Exploring Shawl Shapes – 27 mini shawls to knit

Exploring Shawl Shapes cover

Finally, my new book is available for pre-order! On the Northern Lace Press website.

As some of you know, this book has been in the pipeline for a good while. I started by collecting the patterns for mini shawls from all over my computers. I then realised that, with a bit more work, I had the makings not just of a booklet, but of a book. Over the past few months I have been making the additional shawls to make the collection as complete as possible. I have been helped in this by two knitters from my Ravelry group – Su Lambert and Jenny Vowles – and by Elly Doyle. Su knitted the Pi Shawl; Jenny knitted the Orenburgh shawl and Elly knitted the Wedge Circle.  I am very grateful to them, to Patricia Williams for hand-spinning the yarn for the coloured square, and to Judith Brodnicki for doing the page design.

As well as using mini shawls for workshops on the regional traditions, I have used them for workshops on the different shapes of shawl. I split the shapes into three families – triangles, squares and circles. The book gives examples of the main methods of working for all these shapes. Many of them can be made larger fairly simply, and the book gives suggestions of how to do this. Empty charts of the different shapes are also given, so you can copy these to create your own versions.

Here are pictures of some of the shawls in the book.

Exploring Shawl Shapes 01Exploring Shawl Shapes 002Exploring Shawl Shapes 001Exploring Shawl Shapes 013Exploring Shawl Shapes 012Exploring Shawl Shapes 011Exploring Shawl Shapes 010PhotoELF Edits: 2015:06:08 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeExploring Shawl Shapes 02Exploring Shawl Shapes 007PhotoELF Edits: 2015:06:08 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeFrom the blurb (which I didn’t write!!):

“Over the years, Liz has delighted students with the use of mini shawls to teach the construction of shawls. For the first time, knitters unable to travel to Orkney for Liz’s workshops can enjoy her shawl lessons along with many other techniques and styles designed specially for this book.”

This book includes
• Mini shawls of all shapes and a variety of constructions
• Points from the pro for finishing
• Instructions on how to resize most patterns to be full-size shawls
• Blank charts for designing your own
• Extra patterns for practicing your new skills

96 pages, 27 patterns, full colour throughout
ISBN 978-0-9930614-7-9

See photos of all the designs, and order the book here.

Exploring Shawl Shapes cover

Flotta in May

Scapa Flow sunset

May has not been a good month for me. I am sorry for the silence, but for the past 5 weeks I have had a chest infection which will not go. (Yes, doctors etc are involved!)

There have been signs of spring. Some signs, like the lambs. These are pure Shetlands which live free range on West Hill.

001. first hill lambsThe Skuas have also returned. These are large sea birds which breed on the island. The Arctic Skua is the smaller of the two main breeds. It comes in two forms – light phase and dark phase – and both breed here. This is a light phase Arctic Skua on the nest.

002. Artic SkuaThe Great Skuas are known locally as Bonxies. They are big birds which prey on smaller ones. One result of this on Flotta is a smaller number of Eider Duck, as the Bonxies devour the chicks. They tend to nest on slight hillocks in the heather.

003. Bonxie on nestThis one was sitting on the bank by the road. I was only a few feet away before it took off.

004. bonxie taking offTowards the end of the month I had people over and we went puffin hunting one evening. Typically the puffins did not cooperate – I saw one disappear into its burrow but by the time I had told folk where to look it had gone! But we did explore some of the WW2 ruins. This is one of the gun emplacements guarding the entrance to Scapa Flow.

005. gun emplacementThe next evening we saw a cruise ship, the Corinthian, pass between Hoy and Flotta.

006. Corinthian passing HoyWith the very late spring, some of the roadside narcissi bloomed through to the end of the month.

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:06:03 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeThese are on the side of the road along which I take the dogs each night. In this photo I have boxed my house.

008. narsissi with my houseBut the key feature of the month has been the weather. Cold, wet and windy. With rain, rain and more rain.

009. rain cloudsThe dogs had the right idea….

010. Isla asleep010. Meg relaxedWhen the sun did appear it was welcomed!

011. kitchenAnd we did get some lovely rainbows – this one taken from West Hill.

012. rainbowWe got some lovely skies too. This photo, from Stanger head looking west, was taken by Elly Doyle.

013. Red sky at StangerAnd this is the view over the oil holding tanks at the terminal.

015. sunset

A Spinning Treat!

A Spinning Treat!

I wanted to give Judith Brodnicki, the page designer of my mini shawls book (out soon!), a present of hand spun yarn. I also wanted to try Babylonglegs’ fibre.

Judith told me that she liked most colours except yellow. She didn’t mind a bit of yellow, but not ALL yellow. Having met Judith last November for the premier of the Tell Them of Us film, I knew how she tended to dress, and her skin colour.

There weren’t two lots of the same fibre in the colours I was after, so I got two different ones, both on the same fibre base (Polworth). Both had the blue and the green, but one had the orange and the other a khaki green. When they came they both looked gorgeous and felt gorgeous!

I had already decided to spin each braid on a separate bobbin, and then to ply the bobbins, but I wasn’t sure how I would split the top before pre-drafting it. In the end I decided to pull each braid in half lengthways, then each half in half again. So I was working with 4 pieces. If one end of the top is A and the other end is B, I span the first A-to-B, the second B-to-A, etc.

The fibre was very easy to draft. I wanted a slightly thick-and-thin yarn of about worsted weight. Each 100g fitted nicely on to one of my Bliss bobbins.

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I plied as a standard 2 ply. As one bobbin was spun a week before the other, I did bathe-test ‘yards’ in warm water to relax the twist before working out the amount of twist needed for a balanced yarn. (But no, I didn’t take a pic!!) One bobbin ended up with a slightly longer length that the other, but not enough to do anything about.

Once plied, it appeared to be a bit over plied…..

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… but once it was dry, it was perfectly balanced.

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The two skins were then packed off to Judith! Fortunately she liked them, made the skeins into cakes straight away, and then swatched.

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She is going to make a cabled hat. Hopefully she will let us see it when finished!

Book Review: Vintage Knits for Babies by Rita Taylor

Rita Taylor 001

I have been spending a lot of time on my own books recently, so when I was asked to review this one I jumped at the chance! Rita has looked at patterns from before 1920 up to the 1950s and updated them for today’s knitter. A wide variety of yarns are used, most of them standard 4 ply/fingerings and DKs.

I have known Rita and her designs online for a while, but this was the first time I had seen one of her books. As I opened the packet I was immediately struck by the cover – a gorgeous photo which makes you want to open up to see more. This is a hardback book which feels good in the hand.

Rita Taylor 003 The inside did not disappoint! The layout involves plenty of space round the instructions, and the bold type of row numbers and the headings of the different pieces make it easy to keep your place. This is a book to use as well as to look at.

Rita Taylor 006The photography inside the book is as good as the cover! There are several photos of each garment both on and off the baby, and you can see clearly how each garment is made up. I say ‘garment’, but there are also some gorgeously ‘old-fashioned’ toys in the book too.

Rita Taylor 002The patterns are grouped by use and include both special occasion and every-day clothing. Most patterns have two sizes, some have three. There are plenty of pretty dresses for the girls, but boys are not forgotten, and I adore the ‘sun suit’ with yachts worked in knit and purl.

Rita Taylor 005This is a book which will be useful for mums, grannies and friends! There are plenty of pretty and useful clothes here, many of which would make excellent gifts. Bootees and bonnets, blankets and bricks.

Rita Taylor 004I have many books of baby patterns, most with two or three patterns I have knitted. But this book is a definite ‘desert island’ book. Everything in it calls out to be knitted. And being vintage, the shapes have stood the test of time. These patterns will not date.

Rita Taylor 007Definitely a must-have book!

Vintage Knits for Babies by Rita Taylor, published by Jacqui Small
ISBN 978-1-909342-81-1 Price £20/US$29.99

Cruising Loch Ness


After steam trains on Saturday, we decided to take to the water on Sunday! Nigel loves boats, and Jacobite Cruises do an afternoon trip along the Caledonian Canal and into Loch Ness.

001We boarded the Jacobite Queen on the outskirts of Inverness after lunch. It is a lovely boat, well set out inside, and with plenty of places to go outside too.

The first excitement was going through the lock. The drop was only a couple of feet, but it was fun!

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- gamma; crop; resizeThe banks of the canal were mainly tree-lined, with many different varieties of tree, something I am not used to! I loved the different shapes and textures.

003Some were in bud and other were in flower.

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeAnd the gorse was in full flower everywhere!

PhotoELF Edits:2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeOnce through the lock we came to the place where the canal and the River Ness part. It was very odd seeing water on a slope!

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeNigel was enjoying the trip, sitting happily in the sun while I took photos.

007We passed a variety of big houses – I particularly liked this one – a late Victorian ‘folly’ built all at once to look as if it had been built in stages over the past 4 or 5 hundred years!

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeThe waters of Loch Ness are cloudy, due to the peat in the water. You can actually see the brown tinge in the wake.

008Jacobite Cruises run two boats at present (number 3 is joining the fleet in the next couple of months) and we saw the other boat doing a different trip, only on Loch Ness itself.

009The trip we were on took us as far as Castle Urquhart, about half way along the loch on the northern shore.

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeWe stopped to let some folk off for a visit and were joined by the other boat for a short spell…

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resize… then we turned and started the homeward journey.

013Back through the lock….

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- resize… and past some pretty expensive-looking boats…

PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resize… to the starting point.

(And no, we didn’t see the monster, but if you want to know who thinks they have see here!!)

The Strathspey Railway

Strathspey Steam Railway  1

Yesterday was glorious! Fabulous weather and a steam train. What more could anyone want? I have seen the Strathspey steam train sitting in Aviemore station on several occasions, but have never been on it. The railway runs from Aviemore through Boat of Garten to Broomhill, and is usually pulled by a steam engine. Strathspey Steam Railway  001The route is scenic, with lovely views. For the first part of the journey it passes through areas of open birch forest, with paths for both walkers and bikers. PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- gamma; resizeIn these photos, it looks as if the birches and willows are still leafless, but in fact closer inspection shows that the catkins are nearly over and the buds have broken open. PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeThe mid-way stop is at Boat of Garten. Here the old DMU (diesel multiple unit), which is used regularly on the line, is kept. PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeThe journey then continues to Broomhill, where the engine comes to the other end of the train…. PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- resize… to run backwards for the return journey. PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeWe were now in the front carriage. All have been lovingly restored to British Rail days and were so shiny the reflections were perfect! PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- resizeThe engine hauling our train is an ex-GWR 2-6-0, built in Swindon and rebuilt in Aviemore, as plates on each side of the front show: Strathspey Steam Railway  008We had enough time to get out and investigate the engine, as everyone should. I was travelling with Steve and Nigel (who enjoyed it thoroughly, but who didn’t want to smile for the camera!!) PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- gamma; crop; resizeThe cab was shining almost as much as the carriages. PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- resizeThe children got to go inside if they wanted to – what a waste – kids get all the fun and don’t remember it!! Running back to Aviemore, there was plenty of steam on the gradients. PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeAnd the views of the Spey with the Cairngorms beyond were beautiful. PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- gamma; crop; resizePhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; gamma; resizeWe also passed work on the line – much of it is, at present, single track, but they were doubling it in places. PhotoELF Edits: 2015:04:19 --- Save - Overwrite --- crop; resizeThe whole trip took about 90 mins. It would have been good fun whatever the weather, but the blue, blue skies made everything even better!! Strathspey Steam Railway  015

I’m Going to London Book Week!

NLP logo

As many of you know, part of my day job is writing books. And as many of you also know, I set up Northern Lace Press to publish Centenary Stitches.

Centenary Stitches cover
Through Emergents, a Scottish grant-awarding arts organisation, I have been given a place at the Indie Authors Fair in Foyles on Friday. I am taking copies of Centenary Stitches with me, and the prototype of Exploring Shawl Shapes, my next book.

Shawl Shapes CoverThis will be a different event for me, as I will be sharing space with other Scottish indies who write fiction. It is the first time I will have done a non-knitting event, and I am looking forward to it.

The other people on the Emergents’ stand are

Orla Broderick with her book The January Flower

Max Brossin with his book Bloody August

Flora Kennedy with her book The Wild Folk

LG Thomson with her book Boyle’s Law

John AA Logan with his book The Survival of Thomas Ford

Angela M Formby with her book Syrian Coffee

If you are in London on Friday, 17th April, between 4.30 and 7.30, do come to the 6th floor of Foyles bookshop. The Fair is free to the public with a drinks reception, goodie bags etc. You will be able to look at (and buy!) Centenary Stitches, and see the new mini shawls book before anyone else.

And you will also have access to some great fiction too!

(For a complete list of who will be represented see here.)