Mohair – what makes it so wonderful ?

Handwork Ateliers France

Once in a while, I stumble across something that really inspires me (well, more like almost everyday…but that’s another story).   When I first moved to France, my mother came to visit & we set out to find some interesting fibre places to see & hopefully, buy yarn from.

The mohair goat farm, Mohair du Pays de Corlay, was one of our first stops.  Not only do they raise the goats (while hugging & kissing them) but they also have a great shop filled with mohair yarn & finished goods.  One thing that really struck us was how vibrant the colours are & how soft the yarn is.  This farm is a family enterprise, everybody does their own thing & together they’ve come up with a very impressive product.  Their son is a film-maker & he made the best short film I’ve ever seen about goats & yarn.  Check it out here.

They also have an online catalogue should you feel the urge to knit something warm & fuzzy for the fall.

Knit, knit !!

Elizabeth

PS The mohair farmers have formed a collective called “Mohair des Fermes de France”.  It was through that group that I found another lovely little farm in a tiny town run by the wonderful Lydie.  I wish she had a site but sadly no.  I can say, that her goats are just as well loved as those in Corlay !

Spiral Hat Challenge !

So, what is it ?
It is the hardest hat I have ever knit – that’s what !

WHY ?

Because it was knit vertically with short rows
(a technique which I had only flirted with previously) & seemed to
go against everything I had ever learned about knitting.

I was searching for something to make for my Mother for Christmas.  Now for most knitters, that would simply mean finding a project that was pretty & perhaps functional.

Alas, I had no easy task ahead of me
- not because she is overly particular, it’s pretty easy to please her -
my problem lay in the fact that she is a MASTER knitter.
You name it – she’s knit it !

When I stumbled upon this free hat pattern at do stuff,
I knew I had found the perfect gift for her !
I studied the pattern for a while, trying to understand just how it worked.
Self-striping yarns aren’t mysterious but the stripes progressed vertically not horizontally.  It seemed impossible…
Luckily, the blog author had included very detailed instructions,
lots of photos & an update post too.
Casting on with some beautiful Noro silk Garden, I dove right in.

Eventually, the hat started to take shape & it was so fun —
I made another for my dear friend Carol.

Forest Spiral Hat

If you have been looking for a little something to stretch your
knitting muscles, this hat will do the trick.  Get ready for knitting friends to ask -
“How did you do that ?!?”
Try it in a silk/cotton blend for a quick spring treat !

Knit, Knit !

Elizabeth

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I wish I had a crystal ball…

but since I don’t, a visit to the latest version of Première Vision in Paris is just about the next best thing !

I was very fortunate a couple of weeks ago to attend the Autumn/Fall 2013-14 edition of the world’s Premier Fabric Show.  There, the colours & materials of an entire fashion season are decided a year or more in advance.  If you ever wondered how designers “know” what to design months before the actual season – this is where they go to in order to learn what colours, patterns, textures & fibres are going to be “in”.  The decisions are made by an international panel of colour, textile & trend experts.  They pool their thoughts, poll the industry, watch movies, attend art shows & museum exhibitions – in essence they take the pulse of the world – read the ZEITGEIST of the times.  Then they compile THE 21 definitive colours of the season (& give them evocative names too !).  If you’re interested in being on the mark with your next knitted project, then read on…

I was thrilled to be there as I hadn’t been in almost 20 years.  Much was the same, the same mind-boggling array of booths from every corner of the globe, the same hordes of fashionable people & the same feeling of being almost completely overwhelmed by the sensory overload.  What was different?  I would say, mainly the technology, the last time I visited cell phones didn’t even exist, or laptops, or handheld payment terminals (or debit cards for that matter!)

One of the most memorable parts of my first visit (all those years ago) were the giant cones of yarn dyed in all of the forecasted colours.  Everyone was free to wander up , wind off as much as they wanted & rush home with their cache.  Not so anymore, with the advent of digital cameras & cell phones, the show has clamped down regarding any photography.  It was absolutely FORBIDDEN.

In fact, there was a team of security people whose sole job seemed to be simply to apprehend anyone taking a photo & making them delete it.  I watched the fights for a few minutes, it was always the same.  Flash went the camera, dash went the security guard, a furious exchange of words, lots of gesturing as many visitors didn’t speak French, then the shoulder shrug, the deletion & the creeping away.  After seeing this little scene played out several times, I decided to take a safer route !!

I settled down in front of the giant colour trend boards – seen in behind the giant gleaming Pegasus above (not sure what he had to do with this season but there he was…) & wrote all the names of the colours & described them.  Then I copied down the colour groupings as well.  I rushed back to my room & got out my watercolour pencil crayons & proceeded to re-create the colours as closely as I could before the memory faded.   So here they are…

Click on the image for full size.

I know, it seems a bit extreme but the alternative was to pay 90 euros for a little cardboard book filled with very small swatches of the 21 colours.  Once, I had painted them all,  I enjoyed playing a little game with myself – trying to envision the various colour combinations they had suggested.  Another fun thing you could do would be to visit the Première Vision site where they have put together an app which allows you to pick you favourite three colours & they set it to poetry & music.  So much for keeping the colours secret – they are all right here !!!

Happy Colours !

Speed Knitting Contest !

For the last several years,
Agnes & her husband Claude, have hosted an annual
English Garden Party.

This year, we are adding to the festivities by hosting a
Speed Knitting Contest.
Open to anyone who wants to have a go
(we’ll even teach you to knit on the spot if you haven’t before…)
we’re looking forward to seeing the needles flying !

Sylvie from Fil de Lune in Dinan has joined up with us
to offer some fun knitting & great prizes.

 

 

 

 

Custom Knitting Breaks

 In the olden days, many people made their living by knitting.
Endlessly knitting …..
often the same item, such as stockings, over & over again.    
In fact, until the Rennaissance most of them were men. 
For many, knitting was simply a means to an end.

These days, knitters knit for many reasons. 

Few though, use knitting as their sole source of income ! 
Knitting has become an exciting artistic endeavour,
a way to express our ideas, to relax, to connect
& to enjoy making something useful, attractive or (hopefully) both. 
That’s one of the reasons why so many of our Handwork Ateliers focus on
the art of knitting. 

It really does tick all of the boxes.

In this hectic world, knitting affords us the opportunity
to sit & make & think & rest. 
Four things that are sadly underrated by a lot of people. 

It seems that so many people feel that their value is calculated by
• how quickly they finished reading a book -
• how many chores they completed over the weekend  - 
• how many meetings they sat through in a day. 

We know that the pace of life has increased relentlessly,
which is why we have decided to offer
Custom Knitting Breaks.

Tailored to suit your skill level(s), interests, budget & most importantly
- your schedule. 

It easy to plan one. 
All you need is 3 friends ( or more) who would like to 
join you for a wonderful getaway replete with
great food, beautiful surroundings as well as lots of knitting, experimenting & fun. 

We will create a personalized course just for you including
trips to inspiring sites & fabulous shopping. 

Write to us now & let’s plan a fabulous treat !

 

 

Off-the-Clock Knitting

When I first learned to knit, it took me years to realize that there are different types of knitting. As much as I didn’t want to admit it …. 

I don’t mean the obvious differences like techniques or stitches.  Books & books are filled with those. Of course, there is an infinite number of projects that you can knit, too.  How many people have ever knit with every possible fibre?  Combine all of the variables with your own knitting gauge & personal taste.  
The possibilities of the 
Art of Knitting
stretch & morph
until they 
blanket
the horizon. 

Exciting,
inspiring,
fulfilling.  

What about the big, messy, tangled skein of wool sitting at the bottom of the knitting world’s basket ? No one really talks about the other factor that changes how you knit – the recipient.  Think about it – when you knit for yourself (or make anything for yourself) – don’t you have a different voice in your head than when you are knitting for someone else ? 

Why is it OK if you don’t sew the ends in quite so beautifully for yourself when you wouldn’t dream of giving someone a gift with a messy wrong side ?   It’s hard to admit that you let things slide a bit when you are the one who is going to wear it – isn’t it ?  (I have another post rolling around in my head about WHY we do this – stay tuned…)

So, now you have two types of knitting.  Here’s the third & most complex in my opinion. 

Professional Knitting. 

Whether it is a commissioned piece
or something you’re hoping to sell,
your inner voice becomes more insistent. 

Perfect,
perfect,
perfect.  

Hurry,
hurry,
hurry. 

Can you still enjoy knitting when the client element is added into the mix ?

 
Luckily, I have never been in this last category.  I was once a professional dressmaker & have sewn for many women.  Even made wedding dresses, which in my opinion are the most stress-inducing garments on the planet.  I enjoyed the challenge of distilling the client’s ideas & dreams into a wearable, beautiful gown. I liked the back & forth repartee between us as I carefully navigated the dangerous terrains of body type, suitable colours & the ever-present (& mostly unwanted !! ) input from mothers, sisters & bridesmaids.  The final fitting was my favourite part - like opening night at the theatre.

Euphoria.

Back to knitting. 

I began tweaking patterns early in my knitting life.  There were usually one or more elements which I wanted to change in a commercial pattern.  Gradually, I gave up trying to find the perfect pattern – it was faster to just design one. 

A few decades later & I have decided that it is time for me to share some of my designs with other knitters.  I figure that if I could design, sew, fit & finish numerous wedding ensembles surely writing a knitting pattern would be easy enough.  Easy for who ?  When I knit, I make many notes, markings, calculations, etc. on my patterns.  Often I draw the pattern out full-scale…  so that I can see exactly what I’m going to get (always a seamstress, I suppose).  I rarely remember to write everything down.  How could anyone else understand my scribbles ? 

So, I am not going to jump into the “knitting-for-money” pond just yet but wade around the edges.  I won’t get to have that same give & take with my client but I also won’t have to hear the clock ticking while I knit.  It feels like a fair trade.  I’ve cleaned up my notes, re-done my sketches & knit using my very best “gift-quality” knitting. 

The curtain is about to go up –  

Leave a comment & I’ll send you my first pattern for this Cool Spring Sun Hat – perfect for those days when it’s chilly but bright.  I hope that you will enjoy using it to make a wonderful gift for a much-loved little one. 

Happy knitting !

Elizabeth