Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Think I might be in need of a break...

This is what I did last night: typed up a poster listing the Christmas and New Year opening hours of all four shops in the Old Bank; stuck a post-it note to it indicating what needed doing to finish it off; stuck it in my going home bag; laminated it at home WITH THE POST-IT NOTE STILL ATTACHED. Don't tell me that isn't the sign of someone who should be closely supervised for their own safety.

Anyway, in case you have a knittery need or emergency (bread sauce on your sock yarn - that kind of thing...) over the holiday period, we'll be open 10-4.30 on the 29th and 30th Dec, and then 10-3.30 on the 31st. Open normal hours from the 2nd Jan which is, in any case, our regular monthly Saturday.

Hope you all have a great Christmas and New Year and that we'll see you, flaunting many lovely new knitteds, after the break.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Getting things in some sort of order...

I love baskets, but I gave up on putting my many WIPs into baskets because they take up too much space. And then I started piling old carriers, filled with more and more woolly projects, on top of the whole shebang and it really wasn't pretty. Well, to be honest, it was unsightly. Unsightly, I tell you.

So, we took home the coat stand that we used to have in the shop and we filled its hooks with a variety of bags, each containing a separate WIP. Sorted. And not visually offensive. I think I love a solution to a messy storage problem more than almost anything.

And these are what I have in progress just at the moment. Of course, these are just the ones at home; there are several more at work. Maybe I should get another coat stand for those.

The red at the side is a cushion cover I'm making in mohair boucle. I'm finding it a bit tricky to knit with on this scale, but very forgiving of mistakes and a lovely colour. On top of it lies part of an attempted vintage bootee - I'd like to decipher the rest of the very old and brief (cursory even) pattern sometime before I retire. (I'm guessing I now have to pick up stitches all around and work up towards the toe end, but nothing in the pattern suggests that's the case. Confused of Halifax needs help.) Then comes the cream 4 ply One Row Lace Scarf - nice, little, free pattern on ravelry; the socks in Sausalito that I've been knitting for more than twelve months and which I'd like to wear on Christmas Day; a pair of 4ply wristwarmers which were going to be a shop sample but I took too long finishing them so now - oh dear! - I'll have to keep them myself; a chunky green cowl in Cygnet Seriously Chunky and one of many squares for a charity blanket.

So, seven items at home and probably the same number at the shop. Seems reasonable to me. Certainly explains why I struggle to get on the same wavelength as those customers who can't plan another project before they've finished the last one...


Monday, 2 November 2015


This is part umpteen of my occasional, slightly self-indulgent, look-at-these-prices series:

We're concentrating on an internet giant with the initials WW today, as Big D's seems to have fallen out of favour with many. Here goes:

Debbie Bliss Paloma: WW £6.29/TBF £5.95

Debbie Bliss Rialto 4ply: WW £4.99/TBF £4.50

Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran: WW £4.99/TBF £4.50

Patons 100% Cotton 4 ply: WW £4.99/TBF £4.50

Patons 100% Cotton DK: WW £4.99/TBF £4.50

There are a couple of other yarns where the difference is negligible, and there's one yarn where this particular big boy site is maybe 25pence a ball cheaper. But overall, it's worth looking into your local wool shop - whether that's Three Bags Full or a different little shop - or shopping with the smaller sites, not just for good prices but also for fab, friendly, speedy service.

Okay, I won't mention pricing - or rather, people's perceptions about pricing - again for...oh, at least a day or so.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

The Piece Hall - what we don't know

Mini rant...

Every day customers ask whether Three Bags Full will be returning to The Piece Hall when the refurbishment is complete. The truthful answer is that we don't know, but the signs are that TPTB don't want us back. Mainly I'm assuming this from the fact that there has been virtually no communication from the people in charge of the refurb, or from the council, regarding the position of former tenants. No updates on the particular units we'd had allotted to us. In fact, no sign that those unofficial allocations will be honoured. They weren't confirmed in writing, but we were all asked what square footage we'd like and where we'd like our shops to be situated. There was no special tour arranged for former tenants; in contrast, I think all the recent tours were arranged during times when you'd expect little specialist shops like ours to be open and therefore the shop owners  - well, Mike and I certainly - were unable to attend. The obligation - which is in writing - for former tenants to be offered a unit in the refurbished Piece Hall, appears not to have been shared with the people who are arranging the new lets. Indeed, while we all spent many hours in meetings about this, and while the offer of a unit in the revamped building was very important at the time to all of us, it's now clear that it wasn't actually important to anyone on the other side of the table. How could the council not tell those letting the units that we have a prior claim? Did those hours of meetings count for so little?

It's now mid-October and the building should be ready for occupation by next summer. We don't know whether it's on track. We don't know how many retail units will be available. We don't know whether they'll be ground floor or first floor. We don't know how the trustees will square the need to make money from the building with the needs of retail customers (the disastrous Food and Drink Festival of a few years ago springs to mind regarding conflicting needs). We don't know what the terms and conditions for tenancy will be, nor the projected length of tenancy, nor the possible service charge, nor...well, anything else really. Because those in charge aren't communicating with us. Emails to relevant people go unanswered. To his credit, Cllr Tim Swift does answer emails but in July he said we'd all be contacted by the team 'in the near future'. Well, we're almost in the run up to Christmas and there's been no word. No communication; no courtesy; no interest.

Our tenancy at The Old Bank finishes at the end of May next year, so I need to be making some decisions. I don't know what any of the other former PH shop owners want - I suspect several have done better outside the Piece Hall than in, and that they're glad to be free of council control - but the refurb team should at least show a little thought for those of us who were willing to believe the council was acting in good faith two years ago and who would like to possibly take up the option of a return.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Here's another one

Again, really simple! I made this because there weren't initially (or ever?) any small projects for the gorgeous Debbie Bliss Paloma yarn and local people were baulking at the idea of paying £130 to knit themselves a cardigan (Can't think why...!) So here's my own small project Paloma idea. The red one I made was more attractive, but I can't find it right now to photograph it.

Three Button Cowl

A really simple but appealing cowl that can be worn long and loose or wound twice round the neck for extra warmth.

Four hanks Debbie Bliss Paloma
One pair of 7.5mm needles
3 large buttons

Cast on 26 stitches
Row 1 k3 *p2, k2* rpt to last 3 stitches, p2, k1
Row 2 k3 *p2, k2* to last 3 sts, p2 k1
Row 3 k1, *p2, k2* to last st, k1
Row 4 k1, *p2, k2* to last st, k1
These four rows form pattern. Rpt pattern rows until cowl measures approx. 45”
Change to k2, p2 rib: and work the following two rows, three times:
Row 1, k2, *p2, k2* to end
Row 2 k1, p1, k2,* p2, k2* to last 2 sts, p1, k1
Buttonhole row 1: k2, p2, cast off 2, p1, k2, p2, cast off 2, p1, k2, p2, cast off 2, p1, k2
Buttonhole row 2: k1, p1, k2, cast on 2, k2, p2, k2, cast on 2, k2, p2, k2, cast on 2, k2, p1, k1
Next row: work stitches as presented, but work into back of cast on stitches.
Work one more row, then cast off, sew in end and sew on buttons to match buttonhole placings.
A little reminder also, that if you like the pattern and think it's worth a small donation to The Knock On Effect, my late niece's fundraising project for those affected by cancer, then please go to:
where you can scroll down to the donate button. But just if you'd like; there's no obligation.

Friday, 2 October 2015

The missing pattern! In very big print!

Okay, here it is (finally...):

Chunky two colour cowl
Knit in the round version
1 ball each of two contrasting colours in Adriafil Mistero chunky – I used shades 32 and 26
Circular needle 6.5mm x 40cm
17stitches and 21 rows to 4 inches – it’s not crucial to have it exact, but somewhere near would be good.
a = main colour
b = contrast colour
Using your main colour, loosely cast on 96 stitches.
Join your stitches into a round, making sure they aren’t twisted, and marking the start of the round with a coloured thread or stitch marker.
Work 6 rounds of k1, p1 rib, starting with a k1.
Then start working in pattern as follows:
Pattern round 1: (k3a, k1b) repeat to marker
Pattern round 2: (k1b, k1a, k2b) repeat to marker
Work 28 pattern rounds in total.
Break off contrast colour.
Work 5 rounds of k1, p1 rib, starting with a k1, in main colour, then cast off in rib. Break thread, remove marker and sew in ends.
I wear my cowl upside down as I think it looks better that way!

Knitted flat version
1 ball each of two contrasting colours of Cygnet Grousemoor Chunky – I used shades 194 and 288
Pair straight needles 5.5mm
a = main colour
b = contrast colour
16 stitches and 19 rows to 4 inches – it’s not crucial to have it exact but somewhere near would be good.
Using main colour, loosely cast on 97 stitches, and work 6 rows of k1, p1 rib in main colour.
Then work 2-colour pattern as follows:
Pattern row 1: k2a, k1b, *k3a, k1b, rpt from * to last 2 sts, k2a
Pattern row 2: k1a, * p3b, p1a, rpt from * to last 4 sts, p3b, k1a
Repeat these two rows until 28 rows have been worked. Break off colour b.
Work 5 rows of k1, p1 rib in main colour.
Cast off loosely in rib.
With right sides together sew side seam using a simple overstitch.
Sew in ends.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Ravelry and the Chunky Two Colour Cowl

If I've established one thing today it's that I can't successfully navigate the many twists, turns, dead ends and other complications which make up the maze of the ravelry designer's account. I somehow ended up with two accounts. I don't know how, but I'm willing to accept it was probably an error on my part. My pattern wasn't connected to either of them. Then it became connected and a period of comparative peace ensued. Then it wasn't again and havoc ensued. By the time I'd answered a lot of questions from ravellers kindly trying to help me, and realised how little I could picture the shape of the site, a migraine was hovering. (Give me a flowchart or a site map or something! Just something so i can see how all the pages are connected for myself. Otherwise it's like doing a jigsaw without the picture on the lid.)

And it's like tatting: everything's fine while you're doing okay but, the minute you go wrong, there's no easy route back. Or no route at all. I was clicking on the same button at different times and being taken to different pages; how can that be? How can the site one time offer me a choice of my shop account or my designer account and then, another time, offer me my shop account or a different designer account. How?

Are you still there? Okay, this is the pattern that was on ravelry. I posted it saying it was free but if anyone liked it and wanted to donate a small amount to my late niece's fundraising project for cancer charities, The Knock On Effect, that would be fab. That still stands.

I'll upload it here as soon as I've had my lie down in a darkened room. And then another simple one straight after, just because I said I would.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

I've started, so I'll finish...

Or maybe I won't.

I've had a vintage jumper on the needles for quite some time. Maybe a couple of years. But the fact I was knitting it so slowly - even by my standards, which often see upstart new projects leapfrog with gusto over back burner knitting - was a clue that I wasn't fully committed to it. I liked the wool (Cygnet Truly Wool Rich 4 ply - perfect for vintage knits); I liked some aspects of the pattern; I liked the whole idea of knitting something from the very old knitting book that Mike kindly presented me with one recentish Christmas.  But long hours spent knitting into the back of every single stitch didn't endear me to it.

So I looked again at the completed back and realised it was probably time to call it quits. I could upravel the yarn. I could knit something I liked more. (I mean, it had puff sleeves - what was I thinking?) I could avoid the torture of knitting into the backs of thousands more stitches. And then this morning, I looked at some other vintage patterns and its fate was sealed.

Life's too short to finish books you're not enjoying reading or make jumpers you're not enjoying knitting!

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Now, what to make next...

My upcycling project with the very old and rabbit-mutilated crocheted blanket has finally borne complete new little blanketty fruit. And here it is. I don't think I was into subtlety colourwise back in the seventies, and it's pretty crudely crocheted - it definitely doesn't bear close inspection - and it doesn't have those lovely colour changes or 3D flower effects etc that current afghan patterns feature, but it'll still keep someone warmer than if they weren't huddled up in it. I did my best with the decades-old squares and the dark joining-up cotton that I could hardly see and the limited time I had available! (Hmmm, are there any more excuses I can think of for a less than excellent job?)

This one, on the other hand, is reasonably okay. Altho' the photo manages to make it look washed-out grey and pink, it's actually hot pink and a pretty green. It's a strange shape, but would make a lap blanket or a baby blanket, or something anyway.

These were both too late for the Nepal appeal so they'll be going to Knit for Nowt later in the year, along with the stuff made at the knitathon in September. Don't forget to let me know if you're coming along; we have so much acrylic that will benefit so many people once it's knitted or crocheted up.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Cricket and crochet

You spend a day at the cricket - Yorkshire won, by the way, with a day to spare - you have the sunshine, you have the packed lunch...what else could you possibly need? A bit of crocheting, that's what, so I grabbed a ball of cotton and a hook and started on a market bag.
I love market bags. Really they're just upmarket, updated string bags, but more stylish and with added cachet these days when a plastic bag is - so some people would have us believe - a crime against the environment.
How to make one? Well, basically you produce a bit of solid crocheting at the bottom, a bit of mesh, a bit more solid crocheting, add a handle or two and you're done. Adjust stitches used and proportions to match your size and shape preferences. You need more than that?...take a look at for lots of free and paid for patterns.
Here's how far I got with mine in a few hours:

Wednesday, 5 August 2015


Every time I resolve to finish a few things and reduce my pile of stuff that's in progress, someone shows me a new yarn, or offers me a sample ball or I realise we have something fab in the shop that I've never knitted with. It's a hard and confusing life.

Here's a couple of things I'm working on at present:
This is going to be a new cardigan for the wire lady in the lovely Wendy Ramsdale, a 100% British wool. It feels really lush in the knitting, as though it'll be cosy and warm through the coldest Old Bank winter. I'm using a very simple pattern from August's Knit Today but any DK pattern would be great.

And then there's this:
This is two balls of Debbie Bliss Angel knitted together in a simple lacy pattern from a stitch directory with a garter stitch edging. Prettier in the flesh.

So, that was all very straight and sensible, wasn't it? Anyone know any jokes?

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Oh, the tension!

The wire lady's been looking a bit sad lately. Could be because she doesn't have a name and is a bit dodgy on her feet, but I suspect it's more that she's been wearing the same little jumper for several weeks. I's a nice little jumper, but a girl needs a change now and then. I had one or two scrummy yarns I'd never made a sample for, so I set about finding a pattern.

I chose this one:
Lovely! Free! Entirely suitable for one of the yarns I wanted to use and it would be nice and chunky because I had to use the yarn double. I chose my yarn colours and set off. And then I did something I never do: I checked my tension. I spend my life telling people to check their tension. But for me, nope, can't be bothered. Anyway, it turned out I was getting a perfect 13 stitches to four inches and I felt pretty smug. See, I told myself, I don't need to check tension!

I'll cut to the chase: when I'd knit up the right front, it reached down to my knees. There might be designs where knee length is desirable and attractive, but this wasn't one of them.

So, I'll just say this: if you're substituting yarn, check the row count on your tension square as well as the stitches. You always do? Oh, right. Just me then...

Friday, 3 July 2015

The 5 Hour Baby Boy Sweater

A free pattern from ravelry, this, altho' I think the pattern it's based on has been around for a long time. And it's only a baby boy sweater if you purposely avoid the holes that come from making an extra stitch in the conventional way. And if you put the buttonhole on the boy side of the band. And it's only a sweater at all if you come from the USA or somewhere else where they call cardigans sweaters.

Anyway, see the difference in size? That comes from knitting one in aran and one in a wannabe - but not quite making it - aran. No worries for me - the blue one's a sample and the green one's a charity knit - but it's a pattern you might want to check your tension on if size matters, because even the proper aran one came out smallish. Plus, there's an issue with the sleeve instructions which required a little fudging. Hey ho. It's a free pattern - it'd be churlish to complain about the need for a little fudge.

Anyway, pretty cute. I think this might become my favourite for baby charity stuff - quick to make, but interesting enough to keep your attention.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Ten Poems About Knitting

A poetry book about knitting! Who'd have thought it?? Fab little collection anyway of poems old and new, sad and happy, long and get the idea.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Patricia Roberts

You know a knitwear designer's famous when you ask your Significant Other if they remember you having a knitting pattern book by Patricia Roberts back in the eighties, and they say yes. But that's what happened this morning and then I went off to find the book and I can't. Oh no! Of all the many fantastic knitwear books I've bought over the years, why did it have to be that particular very fantastic one that went missing? Did I look at it one day and think: these are all very eighties - time to let go? Did I lend it to someone? Did I never unpack it after we moved in twenty five years ago?

Well, I'll have a better look later, but in the meantime someone very kind has uploaded all the Patricia Roberts patterns to ravelry. Not the instructions, just the photos and signposts to where they can be found (mostly in books in secondhand bookshops, I think). Very well worth a scroll through for a taste of the more exciting end of eighties woolly fashion. I wasn't as adept or cavalier about yarn substitution at the time and some of the designs would've required PR's own yarn but I did make probably the most conservative garment featured - Some Like It Hot.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Just lately I've mostly been...

...making and re-purposing squares.
The knitted ones are for the Nepal blankets that we're making out of donated yarn. I'm not a fan of garter stitch, but if I switch to the much faster stocking stitch they'll be a different size and shape so I'm sticking with it. Each one takes me 2 hours, which seems like a long time to knit a plain square. Then I realised that a while ago I'd taken apart an old afghan, that I crocheted in the 70s, and rescued the squares that the rabbit hadn't wrecked with her teeth and claws. They were all washed and ready for edging, which I was working my way through slowly, slowly, very very slowly, as the advert doesn't say. Anyway, however slow it might be to edge them and sew back together it's going to be much faster than knitting garter stitch squares, so at the moment I'm doing both. (Plus a child's bolero, plus a toggled neckwarmer, plus my never ending vintage jumper, know how it is.)

Friday, 29 May 2015

Has the interest in knitting dropped?

That's the title of a thread on ravelry at present. It veered off course a little, as discussions tend to do, but started out with the premise that many small, woolly businesses are struggling at present and wondering whether that's due to a general downturn in the attraction of knitting as a hobby.

What do you think? Has the interest in knitting dropped? Or is it just the likelihood of buying from a small wool shop that's dropped? Is there such a choice of festivals and shows these days, where you can often get something other than the commercially produced yarns, that knitters save their woolly money up for those and eschew the other stuff? Are people knitting down their stash? Are they ordering online from the big boys? Or have so many small wool shops opened that there's just loads of choice and yarn money is being spread more thinly?

I'm interested to know because we've just had the very quietest week since we opened and I'm wondering why... I think it's partly due to all the above and partly due to the influence of programmes like The Great British Sewing Bee turning people onto sewing rather than knitting. Sewing's so much quicker - I wish I could do it. (Honestly, you'd never know my grandma was a tailoress!) Might be time to put away my knitting needles and crochet hooks and get my old, cheap sewing machine serviced and ready for action...

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Finished objects

Isn't it wonderful when you find odd balls of wool that you'd forgotten you had and think: hmmm, what can I make with this...? I'd found the 200g of green Silk Embrace, a (now discontinued) luxury alpaca/silk mix chunky, and the self striping Mochi Plus aran on Saturday, so between the craft market on Sunday and coming back to work today, I finished these three.
 The red mittens are made in chunky acrylic and are a prototype from a guesswork pattern which needed tweaking before the following pair, so if you know any men with medium sized hands but very, very long thumbs, I have just the pair of fingerless gloves for them.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

This is what multiple fudges look like...

I changed the stitch; I changed the yarn; I coped with the wrong end-of-row stitch counts; I fielded what seemed to me some very weird ways of doing fairly ordinary things; I inserted commonsense where instructions were missing. And it still
looks like a jumper. Luckily it's for charity so size wasn't an issue. I'm throwing the pattern away now.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Patterns and errors

It's probably a toss up which is more annoying to knitters: knots in wool or errors in patterns. We're told that three knots in a ball of wool is the acceptable industry standard, altho' I'm not sure the industry's ever run that by a group of knitters. (Justification is that without the knots the wool would be way more expensive.)

Anyway, I don't really know why I'm saying that seeing as I know nothing about it. On the other hand, I have lots of experience of mistakes in patterns. What do you do when you find an error? Sometimes you can easily work it out for yourself. Or you can fudge it; I'm a pretty good fudger. You could go online and see if there are any published errata. You can look on ravelry at the finished projects and see if other people had the same problem and how they solved it. Or you can post in the ravelry Patterns forum for advice. If all that fails, you can contact the designer, either through ravelry or via any other means you have.

So, when I had a problem last night with a pattern - having gone through all the other possibilities above first - that's what I did. I sent a polite rav message asking a very simple question. I got a quick polite answer referring me to Rowan, as, altho' the designer had designed the jumper, Rowan had published the pattern in one of their collections so the responsibility for problems was theirs. Well, no point in contacting Rowan seeing as I'm (legitimately) not using the yarn of theirs that the pattern was intended for. And that got me thinking.

Following the money trail, which sadly is what this is all about, I'm guessing this is how it worked. The designer was presumably paid by Rowan to design the jumper. Then Rowan published the pattern as one of their own. So, the designer was paid but got no further cash from ongoing pattern sales; Rowan paid the designer for designing the pattern and then kept the payments from sales. (This is, as I said, all guesswork...) So they've both had their financial reward for their own parts in the pattern production, but it seems that, although I paid for my 'free' copy through the subscription I had at the time to Let's Knit, (who put it in one of their supplements), when a problem's found in the pattern there's no one to help. Doesn't seem right, does it?

I have some sympathy with the designer - why should she support patterns she's assigned to Rowan? And this pattern's fairly old now - how long should designers be obliged to offer support anyway? (This pattern appears on the designer's rav page so I'd say at least as long as they list it among their accomplishments, but that's just a personal opinion.) I have some sympathy with Rowan - I'm not using their yarn and, from their point of view, I got the pattern for nothing.

Okay, I can manage without help but what about the hapless buyer who doesn't regard a pattern as necessarily supporting a particular yarn. For many knitters a pattern is just a stand alone purchase - they're not interested in anything beyond whether it's for DK or aran. And really, why should they be? If there's a mistake, it's a mistake, whatever kind of wool you're using.

This is what really struck me though. On various ravelry forums, wool shop owners are encouraged to help everyone who comes through the door with a problem, no matter where they bought their supplies or whether they've ever darkened the shop doors previously. It's good to help people, I personally like a bit of problem solving and, from a business point of view, there's always the hope that if you treat people nicely they'll come back and buy something. The equivalent for me would've been that designer just taking a minute or two to say either: yes, it's a mistake, just try adding a few more stitches to the buttonhole band, or alternatively: nope, you've misunderstood this bit here which is where all your problems started. I'm sure it would've been a really quick fix for her and would've left both of us with that warm glow of gratuitous helpfulness. And then, in future when I saw her patterns, instead of thinking: well, I'm not using that because there were issues with the last one I knitted and she wouldn't help me, I'd think: yippee, this designer's so nice, I'll buy this one because I know if I come to grief she'll help me.