Friday, 29 January 2010

Vintage Knits for Modern Babies

Following on from this week's theme of children's knitting, I was pleased to finally see Hadley Fierlinger of She's Crafty's new book Vintage Knits for Modern Babies in the flesh. Loop are now stocking it and I was excited to see my own recommendation on the back cover.
I still stand by my thoughts that it is a charming and somehow familiar book with pretty patterns and lovely photography. Here are some pictures from it to prove my point.
I love vintage knitting patterns, and I did use them as an inspiration for my own Easy Baby Knits. Hadley's book is not only full of vintage inspired patterns but also vintage inspired pictures, including pretty pastel knitting needle shots; collecting vintage needles being yet another of my obsessions.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

artreach craft workshops

This weekend I will be running a workshop in Northwood alongside one by the lovely Susie Johns. I will be bringing along some crochet hooks and a big mystery bag full of lovely fabric, yarn, buttons and other assorted fabulous bits and bobs. We shall be learning basic crochet chains and sewing techniques to create simple flowers and cute necklaces.
Must get my camera fixed before then so I can post pictures next week!

Friday, 22 January 2010

millamia baby and children's knitting patterns

Recently I have discovered this exciting new knitwear company MillaMia, who produce wonderful knitting patterns and yarns ideal for beginners, but which even the most experienced knitter will love. I urge you to go take a look at their website and search out the yarns in a store near you - they have started to stock in many local yarn shops in the UK including the new shop Yarn Gathering in Staffordshire.

MillaMia is run by two Swedish sisters Katarina and Helena, who live and work in the UK. The Scandinavian influence of fresh and contemporary style is easy to see in their beautiful designs. Their design ethic, especially when it comes to knitting for children, matches mine completely and was exactly what I tried to achieve with my books:

'As knitters we were not that inspired by the patterns on offer for baby and children's wear in the market today, and realising that there was a knitting renaissance underway, we saw a gap for stylish, modern baby and children's hand knitting patterns. Patterns that had a real design edge but still easy to knit and practical to use.'

I actually first came into contact with Katarina at Loop in Islington, where she asked for my opinion on the yarn she and Helena were developing. The yarn was beautiful, but I also suggested that injecting a dose of bright colour would be a good idea, as I find it so hard to obtain gloriously clean and bright shades, especially in wool yarns. While I am in no way suggesting I had anything to do with the final results, I am so glad they decided to really go for it with colour, as their designs are so joyous and I for one am going to enjoy using some of them. I will also be using the yarn for future classes, so if you want to try it out, come and join me!

The images on the website are so fresh and cute; they show so much joy, movement and laughter. One of my favourites is this Carlota dress - won't somebody make me one now?! It has all of my favourite things - stripes, colour and pockets; I think I have mentioned here before how all my favourite dresses have pockets!

I shall definitely be using MillaMia yarns in my future projects, and you will be the first to see them here!

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

prick your finger

Finally, after months upon years of promising to visit, last week I made it to Prick Your Finger in Bethnal Green. A yarn shop with a difference, the owners Rachel and Louise built all the shop fittings themselves, spin some of the yarns and try where possible to support British designers and yarn companies. It is filled with trinkets, button jars, scraps of fabrics, wonky creations, needles, hooks, spinning wheels and even a little studio out back. This leads to the shop having a friendly and welcoming atmosphere with an ecclectic, eccentric feel and you cannot help but come out with a smile on your face.

The yarns from companies such as Tait and Style (above) and Jamiesons are displayed unconventionally, presenting them in their full glory, hanging from walls allowing their pretty hues and interesting texures to be admired easily.
Below are some of the unique yarns spun in the shop in short runs from unusual materials such as fabric and cassette tape, ensuring if you knit yourself something from these, you will not see its like anywhere else. With this and the shop's thrifty 'make it and mend it' attitude, there are no embarrassing matching party outfit worries here!

Ribbons tumble from drawers in some kind of colourful organised chaos which just adds to the shop's quirkiness...

The sales desk is a display cabinet filled with 'sock specimens' and topped by jars of thimbles, spools of thread, crocheted creatures, a bell jar showing off free-form crochet foliage, a massive pin cushion and all kinds of other nik naks.
I wondered if the girls know where eveything is, or if things kind of find their own little space in the charming clutter and get lost there in their own world....I almost imagine this shop as a kind of Bagpuss & Co, where, when there are no customers around, the little toys and creatures come to life and help Rachel and Lousie with their spinning, darning and knitting while singing a little song....
Oh, how I wish that were true! As A toy maker myself I have a strange kind of affinity with these little characters, with their own individual personalities and I adored the crocheted reptiles and amphibians hanging from the ceiling and the massive crocheted hedgehog with needles for prickles.
With so many lovely things to look at and with my self imposed eleventh commandment; Thou shalt not leave a yarn shop without making a purchase, at the front of my mind, I succumbed to this Money For Old Rope yarn. I was drawn to the defined ply and washed out lilac colour. Hopefully this will be whipped up into a floor cushion in no time at all! Will post the first pictures of it here, in the meantime, make sure you take a trip to get your finger pricked.
P.s. There is also a fab cafe round the corner, the Gallery Cafe which you can catch your breath in afterwards. I have written a little about it here.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

january essentials: knitted socks!

'Tis definitely the season for hand knitted woollen socks. Recently I came across one of the socks I had knitted for Easy Kids Knits and found that it just about fit me, despite being designed for a ten year old child...I have small feet and the yarn is very stretchy! This, with the added incentive that my feet haven't thawed since December, spurred me on to knit its twin and now I am glad to report that I'm warm and cosy in my lovely socks. The yarn is the splendid and very reasonable Regia Silk sock yarn, which I purchased from Liberty (any excuse for a visit!)
After finishing the second sock, I realised I had enough left over to make the 'negative' pair, so now I am starting on a fuschia pair with sugar pink contrast. Soon I will have a drawer full because, as any sock knitter worth their salt will know, it is an addiction and once you start, you cannot stop! I have already got some Misti Alpaca sock ready in the wings to begin when I have thought of a suitable pattern.

The socks are so cosy, it has led me to want to throw out all my useless old black cotton socks and begin again. The resulting empty drawer has become quite dangerous, as on entering the divine Brora store, I was drawn to these ultra cosy cashmere ribbed socks. Now, I have been promising for months to make myself a pair exactly the same as these, even down to the colour, so I just gave in and bought them instead. They were in the sale, after all...

Thursday, 14 January 2010

High Tea and Knitting

New Beginners knitting class booked for Saturday 6th February from 10 am-12 pm at High Tea of Highgate £25.
All materials included, as well as lovely home made cakes and lashings of tea!
You will have enough yarn to make a small scarf or modern cowl.
Contact me for bookings.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Independant shopping - Islington. Part II!

The suspense is over! Here is the list of really quirky fashion boutiques you must visit when in Angel.
My absolute favourite place to browse is Labour of Love. I remember this shop when it was a very well established lingerie and hosiery shop, with piles of fantastically colourful and amazingly cheap tights, stockings and underwear on every available surface! It was a sight to behold, and I think I still have some neon lacy tights purchased from the helpful and aging owner at the bottom of my underwear drawer. I felt quite upset when it closed and thought the history of the place would be torn out and replaced by a sterile, shiny new coffee chain or high street store. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to find this little gem in its place, stocking ecclectic pieces of clothing, jewellery and accessories compiled by the owner, Francesca Forcolini, a designer herself. She lovingly restored the shop, keeping some of the original fixtures and fittings and uncovering a beautiful old gold sign over the door, which reads 'Berwick' - a little tip if you are trying to find the shop, as it can be confusing!

I am drawn to the strange yet desirable products within and Forcolini's eye appeals to me; her choice of knitted products is interesting and eccentric, which I adore, with brands such as Lowie, Peter Jensen and Kind offering unconventional designs which are still easy to wear. The Labour of Love label also follows these same rules of classic pieces with a sense of humour, with kooky yet wearable styling, which give the shop such a unique and exciting flavour. My favourite item when in at the weekend demonstrates this completely: a beautiful Peter Jensen cream dress with warm tone houses printed onto it complete with a little cape.

Across the road on Canonbury Lane is the delectable Palette, a melting pot of vintage and contemporary labels meticulously handpicked by the owner Mark Ellis, who if you are lucky enough to find in store when you visit will happily give you an interesting low-down on each piece or label as you try them on. I swear by the gorgeous Becksondergaard eel skin purses they stock. I bought one years ago and rather than declining it seems to get better and better with age!

Diverse is another great boutique along Upper Street. There are separate men's and women's stores a few doors away from each other. The ladies' boutique is two floors of desirable high end labels including my favourites A.P.C., Melissa and Vanessa Bruno. I must also point out that they do wonderful sales, where I purchased my gorgeous Chloe tights last year at a bargain price!
As a little aside, when you want a little break from your tiring shopping, there are many places to take refreshments such as cocktails, tea and cakes and all sorts of cuisine from all over the world. There is a fabulous whiskey bar, Slim Jims, on Upper Street and a more traditional style pub, The Old Queens Head on the Essex Road which often has crafty events as well as great djs, so check out the website.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Independent shopping - Islington

As I have mentioned here before, I am becoming more and more frustrated by the homogenised nature of the British high street. British consumer choices and trends has been a special interest of mine ever since my MA thesis; a comparitive study of teenage girls' consumption choices in the 1970s and the noughties. Praised throughout the world for the mass availability of high trend, low priced fashion, I nevertheless find our standardised town centres and shopping malls increasingly repetitive and boring. The long term sustainability concerns of such consumerism is another factor in my turning away from most of our well known stores.
With all that in mind and before I get too preachy, self righteous and hypocritcal (I still can't resist a cheap copy from Topshop, so long as I know I will wear said bargain loads!), I am going on a bit of a treasure hunt around London to see if I can root out some truly unique and interesting independent boutiques and I thought I would share my findings here.
As it is a bit chilly at the mo, for my first trip, I did not wander far but stuck with what I know - the Angel, Islington. Seeing as there are so many great independant stores here, I am going to blog in two parts and will hopefully keep you waiting with bated breath for the next installment!! Part one covers make do and mend, with vintage and craft stores.
It seemed logical to begin in Islington, seeing as I spend a lot of time in one of the best independent stores in London, Loop, which is situated in the fabulous Cross Street. Walking down this little road makes me feel I am as close as I can get to what London used to be like in the past, with its cobbled alleyways, terraced houses and colourful shop fronts. I don't need to tell you much about Loop as I mention it here so often, but if you are a craft addict, its rainbow of tactile yarns are a temptation too strong to ignore. Buying yarn to knit my own bespoke garments also ticks all the boxes in my desire for unique and interesting fashion. There is even the handy sewing shop Sew Fantastic round the corner, and The Make Lounge up the road on Barnsbury Street, making Islington a handy crafty hub.
While we are here, Cross street also has Wild Swans, which is one of a small chain of boutiques offering desirably subtle and sophisticated Scanadinavian brands, the sensuously pretty lingerie store Tallulah and a smattering of other interior shops and galleries.
Since Loop opened almost five years ago, the street has seen quite a few small businesses come and go, a sad sign of how hard it is to stay afloat in the tough and expensive capital.
Another sad tale is of the vintage and antique stalls and shops in and around Camden Passage, which used to be much more extensive. Now there are fewer, while in their place are a few more well known stores from the high street. However, many are still going strong, and the market on a Saturday and Wednesday morning are worth a trip. Here, Annie's is my favourite shop, a treasure trove of vintage clothes and textiles. On my latest visit, I could not resist some beautiful hand worked Victorian lace trim. Just over the road, Cloud Cuckoo Land comes a close second, with more affordable yet just as high quality vintage pieces.

While on the subject of second hand stores, the Essex Road is home to the one store I can never walk past and one I rarely leave without a purchase: Past Caring. It sells anything from the tiniest buttons to huge sideboards and just about everything in between. On this weekend's visit I coveted a retro 60s olive glass pulldown light, a Star Trek annual from 1975, some brightly coloured assorted glass objects and the fabulously kitsch horse and sultry lady paintings. Ah, such bliss. If only I had the space for yet more clutter...

A store which encompasses a little of all the shops I love to frequent is My Sugarland, which stocks a little bit of vintage, a little bit of contemporary fashion and a little bit of hand made, all packaged in a stylish, yet effortless way. They also host yoga and craft classes and exciting events such as wedding and styling evenings.
Phew! As you can see, there is a lot of shopping to be done around here, which is possibly why I was out all day on Saturday! Next up, the quirky contemporary fashion stores, some less ubiquitous high street shops and my tips for where to grab tea, lunch or something a little stronger!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

new patterns

Well folks I am on a roll now! The snow break from my work at the college has given me time to sort out a load of patterns I have had sitting around in my cupboard for months . Two new ones are up now on Ravelry.
The Oversized Beret is a very simple pattern, ideal for beginner knitters bored of scarves and has the option to knit it straight or in the round.
Sash Style Belt does what it says on the tin - not a practical belt, but a pretty adornment to cinch in a little black dress or layer over sloppy cardis.

Get 'em while they're hot!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Autumn/Winter new collection

I cannot believe that I have actually started publishing the patterns for my Autumn/Winter collection while it is still mid-winter (and boy, it really is winter this year). I am finally getting on top of the pattern writing and am aiming to get most of the collection up in the next few weeks, which is great. The first two patterns up are a beautifully warm 'snood' type affair, reminiscent of the 80s fashion accessory and of the cowls seen everywhere on the A/W 09/10 catwalks.
Cables and subtle stripes add texture and interest and the Rowan Cocoon yarn is really cosy and great to work with.

The Chunky ribbed hat was bourne out of the freezing weather and the emergency of needing a final, very quick to make Christmas present! This is also a great pattern for those of you who want to try working in the round. The Debbie Bliss Como yarn, with its touch of cashmere, is very soft and warm and with the stylish, retro shape, the original proved a huge hit with the recipient.

You can buy both these patterns singly on Ravelry now, and the ebook will be up shortly, with more patterns to be added including a simple yet beautful scarf pattern with at least three different variations, some elegant wrist warmers, a crocheted cape and a couple of suprises.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

happy knitting new year!

Happy new year to all, I have had a wonderful relaxing holiday and now it is time to start looking forward into the new year and planning lots of knitting related activity.

I am launching the new decade with a series of classes at City Lit in January, which I believe is full to bursting; a great sign of how popular the craft has become. I am however holding more knitting and crochet classes throughout the year at the same venue, so check it out anyway.

The place I am most looking forward to visiting this year is Les Soeurs Anglaises in France. They have just updated their website, which is looking fabulous, with fantastic courses running throughout the year. The beautifully sunny pictures are proving extremely alluring for me, sat wrapped in layers of clothes and a wooly blanket while temperatures drop below freezing outside. Roll on May, I say!!
My Autumn/winter collection is still coming along nicely; will post pictures later in the week and I already have one eye on next season's offering, perhaps it has something to do with longing for warmer weather...!
Finally, I am hoping to really run with my new workshop venture Make Do Mend this year, so expect lots of new classes booked soon.
Phew, looks like it is going to be a busy year! Here's to a creative and happy new year to everyone.