Monday, 1 October 2012

Boom Boom Pow! The Mile End Collection is here!

Today is the big day, the Mile End Collection is here!

I've been working on this collection for over a year, it's so amazing to see it finally out there in the world!

Mile End is a mini-collection of 4 patterns inspired by my life and times living in this vibrant and exciting part of East London. Featuring 3 brand new accessories and the Ropery garment pattern (that so many of you seem to love!), a wide range of fun and unusual yarns and some fantastic photography from photographer Gareth Williams, Mile End has been a labour of love.

Ropery has been available as an individual download since last November, and features my favourite deep neckline and set in sleeve construction. All previous purchasers of this pattern will receive a £4.50 discount from the collection if purchasing via Ravelry. Ropery Street in Mile End is a cute little street of terraced brick houses, and is one of the few complete streets of Victorian houses in the area.

Burdett is a huge, oversized cowl knit on 20mm needles using wool roving based yarn Bouton d'Or Mistral, or could easily be knit with any wool roving suitable for spinning. It features wandering 1x1 cables, easily made with your fingers, and a rib texture for even more warmth! Burdett Road was our local high street, full of takeaways, corner shops, our local vets, florists and greengrocers were there.
Wentworth is a double whammy of a design, with both full mitten and fingerless mitts options. I fell in love with the Habu Cotton Slub yarn at Alexandra Palace last year, and spent a great deal of time experimenting with stitch patterns to maximise it's effect. Held double with Koigu KPM a fun and unusual mitten is created, that is surprisingly warm and hardwearing. Alternatively, make them with solid DK yarn to show off striking herringbone cables and slip stitch patterning. In Mile End, the Wentworth Arms was our local pub - full of old cockneys and cheap beer. We loved it.
Tredegar is quite possibly my favourite of all the designs, a soft, draping beret with large lace repeats that cleverly decrease into the crown shaping. This hat, knit in super soft Blue Sky Alpacas Suri Merino, is so comfly and gentle, you'll find yourself wearing it all winter. Tredegar Square is a cobbled square in the North of Mile End, with (sadly) private communal gardens featuring some of the most spectacular fully mature trees in London outside of the Royal Parks. Plus, they filmed Harry Potter there!

The Mile End Collection, featuring all 4 patterns and the only source for the Burdett Cowl is available for download for £6.00 from Ravelry. You can buy now. Ropery is available for £4.50, Wentworth for £2.50 and Tredegar for £2.50. Any single pattern purchase price will be deducted from the collection price if you later change your mind and realise you need to knit ALL THE PATTERNS! And yes, I have worn all 4 at once!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Two new patterns!

This month I have two new patterns being published, how exciting!

The first really is very exciting, I'm in the new edition of Knitscene Accessories :)

The Marion socks were designed in response to the "socks fit for a heroine" theme, and were inspired by thoughts of Maid Marion (betrothed of Robin Hood) galloping on horseback in her seamed stockings. I didn't want to knit socks requiring an actual seam, so took the time and some careful thought to conjure up a way of creating a pseudo-seam up the back of the leg.

They also feature a novel openwork pattern developed for this design. Note the socks are fraternal, the openwork spiralling in opposite directions on each foot.

These socks feature a provisionally cast on short row toe, short row heel, and a long cuff - complete with two eyelet rounds perfect for inserting ribbons for extra hold-up security. The foot and calf length, along with the calf circumference are completely customisable to fit any shape.

They use just 3 skeins of Louet Gems fingering weight (150g ~ 480m, 100% merino wool) - a yarn I cannot speak highly enough. The twist is high, which is great for this kind of lace patterning, and it will wear well. The colour is perfect for these socks too, the editing team did such a good job of picking it out.

This is my first pattern published under the Interweave umbrella, and I'm so very happy and excited to be working with them. The whole process has been such good fun, and being in such good company for this magazine, and being able to see the quality of the other designs is so lovely.

Knitscene accessories is available throughout much of the world in good local yarn stores, and is widely available in the United States. You can also download a copy here Knitscene Accessories, and check out all of the patterns on Ravelry.

The second pattern this month is in Issue 9 of Knit Now Magazine. Named Erfenis, from the dutch for "heritage", this is a huge modular shawl. Perfect for cuddling into on summer evenings, or truly sprucing up your winter wear, the tweedy yarn (Rowan Felted Tweed DK) and tweedy colours are perfectly on trend for this autumn. I'm super excited about this design, it's something I really really want for myself this winter!

Over the last three issues I have been writing reports on the key trends seen at February's London Fashion Week in order to prepare knitters for the autumn. This pattern was inspired by the shapes and colours seen at Burberry, McQ and Pringle of Scotland, who have all taken the Jubilee and Olympics to heart and developed collections filled with classic British elements, twisted up with a modern silhouette. My interpretation was to "blow up" a classic triangular shawl shape into something enormous, but as light and draping as any other soft shawl. Loose gauge garter stitch is perfect for this effect, and a shawl more than 2m along the long edge is created using less than 400g of DK yarn.

I snapped this quick pick of the shawl blocking before posting it off. While it was very naughty of Joey (just seen) and Elmo to sneak in while my shawl was blocking they do give an element of scale:

Knit Now is widely available throughout the UK (I've even seen it here in Antwerp!) and can be ordered internationally too.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Veggie Burgers

Having a little more time on my hands now, I can afford to be a bit more experimental in the kitchen. Our new kitchen, despite it's uninspiring view of a concrete wall, is loads nicer than our old one, much lighter and cottagey (if that was a word).

Last night I made some home made veggie burgers. I've made a few from various recipe books but never found any that I really liked or that I was able to get to hold together properly. This is the recipe I use:

Monster Veggie Burgers 
(serves 2 plus 2 extra patties for lunch the next day)

For the patty:
3 medium potatoes
1 carrot (we used a purple carrot, but orange is fine)
1 medium onion
2/3 tin red kidney beans (you can eat the rest while you're cooking)
1 tblsp soy sauce
1 tsp HP sauce
2 medium eggs
1 tblsp plain flour
Pinch of dill
Pinch of chilli flakes
Salt & Pepper
2-3 tblsp Vegetable Oil for Frying

For the burger:
Decent bread, ideally home made - this 7 grain loaf is the first one we've bought since arriving here.
1/3 aubergine (eggplant)
1 red pepper (capsicum)
1 block halloumi cheese
1/2 tomato
1/2 avocado
Handful of spinach leaves
Red Pesto
1 tblsp Olive Oil for roasting

1. Peel and chop the potatoes and put on to boil.
2. Slice the aubergine and de-seed and quarter the pepper. Rub with olive oil and add a little salt and pepper. Put in a roasting dish and roast at 200 degrees for about half an hour.
3. Finely chop the carrot and onion and fry on a low heat until soft but not coloured. Put to one side to cool.
4. When the potato is soft drain and mash until smooth in a large pan or mixing bowl. Add the carrot & onion mix, the kidney beans, soy sauce, HP sauce, eggs, dill, chilli flakes, and stir together. Season with salt and pepper to taste. This mix will be very runny and soft, much thinner that many veggie burgers you have made before. Add the flour slowly to thicken the mix but be careful to avoid lumps.
5. Slice the halloumi into 1.5cm thick slices. Feel free to eat the ends while you cook. If you have a grill pop the slices under a hot grill for about 4 minutes each side, until they've just started to colour. We don't have a grill, so we put the slices in a hot dry pan for 3-4 minutes per side. They won't stick due to the high fat content, and they will leak a fair amount of water when you first put them in, this is normal.
6. In a large flat bottomed frying pan add a good glug of vegetable oil and allow it to heat up. Using a large serving spoon scoop up a portion of the patty mixture. Place neatly into the pan. Depending upon the size of your pan you may be able to fit 2-4 spoons of patty mix into the pan. Each spoonful should be enough for one patty. Leave without moving for 3-4 minutes. The mix will spread slightly, but, like an omelet, you're cooking the egg that holds the mixture together.
7. While the patty is cooking begin to assemble the burger. Slice the bread as thickly as you like, it's unlikely you'll be able to pick this burger up. Spread mayonnaise on one slice (the bottom) and red pesto on the other (top). Remove the aubergine and pepper from the oven. Beginning with the bottom slice layer spinach, tomato (sliced), avocado (sliced), aubergine.
8. When the base of the patty is cooked carefully flip the burgers, they will need another 1-2 minutes to seal the top. When cooked carefully place the patty on the top of the burger stack. Finish by adding the halloumi and a portion of pepper.

The patty mix will keep overnight in the fridge if preferred in order to make fresh burgers for lunch the next day. Just be aware that the mix does contain raw egg.

We served the burger with the excess tomato and avocado, and some home made chips. Perfect with a beer or cool drink at the end of a hot day!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Fun at the fair

Yesterday was a bank holiday here in Belgium (for Whit Monday/Pentecost Monday, although it seems public holidays are ten-a-penny here!) so I didn't get a huge amount of work done. It's very hard to concentrate with a bored and excitable 28 year old at home!

Eventually I admitted defeat and we went for a lovely walk out in the sun - can you guess what we found?

ps. It was by far the loudest fair I've ever been to - and with more flashing lights and moving parts. Who says Belgium is boring?
pps. That candyfloss was even better than it looks. Jealous?

Monday, 28 May 2012

This Weekend's Achievement

This weekend's achievement came in the form of some home made English muffins.

English muffins are a sweetened bread roll generally halved, toasted and buttered. These were amazing - I was so proud! The dough contains a little sugar and is made with milk instead of water so the muffin is sweet and rich, but the dough was heavy and stiff to knead - fortunately Andrew was there to help!

I used the recipe in Duncan Glendinning and Patrick Ryan's Bread Revolution

Friday, 25 May 2012

Things I have been up to

So we finally have internet! The man from Telenet came on Wednesday, along with the bulk of our furniture, and now we have a proper grown up home! 

I thought it might be nice to show you some photos out and about in our part of Antwerp, so you can see what it's like (this is mostly for the benefit of my Mam, but it's a pretty place too!)

 This is the view of our building from across the street. We're on the fourth floor in the building on the right, but I wanted to show you the MASSIVE church three doors down. Antwerp is full of churches, much more so than London, and as we're in a predominantly Catholic country, they are really beautiful and elaborate. 
 This enormous fountain is around the corner. I have no idea what it commemorates as there's not a plaque, but it is beautiful. It's taking me a lot of time to get used to there being such lovely things in ordinary places and there being no graffiti/drunks/litter.
 This is the Royal Museum of Fine Art. Unfortunately it's closed for refurbishment right now, and will be for the forseeable future, but it's only 4 or 5 minutes walk from the flat and has a really cool water feature. We have to walk past it to get to the supermarket and Andrew works across the road from it.
 This is the view from my studio window. In many ways Antwerp is very similar to Edinburgh, where I went to university. It's a small town in terms of square miles, but everyone lives in these skinny 4-6 storey buildings. As such, there city is able to support hundreds of cafes, bars and shops - we've had so much fun just wandering around exploring, the "residential street" is a bit of an alien concept here.
 This is the view from my bed. Every morning the sun rises over the top of the church and floods into the bedroom. We don't have access to the yard downstairs, but the people who do keep chickens there. Our outside space comes in the form of a small balcony. Want to see the view?

That's right, solid concrete. Small price to pay when the rest of the flat is so nice, but most of my gardening plans have been scuppered :(

We've finally got some furniture, including this deliciously retro sofa suite:

And a big desk for me:

We were so lucky to find a huge second hand furniture warehouse on the outside of town. We really didn't want an IKEA-kit house again, and while they have served to give us a nice bed and sofabed, we wanted stuff with a bit more character, and a little cheaper. As it was, we were able to get the three piece sofa, a massive dining table (solid wood), 6 chairs, my desk, a bookcase and two full length mirrors for less than 300 euros from Ecoshop. Very happy indeed.

The lack of internet, and the fact that I arranged not to have any magazine deadlines over this moving period, has left me a little out of sorts - what should I do with my day? The sensible me said that this was a great time to get ahead on design ideas, swatching, sketching and maybe something fun to self-publish. The hedonistic me said "Whoohoo! Holiday!" And won the argument. I've been knitting FOR FUN. Sometimes even from other people's patterns! Mostly in order to finish a few WIPs that have been languishing, but a couple of other bits too, shall we take a look-see?

Firstly this rather fetching pair of vanilla socks for Andrew. Knit in Wollmeise 100% in Zenzi for the MC and Wollmeise Twin for the CC. I've not knit stockinette socks in years, my vanilla pattern is Brick by Brick, but this yarn wouldn't stand for any funny business. Both were part skeins left over from the Father's New Socks I knit Andrew last year, so are "free" socks - in that I didn't buy the yarn especially. I'm rather proud of them, I took them along to my first visit to the Antwerp Knit and Bitch last week and they went down a treat, plus I knit LOADS of them, like half the foot, at knitting! I'm so used to knitting a couple of rows then getting distracted, hooray for vanilla knitting!

Next up are a not-quite pair of Alice Yu's Crowley's, in a mystery yarn she gifted me before moving to Hong Kong. I do know Alice dyed the yarn, so I of course had to use it for one of her patterns. I knit the Crowley sample for the Socktopus book and had such a blast I had to make another pair for myself. These are coming out great, the ankle sock is an underrated concept amongst sock knitters.

I'm still working on my Agatha C.'s, by Emma Haigh of Loumms, but have now almost finished one. These cables are as intricate and winding as a Poirot plot, and so of course this project is travelling a little slower. They are coming out SO well though, I adore the Sweet Clement Smitten yarn, I have another skein in this colourway from a Christmas swap I can't wait to knit up.

I've also been knitting my own Jasper Diamond Baby Cardigan for a colleague of Andrew's who is expecting. She helped him (and me by default) out a lot before I moved over by translating things like out tenancy agreement and Andrew's work contract into English for us, so she definitely deserves a baby cardigan!

Now we have internet it's back to work!

Monday, 14 May 2012

I'm a Twerp!

I'm here! In Antwerp! What a crazy couple of weeks it's been! The new flat is fantastic, at least twice the size of our London flat, and it's so WARM here! It's as if all the crappy weather we had in London at the end of April was just to highlight how nice it is here now!

I had a wonderful send off, firstly a few weeks ago Andrew and I and some friends went to Bill's Covent Garden, a lovely casual restaurant (I think Bill is Australian, but the food was from all over) where I ate the most fantastic halloumi burger. Then was my last night out for knitting, and we had a raucous evening involving a greasy curry on Brick Lane and me mixing my drinks. It was awesome. The following Wednesday was my leaving drinks from my part time job in a bookshop. Andrew came, which was nice as no one had met him before so I was able to prove he was real! I got some really wonderful presents, my colleague Isabel even knitted me a scarf - amazing! I was very grateful and very sad.

On the Saturday, our official moving out day, our friend Mark came over to help us load everything into the van, and when Andrew and his dad (our very generous driver) left he helped me with the last little bit of cleaning and took me to the letting agent to hand in the keys. This was so lovely, I would have been in floods of tears had he not been there! As much as it's fantastic now to be in this great flat in this lovely city, it's certainly scary to move to a country you've only visited once for 3 days into a flat you've never seen!!! I arrived at about 9pm on Saturday night, about 2 hours after Andrew, and he treated us to dinner that night before bed. Then the unpacking started!

The flat is still in disarray with all the unpacking and the lack of furniture! Only yesterday did we realise that there's only one plug socket in my new studio (ok, our new studio), so for the next couple of days my computer will continue to be set up on the living room floor. The to-do list is epic, in addition to getting the required new furniture (such as a computer desk, a sofa, chairs), we have to sort out ID cards, phone and internet lines, healthcare and vets, get new kitchen electricals and a whole heap of adapter plugs for the stuff we couldn't afford to replace. So you'll have to bear with me over the next few weeks!!

That being said, I spent the first morning making bread, trying out the new oven (the bread was a disaster, the oven works just fine). Since then (and we've been here two weeks now) I've made all the bread we've eaten, which has been so lovely! Yesterday was a soup making day, I treated myself to the new book "Veggiestan" - a cook book of vegetarian Middle Eastern food I can't recommend enough - we made Iranian onion soup with eggy croutons that was delicious.

Joey and Elmo (the cats) are starting to settle in, as expected Joey has been pretty much fine since we arrived, playing with the doors and smelling all the smells. All the floors are wooden here, so we put down an old rug to give them something soft to sleep on. Joey's loving that it slips and slides around if he rolls on it! Elmo has been a bit more nervous, rarely venturing out of the bedroom, but then that always was his way. He's happy to be carried and cuddled around the flat though!

We're slowly and inefficiently trying to learn the language. I hate that I have to ask everyone if they speak English, especially as they generally do, so this is a real priority. I was reading today that being bilingual boosts brain power, which is totally unsurprising if you've ever met a bilingual person, but is an extra motivation - maybe my pattern calculations will go smoother if I can speak Dutch too!

Hopefully over the next couple of weeks I can tell you a bit more about some of my new patterns that have been published recently - Igneous in The Knitter, Colour Pop!, Nitha Hat and Nitha Scarf in Knit Now, and Cucumber in Knitty!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Plans afoot!

So the big news of the last few months has been that my better half Andrew has been away working in Antwerp at a new fashion label. The bigger news is that, now his contract has been extended, I'll be moving out there too!

One of the perks of working as a designer in this industry is how transportable it is - I'll be able to design just as much for the same magazines and for myself there as I have here - more so in fact - as due to lower living costs I won't have to work part time! I am SO SO SO looking forward to having a little extra time to cook, read books, garden (we have a tiny balcony) and generally, "play house".

We'll be moving in less than 2 weeks now - the challenge has been finding someone to drive all of our stuff over there (neither of us drive, not that I'm old enough to hire a van anyway) but fortunately Andrew's dad has agreed. We also have to arrange Pet Passports for each of the cats, a breaktaking £160 apiece. We're very lucky, even 6 months ago it would have been a lot more. Thanks to some lovely Ravellers I've almost covered this cost after some extensive destashing!

The biggest task is breaking down three years of acquired stuff into "Keep", "Lend" and "Bin". Andrew and I have quite different opinions on what should go in each pile. I am inclined to get rid of almost everything, either by selling, gifting to friends, giving to charity or recycling. But never mind, we'll get there eventually!

This means my plans to publish several outstanding patterns this month has been temporarily shelved (sorry!) - think of it this way, all the more for over the summer!

Speak soon!

Friday, 9 March 2012


Yesterday's Knitty publication has finally spurred me into some blogging action!

While I haven't been idle these last few weeks (lots of "secret knitting" has been occurring) this blog has been rather neglected. As a treat, I think today shall be the day to unveil the first of my new self-published patterns, Weekend!

Weekend is a 1m/1-and-a-bit yd square throw perfect for use in the home year round - mine is certain to become a picnic blanket come the summer! It uses 4 skeins of Colinette Calligraphy, quite possibly my favourite yarn of the moment. Each skein is 100m and is worked with 12mm needles - this throw really can be knit in a Weekend, mine was!

The throw features a centre panel of knotted openwork that is really simple to execute, each knot is worked over just one row, so it's perfect for highly variagated yarns such as Calligraphy as the short colour runs are contained within each knot, leading to an almost spotted fabric. Upon completion of the centre panel, stitches are picked up around the sides and a provisional cast on is unzipped before the linen stitch border is worked.

Because of the super dense nature of the linen stitch, you will need about half of the total yarn just for the border. However, this is a border that will last forever - after a winter of heavy use and cat love this border has just begun to start to felt together. The edges of throws are the regions that feel the most wear, and in weekend they are reinforced to the max! Clever arrangements of increases at the corners (although I say so myself) allow the pattern to continue uninterrupted.

Speaking of cats (and how can I not, seeing as they make such wonderful models) the real advantage of the centre panel is in it's Natural Cat Resistance. Cat owners know how much they love to "knead" - claw at carpet/your bed/your tummy before settling down to sleep. That beautiful cable and textured afgan you spent two years knittng? Torn to shreds by these guys without proper vigilance! With Weekend, when they try to knead that centre panel all they get is the sofa. Boring! Joey and Elmo had one little go on Weekend and then realised that they'd have more luck with the carpet/bed/my tummy. So I guess this is only a benefit if you value your throw more than your stomach like me (sorry Mam!)

If you want to knit Weekend (it has a great effort to appreciation ratio as a gift) you can purchase the pattern for £2.50. The Ravelry pattern page is here or you can buy now

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Knitty Spring Summer 2012 and Boscobel

So the big secret is that I'm in Knitty! Hooray! Find the free Boscobel pattern here!

I feel like a proper grown up designer now, the whole process has been so amazing! Even my surrogate Mam Kate Heppell (editor of Knit Now) sent me a message to tell me what a proud mum she is!

This shawl has been a long time in the making, and was initially inspired as a side-venture from my collection from this time last year, Leaf Litter. That collection was based on a tree losing it's leaves in autumn and I took a lot of mood-board-style photos of various piles of leaves. The overwhelming feeling was that in reality all of the round leaf shapes I was knitting were just wrong. Leaves aren't round (most of the time), they're funny shapes. In London, we have a lot of Horse Chestnut and Ash trees, which have five parts to each leaf, not a dainty round shape.

So I dusted off my scientist hat and investigated some different leaf shapes. The more I thought about it, the more it became obvious that I wanted to create a stitch pattern that represented oak leaves. It had been the Royal Wedding shortly before I started planning this design, I was spinning Shetland, the most British of fibres, and I had found the most perfectly beautiful silver silk yarn in Paris (from L'Oisieve Thé, blogged here). Everything was pointing to something luxurious, traditional, and British. This, mixed with my obsession with Horrible Histories and the Charles the 2nd rap (please, please, watch it on Youtube) and a pattern based on the Royal Oak was born.

I knit the commercial sample first, convinced my at-best beginner spinning wasn't up to scratch for the likes of Knitty. I began working on the centre panel of the shawl knit in handspun (thus not giving away any of the secret special stitch pattern ;) ) at last year's Knit Nation, perhaps you saw me knitting it? A very kind and supportive chat from Judith McCuin and Merike Saarnit (that I will never forget) at the teachers tea later and I was submitting to Knittyspin!

We took the first set of photos one evening in August, but we lost the light so quickly that, while not awful, these pictures were hardly appropriate for publication! One of the first that we took made it into the final pattern, and it is one of my favourites!

  It was the last week in October that we took the summer photos in St James' Park - we were so lucky that the deck chairs were out! The weather was so glorious it really felt just right for taking such important pictures!

I hope you feel eager to try and knit your own Boscobel shawl, I assure you it's a quick and interesting knit. The leaves are knit in stockinette, so can readily absorb any slightly slubby handspinning *cough* and the edging is so quick (just 6 rows!) you'll be done before you know it!