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This is Ravelry Mondays, a weekly event where I pick three-five patterns seen on Ravelry that week, and share them on this blog.  Some weeks will be themed, and there are some rules.

In order for a pattern to qualify it must:

  • Be on Ravelry
  • Be available for download either on Ravelry or from another website – no patterns only available in print or magazines, but it doesn’t have to be free
  • Have at least one photo clearly showing the item as a whole
  • Have at least one photo where the item is not being manipulated, so we can see accurately how it hangs and fits
  • Must have the necessary minimum information on the ravelry page – sizing info where applicable, yardage, yarn weight, etc
  • Clothing items will only qualify if they are available in plus sizes*
  • Only one pattern per designer per week

*And the plus sizes given must have MEASUREMENTS.  Calling the sizes XS-XXXL means nothing if you never tell us what XXXL is.  I’ve seen a 40″ bust called that, before!

As it’s been a while since my last Ravelry Monday, I’m going to do the same thing I did on Friday.  This Ravelry Monday has no theme, looks at items all the way back to the last Ravelry Monday, and has no upper limit aside from my own patience.  So without further ado, here’s the latest crop of pretties!

Kipper Coat

The Kipper coat is a particularly pretty pattern.  You don’t often see full coats and jackets knit up, and especially not in plus sizes, but this elegant double-breasted coat has a lovely shape to it, and is available up to a 51″ bust in worsted weight wool.  It might seem an odd time of year to be looking at coats, but start knitting this now and you’ll have it finished and ready in time for the end of the Autumn chills, if not even sooner!  The patter is very reasonably priced at under £5, and is available for download at Ravelry.

The Look What I’ve Got Dress

I don’t often showcase children’s clothes and items, but this dress was simply too lovely to pass up.  The simple, tulip shape flowing out from the pleated neckline, the handy pockets (all dresses should have pockets) and the pretty edging all come together to produce a simple pattern that could be worked up beautifully in any number of ways, from a variegated yarn as shown above, to knit stripes or even patterned colourwork.  The DK weight makes it light enough for warm weather, while still being robust enough for kids to run around in, and at a mere £2 for the pattern, it’s excellent value as well.  This pattern is available for download at Ravelry.

Leighton House Handwarmers

I love these delicate, lightweight fingerless gloves.  The intricate colourwork pattern is simply stunning, and as these are knit in a very fine laceweight yarn, they look warm and cosy without being too bulky.  These would be perfect for wearing just as the Autumn chills start, when it’s still too warm for your usual mitts but the air is nipping at your fingertips.  Another great value pattern at £3, these are available for download at Ravelry.

Raindrops

Now here’s a simple, pretty design available in adult sizes up to a generous 58″ bust, and in child sizes, too.  An elegant, no-fuss light sweater in fingering weight yarn, with a delicate pattern of yarn-overs producing pretty little holes resembling raindrops around the neckline.  I just thought this looked so different to most sweater patterns, and I really love the design on the sleeves.  In fact I like them so much, I included a second picture for this one!  This pattern is available for under £4 and can be downloaded at Ravelry.

Sauble

Another fingering-weight Summer cardigan, this time featuring a lovely horizontal stripe-and-wildflower knot stitch.  I’ve showcased patterns by this Lauren Chau before, and it’s easy to see why.  Not only are her patterns typically offered in a generous range of sizes – this one comes up to 58.75″ – but they are always simple, elegant and beautifully fitted in all the right places, from the sleeves to the neckline, to the length of the hem.  You won’t even need to spend £5 for this pattern, and it’s available for download at Ravelry.

Lucania

This pattern just barely scraped into my post, this week.  The largest size is exactly 50″ at the bust with negative ease, and I had to debate whether to let it in, considering the spirit of my rules vs the letter of them.  In the end, it was simply far, far too pretty not to post.  Look at the neckline, the bouquets along the chest, the waistline, the cap sleeves!  It’s a worsted weight pattern, but the short sleeves and low neckline make it a little less covering than you might normally expect for an Autumn sweater.  It’d be perfect for layering over a longsleeve blouse, and is available for just a little over £4 as a Ravelry download.

 

Leafy Cowl

Sometimes when you want a cowl, you want a little more warmth and cover over your chest, but don’t necessarily want a load of itchy fabric up around your neck and chin.  And sometimes you want something incredibly pretty and feminine, while still being robust enough to do the job.  The leafy cowl achieves all of that, with it’s attractive leaf pattern, delicate beading, ribbon ties and fitter shape.  Knit in a DK weight yarn, this cowl is thick enough to keep you cosy, but light enough not to overly bulk up your shoulders, and is available for download at Ravelry for just a hair over £4.

 

Raccoon Coccoon

Now here’s a cute, unusual pattern.  Ostensibly a pattern for a small toy, the simple square and block shape could easily be scaled up by using thicker yarn and larger needles, to produce a small, fun cushion.  The simple colourwork face and striped tail are striking, instantly recognisable and very cute.   The default pattern calls for a worsted weight yarn, and is a bargain at under £3, available for download at Ravelry.

 

Lollipop Cardigan

The lollipop cardigan is a great Summer cover-up, knit in fingering weight yarn and with a pretty, airy panel of open lacework at the back and shorter sleeves.  It’s also available up to a 56″ bust, and the deep v shape at the front looks lovely open or buttoned shut.  The pattern is just over £4 and is available for download at Ravelry.

 

Lady of the Lake

Of course I had to share this pattern.  How could I not?!  If there’s one thing any respectable goth needs come Summer, it’s a parasol to help protect us from the burning Sun.  While the pattern is technically for a circular shawl, instructions are included for creating the parasol from it, which you could then presumably use to transform all manner of circular knitted items.  Lady of the Lake is knit in light fingering and is available for download at Ravelry for under £5, or as part of an ebook of five pretty patterns for just over £11.

 

Harlow Cowl

Of course, parasols might not be your thing.  Maybe you want a light, delicate and feminine cover-up to protect you from the worst of the sun, but want to keep your hands free.  The Harlow cowl is a lovely solution, with fine, beaded lace and a wide enough shape to be draped like a hood.  Knit in the lightest lace weight yarn, this glamorous, gothic cowl is available for download at Ravelry for under £5.
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There were many more gorgeous patterns that were originally on my list for today.  The truth is, I only stopped here because I simply didn’t have the time to keep typing.  Did you see a particularly pretty pattern that you thought deserved to be in this post?  Let me know in the comments!

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?

Oh yeah! Mystery cross-stitch-along! You know you want to…

STEOTCH: Fine New England Needleart

stitchalongAW YISS.  It’s that time, beotch!  Welcome to the Steotch Fine New England Needlearts Inaugural Mystery Stitchalong.

Edit: 8/1 – The Stitchalong has now closed, and as we warned, the patterns are no longer available. Follow our page on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to get notified when the next Stitchalong is underway.  Otherwise check back here.

What is it?

We posted a series of cross stitch patterns at this URL.  Each pattern revealed a little more of the design.  A bunch of crafty craftersons stitched along with us, and created badass samplers of their very own – but didn’t know what they’d created until they’d invested way too much time to allow themselves to see it as anything but a triumph!

 

They shared their progress using #steotchalong on Twitter.

To see the finished sampler (and pictures from many of the fine steotchers who came along for the…

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Can we talk for a moment about the Big Yarn Companies?

Because I love the yarns offered by Rowan.  They’re pretty, feel wonderful and tend to knit up beautifully.

And I love that Rowan offer pattern books designed around specific ranges of yarn.  The patterns are often pretty, and invariably showcase the unique aspects of the yarn very well.

But you’d think that, if anyone could get something as basic as photos of their pattern samples right, it’d be a large company like Rowan.  They’ve had years and years to get the hang of things, but they have a knack for making all the worst possible choices when it comes to how they photograph their samples.

Rowan recently brought out a new set of patterns to go with their “fine art collection” yarn range.  And as pretty as they are, I’m certainly not going to even consider  picking up the patterns until I’ve seen samples made by other knitters.  Here are some notable examples of the reason why:

Are we supposed to be looking at the scarf, the socks or the top?

“Sparrow”, this item is called.  Now, I’m a sucker for patterns named after birds, trees and woodland animals.  The names invite me in straight away.  But tell me, from looking at this picture, do you think we’re supposed to be looking at the socks, the scarf or the top the model is wearing?  Did you guess “socks”?  Congratulations!  Now, what can you tell me about those socks?  They look stripy.  Do they have a textural pattern?  What sort of heel do they have?  What sort of toe?  Is the striping an aspect of the yarn, or is it part of the pattern?  We’re zoomed so far out that I can barely make out anything except the socks are ankle length.

Who cares about seeing the item when the shadows look so pretty?

Here’s another very nice, artsy photo for the “Ibis” pattern.  Socks again, but thigh-high ones this time.  Of course, half the sock is hidden in deep shadow, and the cut of the coat worn by the model is such that we can’t actually make out the cuffs.  Note that between the shadows, the coat and her hands, we can’t see how the cuffs fit – do they pinch her thigh, causing it to bulge?  Are they baggy?  She’s also wearing shoes, so all we can actually see is that, again the socks are stripey.  So, how does this pattern differ from the previous once, except for length?  Do these socks have a textural pattern we can’t see?  Different heel/toe construction?  Is there any reason this is a separate pattern to “sparrow”, or could they have been the same pattern with a variable length option?

Finally, a close-up! Sort of.

At long last, we can actually see the socks!  This is “cuckoo”, a pattern which clearly has… some sort of cabled pattern on the side, and some sort of textural pattern.  This is one of the clearest photos of any item in the range, which should tell you something, really.  The deep shadows obscure the heel of the socks, but we can at least see the cuff and toe, and are close enough to make out some basic aspects of the pattern, although not with any detail.

Socks! No, wait… Scarf!

Before you shout “Socks!  Definitely socks!”, I should tell you that the pattern book does include scarves as well as socks, and that this pattern is called “goose”.  What do you think, is it the scarf?  Hard to tell from this zoomed out, but the colour of the scarf and the pattern of colours looks sort of like the colour of some birds, doesn’t it?  You’re going to guess scarf?  Congratulations, you’re… wrong.  Socks, again.  With the cuff partially hidden by the fringe of one of the two scarves the model is wearing, and the heels obscured by shadow.  And again, so much effort has been spent showing off the model and the setting, that the actual item is a tiny, not-terribly-clear part of the picture.

Socks!

I don’t think I even need to comment on the issues with the photo, at this point.

One thing I’ve learned about buying a pattern is that you do not pay for it unless the photo or photos:

  • Clearly show the item in question
  • Clearly show key design elements of the item, such as lacework, cuffs, construction
  • Do not conceal areas that can be signs of a poor pattern, such as cuffs, collars, seams etc through artsy posing
  • Show the item laid flat or otherwise displayed in a clear, simple way so the full shape and overall appearance can be seen

The simple reason for all of this being, it is very easy to make an otherwise poorly-fitted item look very good indeed if you take an “artsy” photo.  Just take a look in any women’s magazine at the fashion ads and you’ll see models contorted into poses no person would voluntarily, naturally stand in outside of a photoshoot, with the items of clothing pinned where you can’t see for better fit and rumpled, tucked, creased and oddly worn.  The photos look lovely, but you can’t even tell what neckline the item has half the time, let alone where the waist falls, how long the sleeves are or whether it’s a loose or tight fit.  This is all well and good for off-the-rack clothes, when you can walk in-store and actually pick up, view and try on the item in question.  It’s unforgivable when we’re talking about something that you’re going to need to buy the yarn and pattern for and spend hours or days of your precious time knitting.