New inspirations: the Staffordshire Hoard

Just over a year ago I started listening to a new-to-me podcast on my way to work: The British History Podcast. My commute was at least half an hour in the morning, sometimes over an hour on the crappy snowy days, and Jamie’s storytelling, dad jokes, and references to diverse topics like football and the Thundercats kept me amused.

I’ve always been a bit of a history geek, especially when I am able to follow my own interests. I wrote a 5 page summary of a Cleopatra biography in grade 4. I’ve always done a lot of reading. And then I did a Classical Studies degree by correspondence for fun while in my first full time job. I blame my excellent high school Latin teacher, Mrs. Bell, for making that a dream.

Anyway, listening to Jamie tell the history and stories of Britain was a delight, and made the commute enjoyable. But what really struck me was when he turned to talking about the Staffordshire Hoard. Hearing about the amazing golden treasures wasn’t enough, so off I went to look things up. The stunning work inspired me, and I’ve been yearning to do some related knitting designs ever since.

This year I finally got around to making some sketches and swatches, but my routine has changed. I’ve started a new job with a fantastically short commute, but longer work hours. This means podcasts are now a weekend thing and I’ve got less knitting time in general. Instead of my original idea of publishing a collection, I’ve decided to put out designs as I’m able to complete them.

The designs won’t all be based on the Staffordshire Hoard, but the first one in progress is. You see, there’s some amazing textures on a golden mount featuring eagles holding a fish. Check out this video that shows how it would have looked untwisted and whole to see the full beauty. I’ve taken some of those textures and put the eagle feathers on the back of a mitten and the fish scales on the palm and thumb.

Fish and Fowl Mittens

Tentatively named Fish and Fowl Mittens, they’re currently in testing with some friends, and I’m hoping to be done soon, but I’m not pushing too hard.

There may also be a related eagle hat in the works.

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New year, new pattern: Cowl Necklace

So I really meant to blog last December, honestly I did. I went from a fabulous 5 day knitting retreat in early November to holiday preparation. Then I had the brilliant idea of doing an Advent Ornament KALendar.

2017 Advent Ornament KALendar by Natalie Servant

While it was fun, it was a daily chore and my blogging has fallen right off.

It’s 2018 and I’m back now with a pattern that’s been on and off the needles for months. The Cowl Necklace started out with some lovely Rowan Softyak DK yarn and some darker beads. What I wanted to figure out was, “What can I make with this beautiful yarn?”

Rowan Softyak DK Cowl Necklace

The answer turned out to also be the answer to so many of my personal requirements:

  • a garment warm to wear in a cold office, but pretty and with beads (unless you don’t want beads)
  • reversible
  • a one-skein project (~100g), great with hand-dyed yarn
  • works for multiple weights (fingering, DK, worsted)
  • simple stitch patterns mean you can easily pick it up & figure out what to do
  • beads are pre-strung (half at the beginning, half near the end), so the project is portable

Naturally, I had to try this again with some Tosh I had in the stash and some gold beads:

Tosh Cowl Necklace with Natalie Servant

And then some fingering weight Riverside Studio yarn in blues and greens with blue beads:

Riverside Studio yarn in Cowl Necklace

And then some gorgeous Neighborhood Fiber Co Studio DK in Banksy with black beads:

Neighborhood Fiber Co Studio DK Cowl Necklace Cowl Necklace by Natalie Servant

Aaah. And then I was finally done with knitting (probably). I’ve written up the pattern in 3 yarn weights (fingering, DK, worsted) and 2 lengths (single loop or double loop). And I have to hold myself back from knitting another one. It’s so much fun, and I feel like I made a dent in the stash!

What yarn and beads do you already own that you can quickly transform into a lovely bead-weighted cowl?

The pictures are something a little different for me. Earlier this week a knitwear designer received some criticism on her photoshoots and comments were made about “real bodies”. I usually use my lovely friend Francine as my model. I’ve had other great friends step in and help out too. I decided to try something different.I also dealt with my lifelong discomfort of being photographed and stepped in for a few shots. Then my daughter and her dear friend helped me out as well. Thanks girls!

Z & O in Cowl Necklace samples

We all had a good time and I’m thrilled with how things turned out.

The Cowl Necklace is $3 USD on Ravelry and it’s a fairly simple fun pattern.

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Indie Design Giftalong – part 4 of 4

Continuing on from part 3, here’s the last set of my favourite designs available for 25% off in this year’s Ravelry Indie Design Giftalong.

Indie Design Giftalong part 4

Golden Valley by Bonnie Sennott

Spring in Her Path by Mary Annarella

Elan Hat by Triona Murphy

Gnomeland Security by Kimberly Golynskiy

Stickley Cowl by Nina Machlin Dayton

Lady Jessica by Barbara Benson

Durango Socks by Sarah Jordan

Rib Run by Jennifer Dassau

Porteau by Megan Nodecker

Christmas Stockings by Faye Kennington

Clemmie by Tess Young

Spate by Jane Richmond

My tally of faves:

  • Hat: 14
  • Mitts: 10
  • Shawl: 8
  • Garment (adult/child): 6
  • Cowl: 3
  • Blanket: 3
  • Toys: 2
  • Socks: 1
  • Christmas stockings: 1

Wow, what a lot of gorgeous patterns. I definitely skew towards accessories, so if you’re looking for something specific, go browse the Giftalong Bundle and use the advanced search to find what you want! It’s much easier than going through all 5388 patterns one by one.

Enjoy the rest of the sale, and see you in the knitalong-only portion of the GAL over in the Ravelry group. It runs until the end of the year.

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Indie Design Giftalong – part 3 of 4

Continuing on from part 2, here’s the 3rd set of 12 patterns that caught my eye in this year’s Indie Design Giftalong. They’re on sale on Ravelry with code giftalong2017 until the end of day (Eastern time zone) on Nov. 28th.

Indie Design Giftalong - part 3

Oydis Cowl by Linda Marveng

BUX by The Restless Knitter

Steps by Tierce Knits 

Songbird Mittens by Erica Heusser

Wolf In Sheep Clothing Hat by Yvonne B. Thorsen

Hólm by Lee Meredith

Little Mr Fox by Mrsmumpitz by Doreen Blask

Sapin by Karen Fournier

Gelting Hat by Frauke Neubauer (Strickwetter)

Persian Dreams Worsted by Jenise Hope

Gehry Wrap by Noriko Ho

Soleil Nouveau by Sara Huntington Burch

I’ve got one more set of patterns to share with you. Meanwhile I’ll be over on Ravelry trying to figure out how I’ll find the time to make the patterns currently sitting in my cart. Only 2 more days to buy them at 25% off!

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Indie Design Giftalong – part 2 of 4

As I mentioned in part 1, there are tons of patterns on sale from hundreds of designers. The sale (with code giftalong2017) ends on Nov. 28th, 2017. Here is my second set of of patterns that have caught my eye:

Indie Design Giftalong part 2 of 4

From top, left to right, these beauties are:

Dragonhart Mitts by Ruth Brasch

Amigurimi Penguin – Wilbur by Kate E. Hancock

Iron gate by Anna Johanna

Daffidini by Anna Dalvi

Zelda Hat by Szilvia Linczmaier

Amillë by Emily Ross

Winesap Mitts by Danielle Chalson

Roses and Ivy by Julie Yeager

Vodograi by Natalie Pelykh

Bloomsbury kids by Svetlana Volkova

Illumine by Nim Teasdale

Gathered Cloche by AbbyeKnits

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Indie Designer Giftalong – part 1 of 4!

The Indie Designer Giftalong is on again on Ravelry! This is the annual event that starts with a week-long pattern sale and continues with a knitalong that runs until the end of the year. During the KAL, you can make any of the paid patterns from participating designers and win prizes just by posting a photo of your FO! You can also play along in the games threads and win prizes there.

There are 311 designers participating, and each have at least 10 designs available in the sale (which goes until Nov. 28th, end of day Eastern time). Thousands of patterns are on sale for 25% off with the code giftalong2017.

This can be overwhelming, but I’ve gone through all of these patterns and picked out some that appeal to me to pique your interest. I picked quite a few, so this is just the first post of 4!

Indie Design Giftalong picks - part 1

These patterns are (from top, left to right):

Tullamore Cardigan by Emily Ringelman

Autumn Vibes by Lesley Anne Robinson

Winter Apples by Kristina Vilimaite

Kauri by Gabriella Henry

Timberline by Sarah Cooke

Two Dropped Stitches by Marion Bulin

Quaintly – DK by Kelly van Niekerk

Kimono Cardigan / Sweater 2 in 1 by Natalia Kononova

Collusion by Hunter Hammersen

Silver Fir Mitts by Kerri Blumer

Kissing Circles Crochet Blankets by Amanda Perkins

Portraiture Mitts by Elizabeth Sullivan

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Looking back at Rhinebeck 2017

I went back to Rhinebeck again last weekend for my 8th trip to the New York Sheep and Wool Festival. Note to self for next time: enunciate more clearly when telling the border guard why I’m going.

What beautiful weather we had! It was great for the drive down to Poughkeepsie. Sarah and I had a spot at an AirBnb which we found thanks to Siri. There were quite a few turns on the way. This intersection still makes me smile:

Crum Elbow and Netherwood

Since we’ve been going to the festival for a few years, we didn’t feel the need to show up terribly early – and we didn’t even buy tickets online. That may change next time, as we did have to wait for a little while, but we had a nice chat with two ladies from Kromski who were off to see their dealers. Sometimes the best parts of Rhinebeck are the conversations you have with new people that you’re in line with!

I met up again with Danielle Chalson (makewise) and her lovely family including this cute new addition (shown here in her Rhinecliff hat, but it was too hot for that by the time we met up).

Rhinecliff Hat

I was at the Cooperative Press booth having a chat with Andi Smith when Miriam Felton came by and handed out keychains and talked about her new Yarn Stories podcast ( The intro episode for the podcast is up now, and she’ll be telling stories about where yarn comes from. It’s going to be an audio-only podcast, which means it’s going right into my list of things to listen to on the drive to work!

I also visited Barbara Benson in the author area to get a signed copy of her new Mosaic & Lace Knits book. Here she is surrounded by the gorgeous samples and explaining her inspiration and process to an interested knitter. She’s really good at explaining things. How do I know? She’s got a fantastic YouTube channel (Watch Barbara Knit) where she explains knitting and other fun things.

Barbara Benson & book

I meandered around for about 6 hours on Saturday and an hour on Sunday and ended up with a variety of items (bowl & small cup from Jennie the Potter’s booth, Neighborhood Fiber Company yarn (in Banksy colourway), cakes of yarn from Briar Rose Fibers, and a couple of signed books):

Rhinebeck 2017 loot

On Saturday, Sarah and I parked right behind Catherine (Mairwen) at the Mason-Dixon Knitting Rhinebeck Pie Party, so we all wandered in together.

Pie party with Sarah & Catherine

We had pie, cider, and more discussions with other new friends on the large porch. Thanks to Ann & Kay for a wonderful event!

The happiest part of Saturday was when I sat down, exhausted, at a table in the food area. Pauline stopped off too, and we got talking. She’d done a great deal of shopping and it was her first trip to Rhinebeck. We had an uplifting chat as she showed off her great deals and fun purchases, and now we’re following each other on Instagram.

It was a wonderful weekend and the warm sunny weather made the driving very pleasant. Until next time, Rhinebeck!

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Difficulties with knitting difficulty

I’d already been thinking about knitting difficulty classifications when the LoveKnitting blog post went up highlighting 10 challenging patterns. They included my Gingham Style scarf (on LoveKnitting and Ravelry) because it is a double knit intarsia pattern.

Gingham Style by Natalie Servant

The blog post and other comments about knitting difficulty have had me thinking about what a difficult knitting pattern is. I think the perception of difficulty depends on the knitter and their experience. Here are just some of the reasons that I’ve heard people call a knitting pattern difficult:

  • it only has charts
  • it only has written instructions
  • it includes a technique they’ve never tried
  • it includes a technique they find tedious (purling, cabling, intarsia, darning in tons of ends)
  • it calls for a yarn weight they don’t like to use
  • it’s time-consuming

In my description for Gingham Style I called it challenging because it can be. If you’re familiar with both double knitting and intarsia and willing to put up with handling multiple balls of yarn, it’s fine. I enjoyed working on it when I knew I had uninterrupted time and my setup of the balls in order beside me wouldn’t be disrupted.

These days when I’m writing pattern proposals I tend to list the techniques needed instead of giving some kind of difficulty rating. I’m trying to do that in my patterns on Ravelry too.

When I’m writing patterns, my goal is to make them knittable. If I don’t think something is a generic enough knitting technique that people will figure it out with Google, I include either a tutorial or a link to one.

Frequently, difficulty is temporary. Something is difficult until you’ve done it enough times that it is just another skill in your repertoire. It may take a bit of pain to break through that barrier, but it’s often worth it. Sometimes it takes the right desired end goal (your dream project) to get you to persist.

Here are some projects that I found difficult as I was making them. I know I could make them again now with more happiness and confidence:

A christening dress – the seaming was painful for me because it wasn’t something I had done properly before.

Zoe's Christening dress

A double knit scarf: started, but never finished.

my first double knit project

Anemoi Mittens by Eunny Jang – my first stranded colourwork knitting. It was also the first pattern I ever bought online! I did bail on the tubular cast on…

Anemoi mittens by Eunny Jang

La Traviata stole – this was reasonably logical, but I needed to closely follow the charts. It was also just acres of knitting (or so it seemed at the time).

La Traviata pattern by Marianne Kinzel

What do you find difficult in knitting? Has your idea of what is difficult changed?

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Streamline Moderne

If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ll know about my interest in architecture. One area of Art Deco architecture that I haven’t explored (or photographed) much is Streamline Moderne. There have been a couple, including the Go Transit station in Hamilton:

Go Transit building, Hamilton, ON

And a few blocks away (because I was strategically photographing nearby buildings of interest while the family waited), there was this other building:

55 John Street N, Hamilton, ON

I don’t think the tenants appreciated my interest in their building, especially when I went inside. But look at their light fixture:

Light fixture, 55 John St. N, Hamilton, ON

I do love the curves and straight line elements of these buildings, and have stopped Poirot (and other shows) to take photos like this:

Hotel from Poirot

House from Poirot

It’s taken a while, but I’ve finally come up with a knitting pattern inspired by these buildings. Streamline Moderne is a bottom-up garter shawl with scalloped edges and stripes. It’s a skinny triangle.

I made one in beautiful greens in some lovely Bohemia Sport from Outlaw Yarn. This soft and fuzzy yarn has a blend of Polwarth, alpaca, and possum.

Streamline Moderne in Bohemia Sport from Outlaw Yarn

And then I made a nautical version in worsted weight Clara Yarn Cormo 1.0. The gorgeous blue was dyed by Jennifer Heverly of Spirit Trail Fiberworks. The garter stitch in this one is *so squishy*!

Streamline Moderne in Cormo 1.0 from Clara Yarn

I’m working on getting this finished up & released as soon as possible, but I’m thinking that both of these babies are coming to Rhinebeck with me next week. See you there?

Streamline Moderne in Bohemia Sport from Outlaw YarnThanks as usual to the lovely Francine for being my model!


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Visit to the Marine Building

Marine Building - the top

This year I got to check something big off my Art Deco building bucket list: the Marine Building in Vancouver, British Columbia. I talked about this beauty back when I released my Marine Building shawl, but I only showed one little picture of the building just above the front door.

We had a family trip to BC for a week this summer, and we stayed in a hotel just a couple of blocks down the road from the Marine Building. I took outside pictures by myself, but was too shy to enter without being part of a walking tour.

Here’s the entrance and a few close-ups, including the beauty that you only see if you stand under it and look up:

Marine Building entrance

Marine Building entrance detail

Marine Building entrance detail

Here’s some lovely but pock-marked seaweed by the entrance:

Marine Building detail

The tour was great & this building was the highlight for me. I could have easily spent an hour getting detailed shots of all the amazing things, but this way I figure I’ll just have to get back to Vancouver and visit it again.

Here are the elevator doors that I obsessed over:

Marine Building elevator door

Sometimes it’s the little details that pop out later on. I love these tiles on the stairs:

Marine Building - tiles on stairs

Check out the look on the face of the whale in the middle here:

Marine Building - whales and ships

And the waves around this ship are amazing:

Marine Building - ship light

Even the ceiling is stunning:

Marine Building - ceiling

What’s on your must-see bucket list? I’ve got whole maps with pins in them set up for Chicago and New York City!

Posted in Art Deco, Canadian Art Deco Knits, inspiration | 1 Comment