5kcbwday7 | Looking Back, Looking Forward


Today’s topic asks us to look back to our knitty aspirations last year, and see where we are now. I didn’t take part in the last Knitting and Crochet Blog Week, as I was only a few months into my new job and needed to focus on getting enough sleep! So today I’m looking back to Day 6 from 2012, which is the closest record I have to where I wanted to go.  My focus then was to spend some time learning more about the mathematics involved in creating a pattern, different techniques to make it fit, and how to grade it for different sizes. 

Two years on and I’m happy to say I have improved in this area quite substantially.  Mathematics is now a huge part of my job, and I find myself grading a couple of garments per issue.  I’m still excited about learning new construction methods, and I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied with the knowledge I already have, but I’m lucky enough to pick up new techniques at work, and I’ve bought several patterns just to learn how different shapes have been created.


However I am still yet to create a garment pattern. I started a cardigan a couple of years ago (above – sorry I’m recycling old photos today!), but looking back, I was trying to run before I could walk, and my attempt got tossed aside to pick up at a later date. 

I’m keen this year to publish a few sweater and cardigan patterns.  I’ve not really felt like it of late, as I find accessories easy to design and making a garment in several different sizes will require a bit more time, which I don’t feel like I’ve had enough of recently.  I know I’m quite capable – I’ve often had to re-write a pattern at work to make it fit better, however I’ve still yet to get pen to paper and work my own design out.

Hopefully by the next Knitting and Crochet Blog Week I’ll be able to tick this off! And next year I think I’ll schedule my posts too, and not decide to take part at the last minute!

You can find all my other Knitting and Crochet Blog Week posts here

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5kcbwday6 | Views of Others


Ellen Gill

Today I’m talking to Ellen Gill, nuclear engineer and knitwear designer extraordinaire, who blogs at A Pile of Sheep about knitting, construction and technique.  Ellen and I thought it would be fun to interview eachother for today’s post, so for my questions, head over to her blog!

Describe yourself in 10 words or less
Sassy lady physicist with unreasonable love of symmetry and knitting.

How did you get so good at knitting?

After I finished university I found myself with a lot more free time and I thought knitting would be just the crafty hobby to add to my repertoire. Admittedly, living right by a Hobbycraft was a big factor in this decision. I liked it, but I don’t think I got really good until I moved to Bristol and starting going to knitting groups on the regular. It enabled me! Eventually I decided I wanted to make my own stuff up and starting learning in earnest. Plus I’ve got all these maths skills and that helps a lot with the designing thing.

What are you designing at the moment?
A really really cute shawl. I have a good feeling about this one.

Snowdrift Jumper by Ellen Gil
Snowdrift Jumper by Ellen Gil

Who are your knitting idols?
TECHknitter, who is a knitter after my own heart. Such dedication to construction techniques!
Susan Crawford, basically the queen of vintage patterns and recipient of a large percentage of my knitting budget.
Betsy Farquar (elf518 on Ravelry) takes colourwork to a level I can barely handle. One day I hope to match those talents.

 Where do you draw your design inspiration from?
Inspiration is one of those things that always comes from multiple places isn’t it? It’s just that my design process involves throwing every half-baked idea at the wall and seeing what sticks afterwards so there’s no telling how much I’ve unconsciously picked up. I pay a fair bit of attention to catwalk trends but I probably get lot more ideas from films and TV if I’m honest. I’m also a shameless people watcher and no interesting knitwear escapes my eye. Once I have a basic design idea I tend to go into super-technical-engineering mode and think a lot about how fun it would be to knit and write. About 90% of my ideas fall down at this point.

Blue Hour Gloves by Ellen Gil

Do you have a favourite yarn at the moment?
My all-time favourite, stranded-in-the-Antarctic-without-internet yarn of choice is Excelana, in all its variations. But at the moment Juno Fibre Arts keeps popping into my head. I’ve never used their yarn but I’m really liking their colours right now.

You don’t seem scared to try new things. What is your most spectacular knitting disaster and were you able to overcome it?
Trying new things is easy if you always experiment on a swatch first. Those things are there to be abused! As for knitting disasters, let me think…I don’t think I’ve had any real disasters, just a few things that didn’t quite fit and left me a bit disappointed. I usually react to these things by putting them away for ages until I can face fixing them. The last fix I made involved cutting up a jumper with scissors. It was pretty drastic, but it worked!

The Knitter Location Shoot - 30/07/13 - Photos by Jesse Wild
Tyrolean Cardigan by Ellen Gill for The Knitter

 If you had a month to yourself, what sort of knitty stuff do you think you’d get up to?
All the same stuff I do now, but faster! I’m in the mood for simplicity at the moment, I think I’d knit lots of seamless things in the round whilst ploughing through box sets.

Sashiko by Ellen Gill
Sashiko by Ellen Gill


My other posts from Knitting and Crochet Blog week are here

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5kcbwday5 | Something Different


My partner Chris is a composer and musician, so for today’s post I asked for his help in making a track involving the sounds from my wool-winder and some knitting needles.  The idea was to film it all in one take, but that would have made a 24 minute movie, so instead we’ve clipped it into this cheesy video so you can see the process involved.  Turn this up (or use headphones) as the winder is a bit quiet at the beginning.

Click here to download Chris’s music for The Paper Cinema‘s Odyssey

My other posts from Knitting and Crochet Blog week are here

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5kcbwday4 | Conversations Between Workers

Come on, think.. There must be something you can write. You don’t feel inspired to write from the perspective of your knitting needles?  Why not? You’ve been out at a really inspirational evening, looking at loads of beautiful, colourful photographs, and all you’re doing is staring into space, drawing a blank.  

Why don’t you write about me? You use me every day in the office and when you’re designing, and you curse me when I don’t get it straight away. You talk to me like I’m a child sometimes.  Sometimes it would just be nice if you had a bit more patience. Give me some credit.  I’m a tool!


I can’t write about you. Can I? I think it means a physical tool, something you actually create your carve your work out with, so to speak, not something you use to work it out with. I can’t write a conversation with my brain. That’s just silly.  This makes me cringe.

I think it’s quite acceptable really. I mean, I’m the one that leaps to all those mathematical conclusions when you’re stuck. The needles and the yarn would be lost without me, unless you want to go back to just following other people’s patterns the whole time. You wanted more than that though, remember? You wanted a challenge, and I help you with that. If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t be where you are today. Those patterns in the sidebar wouldn’t exist for starters, and you’d probably still be working in a shop.

Ok you’re right. We have made some pretty cool stuff. I run the risk of sounding schizophrenic, though.  What about all the readers that have never been before, or don’t know about Knitting and Crochet Blog week? They’ll think I’m bonkers, having this debate with you so publicly here for all to see.

Do you think they’d think any differently if you were talking to your needles? Just inform them that the topic for day 4 is “to write from the point of view of one of the tools for your craft” and they’ll understand, I’m sure. People can’t judge you if they don’t understand.

Ok. I really want to go and get on with that blanket. And I’m not sure if this is written from your perspective or mine, the body, now. It’s late and I’m confused! You’ve been useful today, so I’ll give in. And you have helped me create some designs I’m really pleased with.  Just don’t be upset about these photos, ok?


Click here to read more of the posts from Knitting and Crochet Blog Week 2014 5kcbwday4



5kcbwday3 | Photography


A few years ago I used to be really excited about photography. I even went as far as doing a 365 project for 18 months – the first year can be seen here. Recently I’ve noticed however that my photos seem to be rushed – and I’ve given up my camera for my phone. I do like the convenience with this but the photos are never as good, which is why I’m sad I left this post until the last minute. After I had decided what to do, I was left with half an hour and an iPhone, which can’t cope with the strong colours presented here half as well as my trusty Lumix!


This is a WIP I’ve been working on for sometime – I bought the yarn at Ally Pally last October.  The pattern is Saxifrage by Rachel Coopey. I started the sock in November in preparation for my holiday to Sri Lanka.  I thought it would be fun knitting yellow socks in the sunshine, but it turned out it was far too hot for knitting, so this has been sat in a bag ever since.

For this photo I decided to take a different approach than I normally would and look into using some more colour. I raided the Simply Knitting props area on my lunch-break and found these lovely fabrics and tin that complimented the yarn colour so well. It has made me think I ought to put some more effort into my photos, I used to be so particular about them when I started this blog and I feel my standards have dropped somewhat.

It’s fun arranging a shot, even if it is time consuming!

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5kcbwday2 Dating Profile


Today’s topic for Knitting and Crochet Blog week is to create a dating profile for one of your projects.  Meet Barney, a lonely teddy bear, seeking a fellow bear to hang out in the yarn basket with.


Hi! I’m Barney, a small, stripy bear, and I’m seeking a teddy bear (no yarn preference) for fun times and stash diving. I have a good sense of humour, am well stuffed, enjoy cuddles, stripes, hanging out in the yarn basket, long train journeys, camping, and wrapping myself in a massive duvet.  I’m not so keen on hot water, washing machines or dogs.

I was created in Brighton about 6 years ago using Regia sock yarn. Sock yarn always makes a happy bear, it turns out, as we are bright, colourful and distinctive. There were a few of us in the beginning, but over the years we have all found friendship with tiny human beings and have lost touch with eachother.

I’m looking for another bear as sometimes I can get a bit lonely, now my human is older and interested in other toys. It would be nice to have a fellow bear to play with when he is asleep or no longer free to cuddle me. 

The pattern used to knit me is a free vintage teddy bear pattern from Weldon’s, that my knitter found on a website a long time ago.  The original blog it was on is no longer working, so if you would like to knit me a friend you can download my pattern here for free!

I look forward to seeing all the other potential bear friends!


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To Knit, or to Crochet, that is the Question..

To Knit, or to Crochet, that is the Question….

I have always considered myself a knitter, since I picked up the craft properly aged 21. I’d learned to knit as a child, and forgotten again, so when I was introduced again to it at a house party, drunk, by a friend, also drunk, it all came flowing back.

Golden Hands, 3KCBWDAY7 © Buttons and Beeswax Knitting BlogMy mum collected these books in the 70’s, and as a teenager I’d been fascinated by them. I bookmarked all the pages on dressmaking and worked out how to do macrame and basic alterations.

Golden Hands, 3KCBWDAY7
Golden Hands
Golden Hands, 3KCBWDAY7
The books I learned to knit from

So when I woke up hungover after the party, these were my go-to books for the next few weeks, while I reminded myself how to cast on and knit my first few rows. After that, I was hooked, and made swatch after swatch in royal blue acrylic yarn, trying out different combinations of knit and purl, increasing, decreasing, and learning how to pick up dropped stitches.

My first finished project was a deformed blue bootie that wouldn’t have fit a doll, let alone a baby. Shortly afterwards I discovered Knitty.com and bought a copy of Stitch and Bitch by Debbie Stoller.

Ladybird - Learning to Crochet
Vintage Ladybird Learning to Crochet book

I can’t remember when I decided to give crochet a go. I’ve got a Ladybird guide to Crochet, I think I picked it up in a second hand bookshop, but I found it so hard to follow it never really happened. One of the girls in my knitting circle started making herself a granny square blanket and I loved the way they came together, and tried, and failed to make one of my own. Then I made a discovery – The Happy Hooker! I’d found Stitch and Bitch so easy to follow and helpful, it made perfect sense to learn from Stoller’s crochet book.

Frou-Frou - The Happy Hooker
Frou Frou - The Happy Hooker - a WIP!

So I can do the basics, but it still confuses me that the abbrevations are different in the UK and the US, and I have to go back and check every time. I’ll always consider myself a knitter first, but I think having that extra skill helps and makes everything that bit more versatile. Also, knitting seems to have more drape to it and I love cables, and I just prefer the over-all look to knitting.

Crcohet Hat, 3KCBWDAY7
Crcohet Hat no.1
Crochet Hat no.2, 3KCBWDAY7
Crochet Hat No.2

Having said that, I have an ongoing crochet project, which some of you will have read about last week!

Granny Squares! 3KCBWDAY7
Granny Squares!

This baby is gonna be huge, and I don’t anticipate finishing it until at least 2020. There’s just too much knitting to be getting on with !

2012: The Year to Improve My Knitwear Design Skills

3KCBWDAY6 Improving myKnitwear Design Skills

I think my subconscious is trying to tell me something.  The last three books I went out and bought are all tools to improve my knitwear design.

Mmm, lovely books...

Actually that’s a lie.  I asked for Ysolda Teague’s ‘Little Red in the City‘ for Christmas after seeing the copy that the girls in my knitting group had bought themselves at Knit Nation.  And oh my! This is the book that I wish I’d written – it’s just beautiful!  I do appreciate a nice design – the pictures, layout and the hand drawn style text in here are gorgeous, and when I first received it I couldn’t even look in it out of sheer jealousy that I hadn’t got it together years ago and made something this lovely myself.

Ysola's book is really inspiring'
Little Red in the City, 3kcbwday6
I love the design of this book!

I’m over that now and I realise I have a lot to improve on before I can write anything like this – sure I can knit, but the mathematics of writing a pattern, getting it to fit right, and sizing it up is an artform that can’t be learned overnight.

Ysolda explains all of it, talking about different body types, how darts affect the garment, and different ways of creating drape depending on your shape.

After Christmas I treated myself to a copy of Stitch ‘n Bitch Super Star Knitting – Go Beyond the Basics. (I would rather link to Debbie Stollers website than Amazon, but it wasn’t on there)

Stitch 'n Bitch Superstar by Debbie Stoller
Debbie Stoller's Stitch 'n Bitch Superstar

I purchased this book because I wanted to learn two handed fairisle, but also because I’d learned to knit with the help of Stitch n’ Bitch, and crochet with The Happy Hooker, so I figured I couldn’t really go wrong!  The book includes loads of techniques and skills I wasn’t even aware of, such as knitting with a colour on each side – in theory it sounds crazy but after I’d read about it I wondered why I’d never worked it out.

Two handed Fairisle

The third book I bought was the mighty ‘Principles of Knitting‘ by June Hemmons Hiatt.  Now this baby is going to take some reading.  Prompted by a thread on Ravelry, and the tweets by Math4Knitters, I took the plunge and ordered yet another book to improve my knitwear design skills.

The Principles of Knitting, 3kcbwday6
The Principles of Knitting
The Principles of Knitting, 3kcbwday6
The Principles of Knitting

Of course I can’t give any of these books a proper review, as I’ve failed to mention I haven’t actually read them yet.  All of the information is there, but somehow it’s easier to spend time blogging and knitting than it is learning new skills.

So this summer, I’m going to sit down, read these books and take notes.  It’s easy to stay in your comfort zone when it comes to designing, but I think to improve my skills I’m going to have to push the boundries a little bit!

For more posts on today’s topic, google 3KCBWDAY6 or click here

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My perfect knitting weekend (one of)

I had a chance a couple of years ago to take up a course at Knit-1 in Brighton – a highly acclaimed fashion design company, where not only would I learn to machine knit, but also go on to create individual pieces and possibly my own collection.

Photo Courtesy of Knit-1 - click for website

I had been searching online for courses in Brighton, and couldn’t believe it when I found this huge studio literally just behind my house. I went to Knit-1 in for a chat and gawped at the machines, the walls of yarn and the items that the students had been producing.

The course was 12 weeks, and I thought long and hard about giving up work to go and play in this amazing place, daily, for the duration. I don’t regret not doing it, as I know it’s still there, and I still could, maybe someday 🙂

Knit-1 in Brighton - click for website

So I’m playing the wildcard today for Knitting and Crochet Blogging Week (3BWKCDAY5), and thinking about what my perfect craft day (or weekend) would be. I’d definately spend some time in Knit-1, before possibly heading to The Knitting and Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace for some serious yarn and goody buying!

Recently I got me some Knit Pro needles, so I’d definately grab myself more of them, and some crochet hooks while I’m at it..

Knit Pro? - Yes Please!

And as I’d be in the South East, rather than Bristol, I’d head back to Brighton for a big knit and barbeque on the beach at sunset with my old knitting buddies!

Brighton Beach at Sunset

Obviously this could be MUCH more exciting – I’d love to go to the States, and visit some of the lovely yarn shops over there, but I’m a bit worried I wouldn’t come back! I’d also love to knit with the ladies in Peru – there are some fantastic photos on Zoe Hillyard’s Website.  Hopefully someday I’ll also find myself at one of the Vogue Knitting Live events – I might have to coincide that with the America trip.

Anyway enough dreaming, I’ve got work to do!

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I am Officially a Winter Knitter

It’s official, I am a winter knitter.  I like to think that I knit the whole year round, but I can’t help myself, as soon as the sun comes out, I switch to sewing and my yarn stays tucked away in a bag until the nights grow dark and the air turns frosty.

That said, last year, I started designing patterns.  Winter, as usual, was easy (though friends and family received less in woollen gifts this Christmas. )  I seem to have fallen into a trap of making things that match each other, rather than letting things flow a bit and see what comes out.

Many Hats

Looking back at the projects I have on Ravelry, it’s all knitwear intended for winter. I have a lot of hats. Can you have too many hats? Probably, yes.

I’ve got five jumpers on Ravelry and two on the needles.  I’m longing to get that one done, but I was writing the pattern as I went and foolishly didn’t make a note of the needle size. Five isn’t many, but I know I’m not in need of another jumper just yet.  They are great fun to make, but recently I don’t feel like I’m knitting for myself and plus, they are costly, if you have expensive taste in yarn (and I definitely do.)

I used to be quite good at making presents for new babies – a few of the lucky ones got a bear or an outfit of some sort, and the intention was to make them something every year, but then suddenly there were a lot of them and I couldn’t keep up!

Charlie's Hoodie
Tommy's Booties

Looking at all these things, I realise I should probably broaden my horizons a bit. I love knitting lace, but I wouldn’t make a shawl or scarf in it because I wouldn’t wear it – I’m clumsy and it would snag on things and get ruined. Maybe I’ll make a challenge for myself to create something this summer that isn’t for winter!

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