Archive for May, 2013

I’ve given up.  I haven’t had the time or the brain energy to deal with trying to work out why I can’t get into my Ravelry account, so I’ve just decided to go and make a new one.  It means losing my projects to-date, and although I have copies of purchased patterns saved on my computer it means losing access to any updates to those, but it has to be done.  I’ve not been able to do my Freebie Fridays or Ravely Mondays in a month, and that is far too long to go without sharing new patterns with all of you!

Freebie Friday rules are a little different to Ravelry Monday rules, and are as follows:

  • The pattern needs to be free.
  • The pattern does not HAVE to be a Ravelry download, but must be listed on Ravelry.
  • The pattern must have a photo clearly showing the item.
  • The pattern still needs to produce a professional looking item and have the necessary information for potential makers.
  • Clothing for adults must still be available in plus sizes.
  • An item showcased on Freebie Friday may still be showcased on Ravelry Monday, if it fits the brief for that day.

Because it’s been a while, this Freebie Friday is going to break from tradition in three ways.

  1. There is no theme, because there have been so many freebies since I last did one of these.
  2. There is no limit.  I will share as many of the best free patterns as I feel like.
  3. The patterns will not just be from the last week, but since the last Freebie Friday

So, without further ado, check these out!

Razorback Brioche Cowl

The Razorback Brioche cowl is an excellent example of how to achieve a very striking effect using a simple, repeating pattern and limited palette.  It’s a great gender-neutral cowl knit in a warm worsted weight, and is available as a free Ravelry download.

Stash-busting Monster

I don’t often post patterns for toys or fun items like these, simply because I so rarely make them myself.  But the stash-busting monster pattern is a fantastic, simple design that’s great for using up small amounts of leftover yarn.  While the pattern is written up for worsted-weight, it could be made in almost any yarn and is available as a free Ravelry download.


Ylva is a pattern for a simple, understated pair of fingerless mitts.  The pattern has a nice, classic look that can be worked up in all manner of different colours, and easily modified with additional colourwork or striping, making it a very versatile pattern to work from.  If you’re thinking of starting your handmade Christmas gifts soon (I know I am!  I need the time!), these would be a great gift.  The mitts are knit up in fingering weight and are available as a free Ravelry download.

Larch Bark Dyed Felted Knitted Bag

This is a really cute pattern for a felted bag with a simple, repeating colourwork pattern.  The original pattern uses hand-dyed, handspun yarn dyed using natural ingredients, but it could easily be worked in any aran weight yarn that has a high wool content. Colourwork items are another great stash-buster, as you often find you only need a full skein or multiple skeins of the main colour.  This pattern is on Ravelry and can be viewed at the designer’s website linked from this Ravelry page.

Cool Breezes Summer Lace Sweater

Regular readers will be well aware of my plus-patterns rule.  Simply put, I will only share clothing patterns here if they are available in plus as well as straight sizes.  I stand by my rule, although it often means I don’t share many free clothes patterns, simply because I refuse to promote patterns from designers who clearly don’t want my business.  So I was delighted to note that this simple, cool Summer cover-up top is available up to a 54″ chest.  The full pattern is written out on the designer’s website and can be accessed via this Ravelry page.


Shandon is a very attractive, aran-weight jumbo cowl designed to be wrapped twice around the neck.  The unusual zig-zag pattern that almost resembles cables from a distance, looks great knit in a singl colour or a yarn with a very gentle variation in colour, and is another fantastic Christmas gift project.  The pattern is available as a free Ravelry download.

Northshield Pouch

Only a colourwork chart is shown on the pattern page for this pouch, but I can tell from this alone that it’d make a gorgeous finished pattern.  Intended to be used as a colourwork knitted pouch bag, it could also be added to the front of a large pocketed scarf, worked into a cushion or made into a square as part of a larger blanket-making project.  This is another great stashbuster and Christmas gift pattern offered by the Society of Creative Anachronisms, and is available as a free Ravelry download.



The shawl continues to knit up very quickly.  The component pieces are surprisingly easy to knit, and the pattern is satisfying to work on – it’s all yo and k2tog, nothing much complicated, and the pattern makes enough sense that after 10-15 rows on the wings, you can pretty much continue through without stopping to read.  The only thing I’m finding troubling is the way every piece is kept on waste wool.  I already had an emergency moment when the waste wool I was passing the wing onto slipped through the stitches, almost losing half of the work.


I’m not blocking any of the pieces yet.  I want the stitches to be easy to pick up when I join everything together.  It would, admittedly, be nice to block the back piece now so I can more easily get an even circle with it, especially as the only place in my house large enough to pin the finished shawl down on is my bed, but I’m sure that won’t be too much of a problem.


I’ve heard that joining the component parts of the shawl is the hardest part of the pattern, and that figuring out the instructions for knitting the filling-out section between the wings and body is especially tricky.  Fortunately I still have a second wing to knit before I’m at that stage, and I need to get more yarn plyed for that before I start in any case, so I don’t have to face that particular challenge just yet.  I think when I do reach that stage, I’ll transfer my pieces off of waste yarn and onto spare circular needles.  I’ll feel a little more secure, there.

Progress is going well on my shawl.  I’ve just used up the fibre plyed so far, and am a scant 15 rows away from finishing the first wing.  I expect the singles I have spun and ready to ply will be enough to do the second wing and maybe 1/3 to 1/2 of the edging, joining and miscellaneous shaping rows.

But I wanted to talk about something not craft-related.

I watched the latest Swindon Town Swoodilypoopers over on Hank Games, in which John Green talks about parents moving to have reading materials banned in schools, and had some thoughts.  First, here’s a link to the video if you want to watch and listen to his words and get some context for the post.  Second, some clarification of my perspective.  I’m British, born and raised and educated in England.  I have no idea if banning books from schools is even a thing we have a framework for in this country, and it’s certainly not something I can ever remember hearing about happening in the UK.  We do have a standardised curriculum across the country though.

My first thought is that, ultimately, children aren’t property.  They aren’t owned by their parents.  At the same time, they aren’t owned by the government or society, either.  Adults – both individuals and adults as a collective group – are the guardians of children and have a responsibility to help them grow to be the best people they can be.  When a young girl, who could grow to become a pioneering surgeon, a writer of heart-wrenchingly elegant stories or the leader of her country is prevented from achieving any of those things because she is forbidden from learning to read, we recognise that as a tragedy.  But sometimes, people forget that a similar tragedy takes place every time a child is forbidden from learning about evolution, or from reading any books other than a single religious text, or scolded for asking a question that the adults find difficult to answer, or led to a life of fear and shame about their future adult sex life because they were never allowed to see intimacy as anything other that shameful.

That doesn’t mean parents should have no input over the lessons their children learn, not at all.  But parents should not be controlling what is learned in school, because as I see it, school education is the bare minimum.  School education is the start of a process – not it’s entirety.  Parents can and should have their own conversations with their children about subjects, and children should be learning at home just as they do in school.  That isn’t hard to achieve – everything a child does involves learning.  Listening to adults using full words and complex sentences gives children expanded vocabularies.  Helping in the kitchen teaches them not only how to cook but how to enjoy cooking.  Play teaches them everything from social concepts to the limits of their own body to how to be imaginative.

When I was a child, I had nightmares a lot.  I got sick often, with fevers, and it wasn’t at all unusual for me to experience delerium.  I sometimes had trouble separating the weird things I saw when sick or overtired from reality, and I had a lot of disturbing dreams.  This started long before I ever learned to read, or watched any TV that wasn’t explicitly for kids, or had even a single disturbing experience.

And one day, I started reading my mum’s horror novels.  Now, my mum taught me to read before I started infants school.  She read with me and encouraged me to grow my own personal collection of books – there was a set of shelves built into my bed next to my pillow, specifically for my books.  And while I had my own books, she never forbade me from reading anything in the house, from the newspaper to cookbooks to her collection of classic novels.  I first picked up an adult horror story – I think it was a Stephen King book about rats – when I was around seven or eight years old.  The content was scary, but it didn’t traumatise me.  My mum talked to me about the book, about what I’d read and about a lot more besides.

We talked about the fact that what was written in the book wasn’t real,  just a made-up story.  That lots of people have dreams and nightmares, and some people who are particularly good at being imaginative turn their dreams into stories, that end up in books for other people to read.  We talked about the fact that my mum was scared of rats, but that rats aren’t actually evil like in the book, and we looked at an educational book about rodents at the library.  We talked about the fact that, in the books (at least the ones I’d read at that point), scary things happen, but the good guys always win.  That the monsters go away, and that the people who wrote the stories wrote them that way on purpose – because the exciting good ending can’t happen without the scary stuff that happens first.

And I learned.  I learned that the bad dreams I had weren’t real, that lots of people had them and that it was normal and okay to feel afraid.  I learned that I could imagine better endings to bad dreams.  When I woke up from a nightmare, instead of crying or running into my mum’s bed, I’d curl up into a safe corner of the bed with a stuffed toy, wrap myself tight and imagine an ending to the dream.  One night, the scary camel that walked on two legs that was chasing me never caught me, because I hid in a labyrinth until the camel got lost, and never found its way out again.  Another night, the alien-in-a-jar that was chasing me couldn’t catch me, because I discovered that if I ran fast enough over the landing and past where the stairs started, I’d run through the air and never fall down.  Some dreams I won because I grew wings, or had magic powers, or found an enchanted sword and fought back, or found out the monster was really kind and just scared.  I got better at thinking up creative solutions to things.  I might re-enact a particular dream all week with my toys, coming up with better and better ways for the good guys to win.  And then I started writing them down.

I wrote silly little comics and story books involving characters I created.  And when I was ten, I wrote and illustrated a children’s story about a broken old, lonely teddy bear, and was invited to visit my local infant’s school to read it for the kids there at story-time.  That same year, I had a poem published in a local amateur anthology sponsored by the library, and a second poem the year after that.  When I was twelve, I finished my first novel – an admittedly terrible but very fun story about a fox and a badger, who go on a quest to save their world from a mermaid-turned-evil.

I’m still writing, today.  And all because, when I first pulled that horror novel off my mum’s bookshelf, she didn’t forbid me from reading it.  Instead, she read it with me, and talked to me about the content.

My mum’s approach to that horror novel reflected the approach she took to all my learning.  No question was inappropriate, no learning material I sought out was off limits, and nothing in school was forbidden.  But she would always be there, to talk with me, to ask how I felt about the thing I’d learned, to discuss the morality behind it, or the evidence, or lack of.  Sometimes she might say “I don’t think you’re ready to read/watch that, yet”, but that was always a suggestion, never an ultimatum.  And I grew up into a teenager that she didn’t have to worry about.  She never had to worry that exposure to certain materials would send me down the wrong path, because she’d given me a mental toolkit that allowed me to critically analyse what I read, saw and heard.  To question what I was taught, to do my own research and form my own judgements.  And she helped me build my own personal moral framework, ever-evolving, through which to view the world and everything in it.

Does that mean I never did anything she approved of?  Never did anything stupid, or came to a poorly-formed opinion on a subject?  Of course not!  But those mistakes are an inevitable part of being a growing human, and the mental tools she’d already gifted to me helped me deal with and grow from those mistakes as a more aware person.

I think parents should certainly be having conversations about controversial school subjects and learning materials.   But I think they should be having those conversations with their children.

This is nothing fancy or special.  I just decided it was about time I made myself a list of my current WIPs, since I have a terrible tendency to tidy them away when guests are visiting, only to completely forget about them for weeks afterwards.  There aren’t any fancy pictures, not much wit either.  I just really need to get back on schedule with my stuff.

Current Projects Needing Attention

  • Ravenwing Shawl.
  • Finish spinning Ravenwing fibre
  • Finish spinning Aubergine fibre
  • Finish spinning leftover Autumn fibre
  • Cathedral-block quilted needle roll
  • Polkadot jersey dress
  • Knit something with Aubergine fibre

Craft Hobbies Needing Projects

  • Get back to embroidery.  Yes, especially since you recently bought some new designs in the Urban Threads sale.  No, it doesn’t have to be the embroidered diary.  A bit late for that now, anyway, seeing as you’ve not touched that in months.  Just embroider something, damnit.
  • More straw weaving.  You made a bunch of lovely wheat dollies for Yule, and it was only your first time!  You know where you can get loads more straw for cheap!  And it’s May!  You should have done some for Mayday, at least.
  • Brew something.  Seriously, it’s been three years since you last even bothered to stick fruit and yeast in a bottle.  You’ve got that lovely book, Booze for Free, that your other half gave you for your birthday.  Use it!
  • Speaking of books and hobbies, you made that delicious home-cured bacon and that pear-and-chestnut jam from Salt Sugar Smoke, haven’t you been meaning to do more with that book?  And Food for Free has sat on your bookshelf waiting for you to go foraging.
  • Oh shit, when did you last feed your sourdough starter?
  • Write!  Write, you terrible thing!  You were doing so well!  Getting new freelance work every day, writing some of your own work every day, and then?  The anxiety beast attacked, you stopped taking on new work and haven’t touched your amazing post-apocalyptic sci-fi story in weeks.

Shit.  When did I last feed my sourdough starter?

Just a few quick photos – I finished the central spiral section of my Ravenwing shawl – the one made using my gorgeous merino/silk/trilobal custom blend from World of Wools.  I’m about to get started on the first “wing”, but in the meantime, here’s the centrepiece off needles and on waste yarn!  Once again, I’m sorry that every single photo looks slightly different.  It really is an inevitable part of working with such shiny, glossy, complex yarn and I can only hope that the finished shawl will photograph well when I’m wearing it.


It probably isn’t obvious from the pictures, but this section of the shawl is quite large.  The standard pattern calls for this piece to reach shoulder-to-shoulder, and it does, and I expect it to be larger still when blocked.  I’m hoping the bottom of the shawl will fall to my butt at least, because I prefer slightly large shawls to the cute shawlettes.  Since I plyed the yarn larger than called-for, and went up a needle size, I’m confident it’ll be the size I want.DSCN0596

The next bit of the pattern already has me a little confused, though.  If anyone else has worked through the In The Pink shawl on Ravelry and wants to volunteer themselves to give me some advice, I’d be really grateful.  In fact, if anyone has pictures of their knitting they could use to illustrate what the pattern means when it says:

Knit 8 rows, do not turn work at the end of the 8th row

Pick up and purl 4 st from the end of rows, then pick up and knit 3 st from the cast-on edge

Please feel free to comment!  I think I understand what they’re saying, but I can’t quite picture it in my head and it’d be so much easier with a diagram or a photo showing how others did it.DSCN0598