Ickworth’s Amazing Wool Fair


Well hello sunshine and what a perfect day for you to show your face again round here. Shame you couldn’t have been a little more reliable on my camping trip and the half term holidays (the reason it has been quiet here the past week)


We had a fabulous meal out at Alimentum last night (way too wonderful to stop and instagram anything – we decided to live in the moment rather than through a lens) as a birthday treat for me . It was very very swanky, probably should have saved it for a big birthday not just a run of the mill 38. Thanks to my lovely babysitter Alice for making it possible.


I wore my Karise shawl with a Billie and Blossum dress and some spectacularly high heels that don’t often get out of the wardrobe nowadays.

outfit 31 may 2014


Anyway, after a night of indulgence (pure indulgence!) a day in the fresh air was needed and luckily I had planned to pop along to a new local wool festival

2014-06-01 15.09.45



It was fantastically busy and full of lovely stalls and demonstration areas.  We arrived just in time for Sean the Shearer of The Sheep Show starting his hilarious (but sometimes a little risque for the family crowd) shearing demo and dancing sheep display. I had a nice wander round and tried my hand at spinning on a wheel for the first time with the lovely ladies of the Bury St Edmunds Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. I loved it and now want a wheel! I stroked some alpacas, bumped into several people I knew and some I had only met online before.

ikworth wool fair

I also discovered a fantastic new local business, Native Yarns, who are based in Suffolk. Sue the dyer was lovely and has am amazing eye for colour, definitely one to watch. I have fallen in love with her Arwen colourway so I hope to include it in the Suffolk Collection somewhere – I just need a plan now.  Re the Suffolk Collection, I have finished one of the patterns but the rest will have to be shelved for a while as I have a huge exciting opportunity to create a collection with one of my favourite yarn companies that I couldn’t turn down. The work on that will take me through to September but it will be awesome. But more on that in another post. So September is the next chance I’ll get to work on the Suffolk Collection.

I wore Silene Shawl and a navy sleeveless maxi dress to the festival. Silene is perfect hot weather wear as it looks lovely and is light enough to be draped over you to protect decolletage and shoulders if the sun is really fierce.

outfit 1 june 2014

Hope you all had a fantastic weekend.


It wanted to be a cowl

suffolk cowl

The first piece for the Suffolk Collection is now underway. Its been a little bit of a struggle so I thought it would be interesting to share with you why it was so problematic and how I resolved it.
What I wanted to achieve: something to wear around the neck on a chill spring day that evoked the amazing pop of colour the oilseed rape fields bring to Suffolk at this time of year. I love the beauty of the yellow fields, while I know it is grown elsewhere it really screams “home” to me.

What I had to work with: two skeins of West Yorkshire Spinners BFL that I dyed, one with madder and one with indigo.

What I struggled with: My firsts thought was to make a shallow v shaped shawl with an undulating pattern. But I couldn’t see how the undulating pattern and the colours would play together nicely. It didn’t really tell the story I wanted it to and I felt the colours looked two stark when in two solid colour blocks.

I decided to break the problem down and really think about the story I wanted to tell about the fields.

  • I wanted to incorporate an undulating pattern to show how the fields all contain small hills.
  • I wanted it to be solid colour blocks as the startling thing about the rape fields is how solid the colour is. No lace for this project.a pop of colour
  • I wanted to incorporate texture because up close the oilseed plant has almost a frothiness to it that I wanted to invoke. Looking at the picture below I hope you’ll see why I chose garter stitch stripes.a sort of frothiness
  • I wanted to evoke the big fields and skies you find in Suffolk. The fields can be huge as the farm sizes increased. Almost all land is turned over to arable and hedgerows were ripped out making very large areas to farm with large tractors. The skies feel big here with nothing taller than a couple of stories to break them up for miles around.
  • I wanted to also add a river to the design as the River Orwell played quite a large part in my childhood. This also provided another feature to break up the yellow and another texture to add.


Once I had worked through these ideas it seemed obvious to turn the problem on its head and make it a cowl. I reswatched and ripped a little bit more before knitting finally. I hope to get it finished before the oilseed stops flowering so I can get it photographed in or near a field – or at least holding a bunch (it also grows wild in lots of places nearby)


Too much choice is the enemy of progress

I am easing myself back in from my holidays with a little designing on the Suffolk Collection.

Here is an entire page full of maths that I did planning a shawl:


blog page of maths


It all works out (yippee) but now I have started wondering if I have made the best design choices and if it shouldn’t be worked a different direction. I feel the design, a shallow top down triangular shawl might be a little bit pedestrian and that I need more wow maybe.

Things I know about this shawl:

  1. The name (not revealing it yet)
  2. That it is a shawl – don’t know why just do.
  3. The yarn I am using
  4. The inspiration behind it.
  5. That it will be solid rather than lacy
  6. That is will feature undulation and the stitch pattern I’ll be using to achieve that.

Things I don’t know about this shawl:

  1. The best way to make it as awesome as it can be.

This is the yarn I’m using

oilseed colours


its the yarn I dyed with Lynne and Nicola earlier in the year

The colours are so lovely that I wonder if that is what is stalling me, wanting to do them justice.

I shall spend some more time fiddling today and hopefully get myself some answers via the power of swatching and ripping.

Advanced Swatching.

I wrote a post about swatching focused at people following a pattern or maybe making a simple self designed sweater.

This post is the advanced version, how a designer swatches before writing a pattern.

Here is the swatch for “cardigan 1″ for the Suffolk collection that I told you about in this post. The first attempt at a swatch for this was ripped out and I refined the cable patterns I wanted to use. I learnt from it and then moved on. The swatch pictured is not quite finished but it shows a lot of important features of a design swatch and answers many of my questions.
  1. How wide is the cable pattern?
  2. What is the drape of the fabric like? (this swatch has been made large enough to give a good idea
  3. How will the button band work?
  4. What type of button holes will I use? How big will the buttons need to be (so I can get shopping!)
  5. What is the ribbing like? How much stretch does it have?
  6. What are the cable patterns like in this yarn? How do they flow from the ribbing? How do they interact with decreases for the neckline.
  7. How do the different stitch patterns interact with one another? Does the cable pull the garter stitch?
  8. How does the neckline curve? How does that interact with the fabric? (you can see that I have decided to go with a scoop neck – Evelyn was right, the sketched neckline was a bit too “mature”!
  9. How fun was the knitting?  – if I want to take the needles and stab my eyes out while knitting the swatch chances are I won’t enjoy making a whole sweater much!
  10. What level will the pattern be aimed at? As I knit I’m constantly thinking about how I will write and grade the pattern to suit the audience. This will effect some of my design decisions.
Once the swatch is dry I will do some trial finishing (because I would always finish after blocking on the real sweater) I will pick up a neck band and finish any of the buttonholes attempts that require it.
This swatch has made me realise that I want the waist shaping to be around a faux seam, I know how that will work and I don’t need to swatch further. I will need to swatch a larger area of garter stitch to measure so I can make my calculations for writing the pattern.
I am already a little bit in love with this design, maybe it is because I am chilly in my studio, but I just want it knit and able to wear it already! Garter stitch for squishy squashy warmth, cables for interest, waist shaping for femininity. Bring it on!

Suffolk Collection Process: Swatching and Sketching "Cardigan 1"

All of the Suffolk Collection ideas have been swirling and percolating for a while now but its time to start making them real if I would like to release the collection next autumn (and I really would!)

I am still in flux about the shawls/scarves I have planned and its been a little while since I designed and made a garment so my creativity is leaning that way at the moment.

I decided to get some ideas swatched out for a cardigan worked in a deep brown chunky wool, this is Knit Picks Wool of The Andes in Chocolate. I have a whole sweaters worth and I am dying to turn it into a warm snuggly cardigan.

My inspiration for this cardigan is ploughing. An image in my mind from my childhood, that I keep coming back to, is the tractors moving over the undulating fields and how that changed the landscape for a few weeks until the crops grew back in.

Keeping the overall theme of undulation in mind, I want two types of cable: one that looks like earth turning over as its ploughed and another that looks a little like a tractor tyre print. I will also be adding serious amounts of waist shaping to the cardigan to keep it flattering even though it is bulky so it will undulate over the hips and bust.

I have done the first sketch and swatch

The first pass of the swatch has told me that the stitch patterns are not quite what I hoped but that I am on the right track. I will rip this back and have another try.
The sketch helped refine the ideas and I am pretty happy with it. I have two unanswered questions at the moment: I am not sure about the neckline or what to do about pockets.
I think I want a simple neckline, something more sophisticated than a hood probably (although I may go hood), but I am getting a bit bored of round necks. The current thinking on the neck is to make it square but flapped back and a collar added to create almost lapels but it doesn’t feel quite right. Perhaps a nice deep V would fit the bill or a scooped neckline? As I type, scooped is winning hands down and the mind is whirring again. While I’d like to get all the details smoothed out before I start knitting, this is planned to be bottom up seamless so I will have a fair amount of pondering time before I make a decision.
The decision to make it bottom up seamless isn’t anything to do with an uncertain neckline though. That is just a happy accident. Because I had decided that there would be cables running hip to collar and cuff to collar and also that the yoke would be a raglan it made sense to me to make it bottom up rather than top down. With a wide range of sizes, it will be easier to instruct people to decrease over a pattern than add it as they increase. Also there is a lot going on in the pattern with cables and different stitches, much easier to get used to the patterns without having any shaping to do at first then ease ourselves in with a little waist shaping before hitting the yoke.
As for the pockets, a cosy cardigan really needs pockets but in a bulky jumper it can add a lot of, well, bulk. Ideally I’d have concealed pockets running vertically but I need to work out if I can do that and still keep the design suitable for an intermediate knitter. These pockets might ruin the plan for establishing all the patterns without any other complications! If I do I’ll have to work out how to line the pocket whether it will be knitted, and if so in this wool or a finer yarn. To date I have only included patch pockets on my designs but this is an area I really want to explore as I am never quite as comfortable in a cardigan without pockets. Is this a universal thing?
I hope you enjoyed this peek into a design in progress and will follow the cardigan through to publication with me. My next steps when I am happy with swatch and sketch will be to do the maths. For other posts in this series take a look here.


Suffolk Collection: Dyeing the colours of Suffolk

When Nicola of Halfpenny Home asked if I would like to come and spend the day with her and friend Lynne to do some natural dyeing I nearly bit her hand off. I set off into the wilds of Suffolk (Needham Market) with lunch and cake (to say thank you) and 400g of yarn to dye.

Nicola had some dried weld and indigo and Lynne had picked and frozen elderberries. The pair have done a lot of natural dyeing and use their knowledge of technique, past experimentation and infectious enthusiasm for colour to great effect. They make a highly complex subject seem so easy and fun.

I came to Nicola’s armed with inspiration photos from the Suffolk collection to see if we could dye some yarn with materials grown on Suffolk hedgerows to match the colours.

We started off by soaking the yarn, we used an alum mordant on the yarn to prepare it to take the weld
and breaking up and boiling the weld. Once the colour of the water looked right we removed the plant matter and brought the yarn gradually up to temperature before throwing it in the pot and hoping for the best. The yarn is undyed West Yorkshire Spinners Bluefaced Leicester so I was only slightly panicked that I would ruin this delicious yarn in the process.
This was the colour as it came out of the pot.
I used the another WYS BFL skein to dye some indigo. It had been mordanted with the alum too. This isn’t necessary for indigo but it will have changed the result. I decided to dip dye the yarn to achieve a variegated effect. Indigo isn’t indigenous to Suffolk but woad (that could be) is pretty stinky to achieve a similar effect and I needed a blue as I have the weld and the indigo are perfect colours to create something inspired by this photo.
What do you think of the end result?
I used four balls of Knit Picks Swish DK, a merino in the elderberries. We didn’t use a mordant as elderberry is high in tannins so it isn’t necessary. Two balls were boiled for an hour and the other two for about ten minutes to achieve toning shades. HUGE thanks to Lynne for letting me have first two goes in this dye bath. I do hope you had time to do your own dyeing and that I hadn’t exhausted all the dye!
These colours bring me in mind of Suffolk heathlands towards the coast. I don’t have any inspiration photos from that area but perhaps this is the perfect excuse for a day trip!
Natural dyeing is very easy to get started and is easily achievable at home but it would take a lifetime to master. If you’d like to do some natural dyeing yourself I highly recommend you attend one of Nicola’s classes if you can. If you aren’t close enough she has a book, A Green Guide to Country Crafts full of beautiful projects including how to dye and use mordants.
But if you are close enough to come to class then you might be interested to know that I will be teaching crochet workshops at Halfpenny Home next year! Look out here and on Nicola’s blog for more details soon.
Thank you Nicola and Lynne!
What colours do you associate with your home landscape?

More Suffolk Inspiration

My clever dad managed to get the perfect shot to inspire an idea I had been toying with. Extra specially clever because I hadn’t mentioned what I was thinking of!

This is the view from my childhood home on a misty Autumn day at dawn.

This image, combined with this yarn

will become a crescent shawl. (provided I can get it to cooperate) Aren’t the yarn colours perfect? And the gentle haze of this silkpaca gives a wonderful misty, ethereal feel just like the photo. I think there will be travelling stitches and a little bit of lace.

I just hope I can capture the beauty.


On Sunday I headed off to the Knitting and Stitching show at Alexandra palace. (If you have ever heard knitters raving about “Ally Pally”, this is the event they are talking about.) I went on a coach from my village – THREE coaches went from my village – a total of 91 people! Are we the craftiest village in the country?

It is huge and somewhat overwhelming but I went with a purpose this time: to research and maybe purchase some yarns for my Suffolk Collection (see other threads on this topic here)

There were of course plenty of sub purposes: meeting up with some designer friends, spending time with friends I came with, stroking some pretty yarn, saying hi to some of the wonderful yarnies who have supported my magazine submissions and generally enjoying myself.

But the number one purpose was very successful, here is the haul.

  1. Pendle 4ply by Eden Cottage Yarns – this is destined to be a pair of socks for the collection. I have a stitch pattern in mind but I’ll tell you more at a later date.
  2. Malabrigo Silkpaca in Indiecita – this will be a shawl teamed with another skein in purl that I already have in my stash (kind yarn support that was left over)
  3. Wensleydale Longwool DK – I don’t have an actual plan for this so will swatch and see what it might be. It might be in the suffolk collection but it might be used for swatching for something else. Not sure – I brought it in a colour that fits with my theme incase I want to use it for Suffolk.
  4. Coconut Shell and Enamel buttons by Eljo’s – these pretty colours remind me of all the different pretty pastel colours on the houses in Lavenham or the beach huts at Southwold. I plan to make a colour work cardigan using these.

But of course that wasn’t quite all I picked up. What is a yarn show without a little random stashing!?

  1. More buttons from Eljo’s – these are pretty and fairly neutral so not a bad thing to have in stash. I don’t have many cardigan amount sets of buttons (honest guv)
  2. Small Purse Frame and
  3. Large Purse Frame from Bag Clasps – these may be used for the Suffolk collection. I have an idea but we will see how that pans out – no promises.
  4. Shawl Pin from Textile Garden – just because you can’t say no to a classic neutral shawl pin for £2.
  5. Knit Pro Karbonz DPNs – to try because I keep snapping DPNs and these are supposed to be indestructible. We will see.
  6. An Ashford drop spindle and couple of bits of tops –  to play with.
  7. (Not pictured) a lampshade making kit from eternal maker – hopefully will get a chance to make and blog this soon as its on my 40by40 list.
Did you go to Ally Pally? What did you get?

TIDKT: Collation for the collection

Why Hello?

Not too much progress has been made on the collection to date but I am beginning the process of collating ideas into manageable chuncks. For a few weeks my studio has been displaying my favourite images that dad sent me

And I have been busy pinning away this evening to try and firm up some ideas.  You can check out the board here (and a snippet of it is embedded below). I’ve added in some architectural features of Suffolk such as the vibrant Suffolk Pink house colour and pargetting (plaster decoration that is mostly found in South East and some amazing examples in Suffolk) and flushwork on local churches.

I am not sure if I will use the architectural images or not – it feels like maybe that should be a separate collection. The flushwork would lend itself so well to colour work and the pargetting would be amazing as cabling and knit and purl stitches. I do love the idea of injecting the colour of the Suffolk pink into the collection – it was made by mixing ox blood into the lime mixture.

I’ve been playing around a little with colour, using palettefx.com to make some colour palettes from my favourite pictures of the set.

I find these really surprising and very helpful for identifying colours that will work well together yet still giving a suggestion of the source.

The stash has been fondled and assessed to see if some of the pieces can be made from stash.

The notebook has been getting lots of scribbles in it as I review my favourite stitch dictionaries looking for inspiration. I am looking at stitches that have movement and undulation.
So my next step will be swatching because I like to play with the stitch pattern and see what item, garment or accessory I think it would lend itself well to before I sketch… (s)watch this space…
Do you have any favourite tools or techniques for assembling design ideas?


I want to take you on a journey with me: from start to finish through the process of creating a knitwear pattern collection.

The journey starts with inspiration and I have been obsessed with this theme for a while now. I want to focus on the natural surroundings of East Anglia, the countryside I grew up in and the place where I still live. This is a topic that makes my heart sing and what better place to start from than that?

So the journey starts in Suffolk, farming country.

From the moment I was told, in a Geography lesson aged 11, that Suffolk had an undulating landscape, I adored the word. Say it. Undulating. It is almost onomatopoeic in the way the word flows around yourself making your tongue form the gentle hills and valleys that it describes.

This gentle rolling landscape is what I think of first when I think of home and is the jumping off point for my inspiration.

This will be my first full collection and my first knitwear collection. I have made a four piece crochet collection for Malabrigo with the inspiration, provided by them, of Space. I also curated the collections for The Crochet Project.

To create a collection I begin by collecting images together to inspire my designs. My Dad, is a fantastic photographer and has taken lots of beautiful pictures of East Anglia. He was kind enough to allow me to share these with you here.

These images, amongst others will be printed off and pinned to the board in my studio to help focus the collection as I design it.

I plan to use the beautiful colours from the pictures and also to allow the shapes to inspire my stitch patterns and constructions.

Many of these images are of places I have been visiting since I was my son’s age or younger. They hold wonderful memories for me. I am so excited to be using these as inspiration. I just hope I can do their beauty justice.

What inspires you?
Do you like knitwear inspired by a story or is function enough?

This post is a slight detour from the Things I didn’t Know Tuesdays theme. Find out more here