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?


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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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5kcbwday1 – A Day in The Life


It’s day one of Knitting and Crochet Blog Week 2014 and I’ve decided already to take a different perspective on today’s topic.  I work in the knitting industry, and my day revolves around reading patterns and making sure they are going to work properly before they are printed.  Often this means (shock horror) that I don’t actually do any knitting or crochet when I get home, and I’m not sure blogging about how my WIPs are sitting untouched in a basket will be a particularly interesting post!

So instead I thought I’d talk about a day in my life, as a lot of people are surprised my job involves sitting at a desk and not just knitting pattern after pattern.


For those of you that don’t know, I work as the technical editor for The Knitter and Simply Knitting magazines.  Both mags are based in the same office, next to Simply Crochet, and between the two magazines we have around 12 members of staff. Both titles come out monthly, so depending on which week we are in days can vary slightly, usually meaning the closer to deadline we are the more crazy it gets! We tend to eat more cake at those times (I blame the office being 94% women for this, but that could be considered sexist.) I don’t think you need to hear about those days!

A day in my life at the beginning of an issue would probably go something like this: 

Screen shot 2014-05-11 at 20.38.31

Coffee! This is obviously an essential start. 

Patterns usually come in from the designer in a word or PDF format, and arrive in a variety of different styles.  Some like to use square brackets, some commas between sizes, some colons.  Just take a look at some of the different patterns on Ravelry and you’ll see what I mean.  Designers all have different preferences, and all the patterns printed need to be styled to look the same way.

I tend to stylise the pattern first and then check it all works.  Partly this is in case I’ve taken something out in the process, and also because I like the styles we use and find them much clearer to read when I’m checking all the maths works properly.  

I start at the beginning and work my way through each pattern, reading and checking it for errors.  Is the tension right? Will it fit? Do the stitch patterns fit into the stitch count? Will the measurement across the back be correct after the armholes have been decreased? Will the sleeves fit into the armholes?  I work most of these answers out on Excel and make any adjustments if necessary, checking with the designer that they are happy with this first.  Then there are other things to consider.  I check the charts, making sure they will come out as intended.  I can usually see this by comparing the chart with the sample, but will knit swatches to make sure if it looks confusing.  I also need to ensure an instruction for every piece is there, all abbreviations are explained and any special techniques are comprehensible.  Then I might go and make a cup of tea before going onto the next one!

This might sound like hell to a lot of you but tech editing really gets my brain ticking.  I love a puzzle, which some of these patterns often are, and I get to spend my working life surrounded by yarns and inspiring people, learning new tricks at the same time.

Outside of work this crochet blanket has been getting a lot of my attention recently, I’m enjoying the monotony and uncomplicated repetitiveness of it, but I’ve only been doing the odd row or two a week recently!


Click here to read more of the posts from Knitting and Crochet Blog Week 2014 5kcbwday1