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

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Is this the dodgiest knitting pattern cover ever?

Found this amazing knitting pattern yesterday from the 1970s/80s.

Captions invited!

Just to clarify - I do love the design, it's just the cover image that is one of the craziest I've ever come across!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Simple Crocheted Bath Mat

A few weeks ago I decided to use up a large stash of aran or worsted weight cotton. We had just begun renovating our tired 1970s bathroom on an extremely limited budget and a simple, quick to make, washable bath mat from stash yarn was just the ticket! I decided on crochet as speed was of the essence. I also decided to double up the yarn to really get it moving and here is the finished result.

Pretty fab! A lot of people on twitter were asking all about it and whether it would be released as a pattern. Now I really don't think even as a full time designer I can claim the finished product as a pattern but I thought it would be really nice to share the simple instructions with everyone here so that you can use whatever stash you may have to create your own version. I've used UK crochet terms for the instructions but I've added a little translation too.


10 50g balls Jo Sharp Desert Garden, aran weight cotton in green (55m/60yds) per 50g ball - MC
6  50 g balls Jo Sharp Desert Garden, aran weight cotton in light grey - CC
5mm crochet hook

Yarn used double throughout

Finished dimensions
before edging - 50cm (19.5in) wide by 61cm (24in) tall
after edging - 60cm (23.5in) wide by 70cm (27.5in) tall

UK trebles = US double crochet


Using MC doubled, make 60 chains.
** Continuing in MC, work 6 rows of trebles across all sts.
Change to CC doubled and work 2 rows of trebles.

Repeat from ** a further 5 times, then work 6 rows of trebles in MC once more.

Commencing from the same point work a row of trebles using CC doubled up to first corner. Work three trebles into corner stitch then work along first side edge working 2 trebles along the side edge of each treble row until corner is reached. Again work 3 trebles into corner. Work a row of trebles along cast on chain and then 3 trebles into the next corner. Work along second side edge again working 2 trebles along this side edge as for the first. At the last corner work 3 trebles into corner then slip stitch to beginning st on row. Change to MC doubled and work a row of trebles in the same way working additional trebles up to new corner stitches and then working 3 trebles into each one. When row completed change back to CC doubled and work one final row in the same way.

On the wrong side darn in ends and press mat. And two nights work later a finished bath mat!

You can use any two colours or any combination of colours depending on what cotton you have in your stash. This particular cotton is a soft matt rather than a crisp mercerised cotton so even doubled it was still reasonably soft to work with.

Over to you, have fun!

for now,
Ruby xx

Monday, April 15, 2013

Fair Isle Weekenders!

No not music festivals on Fair Isle but the next best thing - Two full days learning all about Fair Isle knitting skills in either Liverpool or Oxford. 

Over two days we will immerse ourselves in the history, colours and techniques of Fair Isle knitting.  We will will look in depth at the different types of motifs and how they interact; how to choose colours and yarns; the different ways to hold yarn and needles and how this can alter your knitting; different cast ons; working in the round.

I will explain all about ‘steeking’ and then from your own knitted sample you will cut your work, learn how to reinforce the cut edges, pick up stitches and finish off the inside of the work. 

A wide selection of colours of yarn will be available to choose from and each participant gets to take home 4 balls of yarn to continue practising Fair Isle techniques.

These weekends are being held at two fabulous venues:

The first is being run by the lovely Purlesque girls, at their boutique style haberdashery shop upstairs at Pop Boutique on Whitechapel in Liverpool city centre. 

The weekend is split into two separate courses with basic colour work techniques ( including Intarsia and Combination Fair Isle/Intarsia) being taught on day one, and more advanced techniques including steeking being taught on day two. You can book on either one day or both days depending on what you would like to learn.

The Colourwork workshop takes place this Saturday, 20th April from 10-4pm and Advanced Fair Isle Workshop takes place on Sunday 21st April, again from 10-4pm. If you are quick I believe there might be just one or two places left on these two days. To find out more information or to book a place please visit the Purlesque website.

The second venue is at the gorgeous Darn it and Stitch in Oxford city centre. 

This lovely shop has a workshop venue upstairs where we will spend our two days exploring Fair Isle knitting and techniques.  On day one we will delve into the history of Fair Isle then spend some time choosing motifs and choosing colours to work with. We will begin working on our knitted sample which will include steeks ready for cutting and finishing on day two. Different methods of securing your edges will be explored so that you have all the skills you need to continue using this method of knitting at every opportunity.

The Fair Isle Knitting weekend takes place on Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th May from 11-4 each day. Again places are limited so to make a booking please go to the Pinworks website.

Both events include lunch and refreshments along with course handouts and yarns to take home. 

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Royal Mail Rant

Can I begin by saying that this subject wasn't supposed to be the theme of today's blog but I really am so infuriated by the dismissive way 'small' customers of the Royal Mail system are being treated and over charged. There have been many blog posts in recent weeks rightly taking issue with the huge price rises that came into effect on the 1st of this month. Planet Handmade in particular have spoken to Royal Mail and you can read the full blog post here. I hadn't intended to write about this as increased costs is one of those things that a business has to deal with and doesn't always make very interesting reading! I have also always been a staunch believer in Royal Mail and our Post Offices. Despite the recent forced closure of my nearest Post Office I continued to use the service even though every trip meant a car journey to the next nearest Post Office adding to the cost of despatch. However when substantially increased costs combine with losing packages I just can't keep quiet any longer.

I'm going to use A Stitch in Time Volume 2 as an example here. Wrapped in its protective cardboard sleeve - similar to those used by Amazon (more about them later) - the book weighs in at 2.2kg (over 4lb). The package measures 34cm long, 23cm wide and 5cm tall. Up until Monday of this week this package cost a whopping £10.30 to despatch by First Class Royal Mail within mainland UK. I made the decision to set the postage and packing charge on the website to £6 thereby subsidising each delivery by £4.30. I believe, and rightly so from emails I occasionally receive, that customers feel that even £6 is pricey, so to expect a customer to pay £10.30 would probably have resulted in so many lost orders that it would have a significant impact on the business. Imagine then finding out this same service with no improvements whatsoever, will now cost £15.10 to send the same package to the very same UK mainland addresses.

In my opinion, Royal Mail is a company that is only interested in domestic mail if it is 'volume'. If you look at the Royal Mail website (yet another example of inefficiency, the website was down for several months last year meaning business mail couldn't even be processed before being taken to the Post Office. Imagine finding yourself behind a business customer individually weighing in 40 or 50 packages at the Post Office counter just before Christmas!) it is all about volume. If you despatch large volumes of packages or letters you can get your costs down. If you despatch packages in the volumes Amazon despatch, you can get your costs down to almost nothing and have Royal Mail come to your premises and collect the packages for you. I understand economies of scale but it seems to me that small business customers across the UK are subsidising Royal Mail's services to the likes of Amazon, enabling them to offer incredible discounts to them for delivery because they charge the small customer such an ridiculous amount.

So my options are simple. I either hike the prices up so high that no one buys from me ever again or I look at couriers. A courier service will definitely prove more cost effective for book orders, reducing my costs to about £9 per package. Where this doesn't really work is for yarn sales as there is a minimum cost to use a courier regardless of its weight. So two 50g balls of Excelana would cost as much to despatch as a 2.2kg book. However the despatch of two balls of wool has also doubled from £2.70 to £5.65 because of the size of the package. Basically if a package isn't flat its going to cost a heck of a lot more to send. Couriers however provide a guaranteed next day service with a signature confirming delivery within their standard costs. The actual equivalent of this is Royal Mail's Special Delivery service which for A Stitch in Time volume 2 would cost an unworkable £25.80. There is an option of an account but this all revolves around volume and guaranteed parcels being despatched. If you don't perform according to estimates in one year its back to the drawing board the year after - and it still doesn't stop inefficient service.

However all of these things I already knew, but today I received an email from a customer who a week ago bought A Stitch in Time volume 2. She lives in the UK and paid £6 postage. Her book was despatched on Thursday 28th March and cost £10.30 to send by First Class Royal Mail. A week later the book has failed to arrive. A replacement will need to be sent which now means either paying Royal Mail an additional £15 to maybe deliver the book or paying a courier around £9 to £10. Either way in addition to the cost of a second book being despatched free of charge I will also have incurred £19.40 in postage costs, thereby making nothing from the order whatsoever. I apparently take a risk by sending the books first class rather than recorded or by special delivery - both of which would add to the cost - which is what amazes me most of all. If I charge someone £15 for a service that is supposed to provide next day delivery, I should provide that service. Insisting that a customer needs to pay £26 to guarantee delivery is just a nonsense. I am already paying £15. That is more than the couriers charge to provide a guaranteed next day service with signature taken and with collection from my front door. If this disappearing parcel was a one-off I might have shrugged my shoulders but over the last four years, countless packages have gone astray. In this harsh economic climate I just can't afford to loose stock like this and potentially upset my customers.

I tweeted about the lost parcel and did get a rapid response from Royal Mail about it. Their initial response was: ' I'm sorry to hear its not arrived. What was the exact date of posting?' I replied with the information I've given above and was initially quite heartened that they had listened and taken notice of my forlorn tweet. However half an hour or so later I received a second tweet which said: 'I'm really sorry your customer is waiting for the item, I hope it reaches them soon'. I know enough about Customer Services to identify false empathy when I read it. Whilst on the surface this tweet sounds sympathetic it makes no attempt whatsoever to address the issue that a paid for service has failed to do what it is supposed to. I can complain further but will be told I should have used the guaranteed delivery service and what I really want is for Royal Mail to understand what they are doing wrong. That you can't sell a service and then shrug your shoulders and turn your back when you don't deliver. I can't and wouldn't dream of saying the same to my customer. She needs and deserves a proper response and corrective action. And so do I.

If Royal Mail continue to treat small businesses with such contempt, hiking up the prices relentlessly to subsidise their discounts to the likes of Amazon, there will eventually be no UK based small companies left. If Royal Mail insist, as they do, that theirs is a non-profit making model they should stop providing the big guys with such ridiculous discounts. We cannot afford to compete in a market place that is being artificially skewed against us and then charged to us. And even more we can't afford to compete if you continue to deliver a poor quality service and keep losing our precious stock!

for now,
(no kisses today!)

Normal service will be resumed shortly.