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Archive for April, 2012

Last Friday saw the inaugural Tom Says Darn It! Mending class at Brighton’s new creative hub: Super+Super HQ.

It was an intimate affair, which meant I could give my students all the attention they needed. We started off with Swiss darning, also known as duplicate stitching. I don’t know where the name “Swiss darning” originates from, but duplicate stitching makes perfect sense, as this is more like embroidery, where you copy the knitting stitches with needle and thread.

This method is particularly good to reinforce worn areas that have not, as yet, developed a hole, like thinning elbows. It is also a clever way to hide stains.

After tackling the Swiss darning, we moved on to the classic stocking darn. I had brought my collection of darning mushrooms and eggs, which is an essential aid, if you want to keep your darn looking neat and tidy, and not accidentally sew onto the other side of your sock!

There was plenty of different yarns to mend with, and we discussed which yarns are suitable for which purposes. The students got to keep the needles needed for darning: a blunt tapestry needle for Swiss darning, and a long sharp darning needle for the stocking darn.

As you can see, we had pots of tea, and a home-made banana bread to fortify the budding darners. I think we all had a slice more than we strictly should have! If you take a closer look at Amy’s cardigan, you will see she has engaged in a fashion intervention. I will tell you more about it in the near future, as I think she has done a great job of it.

I will be running darning classes every month at Super+Super HQ: keep an eye out on my ‘What’s Happening’ page, and the Super+Super HQ website, where you will also find booking information.

The next class will be on Friday, 27 May, 19:00-21:30h. I’ll be looking forward to share the darning love with you!

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The competition for the Sanquhar Pencil Case Pattern and wool Giveaway is now closed. Which means I have selected a winner!

As my own pencil case has been lined with fabric left over from making a pair of boxer shorts, and thus my pencil case match my pants, I asked you to think about what you would like your pencil case to match with. There were a few practical answers, like iPad and notebook covers, or a messenger bag, some of which really were cheekily disguised requests for other Sanquhar inspired patterns. Some were variations on the underwear theme – tasselled pasties anyone? There were anti-theft devices, knitted shoes and egg-cosies, but the answer that amused me most, was sent in by Samatha:

A pencil case pattern, style Sanquhar,
Is something for which I do hanker!
This lim’rick I’ll name
to go with the same
this season, or lose with no rancour!

Not only because my limerick skills are well below par: I would struggle to find just one word to rhyme with ‘Sanquhar’, let alone two! But on a different level I really like the whimsical idea of matching a physical object with something cerebral.

Congratulations to Samantha, I have contacted you for your details, so I can send you your wool. For everybody else, the pattern is for sale at Prick Your Finger, who also stock a range of Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift, to make a pencil case in whichever colour combination you fancy.

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It must’ve been almost a year ago now, that my mother asked me to knit her a lace scarf. For some reason, this was quite a big thing for me. My mother used to be a really good knitter (she doesn’t knit much anymore), although I don’t remember her ever knitting lace. Nonetheless, I knew she would really appreciate the skill, time and effort involved in knitting a lace scarf, which is something that non-knitters don’t really seem to get somehow. But it also felt as an acknowledgement that I, a man, and her son, can actually also be taken seriously as a knitter.

Originally I was going to knit a scarf from Jane Sowerby’s Victorian Lace Today (it was to be the Melon Pattern for a shawl or scarf, since you ask), but I just didn’t fancy knitting one long strip of the same pattern. So I set myself a small challenge, and I decided to design my own scarf. To make the chosing patterns a bit easier from all the lace knitting books I have, I was only allowed to use stitch patterns from Sarah Don’s The Art of Shetland Lace. I have always liked the look of Print o’ the Wave, so I went for a more elaborate variation of this for the centre of the scarf. I think you can see here how this name must have come about, it really does look like the ripples left on a sandy beach when the tide goes out:

This is one of the few traditional Shetland patterns on a stocking stitch ground (they are more often than not garter stitch based). So I wanted the border pattern also to be based on stocking stitch. As Print o’ the Wave is something left behind by the sea, I liked the idea of contrasting this with something left behind by a land-based thing. So I chose Fir Cone, with its pleasing curving stocking stitch columns wending their way around the fir cones:

Chosing the lace edging proved more difficult: I had already knitted the centre and borders, before I had finally decided on the lace edging. I didn’t really like any the separate edging samples in Don’s book for this scarf, so after much deliberation, I chose the edging from “Baby’s Shawl in Several Patterns”.

One of the elements that I really like of this particular lace edging, is the faggotting along the straight edge. As you can see, the lace holes are elongated and alternate slanting to the left and the right. But unlike the Print o’ the Wave and the Fir Cone patterns, which are very organic in their design and therefore easy to memorise (after knitting one repeat of either, I didn’t have to refer back to my charts, which really speeds up the knitting), this lace edging turned out to be more elusive.

If you study the top chart (you can click on the picture for a close-up view), you can see that the yarnovers and the decreases keep changing their relative positions in the centre and right side of the chart. The zigzag points were easy to comprehend – they are a standard design element. But even after highlighting the yarnovers on the bottom chart, I just could not get this pattern in my head and I had to refer to the chart for every row every single time. On paper, placement of the decrease on the left or the right side of a yarnover made sense, but once on the needles, they suddenly seemed randomly placed. But looking at the end result, I’m very pleased to have persevered. I’m very proud of this scarf, and I hope I have done my mother proud, too.

Raveled here.

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Dear readers, it is with great pleasure I can present to you tomofholland’s very first pattern. The Sanquhar Pencil Case Pattern is now available for download in the Prick Your Finger webshop.

The original pencil case, shown in the background, was a graduation present for my partner. I wanted to give him a small knitted item, which he could use every day, without having to worry about spilling food down the front… And as he was forever digging in his bag for pens, this seemed just the thing. The pattern is inspired by the traditional Sanquhar gloves, in the cornet & drum pattern. I have knitted Sanquhar gloves in the fleur-de-lys pattern:

The Sanquhar patterns can be broken down in four parts, which all come back in pencil case:

1) the cuff is knitted in a rib stitch, with the knit stitches in the light colour and the purl stitches in the dark colour. Usually there are accents of the dark colour in the knit columns. I have used one such cuff pattern for the top of the pencil case:

2) the wrist in a Sanquhar glove is always knitted in a salt-and-pepper spot pattern. I used this element at the underside of the pencil case:

3) the other distinctive feature in Sanquhar gloves, is that the wearer’s initials are worked in the cuff too. This can be found on one side of the pencil case:

The pattern comes with an alphabet and blank name plate chart, so you make your own initials!

4) the last element is the patterning of the hand and fingers. Sanquhar gloves can be divided into two distinct styles. Tweed patterns, like my fleur-de-lys gloves, and so-called ‘dambrod’ patterns, which has repeating designs in a strong grid. The cornet & drum version of this, is what I used for the other sides of the pencil case:

The original pencil case was knitted on double-pointed needles and required grafting the bottom closed. I was very lucky that Dr Felicity Ford offered to test-knit my pattern, as apart from invaluable feedback on pattern lay-out, she also brought to my attention Judy’s Magic Cast-On. This means that this pencil case is completely SEAMLESS. You cast on. You knit. You cast off. You’re done.

For the pencil case I used some left over fabric from a pair of boxershorts to line them. Who else can boast a matching pencil case and pants?

Releasing my very first pattern is a cause for celebration in my book, so one lucky winner will be given a free copy of the pattern, and two balls of Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift, in burnt umber and surf, to knit your very own Sanquhar Pencil Case. To enter, leave a comment below and tell me what you think is just the thing to co-ordinate the pencil case with this season. After two weeks, I will select the most amusing answer and post the pattern and wool to the lucky winner.

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