Saturday, 25 September 2010



This is what has come to be known in Knitting circles as a 'recipe'. It's a guide, a 'how to' and is not going to provide you with row by row instructions.

However it is in my very humble opinion a truly wonderful and liberating way to knit!
I believe that if you love to knit for a finished product, then learning to knit around your body (and I am very much still learning!) is an exciting thing to try.

I'm sure all of us have been frustrated with the fit of a shop bought item, or perhaps loved a particular shape, but the colour or fabric wasn't our preference.
That's the real beauty of knitting to me, The endless possibility!
The chance to create something that is completely to my specification, whims and loves.

Of course you could only ever knit from well written patterns, perhaps without modifying a thing, yet still produce wonderful unique items, unlike anything you can buy in a shop.
You only have to look at the yarn substitutions and different colours chosen for a popular project on Ravelry to see the scope available to those of us under the spell of the needles.

Wren is a really simple shape.

The yoke is knitted side to side, then the body is picked up and knitted down.

I think it's a very forgiving way to dip your toe into the world of winging your knitting if it's new to you.
For anyone who's modified or made changes to patterns already this will be nothing extraordinary.

You will need...

The patience to knit a tension square/Gauge swatch. (I was lazy with mine, and was lucky!!! Don't be a fool like me)

Tape measure


Pad and pen

Circular needles (80cm)

Waste yarn or Stitch holder.

Stitch markers.

Yarn (vague I know)

You will need to be able to...

Cast on

Knit (a lot)

Purl (not very often)

Decrease and increase.

Cast/Bind off.

One more thing to bear in mind is your chosen yarn.

I'm fairly sure I'm not the only person who's chosen completely the wrong yarn for a project! ;)
It's very important to (Using your swatch) get to know how your fabric behaves.
The sideways garter stitch will grow when the weight of the body is added.
How much? Well honestly I don't know.

My fabric was quite drapey (as you can see on my shoulders the fabric opens up a little and hangs nicely)

I used 4mm needles for the Garter stitch. 3.75mm for the stocking stitch body and 3mm for the ribbing.

Also the yarns I used, Posh Yarns Sylvia - 50% Merino 50% Silk and Posh Yarns Miranda 70% Baby Alpaca, 20% Silk and 10% Cashmere, were a factor in how the fabric behaved.

So knit your swatch and give it a gentle tug at either side. Does it stretch a lot? Not much? You will need to be aware of the give when you decide it's time to stop increasing.

I'll explain how I decided I'd done enough in the notes....

The Notes! (Finally)...

Let's assume you've knitted your tension square/gauge swatch to the generally recommended 10x10cm in your preferred yarn/needle combination for a pleasing fabric. Measure your stitches and calculate how many sts you have to 1”. Write this down.

I used 4ply/fingering weight yarn and 4mm needles and got a tension of 6sts and 5 rows to 1” in Garter Stitch.

Next decide where you would like your sleeve to hang? Cap? Long? Midway like I chose?
I used the highly technical method of looping the tape measure around my arm at this point.
I knew I wanted it to be loose, so I looped loosely. :)

You (as a far more patient person than I) could do it properly and measure your actual width at the chosen point and then decide on ease.
3” positive? More? Less? Simply multiply this number in inches by your stitches per inch.

So for example (working with my final numbers) if you had an actual arm width of 10” and you wanted 3” of positive ease and your tension/gauge was 6sts to 1” you would multiply the numbers.
So (Even I didn't need a a calculator for this) 6 x 13 = 78....and that's your cast on! (well it was mine)

So I cast on 78 sts, insert your number :)

I then worked straight. Knitting two rows with each yarn then swapping.
For 14 rows.

On row 15 I increased 2 sts.
I K1 then kfb, Knit to last 2 sts, kfb, k1. This is how all increase rows were worked.

I increased in this manner every 6th row a total of 5 times. (Total sts 88) Then (as I'd had my aha this knitwear will grow under it's own weight moment)
I increased in the same way every 12th row for a total of 3 times. (Total sts 94)

Now this was when I decided I'd increased enough. I know this is vague and I am sorry, but I can't see your fabric...or boobs! :)

I have (as you can see) a very understated bust-line! The difference between front and back does not reach double figures (by a long shot)...a source of self consciousness as a teenager that morphed into relief as a knitter! ;) All I can do here is tell you how I determined I'd increased enough


I folded my sleeve in half and balanced it on my shoulder. :/

There I said it!

My lack of technical skills are embarrassing to share. ;}
In my defence I wasn't sure how many sts I'd cast off for the neck at this point. I did eventually decide on 4.

So lets assume you'll be casting off 4sts too If you want a neckline similar to mine. Simply put loops of waste yarn either side of those 4 sts and use those as a way checking the piece is...erm...centred on your shoulder correctly.

The piece now reached around nipple level.
Of course nipples can be all over the place!
So to be slightly more specific, just over 3” from where I wanted the garter stitch to hang to.
This worked out perfectly for me when the body was attached. My garter stitch fitted under my bust just where I wanted it.

When you've used your crazy knitting intuition (or a more logical approach...please tell me) and you have enough sts, is your sleeve long enough?
Mine wasn't so I worked 33 more rows straight before I divided for the neck.

The Neck...

I wanted a wide neck so I decided to make my opening from between boney tips of my shoulders, so my bra straps would be just covered.

On the RS I knitted across 45 sts, cast off 4sts, then (and It gets a little foggy here) I believe I worked to the end, and then across the WS to complete my 2 row stripe. I then slid the sts to the other end of my circs and slid the 45 sts (Without yarns attached) onto a holder. Just my way, you can do it how you prefer of course.

Then I simply knitted straight until the neck was at my preferred Length (width). Broke the yarn, Popped those sts on hold and repeated for the back.

When both are the same length you need to knit across, cable cast on 4 sts and knit the 45 sts that were on hold.

Now you simply have to mirror your first sleeve to finish.
Using k2tog 1 st from either edge in place of the increases.

You'll need to measure around your bust to decide how far to seam each sleeve. I left a little bit of ease.

Seam them!

Okey dokey, Now you need to calculate your stocking stitch section. Again swatch, measure and note. I dropped to 3.75mm needles for this part, as I didn't want as much looseness as in my garter stitch.

I can't tell you my numbers, because I was clearly giddy with confidence at this point (read lazy) and I made no more notes...however my ability to retain random information tells me that I picked up a stitch at the end of every row of garter stitch
(ooh you could calculate this by counting your garter stitch rows before seaming your sleeves to get the correct number! Brainwave...goes for a lie

So I picked up my sts and magically had a good number for my body (measured under bust and multiplied by tension as before)

Then in my darker Sylvia yarn I purled 1 row, then began my 2 row striping as before.
(Pur-ling? What is this purling?)

I added some waist shaping.
Again, you need to measure and calculate. I could have got away with no shaping, but I live for such periods of excitement.

Then it's just knit to the finish line!:)

Only you know where this is, and where to begin (like me) your 2x2 ribbing or the hem of your choice (remember to make sure your numbers work!)
For me the end was simple...I didn't want to break into any more yarn. I made mine from 2 skeins, (to a few yards)

In true vague style I can't say how much yarn you'll need. Your body is unique to you.

...However if you are also a flat chested short-arse, 2 skeins of fingering might well be enough!)

If you have any problems I'll do my best to help, but I think you may have come to realise I'm not really a logical sort of thinker. So be brave cast on and have fun!

Happy Knitting! xxx

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Something for the big kid...

Whew, The lasts few weeks have flown by!
I'm taking Shannon Okey's (Knitgrrl) designing 101 online class, and it's really eating into my knitting time! (In a good way of course!)

I'm still working on the dress pattern. I have to leave it every now and then, just so it stays fun.

I have one finished item to share though! (hurrah) I didn't think i'd get it done in time but once I got stuck in it just came together :)

It's this guy, Made for my husband Paul's 36th birthday!


For those of you who aren't familiar with gaming, It's Eleanor's Big Daddy doll from the fantasic Bioshock 2.

Once i'd started him I found that you can buy an amazing plush replica from places like Tenacious toys (U.S) and Play(UK)

He's made of various bits and bobs from my stash, and was a real pleasure to create.
I could say Paul was enraptured with him...but that would be corny.

Oops! :)

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

How not to not Knit.

So the dress pattern writing is taking a lot longer than I (naively) anticipated.

It appears that customising a knit to fit my body is fairly straightforward.
Making said design fit the 'standard' is frankly turning out to be a pain in the rump! (who'd have thought!) :)

There will have to be changes. However I'm striving to keep it's original simplicity.

In order to get this done I enforced upon myself a 'knitting ban' while I try to work this out.

When I say 'knitting ban' I mean no more new projects.
Not even swatching for that jumper that's knocking around in my head
(always at 3.45am why? why?)

So how does a Knitting addict cope in times of drought?
(especially when casting on the yoke for the 5th time just isn't particularly alluring)

I sort of bent/broke my own rules and had the knitting equivalent of a marathon!
Like when I decide to cut out sugars and spend the next week living on Galaxy bars!

I don't know how it happened (maybe I blacked out) but I made these 3 neckwarmers
It appears I also managed to bend the space/time continuum to spin the yarn for this one...


Which was actually how the full blown knit-gorge began.
I was window shopping some online yarn shops and saw some felted yarn.
You've probably seen it, used it, got the jumper etc... but it was all new to me.

So I figured that making my own felted yarn was within the rules. (right,right!)
I had dyed up this merino...

...a while ago, and I decided it would be perfect for my little experiment.

I spun it thick and thin on my drop spindle.
Which even with a roman spindle weight attached (a gift from a metal detector/treasure hunting friend) was too light to 'drop spin' so I just rolled it down my thigh to get the twist.
At times I did feel like I was wrestling an anaconda, but can you really think of a better way to spend a few hours? :)

When It was spun I soaked it in a bowl of hot water (as I would to set the twist) then I plopped it into a sink of cold water (giving it a bit of rough treatment while it was submerged)
I did this repeatedly and unsurprisingly It worked! (surprisingly It was nice too)

Here it is before I knitted it...

And that was the catalyst.
I mean, how could I not knit it?
As punishment it turns out the colours do not suit me at all (hence Poppy doing the modelling) so I decided to pop it in my etsy shop...
....but hang on, I can't put just one in there...that would look erm, unprofessional?
(and of course If I don't sell them I can keep them! Guilt free!)

So cough cough these two somehow appeared...



I don't think I have ever been so productive.

It's just a shame it wasn't my dress I was ploughing away at.
But hey ho...I did at least have a new idea for the increases while I was sewing on a ribbon.

Three cheers for not knitting!

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Glad of Cake

Today was great!

I decided to cast on for my 2nd Glad mini dress and start getting the pattern written up.

Of course for such a venture one needs cake.
Chocolate cake.
Luckily Henry got right to it for me :)


Can you guess what the secret ingredient is?...:D


I actually iced it myself as Henry was still running laps around the living room...


So with cake at the ready, and gallons of tea I'm ready to tackle writing out my first pattern!

Here's my first pic of the new project...


I love the colour and I'm so excited to be getting on with this.
It's the same yarn as the original was knitted in. Twilleys Freedom Gorgeous, a bamboo/nylon blend.

As well as the cake, I'm also getting help and support from the wonderful Christine, a truly generous, enthusiastic all round good egg!
Her blog is here where you can see her fab new designs in progress.

Time for tea...

Friday, 5 March 2010

Journeys End

It's done.

I've finally finished the Fickle cardi-ma-bob, and the Spur shawl.
The Fickle finale was way overdue, we were both 1x1 rib weary by the end.

Spur on the other hand, could've gone on...
Should have in fact!
But the road ahead turned sharply from burnt ginger into sickly peach followed by intense turquoise.

I'm usually a fan of a twist in the road and seek them out.
But this knit was supposed to be all about comfort and ease. From the purchase of the yarns (done by other people) to the initial cast on of 5 stitches (did I mention I hate casting on?)
Then it was all garter stitch...simple & soothing, with pretty shifts in colour to keep me from attempting to knit it with my eyes closed.

But Peach!!! Really!!!

So it's a shawlette :) A lovely itchy thick one at that.
Paul said it 'looks like something from the 70's'
As far as I'm aware there are lots of things from the 70' I choose to take that as a compliment.

I don't have a modeled shot of it yet so here's a ridiculous close up instead :)


The Fickle thing is in part a triumph. I love the finished item and when I asked Paul he said '...yeah...Oh actually that's nice!' *cue a huge eyeroll from me* Good job I'm used to him :)

If I was to knit it again, (ha ha) there are changes that would have to be made. but nothing major.

Here it is...

Such a shame this colourway is now discontinued. I like it a lot.

I'm amazed it's not a laceweight rag considering how much this yarn got ripped out! I re knitted the bottom border 4 times! and the button band twice, not to mention it's earlier incarnations.

Tough, beautiful yarn.
Now what next?...

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Etsy Update

Just a quick little post to say that I've updated my Etsy shop.


Most of these are the Merino/Cashmere/Nylon 4ply although I re photographed 2 of my other bases as well (The dark green and the magenta/purple)

I'm sorely tempted to keep this one...

Luckily I have some more of this base to dye so I may well sneakily keep a skein for myself. ;)

I'm thinking it might make a pretty Ishbel...

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

The unknown Tuesday

Tuesday was mistaken for Monday....all day!
Until Paul reminded me that Caprica was about to start...Sigh you know you're getting old when your favourite T.V programmes remind you what day it is.

As I cozied down with hopes of some crazed Cylon action (must learn patience) I realised that ignorance really can be bliss, and that Tuesday had been a good day.

(Never mind that I got meat out of the freezer for a day that doesn't exist. Chicken and Sausage Thai curry anyone?)

I had some fun dyeing...


These are the Merino/Cashmere/Nylon (80/10/10) fingering/4ply.
It's a very flumptastic yarn! I think I'm going to dye one of the next batch for myself for a new shawlette, I've lost one of my Ishbels and I need a replacement.

Also, I'm feeling more confident with my 'Fickle' design.
There are certainly things that need tweaking, should I ever decide to offer the pattern.

However I feel like it's what I was aiming for when I first got the urge to knit it.

As I said before, I wanted something with a vintage feel to it.
It was mainly inspired by my favourite summer skirt...

I bought it on Ebay a few years ago. I particularly love the beading...


I haven't worn it since before Henry was born. I'm pretty sure it will still fit...just maybe not hang on the hips anymore!

Here's the Fickle wip..


I'm happy with the texture on the body, Stocking stitch just wasn't pleasing me before.
I kept eyeing the wrong side and wishing it was the front :)

Annoyingly I'm still unsure how to finish the sleeves and body.
(Cough, cough, what was that I said about ignorance and bliss?)

Saturday, 20 February 2010



The aforementioned lack of Knitting ability was beginning to bother me.

I am for the most part a process knitter.
I love everything about the potential of a project...the yarn of course, also stitches, shapes and trimmings.

Despite the fondness of the journey...I also expect the destination to be the knitwear equivalent of a week long massage on the beach of a sun blushed paradise...not a weekend in a dank B&B where the 'life & soul' of the place is the pervasive mildew on the shower curtain.

Not that I have high expectations or anything.

As fate would have it my sister phoned me from County Crafts in Loughborough and asked if I wanted any yarn (duh!) after much dithering and making her regret her thoughtfulness I chose some Kureyon.

I love Noro yarns (yes I'm one of those people) I love everything about them, knots and all!

I hadn't got a proper idea of the colourway she'd chosen for me, so I had no real project in mind, however when I saw it I instantly remembered a beautiful garter stitch shawl I'd seen on Ravelry.

I just cast on my way rather than following a pattern, if you're familiar with triangular shawls it's easy enough for something like this.

I chose the Rowan Tapestry from my stash as the other stripe (fitting as this was a gift from my daughter & another longwinded phone call from the yarn dept)

Miracle!!! cue the mojo hath returneth(...or something)
Perhaps it was the soothing garter stitch requiring very little brain power. Maybe the ever interesting changes in colour of the Kureyon, Hey it could have been the callouses appearing on my fingers from the twigs....It matters not!

I have been Knitting like a woman possessed ever since, and not just my shawl that I've named Spur, I've also been tanking along nicely with my Kid Classic Cardi.

Good Times, good times.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

New Yarns

I've just added a small amount of yarn to my Etsy shop.
The dyeing is going well at present (unlike the knitting!)

I'm waiting for a delivery of a new base to sell alongside the Credence and Jolly sock, Very excited I can't wait to get my hands on it!

Here's a pic of my favourite colourway 'Beam'...

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This is the Jolly sock yarn, which is 100% Superwash Merino.

I've also made a button for the cardigan (that doesn't exist...nothing wrong with being an optimist)

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Hurrah! I've made progress! :D

Monday, 15 February 2010

Oh Balls!...

blog 009
Originally uploaded by Knitnchoc

...3 of them!
Kid Classic in case you can't tell. This poor yarn has been ripped out so many times now i'm sure I see it shudder everytime I sit up straight and say 'Aaah! thats what i'll do...'

So the previously mentioned design didn't quite work out the way i'd hoped, It dawned on me during the ripping that i'd been knitting exactly nothing since Jan 27th.
Just knitting for the pleasure of frogging it seems (except there is little pleasure in repeatedly frogging a mohair blend)

I was actually pretty miserable when I thought about all this wasted time.
....Then I had an idea!
The Kid classic tried to roll away from my eager fingers, but due to possible exhaustion it just couldn't make it.

I cast on!...
Nay, I swatched, charted drew a schematic and then cast on.
It felt good. So good to have a real plan.
I looked down at my work full of hope....and had a little tiny niggle that said 'Hey Helen, This would look so much better in Mal silky'

Sigh Sorry yarn.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Fickle much???

I'm Knitting this thing...I say thing because I really don't know what it's going to be.
On my Rav project page I've called it 'Fickle' because I kept changing my mind during the process of knitting it.

It began as an idea for a soft floaty layering piece, a short top down raglan cardigan actually. Using Rowan's lovely Kid Classic  in colourway 'Oats'
...Then part way through I decided to turn it into a tunic with a keyhole neckline and Old shale from under the bust to just past the hips. I probably had a slight tear in my eyes and a whimsical smile on my lips as I confidently knit on...imagining something I could wear on a idyllic beach, softly lit by fireflies while my Keira Knightly-esque self danced unashamedly in the moonlight.......

Unfortunately #1 - I live in middle England nowhere near a beach...

...#2 - I didn't look like Keira Knightly in it...more of a barrel wrapped in cotton wool.

And Unfortunately #3 - I didn't figure this out until I had cast off the body.

So It was sworn at (Clearly it was the Yarns fault!) and ripped out (btw Kid Classic frogs very well) Ignored for 10mins, then cast on again.

I decided to go back to the cardigan idea...Somehow I ended up increasing with reckless abandon under the bust...cast off last night and....I'm not sure if I like it
Hi :)

I suppose as this is my first post I ought to introduce myself.... I'm Helen I have 3 great (usually) children - Poppy who's 12, Ewan (10) and little Henry who's nearly 2.
I'm married to Paul, who I met and fell in love with when I was 16 unfortunately he thought I was a 'little weirdo' and already had a girlfriend. Fate finally smiled on me when I was 19 and he erm came to his senses! ;)

I am pretty obsessed with all things Knitting. From yarns to the finished article....I am attempting to design my own patterns, Sadly my note taking skills are a little haphazard, I'm trying to work on it.

I rip out my knitting a lot.

I like to think i'm Nigella Lawson, but I frequently bugger up the simplest recipes.

I love Ravelry and if you would like to say Hi to me there I go by the username Scratchnsniff.