Taking the leap…

So, this is my first blog post. Actually, this is my first blog, so bear with my while I find my way around.

Allow me to introduce myself: I’m Susan, and one could describe me as a knittaholic, or more accurately a designaholic.

I spend my happy days in pure creation. I paint, but mainly when I stay with my daughter in the South of France – poor dear, she married a French man and has to live in France! Being a devoted mother, I try and visit as often as I can – give the girl a brownie point!

At home here, I design garments and sell the kits or the patterns. This blog will take you through my creative days and it’s really not unusual for me to have inspiration during the night too, but I’ll spare you those details.

So this is how it goes. Let’s begin with yesterday:

The Fish Coat

Right, so I have this idea to create a coat, with a big, and I mean big, attached scarf. And a fantastic border, inspiration coming from a set of Victorian tiles in a forgotten bathroom over at the Big House. Then I got even greedier and wanted to shape the coat, so that I could have an excuse to incorporate some knitted ‘piping’ down the lines of shaping – not asking a lot then.

So, I have the pattern written, the back and fronts knitted up, as are the sleeves and the two rather charmingly shaped side panels. Although I write my patterns for a range of sizes, I tend to knit up the biggest size, working on the principle that if no one buys my pattern at least I have something to wear myself. Now, I always think I’m bigger than I am………but well, really,  I just pinned the body pieces together – I don’t know anyone that big! Okay, so back to the knitting needles and graph paper – and then I have an even better idea – knitted godets, but don’t know if one can shape them each end at the same time? Watch this space.

Well, I tried knitting and shaping the side panels but I knitted from the side in stocking stitch, the panels were way too tight and didn’t allow the main part of the garment to flow. So then at about midnight I redesigned and re-knitted the sides in garter stitch – success, the garter stitch gives a bit of stretch and makes the fit look really shapely – hurrah, now to knit one for the other side.

The Orient Express Jacket

But I have been distracted from the fish coat, as it has become known, as I found some fabric absolutely perfect for my Orient Express Jacket. So the fish are waiting in the shallows whilst I work on the jacket. Let me explain:

I have been working on a set of art nouveau designs inspired by a wonderful romantic anniversary trip to Venice on the Orient Express. Believe it or not, we were stranded in snow on a mountain pass and ended up being bussed into Venice in the middle of the night – not so glamorous an entrance to this amazing city, but at least the crowds weren’t there to bother us! The artwork on the train is simply fascinating, and I spent a deal of the journey sketching.

I was up later this morning, which was entirely due to the said jacket. And, no, it’s not because I stayed up late into the night being creative. I’ll explain; the jacket is built up of Art Nouveau panels. Both the panels and the rather exotic fabric I discovered are in tones of amber. There’s also black and rose wood and a little ivory, but it’s the amber that was my downfall. That and playing a DVD of Murder on the Orient Express. So, think Poirot, think glamour, think piano, think Chopin; think of me knitting with this lovely amber pure wool yarn that softens and pampers my hands as I knit, the colour of the yarn is actually called burnt umber. Was I not forced to settle by the fire with my knitting and a large scotch? And having done that was I not lulled into having another? And therefore destined to sleep until the sun (yes, I did say sun) was well up? I rest my case.


Every day, rain or shine I walk my two dogs around our farm. Dear old Fable a rather elderly, arthritic, affectionate, Labrador, so docile and so good, she never does anything wrong – so much so, she’s almost boring. And the feisty Jack Russell, Hesper, into everything, loves people, catches rats, nags one to play ball, a little dog who, long ago, stole our hearts; my husband declares that she’s a highly trained lap dog – he being the trainer.

So this morning, frosty and sunny and achingly beautiful, we set off. In the corner of Cedar meadow, a pigeon was flapping about in circles, obviously she had a broken wing.  Country life often presents this sort of situation: should I wring its neck and put it out of its misery (I wouldn’t actually know how to wring its neck, but still… does one, presuming one could?) If left, the rats will eat her alive, so I think I may talk to the keeper. I think pigeons get an awfully bad press from us farmers, garden lovers, and towns folk too. So who’s left to love the humble pigeon? The artist in me. I can’t help but study the Payne’s Grey feathers, the iridescent pink of her breast, the pure white collar, and the burnt ivory eyes. Now how can I combine those colours in my garments? It should perhaps be a very light garment, a cobweb lace collar? a hint of Jane Austen? I must refrain from calling the design The Broken Wing Pigeon Jacket. That won’t get any sales!

All the way up by Hall wood, I looked for violets, they grow there in profusion and are usually just coming into bloom by this time in March, but as yet there is no sign of them. The woodland Periwinkle however is a carpet of indescribable blue, I picked one along with its waxy leaves, but where do I find yarn as blue as that?  The flower has four very simple petals and no stamen and would be a simple motif to create and I’m thinking of a border or a jacket with blocks of periwinkles – and violets? Maybe too much of a good thing?

Snow drops are everywhere still, ever looked inside a snow drop? That pure whiter-than-white and those very thin brilliant green stripes, with the sharp pointed leaves more like grass and a hazy bluish green in colour.  A summer cardigan – simple blocks of stripes edged with blue/green perhaps.

As I walk down Chalkpit field the whole panorama of the village comes into view. The sky is a Mediterranean blue, the pale orange pan-tiles shine a hundred different hues, and the winter barley is just through and bright green. The roofs are in definite blocks and make me want to keep them that way in a design, maybe I could overlap them; knit some and appliqué others? And a  few yards on yet another wonderful colour combination: the shoot strip has dried out and the stubble is a pale straw colour,  the rich brown earth ploughed – a long jacket, working in the long lines of the straw and the vertical lines of the plough, perhaps?

Down the hill and home to my lovely studio – North-facing but catching the morning light. I love living in this cottage, the Big House was rather a responsibility. My younger son and his wife live there now; it’s good to see the young take over, and so good to see them carry out all the repairs, and redecoration one meant to do. This place – we’ve been here almost a year having moved from the big house after my husband, who has Parkinson’s, could no longer manage stairs – has a far better studio, despite the size of the Big House, my painting studio there was in one corner of the building and my fabric and sewing studio another. Here, everything is together in a purpose-built, airy room with big skylights, and lots of storage – although never enough!

I keep a sketch book with me at all times, at the moment I have  about twenty new designs in the drawing stage, twenty in the making and about fifteen finished with the patterns written and almost ready for publishing. More of those anon.

I’ll leave you here for now and get back to my studio. I’d love to hear from any fellow knittaholics if you feel the inclination.

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1 Response to Taking the leap…

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