Vintage Knitting, Retro Dressmaking, Make do and Mend, Original and Vintage Inspired Knitting Patterns, Vintage Inspired books

Friday, September 28, 2012

Nicky Epstein's Knitting in Circles blog tour

When I was asked recently to take part in the blog tour being organised for Nicky Epstein's latest book, I perused my book shelves and realised that even without this new publication, I own 7 of Nicky's books. This got me to wondering, why so many? And the reason I came up with is because her books are a wonderful combination of techniques, inspiration and awe inspiring design.  Which brings me neatly to her latest book "Knitting in Circles" published by Potter Craft.

 And this book is no exception, with 100 circular knitting patterns to experiment with, the inspiration to be gained from its pages is breath-taking. As with all of Nicky's books, all the techniques used are explained clearly and illustrated particularly well. Each circle pattern has both written and charted instructions backed up by added information explaining its construction. Nicky also provides lots of additional information on sizing, shaping, joining and much more.

So what exactly is knitting in circles. Its most obvious use is in circular shawls, however the circles can be constructed from the outer edge, from the centre out, as wedges worked backwards and forwards, sideways, even as spirals. Also known as circular medallion knitting, this particular type of knitting was extremely popular in both the 18th and 19th centuries when circular medallions were used as bonnet backs or linked together for bed spreads. Mary Thomas talks about medallion knitting at length in her Book of Knitting Patterns first published in 1943. I also found the pattern for a beautiful bedspread created by medallions in The Encyclopaedia of Needlework by Th de Dillmont, a much earlier publication. Montse Stanley and June Hemmons Hiatt both cover knitting circles in their books too. However, Nicky's book really explains what you are doing and why, so that you grow in knowledge as you work from the book.

And if you are not sure how to use these knitted circles, Nicky has also created a beautiful collection of patterns all using circles. There are a wide range of projects in the book, but three in particular caught my eye.

The first, the Rotunda Cape is cleverly formed from one huge circle and is constructed using short rows in a very similar way to my own Shrimpton Collarette which will finally be released as a single pattern next month!

The next project I particularly like is the Hoopla Bag. It has great make do and mend potential as odd balls of yarn can be used to make each circle. The way the bag is constructed also reminded me of a vintage pattern I had failed to reconstruct several years ago, and looking at Nicky's fantastically clear construction diagram, I can now see where I went wrong!

Another project I fell in love with is the Circle Sampler Afghan. I don't know if I would wear it myself but it is a remarkable garment.

The colour scheme, the shape and the drape have a real early 20th century feel to them. There are echos of Paul Poirot, Lanvin and Mme Vionette. I could see one of The House of Elliot girls curled up in this in their London flat, wearing it with coordinating silk pyjamas and a stunning pair of ear rings of course! I also love that you could so easily put your own stamp on this by changing the order of the circles or even completely changing which circle pattern you choose to knit.

So, how do you get a copy of this beautiful, inspirational book? It can be purchased via the GMC website OR you can enter my competition to win a copy. GMC have generously provided one copy to be won by one lucky reader. If you would like a chance to win, please leave a comment on the blog answering this question:

Which era do you feel deserves the title the 'golden age of knitting' and why?

To help you along, here is Nicky's own response to the same question:

Ours..right now!...It was the forties when the world noticed, Fairisle, Aran, Estonian knitting etc. People knitted for economic and functional reasons…Today we knit for pleasure, relaxation and to create fashionable designs that express our individual sense of style.

The closing date for entries will be midnight (UK) on Thursday 4th October and I will choose and announce one winner in a random draw on Friday 5th October. Please make sure you include your email address when you post your comment so that I can get in touch with you if you win.

To read more about Nicky's book and for more chances to win a copy do pop by the other blogs taking part in the tour, which are:

27th Sept – Knitting Institute  
1st Oct – Cut Out + Keep  
2nd Oct – Make and Craft  
3rd Oct – Black Cat Originals  
4th Oct – Jessica Biscoe  
5th Oct – Jo Simmonds  
8th Oct – Kate Heppell  
9th Oct – Alix Beech  
10th Oct – ConnieLene Johnston  

Good luck,
Ruby xx

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pumpkin Soup

I don't normally post recipes on the blog but earlier today I made Pumpkin, Sage and Parmesan soup for my lunch and was asked numerous times for the recipe, so it seems to make sense to pop it on the blog.

Copyright Susan Crawford 2012
What I really loved about this soup, other than how delicious it was, is that both the pumpkin and the sage are out of my garden. However a shop bought pumpkin will do the job just as well I am sure and its a great little recipe for using up the remains of a pumpkin thats been used as lantern at halloween!

So first of all the ingredients are:

The flesh of a medium pumpkin, chopped into cubes (mine was frozen pumpkin from last year's crop)
25g of unsalted butter
1 chopped white onion
1 chopped clove of garlic
A good handful of freshly chopped sage leaves
800ml of vegetable stock (I use Marigold)
3 tablespoons double cream
Black Pepper

Begin by melting the butter in medium sized pan with a good heavy bottom. Add the onion and gently cook for about 5/10 mins, then add the garlic for a minute or so. Next add all of the chopped pumpkin, along with the sage and a healthy grating of nutmeg. (I like a lot of nutmeg but obviously that's down to personal taste, however I think pumpkin needs plenty of other flavours added to it so don't be nervous of the nutmeg or the sage). Finally add the vegetable stock. Now keeping the heat pretty low, cook until the pumpkin is 'pulpy' stirring occasionally - mine took about 20 minutes with the lid partly over the pan, but use your own judgement on this. Turn off the heat and either mash or preferably roughly blend the soup. I use a cheap little hand blender for this and it does the job in next to no time. Don't over blend as you don't want a completely smooth soup. Pour in the cream. When serving add a plentiful quantity of grated parmesan all over the surface of the soup so that it melts into the soup. Add salt and pepper as preferred (you can always add the seasoning during cooking, but I like to do it at the end so that everyone gets it seasoned as they like it).

Serve immediately. On this occasion I served it with garlic bread and it worked perfectly but any bread of your choosing will work just fine I would think.

And that is that. Two of us had a healthy bowlful each for lunch and I would say there's at least the same again for tomorrow so I would say serves 4 to 6 depending on how much you like it!

Hope some of you try it, that you enjoy it and that it makes you good!

for now
Ruby x