Confession of a Sock Knitter

My dear friends, how have you been? I hope you are all keeping well in these uncertain times, finding things to do that you love and having lot’s of ‘Me’ time too.

For me that usually involves knitting socks. I am not totally sure when this love of sock knitting started, but one of my earliest knitting memories is about socks and they are a true love of mine.

I just keep making socks. It’s just so much fun.

Especially during stressful and uncertain times they are my go-to project and I can’t seem to stop, chain-knitting my way from sock to sock, starting a new one just as soon as one is finished.

I just keep going and having a completely shameless Netflix binge helps no end, it’s almost like the sock-making reinforces the binge-watching, and vice versa. It also helps to have a large stash of sock yarn nearby, feeding my curiosity about what will happen with a skein of variegated or self-striping sock yarn.

Socks are super portable and the perfect small project to try out new stitch patterns. A simple sock is pretty straight forward to knit, not too difficult to learn and many have done so in my workshops following my trusted ‘Oma’s Sock’s’ pattern (here).

Family and friends are happy recipients of my cosy socks, with fifteen pairs of my knitted socks in hubby’s sock drawer alone and many more pairs having been gifted over the years.

Having knitted top-down socks only up to now, I wanted to spice things up a little and have started my first pair of toe-up socks. I only started last night but like it so far…

They won’t be done quite as quickly as I have to follow instructions, but with lock-down continuing I have plenty of time. Wish me luck!

Are you using this crazy time to learn something new? Please share, I’d love to know.

Stay safe my friends and remember to laugh, to sit in sunshine and dream, be kind and thoughtful and to be gentle and mindful with yourself.

Heartfelt wishes,

Heike xo

Friesland – a gansey shawl

The coastal path is closed, the car parks are closed – this is the current situation all around our coast lines.

Is your heart yearning to hear the sound of the waves, to walk along the shore, quietly just with your own thoughts?

Sea, sky and wind can free our minds, refresh with the salty lightness of the air and soothing uniformity of the waves. New horizons open up, perspectives for now and later.

In my memory I see the Sea in front of me, smooth as glass or agitated and angry. I see the endless expanse, smell the salty air, feel the wind in my hair and hear cheeky seagulls screech.

In all this uncertainty, one thing is certain: The Sea has always been there and will be there when the current situation has calmed down. The Sea teaches us to switch between chaos and order, between retreat and community.

The ebb and flow, the sea, sand and shore are here, doing what they do – All is quiet.

Today I want to introduce my latest shawl design – Friesland Shawl.

I designed this shawl to coincide with a knitting retreat hosted by my sister ( Buntes Schaf) on the German Island of Norderney before the world shut down due to Covid-19. Eleven knitters from Germany, Belgium and the UK got together for a few days, enjoying beautiful scenery, good food and knitting, broadening their knowledge on traditional Gansey/Fishermen patterns and their history.

We were so lucky to have this special time together before the world shut down. Feeling the wind in our hair, breathing in fresh salty air having a wonderful time with like minded souls learning about the rich history of these amazing patterns.

The shawl is knitted all in one piece from one tip to the other forming a long shallow triangle. A few stitches are cast on and then the body of the shawl is worked in a variety of traditional Gansey/Fishermen patterns found along the shores of the North Sea and Atlantic coasts. Increases on one side create a long triangular shape and a nifty slip stitch technique at the end of each row creates a neat I-cord edge. After the centre pattern is completed, decreases on one side edge shape the shawl into a long flat triangle.

This is a true homage to the rich history and variety of these patterns and has been a total pleasure and labour of love to create. The pattern is available in both English and German from my Ravelry and Lovecrafts stores.

Hopefully it won’t be too long before we can return and walk along a beach feeling the sand between our toes and the wind in our hair.

Stay safe my friends xo

Hello Spring (and a comfort blanket)

Can you smell it?

If you go outside, around the block or your daily walk (or run) in the park or forest, you can smell and feel it. Spring is finally here.

It blooms everywhere and smells deliciously of small spring blossoms and the warming earth. Little green leaves and buds are about to burst open everywhere. Nature takes its usual course, regardless of our current world turmoil and social circumstances.

It is a somehow comforting picture don’t you think?

The world seams to be both on pause and on hyperdrive, but my fingers are busy at their usual pace. 

Somehow I don’t seem to be able to concentrate long on one thing, instead flitting between projects and sometimes just tinkering. My knitting needles tick-tick-tick in rhythm as my hands move them through the dance of stitches that will become a jumper, socks or just samples. Everything is different around me, but this is the same. These fingers, this yarn, this movement.

The world is on pause, but not the clock and the days march forward. The calendar keeps turning pages as it waits for no one, it keeps on going, so I keep going too.

I put the kettle on and make another cup of tea. Connecting with my family and friends is often done in different, more creative ways and I never would have thought that seeing them on a screen could fill me with such joy.

I knit my worries into the yarn I hold because there’s nowhere else for them to go. I try and remember to keep laughing and finding positives, no matter how small they might be.

To help me through this difficult time I have started a blanket – I call it my lockdown blanket. Using one base colour (blue) and lots of random colours of yarn I have in my stash, simple garter stitch provides a soothing rhythm of tick – tick – tick .

In case you like this idea of meditation, here is the simple how to:

My Yarn is a combination of Rowan Baby Merino Silk DK (the base colour) and Rowan Wool Cotton (the random colours). I am using a 3.75mm long circular needle and cast on 200 stitches. Working in garter stitch throughout I alternate between the base and random colour every 2 rows, feeding the yarn up the side and start a new random colour when a complete ball is finished. To be completely random I do not choose the next colour but instead I just put my hand into the bag and pull the next ball out.

When finished the blanket will be approximately 95cm wide and 170cm long, a good size to snuggle under. However, you can make it any size you like by simply adding or subtracting stitches and rows.

Everything is different around me, but some things are the same: These hands and this yarn, and the clicking of my needles as I knit on. 

Until soon, stay safe and well xo.

Mutti’s Cushion

Exactly a year ago today another Angel joint the heavenly realms – my Mum.

Fondly called Mutti by me and my siblings and Mimi by my daughter, she now spreads her wings over the sky looking down on us.

Around the time of her passing, I received a package from South Africa containing beautiful yarn sent by Carle (the owner of Nurturing Fibres Yarns) for me to try out.

As a professional player with yarns working from my studio in North Wales, I love trying out new yarns and cooking up new things for you to make. Every day when I work in my studio I can feel Mutti’s presence by my side, her voice speaking softly to me, sometimes telling me to stop dreaming and getting on with the job in hand.

Mutti was a lifelong lover of crafts of all kinds and I can’t ever remember a time when her hands weren’t busy making something. When she was young she made her own clothes and then, when my sister and I where little, she would spent hours making beautiful clothes for our dolls, sitting up late into the night before Christmas, putting finishing touches to little doll’s dresses. However, knitting was her real passion and she created many beautiful things with a pair of sticks and some string.

With that in mind, being able to cope with my overwhelming grief and the knowledge that my hands needed to make something in memory of her, I decided to use the beautiful yarn from South Africa and Mutti’s cushion was born. She had always wanted to visit that amazing country, but in the end she ran out of time.

Using two shades of the super soft Nurturing Fibres Super Twist DK, a 100% Merino Yarn, I decided that I wanted to do some stranded colour work for the cushion and living in the British Isles, what better than using traditional Fair Isle patterns. Traditionally Fair Isle patterns use only two colours per row or round and limit the length of a run of any particular colour. Even though many use the term Fair Isle for any stranded knitting, it is actually reserved for the characteristic patterns of the Shetland Islands.

Initially when I showed Carle photos of the finished cushion she liked it very much and suggested to offer the pattern as a KAL (knit along), unfortunately this never happened.

Today is the first anniversary of Mutti’s passing and I need to commemorate this day with something special.

I have decided this is the perfect day to release the pattern for the cushion for free and offer it as a download PDF via my Ravelry Store https://www.ravelry.com/designers/heike-gittins .

It would make me so happy to see many cushions being made around the world helping me to spread my Mutti’s shining light across the globe. I ask you to please share your photos by tagging #muttiscushion on social media.

Please stay safe and well during this difficult time 🙂

Sending love, Heike xo

Spring Fling Shawl

I don’t know about you, but I am so ready for Spring! January and now February seem to drag their feet and with the amount of rain and storms we have recently had, brighter days are eagerly awaited.

To put a little Spring into my step I designed this pretty shawl in the most delicious cheerful colours.

This is a lovely large, yet light and airy shawl. Using a garter tab cast on and a mix of garter and stocking stitch sections, all finished with a Daisy Flower border. The top line of the shawl has a slight curve which makes it sit very well on shoulders, stopping it from slipping off.

My colour inspiration will come as no surprise to you! You know how much I like to take my inspiration from nature and the spring colours of first blooms inspired my new design.

Using The Grey Sheep Co. Stein Fine Wool Sock Yarn and keeping it simple, this traditional triangular shawl is the perfect showcase for Emma’s ability to dye the most scrumptious colours (www.thegreysheep.co.uk).

As many of you already know, the Team at Well Manor Farm is whole-heartedly committed to producing the best British wool available. Through managed grazing and the reversion of agricultural land to traditional pastures, the wool comes from their very own flocks that is exclusively bred and nurtured for their quality fibre.

For this shawl I chose Stein Fine Wool Sock for its light and airy feel, making it the perfect companion for the first days of spring, when days are beginning to feel warm but can at times have a chill in the air.

The pattern is now available to purchase and download from my Ravelry Store and a discount of 10% will be automatically applied until midnight on Sunday 23 February 2020.

I hope it put’s a little Spring in your step too.

Heike xo.

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