anyone wondering, it is not as tricky to knit at these small scales as you would think. I used one of the magnifiers embroiderers use for fine work. There is a cord round your neck and then the base sits on your chest. I found this easier than strong spectacles because you have to take them off to check the pattern.

The little dog was made to order for me by a lady whose name I'm afraid to say I have now forgotten. He was the most expensive item in the dolls house, but is beautifully made, every hair stuck on individually.


The Romance Shawl

This is a pattern by Dorothy Siemens of Fiddlesticks Knitting entitled The Romance Shawl.

Her pattern is for a triangular shawl, but as I prefer square shawls I made it square. This is very easy with any shawl that starts with a small number of stitches and increases to form the triangle. In this case the design is basically two triangles forming a larger triangle. If you work four triangles you get a square.

All you have to do is identify the outside edge stitches and omit them. Instead you take the part between the original two triangles,  in this case, where the double row of  yarn overs form a line,  and work it four times.

 The other point is that the original triangle was worked back and forth, but the square is worked in the round. This means that every round is now a right side round. In this case the shawl is on a stocking stitch background so the instructions tell you to knit alternate, ie. wrong side rows, in purl. But for a square there are no wrong side rows, so the odd-numbered rows need to be knitted. 

This pattern has an interesting double border, so that the red border and the blue border, which in the photograph look like merely a change of colour, are actually two separate borders knitted one on top of the other.

I was really attracted by this idea but this was the shawl that made me decide that I prefer borders knitted on at right angles. This is merely a matter of preference, I just happen to prefer the way they look.

I must say how much I appreciate the large print of  Fiddlesticks Knitting patterns and the large clear charts.

 I am partially sighted so am very aware of these things and would say that this company and Heirloom Knitting are both very good in this respect. In the case of other companies I am often put off because I would need to get the charts enlarged before I could start knitting, and being housebound these days that means asking someone to do it for me.


Double Knitting

For those who haven't yet come across this handy little technique, it lets you knit something, in the round, on two needles. While it is not going to challenge the use of circular needles, it is very useful for those little things that are a pain to knit on double pointed needles, legs for soft toys, small bags for ipods and phones, or in this case a little bag to hold my tatting.

This one is knitted in a 4ply sock yarn as I had some left over from something or other.

What you do is, first, cast on an even number of stitches.
Then you (knit one slip one) across the row. At this point you have knitted half your stitches and therefore worked half the round.
Now, work back, knitting the slipped stitches and slipping the knit stitches you worked before. One round complete.
Work about a centimetre.

You will notice that the purl side of the knitting is on the outside. Don't worry, you will be able to turn it inside out later!
At this point, gently pull the back and front of the knitting apart and you should be able to tell that your knitting is in two layers with an open centre.

A word of warning! If you knit a stitch you should have slipped, at any point!, your knitting will stick together and you will not have a hollow tube!

Apparently, when my mother was at school, about 1930, there was a fashion, at least at her school, for double knitted scarves. She knitted, and knitted, and it seemed to go on for ever. Then came the day when she should have been able to pull her scarf into a tube, instead of a flat piece of knitting. But, oh dear, it was caught together in lots of places, where she'd done the wrong thing. She was devastated and never felt kindly about knitting again!

There are techniques for increasing and decreasing, but I find them a bit of a nuisance, so I feel that this technique is most useful for a straight sided piece.

When I had worked the body of the bag, I slipped one set of stitches onto a needle and the other set onto a holder. This is the crunch point when you find out if you have really produced a bag or just a stuck-together-somewhere piece! If you want the knit side out, you can turn your work inside out at this point.

Now you can work each side of the top separately to form the hem and the cord casing.
In this case I worked stocking stitch to the top, put in a purl turning row, and worked back down, forming a double thickness hem which I stitched down in two places to form the cord casing. But there are any number of alternatives I could have used.


Tatted Bookmarks

I start each morning, after I've taken the ever-increasing number of medications the doctor has me on, with four Bible readings. For that purpose I have four bookmarks, and my husband reminded me the other day that I should photograph them.

So here they are. The two on the left are from Tatted Bookmarks by Lene Bjorn. I particularly like her dimpled ring pattern and have made and given it away several times. The Seahorse is another of my favourite patterns. It is by Mark Myers and can be found in Animal Bookmarks by Diana Stevens. I've also made this one in blues and greens as a gift for a friend. The one second from the right is one of Mary Konior's patterns, from Tatting with Visual Patterns, a book that was a godsend to me back in my early days of tatting when the Dover books, with their complex written patterns, were about all I could get!

 And here is the Bible they keep my places in. I'm partially sighted and need a large print Bible. For some reason, although you can buy really attractive leather-covered Bibles in normal print, the ones in large print always seem to come in institutional plasticised covers that, at any rate to me, feel most unpleasantly sticky, even when brand new! So I took my Bible and covered it in some leather. It was an upholstery leather remnant that I had bought to recover my footstool. I had just enough left over to cover the Bible as well.

For anyone interested it is really easy. Smear the book cover well with craft glue and smooth the leather on to it. Use a ruler to push the leather into the ditch beside the spine. Trim the leather leaving a generous turn over all round. Cut the extra leather at both sides of the spine so you have a bit like a bookmark hanging down. Then, assuming this is a hardback that you are covering, push the strip into the gap between the spine and the pages, glueing it into place. Then you can glue the rest of the extra leather inside the cover, mitring the corners. Glue the blank first and last pages in place to hide the leather turn-over, and leave to dry. The cross is simply cardboard, covered in a scrap of left-over pig-skin, and stuck on.

(Apologies to any vegetarians reading this, but after all, the method would work equally well with imitation leather or suede.)