More preparation: Festival Twist!

So last time I talked about preparation for the Tour de France KAL (pictures to come soon). Another load of preparation on my plate is for this August’s Festival Twist. I’m teaching 3 courses at Twist, and I’m putting the finishing touches on my notes, making more mini-samples to pass around and running test classes by friends to make sure it all still makes sense!

If you’re not familiar with this amazing festival, it’s quite a few days of courses in all different disciplines of the fibre world and 3 days (Aug 17-19) of a show with amazing vendors, local food, art exhibits and more. It’s located in Saint-André-Avellin, Québec. It’s about an hour’s drive from Ottawa (a little more from the outskirts) and about 1.5 hours from Montréal. I’ve been attending for years, and I’m so excited that this year I get to share some of the things that I love about knitting with others. I’ll be teaching in English, but my French comprehension is pretty good, and I expect to be doing a bit of work in both official languages.

On Saturday August 18th, I’m teaching a full day of Knitting with Beads. You bring fingering weight yarn and appropriate needles, and I’ll bring the beads, sequins, and scales and we’ll explore a whole variety of ways of attaching objects with holes to your knitting.

Knitting with Beads

As we work our way through making samples, there will be lots of time for show and tell of existing pieces and discussing the merits of different methods of working with beads.


On the morning of Sunday August 19th, I’m teaching something very dear to my heart: Knitting Lace Basics.


If you have been too afraid to try to knit lace or if you’ve tried but you’d like some help, I’ll walk you through how I see lace. Using worsted weight wool to make things bigger and easier to see, we’ll work though some basic stitches, building up a stitch vocabulary together. We’ll focus on learning to read both our knitting and lace charts. The class notes have both charts and written instructions (just like most of my patterns), but I want to show you how a good chart and reading your knitting can help let you know if you’ve gone wrong somewhere.

Dominion Building Shawl by Natalie Servant (in Cariboubaa by Indigodragonfly)

We’ll also discuss (and try) lifelines, stitch markers, and other ways to make knitting lace easier when you’re just starting out. I can’t wait to encourage more lace knitters!


Finally, on the afternoon of Sunday August 19th, I’m teaching a class on Shawl Shapes. I have so much fun designing shawls, and I’m going to break down how to knit a variety of basic shapes.

Shawl Shapes

I have got class notes and mini-samples that cover more than we could possibly work on in one class, so I encourage students to try to knit the mini-shapes that they are most interested in during class, and we’ll deal with any questions that come up.


We’ll also look at many of my samples, and I’ll explain why I did what I did and how I tweaked the basic shapes taught in class to get exactly what I wanted.

Sunflower Field Shawl

I want people to leave this class feeling confident they can tackle a new shape and understand what they’re doing, whether they’re working from a pattern or creating their own design.

Gavrinis by Natalie Servant (West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4 Ply)

Looking forward to seeing you at the Festival Twist in August!

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Tour de France preparation: inspiration

July 2018 will mark my 9th year of running a Knit Along (KAL) during the Tour de France. It all started out in 2010 with the Eiffel Tower Shawl, and every year since I’ve created a new shawl pattern inspired by something connected to France.

This year I’ve chosen a person as my inspiration. Marie Curie (née Maria Salomea Skłodowska) was born in Poland and eventually became a French citizen. Her work in chemistry and physics earned her two Nobel prizes and helped to change the world.

I remember learning about Marie Curie as a girl in one of my mother’s books that she’d had when she was a girl. The pictures and the story stayed with me. I wanted to know more about Marie Curie’s life and work, so I recently watched a video about Marie Curie and her life that I downloaded from my local library and it was fascinating. I had no idea that she’d spearheaded a practical use of radiology during WWI, organizing and running the creation of radiology units including mobile X-ray vehicles.

The picture of Marie Curie that I used as my inspiration came from the pictures taken for the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Marie Curie, 1903

I have used two skeins of Neighborhood Fiber Co.‘s Rustic Fingering in Shadow and Basquiat. I couldn’t resist the gorgeous Shadow and I held up potential mates for it until I was happy with the result. I was a little surprised to see that it went well with the pinkish Basquiat.

Neighborhood Fiber Co. Rustic Fingering: Shadow & Basquiat

The textured detail at the shoulders has become a relatively simple bit of textured knitting combined with some slipped stitches.

Marie Curie shawl - texture

The white accents just cried out to become an easy bit of lace, and I have done a knit-on border.

Marie Curie shawl - border

Only the blocking remains, so very soon I’ll be able to show you how it all looks when it’s put together. I hope that you’ll find the time to join in and knit along with everyone during the Tour de France. This year it runs from July 7 – 29th.

To my mind there is a small linkage between my first TdF KAL subject and this year’s subject. One of the things that I noticed about the Eiffel Tower when I went in person were the names of famous men of science all around it. Marie Curie would certainly have been on such a list if it had been compiled during or after her time!

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Knitting adventures with Lucy

I’ve been posting rather sporadically. Sometimes I haven’t had time, and sometimes I haven’t had much to say. Now I feel like I’ve stored it all up and I’ve got too much to say at once!

I’ve been busy at my new job since January. I’m still learning the ropes and there’s a lot less free/knitting time than there used to be. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still time for knitting, but I don’t often get great amounts of time all stuck together.

That changed a couple of weekends ago. I was lucky enough to get into classes that Lucy Neatby was teaching for our local guild. I would take just about any class Lucy offers, because I always come away with new ideas and new perspectives on old techniques. Plus she’s always got great stories.

We did one day of knitting in all directions, which was fun. The morning swatch looked like this:

Knitting in all directions

And the afternoon swatch was even more fun: triangles!

Equilateral Triangles with Lucy Neatby

Day 2 involved starting a double-knit octagon blanket:

dkside1 dkside2

And then the afternoon was filled with edgings.

knit edgings with Lucy Neatby

Although there were tidbits from the classes I’ll use throughout my knitting, what seems to have really stuck was the triangles. Last fall I organized my sock yarn stash by colour and readied myself to make a sock blanket – the square kind. I had good intentions, but nothing happened.

In the last 2 weeks, I’ve had fun and gone a little nuts knitting hexagons with my stash. I started out and had this after a weekend:

First seven hexagons

It’s so much fun that I organize 6 or so sets of colours at a time, ready for when I’ve got a few minutes. Each triangle is quick, and I can pick this up and put it down and not have any trouble remembering where I was. And these things are multiplying:

Current state of hexagons

Some folks may not like seaming and darning in ends, but the fun of this portable bite-sized knitting is super appealing to me. I figure I’ll have enough for a blanket in a few years – or perhaps less if I can’t kick the obsession ;)

I’ve got other designs on the go, and I’m already swatching for my 9th annual Tour de France KAL in July. Hopefully this coming month I’ll be able to show you a bit more of what I’m working on. In the mean time, hexagons will be filling in any other knitting gaps I might have.

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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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