Stash Busting 1940s style (or the British weather, the folly of a beetroot addiction, caravan claustrophobia and a feminist applause)

In this country one of our favourite pastimes is complaining about the weather, particularly at this time of year. We love a good whinge about what a terrible Summer we had last year, are having this year and will probably have again next year, particularly how it rained EVERY weekend and for MOST of the school holidays. You may be forgiven for thinking that if it is like this every year we as a nation would have resigned ourselves to this fact and would no longer point it out as the opening greeting at every meeting from May until September but I guess in our own strange way (to the much asked polite greeting of “how are you?” how many times do we get a response of “not too bad” or “could be worse“) it is a sign of an enduring if slightly warped optimism.

As a family we gave up going on holiday when I was in my early teens when the challenge of trying to find alternative care for a house full of pets and horses far outweighed the “relaxation” of sitting in a caravan in rainy Devon playing Monopoly. The final straw occurred when Mum in her wisdom and strange addiction decided that what a family of five and a dog in a caravan in Devon could not possibly be without for two weeks was jars of beetroot. On arrival, after a particularly swervy journey avoiding head on collisions on the narrow West country lanes, we opened up the caravan door to find open cupboards and yes, you guessed it, purple everywhere! Dad decided after this incident that he would probably find his precious two weeks off work a year far more relaxing sitting in his armchair at home listening to Jazz. I for one had way too many horse competitions and stuff to do at the stables during the Summer months to miss the tradition of 2am starts to travel across the country with the prospect of enforced time with family members in an enclosed space with no bolt hole or bicycle for escape, and secretly applauded his decision.

Personally I love the British weather. Cited by many of my friends and clients as a potential reason to flee these green shores, I look forward to the changing seasons and the energy associated with the unpredictability of what we might awake to each morning.  I enjoy the full spectrum of possibilities from snow through to heat wave but with none of them out staying their welcome or being too extreme (usually!). Whenever I have flown to hotter climates I am always struck by how dry, dusty and brown everything appears and can’t wait for the lushness of the British countryside underneath the plane as I arrive home. I guess always having had animals to look after and exercise, one becomes somewhat immune to rain and cold as outdoor jobs still have to be done and as the famous saying goes, there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing (who did say that anyway?).

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the sky may be grey but the garden is lovely and green (except for the piddle patches!)

Anyhoo, neutral introductory ramblings over, let’s get back (briefly) to the political situation in good old GB which continues to fuel the headlines. So, we now have a new Prime Minister and while in my opinion she was probably the best choice out of the prospective candidates, the Brexit farce has somewhat dampened down what a significant time for women in politics this currently is. Theresa May is only the second female to take on the role in British history and one of her first trips as new PM was to visit Scotland’s female First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon in an attempt to avoid us becoming the DUK that I spoke of in my previous post.  This, along with the prospect (everyone please cross your fingers for this one because the alternative is just too awful to consider) of Hillary Clinton becoming the first female President of the US, and Angela Merkel already firmly ensconced as the first female Chancellor in Germany makes this an unprecedented time for woman in prominent positions of power in political history.  With particularly challenging times ahead I don’t envy them but politics aside, as an inspiration to the homogametic sex I applaud them and wish them good luck and judgement in their roles.

If you are still with me (I thank you for that!), this is where the relevance of the past four paragraphs will hopefully now become apparent in the context of creating.  Regarding the weather: I have no sweaters of a suitable weight and sleeve length to cope with chilly British Summer evenings (yes, really!).  Regarding all the political stuff: I needed a calming creative pursuit to lose myself in over the past month or so while escaping into the imaginary world of audiobooks. As far as the beetroot is concerned, that was just a childhood memory that surfaces from time to time at family functions and still causes much amusement.

I have a strange shape for knitwear, having a square body with broad shoulders, minimal bust and a high almost non existent waist (when I was in my early twenties I remember a Summer of baring midriffs completely passing me by despite having a rather splendid belly button ring at the time which I was desperate to show off as non of the T shirts or tops on sale in the shops were short enough to expose any of my flesh!).  I dread fashion returning to high waisted trousers which might as well be over the shoulder dungarees as far as I’m concerned.  Over the years I have learned that while I may lust after flowing or chunky knits, the only way to avoid the “Yikes, what was I thinking?” moment when first trying on the masterpiece that took 100 hours to knit, cost £100 in yarn, and made me look like I was wearing my Dad’s old gardening sweater, is to stick to 4ply and keep it small, fitted and neat. Hence you will not be surprised to hear that my favourite knitwear era is the 1940s which was by necessity a time of stash busting and colour work with unpicking and reworking and slim, neat silhouettes. I am a collector of 1940s patterns and while perusing my library I came across this in “Knitting Illustrated” by Margaret Murray and Jane Koster published in 1948.

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from Knitting Illustrated by Margaret Murray and Jane Koster (Odhams Ltd, 1948)

After taking a quick stash inventory it occurred to me that I had enough Hobbycraft Women’s Institute Shetland 4ply (made in the UK by JC Rennie and Co Ltd and now sadly discontinued) to recreate this rather striking design so after a couple of false starts while I worked out that I needed a purple to complement the blues and green (luckily I had some Rowan Felted Tweed DK which worked well for this) and a provisional cast on so I didn’t have to decide on welt stitch or overall length until the end, this is how it came out.

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Fair Isle sweater in Shetland 4ply and Rowan Felted Tweed DK

And of course, since I finished it on Friday night, we have had a mini heat wave in the South of England with temperatures soaring (comparatively) to 25 degrees or more. You are welcome!

So, folks (Mum), thanks again for reading my ramblings. I am now without any knitting to do and feeling distinctly twitchy so I feel this afternoon I may be returning to my stash to see what else I can conjure up.  This little beauty also arrived in the post yesterday so I think a cup of coffee, a little sit down and a bit of a riffle is next on the to do list. Until next time…..

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New book!

Leaf and lace Scarf (Winter 2015/16)

My leaf and lace scarf pattern was given a 2015 makeover prior to the Harrogate Knit and Stitch show with two current shades of the wonderfully soft and cosy Rowan Felted Tweed DK. It proved to be so popular at the show that I have now made the pattern available in my Etsy shop as a pdf download.

Leaf and Lace scarf lower res (Rob)

Leaf and Lace scarf in Rowan Felted Tweed DK shades 152 and 175

Originally inspired by my somewhat mature (some would say overgrown!) garden, and worked from the centre back downwards the scarf features a symmetrical leaf pattern finishing with the leaf motif at each end. Simple lace provides a border to the scarf. Using two 50g balls of each colour, this would be a perfect Christmas holiday project. Simple enough to do while holding a conversation or “watching” TV but with enough interest to keep you motivated to create a nice long, wrapable neck warmer.

Enjoy…….

Getting noticed in the digital age (or how to take a decent photo)

 

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Hand knitted Dog Blanket

The digital age can make getting one’s work seen by others so much easier in many respects as we no longer have to rely on an intermediary such as a magazine or gallery to promote us. While this is not good news from their point of view with so many galleries sadly closing down in recent years, it does mean that without the significant commission payments to the gallery from sale proceeds (usually about 50%), pricing work from the artist’s point of view is more straightforward (although never easy as how does one factor in the time to create a piece of work when that includes a lifetime of education, experimentation and training while getting to the point of being able to create said piece?) and the customer can often get a more affordable price.

However! In my personal experience I have found it is so much easier to sell a piece of work when someone can actually see it in the flesh (so to speak). I think this is partly due to a kind of image numbness one gets these days with the constant bombardment from social media streams and marketing campaigns. Any one who has sat in a coffee shop and observed the activity around them from the other customers who are rapidly scrolling down their i phone screens whilst trying to hold some kind of conversation with the person sat opposite them will understand what I mean by  this. But, I can’t deny that it is also largely due to what has been described in the past by the editor of a knitting magazine as my “terrible photographs!”.

So how do we get noticed in this environment? (Any one who knows the answer to this question please tell me). On the basis that good photos must help (and my 10 year old basic digital camera combined with a cluttered and poorly lit house just can’t do my work justice), last week I booked a professional photo shoot with the lovely Rob Fry  who took some fabulous shots of my work, including these of the dog blanket.

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Dog Blanket charts available from my Etsy shop

Now this is a luxury that I can’t afford on a regular basis but then I don’t have the funds to buy the equipment or training to do it myself either. So, after seeing the output from the shoot I’m afraid my response to my title “how to take a decent photo” has got to be (for me anyway), pay a professional 😉

Until next time…..

 

Kitty Cushion

kitty cushion front etsy

Kitty Cushion front

Just to prove to you folks that it isn’t always about dogs with me, here is the front of the Kitty Cushion I designed for Harrogate Knit and Stitch Show. It got lots of admirers and the pattern proved to be popular enough that I had to get an emergency reprint done during the show (thank goodness the wonderful husband was there to deal with such emergencies).

The front is worked from a knitting chart (my version was done using double knitting but intarsia would work just as well) and the back is a simple but effective two colour slip stitch with a rib top. I did mine in two aran weight yarns. The grey is Rowan Kid Classic to give it a little fluff, and the cream is the super smooth Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran as a contrast.

Kitty cushion back etsy

Kitty Cushion back

I think this cushion would look great teamed with it’s inverse on the other side of the sofa so I plan to be making its opposite over Christmas. If you fancy having a go yourself I have listed the pattern in my Etsy shop. Happy knitting 🙂

Dog Blanket: Hints and Tips for making up

A number of you lovely people who have bought the set of dog portrait knitting charts have asked me for some guidance on how I made up my blanket.  So if that is you, please read on for hints and tips on how I put the portraits together.

I used four balls of Rowan Creative Focus worsted (100g) (black) and seven Rowan Kid Classic (50g) (shade 885, cloudy).  Using 4mm needles and working on 48sts and 61 rows my portraits came out at 26cm square.

Please note that most of the charts are 48sts wide by 61 rows high. However when working out your tension be aware that the Retriever and Spaniel charts as printed are 49sts wide (61 rows high) and the Greyhound is 62 rows high.

My cable bit was worked separately on 12 sts as follows using 4mm needles:

Row 1: P1, k1, p1, k6, p1, k1, p1

Row 2: K1, p1, k1, p6, k1, p1, k1

Row 3: P1, k1, p1, C6F, p1, k1, p1

Row 4: K1, p1, k1, p6, k1, p1, k1

Row 5: P1, k1, p1, k6, p1, k1, p1

Row 6: K1, p1, k1, p6, k1, p1, k1

Repeating the above, I created six cable lengths that fitted the height of the portraits and attached them to the inside borders of the edge portraits and to either side of the central portraits.

I then made two more long cable borders to fit the entire inside width of the blanket and attached them.

I put a moss stitch external border around the whole blanket as follows: using 4mm needles and the black by picking up and knitting 48 sts per square and 7sts per cable band along the top and bottom of the blanket.  I worked 4cm in moss stitch, knitted a garter stitch turning row on the WS, changed to the grey and continued in stocking stitch for 9 more rows.  The side edges of the blanket were then picked up and knitted as per the top and bottom, adding in an extra 6sts at either end for the top and bottom border bands and completed in the same way.

Hope this helps, and I’ll leave you with the latest double knitting portrait: Kitty Cushion. Who says I don’t listen to feedback 😉

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Dog Blanket (but definitely not for muddy paws!)

Over the past month I have been a bit remiss in posting here due to the frantic production that has been required ahead of the Open Weekend at the Janice Barfoot Sugarcraft Centre 14 and 15 November (see previous post) and Harrogate Knit and Stitch show at the end of the month (what was I thinking!?)  However, I had to take some time away from stitching this morning as I am excited to share with you one of the things I have been beavering away making.  Remember my ongoing obsession with double knitting? Here is the latest product of this, my Dog Blanket (if either of my dogs goes any where near it there will be trouble!).

"dog portrait blanket by Nicky Barfoot"

“Dog Blanket” hand knitted in Rowan Creative Focus Worsted and Kid Classic

Featured in this collection (and working horizontally from left to right in the picture) are portraits of a Doberman, Boxer, Labrador, Weimaraner, Bull Terrier, Retriever, Spaniel, Husky and Greyhound. I’ve knitted my blanket (definitely NOT FOR DOGS) in a wonderful warm and soft combination of Rowan Creative Focus Worsted (the black) and Rowan Kid Classic (grey) and am now looking forward to relaxing in my chair this Christmas in front of a few films snuggled under my luxurious lap warmer perhaps with a cheeky little glass of port on the side table and a bit of stilton.

I have had the charts for each of the dog breeds in the blanket printed into A5 flyers so if you fancy having a go (they will work equally well for intarsia and double knitting) I will be selling them at Harrogate so do come visit stand TG623. I’m also happy to post leaflets out to any of you who won’t be able to buy in person but would still like to purchase so do drop me an e mail or PM me on Nicky Barfoot facebook page if you are interested.

Right, more caffeine required then back to manic stitching.  Hope to see some of you at the Sugarcraft Centre on 14 and 15 November for an open weekend of art and sugarcraft demonstrations, and at the Harrogate International Centre 26 to 29 November for the textile feast that is the Knitting and Stitching Show.

Vintage-inspired Diamond Lace Sweater Pattern

As promised in a previous post, the pattern for this Vintage inspired sweater in Rowan Felted Tweed DK is now available to buy as a pdf download in three sizes (34, 36, 38in) from Loveknitting.com via this link: http://www.loveknitting.com/vintage-diamond-lace-sweater-betty.  Happy knitting 🙂

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Stash busting 1940s style

I hope you all had a good Christmas and a belated Happy New Year to you. I spent mine with a traditional Christmas bug which gave me the perfect excuse to lounge around in my PJs, listening to audiobooks and knitting all day. Inspired by the fabulous “Knitwear Chanel to Westwood” exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London (still on and well worth a visit), and confined to my armchair, I dug out my steadily expanding collection of “VIntage” knitting patterns (my definition of “Vintage” being those that were published before I was born!).  I have a particular fondness for the neat silhouettes and intricate stitch patterns of 1940s sweaters and a couple of them have been shouting at me to be re-worked in modern day yarns for some time.  After a quick cataloguing exercise and in true Make Do and Mend style, I gave myself a “no purchasing” rule and the challenge was set.

The first to be reworked was this lovely lacy sweater pattern which I had picked up from a University pop up shop a couple of years ago.

"1940s knitting pattern"

1940s knitting pattern

I had previously tried to recreate this in a 4ply but it just didn’t work being too bulky for wear under jackets but not warm enough for an outer sweater. So this time, persuaded by my Stash, I redesigned it for Rowan Felted Tweed, still taking the delicate lace pattern but making it substantial enough for a winter sweater by using a lightweight double knit yarn and adding a roll neck and three quarter length sleeves.

"vintage lace sweater redesigned in Rowan Felted Tweed"

Vintage Lace sweater redesigned in Rowan Felted Tweed

I have written the pattern for this sweater in three bust sizes (34in, 36in, and 38in) and will be making it available for purchase shortly so if it’s your kind of sweater, watch this space.

The second sweater to be re-worked is this 1945 pattern, available for free from the V&A website.

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I often think that some of the fabulous variegated sock yarns available are wasted hiding in shoes all day so this seemed to be the perfect opportunity to show off some beautiful Drops Fabel sock yarn which I had purchased last year, along with a couple of balls of the now sadly discontinued Rowan Cashsoft 4ply which I had stashed away.  Here is the colourful result as worn by Dora (as I was needed behind the camera for this shot) perfect for brightening up the next couple of months while we wait for Spring to arrive and just enough warmth over a long sleeve T for centrally heated houses. It was a bit touch and go at the end as to whether I’d have enough yarn (I was knitting both sleeves at the same time) but thankfully I just made it!

"wavy stripe sweater in 4ply yarns"

Wavy stripe sweater in 4ply yarns

So, I am a couple of sweaters richer, my virus is on its way out and evenings are noticeably getting lighter.  Welcome 2015!  I am looking forward to seeing where you take me this year 🙂

Coastal Inspirations

Living on the south coast of the UK it is difficult not to be inspired by the wonderful coast line.  I particularly like the wilder, less visited areas where you can look down from windy cliff tops onto a lively sea (I am a Pisces so I guess this is the Romantic in me).

"Lee on Solent"

Lee on Solent

It was easy therefore to use this wonderful scenery to inspire three hand knitted cushion designs (recently exhibited at Rum’s Eg Gallery in their “Out of the Blue” exhibition).

"Nicky Barfoot One of a Kind cushion"

Nicky Barfoot One of a Kind “Blue Cable” cushion

The Blue Cable cushion uses a lovely variegated wool yarn in a simple cable pattern and is bordered with more cables to give it a frame.

"Nicky Barfoot One of a Kind hand knitted cushion"

Nicky Barfoot One of a Kind “Beaded Zig Zag” cushion

The Zig Zag cushion uses glass beads and moss stitch zig zags, separated by garter stitch stripes for its textural interest.  Knitted in Pima cotton and wool-cotton blend yarns, it also feels fabulous to the touch.

"Nicky Barfoot hand knitted cushion"

Nicky Barfoot One of a Kind “Blue Bead” cushion

And once I’d got my bead stash out (Debbie Abrahams beads are wonderful for knitted projects) I couldn’t help myself with this one.  I love mixing yarns and textures, and beads just add another dimension to the fabric (and OK I admit it, perhaps a little Bling to satisfy the Girl within).

I have just added these three cushion covers to my shop, so do have a look if you have the perfect chair to complement them.