Confessions of a Lazy Blocker

I’ve spent the better part of the summer working on a full-sized Hansel Hap for the arrival of my first wee one in October. It’s been a pleasant knit, but a big one, so I was thrilled when I finished the last of the border edging points a weekend or two ago. On finishing, though, I was faced with a big question …. just how was I going to block it?

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Some knitting time...

While we were away in Shetland I had some stretches of time entirely devoted to knitting. I can't tell you what a treat that was!

Before we left I was able to get the Hyacinthus armwarmers finished off, and into the grabby hands of their new owner. :D I literally wove in the ends just before we got in the car to drive to the airport!

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The State of the WIPs/FOs

It feels like a long time since I last updated what I've been making, but I've been busily working away, and the pile of WIPs has diminished significantly. So without further ado, here they are:

My Islay cardigan (pattern by Gudrun Johnston) is complete!


I'm really thrilled with how it has turned out. I added about 2 inches to the body length as I'm fairly tall (5ft 9in), and also continued the garter stitch "seams" down the arms, in the same way as they are worked on the body. Apart from those two small mods, I've knitted exactly as per the pattern. I used just over 10 skeins of gorgeous Buachaille yarn in Between Weathers, and I'm really pleased with how well this yarn works for Islay. It's such a smooth st st fabric, and the lace and ribbing pops really nicely too.


I had a dilema over which buttons to use for this cardi, and my cheeky side really fancied some red octopus buttons that I've had in my stash for a while. In the end though, they didn't sit nicely on the i-cord edging, so I went for these elegant fretwork buttons instead, and I'm delighted with how they look! I shall just have to knit another cardi for the octopi!

I have also finished my Pawkie mitts (designed by Kate Davies) from the Seven Skeins Club that ran before Christmas last year. I finished one mitt back then, but the bag languished waiting for its partner.


These are also knitted in Buachaille Between Weathers, this time with a Ptarmigan contrast. I'm really pleased with them, and I'm sure they will get plenty of wear in the office on chilly days this winter.

And last but not least in the FO parade is my Fractal Danger shawl (designed by Martina Behm).


I so enjoyed making this! I completed it as part of the Summer Strickmich Showdown in Martina's Ravelry group (though as a moderator I'm sadly not eligible for the wonderful prizes!). If you have a pattern by Martina on your needles, or fancy making one during August, then do head over to her group and join the fun!


I used a sushi sock roll from Easy Knits that I've had sitting around for far too long! And I'm really happy with how well it showcases the lovely construction of this shawl/scarf. This is another accessory that will get a lot of wear once the weather turns colder.

That's it for FOs, and I'm down to just two WIPs... My Golden Wheat shawl (yes, I know, yawn... one day I'll pick it up again!), and my Alfrick socks. Looking over at the project page for the Humungous shawl, I last worked on it on a car drive to Chester, and funnily enough we are off to Chester at the end of next week. So who knows? Perhaps I'll dust it off and work a repeat of two. My socks are coming along well too. I've finished the colourwork on the leg of the second sock and I'm ready to start the heel, so look out for finished socks before too long as well.

Whilst I love having a nice choice of projects to work on (and it's always good to have a portable, easy project alongside something larger or more tricky...) I also reach a point where I need to clear the decks. And that's the place I've been for the last few weeks. It's possibly the end of the school year that does it. I need to sort out my spaces and declutter. The same goes for my knitting projects and I'm eagerly anticipating my next few projects - a Harewood Hap and possibly Knitter's DNA. Both gorgeous designs and I've got the perfect yarn just waiting...

What are you working on over the summer?

The state of the WIPs

My period of monogamous knitting appears to have ended. I blame the lure of the knitalong! I thought I would lay out the situation, and hope that in doing so, I'm inspired to work down a few of these projects. The fact is that I am looking forward to the finished product of each and every one of them, and when I work a few rows on this and a few rows on that across too many, it ends up feeling as if I will never finish any of them. So with this in mind, I set off on the half term holidays with 6 works in progress (WIPs) in my bag. And after a week of quite good knitting time, I finished one of them. Not terribly impressive! But I did go on to finish another shortly after my return home, and another isn't far off. So here is The State of the WIPS:

WIPs update - 3

A pair of Dave socks (by Rachel Coopey), knitted in West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4ply Country Birds in the Bullfinch colourway (although to my eye it is far more Greater Spotted Woodpecker-like). These are FINISHED! They've been my handbag knitting project since the start of the year, and eluded discovery when Jim did a project round up a few weeks back, but some concentrated effort in the car resulted in a finished pair. They are a little shorter than they should have been, but I think that Jim's loss will be someone else's gain! More on my Ravelry page here: Woodpecker Daves

Breezy - 4

I FINISHED my Breezy cardigan (by Hannah Fettig)! This is a project which went much faster than I anticipated. I wasn't sure that I had the knitting time for a drape-front 4ply cardigan at the moment, but here I am wearing it. (And it's lovely and cosy today too - our office gets chilly as it faces north.)

Breezy - 5

I used some Merino Cashmere Nylon that Jeni at Fyberspates dyed for me many moons ago. It's a lovely variegated blue and green - right up my colour palette street! The pattern is really straightforward, and as a result I worked on it a lot on car journeys and in front of the TV. Even the final rib around the neckband didn't take nearly as long as I had feared. In fact it was the fear of how long it would take that stopped me from working on it over half term. I AM DAFT! More details can be found over on my Ravelry page: Breezy for Me

WIPs update - 1

My Theme and Variation hap (by Veera Välimäki) is coming along nicely (still a WIP though). The final edging is slow going as the number of stitches increases dramatically, and there are two slipped stitch rows (for the secret stripes) that don't contribute to the depth of the hap. So it feels like it's not much bigger than when I last photographed it. But that's an illusion, and I mustn't lose momentum! I'm well on track to finish this before the end of term, which is great as it's a present for a very special teacher who deserves each and every stitch of this. I'm using Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light in the Raspberry Cordial and Logwood colourways. Anj at Meadow Yarn was particularly helpful when I was choosing shades, and I've really enjoyed knitting it up. I'm coming to the end of the first skein of Raspberry Cordial, but won't need very much of the second to complete the edging. More details on my Ravelry page here: Whoops I cast on a hap!

WIPs update - 6

I've made more progress than I anticipated on my Islay cardigan (by Gudrun Johnston - last time it was on the blog I had only done the ribbing). Hurrah! I'm about to start work on the charts, which should help me to plough through the rest of the body. The KAL for this ends on the 1st July, so I'm not sure that I will be finished by then, but my attempt won't be too bad. I should be onto sleeves I would imagine (well, that's unless I get distracted by other things...). I'm using some beautiful Buachaille in Between Weathers that Kate generously gave me for my birthday, and it is such a joy to work with - all the best bits about proper wool (bounce! spring!) and soft too. I'm knitting this to go with the summer dress I sewed earlier in the year, and I'm so looking forward to wearing them together. Full details on my Ravelry page: Islay

Alfrick - 1 Pawkie - 1 Unfinished Golden Wheat

I've made no progress at all on my Alfrick socks, Pawkie (it needs a pair!) or my Golden Wheat shawl (ahem!). But that's actually probably a good thing. If I'm going to finish things, I need to focus and make progress on one or two projects, rather than trying to do all of them at the same time.

WIPs update - 4

Having cast off two projects, it seemed perfectly reasonable to cast on a new one! I recently started to help Martina Behm as a moderator in her new International Strickmich group on Ravelry, so it seemed only right that I should cast on one of her designs to celebrate this! I'm making Fractal Danger out of a deep-stash Sushi Roll from EasyKnits. The colours are gorgeous, and I'm going to work from light to dark, and back out to light again. This is one of those brilliant designs where it's simple enough to memorise, and I can (more or less) work safely on it while chatting at knitting group, without fear of having to unknit everything when I get home again. This is what I'm working on when I'm too tired to do anything else - it's the ideal soothing project. More information here: Fractal Danger

So that is The State of the WIPs! I don't think I have anything else lurking in a project bag anywhere... I know that by many people's standards, I've not got that much on the go, but I do like to take stock and simplify from time to time. Hopefully I'll be back in a few weeks to report that I've finished my Theme and Variation hap and my Islay cardigan. Then perhaps I can cast on another project from The Book of Haps...

Do you have lots of projects on the go? Or do you prefer monogamy in your knitting?

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Images © Jen Arnall-Culliford

Lang Ayre by Gudrun Johnston

It makes me extremely hap-py to introduce the fabulous Lang Ayre hap from Gudrun Johnston! I've enjoyed working with Gudrun for a number of years, and her Hansel and Half-Hansel hap designs were among the most popular designs in the KnitBritish Hapalong last year - she's hap royalty! Having been born in Shetland and growing up in Scotland, Gudrun is steeped in the knitting heritage that The Book of Haps explores. Having lived in the States for much of her adult life, Gudrun is now in the process of moving her family from Edinburgh (Scotland) back to Western Massachusetts (USA), where she will continue her work as a full-time knitwear designer. Before taking up designing around 9 years ago, Gudrun trained as a classical singer and home-schooled her children. When she first moved to Western Massachusetts her daughter Maya had lost a much treasured blanket that someone else had made for her as a baby. As Gudrun walked past a knitting shop in the area, she spotted a cute poncho in the window and decided that she would knit it for her daughter as a replacement. That was it! She was totally addicted straight away and produced copious things, mostly given away as gifts. Fairly quickly Gudrun started to adapt patterns and experiment with her own ideas, which led to her first design being published in Knitty in 2007. The rest has become knitting history...

I caught up with Gudrun to find out more about her influences and knitting inspiration.


Jen: As evidenced by my project pages on Ravelry, I’ve loved making quite a few of your designs, and I greatly enjoy working as your technical editor. Shetland clearly provides a rich source of inspiration for your beautiful designs. Could you explain what you think it is about the islands that are so irresistible?

Gudrun: I would have to say that the fact that you are constantly surrounded by long open views and never far from the ocean are two pretty irresistible aspects of being in Shetland. I find that when I visit the first thing I feel is this incredible sense of space and the calm that it provides. I almost feel that my brain can take a big sign of relief and think clearly!

Lang Ayre beach, Shetland. Image © Gudrun Johnston

Depending on the time of year the light and weather also play a huge impact on the vistas and create ever changing colours and hues across the landscape. You can’t help but be inspired by the incredible palette on offer everywhere you look.

I would say that, having been born there, Shetland is just in my blood. But I know from my trips how instantly other people - with no similar connection to Shetland - fall in love with the place for just the same reasons!

Jen: That's exactly how I felt after my visits to Shetland in 2012. I long to return!


Jen: The technique of creating a hap centre starting with a single stitch is one you have used before to great effect (shawls such as Aestlight, Flukra and Havra all use this technique). Could you describe what it is that you love about this method?

Gudrun: I just love how simple yet effective it is. It’s also very meditative to knit! The little yarn overs popping out the side of the garter stitch fabric are pretty darn cute too. I have enjoyed experimenting with it a little, as evidenced by Lang Ayre, where the center diamond is formed in this way but then two further triangles are attached by picking up the yarn over loops as they are worked creating a sort of modular effect, one which could keep on being added too really.


Jen: I may have mentioned a few times that choosing colours (particularly more than two!) is something that I don’t find easy. I’m sure that I am not alone in this. Do you have any words of wisdom, or rules of thumb to help me out with choosing 6 shades for Lang Ayre?

Choosing colours is always a challenging thing, particularly when doing so for Fair Isle knitting. I still need a lot of practice with that! However, for something like Lang Ayre, where the colours are interacting in stripes, it’s a little easier. When I was thinking of colours for this shawl I did have a specific palette in mind and that was of the various shades that granite can be found in the Shetland landscape. That meant all the shades of pinks and greys I could find in J&S jumper weight. I then picked a main colour that they could play off of without being in competition with it. My old favourite shade of 202 was the best option!

My advice would be to either start with a main colour you like and then add in the contrasts based on that or vice versa. Really you can play around with this a huge amount, being quite bold in your colour choices or choosing more soothing shades. Whatever speaks to your personality! Have fun with it.


Jen: You regularly take groups of knitters on tours of Shetland with Mary Jane Mucklestone. Where else, and with whom would you most like to knit?

Gudrun: Gosh, that’s quite a difficult question to answer as there are so many places and people that come to mind! I’d love to travel to Japan. I’m very drawn to the knitting aesthetic coming out of there, and I’m interested in the culture in general. New Zealand is another place I’d love to spend time in and find out more about the wooly side of things happening over there. Finland, Estonia, Russia to name but just a few!

Of course I’d want Mary Jane to come on all of these adventures with me!!


Thank you so much Gudrun for sharing more about your wonderful design and the inspiration behind it!

Gudrun's Lang Ayre hap uses Jamieson & Smith 2ply Jumper Weight in 5 shades. For full technical details see the pattern page on Ravelry: Lang Ayre by Gudrun Johnston

The next design will be revealed on Kate's blog tomorrow, so don't forget to stop by. You can see all of the patterns as they are released on Ravelry: The Book of Haps

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All images © Kate Davies Designs, unless otherwise stated.

April pattern round-up

This last month has been (nearly) all about haps. As I write, we're waiting eagerly to see the first proofs for The Book of Haps so we can iron out creases. I'd love to show off all of the amazing photos, but can't........yet. 

This is not a hap

We haven't been exclusively working on big book projects this month though. I've been working little by little on a couple of projects that won't be released until later in the year. Both of us have also had techniques articles published in magazines. Jen's most recent was in The Knitter issue 96 on pleats and tucks, her latest favourite things in the whole world and I've written about different methods for decreasing in Simply Knitting issue 146.

Gudrun Johnston has refreshed her Tirrick shawl pattern, with re-edited instructions, new charts and new photographs. It is worked in wedge sections, followed by the edging. You may recognise Ella Gordon, this year's patron of Shetland Wool Week modelling.

© Gudrun Johnston

Gudrun also has a brand new cardigan, Islay. It is sized to fit anyone from baby to adult and features the diagonal lace patterning and an i-cord bind-off at the neck. 


© Gudrun Johnston

Bristol Ivy is incredibly clever with her designs. This is Occam, no ordinary garter stitch scarf.

© Bristol Ivy

It is simply stripes, but by careful use of increases and decreases, the stripes become more and more pointed into chevrons as you work along the scarf. Basically, it's a study in gradient pointyness.

In a month of cleverly designed neckwear, Ella Austin's second instalment from her Colour and Line collection really catches the eye. Her Rachel Castle inspired Venn scarf is essentially a tube that lies flat to give the impression of overlapping circles. Because all of the ends are within the tube, it looks the same on both sides.

Ella2 104cropped
© Emma Solley

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FO: Shetland Trader Mystery KAL

Thank you for all the Wee Bruton love yesterday! It was great to get the new patterns out into the wild. I'm going to talk a bit more about the finishing on the design later in the week, so watch out for that!

In the meantime, I've finished a few projects from my needles. First up is my Shetland Trader Mystery KAL:


I so enjoyed knitting along with this! The Ravelry group was so friendly and enthusiastic! I almost managed to knit the whole thing with the month of June - I just overran a little at the very end. Not too bad for someone with my limited knitting time these days. The design is so beautiful. It has 3 different textured patterns, based around a garter stitch background. Really simple to wear, and soothing to knit. I would love to knit another in 3 colours as there were some fabulous 3-colour versions made. I'm just not terribly confident about combining colours effectively, so I might have to steal a scheme from someone else. There was plenty of inspiration in the threads on Ravelry, so it won't be hard to choose.

The blocking technique was a bit new to me, as you thread the yarnovers with a thread to block the curved edge. I've read that before, but never tried it, as I have tended to make things with straight edges where I can use wires. It was a bit tricky to ensure it was even all round, but gave a lovely smooth curve, so well worth the time to thread them all.

Thanks again Gudrun for such a fun knit along!

FO: Wee Levenwick

This monogamy thing is magic!


I finished off my Wee Levenwick cardigan last week, and it sat for a few days without buttons, as I had a feeling that I would find the perfect match at Unravel. Wee Levenwick is a kids' version of Levenwick, both designs for Brooklyn Tweed by Gudrun Johnston. I've had the great pleasure of working for Gudrun a few times, and I love her pattern writing, and design aesthetic.

This cardigan was lovely to knit. It's worked from the top down, and I just flew through it (once I'd cast off the other bits I had been working on). The New Lanark Aran was just as lovely to knit with as ever - I've got a ball or two over, which I have a plan for as well...

I noticed as I sewed on the final buttons that I'd done the pocket the wrong way round. The main part of the pocket should be reverse stocking stitch, whereas I've done it in stocking stitch. Hey ho. One of those things that makes my project unique - the joy of handmade. :)


As I expected, the Textile Garden stand at Unravel was pure button heaven. I found buttons for this project, as well as for another little cardi, which I'll show you tomorrow. And I may also have stashed a few more button sets, while I was at it!