Learning to Machine Knit

In a past life when I was working as a research scientist there was a whole host of professional training; ‘writing COSHH assessments’ ‘how to build a database’ ‘time management’ ‘working with radioactive materials’ …. Anyway, now I work for myself I thought I ought to arrange some more training, but none of that dull, useful stuff!!! Instead to celebrate yarn shop day on Saturday 27th April I book myself in for a beginners machine knitting afternoon with KnitWorks in Bethnal Green, London.

Oh my goodness, what a place, stacked from floor to ceiling with cones of yarn of the most glorious colours and textures. After four hours of very patient teaching I came away with some of the skills to master machine knitting, a rag tag collection of samples, a bag of yarn and a finished scarf, which, after a hot wash with plenty of fabric conditioner to shrink it after an error with the tension dial, is good enough to wear!

I now NEED a knitting machine…much to my husband’s horror! The problem is which brand and model. Many of my friends swear by Brother but they stopped production in 1996 so all the machines are vintage and my concern is how to get my paws on a good one??? The other option is to choose a new Silver Reed machine, not cheap but still in production so maintenance should be easier. Then there is the question of a simple manual machine or a full on electronic beast! So many options so any thoughts would be appreciated.

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Kaffe Fassett’s Quilts in America

Just before Easter I had to take my daughter to the University of Bath Architecture Department for the day. Surprisingly she didn’t want her middle aged mother ‘hanging about’ so I took myself off to the American Museum & Gardens. Well, what an unexpected treat – Kaffe Fassett’s Quilts in America exhibition featuring a selection of the most exquisite antique American quilts and a collection of Kaffe’s designs inspired by the work.

Not only were the antique quilts so carefully pieced and stitched but you could see they had been used, repaired and some of the fabric had become quite worn and taken on a subtlety of colour after years in sunlight. Kaffe Fassett’s new quilts sang with colour and pattern but the piecing was very closely matched to the antique quilts so made for an interesting comparison.

If you are fortunate to be in the Bath area I would thoroughly recommend this museum, packed full of the most beautiful objects in original room settings. The grounds are inspired by George Washington’s gardens at Mount Vernon and there is a superb cafe with views over Limpley Stoke Valley and River Avon. The quilt exhibition runs until 3rd November 2019 and is closed on Mondays.

Mosaic Seagull

Gosh, it has been a long time since I last wrote a post. I have been mainly working on our house. A lovely old property that looks just like a typical Georgian dolls’ house but very demanding of my time with a constant stream of maintenance to keep the old dear in shipshape condition.

This month I foolishly decided to block up one of the four doors into the kitchen to create a large coat cupboard under the stairs, tile the entire room and commission a pair of larder cupboards. Like many tasks I completely underestimated how long the work was going to take! The larders are about to be delivered and I have just about tiled enough of the walls for them to be fitted. It has got me thinking though about how much I must really love tiling because there are an awful lot of tiles throughout the house, even the bookshelves my husband made have a frieze of Delft birds along the top.

The first time I ever attempted using tiles for mosaic was one New Year, in the highlands of Scotland, when visiting the family holiday home of my University flatmate. They had chosen to create a mosaic of the local wildlife that covered the entire conservatory and kitchen. It was a truly epic undertaking and I’m not sure my contribution had much of an impact!

My next attempt was much more successful, a seagull mosaic kit from the marvellous Martin Cheek – check out his work as he uses fused glass elements to created the most characterful designs. The colours are quite vivid when you first cut the mosaic but the entire design takes on more subtle hues with the grey grout, the odd pops of gold around the edges and that fabulous red spot on the beak. I really think I should have another attempt but first I must finish this kitchen.IMG_2695

Year of the Pig Crochet

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I am currently spending my days making up needlework kits for the Spring Knitting & Stitching Show at Olympia so in the evenings I look forward to picking up a crochet hook and some yarn. This cheeky chap was designed by the very talented Claire Garland and can be found in her book ‘Toys to Crochet’

I have to come clean here and admit that I am terrible at following a pattern, even really great patterns, so things often get tweaked as I work. To start with I didn’t have the correct yarn but I did have a very piggy pink in DMC Natura XL and I found some Scheepjes 4ply Catona in a dark grey colour.

Unfortunately, I didn’t actually write any of my pattern tweaks down as I worked but I think the following is a good approximation of what I did when worked in combination with the original pattern. Everything is written in UK crochet terms. The majority of the pig is crocheted using a 6mm hook but I will indicate when another hook is required.

When starting the head, spots and legs I chose to use a magic circle and 6 double crochet (dc) rather than the 2 chain (ch) foundation row and 6dc as originally described.

For the head and body I switched to a 5mm hook for rounds 4 to 18 and I also worked into the back loop only for 18dc in round four to give a slightly raised edge between the nose and snout.

To create a plumper bottom I worked repeats of round 24 until the head and body measured approximately 22cm from the tip of the snout before starting the following increases and decreases:

  • *1dc into each of the next 11dc, 2dc into next dc, repeat from * around (39dc)
  • 1 dc into each of the 39dc
  • *1dc into each of the next 12dc, 2dc into next dc, repeat from * around (42dc)
  • 1dc into each of the 42dc
  • *1dc into each of the next 13dc, 2dc into next dc, repeat from * around (45dc)
  • 1dc into each of the 45dc and repeat this round twice more
  • *1dc into each of the next 12dc, double crochet two together (dc2tog) , repeat from * around (42dc)
  • 1dc into each of the 42dc
  • *1dc into each of the next 11dc, dc2tog, repeat from * around (39dc)
  • 1dc into each of the 39dc
  • *1dc into each of the next 10dc, dc2tog, repeat from * around (36dc)
  • *1dc, dc2tog, repeat from * around until the gap is almost closed, stuff firmly with polyester filling, finish closing the gap, fasten off yarn

For the tail I doubled up on the pink DMC Natura XL and switched to a 10mm hook

  • chain 14
  • dc twice into the second chain from hook, repeat for next 9dc, 1dc into each of the remaining foundation chain stitches
  • Fasten off yarn and sew to the pig’s bottom

For the spots I doubled up on the grey Scheepjes cotton yarn and followed the original pattern using a 4mm hook.

The legs were worked according to the original pattern except I tripled the grey Scheepjes yarn to maintain the correct tension using the 6mm hook and chose to work three rounds of dc in the grey rather than switching to double trebles as described.

For the eyes I raided my stash of beads and stitched a couple on using dressmakers cotton. However, if you plan to let a child play with the pig it is probably better to opt for safety eyes and fit them before stuffing the head or simply embroider some eyes on the finished pig.

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We have some winners for the Spring Knitting & Stitching tickets

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Wow! so many entries for the Spring Knitting & Stitching tickets, thank you all so much for your enthusiastic response. We have some winners, many congratulations rebsuka, claireypollybella and Karen Merchant!!! Please contact me directly to arrange your prize and I will get all your stitching goodies and tickets in the post as soon as possible.

Don’t forget you can still use discount code SPRING2 for a reduced adult advanced ticket price of £12 when booking online at http://www.theknittingandstitchingshow.com
or on the telephone 0844 581 1319

Oh, and I must not forget to mention the funky embroidered bird hanging I got from Linladan Folk Art & Embroidery Supplies at the show a couple of years ago – what a great event for finding knitting and stitching treasure!

If you are coming along, please give us a wave and stop for a chat at C44, we are always happy to talk crafts.

Win!!! Tickets to the Spring Knitting & Stitching Show

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On such a frosty morning it seems quite strange to be thinking ahead to spring, slightly warmer weather, longer days and a little sunshine…but I have tickets to give away for the Spring Knitting and Stitching Show at Olympia and fingers crossed we will not be snowed in this year!

To get you in the stitching mood we are also offering a pair of mini beadwork kits. Alternatively, you may like a chunky cross stitch, a beaded parrot or woodpecker or a more traditional cross stitch or biscornu.

The tickets are valid for use on Thursday 28th February, Friday 1st or Sunday 3rd March 2019.

If you would like a chance to win a pair of tickets please drop me a line either below, on any of my social media accounts, via the contact page of the website http://www.annsorchard.co.uk or send an email epavier@annsorchard.co.uk

The competition closes at midnight on Friday 25th January 2019
Three lucky winners will be drawn at random on Saturday 26th January 2019

It should be a fantastic day out, plenty of inspiration and a great opportunity to stock up on projects, haberdashery, fabrics and yarn for the coming year.

If you are not a lucky winner this time then please take advantage of the discount code SPRING2 to get a reduced price of £12 for an advance adult ticket when booking online at http://www.theknittingandstitchingshow.com/spring or by calling 0844 581 1319

If you are visiting give us a wave at C44 and best of luck!