Thursday, 20 October 2011

New Pattern: Brick by Brick

Today is the official launch date for Issue One of Knit Now, a brand new UK print magazine specialising in those quick and useful knits we all love for showing off our favourite yarns. And I'm in it!

Photograph Copyright Knit Now Magazine

Found on page 39 of this new magazine is the pattern for my Brick by Brick socks, a simple unisex sock pattern that's perfect for fussy men and yet far more fun to knit that a boring stockinette or plain ribbed sock! I absolutely love this pattern, so much so I've now knit 4 pairs!

Brick by Brick features an optional twisted rib cuff, a stretchy leg pattern that continues down the foot, a simple heel flap and turn, gusset, and a wedge toe finished with just a touch of grafting - making this the perfect knit for a first time sock knitter. It works in a wide variety of sock yarns, and due to the nature of the Brick by Brick pattern, is forgiving to those knitters who struggle to achieve gauge, or, gasp, don't swatch at all! Being knit top down also allows knitters to easily and accurately check for length, which can be difficult in toe up knits (almost all of my toe up socks are too long in the foot, you'd think I'd learn, but no!)

The pattern is shown in the magazine in Araucania Ranco, a great sock yarn, packed with 30% nylon and wool that hasn't been superwash treated, so provided you don't machine wash them by mistake they should last for a very long time (at Knit Nation Judith Mackenzie told me she had just retired a pair of 100 year old wool socks - which seems like a challenge to beat!) I knit a pair in the women's size (UK 5-7) using a wonderful tomato red, which the magazine have styled with some thick tights and walking boots - these are tough socks! I really really love this photo of the men's socks (in a lovely semi-solid purple, size UK 8-10) which unfortunately didn't make it into the magazine (in it's place is another great photo of the men's socks, so I'm happy).

Photograph Copyright Knit Now Magazine
Photograph Copyright Knit Now Magazine
 I've also knit these socks in Sweet Clement Smitten, for the show way back in March (in fact, you can see them in the blog banner), and they are my favourite pair of socks to wear, mostly because after treating them pretty unkindly they are holding up wonderfully well. I seem to be cursed to wear holes over heelturns and above toes, and there's not even a hint of wear on these (I think this is the yarn rather than the pattern, but I'm still enthused!)

I also made a pair for Andrew at around the same time (also in the blog banner) - this time in Easyknits Cherish in Gun Metal (yes, the same yarn and colourway as my Ropery Pullover, I just love it!) He's been very gentle and precious with them, and wore them for the first time in months around the flat yesterday as it was so cold! 

Knit Now Magazine is published by Practical Publishing, who previously have been known for craft magazines such as Creative Cardmaking, Papercraft Essentials and Scrapbook Magazine, and this is their first venture into textile crafts. I think they've done a really good job! The yarn and LYS reviews are of the standard we've become accustomed to from the UK magazines, and the point of difference, small, quick knits in a range of difficulty levels, is a great refreshing change. Knit Now is currently available from WHSmith, Tescos, Sainsburys and all good newsagents for £4.99 or you can subscribe here.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011


Saturday (I know, ages ago, I've had computer problems this week!) saw the launch of Alice Yu's new book of sock patterns, Socktopus! The launch was held at London knitting shop Loop and featured the lady herself signing books amongst a crowd of knitters and an amazing array of cakes from Bittersweet Bakers (seriously, amongst the best banana bread I have EVER had).

Socktopus is Alice's first book, and features an array of her favourite patterns released through her many popular sock clubs over the last 3 years, reworked and wonderfully reshot to utilise the fabulous Sokkusu yarn she has developed.

As Alice is a good friend of mine, which you've no doubt noticed as she seems to crop up in most of these blog posts, when she asked me to knit a couple of pairs of socks as the samples for the book, I was happy to accept the challenge! For two weeks after the show (way back in March!) I furiously knit two pairs of socks in time for a fast approaching photoshoot.

The first pair were Mince Pie Mayhem, previously a pattern released at Christmas time and featuring literal thousands of 1x1 cables. While I can cable without a cable needle, I find I get much better tension if I use one, and for the book I wanted my knitting to look it's best, so over 1000 fully worked cables it was! As I knit rather loosely, and Alice rather tightly, I ended up working these socks on 2mm DPNs, which is very small for me! All in all these socks should have been a nightmare for my left handed, funny tensioned brain, especially once the 3 day deadline was included, but they weren't. Getting to know this fantastic yarn and the unusual heel and toe construction kept these socks interesting, and trying them on once complete showed me a surprisingly stretchy and wonderfully comfortable pair of socks. The colourway is Tree Frog - how could I not love them!

The second pair was Crowley. These were knit it Sokkusu-X, which meant a comfortable 2.5mm needle and magic loop, plus another new yarn to handle. Lately I've come to realise that I'm not the fibre snob I thought I was, and like a nice pure wool as much as anything. Sokkusu-X has a cashmere content, but rather than screaming about it, this yarn seems to quietly and subtly enjoy it's luxury status, being soft on the hands but not threatening to disintegrate upon contact with the floor/shoes/water due to it's high twist.

The pattern is quick and easy in comparison, featuring a neat undulating cable and rib design. The heel and toe are more traditional also, meaning these were a gentle rest after the Mince Pies. The fit was great, the knit rewarding because of it's speed and the great yarn, and I'm finally knitting a pair for myself!

Because I knit the samples, Alice and the publishers GMC were kind enough to give me a credit in the back of the book too!

If you'd like to purchase Socktopus it is available in a wide range of LYS's and will shortly be published in the United States. Alternatively you can order from Amazon in the UK (here) or US (here).

Happy Knitting!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Roots: The Process

In this post I'll try and explain the process behind the Roots hat design - which was far more extensive than you may expect!

The original inspiration was to create a ribbed hat with a fractal branching structure, reminiscient of tree root structures. This meant that the shaping had to be placed amongst unusual lines. I toyed with the idea of working bottom up, using left and right leaning decreases to shape the crown, but quickly realised that a top down construction would give me greater control over size and length, and also provide something a bit different to knitters than the literal hundreds of ribbed hat designs already available!

This pattern has been a long time in the making, being prototyped and tweaked to get it just right for knitters. In fact, the first version was knit way back in December, as a Christmas gift for my Uncle Stu!

I then made a second prototype for the Leaf Litter show back in March;

Both of these hats taught me a few important lessons about this design. I was able to modify the pattern to remove the pixie like point you see in the first version, and with the second, which was knit in Debbie Bliss Glen, reaffirm how fantastic a yarn Malabrigo Twist is for working rib in (actually, any multi-plied worsted weight yarn should be a good fit, most of the problems I had with this version were with the single ply of Glen). The first hat is more complex in it's shaping than the final knit, and I was able to see that in fact this was unnecessary, and simple is best for both fit and ease of knitting.

The third and final version (so far, I really want one for myself!) is the sample knit. This version of the pattern contains all of the features I wanted in this pattern from the start - a smooth, round crown, a soft slouchy drape, a firm rib contraction for a secure fit, and a striking branching rib pattern that is unusual but subtle enough for even the most fussy of our male gift recipients!

We had a lot of fun doing the photoshoot in my Mam and Dad's yard. The model is my little brother Dominic, who was perhaps not quite in the mood for having his photo taken less than 24 hours after running the Great North Run!

But he consented eventually, even posing with a book (can you tell Sherlock Holmes isn't exactly his favourite!) I love this version of the hat, it fits great, the colour (Zinc) really shows off the texture pattern, and it suits my brother so well!

The first hat was knit to a length of around 10"/25cm, and the second to 8"/20cm. This is quite a bit shorter than the 13" used for the sample, and this is what really proves to me the benefit of knitting hats from the top down, there's no way my uncle would want a slouchy modern beanie, and similarly Dominic, who was given the sample as a graduation present, would have no use for such a utility garment as the first prototype!

If you would like to knit Roots the pattern is available to purchase through, or you can buy now

Happy Knitting! 

Monday, 3 October 2011

New Pattern: Roots

I am proud to announce today that new pattern Roots has finally been published!


Roots is a top down hat featuring an unusual branching rib structure. It is knit using 100-150 yards of Malabrigo Twist (colour Zinc) and 4mm circular needles or DPNs.

This is a great gift knit pattern (indeed, even the sample has already been gifted to my well deserving little brother), and takes about 6 hours to make. With the holiday season approaching, this simple, unisex pattern with it's customisable length and subtle but unusal patterning will impress many different people.

Roots was inspired by the branching fractal nature of tree roots, working their way down into the soil. As you knit from top to brim you mimic this process, starting from a centre circle.

The use of worsted weight yarn knit at a slightly tighter gauge results in a warm, water resistant fabric, perfect for winter wear, and increases the elasticity of the rib for a snug, warm fit. This hat makes a fantastic gift knit as it can be readily knit over a couple of days, and the soft and luxurious yarn makes for a truly special treat. This hat is a great knit for men, being both well fitting, simple and traditional in style, but the branching rib provides an element of individuality and makes for a fun and interesting knit.

If you would like to knit Roots you can buy now via Ravelry for £2.50.