Knitted Father Christmas

What? What? More Christmas makes? Well… yes. Because now that the TheTwistedYarn has turned on the festive ideas tap, it just won’t stop dripping. Somebody call a plumber.

So, assuming that the easy-to-knit Christmas trees were on the favourable side of tolerable, here’s another easy decorative knit for Christmas. I’m deliberately creating the simplest, most beginner-oriented designs, involving nowt more taxing than a garter stitch square. And in case even that sounds daunting to complete beginners, let me make it clearer: you get to knit every stitch of every row. No purling. No fancy-schmancy through-the-back-loop, yarn-over, P37.6tog shenanigans. These projects are designed for beginners (children and adults), but more experienced knitters will enjoy adding extra embellishments. Or is it just me?

So let me introduce Father Christmas, bless his fluffy novelty-yarn socks:-

Father Christmas

Knitted Father Christmas

You ready? OK, let’s knit. Actually, the knitting is exactly the same as the knitting for the Christmas trees except, as your laser-sharp incisive mind might’ve guessed, in red rather than green. I used Vanna’s Choice in Cranberry.

If memory serves (which it rarely does these days, the rotten scoundrel), I cast on 25 stitches on 5.5mm needles, and I knitted until I’d achieved a perfect square. That done, you need to fold, roll, stuff, and sew your square, exactly as described in the Christmas trees post. Then pause for a leisurely sip of mulled wine, toss another log on the fire, and continue. Your cone should look like this:-

knitted cone

knitted cone

Bend the tip of the cone over, to imply a certain rakish floppiness in Santa’s hat. Now, perspicacious people, you’ll have already noticed from the photo above that white sparkly pipecleaners are useful in this endeavour, so wrap one around the base of your Santa, and another one about two thirds of the way up to imply the base of his hat, and then wrap a third piece tightly several times before sewing it in place at the cone’s tip to make a pompom.

Here be pipe cleaners.

Here be pipe cleaners.

They can be fixed by sticking their ends into the knitted fabric, and strengthened by sewing in fine white thread.

Of course, you now need a face. The easiest solution is to cut a face-shape piece of cream or pale pink felt, but lacking such materials, I knitted a face in thin cream yarn, and sewed/glued it into place. But I’m weird like that. Pick up that red yarn again and knot a piece several times to make a nose, which you can then sew or glue into place.

Adding the nose.

Adding the nose. Yes, that’s a smidgeon of Toddler Twinnage in the background.

AAdd beads for eyes (or stick on drawn eyes as I’ve done). Glue on some cotton wool for a beard. Now for the arms. They’re optional, because complete beginners might not want the fuss. But I made Santa’s arms by working a three-stitch-wide i-cord. Having cast on, I knitted 5 rows, then cast off. I did a spot of sewing with black wool at the end of each arm, to imply a hand. Then I sewed the arms onto Santa’s sides. But I honestly wouldn’t have bothered with the arms if I’d been a complete beginner.

And there you have it. :-) Merry, er, not-yet-Christmas. :-) More next time. Christmas is nowhere near over at the brewery….

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Knitted Christmas Trees

Right, people. Just this once, I’m going to break the habit of a lifetime, and mention Christmas before mid-December. This really doesn’t fit with my miserable, curmudgeonly ol’ personality, but I have things to show you, pretty Christmassy things, and they won’t wait. Also, we normally have nine of us gathering here at our old brewery for Christmas, and my lack of prior festive organisation is impressing no-one.

So. Decorations. What are yours like? Obviously, you need some knitted or crocheted ornaments with which to adorn your beautiful home. There are gorgeous fairisle bauble patterns out there (Arne and Carlos, I’m looking at you), but this post is all about ideas that, (i) are so simple that even a child could make them, (ii) are quick, and (iii) dropped out of my leaky brain and onto this screen on a wet Wednesday afternoon.

There’ll be a ‘part two’ to this post, because this fearless first festive article covers just one thing: knitted Christmas trees. These chaps are super-easy to make, and you can either stand a small plantation of them on your mantelpiece, or hang them from ribbons. Look!

knitted Christmas trees

knitted Christmas trees

Would you like to make some of these? Yes? OK, first to the knitting. ‘Tis simple, my fine fibrous friends. Here are the instructions:-

Fetch some green yarn, DK or aran weight. I used Fyberspates Vivacious’s appropriately named ‘Deep Forest’, because the subtle shifts of green are delightfully leafy but honestly, use anything green. Grab some needles, 5.0 or 5.5 mm – no need to be strict about it.

Right, you – or the small but enthusiastic child beside you – are going to knit a simple square in garter stitch. See how simple this is?

It's a square. It's garter stitch. Really, it couldn't be much simpler.

It’s a square. It’s garter stitch. Really, it couldn’t be much simpler.

If you’re making a few of these, it’s best if they’re all slightly different sizes. So cast on a different number of stitches each time – anything between 20 and 35 stitches is fine. You’re aiming for squares of between 10 and 15 cm along each side.

image

Now, knit every row to create a nice garter stitch, until you’ve achieved a perfect square, then cast off, leaving a long tail. OK, you done? Was that not the simplest knit ever? Good. Now to roll up your little tree. First fold it not-quite-in-half, like this:-

image

And then begin to roll the blighter up. You’re aiming for approximately a cone shape, although it won’t look properly gorgeous until you’ve sewn it up. If it’s wriggly and recalcitrant and generally annoying, don’t worry, that’s normal at this stage. Here, have some cake.

You can choose how tightly your tree is wound at its base, according to whether you want a thin tree or a fat tree. For a thin tree, make a fairly tight coil, like the photo below, then sew through it a few times with the shorter tail of yarn.

The coiled base of a tree. Fairly thin, you'll note, oh arboreal connoisseurs.

The coiled base of a tree. Fairly thin you’ll note, oh arboreal connoisseurs.

For a wider tree base, curl it around more loosely, and sew a flap of the knitted fabric across the base. If you’re making a chunkier tree, you’ll need to push some stuffing into the base of the tree as well as into the rest of its height, but if you’re making a thin tree, then you’ll only need a smidgeon of toy stuffing near the top:-

image

Ah, that brings me on to the next part: sewing this critter up. Use the long tail of yarn to sew up your conical tree. Consider the shape you’re making as you work: it’s likely that the line you sew will be curved like this, but it’ll be at the back when you display your tree, so nobody will see:-

image

Hurrah! You’ve made the basic shape! Now, drag your children away from their electronic gizmos (if they haven’t already helped you with the knitting), and get them to help you stick pretty things on the tree, such as these:-

All The Pretty Things

All The Pretty Things

I recommend thin metallic pipe cleaners to look vaguely like tinsel. You can poke the ends into the tree to fix them. And sew metallic-looking beads on as pretend baubles, and sew a tiny sparkly pompom on top. You get the gist.

image

Just go find your inner ten-year-old and make them pretty, people! And then it’s time to adorn your mantelpiece. (Yes, that is the knitted mandala picture beside the trees. I still haven’t moved it to its permanent home.)

image

And you’re done! Wa-hey! It really is that simple. Finally, may I respectfully direct you towards a real pro, who does festive makes properly, with a colourful twist from her native Norway: EclecticHomeAndLife. She also happens to be a ridiculously lovely person. :-) ‘Til next time, knitters. More is to come…

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Knit Faster! Knit Faster!

Ever felt as though you need to learn how to knit faster? Those afghans and skirts and scarves won’t finish themselves, y’know. Yes yes, I realize we’re doing this for fun not efficiency, but I’ve got so many pattern ideas – and so many of other people’s patterns – fizzing around in my head, and I want to knit/crochet them all, right now. Stamps foot, petulantly. Tell me that I’m not alone?

Just for context, I’ve always been an English-style knitter of the most inefficient kind, shamefully lifting my hand from the right needle to wrap the yarn, each and every stitch. Every. Single. Stitch. I do it pretty rapidly in the hope that nobody will notice but still, that’s not good, is it? I’ve tried flicking the yarn so that all fingers can remain on-duty at needle-HQ, as taught to me by Mother Twisted many years ago, but, well maybe I’ve got weird fingers but that never seemed to work. Anyway, I’m not going to tell you how few stitches I was knitting per minute, because you’d laugh at me. And then you’d catch your breath enough to say, ‘Really?‘ And then you’d laugh at me some more. By which time my meagre ego would be crushed. Crushed, I tell you.

So, what to do? A rapid brainstorm yielded the following options:-

1. Convince the Stoic Spouse to learn to knit, using a complex system of cheese-related inducements, thus potentially doubling household knitting output.

2. Learn to knit continental style.

Having made this short list, I glanced over at the Stoic Spouse, who was idly winkling gravel out of the sole of his shoe with the brass toasting fork*, and looking remarkably unlike any kind of fibre artist, so that left option 2.

Y’know, it was surprisingly easy to master continental knitting. It’s even easier if you’ve been knitting (and frogging) for a while, and have a decent grasp of the anatomy of a stitch. Instead of the “in, wrap, pull through, off” of English knitting, you hold your yarn in your left hand and use your right needle to reach in and scoop a loop of yarn then push the stitch off. That’s it! Wowsers! After a bit of practice, you can do it with negligible finger movements, and thus very very fast.

That said, of the two fastest knitters in the world (Miriam Tegels and Hazel Tindall), one knits continental-style and the other knits English, so it’s not all about the style per se, more about the smoothness and smallness and efficiency of movements.

After a couple of days of dodgy tension and wiggly fingers, I’d become respectably fast. YouTube is your friend, people, if you want to learn continental.

And whilst I’m busy humiliating myself in public I may as well add this: I broke my own cardinal knitting/crochet rule and paid dearly for it. Always practice new techniques on spare yarn, I say. Get your fibrous snarl-ups out of the way on the cheapest acrylic you can find, before you attempt to make an exquisite fairisle cushion cover of arctic qiviut for your best friend. Normally, I stick rigidly to this rule and it’s served me well. But this time, for some reason I can no longer recall but which may have involved grape-derived alcoholic beverages and overconfidence, I decided to learn continental knitting right in the middle of knitting a blanket for my friend’s baby. I know, I know, the very best outcome I could have hoped for was an unsightly shift in gauge. What I got was an ugly mish-mash of wildly fluctuating tension. *Sigh* Time to call on Mr Frog. :-( So I pulled out my needle, and re-inserted it about twenty rows back:-

Getting Ready To Meet Mr Frog

Getting Ready To Meet Mr Frog

and ripped and ripped and ripped. (Ouch.)

Ouch.

Ouch.

and didn’t come back until I’d properly mastered continental knitting on some scrappy old spare yarn of uncommon ghastliness, by which time I was getting respectably fast.

The trick to speed really is to keep those movements small. I keep all of my fingers very close to the needles. I know some knitters have the left index finger raised with the yarn around it, but I keep it on the needle, and that seems to help. And by pressing your left index finger against the needle/stitch, you can stretch the stitch enough to make it easy to reach through and scoop the loop with your right needle. image Just so you know, I finished the blanket. And the baby hasn’t even been born yet. image It’s a clever log cabin design by Sirdar, using some of the yarn from my Deramores prize. I just hope that the baby likes it, when he/she arrives in a few weeks’ time…

*Not really. He was actually baking an apple crumble, but that didn’t fit with my anecdote.

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The Crochet-Meets-Knitting Bag Pattern

Do you want to hear a story of some slight craziness? It is about knitting and crochet, honest. Yes? Well settle your good self on the sofa there, (oops, mind that Lego) and I’ll tell you. Green tea, anyone?

So, to stretch a short story long, yesterday was Mumsnet Blogfest in London, a rather fabulous annual celebration of blogging, with plenty of feisty independent thinkers/writers, plus an abundance of laughter, swearing, cake, and unlimited free gin. People I tell you, it’s like coming home. I was signed up to go, and to meet up with my lovely friend from the Telly And Travels blog.

All was calm until three days before the event. It was a chilly autumn afternoon, and I was lazily browsing in a craft shop with the Toddler Twinnage. And there, suddenly, was a large ball of yarn. It was grey and tweedy and unremarkable, but without warning it screamed at me, YOU-NEED-TO-BUY-ME-RIGHT-NOW-AND-SCAMPER,-NAY,-SPRINT,-HOME-TO-KNIT/CROCHET-A-CUSTOMISED-THETWISTEDYARN-BAG-WITH-A-LITTLE-POCKET-ON-THE-FRONT-FOR-THE-’YARN’S-BUSINESS-CARDS,-ALL-READY-FOR-BLOGFEST.

Well, I was mightily taken aback by this outburst, I have to admit. I’m not used to being screamed at, except by toddlers. I glanced around to see whether anybody else had overheard these woolly words, but everyone in the shop was behaving normally (except for the Toddler Twinnage, who were pushing the boundaries of comedy by calling each other ‘Poo-head’ repeatedly then laughing hysterically). So, frowning, I turned back to look at the ball of grey yarn. It lay there, looking almost innocent, the beastly fiend. But it was too late, and the yarn knew it.

Beastly Shouty Yarn

Beastly Shouty Yarn

Readers, I bought that yarn.

Sigh.

That was the easy bit, the buying and the sighing.  The hard part was having only three days in which  to design and make and decorate the bag, three days during which I was also inconveniently encumbered by, y’know, real life. It wasn’t going to happen, was it? :-(

Well probably not, but that’s never stopped me before. Let’s just gloss over the ensuing few days, let’s speed past the caffeine-fuelled nocturnal hours of frenzied stitchery, the woeful neglect of building dens for the Toddler Twinnage, the failure to hold much of a conversation with the Stoic Spouse, and the frankly fairly hasty driving home from work to pick up my needles/hook.

What I envisioned was a shoulder bag with a stockinette knitted body (ie nice smooth surface on which to embroider the blog name), topped by a band of single crochet (US crochet terms), and wide single crochet shoulder straps. I’m quite excited by the design, because it combines both crafts, and because it looks OK and a bit different. I swatched carefully to do the maths of a smooth transition from crochet to knitting… which was all very well, but that didn’t solve the problem of how to make this beast in half a week.

I’m not a fast knitter and I’m definitely not a fast crocheter, but my fingers were such a frenzy of stitchery that I swear they’ve eroded to an inch shorter than their length this time last week.

I worked the chain-stitch embroidery with rather more speed than quality, I’m ashamed to say, although I did sew quick guidelines to ensure I wrote in a straight line. The probably not weird thing is, my handwriting in embroidery is completely different from my handwriting with a pen.

image

So did I finish the bag? Well, the night before Blogfest, I realized it was completely unrealistic… and then picked up my hook and started work on the first handle. Morning came too soon, and I sat waiting for the train towards Blogfest with crochet hook in hand.

Hooking Whilst Waiting For The Stupid-O'clock-In-The-Morning Service To London

Hooking Whilst Waiting For The Stupid-O’clock-In-The-Morning Service To London

By the very outskirts of London I’d finished the second handle and tidied up the embroidery. As we trundled through outer London, I made a crude pocket from a piece of felt and some gold embroidery thread that I found in the deepest depths of my handbag.

Quick! I've Only Got Five Minutes Of Train Left To Make A Pocket!

Quick! I’ve Only Got Five Minutes Of Train Left To Make A Pocket!

And by the time I was squidged into a London Underground carriage, I was improvising a small yellow flower. (This photo doesn’t do the train justice, as eight thousand people crowded in, the moment after I snapped this pic.)

Hooking On The Tube. So to speak.

Hooking On The Tube. So to speak.

Just to ensure that I looked like a complete freak, I then stood in a quiet corner of King’s Cross station working away with an embroidery needle and sharp scissors to attach the flower to the bag. I fully expected to be arrested. And then at last, I put away my sewing gear, and popped some business cards in the pocket of the bag. With minutes to spare before Blogfest opened, the job was DONE!

The bag. Embroidery imperfect owing to extreme haste of sewing.

The bag. Embroidery imperfect owing to extreme haste of sewing.

So, do you want to know how to make a bag like this? (Obviously, you don’t have to embroider TheTwistedYarn.com on yours. ;-) ) It’s quite a flexible design, which would work well with different colours used for the knitted and crochet sections, and maybe some more elaborate decoration on the knitted section.

HOW TO MAKE THE CROCHET-MEETS-KNITTING BAG

I used an aran-weight yarn, Hayfield Bonus Aran Tweed.

Gauge: 24 rows x 18st = 10x10cm in stockinette. But hey, it’s a bag: you don’t need to be too precise. The finished bag measures 42cm wide by 37cm high, excluding handles.

Needle: 5mm (USA: 8). I used a circular needle (80cm length).

Hook: 5mm (USA: H/8).

Using long-tail cast-on, cast on 144 stitches. Join in the round, placing a stitch marker at the start of the round.

Work 70 rounds in knit stitch, to create stockinette.

Purl 1 round. (This makes a nice transition from knitting to crochet.)

You will now crochet the stitches, removing them one by one from the knitting needle to crochet them. Weird, I know, but it works. Take the first knit stitch and CH2. Then single-crochet (US crochet terms used here, so that would be double-crochet in UK terminology) 4 stitches. Work a decrease single-crochet from the next two stitches. *SC 5 stitches. Then work a decrease SC to combine the next 2 stitches. Repeat from * until the end of the round. In other words, for every set of 7 knit stitches, you SC 5, then SC the last 2 together. You should now have 124 stitches in your finished round of crochet.

Work another 10 rounds in SC (or UK DC). (No decreases.) Begin each round with a CH2 into the first stitch.

Pull through and break the yarn.

If you want to embroider a design on the knit part of the bag, do so now. :-)

Turn the tube of fabric that you’ve created inside-out and sew or crochet the bottom edge closed. Turn the bag the right way round again.

To make the handles: Lay the bag out flat. Measure 6cm in from the left edge of the top on the front. Join yarn here. Ch2. Then work one SC into each of the next 9 stitches, ie you’re working towards the centre of the bag. (10st.)

*Turn your work. Ch2. SC9. Repeat from * 60 times.

You have now reached the end of the first handle. Use slip stitches to attach this end to the bag, so that it is symmetrical with the first end, ie its right hand side is 6cm from the right hand edge of the bag.

Turn the bag over and make another handle for the back.

You have finished. :-) Now go find some stuff to put in your lovely bag.

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Scrawlin’ The Scrawl

Hunched up against the howling autumn gales, I’ve been knitting. A lot. This will come as a surprise to absolutely nobody who knows me at all.

I’ve been keeping one project semi-secret until now, because I’m writing up the pattern for you, and because I’ll probably initially be putting the blimmin’ thing ‘out there’ via a guest post I’ve got coming up soon on the Deramores blog. (But don’t disappear: the free pattern will also appear here, too.)

Anyway, the idea came from a simple question: what happens when you cross a scarf with a shawl? And the answer is this. (But what to call it? A scrawl? A sharf? I’m liking scrawl so far, but I’m odd like that…)

The Scrawl

The Scrawl

The shape was intended to provide the wearability of a scarf, combined with the sloping sides and substantial shape of a shawl. I added a fringe to each end to emphasize the waterfall-like cascade of the ends. The sloping sides also mean that the ends of the scarf aren’t too thick – I’m not a fan of cramming acres of thick scarfy fabric inside my coat.

image

The design owes a tiny bit to this picture in the front of a book, which made me think of painting colour into the world with yarn, which is pretty much the core of what this blog is about:-

Colour Knitting Techniques - Margaret Radcliffe

Colour Knitting Techniques – Margaret Radcliffe

Now, for the bad news, for anyone planning to knit one: it’s all done in 1×1 rib. Mad, you might think. But I wanted the stripes to be perfect on both sides. You’ve got enough to deal with in your life without worrying about whether your scarf shawl scrawl is the right way round. Also, ribbing is thick and stretchy: perfect for a scrawl, no?

Look: the stripes are neat on both sides of the scarf!

Look: the stripes are neat on both sides of the scrawl!

I made a prototype in Katia Azteca, a soft aran-weight ombre feast of colour, and chucked in a sneaky blue stripe, just to be sure:-

image

And I checked technical aspects of the final pattern using swatches:-

Swatching For Details

Swatching For Details

And then I lined up some balls of a beautifully-shaded wool-alpaca blend, ready to knit. (Lima by Bergère de France, in case you’re interested.)

All The Colours. :-)

All The Colours. :-)

And started to knit. Here’s the result:-

The Scrawl

The Scrawl

Now, I’ll be writing up the pattern very shortly, free for y’all, because I love the people I’ve met and ‘met’ through blogging, and I want to give something back. The pattern might be a little different from patterns that you’re used to, in that for some parts you’ll be able to choose between the ‘doing it properly’ instructions and the ‘fudging it’ instructions.

But rest assured, it’ll be just as bonkers as anything else you’ve ever seen at the Twisted Yarn. :-)

image

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Log Cabins in Yarn and Fabric

Now listen up, good people: this is serious. All your comments on The Icing On The Cake were lovely, thank you, but they’re starting to go to the Stoic Spouse’s head. He’s even been overheard muttering the phrase ‘fan club’. Ahem, we need to put the brakes on this before it gets out of hand.

Anyway, while the Stoic Spouse keeps the home fires burning (literally: he’s apparently shifted one tonne of newly-delivered logs from front to back garden whilst we’ve been away), the Toddler Twinnage and I have remained in Herefordshire with the Twisted Seniors (thank you, Contented Crafter, for that inspired name for my parents). We’ve been soaking up the weak autumn sunshine and wondering whether the colours could inspire a yarn combination or two:-

Autumn Views in Herefordshire

Autumn Views in Herefordshire

And whilst I’ve knitted and knitted, and knitted a log-cabin blanket for my friend’s imminently-arriving baby, my mum has been renewing her love of log-cabin patchwork. Don’tcha just love a decent log cabin? Look at these beauties:-

log cabins

log cabins

There are thirteen pieces sewn together in each patch, like this:-

image

Here she is, at work:-

sewing1

Of course, there are so many ways of arranging log cabins. Playing with the squares she’s completed already, I made these patterns (not sewn together yet so of course they don’t look as lovely as they will when finished:-

quilting

Can you tell that the finished thing will be beautiful?

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The Morning After The Cake Before

Well, friends and fair crafters of the blogosphere, may I confess to a certain feeling of fullness? The blogiversary cake was eventually cut and… well you can probably guess the rest. Let’s just say that I won’t be hauling myself out of this chair for another week or so. Those buttons on my waistband won’t re-attach themselves, y’know, if I accidentally pop them.

No I hadn’t forgotten that this is a knitting/crochet blog, so here’s a tiny bit of my semi-secret project, now finished and blocked, but in need of some proper photography. There’s a reason that all those stitches look so horribly wonky, and that reason involves my hatred of endless 1×1 ribbing. Sigh. Also I wanted to do a little Wee-hee! at the woven label. :-) Labels like this are surprisingly cheap to commission, and you can semi-customise the design to add a professional touch to your work.

woven label

woven label

Anyway, I’m writing this from deepest most rural Herefordshire, where sheep roam the hillsides and where apples are relentlessly pulverised to make cider. The Toddler Twinnage and I have just arrived to stay with my parents before the parents make another of their once-a-decade moves to a completely new bit of the country. We’ve been wandering around the garden admiring the abundance of autumn:-

autumn fruits

autumn fruits

…and chatting to the locals, who are of exceptionally handsome stock:-

Bumblebee

Bumblebee

Up the hill behind my parents’ house are bushes laden with sloes. Note the lichen growing on the dry old branches: lichen loves to grow where the air is clean. Remember the blackthorn I photographed in the spring? Well blackthorn = sloe bushes and now we have enough fruit to make sloe gin:-

sloes on the bush

sloes on the bush

Just in case you didn’t enjoy a misspent youth (my childhood chores included stirring the sloe gin each day :-) ), here is how to make this sweet, delicious drink. You’ll need to pick roughly a pound of sloes. (Don’t be tempted to eat them – they taste vile, though they’re perfectly harmless.) Take them home, leave your muddy wellies outside the door, please, and prick the sloes all over with a sharp knife. Put them in a large jar with 8oz of caster sugar and the contents of a large bottle of gin. (No, the gin does not need testing ‘just to make sure’.) Stir. Put the lid on the jar and place it somewhere dark. Get it out every day or two and stir gently. It’ll be ready for Christmas. I used to make this stuff every year, but have lapsed, lately.

There is so much more colour and loveliness to show you from our Herefordshire hideaway, before we head back home. And my Mum has been doing the most amazing patchwork which warrants a post all of its own. So I’ll shut up for now and get on with some knitting. ‘Til next time, me hearties.

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The Icing On The Cake

A year ago today I moved into this blog, opened the blinds, looked around at its bare walls and set about putting up some pictures. Then I unpacked a couple of boxes and began to write my first post.

Fast forward to today. Well, the place is a little more cluttered, and some of the original boxes I moved in with still haven’t been unpacked. Oops. But TheTwistedYarn has become a colourful, happy, lived-in place where I get to talk about knitting, and crochet, and colour, and nature, and occasionally history-in-the-landscape all the time, and nobody says ‘Oh for goodness sake, Twisted, will you shut up about the knitting already?’ (Or maybe you’re all just too polite.) And the best thing is that I get to chat to like-minded souls, and read your blogs too. Because I had no idea when I started blogging, what a wonderfully communal experience it would be. I am mightily grateful to every person who reads this blog, especially the subscribers, but most of all I love chatting to people on the comments threads and I love reading your thoughts, and then wandering over and reading your blogs too.

Now, I have some numbers to discuss, and I have some cake. Which would you like first? Hmm, that’s a no-brainer really, isn’t it. (So much so that I’m not even going to dignify that last sentence with a question mark.) OK, to the cake. Well, I’ve just had a rather enormous surprise. See, I’d told the Stoic Spouse that the ‘Yarn’s blogiversary was coming up, and that I was thinking of baking a cake. And I was just rambling tediously speaking eloquently about how I needed to get on with the baking, when he asked me to close my eyes. When I opened them again, I saw this:-

cake b1

I was speechless. Honestly. I actually just stood there staring at it for ages, smiling inanely and shaking my head at its wonderfulness. I haven’t even eaten any, it’s that beautiful. (It’s also a lot larger than it looks in this picture, and underneath the icing it’s apparently chocolate.)

Is this the most wonderful cake ever?

The Stoic Spouse commissioned it from the same people who made our wedding cake, and who also made the cake via which he proposed. (How could I have refused to marry a man who communicated through the medium of cake?)

Stoic Spouse, you may be unable to tell the difference between knitting and crochet (nor care about this fact), but the cake almost makes up for it. Almost. ;-) Thank you.

TheTwistedYarn.com 's blogiversary cake.

TheTwistedYarn.com ‘s blogiversary cake.

Oh yes, the numbers. Well I just wanted to do a happy little dance of gratitude to the 1063 people who have subscribed to this blog, over the course of its 98 posts. (No, you don’t get to see the dance. I am not a talented dancer.) I know, I know, now that I’ve written that, you’re all going to unsubscribe and I’ll be left looking like a deluded fantasist with two followers, one of whom is my mum. (Mum, please don’t unsubscribe.) And I’m grateful to the 31 000 views originating in 106 countries that the ‘Yarn has had so far. And the Deramores Award was a rather amazing moment, too: look out for a post I’ll be writing on the Deramores blog within the next couple of months.

But never mind all that, because right now there’s cake. :-)

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To Oxford, For Extravagant Yarn And A Haircut

Though I live in rural Oxfordshire, I rarely go into the city of Oxford these days, except for my twice-yearly haircut. But a chunk of my shrivelled old heart is forever in that city where I lived, partied, loved, worked, and studied for my first degree and doctorate. I bought my first home there too, in which I spent seven happy years living alone but socialising manically, before I met the Stoic Spouse and morphed into a Semi-Sensible Grown-Up. Ah, those were the days.

Anyway, today was Haircut Day – I hate haircuts with a passion – so I tethered the Toddler Twinnage firmly to the Stoic Spouse, gritted my merlot-stained teeth, and headed off. What has this got to do with knitting or crochet, you ask? Well it’s tenuous, but I’m getting there, OK?

Anyway, I drove into north Oxford, past my old flat, and stopped in North Parade, a little row of shops and eateries very near my old college, also the location of our nearest pub and of a reliably grumpy delicatessen who sold the most delectable bean pasties even to hardened meat-eaters like me. This is North Parade:-

North Parade, Oxford.

North Parade, Oxford.

It’s changed a little in recent years, and one of its latest changes is the arrival of this loveliness:-

image

I had a little free time before my haircut, so what do you think I did? My bank balance is clearly far too heavy, so naturally I had to lighten it in this wonderful shop. Adriafil do a delectable cashmere, don’tcha know? Pictured is the immensely helpful woman who assisted with lightening my bank balance.

Oxford Yarn Store

Oxford Yarn Store

Then I headed into the centre. This city affects me. Every street, every shop, every pub, throws out a memory, good or bad. I think it hit me more today because it’s October, and I first arrived here in October 1991, head full of Morse, expecting intrigue, glamour, and the odd murder or two amongst the autumn leaves and dreaming spires.

In case you’ve never been to Oxford, here are some photos.

Oxford in the autumn

Oxford in the autumn

And another one:-

The Sheldonian

The Sheldonian

And finally:-

Anyway, ’til next time. The Secret New Knitting Project is preceding apace. All will be revealed.

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Filed under Outdoors

Inspiration: Dan Bennett

It’d be tricky to be creative in a vacuum, don’t you think? Inspiration is essential. T’would be an awfully large leap from the blank page to a work of beauty if you’d not laid your eyes on beauty elsewhere. So I’m always happy to discuss inspiration with friends such as your marvellously good selves. Where – if you don’t mind me asking – do you find your inspiration?

For me, nature is an unsurpassable source of ideas for colour, form, and texture. And artists/crafters who capture the creativity of the natural world come a close second. Artists such as Dan Bennett. Gather round, my friends, help yourself to a glass of this rather lovely rioja, and feast your eyes on this:-

Meconopsis 5 - Dan Bennett - reproduced with permission

Meconopsis 5 – Dan Bennett – reproduced with permission

This is the design on the cover of my 2014 appointments diary, an acrylic by Dan Bennett called Meconopsis 5. I love it. The detail, the geometry, the colour, the botanical inspiration – it speaks to me. Dan Bennett’s images (many of which are here) make me think about what might be possible with needles/hooks and yarn. When I was designing my knitted picture of a mandala, I thought about mandala-like designs of his, such as this:-

Mandala inspiration. Reproduced with permission from Dan Bennett.

Mandala inspiration. Reproduced with permission from Dan Bennett.

Bennett is a British artist, inspired by the world visible through the microscope as much as by the world visible to the naked eye. I’m reproducing some of his acrylics here as their repetitive details are perhaps most relevant to fibre artists, but he also works in oil and through the medium of body art. Want to see some more? Here is another of his acrylics:-

Dahlia 4, Dan Bennett. Reproduced with permission.

Dahlia 4, Dan Bennett. Reproduced with permission.

And a painting that makes me ponder texture:-

Fuligo - Dan Bennett. Acrylic on canvas. Reproduced with permission.

Fuligo – Dan Bennett. Acrylic on canvas. Reproduced with permission.

All rather beautiful, no? Anyway, whilst I continue to knit my secret new design, I just had to share this with you. Whose work inspires you? Or do you rely solely on raw nature? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Filed under Knitting