More Yarn Will Do The Trick

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Ask Jean Revisited 2

As the giving season approaches, why not consider the gift of teaching your little ones to knit? Sturdy, colourful needles parcelled up with fun yarn from your stash might at first seem like an unexciting gift, but the kids will soon find out what a gas it is to actually make something with it. So here's a question from my Ask Jean archive to help you get them  interested. 
Q  I’ve always loved knitting but neither of my daughters share my passion.  I now have a grand-daughter, Chloe, who’s nearly eight and would like to pass on the craft to her. Can you suggest projects which would be suitable for an eight-year-old?
Charlotte Morris, Morecambe
A  Make it fun, quick and attractive and I don’t think you’ll go far wrong.  Colourful, interesting fibres and quick and easy knits are what’s needed. Scarves, hats, beanbags, lavender bags, washcloths and simple toys, can all be made using plain or striped garter stitch, which has the bonus that the edges don’t roll.

Knitting rhymes are a fun way of getting a child to understand how to make the stitches – here are a few old ones:
How to Knit  
In through the front door
Around the back
Out through the window
And off jumps jack.

How to Purl  
Under the fence
Catch the sheep
Back we come
Off we leap.

For the very young
Into the bunny hole
Run round the tree
Out of the bunny hole
Away runs he

Continental knitting
Under the fence
Catch the sheep
Back you go
Off you leap

A good book to invest in would be Melanie Fallick's KidsKnitting, a paperback published in 2003 by Workman Publishing (ISBN-10: 1579652417 ISBN-13: 978-1579652418).  

In it you'll find fifteen easy projects, from bouncy beanbags to a rolled-edge sweater. Young beginners learn the basics and more, but best of all, they get to have fun creating things they can actually use -bookmarks, backpacks, bracelets, and other great ideas. 

Good luck, Charlotte, knitting's not taught in schools anymore, so we definitely need to pass on the skills to keep the needles clicking.  

There was always a bottle of malt vinegar in the cupboard when I was little and my mother told me that if she could only have one item in the larder it would be that.  Good for preserving, delicious on chips, helps rheumatic pain and it was probably the original fabric conditioner.
Q  I have rescued a crocheted blanket  which has been in the garage for a year or two.  I have washed it and it looks great, but it is has an unpleasant smell, probably due to being damp for some time.  It is not mildewed.  Is there something else I can wash it with?  Would borax do the trick?  I hesitate to try anything without someone else's experience to go on.  Various reference books like Mrs Beeton are not helpful.
Lindy Wiltshire, Alton, Hants
A  My grandmother always swore by vinegar. To remove smells from clothes and blankets add 1 cup of vinegar to very hot water in bathtub, and steam article above. If the odour is really bad you may need to do this two or three times, but it should do the trick eventually. Another tip is to add 2 cups of vinegar to the rinse cycle in your machine and this will leave your blanket soft and fluffy.

The neatest buttonhole as far as I'm concerned is the one-row bottonhole.  Once you've got the hang of it you'll never go back to the ones that always seem to have a small hole at one side no matter how much care you take.
Q  Help!  My buttonholes always look a mess.  Is there a perfect buttonhole that always looks good?
Lesley Coneybere , by email

A  The strongest and neatest buttonhole is worked on one row only and needs no further reinforcing.  Shown left the lower buttonhole is worked from the right side and the upper slightly neater one is worked from the wrong side.

Work to buttonhole, bring yarn to front, slip a st purlwise. Yarn to back,  *slip next st from LH needle, pass the first slipped st over it.  Repeat from * for the number of sts to be cast off for buttonhole , keeping yarn at back. Slip last cast off stitch to LH needle and turn work.

With yarn at back, cast on one more st than the number you cast off using the cable cast on:  *insert RH needle between the first and second sts on LH needle, draw up a loop and place it on LH needle.  When all sts are cast on, turn the work.

With yarn at back, slip the first stitch from LH needle and pass the extra cast-on stitch over it to close the buttonhole. 

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Turn on the heat!

Much as I love the autumn with its glorious hues and lovely light, I can't help hankering after a dose of sun when the deep dark days of winter beckon. So last night I had another look at our Knit Morocco pics and hey presto was immediately transported back there in a flash. It was like sitting under a sun lamp and I felt instantly warmer - might have been the G&T but I prefer to think otherwise - a great non-alcoholic tonic!
There's so much design inspiration there it's a joke. The senses are constantly bombarded with one thing after another - Morocco is full of surprises, when you think there can't be any more, the next fabulous image hits the retina.  It's impossible for any camera to truly do it justice, but willynilly we all still try to capture some of the magic.  

I'm guessing that you all need warming up right now - at least if you're in the northern hemisphere - so here's a selection of snaps to carry you off to a warmer place. But if you're still keen to get in the Moroccan mood,  follow the link to my Facebook page, where you'll find snaps from the whole trip - from Casablanca through Meknes, Fez, Marrakech and Essaouira, then back to Casablanca.
There's always so much preparation to be done for the tours, every detail is agonised over at length before deciding whether or not to include it, but it's such a bonus for us to try out all the hotels, restaurants, visits to knitters, spinners and dyers etc, a mini tour before-hand in fact!  I actually enjoy every minute of it.  I'm not saying we always get it right, but it's certainly not for lack of trying!

I love the very idea of a bunch of knitters (and sometimes non-knitters) getting together to share a holiday, and it's especially good to see new friendships being forged.  We like to think of our tours as one long house party where we can catch up with old friends and make new ones along the way.  It's such a great feeling to have many travellers who have returned again and again - we must be doing something right and it makes all the agonising worthwhile.
Can't wait for the next opportunity to get together. Lakes & York is coming up next May, when I'll be opening my studio for a knit and natter.  We've done this tour several times and people seem to love the contrast between the dramatic landscapes of the beautiful Lakes and the architectural splendour of medieval York.
Knit Ireland in September is already full, in fact the waiting list for the next one (as yet date undecided) is nearly full, but if you're a knitter and fancy a fabulous time with kindred spirits then I'm sure you won't find a better place for indulging your passion.  So come and join in the fun next May - there's even an early bird discount of 5% if you book before 15th December!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Knitting and Stitching gems

Had an interesting if fleeting visit to the Harrogate Knitting & Stitching show yesterday.  The weather was awful, gusty winds, driving rain on the way from York, but this didn't stop the thousands of crafters who turned up.  Suffice it to say it was mega busy.  It's always good to see what's there, not much opportunity to chat to people though as so much business was happening - which is great!

Being the grandmother of three little girls, I always make a beeline for Bombay Stores, where I can stock up on glamorous and glitzy scarves for the dressing up box and be sure it won't break the bank.  There's so much to see that it's all a bit overwhelming and I'm sure I didn't see it all.  However, I loved the student work and the other exhibitions - Mary Sleigh's  gorgeous African Textiles & Beadwork was pure joy. Take a look at the link as there were too many people to get any decent photos.

Another interesting exhibition was Materialistics of South Tyneside's knitted and crocheted versions of iconic paintings, created co-operatively by people of different levels of expertise in knitting and crochet (see above).

Winner of the student textile awards

A fabulous afternoon with inspiration in abundance - so good to see such a thriving crafting community. We would have finished it off with a cuppa in Bettys afterwards, but the queue was snaking around the block and it's not my idea of fun to be standing outside freezing on a cold November day, when home beckons only half an hour's drive away.  Harrogate was looking her twinkly best though, decidedly elegant in her Xmas finery.

We're lucky to be spoilt for choice when it comes to Bettys. As it's on the doorstep we can pick a time when it's not so crowded, choosing from York, Harrogate or, my favourite, visit the RHS gardens at Harlow Carr where in summer you can sit outside with your cuppa overlooking the gardens and feast on their famous cakes and pastries.

Back home in time for Strictly, which I have to admit to being completely and utterly addicted - give me half a chance and I'd be there, even if it was only sewing on sequins!  Sasha was feeling a bit more like her old self so a tasty takeaway was ordered from the local Indian at the top of the road, a perfect no-stress end to a very full-on day.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Sasha's dental nightmare!

Sasha's daughter, Tanya, had to go off to the Knitting & Stitching Show in Harrogate on her own today, as for the past couple of days Sasha has been having an horrendous dental drama.  After having the work done on Monday in time to be feeling better for Harrogate, her tooth was feeling dreadful when they arrived on Tuesday night and it got progressively worse until this morning one side of her face was twice the size of the other and she had to be rushed off to the medical drop-in for the second time.

Yesterday she was told nothing could be done as she wasn't a York resident and anyway there was no dentist there, so she had to grin and bear it and struggle through the opening day of the show.  However this morning she managed to see someone who diagnosed an abscess and sinus infection and she's now been prescribed a course of anti-biotics.  Sasha looks as if she's done five rounds in the boxing ring with Mike Tyson, but she's being very stoic about it.  Poor thing feels so worn down that she's gone back to bed, with Tanya holding the fort in Harrogate.

So... tonight this calls for my favourite  comfort food - bangers, mash and roasted veggies covered with a tahini gravy - hopefully this will slide down easily and not irritate the offending tooth.
Collected Ava from nursery at lunchtime and  for the past half hour she's been dressing up in the wool room, which I hesitate to call my stash, as it's so large and uncatalogued, that even if I knew where to start looking, it's odds on that I'd have to spend an hour opening bags and boxes and still not find what I'm looking for.  It's high on my list of priorities to get it sorted, but when it comes to it there's always something more important and meanwhile the wool keeps on coming!  Anyway I digress, before I went off on the stash tangent I was meaning to say that we were highly amused to find Ava looking very fetching wearing a skein of hand-spun fibre - looks like my grand-daughter has good taste in yarn!

Anyway, gotta take Sasha a cuppa now,  the antibiotics haven't kicked in and she's still feeling awful, despite the paracetamol, ibuprofen etc.  If you feel like posting some feel better comments I'm sure it might help cheer her up! That dentist has a lot to answer for!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Although we don't celebrate Thanksgiving here in the UK, it's always a reminder to me to check out the things in life that I'm truly thankful for.  Grumbling is part of the human condition I fear, we all do it, but when I sit down and think of all the things I love which are a constant in my everyday life, it's a humbling exercise.  The list is endless, too embarrassing to print, so suffice it to say that I'm truly grateful for my family, loyal friends, an interesting and creative job, my guitar, my cats and my garden. But importantly, I'm very happy to be waking up every morning in a safe place, where freedom of speech is a given.  Wouldn't it be great if everyone in the world could say that?  Would be good to hear what you are thankful for.

The image is Arabesque, a true mobius scarf from Sweet Shawlettes.  I find myself revisiting the traditional fan and feather lace pattern over and over again, it's a real classic and can be interpreted in so many different ways.  Reminiscent of my Lancashire childhood, it was one of my mother’s favourite patterns, being easy to knit whilst creating a seemingly intricate design.  I’ve used reversible garter stitch so the scarf will look great on both sides, with stitch definition guaranteed by the gorgeous Sublime cashmerino silk aran yarn, and finished off with one of my favourite edgings - the picot point cast off:
Cast off 2 sts, *slip remaining stitch on RH needle to LH needle, cast on 2 sts, cast off 4 sts; repeat from * to end. Fasten off remaining stitch.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Sasha Kagan Exhibition

Sasha arrived with her daughter Tanya last night and we had a lovely time over supper catching up.  They've gone off this morning to set up Sasha's travelling exhibition My Life in Textiles - an amazing four decades of classic knitwear design!  The collection will be at the Harrogate Knitting & Stitching Show from this Thursday, 24th to Sunday 27th November.  I managed to get to the launch in Wales earlier this year, and I can tell you it's a must-see if you're anywhere within striking distance of Harrogate this weekend. Looking forward to having another look when I visit the show on Saturday.
For me knitting expos are a great place to see who and what's new on the knit scene, view student work,  catch up on new yarns, find wonderful beads, stock up on Xmas prezzies, and chat to other fibre folk. Unfortunately also there's often a lot of non-textile related stuff to sift through - a commercial necessity I suppose.  

I sometimes feel I'm becoming a bit of a knit hermit these days - there's always a lot going on at home and I don't get to as many shows as I'd like to so really looking forward to this one, especially as it's on the doorstep. See you there.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Lea Stein jewellery and business cards

Spent all day yesterday designing a new business card, battling with Photoshop which currently refuses to print anything and crashes everytime I ask it to. So fingers crossed that the pdf I've just sent off to the printers is OK when it comes back, hopefully by Friday.  The main reason for this flurry of activity is that the Harrogate Knitting & Stitching Show is looming and I only noticed a couple of days ago that I can't find a business card anywhere in the house.  
So... after being told the artwork had to be at the printers by noon today, I franticly set to, first of all searching for relevant images from Sweet Shawlettes. I've always had a penchant for dramatic black, white and red - symbolising birth, life and death, the human condition and the cycle of life, so I quickly decided on Penumbra, a shadow knit cowl with hidden vertical zigzags crossing the horizontal stripes, from the Couture chapter. 

The brooch is by Lea Stein, from my collection of her Art Deco-style cats, which I have to admit I love nearly as much as Django and Arlo, my two real cats!  A French artist and accessory designer, working in plastic, Lea is often described as the most notable and innovative designer of plastic jewellery of the 20th century. 

Her whimsical pieces depict animals, people, celebrities, cars, and household items in her own distinctive textured style, using a technique pioneered by her chemist husband, Fernand Steinberger, involving laminating layers of cellulose acetate sheets with interesting textures and colors such as lace, brocade or, I suspect, even knitting!  Each layer had to be baked overnight with a secret component known only to Fernand, then cooled, so it wasn't unusual for a piece to take as long as six months to make.  

Although often mistaken for 1920s and 30s pieces, Lea was only born in 1931 and most of her best work was done from 1969-81.  My favourite source for her work is our local Antiques Centre in York. Take a look.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

John Martyn

I feel a John Martyn moment coming on today - a musician who quit this world way too soon for my liking.  May You Never, Solid Air, Don't Want to Know, Go Down Easy, Couldn't love You More - the list of great songs is endless and the guitar playing always something else.  Boundlessly innovative, his first solo album,  Bless the Weather from way back in 1971 is still a favourite.  He leaves a large gap on the music map of my life.

Sweet Shawlettes Extract - Giveaway winner

Congratulations to Lydia winner of In The Mood giveaway.  Please email me your postal address and I'll get it straight in the post to you.

In the run up to publication in January, I'll be posting some extracts from Sweet Shawlettes. The first one is Vamp from the Vintage chapter, a glamorous, easy-to-knit boa using Rowan Kid Silk Haze. Evoking the glamour of Hollywood film stars like Marilyn Monroe, Mae West, and Jean Harlow, this frothy concoction is guaranteed to lift your spirits as soon as you put it on! 

The two layers are knit in stocking stitch, ruched together down the centre, then threaded with silk ribbon.  This is a great project for beginner knitters - oodles of style from straightforward old knit and purl. I've chosen a soft lilac and dove colourway, but I've included lots of tips on other combos that will also work the look to get maximum impact.
Thoughts on Colour
Whether used metaphorically in song, speech or in our homes, gardens or wardrobes, colour has a powerful effect on our everyday lives.   In colour therapy and feng shui, colour is used in many ways to enhance well-being.
RED is a symbol of protection and caution in many cultures - powerful, extrovert and passionate.  Add a layer of black for a dramatic statement, with white ribbon to symbolise the cycle of life.
BLUE is at once uplifting, relaxing, serene and inspiring, it may be cool but it doesn't have to be cold.  Add jade, turquoise or emerald, with ivory ribbon for a healing combination.
YELLOW is the brightest colour in the spectrum, it lifts the spirits and brings a sense of joy. Add a layer of ivory with golden sari silk ribbon for extra glamor.
GREEN is nature's hallmark, said to encourage good fortune and healing.  Try green on green, combining two shades, a light and a dark, with a green velvet ribbon.
PURPLE is a symbol of royalty, wealth, ritual, creativity and eccentricity.  Combines well with grey, with either tone-on-tone purple ribbon or silver for extra sparkle.
NEUTRALS like ivory, taupe, buff and mushroom are borrowed from the natural world around us and are symbolic of wholeness and unity.  Combine two neutrals plus ivory ribbon to set a soft and soothing mood. 
METALLICS silver, gold, bronze and copper bring life and oomph and in many cultures are thought to deflect the 'evil eye' and inspire creativity. Use as an accent in any colourway which would benefit from added va va voom!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Yarn songs

A couple of days ago I changed the name of the blog to More Yarn Will Do The Trick, largely to make it more stand-alone and give it more independence from my website.  You may wonder why I chose the name.  Well, it's the name of the title track on a CD I recorded with The Purly Kings some years - three songs with a textile twist.  So to celebrate the new name here are the lyrics and you can have a listen too!

Cast off your cares and woes, set your needles free 
come with me to doze and dream beneath the knitters' tree. 
We'll spin ourselves a yarn that we've got stacks of cash
to fill a gigantic barn with an ever-increasing stash.

Visit a local yarn store, for it's therapy if you're sick 
Why pay shrinks and doctors when more yarn will do the trick? 

We'll knit ourselves a planet with a gauge of perfect order 
every nation will be patterned with a wavy aran border. 
We'll twist on moss stitch mountain and climb a cabled tree 
swim in the sapphire picot edging of a bobble-patterned sea 

Don't listen to trouble, don't give way to fears, 
Purl away your problems, knit away your tears.

So if you feel the itch and need to get your fingers going
Just open up that pattern book and get those yarns a-flowing
But if your rows are tight and you want to just hang loose
Always park your needles before you hit the juice 

The sky will be fairisle with a big intarsia sun 
the flora will be cashmere and the buttonholes will be fun. 
Our homes will be rainbow-colored, with yarns hand-painted and dyed 
we'll knit spaghetti for our supper and in a cable car we'll ride

Visit a local yarn store, for it's therapy if you're sick 
Why pay shrinks and doctors when more yarn will do the trick? 

We'll cast on many friendships and we'll knit them up real tight 
And get together often and party all the night
We'll lift our glasses joyfully and knit the whole town red 
Cos when it comes to the good times, knitting's streets ahead!

Don't listen to trouble, don't give way to fears, 
Purl away your problems, knit away your tears.
Visit a local yarn store, for it's therapy if you're sick 
Why pay shrinks and doctors when more yarn will do the trick? 
Why pay shrinks and doctors when more yarn will do the trick? 
© Jean Moss, Rory Motion & Roger Smith. All rights reserved

Friendships, fractals and panto!

Had a chilled evening with good friends Ilona and John last night - great food and much putting the world to rights - well our worlds anyway.  It was so good to catch up, especially as they'd just returned  from Greece, the Peloponese to be precise, one of my favourite places in the whole world.  The tzadziki dip hit just the right spot -  from the first taste I was transported to a Mani mountain covered with thyme, cyclamen and autumn crocus overlooking the sea.
Ilona is a ceramicist who makes large raku pots informed  by time spent living with women potters in Somalia.  The geometric designs are  intricately decorated with fractal patterns. For those who aren't already fractal fans, these are fragmented geometric shapes that can be split into parts, each of which is a smaller copy of the whole.  Note for knitters - fractals provide endless design inspiration. Anyway just had to show you one of Ilona's fabulous pots - if you get the chance to see her latest installation at Burton Constable Hall in the New Year, don't miss it!
Fractals in nature
Fractals in art

Have to admit that Christmas is just round the corner now after getting tickets for the panto. Berwick Kaler's thirty-three year stint providing festive fun in York must be something of a record.  Heard a rumour that this might be his last one so had to get Izzi and Ava to experience at least one of these whacky occasions.  Haven't been for ages, in fact since Felix was little, so it'll be nice to get reacquainted with the Waggon Wheels.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Golden Ball

Great evening at the Golden Ball pub last night - real ale (we drank Timothy Taylor and Tiger) and good time roots and rebel music from Moonshine Creek - have a listenTear it down by Moonshine Creek
Finished another shadow knit baby blanket last week and have been meaning to send it off to the latest new arrival in the extended family.  Why is it that things are easier to knit than to post?  There's always something else I've got to do when it comes to putting it in a bag and getting it to the post office.  Is it just me or is there a syndrome in there?  The little one will be six months old before he gets the blanket at this rate!

Thought I'd tempt you with a few more projects from In The Mood. The giveaway ends at midnight tomorrow (GMT) so don't be shy, leave a comment (on yesterday's page) and get in the draw. 

The hat and scarf combo is Skat, inspired by music  - I know, I know, in the States not a good title as it has other meanings (if you haven't come across them, better not to know). I must have led a sheltered life and just thought it was a good name for the two-in-one design. The ribbed vest is Wicked from the Food chapter, an easy knit that can be worn upside down for the longer version with smaller collar. Lastly there's Passion, a little shawlette from the Love chapter.

Looking forward to hearing from you - designing is lonely work and since I started the blog, it's been great to have some feedback.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011


I'm giving away a copy of my last book, In The Moodfifteen fashion-led knitting projects using Araucania yarns.  The designs are inspired by love (knit your hearts with an unslipping knot - Wm Shakespeare), food (anything is good if it's made of chocolate - Jo Brand) and music (playing live is like cooking fresh food and serving it hot - Ravi Shankar). Just leave a comment at the foot of this page before 12 midnight GMT or 7pm US Eastern time on Saturday, 19 November to go into the draw.  Winner to be announced Sunday 20th.

In The Mood was such an interesting project - Philip and I were involved in every aspect of production except the printing.  This was at first awe-inspiring, but at the same time fabulous for me to know that my vision for the designs would be seen through onto the printed page.  We had only ourselves to blame for errors, so we checked and double checked, although such is the nature of knitting patterns that I'm sure the odd one must have crept in under the radar. It was all very scary but mega-exciting and I'm glad to say that three years later I'm still proud of this book.

I loved working with Araucania yarns and had already done one book for them, Wandering Spiritsusing their cotton yarn . Their lovely lofty fibres were a joy to knit with and also a feast for the eyes on the needles. When the yarns were delivered to my studio I opened the box and the vibrant yarns tumbled out and I couldn't believe my luck, it was a dream project - Ranco Multy, Ranco Solid, Limari, Copihue, Aysen, Nature Wool - all yarns to die for.

The designs came thick and fast, I had more ideas than I could use so had to edit, edit edit.  I wanted the book to have as much scope for knitters as possible, so included a variety of sweater shapes, cardigans, a couple of scarves, a hat, socks and a shawlette.  Most of the designs come in six sizes and I would have done more, but the pressure of a very tight publishing schedule prevented me from doing this.

David Hatfull of Diem Photography provided the fabulous images and our model was Emily Byron, who just by chance happened to be a direct descendant of Lord Byron.  Styling the shoot was the icing on the cake for me, - I've always loved dressing up and was in my element putting the looks together.  A wonderful day culminating in the consumption of a rather large chocolate torte donated by the renown Bettys of York.