Wednesday, October 2, 2013

This month our own Lizette Venter in Edinburgh has agreed to share some of her secrets on 


It starts as a dream.  A picture, sometimes a flower, a tree, the rush of water, the feel of the sky and the landscape.  Colour, texture, season are intrinsic to the initial idea, and is part of the first spark that makes me grab pen and paper.  Yes - pen and paper, not my knitting needles, although I am already so impatient to start turning this idea into reality.
  And then… what would I love to wear.  What kind of wool would I like to wrap myself in, and how do I make the shape of the item suit all kinds of body shapes, and still be flattering.
I don’t have to look for inspiration, I am surrounded by it. I love rambling about the countryside, and I take photo’s of everything that  inspires.  There is texture, angles, and such fragile beauty to be found, I could run around all day, and simply revel in ideas and the potential of translating my environment into a design. And it is not only nature.  Edinburgh is such a beautiful city, full of gardens, parks, and stunning architecture.
Who would not be inspired by the grandeur and beauty of this?

So, back to pen and paper.  What does this mean?  I’ll tell you a story about swatches, stitch counting, measuring, adding and subtracting.  I like to design for everyone, from size XS to 5XL.  This means, having to work out the dimensions of every single size, and knitting a prototype across the sizes, just to make sure my calculations were correct.  This is the part of designing that has me drinking too much coffee, scratch my head, sigh in frustration.  I’m not a numbers person, and because of that I have to be extra careful to get those digits right.  Although every ball of yarn has a guide to how the yarn should knit up over 10cm square (or inches if you prefer),  once you dive into the realm of lace or cable knitting, all this changes.  Even a little bit of Fair-Isle can draw the work in and make a difference between a fit or an ‘oh no, it’s too small!’  And let’s face it, knitting a whole jumper that you really, really wanted for yourself, and now the only person who can wear it is your slightly snooty second cousin,  well… who wants that?
Making sure the pattern works - translating a swatch into a garment.  
  Inspired by the Misty Isles, Spring Blossoms and landscape

 I love bright punchy colours too,  I grew up in South Africa, and the geometry and texture of that landscape is equally part of who I am.  I think design is an expression of personality,  and the geometry, rhythm, colour and texture of Africa is very much a part of my design inspiration too.
It is  necessary to consider what your yarn will do for you.   A very fluffy yarn, such as angora may not always show intricate work to it’s best either, but is lovely when you want to create a garment that suggests, like a misty, soft focus  memory.
 A nice crisp cable for a winters garment requires a nice lofty, springy yarn, be it wool or bamboo.  And a lace can often look a bit busy when knitted in a yarn with eclectic colour variation.  Now, these aren’t rules.  They are guides.  A very geometric lace pattern can look stunning in a variegated yarn, and a softly halo’ed suggestion of Aran in a jumper can make you look absolutely huggable.  It all depends what you would like as an end result.  If you want a garment that is very similar to the one a designer made, then look for a similar yarn.  If you are unsure of how a yarn would work, then do knit a swatch.  It can save hours of work.
 I generally opt for a lighter colour when I want to photograph the end results.  The design just shows up better this way, because of the way that light and shadow is created.  This is especially true when there is some Aran work or detail involved.  Colour… well that’s a whole different story, and I will get to that in a moment.
The clean lines created by this linen blend accentuates and adds to the pattern.  An art yarn, busy colours or the fine halo of angora or mohair would detract from the design of this scarf, and obscure or overshadow the beauty of the pattern.

Lace in a thicker yarn  (here I’ve used some left-over Noro Kureyon)  can be used to create texture, without being very lacy.
The yarn definitely makes the garment, be it scarf, hat or jumper.  It defines the outcome, and the overall look of what you want to make.  If you are unsure of what to use, then find the look you want, and go for a similar yarn.

Which one is your favourite?  Only your wardrobe will tell…  Colour evokes mood, personality, season.  So much is said in colour.  We all have colours we simply can’t wear.   I long to wear ochre or mustard , but they make me look ill.  So I have ochre and yellow socks to satisfy that need. (there’s always a way!) Playing with color is fun!
There are no hard and fast rules as far as colour is concerned.  Here’s a few pointers though:  To get a professional finish whilst using an array of color, I’d suggest using a specific yarn range from one company.  Why?  The yarn texture is similar, and the colours, even though they are varied, should complement each other.  Now, once that is said, I’d like to remind you of the beauty of a blanket made out of granny squares.  All scrap yarn, from many different sources. So use your discretion.  It can be really difficult to find colours that work together, whilst looking at a ball of yarn.   It is easier to see them when you wrap the yarns around a ruler to see what a knit would look like.  Often the look on a flat surface can be more revealing. However, there is no such thing as a ‘wrong’ color.  Getting the wrong yarn for one project, might mean getting the right one for another.  Just a word of caution:  if this is making your yarn stash take over your living space, it is time to start using what you’ve got!
The browns in this little jacket looked as if they didn’t fit when looking at the ball of yarn.  But how perfect once it was knitted up.
A color wheel or mood board can be a great boon for anyone wanting to play with colour.  Often a small amount of contrast will enhance the main color, and give it some oomph.
 Try a new daring colour combination.  Noro is one of my favourites favourite as far as color is concerned.  There is always something a little unexpected in there, and even though it might look a little jarring in a ball of wool, it seems to make perfect sense once it is seen in the knit.  And often that little surprise colour lifts the whole garment into a new dimension.

And then Etsy…  There are so many wonderful artist on Etsy, who use beautiful and inspiring colors.  Look at treasuries, or find someone’s work that you love.  Especially those dyers and spinners.  You will find  colour combinations to inspire!  Or else… take a walk outside, nature mixes a palette beyond compare!

We've been getting ready for Fall!

Korinne created this Jack-o-Lantern!

Janet thinks life's a hoot with Oliver the owl!

Meet a couple of our members :) 

Signing in from Spokane, Washington, Jane's shop is called Lady Jane Darcy -- She says, "I first learned to knit
in order to make a Gryffindor scarf for my aunt, who introduced me to Harry Potter. It was the first thing I knit and it was 11 feet long. Since then I've enjoyed knitting scarves, hats, wrist warmers, sweaters, and more for family and friends. I decided to open this little store to fund my concert trips & book habit! As you might be able to tell from my seller name I'm quite a Jane Austen fan! I spent a lot of time in university and outside of it studying the Regency period in English history, the literature, the history, the people. I am a lover of books and cannot stop buying them. My favorites are Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, and Jane Eyre. I am also a Harry Potter fan and a Hunger Games Fan.  I also love music, especially English folk, and have been blessed to see many of my favorite musicians & bands the last few years: Bobby Long, Marcus Foster, Mumford and Sons, Johnny Flynn, Laura Marling, The Avett Brothers, The Civil Wars, Langhorne Slim, Horse Feathers, and more.  I love to travel in the TARDIS with the Doctor, laugh my head off when watching Community and Parks & Rec, solve crimes with The Closer and Bones, cheer during Friday Night Lights, and can often be found compulsively listing every recipe I want to make from cooking shows. Cheers! x"

While running her shop -- KateJKnits -- Katherine Johnson joins the Miss Marples from Lucasville, Ohio.  She says, "I am a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom from Southern Ohio. When I have spare time, I love to knit. Oh, who am I kidding, when I have spare time from knitting, THEN I live the rest of my life! :P"

Thanks for reading! 

Come find us all on Etsy!

Miss Marple's Knitting Club

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Let's Talk Intarsia

This is a knitting technique that can be daunting to many new knitters!  It is used to create patterns with multiple colours.

 Unlike other multicolour techniques (including Fair Isle, slip-stitch colour, and double knitting), there is only one "active" colour on any given stitch, and yarn is not carried across the back of the work; when a colour changes on a given row, the old yarn is left hanging. This means that any intarsia piece is topologically several disjoint columns of colour; a simple blue circle on a white background involves one column of blue and two of white—one for the left and one for the right. Intarsia is most often worked flat, rather than in the round. However, it is possible to knit intarsia in circular knitting using particular techniques.

Common examples of intarsia include sweaters with large, solid-colour features like fruits, flowers, or geometric shapes. Argyle socks and sweaters are normally done in intarsia, although the thin diagonal lines are often overlaid in a later step, using Swiss darning or sometimes just a simple backstitch.

This technique is outlined in great detail on The Purl Bee with pictures!

KnitPicks shows another view - KP - Intarsia Tutorial

For those visual learners – YouTube has a lot of videos along with some really cute patterns!    

Good luck!      Andrea

We've been knitting cowls!

May-Lill in Norway has created an orange cowl for fall :-)

Aljona and Misha in Estonia have knitted cowls with winter in mind -- This multicolored one can be found at

Sheila and Joyce in California knit a lovely fuzzy infinity cowl which can be found at

Come Meet Some of Our Members!

Denise is from Waterford, Ireland and her shop is charmingly called Home Hugs :-) She says, "I'm a busy working mum to my 3 energetic young kids. I love creating huggable, cosy, hand knit items for you and your home."
You can find Denise's work at

Kathyrn is from London, England and calls her shop the George Bear Company because she's all about the stuffies! She says, "I have been knitting since I was 7, starting with scarves and building up to blankets and clothes. A couple of months ago, I decided to make a teddy for the newborn nephew of a girl in the office. I got lots of compliments, and soon lots of orders from friends and family. I started branching out in to a whole variety of stuffed animals and just 4 months later George Bear was formed! I love to knit in my spare time, and its my main source of stress relief. I really hope you like what you see..." Kathyrn's a bit photoshy so one of her teddies volunteered to pose in her place :-)

Shelly signs into her shop, Knitting by Shelly, from Bremerton, Washington :-) She says, "I love to create beautiful and useful things. The feeling of completing a project is wonderful! Even while one is ending, I'm dreaming of the next one."

Our Mystery Shop of the Month!

      In the spirit of Miss Marple, here are a series of clues that will point toward one Miss Marple Knitting Club shop. When you figure it out, comment here and we'll let you know if you've gotten it right!  
Ok, here we go......
Clue 1)  The name of this shop is one of the most interesting among us Miss Marple's. It has five words in it!
Clue 2)  In the shop owner's profile photo, she has a big smile on her face :-D
Clue 3) This person has been a Miss Marple's member for quite a while so she shows up on the fifth page of the list of Miss Marple's Knitting Club members.
Clue 4) If you search "knit pig" on Etsy, this shop will show up on the first page of results.
Good luck searching!

Thanks for reading!


Miss Marple's Knitting Club on Etsy

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Human Warmth of Knitting

The Human Warmth of Knitting

Knitting is an activity that is done in community – it’s about connections and relationships. This became very clear to me when I asked you Miss Marples, “How long have you been knitting?”  Absolutely no-one said, “I learned to knit by myself and only knit for myself.”
Instead these origin stories often talked about who taught us how to knit, and the most common teachers were our moms. A lot of us, like Elena and Judi, were taught by our mothers when we were very young. Andrea, on the other hand, said, “my grandmother taught me because ‘ladies need to know how to knit when they get married’. I was 13 at the time!” However old we were, teaching someone how to knit involves sitting close together, hands touching, coaxing stiff fingers and yarn through those initially very awkward new movements.
There was wonderful warmth, as well, in the stories of your first knitting project -- we knit for those we want to take care of. Lynn says, “My first knitting attempt was for my firstborn - he is 41 years old now. It was a yellow sweater which he never wore as it was newborn size and was too small for him.” Similarly, Susan tells us, “I knit for my babies, for my mother, for my first grandchild. Now I'm on my third grandchild!” If only we could cushion people from the troubles of the world by wrapping them in knitting!
       The act of knitting weaves yarn around and through itself to create something stronger, larger and more purposeful than the yarn is all by itself. Our knitted projects make visible the community and the human connections that are as much a part of knitting as the fibers themselves.

What have we been up to?

Denise created a lovely tea cozy!

Pamela brings us The Lexi Blanket!

Liz makes us all say Awwwww with her pumpkin hat :-)

Come Meet a Couple of Our Members!

Jennifer Esterbrook's shop is called Jesterbrook and she says, "I love to knit, sew and take pictures. I'm currently a senior in college and will graduate with a BFA in photography May 2013. I have a background using a lot of different medias and I am willing to try anything. I love the concept of recycling and creating things with found objects. I hope you enjoy what you see."
You can find Jennifer's work at 

MargoMadeIt is the home of Janet Tamargo who tell us, "I learned to knit as a child in England. While nursing at the local hospital I met my husband and we eventually settled in Maryland, his home state. I made several hand-crafted items for my family over the years in my spare time, working first in construction, then as a zoo keeper, and finally as a technician in a lab. Now widowed, I have now retired to look after my disabled daughter and her two children and knitting has become an important part of my day.  I love knitting for my grandchildren but especially like knitting for babies. I have recently started designing my own baby clothes and I am enjoying the new challenge of writing patterns. I have recently moved to the Allegheny Mountains in Pennsylvania where I hope to have more spare time to enjoy knitting." 
Janet's work shows up at

Our Mystery Shop of the Month!

      As a new addition to our team blog and in the spirit of Miss Marple, we thought we'd propose a mystery.  We'll give you a series of clues that will point toward one Miss Marple Knitting Club shop. When you figure it out, comment here and we'll let you know if you've gotten it right! We plan to expand this into bigger and better mysteries in future editions :-)  
Ok, here we go......
Clue 1)  Years ago, the Beatles sang, "We all live in a _______  __________." The name of our mystery shop could fit into those two spaces, but the color is different from the original.
Clue 2)  In the shop owner's profile photo, she has an octopus on her head!
Clue 3) This person shows up on the first page of the list of Miss Marple's Knitting Club members.
Clue 4) If you search "Medusa Scarf" on Etsy, this shop will show up on the first page of results.
Good luck searching!

Thanks for reading!


Miss Marple's Knitting Club on Etsy

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Global Family of Knitters!

            While lots of people talk about the downside of globalization, I think Miss Marple’s Knitting Club represents one of the up-sides! Years ago, people would have gone to someone’s house or a church basement and sat around and knitted together.  It’s harder to find a group like that today.  To remedy that, we gather together in virtual groups like Miss Marple’s Knitting Club. 

       We’ve got members from four of the world’s seven continents, from 23 different countries! In alphabetical order, those countries are Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, England, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Russia, Sweden, Scotland, United States, Uzbekistan, and Wales. While the US has the largest number of members at 99, the UK is gaining fast at 23.
        United by a love of knitting, we get together and discuss new stitches and new kinds of yarn, how we learned to knit and how to make our own patterns and more!

What have we been up to?

Lily in Moldova created a Mother's Day purse --

Catherine in Israel knit a lace cowl --

Debbie in Virginia designed a rainbow shawl --

Come Meet a Few of our Members

Sheila Zachariae signs in from Omaha, Nebraska -- 
"Hi, I'm Sheila Zachariae and I own and operate Creative Design! I was taught to knit by my mother in my teens in the '70's and I quickly went from that to cross stitch and then needlepoint.
  Life goes on to a full time job, marriage, a child and then in early in 2004, I was forced to stay off my feet. I pick up the needles and started with knitting a scarf and then another, and then another! Next thing I know, I have 50 of them!  Off to a local art gallery I go to peddle my wares! They loved and sold them all! Creative Design was born! Two upscale children's boutiques later, here I am! More recently, I have been fortunate enough to have my items in numerous online and stand alone children's and women's wear shops!"
You can find Sheila's work at 
Sarmite Nastevica joins us from Latvia and says,
Hello, my name is Sarmite. My mother started to teach me knitting when I was 6 years old. More than 40 years are passed since then andI haven't lost interest in handcrafts. I have tried and learned lots of crafts - sewing, embroidering, crocheting, weaving, just to name a few."
You can find Sarmite's work at

Karen Stow joins us from England and says,
"I have been knitting and crocheting for more than thirty years a talent and skill which has been passed down generation to generation, I specialise in Crochet and Knitwear I design my own original patterns which are worked to a retro yet modern style."
You can find Karen's work at

Thanks for reading!

signed, Miss Marple's Knitting Club