Monthly Archives: May 2015

Competition! The Knitting & Crochet Guild

And a very happy Tuesday to you all. May your day be filled with cuddles, blueberries, wine, and some unusually luscious yarn.

But here are the serious bits. Happy, but serious. First, do you remember the Stylecraft competition that I co-judged with Sarah from Let’s Knit magazine and Lucy from Attic24? Well, I’m finally allowed to talk about the shortlist because it’s time for YOU to judge which of the ten colours that we selected should be added to Stylecraft range. We were rather pleased with our choices:-

Stylecraft competition

But judge for yourself which one should be added to the range. Voting is open now.

And second, I must tell you about a competition being run by the Knitting And Crochet Guild. This more than averagely impressive organisation exists to unite knitters and crocheters worldwide, and for those of us in the UK, provide access to their archive of knitting/crochet-related artefacts. Go take a meander around their website: you won’t regret it.


Image callously stolen from the Knitting And Crochet Guild website. Seriously, go take a look to prevent me committing any further acts of theft.

Anyway, they’re running a competition in conjunction with Yarn Stories yarn. Details are available here, but in short, they want you to design and make a 15x15cm knitted or crocheted square in DK yarn, inspired by the collection at the Knitting and Crochet Guild. If you’re on Pinterest, you can view a few highlights of the collection here. The competition closes on the 12th June, and the winner will win £100 of Yarn Stories yarn. As someone who’s had the pleasure of knitting with this yarn, I can tell you that it’s properly soft. You want this prize, trust me. Actually I want this prize too, which is why I’m busy working on my own entry. Best of luck if you’re entering! Send your finished work to Yarn Stories/KCG Competition, Spa Mill, New Street, Slaithwaite, Huddersfield, HD7 5BB.


Filed under Knitting

Book Review: Colo(u)rwork Knitting

Would you like to share a peek at a brand spanking new knitting book?

Sarah E White colorwork knitting

Sarah E. White got in touch and offered to send me a copy of her latest publication: Colorwork Knitting for review, as it’s just this nanosecond been published. With a book title like that, I was pretty much powerless to resist, although this will be the one and only time I ever spell colourwork without the reassuringly British presence of a ‘u’.

Sarah’s previous books have been about knitwear for babies and felting your knitting. This time, she’s produced 110 happy pages covering five major colourwork techniques in knitting: stripes, self-striping yarns, slip-stitch knitting, stranded knitting, and shudders intarsia. She provides a range of patterns for each technique, all of them garments, with an adult female bias. She’s heavy on the accessories, so if you’re averse to knitting gloves or hats etc, look away now. But I do think it’s rather splendid that she’s included slip-stitch knitting, as it’s a much-neglected colourwork technique.

The best thing about this book is the explanations of how and why each technique works. I’ve seen a lot of authors/bloggers attempt to explain what on earth is going on with – for example – yarn dominance in stranded knitting, or with jogless stripes, and frankly some writers are better at doing this, whilst others have apparently forgotten what it’s like to be sitting with two needles, an unholy tangle of yarn, a brain filled with, “Huh?” and an inclination to abuse neat gin. Sarah White’s explanations and occasional illustrative photographs on the other hand, are clear and logical, and I recommend them.


But I’m getting ahead of myself. Reading this book, I thought that it would suit someone who has got all that beginner knitting confusion out of the way, and who now wants to expand their repertoire of techniques and figure out what sort of colourwork they like the most. Not intarsia. Please not intarsia. All those dozens of tangled bobbins…. please just make it stop. Oops, did I type that out loud? I reckon it’d appeal most to process knitters who are keen to learn as wide a range of methods as possible and reflect on the whys and wherefores of what they’re doing, as opposed to product knitters who are thinking, “I need a hat. Just gimme the pattern for the goddam hat already, yeah?” And no, I’m not casting any silly value judgements there re. process vs product knitters. I’m just saying that this book is a good place to come and ponder the how and the why.

So, do you want to see some of the projects?


There are 25 of them: hats, scarves, socks, and gloves, with a smattering of jumpers (the latter with rather smaller necks than I would ever wear, but that’s just me).

I played around with a few swatches, and the instructions were clear and logical. But know-ye that if you’re a fellow non-north-American like me, you’ll need to do a spot of mental conversion of the yarn weight instructions.

I don’t knit many accessories as a rule, but I did rather like the look of the brick stitch scarf, and slip-stitch work is an oft-neglected colourwork technique that deserves more attention. The scarf is coming out a little narrow (partly my bad for using slightly finer yarn and needles than recommended) but the pattern is pretty and eye-catching. One thing you can’t really see from the picture below is the pronounced, 3-d nature of brick stitch. ‘Tis lovely. I might just treble the width of the scarf if I make it again, though, and possibly subvert the medium by adding a couple of windows in amongst those bricks…


The patterns are not revolutionary but that isn’t the point: they’re not-too-taxing designs to showcase colourwork techniques for knitters who are venturing into new territory.

One thing I will say – and it’s not a criticism, but I suppose it might irk some people – is that if you want a super-glossy, professionally-styled/shot, mega-budget, coffee-table-tome, this isn’t it. There are some unflattering shots of the finished garments laid out on white backgrounds (and there’s a puzzling photo of someone apparently plucking an apple from a shrub that looks about as unlike an apple tree as you could imagine, but that’s just me getting really nit-picky). But as a friend said when I showed her, it’s refreshing to see a book with real knitting in, ie projects that look a little wonky in places until you put them on.


So where does that leave us?

You’ll like this book if you:-

  • Are starting out on colourwork, having mastered the knitting basics.
  • Are a process knitter. Value understanding why you’re doing what you’re doing.
  • Like to knit accessories and garments for adults, including fairly quick knits.
  • Love colour. Lots and lots of colour.

This might not be your favourite book if:-

  • You have enough hats/scarves/gloves already, and want to knit something unconventional and radical.
  • Monochrome is your thing. (Friend, you’ve really come to the wrong place.)
  • You’re a product knitter and just want patterns, without all this explanation malarkey.
  • You want Euro-centric instructions.
  • You want to learn about traditional fairisle.


Filed under Knitting

A Word On Noro

Ugh, this blog post smells of paint. Sorry about that. I’ve been painting the sitting room walls and my hair. To be honest, I’ve been painting the sitting room for the past nine months, budging toys, furniture, guests, and small children out of the way as I went. One of the many, many downsides to this DIY technique is that now that I’m close(ish) to completion, I’ve noticed that the wall I painted first is getting decidedly scruffy again and could do with, well, a lick of paint. Sigh. Two words spring to mind at this point: ‘Sisyphean’ and ‘wine’. Mostly wine.

But I’m not here to talk about DIY. I’m here to apply my paint-fume-addled brain to the not-small matter of Noro sock yarn. Yes, yes, I know I was late to the sock-knitting party, but now I’m here, well and truly ensconced in the kitchen, helping myself to the pretzels and waxing lyrical about assorted types of heel construction to anyone unfortunate enough to wander in here and listen.

Have you knitted with Noro?


I know Noro comes with a love-it-or-loathe-it reputation. Tales of having to pick bits of straw from amongst its strands. Tales of its general stroppiness and propensity for knots at crucial moments in its colour shifts. But I found some Noro Kureyon Sock in a clearance bin and I couldn’t resist. It’s made of 70% wool, with a massive 30% nylon to keep the woolly craziness in check and prevent super-fast wear. 30%? That’s a bit much, I thought. Until I realized what I was up against…

Just in case you haven’t come across the stuff, Noro is a Japanese producer of the most wonderfully colourful variegated wool/silk/alpaca/angora/mohair. So far so beautiful, but in their attempt to give it a homespun feel, they perhaps go a little far. I’ve never encountered homespun that feels as homespun as this. This stuff is crazy. One minute you’re knitting with something the weight and twist of sewing thread, then eight inches later you’re grappling an untwisted bundle of bulky fluff that wouldn’t have seemed out of place in that very first bulky garter stitch scarf you knitted in your teens. Except that the bulky bits are so untwisted that they pull apart at the slightest tug, which isn’t great for someone like me who tends towards brutality with my yarn when transitioning from one DPN to the next in order to avoid ladders.


Back to the socks. My knitting is decidedly untidy due to the massive variation in thickness, but the colour shifts are divine and really, you go to Noro for the colours, don’t you? (Think of the Noro scarf.)


I don’t doubt these will be beautiful socks, but the thin bits of threadlike yarn are going to wear horribly fast. I think these will be both my first and last Noro socks.

Any thoughts? Have you knitted with Noro? Did you grumpily pick out bits of straw from its fluff or did you admire its divine silkiness?

sock with toddler

Lots of posts are queuing in the wings, by the way: a review of Sarah White’s Colourwork Knitting, a post on the Stylecraft mill, the pattern for the house-bag. Tonnes of stuff.


Filed under Knitting

And Then We Disappeared Off To Herefordshire

So anyway, my parents (the Twisted Seniors) have a long-established tradition of pulling up their tent-pegs and moving to a completely different part of the country every 10-15 years or so. They’re at it again as we speak, and have just sold their home in beautiful rural Herefordshire, ready to come and share a county with us here in Oxfordshire. With the move imminent, the Toddler Twinnage and I decided to make a may-or-may-not-be-the-last visit to Herefordshire, whilst the Stoic Spouse stayed behind and kept the home fires burning. I hope you don’t mind photos? This post has lots of photos.

I was reading your comments on the Skirt Post whilst we were there, and yes I did notice how many of you said I should have posted a picture of me wearing the skirt. Yeeks! OK here’s a hasty shot, but I’m deliberately excluding most of the waistband because I want to add more rows to it now that I’m back home, and really make it a lovely purple feature. And I’m still pondering stranded braces… But yes, this is me, in the skirt… The skirt that you will know from my previous post is held together entirely with hairspray… I might wear it to work tomorrow.

stranded skirt

Whilst we were in Herefordshire, I did a little work on a sock. A Noro Kureyon Sock yarn sock, no less, that most definitely deserves a future post of its own, given the beautiful-but-highly-strung nature of this yarn. Yes those are toddler twin fingers a-grabbing at my toes.

sock with toddler

But you can’t visit Herefordshire in springtime and not go outdoors, so we admired the blossom in the garden:-


Yup, those be twins in the background. They’re probably about to do something incredibly naughty.

…before wandering up the track behind my parents’ house to take a look at the landscape. It’s so quiet there, apart from the birdsong.

Herefordshire countryside

As the weather has been warming, the sheep have been shedding handfuls of fluff that I’d just love to take home and use as an excuse to learn to spin at last. I’ve been watching lots of YouTube videos about how to spin, but obviously I’m not about to give it a go. Of course not. No way. Definitely not.


I quite like the bit of the walk in the photo below. It’s excellent for toddler galloping, and there’s a little pond where you can watch teeny-weeny freshwater shrimps and whirligig beetles doin’ their funky wriggly thing. When I was a child, we had a tiny stream running across the bottom of the garden, but despite the fact that the water was so polluted it made my skin turn weird, you could always find little freshwater shrimps and water lice hiding under stones. I spent many happy, absorbed hours delighting in this fact and also damming the stream and nearly flooding next door’s garden. Anyway, back to Herefordshire:-


Being spring, there are ducklings. Here was a family of 14 fluffy little darlings!


Do you see that funny-looking hill-top on the horizon towards the left of the photo below? That’s Credenhill, an Iron Age hill fort, one of the biggest in the country and probably built well over 2000 years ago in approximately 350BC. If I visit my parents again before they move, I can go there and bring you some photos if you’d like? As long as you don’t mind the photos featuring a spot of knitting in their foreground…


And look!!! Most exciting of all, we found a nest of moorhen eggs:-


And cheating slightly, because this is in the garden of a Herefordshire castle rather than anywhere wild, look at these tulips!


When I first met the Stoic Spouse, he said that May was his favourite month of the year. I think I might just be coming round to his way of thinking. I just hope we get to visit Herefordshire again before my parents leave.

…And whilst we’re pottering about photographing things, I confess to a tiny shy smile every time I go into a newsagent or supermarket and see this:-


…because I can’t help but be a teeny bit excited that my interview is inside the back cover and my first column is coming soon.


Filed under Uncategorized

The Skirt Post

Ah, the skirt. (And thank you to the kind people in the comments threads who’ve been asking about it.) This post could probably be retitled ‘How not to design a skirt, you fool!’ but it will at least give you a laugh or two, I hope.

For those of you who are new around these ‘ere parts, allow me to elaborate. I decided on a whim to design a knitted stranded skirt and a crocheted bag, ahead of judging the Stylecraft competition. It seemed like a good idea. And whilst the bag was done in plenty of time, I ended up restarting the skirt at the eleventh-and-a-halfth hour, owing to my first attempt turning into a messy ol’ cacophany of colour and stripey chaos:-

Nope. Just wrong.

You see, this is what goes wrong when you try and design a skirt whilst simultaneously playing with toddlers. COLOUR/MOTIF ANARCHY!  Consider yerselves warned. This is a public service announcement by The Twisted Yarn.

I decided to aim for something a bit more serious and muted, second time around. I liked that pattern in the middle that I’d designed, so I modified it only slightly for attempt number two. You can see the design as I drew it out on paper in the picture below. (For once, I broke my cardinal rule about using knitter’s graph paper, but I wasn’t too fussed about the relative height and width of this motif, so it didn’t matter.)

This skirt is quite short

This skirt is quite short

Anyway, here’s what I did. This is more of a description of a process, than a pattern. I hope that’s OK for now?

The yarn is Rowan Felted Tweed DK, which is a fabulous yarn other than for the fact that it breaks if you as much as look at it. Oh all right, I’m exaggerating. You can look at it, but if you frown in its direction then *SNAP!* it breaks. Dear Rowan, I love your yarns, I really really really do, but please make less breaky Felted Tweed DK, yeah? Ta muchly.

All The Yarn.

All The Yarn.

Anyway, where was I?

This skirt was worked in the round from the bottom up. I cast on 203 stitches on 3mm circulars. Then I worked 10 rows of garter stitch, because you don’t want the bottom of your skirt rolling up, do you? Next, I knitted 6 rows of plain stockinette before beginning the motif I’d designed. This design is 29 stitches wide, so I repeated it 7 times to make up my 203 stitches. See, there’s method in my apparently-arbitrary-stitch-count.


After another 11-or-so rows of plain grey-green, I began a second band of the motif. I say ‘or-so’, because the skirt is currently sitting in the Toddler Twinnage’s bedroom and they’re asleep. And whilst I love you very much, I don’t quite love you enough to risk waking the TT in order to give you an exact row count. Sorry.

Anyway, I finished the second band of colour and worked upwards in stockinette at high speed, as the clock cruelly ticked its way towards Yorkshire Day. The stress! As I worked, I reflected on all the uneaten toddler dinners I’d consumed recently which have had an enormously widening effect on my girth, so I started adding in a few KFBs, slowly increasing the stitch count per round from 203 up to a maximum of 225 at round 139. Obviously this is a highly individual thing, and if you’ve consumed less of your children’s discarded food than I have, then adjust accordingly, you lucky woman. I started decreasing again by one stitch per round from round 140, though, because I didn’t want acres of fabric around my waist. BUT THIS ISN’T MUCH OF AN ANECDOTE, IS IT?!

fairisle knitted skirt by TheTwistedYarn in progress

By the time I set of for Yorkshire last Monday afternoon, the skirt was so far from completion that any attempt to wear it would’ve resulted in my arrest not by the knitting police, but by the real police. I did give the thing a wash before I left, though, and blocked my progress-so-far on the back seat of my car whilst I drove. Resourceful, no?

Sadly, it wasn’t possible to knit and drive. And sadly, I didn’t get caught in any five-hour tailbacks, so there was no more knitting until I reached my hotel room for the night before the judging. The hotel was perfect. Here was the view from my window:-


But there was no time for views, dammit! There was knitting to be done!

Man, my fingers flew. I have never knitted so fast. I paused only to go downstairs and have dinner with the lovely Annabelle Hill (sales director for Stylecraft) and equally lovely Sarah Neal (editor of Let’s Knit magazine). I felt so shy walking down the stairs towards the restaurant but honestly, they were both friendly and interesting and I needn’t have worried. The food wasn’t bad, either. 🙂

And then it was back to the knitting, up in my room. Round and round and round and round. No, don’t fall asleep: have some more caffeine. Sit up straighter, try to stay awake. Just. Keep. Knitting. It reminded me of undergraduate days, desperately trying to stay awake for most of the night in an attempt to get the weekly essay finished. Oh, those nights: trying to figure out some statistical complexity whilst half mad on caffeine at 5am.

Morning came too soon.

By breakfast time, I had a nearly-decent length, but I needed a waist-band, so I switched to purple and garter-stitched as though my life depended on it. Time was ticking, as the bastard is wont to do.


I knitted over breakfast at the hotel, and as luck would have it, I bumped into Sarah Neal. My advice to you? ALWAYS have the editor of a major knitting magazine around whilst you break your fast, in order to tap her wisdom as you knit and munch. Her advice? HAIRSPRAY. Yes, you read that right. I’d been moaning about how one of my many uncompleted tasks was weaving in the ends of this colour-splurge, so she suggested hairspray. For the first time in my life, I was grateful that I have hair that has much in common with an undiscovered jungle, because that means that I never travel without industrial-strength hairspray.


So instead of the responsible knitterly weave-in-and-snip, I hacked:-


…And then I sprayed:-


And then back to the knitting. I added the occasional yarnover and k2tog, in order to make holes for a little belt I’d worked half way through the night. May I just formally record here the patience of Let’s Knit‘s Sarah Neal, who waited (and knitted) patiently whilst I worked the last couple of rows at the hotel before we set off for Stylecraft. (She was working on a jumper with gorgeous fan-like stitches. It was beautiful, and she claimed that it was simple.)

So then it was done, sort of. I do want to make the waistband much wider, but I didn’t have time that morning, so here’s how far I got:-


It’s a little worrying, wearing a skirt that’s basically held together with hairspray, let me tell you. Would it make an audible ‘crunch’ when I sat down? Would it burst into flames if I walked past a smoker? Fortunately it did neither of these things, but I’ve learned an important lesson in life: ALWAYS HAVE THE EDITOR OF A KNITTING MAGAZINE ON TAP AT BREAKFAST.

To my shame, I wiggled out of jeans and into this skirt in the car park of Stylecraft’s mill at Slaithwaite, so I can only hope that nobody was looking out of their office window that morning.


Here’s the reverse, because you always have to show the back when you’re knitting stranded, don’t you?


And the weirdest thing (that you probably won’t understand)? I didn’t knit a single stitch for about four days after I came home.


Filed under Knitting

Distracted From The Knitting By Cake

So there I was, sitting innocently in the garden drafting the skirt post, and the post about looking round the Spectrum Yarns mill, when I was rudely interrupted by a silly idea that just would not go away. An idea that had nowt to do with knitting or crochet. And whilst I tried my hardest to concentrate on telling you about the luscious yarn being worked at that mill, this pesky idea grabbed me by the brain cell and dragged me all the way into the kitchen, whereupon it told me to look for some fruit, some bowls, and a cake tin. I swear that the idea chuckled a bit as I did its bidding.

The idea was this: wouldn’t it be fun to bake a sponge cake which was laden with different fruits in different sections, so you’d never quite know what you were going to bite into? (Am I making sense at all?)

So I poked about in the fruit bowl (and the fridge and freezer, it not being fruit season), and came up with an apple, some raspberries, a pineapple, blueberries, and a large squishy plum. I chopped up about a tablespoon-full of each. Yum! 🙂


And then I made up a quick sponge cake (recipe at bottom), one of those easy cheaty ones that involves just chucking everything in a bowl together and beating it until your arm hurts.


(Serious bakers will be snorting in derision at this point. Fair enough.)

From then on, I really was winging it. I divided the mixture into five bowls, and stirred one type of fruit into each:-


And then I dropped spoonfuls of each into the cake tin, keeping each fruit to its own patch in the tin, but acknowledging there’d be a certain amount of splurging and merging. What I DIDN’T do was pile one fruity mixture on top of another, because both fruits would probably have sunk to the bottom together during baking. Nearly done:-


And then into the oven it went, producing the most mouth-watering smells. Look!



Want to see inside? Well this is the point where I remind you that this is a knitting/crochet blog, not a baking blog, and if you’re a serious constructor of cakes, you may want to look elsewhere. Really, I should have adjusted the consistency of each section of the cake to allow for the runny-ness of the fruit it contained but hey, life’s too short already. But you know what? I have cake and I don’t care. 🙂

imageRecipe (massively adapted years ago from one in Mary Berry’s Fast Cakes book:-

9oz / 225g self-raising flour

9oz / 225g soft margarine

9oz / 225g caster sugar

3 eggs, beaten

2tbsp milk

1tsp baking powder

(And the fruits, obviously, chopped small. Roughly a heaped tbsp of each. I used five different ones.)

Combine everything except the fruit. Beat into oblivion with a wooden spoon. Then follow instructions above. Bake in an 8-inch / 20cm diameter deep cake tin at 180C for about 55 mins, or until surface is golden and springy to the touch.

AND NOW I REALLY AM GOING TO FINISH THAT SKIRT POST! (Thank you to kind commenters who asked about it.)


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