Karie Bookish Dot Net

Crafternoons & Coffeespoons

Workshop season is drawing to a close with only a few classes remaining in 2015. The past few months have been fantastic but I am longing to spend time at home. Quite apart from a scary mountain of laundry and a suitcase still waiting to be unpacked, I also spending time with family and friends. However, I am already looking forward to 2016 which has some quite special things in store.


I am incredibly happy to announce that I’m running two special workshops on Shetland Lace for Aberdeen Art Gallery as part of their Birth & Baptism season. I always enjoy talking knitting in a wider context and while my workshops are focused on teaching you knitting skills, there is a bit more to these workshops. You can book either a Beginner’s Class (where you’ll make a bookmark and also learn more about motifs, techniques and construction) or an Advanced Class (where you’ll try your hand at designing a hap shawl and also delve into construction methods, design decisions and history). It’s a series of classes I have developed especially for Aberdeen, so grab those tickets while you can!

On the subject of workshops, it was a real treat to be on the other side of the proverbial table last Sunday. I took part in a crafternoon at Glasgow’s adorable The Butterfly & Pig Tearooms in the city centre. The Crafty Hen hosted an event where we tried out various crafts using Laura Ashley craft kits. I really enjoyed myself – who knew that craft workshops were this relaxing when you are not running them?! I had a go at two crafts – decoupage and needle-felting. Shall we start with the abject failure?

Okay, there are no photos of me needle-felting and I have nothing to show for my efforts. I have tried needle-felting before and I am ridiculously awful at it. All around me, people were making beautiful things (Jenny made an incredible 3D bird in no time) and I was basically just stabbing an ever more sad looking 2D Christmas bauble (which looked more like an Easter Egg than a bauble). After around 25 minutes of crying into my fibre, I just gave up. Sorry.

But to my eternal surprise, I really enjoyed decoupage. Who knew it was super-therapeutic to tear up pieces of paper and use copious amounts of glue to stick them onto shapes? I could have decoupaged all day long, I swear. If only decoupage would keep my toes warm, it would be my new favourite craft. Pretty paper -> tearing it up without care -> glue glue glue -> result! What’s not to like about that? The kit contained some exceedingly beautiful paper – shades of duck egg, primrose, soft blues, and dusty pinks. As always I tried to match my outfit.

And I ended up with something that I think is pretty respectable for my first go at decoupage. I’ve posed the result on a crocheted hand towel made by my mum (who is really, really getting into her crochet). It’s all too adorable for words. I’ve actually gone so far as to check whether Laura Ashley does dress-making fabric as I’m mildly obsessed with the bird print you can see on the heart (answer: not yet which is good for my purse .. but it does come as curtain material which means a bag down the line?).


So, craft workshops. Turns out they don’t always involve me travelling and dealing with piles of prep. Sometimes they just involve me trying not to glue myself to a table and how fun that was. The materials were gorgeous and pretty. I also delighted in meeting a lot of cool ladies (who were all so much better at needle-felting than I could ever be) and a gorgeous lemon/polenta GF cake served with copious amounts of tea. I need more Sundays like this.

Thinking Slow Fashion on a Budget – Building a Handmade Wardrobe Pt. 4

This is the last entry in my series on how to make things you love to wear. We’ve looked at how to examine your wardrobe, how to identify what you need to make, and how to approach this.

But I will be the first to admit that building a handmade everyday wardrobe takes time and money – so I thought I’d devote a post to how to ‘do’ slow and sustainable fashion on an everyday budget and with an everyday lifestyle. For me slow fashion and handmade go hand-in-hand.

1. The Keyword is Slow

I am not going to wake up tomorrow with a 100% handmade everyday wardrobe nor are you? Things take time – especially if you are knitting a 4ply fair isle cardigan by hand.

But slow fashion is its own reward – you get to imbue your finished cardigan with a lot of meaning which you wouldn’t get from buying it in a shop. One of my favourite cardigans was nearly completed during a relaxing knitting retreat with a stunning view. Whenever I wear it (and I do so often), I think back upon the snow-capped mountains, the open fire crackling in the living room and the fine company I was in. Another favourite cardigan was partially worked whilst sitting on the beach. Whenever I wear it, I think back upon a fantastic weekend I spent with far-flung friends drinking exquisite coffee and looking at insane Regency architecture.

I am a big believer in things taking time. If you take a long time to make something, chances are you will also be wearing it a long time.

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2. Choose Carefully, My Friend

In the not-so-distant past I worked for a big yarn company and I got to knit four garments of my choice every year. I started out by knitting statement pieces – things that used a gazillion balls of yarn and an equal amount of techniques. I never really wore the finished items and now I no longer work for the yarn company, I have given them away. So much wasted making time!

If you only have time to finish one or two big projects ever year, make them count. Choose your projects with care: don’t work with a colour you’ll never wear and don’t make something in a style you’d never wear. It’s easy to get tempted to get sucked into making things you see other people making, but be mindful of your crafting time.

If you have limited making time and budget, you need to think about your colours, materials and wardrobe style. Look back at the previous instalments in this series (1, 2 and 3).

3. Recognise Privilege When You See It

It’s so easy to feel disheartened when you are still on the first sleeve of your wool-blend cardigan six months down the line, and you see someone looking swanky in their 134th unicorn yarn project of the year.

But a handmade wardrobe can so very easily slip into privilege: some people don’t have to work; they can pay other people to mind their children, clean the house and make dinner; or they may even pay others to make their things for them (true story). Or maybe they’ve saved for several years to afford to make that expensive Alice Starmore kit.

You are still on your first sleeve of your cardigan but I bet you have been busy with other things. Own your achievements rather than compare yourself to other people whose lives may be heavily edited. You just never know. ‘Handmade’ should never be a competition about who is most worthy. Handmade should always be about your own wardrobe needs.

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 4. Think Sustainable When You Shop

Very few of my non-knitted clothes are handmade – but most of them are things I have either upcycled, found in second-hand shops (my favourite winter coat is 1960s 100% wool which cost me £12 in a second-hand shop. It had been labelled with the wrong size and never worn); or thrifted from friends.  I cannot always afford to buy things from an ethical retailer, so while I cannot check the provenance of things nor guarantee that the original seamtress was paid a fair wage, I know my money goes towards a good cause if I buy second-hand from a reputable charity shop. I also know some of my money goes back into the local economy which is important to me.

And I think about how much I actually need. When I started doing my wardrobe assessments, I was surprised by how much I didn’t actually wear. Rather than throwing things out (hello landfill) I decided to donate a lot of things so other people could benefit from me no longer having to wear business casual.

I still buy underwear, socks and tights from regular stores (I am no saint!) but I try to think about what I actually need. This also frees up extra pennies to spend on nice fabric or yarn.

5. Be Kind to Yourself

Think of your handmade wardrobe as a journey or an ongoing adventure. Remind yourself why you are doing this: you are being kind to yourself, you are making things that will get worn again and again, and you are doing it because you love making things. If you find yourself sewing an intricate organza gown on no sleep and a deadline three hours ago, then it is probably time to reassess your commitment to a handmade wardrobe (unless you wear organza gowns every day and, if you do, I admire that level of commitment).

Also consider your time investment to be a kindness to yourself. It is a powerful statement: “I choose to spend this amount of time on myself making things that will make me feel good, that will remind me of beautiful moments, and that works with my lifestyle.” You may not get a handmade wardrobe overnight, but the journey there is part of the pleasure.

Now go forth and make beautiful things that you will keep wearing. Have fun.

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What You Need to Make – Building a Handmade Wardrobe pt. 3

So far we have looked at the joys of wearing handmade and how to discover what you wear. Now it is time to figure out how to combine the joys of handmade clothes with your everyday life.

Does What You Make Match What You Wear?

For a long time I kept knitting cardigans that were big & cosy. One after another hit the wardrobe shelf and they stayed there. After I did my own wardrobe assessment I realised I kept wearing short, fitted cardigans in navy, grey and mustard. No wonder I never wore my moss green cardigans!

If you have done the big wardrobe assessment I mention in part two, you should know what things you keep wearing. Look at your handmade items – and do they match what you wear? Are you making things in colours you actually wear? Are your handmade clothes the same silhouettes as your shop-bought favourites? Can you combine your shop-bought favourites with your handmade pieces? Why (not)?

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Think Colour & Fibre

Jackie made a great point during the last instalment: you need to think about the fibre you’ll use as well. Make things in fibres you know you like wearing and which will work with the project: cotton or cotton-blend shirts; alpaca cardigans; wool/nylon socks.. make sure the material you choose to use is practical (which is a broad church depending upon your lifestyle) and works for what you are making.

Also think about the colours you will be using. Aim to make something in your neutrals but also something in your core colours and accent colours. Make the colours work with what you are already wearing.

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How To Figure Out What To Make

While I am a big fan of making very special handmade items – a delicate shawl for a wedding or an amazing fair-isle hat to show off my colourwork skillz – I am an even bigger fan of wearing handmade things every day. So, let’s think about the things you’ll keep reaching for again and again.

By now you should have a good idea of what you tend to wear and in which colours. You should also have an idea of what items have proven to be wardrobe staples and which ones linger at the back of the shelf. Can you make any of these wardrobe staples yourself?

Basics Need Not Be Dull!

You’ll probably want to make some basic staples for your wardrobe, but remember that these do not need to be all grey 4-ply stocking stitch cardigans or black trousers! Find some great everyday patterns and start thinking about which neutrals you keep wearing. Remember, you are not trying to imitate a machine-knitted cardigan from a high street shop, but you will be making a handmade item that fills the same spot in your everyday wardrobe.

Some examples of jumpers and cardigans I would knit/have already made for my own wardrobe:
+ River Pullover by Cecily Glowik MacDonald
Stevie Cardigan by Sarah Hatton (long-sleeved version)
+ Acer Cardigan by Amy Christoffers

As you can see, they are fairly simple projects but have a bit of interest at the same time. Likewise, I designed my Scollay cardigan with the same notion: easy to wear but with some knitterly interest. Think about your favourite silhouettes and styles – and then start trawling Ravelry! Pinterest is also a great source of inspiration. I lean towards vintage & feminine – so make sure to seek our patterns that cater to your style.


Don’t Stick To Basics!

I know. Counter-intuitive. However, your wardrobe consists of more than just basics. Think about your accessories as well. Do you keep wearing the same hat? Do you like to pep up your day with colourful brooches? Do you drag big tote bags around with you?

  • Having a gorgeous hat/cowl/gloves set that matches your favourite winter coat/jacket is a great way of wearing handmade with pride.
  • Making your own brooches not only get you an excuse to visit bead shops and haberdasheries, but it is also a nice way to introduce handmade items into a wardrobe that may be too formal to allow flamboyant knitted shawls (except on weekends).
  • Become the woman who always carries a stunning handmade purse with her. I know a stunning lady in her 50s who always looks immaculate – and her purses are always killer. Imagine my face when I found out she makes all her purses herself from re-purposed textiles!
  • I find having a rainbow of scarves/shawls invaluable – even the most neutral of outfits can be pepped up with a seriously bright shawl

Accessories are small, achievable projects – this is often important when embarking on making your wardrobe more handmade.

The last instalment will discuss how to gradually adopt the slow wardrobe approach – and how to do that on a budget and a regular life. Most slow fashion blogs I have seen tend to cater to people with far more disposable income and time than anybody I know, so I’ll discuss how I’m approaching it and hopefully give you a few ideas!

From not knowing what to make to making things I love to wear: L-R – Jess, Brygga and Scollay.
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Happy making, folks x

Discover What You Wear – Building A Handmade Wardrobe, pt 2.

In the first post in this series, I wrote about discovering the joys of wearing handmade clothes. This post is about looking at your existing wardrobe and find out how you can slowly turn it into a handmade wardrobe. Key adverb is slowly! I know a lot of lovely people who have a (mostly) handmade wardrobe but it is a long process to get there. A handmade wardrobe is also always a work in progress and about mending things you have already made.

With all that in mind, let us look at how you can figure out what you need to start making. No use making something you won’t wear!

1. Throw Things on the Bed

Open the wardrobe and take out all the things you keep wearing. Do the same with your jackets and coats – everything goes on the bed! Try to grab the fifteen or thirty things you keep wearing – from belts and scarves to skirts and cardigans. If you want, you can arrange them into the outfits you usually wear.

See if any trends emerge at this stage. Do you have more clothes than you thought? Do you have only a very small selection? Do you wear the same five things over and over? Can you sort them into piles of near-identical items (i.e. grey t-shirts) or do you have a very eclectic selection?

2. Time to Look Closer: Colour

Now you need to look at the colours you see. I’d suggest you sort the colours into three categories:

  1. Neutrals: the colours that bind everything together.
  2. Core Colours: the non-neutrals you keep wearing.
  3. Accent Colours: the occasional splashes of colour.

Your neutrals could be colours like black, grey, ecru, beige, khaki, fawn, brown or navy blue.

Your core colours are very individual to you. These are the colours you see again and again in your wardrobe – this can be anything from more neutrals to rich jewel colours or maybe soft pastels.

Your accent colours are the colours you only occasionally wear but you still see them again and again. What colours are your scarves? Your hats? Your jewellery? Maybe you keep being drawn to prints that have tiny bits of green or pink in them?

Becoming aware of what colours you keep wearing will make it easier to decide upon the colours you need to use when sewing or knitting something for yourself. I used to knit a lot of moss green cardigans until I realised my favourite cardigans were deep navy blue and grey!

3. Time to Look Closer: Style & Lifestyle

Many people tell me “Oh, I don’t think about fashion – I don’t have the time nor the inclination” and I hear you on that. Everyday life can be so hectic that many of us just grab whatever we can afford and what more-or-less fits. However, I promise you that subconsciously you are drawn to similar things again and again, and that your wardrobe will reflect this.

Ask yourself:

  • What items of clothing form the skeleton of my wardrobe?
  • Do I have anything that’s really too ratty to wear any more, but I cannot bear to throw it out because I don’t have a replacement? What is this thing?
  • What words can I use to describe the things I reach for again & again? Classic? Country? Romantic? Urban? Punk? Unisex?

4: Think About Your Discoveries

This process is designed to make you think about your everyday wardrobe. I trust you will be honest with yourself here – no embellishing the truth and lying to yourself about being a slinky Bohemian kimono-wearer when you are actually a sweatshirt & jeans girl!

When I first did this exercise, I was surprised to find that I didn’t have any jeans and that I leaned towards wearing dresses with bold complementary colours. I had no idea I was so “dressy” in my everyday life! I was especially surprised to see how very little black I had in my wardrobe – I used to live in black clothes! – and how much I used navy as a neutral. The first thing I knitted after all this was a fitted yellow cardigan which has now become a wardrobe staple despite my misgivings! It works!

In the third instalment I’ll talk more about how to decide what to make and how to plug wardrobe gaps.

Wear What You Make – Building a Handmade Wardrobe pt 1.

Over the last couple of months of using Instagram regularly I’ve noticed something. I feel happier and relaxed when I wear something I have made. And so my thoughts turn towards the fabric stash and wanting to make things that will continue to make me happier and more relaxed. Reader, I bought a  sewing pattern with a view to make some wardrobe basics that’ll keep me as happy as my knitted items.

But what about knitting?

Knitting is my first love and I am so lucky that I get to design what I want to wear – and share it with everyone! Wearing what I make is the best feeling (and I’ve started using #wearwhatyoumake as my own personal hashtag to track my handmade wardrobe adventure) and it’s something I’m thinking hard about for 2016 too. Simply put: I want what I design & make to be easily integrated into an everyday wardrobe.

I recently spent some time going through my clothes. It’s a good exercise that keeps me aware of what I own, what I treasure, and what I keep wearing. I do this semi-frequently and I always learn something from doing it.


  • Colours lean towards teal, navy, mustard, and deep cool reds. Neutrals are navy blue and brown.
  • I tend to wear dresses more than anything.
  • I wear the denim, skirts and the cord skirts most. Pencil skirts get most wear.
  • I own two pairs of trousers (1 pair of jeans, one linen) which I rarely wear.
  • Three cardigans get most wear: the Stevie Cardigan (knitted in navy Rowan Wool Cotton) is beginning to show wear & tear; my brilliant Scollay cardigan; and the mustard yellow Hetty cardigan which goes with everything.
  • I still wear shawls but I have grown fond of very big shawls recently – I tend to wear Proserpine, Fika (currently floating around Britain as a sample – I miss it), Swale and Kirkja (it’s smaller but mustard yellow).
  • I shy away from cute patterns (owls, deer, moustaches) but love geometric patterns. Mostly I like to wear things made from plain fabrics.



From the observations, I have learned the following lessons:

  • I love bold colour combinations.
  • I need more cropped cardigans.
  • I need another navy cardigan and another mustard yellow cardigan.
  • And a brown cardigan. And a teal one.
  • I need to add pockets to skirts & dresses. Pockets are brilliant, yet rarely appear in high street women’s wear.
  • I need to make myself more skirts (I’ve said this every year since 1989 or thereabouts).
  • Handmade makes me happiest.

Obviously there are problems surrounding a handmade wardrobe: slow fashion takes time, money, and skill. I am privileged because I can devote time to building a handmade wardrobe (and can justify it by calling it work). Not everybody can do that and that is okay. A good place to start is to wear what you make (and think about whether you’ll wear what you are making) – but that is something I’ll explore in the next instalment!

Happy November, everyone!

Going Old Skool: Here’s What I Am Making

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Sometimes all you need is a toasty jumper. Earlier this month I decided to grab the nearest yarn and turn it into a cosy winter jumper for myself. No pattern to grade across multiple sizes, no tinkering with spreadsheets, no charts to haul about, and no worries. Just a plain, cosy jumper.

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Last year my gran gave me twelve balls of Drops Air in a soft green shade. I am going to be honest here: I would not have bought this yarn myself. It sits on the wrong side of fashion yarn for me with a slightly too-novelty construction. The yarn is basically a very delicate nylon tube filled with alpaca and merino fibres (I think you can juuust make out the nylon netting on the left strand in the photo above). The result is a very lofty yarn with no fibres escaping. As a Continental knitter, I find it quite hard to work as the tip of my needle keeps catching on the netting. I spend a fair amount of time fiddling with my needles when all I want is to knit smoothly in the round.

But knitted up, it does look exceptionally cosy and it feels great against the skin. It just isn’t my preferred knitting experience.

I decided to do a very simple top-down raglan for my toasty jumper. I decided upon a broken rib as the sole decorative element and I’ve added short-row shaping to the back neck (better fit) and lower back (I’m always cold there).

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I’ve just begun my sixth ball out of the twelve. I’ll have enough for quite long sleeves .. and then maybe a cowl for those extra cold days? I’m using a 5mm needle for the main body (as recommended by the ballband). The resulting fabric is quite thick – for extra drape I would probably have used a 5.5mm but I wanted cosiness rather than drape. The ribbing is done on a 4.5mm – less rigid than a 4mm would have been (4.25mm would have been optimal but where do I get such a beast?).

I’ve taken this project everywhere with me and it’s so mindless I have been working it through meetings, mornings, and headaches.

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I have an actual pile of things I need to make – ranging from exciting new collaborations to class samples – so this will be put on the backburner a bit. But this winter I’ll have a new cosy jumper which doesn’t need to be anything but a jumper. And this makes me happy.

Clutching My Gladioli – On Making It Work as an Indie

Currently BBC4 is showing a series about the independent music business in the UK. The series traces how record labels like Factory, Rough Trade, Mute, 4AD, and Beggars Banquet made it possible for less mainstream bands to release records. Many of the bands turned out to be hugely influential and enduring (Joy Division, New Order, The Smiths, Depeche ModeThe Stone Roses, Suede, Franz Ferdinand, and Arctic Monkeys to name but a few!) and today UK indie labels continue to champion new music that would never be signed by major labels.

As someone working as an independent knitting designer, I recognised a lot of what was being covered in the documentaries – from small record labels operating out of a bedsit in Sheffield via creatives forming loose partnerships to dealing with complex distribution problems/solutions and worries over intellectual properties. I love many of the bands covered by the documentaries, but it was eye-opening to see how much of the amazing music was being created in an environment that was in many, many ways similar to how the indie knitting industry works.

Everything I do is created at my kitchen table. I have a small nook with a desktop computer (which needs replacing) and some bookshelves where I keep all my designing resources. I create my own layouts, my partner does my photography & art, I model my own designs, and everything passes through my hands. I deal with emails, accounts, wholesale, distribution, workshop dates, social media, marketing (which is always my sore spot), and obviously pattern designing & writing. I hire in technical editors to work on my patterns, but what you see is what you get and you get me.

And most indie designers work like that. Some have pooled resources, others have grown to the stage where they have one or two people on staff. But we are all just very, very small independent ventures.

Why be independent? Is it that much fun to do accounts at 11am on a Friday night? I think most people understand the allure of having full creative control – and yes, being able to decide what to design in which yarn is amazing – but the allure of intellectual property is even stronger. Quite simply, indies choose to own the right to their work.

I learned a hard lesson when I first started out: I handed over the rights to a pattern for a pittance and saw somebody else make a lot of money from it when I could barely cover rent. And that got me thinking. I still work with mainstream publications on occasion (and some of them are incredibly indie-friendly and lovely!) but time & experience has taught me to be wary of Big Besuited Companies offering me deals too good to be true.

Indies pay the price by having to do all the things – including all the tough things mainstream publishing would normally have done for us – but I maintain it is worth it.

So, clutching my gladioli, I began thinking about where indie knitting businesses are heading.

The BBC4 documentaries on UK indie record labels traced the trajectory from bedsit record labels with rough DIY graphics to bands like The Smiths appearing on prime time TV and finally a world where indie labels are regularly outselling the big record companies.

Knitting is not the music business (there’s a big difference in gender make-up for one thing! It made me sad to see many female musicians simply disappear as indie music became bigger in the 1980s and 1990s) but maybe there are lessons to be learned there.

Here are some of the lessons I have gleaned from the documentaries:

  • Surround yourself with people who understand and support your ethos.
  • Don’t try to follow the crowd but embrace what sets you apart.
  • Take control of as much of your own operations as you possibly can.
  • Choose your collaborators with care and imagination.
  • “Indie”can become a very diluted term when Big Besuited Companies realise it is an untapped market – this will result in products that look, talk, and walk like indies but have big money and committees behind them.
  • Digital marketplaces mean that everybody can sell their products (music, books, knitting patterns) so quality control is difficult. Indies still need gatekeepers (or “curators” as I believe the Pinterest generation calls it!)
  • Don’t believe the hype lest you want to turn into Morrissey!!

There isn’t a right or wrong way of making it work  as a creative. Some people work best as part of a larger team with stylists, graphic artists, distribution centres, remote printing, and so forth. Then you have stubborn donkeys like me who enjoy having my fingers in every pie.

What about you as a knitter?

Some knitters love following a particular design house and yarn brand with big budgets and aspirational marketing; others find themselves more at ease at an indie show where they get to know the dyers and the designers. Some people prefer buying a magazine with glossy ads and a plethora of patterns; others like buying single patterns they have especially chosen for one particular yarn. And some prefer to just spin their own yarns and knit without a pattern.

The world is your oyster – you can to pick and choose as you like. And as an indie girl that really makes me happy.

Quickie, Quickie

October 2015 132twSo, I collaborated with Malabrigo Yarns on this little thing.

Crosstown Traffic is its own very definite thing.

I love really variegated yarns but I find it hard to find good patterns for them. What looks amazing in the skein can be hard to handle when knitting – and so I came up with this cowl pattern. The variegated yarn is paired with a semi-solid which lets the wild colours shine in small, controlled bursts.

The end result is a cowl with a very relaxed, very urban feel. It uses two skeins of Malabrigo Twist – an aran-weight yarn which I took up to 6mm (US 10) needles. I added icord edgings for extra sophistication – such an easy technique with stunning results – but the yarn really just speaks for itself.

The name comes from an old Jimi Hendrix song – Crosstown Traffic (link isn’t very good, sorry). I was busy sketching when my partner David came home humming the song. It seemed an obvious name for the pattern: easy to remember, relaxed feel and just a bit streetwise.

I chose the colour combination of Twist in Zinc (a matte, pinkish/blue grey) and Plena (azure blue, deep purple, bright yellow and green!) for the sample, but any leftfield combination of semi-solid + variegated colours will work. Because it’s a Malabrigo Quickie, the cowl takes just two skeins – one of each.

Stashbusting. I like that.

Finally, let me just leave you with the initial sketch I did for this design. It was a lot of fun trying to capture the feel of the sketch in the pattern photos – I think we did well.

I live in a lovely, leafy part of Glasgow (which you’ll know if you follow me on Instagram) but Glasgow City Centre is frequently used as a film location ‘lookalike’ for major US cities in films like World War Z, Cloud Atlas, and The Dark Knight Rises. It was very cool to hike down some of the back alleys and find some awesome photo shoot locationssketch

Initial sketch for Crosstown Traffic.

I have a busy few months ahead of me – it’s workshop season – but I always love to see what you make using my patterns. Make sure to share your photos with me. I’m also just a tweet away – and I’ll be sharing plenty of details from my forthcoming travels up & down the country.

A Bit of Tryghed – the Last of the Hygge Patterns

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The Tryghed hat was released today – the hat’s the last HYGGE pattern and it’s rather sad to say goodbye to a project that’s been really close to my heart. All good things come to an end, though, and Tryghed is a really nice way to finish. I’ll write more about the hat itself in a second, but first I want to go a bit Scandinavian on you.

Hygge is really hard to define because it encompasses so many things. We’ve talked about how it means to be warm, cosy, spending time with good friends, taking your time over coffee, and just kicking back with a good book and candlelight. The feeling of tryghed is really key to hygge, actually. Tryghed can be translated as ‘feeling safe and sound’ but it is also a really tactile thing. I feel it when I’m wrapped in my favourite quilt or when I walk hand in hand with my partner. I feel it when I’m sitting inside on a rainy night and I am warm. Without tryghed, you can have as much coffee or as warm a quilt as you like – but you won’t have hygge.

So, I wanted to translate that feeling of cosy tactile feeling of security into both a hat and the knitting experience.

Tryghed is a fully written pattern which can be knitted by most people. If you can knit in the round, knit & purl, and do basic decreases, then you can knit Tryghed. I have included some sneaky details like the crown shaping and one clever lace round, but this is a hat for most abilities. The yarn is Thick Pirkkalanka, a worsted-weight yarn from Midwinter Yarns and the hat takes just one skein. It is warm, squishy and everything I love in a yarn – again, the idea of tactile tryghed came into play! It goes without saying that I chose to knit the hat in my favourite colour in the entire world..

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I’ll spare you the photos of me eating a cinnamon bun (we shot these photos on National Cinnamon Bun Day!) but I’ll link you to a few Scandinavian recipes for you to try out!

+ Swedish Cinnamon Buns (kanelbullar)

+ Danish Dream Cake (drømmekage)

+ Elderberry cordial syrup – for more Danish flavours, leave out the cloves and substitute with some lemon peel.

+ Gløgg, obviously! I really like this white wine version too.

It’s been such a joy to see all the beautiful things you’ve made. Keep sharing those photos with me and thank you for going me on this little adventure into my traditions and homelands.


On Body Shaming, Self-Acceptance and Growing Up

October 2015 054

Hey, this is me out walking yesterday

I was heading home from Yarndale last Saturday. I had been on my feet all day talking to awesome people all day, so was relived to find a supermarket next door to the train station. I bought a sandwich, a fruit salad and some drinks – this would be my dinner as I’d arrive back in Glasgow around 10.30pm. The train was busy with rugby fans heading home from Leeds, but I managed a seat. I sat down, sighed with relief and took a bite of my sandwich. Behind me came a drunk man’s voice: “”You should cut down on your sandwiches; you’re a fatso” and I paused for a second trying to process what I just heard. The man continued to insult every single female in the carriage before moaning about his ex-wife to his friends. The guy clearly had a problem with women – and I ended up almost feeling sorry for the guy. He was born into this world with all the privilege at his disposal (straight, white male living in a First World country) and yet his life was such a disappointment to him that he felt the need to lash out at other people with less immediate privilege than him.

Then I started thinking about body shaming and how insidious it is. I was the first girl in school to hit puberty, though I was a year younger than the other girls and so, for a very long time, I had a very weird relationship with my body. I am naturally ‘blessed’ with an hourglass figure which meant I received a lot of unwanted attention when I was an insecure teenager and in my early twenties – both from men who viewed my body shape as an invitation and from catty girls in my school who viewed me as a threat (I never understood the last one, by the way). I wore baggy black clothes for a very long time trying to hide my body.

Looking back, I have been every clothes size imaginable – from a UK size 10 (EU 38, US 6)  to a UK size 22 (EU 50, US 18). I wasn’t very happy when I was a 10 nor was I very happy when I was a 22. My unhappiness had very little to do with my body and far more to do with my lifestyle: when I was a size 10 I was recovering from illness; when I was a size 22 I had just graduated from university into a job market that had hit rock bottom. Over the years I have learned that I feel most comfortable when I hover around a UK size 16 (though clothing sizes are very arbitrary at the best of times) – and I have realised I feel happiest when I don’t hide away in baggy, black clothes. My body is not a shameful object – it is just me.

As I get older, I feel much more comfortable being me. I have also become increasingly aware of how I live in a society that tries to fuel all kinds of insecurities to make me conform and consume. As a woman I’m told: be attractive! be attractive in a really specific way! be attractive in a really specific way and don’t have any opinions because that is unattractive! be attractive and then we will tear you down for being attractive! I happen to work in an industry that is full of strong women who run their own businesses. I see a lot more diversity in my industry (though we can always do better, but that is a big discussion and one for another day) than I see in mainstream media. I feel inspired and invigorated by the people who surround me – from the smart, intelligent conversations on Twitter to the slow fashion ethos I keep witnessing at yarn shows. I feel really empowered by the women around me – I am sure most of you don’t even realise how fantastic you are!

But if I had not just been at Yarndale; if I hadn’t stumbled into this industry where I see awesome women being themselves; if I hadn’t accepted myself for who I am; if I hadn’t realised that society doesn’t want me to be happy unless I conform (and bah to that!); if this train journey had happened to a younger Karie in another place and another time, I think I would have had a very different reaction. And that is actually the thought that’s haunted me for the past week or so.

(Yes, that is a new hat pattern. More on which later.)

PS there are a tonne of great resources on how to deal with other people trying to take ownership of your body, how to deal with body-shaming, and how to be a positive role model for young women in your life. I’m not going to add any links to this blog post, but feel free to share links on Twitter etc and I’ll happily do a round-up.