Monday, 31 January 2011

Heart Art

This year the British Heart Foundation are celebrating their 50th birthday and of course Valentine's day is fast to celebrate Knit Nottingham are holding a fun crafty event: Heart Art at Davenports shop of originality. We will be there from 11am - 3pm on Saturday 12 February. So drop by and help create a piece of crafty art. Don't panic though as the shop will be open as normal.

The British Heart Foundation was founded in 1961 by a group of medical professionals who were concerned about the increasing death rate from cardiovascular disease. They are the nation's heart charity. Their vision is a world where people don't die prematurely from heart disease. They'll achieve this through pioneering research, vital prevention activity and ensuring quality care and support for everyone living with heart disease. Their aim is to raise money to help fund extra research into the causes, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of heart and circulatory disease. In 1986, they become more involved in public education, and in 1990 moved into rehabilitation. To continue this life-saving work for future generations they need our support. To find out more about the work they do, visit their website at

It will be £1 to knit a square, 50% of the profits will go to the British Heart Foundation. We are aiming to make enough squares to fill the heart with knitted love.  If you can't make it on the day, knit a square and drop it into the shop before the end of February.

To find Davenports shop of originality, head for the Flying Horse Arcade in the city centre and you will find us at the bottom end near Mcdonalds, just across from the Bridal Shop. On the map below the Flying Horse Arcade is the area between Cheapside, St Peter's gate, Poultry arcade and Peck lane.

Pushing the boundaries...

We like to think that we're pushing boundaries here at Knit Nottingham. The latest frontier to crack is our January sale.....which will take place in February (sort of, the first day is tomorrow which is Monday the 31st of January...).

You might say we're crazy but really we're just keeping you on your feet. Or maybe its because we couldn't decide which lovely wools were for the chop. The jury is in and the verdict is:    

Super Chunky - We can't imagine a summer camisole in this weight so it's taking a holiday but it will be back!

Mirage -  We are really sad to say goodbye to this yarn but the torch has been passed onto Riot and who are we to stand in the way of progress?

Twist Aran - Although we all adore this yarn, it seems the colours are now too winter-y and we are now getting ready for summer and stocking brighter colours. So in the interests of a spring clean it has to go.

(Can you tell Eleanor took the photos...?!?)

Keep it on the lowdown but there might just be some handspun and the rest we are keeping as a surprise.

Love from
Knit Nottingham.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Mmmm yarn...

I'm often asked how I choose the yarrns we stock and I guess the answer is 'with great difficulty'. I'm a real yarn lover from acrylics to cashmere, smoochy soft to ... erm ... rustic ... - I adore them all! We've had a slew of adorable new yarns this week so I thought I might bask in their glory and give you a glimpse into my life (it's a very good one...).

The first consideration for me is always colour. I like a good bright colour for myself (both to wear and to look at) but if it's just bright colours it's a no no for the shop because many of my customers suit a more relaxed, laid-back colour pallette. Also, a bigger colour range just looks 'better' in the shop (I never thought I'd be one for aesthetics but a rainbow of yarn fills me with joy).

I usually start with five to six colours of any one yarn and work my way up by ordering a few more colours each time I'm replenishing. I've done this with the Heritage DK and it's worked beautifully - look at this here rainbow:

Next I think about the price. We set out to be 'affordable' and that's just what we are. I don't see that as 'cheap', I see it as good value for money so I don't mind whether a yarn is 75p:

or £5:

as long as you're paying the right amount for the yarn. It's why we'll never stock Rowan or Noro et al. The yarns are simply divine but really? I'd like to knit without going bankrupt. And sometimes, just sometimes, a cashmere silk blend isn't appropriate for a baby jumper - we all need a good bit of acrylic in our lives.

Next I think about fibre blends. There's no doubt that wool is popular, we cater for wool-lovers with our beautiful 100% merino DK.

But a lot of our customers love a good useable, washable, wearable wool-acrylic mix and I think we've got that down!!! 11 out of our 24 brands of yarn are mixes and all bar one are washable which means that the time you spend knitting wont be wasted through felting and you'll have more of it rather than slaving over your hand washing.

Then I think about yarn weight. DK is without a doubt the most popular, it's makes a delicate enough fabric to be flattering but you're not knitting literally miles for the sake of one cardi. It's also the weight with the most amount of choice in terms of colours and mixes of colours (mostly because it's the most popular so the yarn companies tend to make more). We all know that  a DK is a good go-to for a hat, a jumper, mittens or anything really so I get a lot of that in.

I'm a big fan of 4-ply. I adore socks and I'm a glutton for punishment so a cardi in 4-ply is like heaven for me. I was lucky enough to chance upon Cygnet's Wool-rich 4-ply and with 21 colours in the range I haven't looked back!

Other weights may turn out to be more seasonal - I'm not sure how much call there'll be for super-chunky in August - we'll see. Aran is the most popular at the moment, it's a good transitional weight and all of the young and trendies seem to be walking up and down Mansfield Road wearing old men's arans as dresses (the look is growing on me...).

Finally, I ought to mention customer's input. Often, a customer comes in looking for just-the-right-colour/weight/fibre content and we'll spend a happy ten minutes flicking through sample books to find just the thing. It's often something I'd dismissed or not noticed but if you're shopping in this shop I trust your taste...

I'll leave it there I think - otherwise I'd be talking all day and I really have to get some tidying done - ahhh the crash back to reality...

Love Eleanor. :)

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Knit a Toilet Roll Doll

Hi All

We wanted to share details of this wonderful local competition with you, the challenge is to knit a toilet roll doll using one of the following categories for inspiration -
Diversity:  Create a doll that someway represents the diversity of your community.
Nottingham: Create a doll using the vibrancy of Nottingham as your inspiration.
Traditional:  Do you or a member of your family already have a doll that has long
yearned for celebrity? Then dig him or her out and enter them.
Design:  Put your imagination to the test and create an image of your dream doll. 
There are some great prizes on offer for the winners -  
One night's stay with dinner, bed and breakfast for two people;  
One month's free leisure club membership for two people; 
Or a years worth of free toilet roll!
Deadline for submissions is February 14th. Further details and an application form are available on or you are more than welcome to call Bright ideas
Nottingham on: 0115 8379 474
Bright Ideas is a local business committed to helping local communites have access to the services they need through education, community engagement and research. If you want to know more about the work they do, check out their website, Bright Ideas Nottingham.
In a quiet moment, I felt a need to research google images for visual inspiration and found the following beauties!

So pick up your needles and get knitting to celebrate the design classic that is the toilet roll doll, and to raise money for a worthy cause.

Monday, 17 January 2011

What are spinnotts????

You may have heard the word 'spinnotts' in association with 'spinning' and 'drop spindle ' whilst in the shop or reading the blog so I thought we had better explain what 'spinnotts are!

They are not a spinning accessory or tool, nor are they fleece or fibre. They are in fact a group of spinners ranging from complete newbies to the very experienced who like to meet up and spin in public, drink tea, eat cake and chat on the Internet.

The group was formed after an outdoors spinning demonstration at East Bridgeford show by members of the local Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers with the intention of using the Ravelry based group to reach spinners who did not belong to the guild but lived in the area around Nottingham.
You will often see at least two of the group out and about in pubs and cafes in and around Nottingham causing chaos as only they can.
We now have 28 members and arrange a number of challenges to keep everyone on their toes from spin a hat to the current spin and knit/crochet a small shawl. So if you are just starting out or fancy joining us for a spin in, you can find us on, just look for spinnotts under the groups listing.

If you are wondering where we spin, here is last years locations list....

Wollaton Park, Nottingham Castle, Nottingham Contemporary CafĂ©, Lee Rosies, Broadway, Costa, New Art Exchange, Up cafe, various music festivals including Riverside Festival, City Pulse, One World, Mela and Pagan Pride to name just a few. 

Of course you will sometimes find us at the shop, spinning and waving at the passers by!!

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Spindle spin or wheel spin?

Often a spinner is asked whether they use a drop spindle or a spinning wheel and many spinners have a definite preference for one or the other. Each method has its advantages, drop spindles are very portable, no setting up required so can be popped in your bag ready to catch a few odd moments when spinning keeps your fingers busy, such as waiting for a bus or just taking ten minutes away from a busy or stressful job.

On the other hand, using a wheel means that you can spin faster and I find that I can spin for longer if the music/chat/film is good. The main drawback with a wheel is that many of them are not terribly portable.

All that aside, the technique of drafting remains the same once you have mastered the treadle.

My first experience with a wheel was at a visit to the local Weavers Spinner and Dyer's guild where they gave me some tuition and lent me a wheel (Ashford Traditional) to practice on,

I then borrowed a different style wheel (Ashford Traveller) from them to see which I preferred.

fibre project 362

In the meantime I had chance to visit a summer school open day and was able to try out a few different wheels and fell madly in love with the Kromski Sonata which I could not afford but I was determined to start saving up as soon as possible.

A friend kindly gave me a wheel which has had a great deal of use over the last year or so and I did eventually buy a secondhand Sonata and that is the wheel that I generally take out with me.

new lodger

mayday 038

The whole process of spinning and dying your own yarn is amazing as the the fibre/yarn/finished article all produce different effects.

This is some shetland fibre, dyed with acid dyes, spun and knitted into a small shawl .

fluff day 014

Whilst this shetland was left undyed and knitted up as a two ply.

Of course there is no reason why you shouldn't be adventurous and add beads to your spinning, vary the thickness of the yarn and generally have a bit of fun.

bead fair yarn
Any questions, ask at the shop for details of our spindle workshop or look out for strange people with spinning wheels in pubs and cafes around Nottingham...more about spinnotts in a later post.


Friday, 7 January 2011

Look at our lovely new yarns

New colour in the Truly Wool Rich 4ply - Rust, a lovely burnt orange.
75% wool and 25% polyamide. 50 gram balls, 205 metres, 2 balls will knit an average size pair of socks. Retails at £2.50.

New Colours in the Cygnet Aran - Regal, a deep strong purple, 
                                                         - Grape, a dusky greyish mauve,
                                                   - Harvest, a heathered beige,
                                                  - White - a pure, crisp white. 
100% premium acrylic. 100g balls, 210 metres, one ball for a good size hat. Retails at £1.75. 

A selection of our lovely acrylic DK's - two new colours in, candyfloss pink and (the excitingly named) beige. Come to admire our range of 20 colours. 
100% acrylic, 298 metres, two balls for a 3-6 month baby. Retails at £1.75. 

Colours , colours everywhere, 

Love Knit Nottingham. 

Stash Busting workshop

On the 16th Janaury we start our new programme of workshops, we will kick start these with a Stash Busting workshop. The aim of this workshop is to get you familiar with yarn weights, how to make the most of your stash, matching different yarns to patterns and design work, learning how to adapt patterns to suit your own ideas.

Whilst browsing the internet the other day, in a bid to banish a dose of post holiday boredom, I stumbled on a strange fact...There is actually an official date that is recognised as the most depressing day of the year! This year the momentous day is on the 24th of January, not long after our workshop, so we had a hunt round and picked out a couple of stash busting projects that are all super colourful and hopefully will ease the winter blues.

One blog that I have just started following is The laughingpurplegoldfish, and yes it was the name that caught my attention! Once I delved into the blog, I found some inspiring stash busting ideas, in particular check out the accidental hat -

or the scrap happy scarf -

 I hope they inspire you to try them out using your own stash. Follow the link below -

Happy stash busting to you all

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

The Curious Art of Blocking - Part ii.

Welcome back!

I'm sure you've been eargerly awaiting the next installment - as have I my friends and the time has now come.

Today I'll be blocking something a whole lot more spectacular. It is in fact a wedding shawl! Which means that it's white, white, white and more white and that's the reason that there isn't just one tutorial (it was easier to photograph the blue cardi) - I'll admit the photos aren't perfect but I never claimed to be a photographic genius!

I ought to talk a bit more about blocking first though. Blocking works on any fibre, and will certainly neaten up a man made or cotton yarn. However, the true benefits lie in blocking natural, animal fibres because these fibres have what we call 'memory'. Essentially, if you wet them and leave them they stay in that position. Lace reacts wondefully to a full, heavy blocking so mixing lace with natural fibres is like mixing chocolate with coffee or sunshine with the beach - it must be done. Any other fibre or any other technique and I'd probably go ahead and block by smoothing the item (see previous post) unless it's really out of shape and needs a good seeing to!

First, a photo to show you how atrocious this looked before it was blocked.

The first section is the same as before - soak the yarn in conditioner-ed warm water without stretching it, make sure it's well rinsed and not dripping wet. Take the knitting to the nearest unclothed and clean bed and collect together some sort of straight stick and a whole lot of rust-proof pins.

I'm at this point right now (don't hate me for the fact that for much of this series I completely forgot about the flash on my camera...):

Bit pathetic huh? Don't worry - it'll get better. I found the mid point of the longest side and pinned it squarely to the bed.

As I see it, the mid part of this shawl is a straight edge and the outside points curve upwards (described in the pattern as a chevron). On the longest edges of shawls some people like to thread a smooth yarn through every stitch and pin both ends of that down to make it properly straight. This would also work if you're blocking a square or rectangular garment. Because my edge isn't exactly straight (and I'm a glutton for punishment) I used a bunch (I mean about 60/70) pins every centimetre or so to create a smooth but curved edge.

Those of you that know me know I'm not a perfectionist. At this point I checked my lines by holding a long straight stick next to the shawl, if it was within half a centimetre I coped. Your mileage may vary and I won't hold it against you if you spend and hour or more neatening the whole length of the thing - you're a better person than I.

Once I'd pinned the edge satisfactorily I moved to the other side of the bed to pin out each of the points. I pinned one side and then it's twin on the other side:

Lace knitting needs to be stretched to open up the yarn overs so that it can look its best. Cabled, plain or colour worked knitting doesn't need this as much. Don't be afraid to stretch just a little more than you think is possible, especially if you need it to measure a certain length and it's just short. However, wet fibre can be fragile fibre and a broken thread at this point would be worse than poking your eye out with one of the blocking pins (probably...) so be careful and treat your yarn kindly. Carry on,

and on...

And eventually it'll look something like this:

Then really the only thing to do is to take 'artistic' photos whilst you drink coffee, pat yourself on the back and wait for the blasted thing to dry.

Here's the place for the before and after photos - unfortunately, being the hot-head that I am, the blue cardi was ripped back straight after blocking - sparing not a thought to it being the subject of a blog post - because I didn't like it. The blocking turned out beautifully - you'll have to take my word for that and one day I'll have a photo for you to peruse.

However - I do have finished photos of the shawl - which is the one I know you all want to see. Ta da:

You'll hopefully see that the stitches have been spread so that each motif has been fully realised. The points are also strong and true but the 'bounciness' of the hand knitting is still there. (Click on any of the photos to make them bigger).

Have a little scroll up and compare the size of this thing to how it was originally.

And that's it folks. It's not necessarily a comprehensive guide to blocking but it isn't some mystic rite of passage performed by witches or indeed a medieval method of torture - it's really quite simple and easy and maybe even a little bit magic. Give it a go on your next project and you won't look back.

New Year Challenge

Happy New Year

While I don't really bother with new year resolutions (stopped making them when I realised that never kept them more than a month!), this year I have set myself a new year knitting challenge instead.

The challenge will last all year and the aim is to knit 12 large squares, each in a different stitch, which I will then sew into a blanket. So this time next year not only will I have a lovely new blanket but will have learn't 12 new stitches...bonus. The inspiration behind my challenge comes from a great little knit book I bought, the Harmony guide to "Knitting Stitches".

Each month I will update you on how the blanket challenge is going and put up some photos, heading off now to start the first square, which will be done in a dotted chevron stitch, this is a new stitch to me and I have included an example below, Hasten to add that this is not my work, only put it on to demonstrate what the dotted chevron stitch should look like, lets hope mine look as good!

see you back here in a month.
Wish me luck

Monday, 3 January 2011

The Curious Art of Blocking.

Blocking has to be the best kept secret in the whole of the knitting world. When I first seriously took up knitting, Mum dutifully showed me how to 'press' my work using a damp towel, an iron and a whole lot of waiting about for the item to cool down again. Not only was this boring, slow and resulted in flat and lifeless garments, it didn't do the job that I wanted it to do i.e. neaten up my work. (I'll admit, most of the time I didn't bother and it was okay since I worked at a dry cleaners and the lovely presser ladies would do it for me!).

So, blocking is kind of like pressing but better, less time consuming and you don't need to go anywhere near an ironing board - win! Come with me and we'll discover together the curious art of blocking...

Here's a photo of the item fresh of the needles (actually, it's just a photo of part of the item. I tried to get the whole thing in but it looked pretty pathetic and this is a perfect example of what blocking can do to messed up....drunken... kitchener stitch). At this point, I'd sewn in the ends but not cut them down to size - I'll do that after the blocking is done.

The garment gets carefully placed into a sink full of warm water (I like bath temperature, some people prefer luke warm. The answer is, as always, use whatever you prefer...) with a smidge of hair conditioner. There are specialist wool cleaning products out there, but my bank balance and I prefer whatever is on sale at Boots (or any other high street cosmetic store). Make sure, especially if the item is non-superwash wool, that you don't agitate the item or you'll end up with a hot felted mess...

Leave it for a good 20 to 30 minutes to allow the fibres so fully absorb the water. Gently squidge the item into a ball so that you're not allowing the yarn to stretch under its own weight when it's out of the water and empty the sink.

Refill with roughly the same temperature water, gently replace the item and leave for 10 minutes or so. If you're using conditioner and wool, this step is particularly important because sheep's hair is a lot like ours and will end up dull, lifeless and fragile if you allow a build up of product.

Carefully remove the item (squidge it into a ball etc) and place at one end of a dry towel , thus:

Roll the towel, stand on it and walk up and down to remove most of the moisture (feel a bit sad that you haven't got slippers as funky as mine...).

Unfurl the wet towel and move the item onto a new one which has been spread out on a flat surface, keep the knitting squidged in its ball for safety. Use your hands to smooth the item into position.

Most indie patterns nowadays come with a schematic which is, roughly speaking, a diagram showing you the various measurements for your item. Other pattern producers might give you a written (and usually less detailed) version of this - but it's still useful. Use the schematic to measure certain points on your garment - for example, I need this cardiagan to be 26 inches long, let me measure and smooth it out so it is thus long:

The final step is to leave the item to dry - harder than it sounds when you want to keep admiring your work - just make sure you don't touch it! A fan will speed up the drying process.

Join us tomorrow for the results of today and a different, and more complex, method of blocking.

Love Eleanor, toodle pip.