Wednesday, 12 November 2014


Friends and fellow podcast fans will know Wendy aka Silly Fru - host of the Sassy Pants Knitter podcast. If you follow Silly Fru you will know that she was recently diagnosed with Hairy Cell Leukemia which she has named "Hairy Ballsack Leukemia"! Happily, that condition is now in remission but to get to that point she spent 8 weeks in hospital. I can't even begin to imagine how hard that was, nor the scale of the medical bills she's facing.

Lots of people have been showing their love and support for Silly Fru in whatever way they can. Heather of Highland Handmades and The Fiberista Files came up with 2 awesome yarn colourways and for each skein sold she donated the bulk of the profits to Fru to help with her expenses.  Both are glorious, but the black and rainbow yarn - named "Fruju" - has really caught the imagination of the knitting world. When I received my skein I just had to cast on right away.  I didn't want this glorious yarn to be hidden on my feet, so I decided to make it into a hat.

SillyFru inspired yarn by Highland Handmades. Photos by Heather Kinne

The pattern I came up with is below. If you do use and enjoy it, I only ask that you consider donating whatever you think it is worth to either Fru's fighting fund at Go Fund Me or any Leukemia or cancer charity of your choice.

View this pattern in pdf format

Disclaimer: I'm not a professional knitwear designer. I'm sure the pattern is flawed in many ways. I will try to help if you get into any difficulties and will publish any corrections here.

Fruju Hat

Fru Ju Hat

Materials - I used:

40g (approximately 170 yds / 156 metres)  of Fruju  (Sugar Maple Sock yarn by Highland Handmades – 75% Superwash wool, 25% Nylon).           
Any Self-striping sock yarn would probably work well, too.

3 mm circular needle (US – try a size 3)

Stitch markers – one distinct one to mark the end of the round and 9 others to mark the end of each  pattern repeat (optional)

To fit a medium adult head (19” -22”) as a beanie or beret-style hat. 

Finished dimensions when blocked as a beret as shown:
27" / 68 cm at widest point.
18" / 46 cm around ribbed brim
9 " / 23 cm from brim to top of crown

I got 8 stitches and 11 rows to the inch on 3mm needles in the chevron pattern.

Knit 2 together
Slip, slip, knit.
Slip the next 2 stitches one at a time, as if to knit, from the left needle to the right. Insert the left needle into the fronts of the 2 slipped stitches and knit them together (1 stitch decreased)
through back of loops
Make 1 Left
Make a stitch by lifting the strand of yarn between the last and next stitch inserting your needle from the front, put the loop on your left hand needle and knit into the back of this new stitch (1 stitch increased)
Make 1 Right
Make a stitch by lifting the strand of yarn between the last and next stitch inserting your needle from the back, put the loop on your left hand needle and knit into the front  of this new stitch (1 stitch increased)
End of Row

Cast on
Cast on 140 sts using a stretchy method such as Long-Tail Cast on.  Join to knit in the round.  Place marker to show the beginning of the round.
(You could make yours larger or smaller by adding or subtracting multiples of 14 stitches)

Ribbing round:
* K1 tbl, P1   Rep from * to end of round

Repeat this round until your work measures 1 inch from cast on edge.

Work the following 2-round pattern for 8 inches for the amount of slouch shown):
Round 1:
* K2, ssk, K2tog, K4, M1R, K2, M1L, K2  rep from * to end of round

Round 2:
K to 1 st before end of round. Slip 1 st to right needle. Remove EOR marker. Move slipped st back to left needle. Replace marker.

Crown Decreases:
You may wish to switch to double-pointed needles when the number of stitches becomes small.
Round 1:
* ssk, ssk, K2tog, K2tog, K2,  M1R, K2, M1L, K2  rep from * to end of round  (120 sts)
Round 2:
K to 1 st before end of round. Slip 1 st to right needle. Remove EOR  marker. Move slipped st back to left needle. Replace marker.
Round 3:
*K1, ssk, K2tog, K3, M1R, K2, M1L, K2  rep from * to end of round
Round 4:
As round 2
Round 5:
As round 3
Round 6:
K to 2 sts before end of round. Slip 2 sts to right needle. Remove EOR marker. Move slipped sts back to left needle. Replace marker.
Round 7:
* ssk, ssk, K2tog, k2tog, K1, M1R, K2, M1L, K1  rep from * to end of round (100 sts)
Round 8:
As round 2
Round 9:
* K1, ssk, K2tog, K2, M1R, K2, M1L, K1  rep from * to end of round
Round 10:
As round 2
Round 11:
* K1, ssk, K2tog, K2, M1R, K2, M1L, K1  rep from * to end of round
Round 12:
As round 6
Round 13:
* ssk, ssk, K2tog, K2tog, M1R, K2, M1L  rep from * to end of round (80 sts)
Round 14:
As round 2
Round 15:
* K1, ssk, K2tog, K1, M1R, K2, M1L  rep from * to end of round
Round 16:
As round 2
Round 17:
* K1, ssk, K2tog, K3 * to end of round (60 sts)
Round 18:
As round 2
Round 19:
*ssk, K2tog, M1R, K2, M1L    rep from * to last 5 sts.  ssk, k2tog M1R, K1 (59 sts)
Round 20:
K1, M1L.  K to 1 st before end of round. Sl1 st to right needle. Remove marker. Move slipped st back to left needle. Replace marker (60 sts)
Round 21:
K1 *ssk, K2tog, K2    rep from *to end of round (40 sts)
Rounds 22, 23, 24:
K all sts
Round 25:
* K2tog, ssk,  rep from * to end of round (20 sts)
Round 26:
K all sts
Round 27:
* K1, K2 tog   rep from * to last 2 sts, K2 tog (13 sts)
Round 28:
* K2tog   rep from * to last st. K1  (7 sts)

Cut yarn and draw through all remaining stitches.  Darn in the ends. Block and enjoy!

Crown shot
You can see all sorts of SillyFru goodies on Instagram and Twitter - search for the hashtags #fightwithfru and #crushthesack

Monday, 10 February 2014


2014 has been the year of the knitalong for me, so far. It all started back in December when Ysolda Teague announced she was holding a mystery shawl knitalong, "Follow Your Arrow", which would allow you to choose to make either a one- or two-coloured shawl, with each clue giving you a further choice between two clues, either of which will work with whatever you chose previously. I signed up on the spot and waited very patiently for the first installment.  I was therefore very surprised to find myself full of excitement on the day the first clue was released. I was reading and re-reading the pattern and discussing it with like-minded people on Twitter and generally feeling like a schoolgirl who'd just spotted her crush in the street. Then I dashed home and pulled out my Leading Men Fiber Arts yarn that I'd been saving for something special.  I was delighted with both the pattern and yarn.   I have kept up with the clues and am ready for my clue 5 today.    I have found the whole process immensely enjoyable and would do it again at the drop of a hat. I am seriously considering making a second shawl from this pattern because how the different sections fit together is so ingenious I'd like to see how they play out in closer detail. I won't be posting any pics here until people have had a chance to enjoy the finished result for themselves but you could go and peek at my project page on Ravelry. I am going to feel rather bereft next Monday with no email from Ysolda to look forward to.

My Pemberley Tam
But that's not all. I had got the bug good and proper.  Next was the Fair-Isle-along set up by Nic from the  Yarns From the Plain podcast. Nic's idea here was to conquer Fair Isle once and for all.  I had knitted a couple of colourwork hats for the kids last year, but the results were a little hit and miss. So I joined in with this one hoping it would be the spur I needed to learn how to make my work look as neat as others'. With some reading up and with the help of Ravelry group members I have made a hat I am immensely proud of with even stitchwork, no pulling and no holes. The pattern was the Pemberley Tam by Lion Brand.   I have learned plenty.  Debbie Stoller's book "Stitch 'n Bitch Superstar: Go Beyond The Basics" was my first port of call and I learned how important it is to be consistent in how you carry the spare yarn at the back of your work.  Trying this out on a swatch was a huge eye-opener.  I have since seen the same information on blogs including Little Yellow Cat which has some great pictures showing exactly where I was going wrong.   I learned too about which colours work well for Fair Isle, partly from getting it wrong, pulling out and starting over, but mainly from seeing how other people were using their colours.  All in all, a great experience. Sadly, the hat looks wrong on me - not my shape at all. Still, I'm sure it'll find a home soon. If not, I'll frame it!

My Captiva Wrap
I have also joined in the Feller-along hosted by the A Playful Day podcast / Ravelry Group.  Here I chose the Captiva Wrap pattern which uses short rows for shaping.  This was a new technique for me so I watched Carol's free Craftsy class, which I highly recommend, then I was off.  I raced along with this project.  I was using a beautifully squishy DK from Soft Like Kittens which has proved to be as warm and comfortable as it looks. I have worn this every other day since I finished it and it attracts comments wherever I go.

Once again, I found the Ravelry Group members to be a great bunch of people, full of encouragement and generally great fun to hang out with. I love seeing what everyone has been making.

Being totally addicted now, I've joined in with the Stitched Together Designs Group's Winter Warmer KAL. For this I have knitted a small shawl that I was planning, but once again I have enjoyed the camaraderie in the group and have loved seeing everyone's projects grow.  This pattern is the "Pimpelliese" by Christine Ebers knitted in Easy Knit's Biffle-Boo sock yarn. I love the bright colours: they remind me of both spring crocuses and chewy sweets from my childhood.

All of these projects have been immensely rewarding: I've learned new techniques, been "forced" to try things I might not have chosen if I'd seen the full pattern in advance and met many wonderful new people in the various Ravelry groups.  It is inspiring to see how other people interpret the same pattern so differently and how they put yarn together in ways I'd never considered.

I've proudly joined the A Playful Day group's Ravellenics team and am even more proud that we are using my design for our team Ravatar during the games.  My Ravellenics project is more of a marathon than anything else. I'm attempting an Afghan blanket using the Diagonal Rib Mitered Square Blanket pattern by Joan Marie.  This will be a first for me: although I have crocheted many blankets over the years I have never knitted one.  I'm keeping up with my self-imposed minimum of a square a day and hope that by the end of the event I will have a stylish throw to show off.

And what will the next couple of months hold? No doubt, more knit-alongs.. I see A Playful Day are planning some Big Love!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Christmas was Accomplished!

I really, really enjoyed preparing for Christmas this year.  I had a huge amount of knitting mojo for the first time in years and all those close to me benefitted (I think that's the word) in one way or another.  Mostly I made hats, mitts and cowls but I tried to match up the design to the person. Judging by the reactions I seem to have got it right.

The Ladies' gifts
Generally, I used patterns from Ravelry with little or no changes and a range of Rowan yarns. Those to the left are Creative Worsted (green), Lima (maroon) and 100% Merino (Grey). The green is a little on the scratchy side and sheds as you knit it, but the colours are wonderful and I think will hold its shape and pattern very well.

The sockhead hat in the boys' collection followed the pattern but the other two were adapted. The grey hat uses Heather Kinne's Lined Beanie pattern, but instead of striping I used a textured stitch for the outside. I was very pleased with the result. It's a simple but ingenious pattern .  Maybe next time I'd use something with a bit more ribbing to make the fit a bit more snug, but I was reluctant to do that given that the inner layer is stocking stitch. Still, that could be ribbed too. I chose this pattern because the recipient spends a lot of time outside in the cold for his hobbies - it should get a lot of wear.

For the Boys
The other adaptation was to the cowl. This was based on Totally Biased ! by Susan Ashcroft. I used two colours of Debbie Bliss's Donegal Tweed Aran which were chosen because the recipient has happy memories of a maroon sweater with mustard flecks from when he was a child.  I loved working with this yarn and really enjoyed devising the striping sequence.

Details of all of these projects (and more) are in my Ravelry Projects.

Photo courtesy of Amazon

Santa was very good to me. I have a number of knitting books and, most exciting, a drop spindle spinning kit. I am beyond delighted with this and am just waiting for a few hours to myself to give it a go.  The kit contains a large wooden drop spindle and 200g of natural wool roving (50g each of Manx Loughtan, Merino, Jacob and Bluefaced Leicester Humbug). So, not only will I be able to try this new craft, but I'll get to see and feel the differences between the different fibres.  I am sooo looking forward to this.

So - onwards and upwards. 2014 is here and I am raring to go.  Apart from the spinning I am also planning to try dyeing some yarn. I'll post here when I have some results.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Things I Have Learned About Knitting From the Internet

I've learned many things recently about my lifelong hobby - Knitting.  At first, the things I was hearing on podcasts and seeing on the web seemed like sacrilege. I giggled nervously, in case someone else noticed. Now, ladies, because most of you are ladies, I bow to you in homage and thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have freed me to enjoy my knitting again.  Thank you, thank you, Annette, Sadie, Heather, Jo, Nic, Chrissy and many, many more.. you know who you are.

So here are some of the lessons I have learned:

You don't have to be weird to knit

Once upon a time almost every woman knitted.  I learned about the time I learned to drink tea with my great aunt (I was probably 7). I didn't have any great skill, but then I doubt if Aunt D had either.  We turned out v-neck jumpers with dodgy necks and boxy cardigans with huge buttonholes.  But the point was, everyone did it. A woman's magazine had to have knitting patterns in it.. that was the law!  Over the years knitting declined in popularity. Perhaps it was the growth of cheap acrylic and cheap knitwear in the shops.  It was no fun to knit any more. The yarns were unexciting and you could buy something serviceable at far less that it would cost to make. Yarn shops almost disappeared. Patterns vanished from women's mags and people started to say they didn't think anyone knitted anymore...

All of a sudden, the internet arrived and those lonely knitters were able to find each other again. They started swapping ideas, getting together at knit nights and providing a market. I still find I'm an object of curiosity when I pull out my latest hat on the way to work, but increasingly people actually talk to me on the train. They ask how I learned, what I'm making and so many ladies bemoan the fact that they didn't listen when gran tried to teach them.  Every single one of these conversations has been fun and friendly.

Near me, a gorgeous yarn shop has opened up. I was there at the weekend touching everything, holding balls of yarn together to try the colours out and generally picking out bits for me.  My excitement must have been tangible.  I was 17 again.. spending my first week's Saturday-job money on myself... The owner laughed and said "carry on, my dear.. you're among friends here".  Bliss!

You don't have to knit one thing at a time

I actually knitted and wore
things from this book

Yes, you have my permission, you can cast on all the things.  Of course, you need to have a copious supply of needles and some way to store each project so you don't end up with a jumbled, tangled mess. But you can.. it's all up to you.  Way back when, somehow you were only allowed to be working on one thing at a time. If you had a scratchy, dull school jumper to knock out for your rugby-playing brother, that was just tough. You slogged away at it until it was done.  

Of course, having my permission to cast on all the things means, by extension, you also have my permission to obtain the project bags, needle sets (multiple) that will make your knitting organised and ready to carry along with you wherever you go.

The only danger you run is that you may start to feel the pressure to finish something once in a while but....

You don't have to finish what you started

Really, honestly, you don't.  Who is this knitting for, after all?  Isn't the point that it's your hobby?  You should knit things you enjoy and you find beautiful. If it becomes a job or a chore then it's up to you to decide whether you love the recipient enough to finish it. 

Besides, I've found that if I'm not enjoying a project, it's almost always because I've picked the wrong pattern for the occasion or for the materials.  Sometimes I pull a project out three or four times and try something different. Eventually, everything clicks and I race along, wondering why on earth I had so much trouble in the first place. I think of this as the yarn telling me what it wants to be.  A prime example is the wavy crocheted blanket I've mentioned before. Once I had married the right stitch with the colours and weight of yarn I was away. 

There is a world of new yarns and new techniques out there

Woolly Wormhead
strikes again
I thought I knew yarn - I have some stuff that is older than my kids but which has never made it to a finished item.. and my oldest is off to University soon. I think some animals may get a pile of snuggles next year.. Anyhow, I am now feeding my addiction one skein at a time.  I've knitted a gorgeous Woolly Wormhead hat in something scrumptious with silk from the Skein Queen and another in a beautifully soft cotton. I've discovered I actually can knit in the round so long as I don't bother with those tricksy double-pointed needles. Your cast-on edge doesn't have to be tight and rough.. OK perhaps I'll stop giving away my short-comings..

The point is, some of the new generation of knitters don't seem to know the rules I grew up with.  We are finally free to do what makes sense. There are also people who love colour and who love good yarns and who are putting them together in such exciting ways. I am really looking forward to exploring them all.

Pinterest and Ravelry are as addictive as {insert your most addictive addiction here}

Oh my, the days I must have lost to Pinterest.  They send you those tantalising emails "here are some pins we think you'll love"  and you're off... clicking through, looking at another board, discovering there are even more hobbies you've not tried yet and oh, that bracelet is gorgeous.. I have to learn to make it.... 

Pinterest led me to Ravelry ... so many interesting-looking designs... and you have to register. So I did. And I found thousands of things I wanted to make.. Oh and then there were groups for the podcasters I'd just started to discover and they were fun and chatty and full of supportive, happy knitters. I love knitalongs, well anything-alongs... and I've won a skein of yarn recently that I'm think might be waiting at the post office for me to collect. So exciting.  Only problem is now I have a queue of things I want to make that will last me forever, a growing stash and a stack of patterns I've already bought that I probably won't complete until the end of next year. Ho hum, what a problem to have, huh?  Happy happy Debris!  

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Magrathea and Bath

Magrathea - one of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy-inspired shawlettes by Martina Behm was a multiple first for me.  It was my first shawl, the first project using yarn from an indie dyer and the first garment I've ever made for myself that I want to wear ALL the time.

The shawl design is simple but very ingenious. Like many of Martina Behm's designs, Magreathea is a long, thin triangle which is knitted on the bias, using mainly garter stitch, with a lace edging.  It is quick and satisfying to knit up and the resulting fabric is cosy but light and sits gloriously around your neck. I really enjoyed knitting the lace and I love the pretty femininity of it.

The yarn is from Soft Like Kittens which is hand-dyed by Annette from Auckland in New Zealand (Annettle on Ravelry).  It's her Double Helix sock base (4-ply/fingering), which is 80% Merino and 20% nylon. I hope and expect it will last forever.  The colourway is called "Breaking Waves", a name which suits it very well. I particularly like the pops of white which evoke the sparkle of sun on foamy waves. The variegation works well for a project such as this.

It felt very extravagant to order yarn all the way from the other side of the world but I am very glad I did. I already have a second shawl in progress using another skein in a different colour.

My Magrathea had its first outing this last weekend on a short trip to Wiltshire and Bath.  We stayed in Chippenham which is a place I've never visited before.  We arrived on the same evening as the Christmas lights were being switched on so the town was in a party mood - which suited me fine.

So, on Friday we mooched around Marlborough and Chippenham, enjoying the Christmassy atmosphere. I visited a wool shop in Marlborough, as you do, and bought a few beading supplies in Chippenham. We took up residence in a special 4-poster-bedded room in the Angel Hotel that was so large I needed binoculars to see the Other Half on his chaise longue.  The hotel was friendly and comfortable and the meals were truly excellent.

Saturday was dedicated to Bath.  I wanted to visit the Christmas Market which I had heard was fun and unusual. Well, with the sunny weather and Bath Rugby Club playing at home, the town was incredibly full.  The market lived up to expectations with so many unusual products and so much ingenuity on display, but unfortunately the crush was a little off-putting.  Still, we decided to make the most of the glorious weather and took a bus tour.  I think we saw the city at its best; the gentle autumn sun on the sandstone was truly beautiful.  On the whole this was a delightful weekend.