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Time for a Hottie

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Just in time for the weekend, the Hot Water Bottle Cover pattern is ready! It’s an easy peasy pattern and will knit up in no time.

Cable Decreases

Elizabeth mentioned in the comments that she would start calling HWBs, ‘hotties’ which I think is excellent practice, even if people get the wrong idea when you tell them you’re going to bed with a hottie. ;)

Here’s what you’ll need:


  • 2 balls Rowan Scottish Tweed Aran
  • [100gr; 100% wool; 170m/186yds;
  • in shade 027 Lewis Grey]
  • or 3 balls Rowan Felted Tweed Aran
  • [50gr; 50% merino wool, 25% alpaca, 25% viscose; 87m/95yds;
  • in shade 729 Soot]
  • or approx. 230m/252 yds of aran weight yarn.


  • 14 sts / 27 rows
  • over 10cm / 4in
  • (with 4.5mm (US 7) needles,
  • in garter stitch).

Finished Size

  • 21cm x 34cm, approx. 8¼ x 13½in.
  • To fit a hot water bottle 19cm x 30cm.

Hot Water Bottle Cover Front
Hot Water Bottle Cover Back

(On the subject of hotties,) my boyfriend informed me that he gave in to his urge to put a teabag in his hottie the other day. He said he chose peppermint because you didn’t have to put milk in that. Clever man. Except he can’t get the teabag out now, so if you try this, we recommend loose tea. In fact, we’re thinking of patenting some kind of teapot/hottie combo. Watch out for that one. ;)

I’ll be sending out copies to the “mystery winners” as soon as my flaky internet connection allows me. With the rain & wind tonight I think it’s going to be the perfect weekend to snuggle up with a hottie (both kinds). And if you want a good book to go with it, watch out for my next post. The pattern is just £3.00 on Ravelry, so go forth and knit! Have a great weekend! :)

Mysteries Ravelled

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logpilecabled hot water bottle with pocket

No one guessed my mystery project, and to be fair, it was a bit mean of me to expect you to. Here it is, modelled in all its rustic elegance by a MAN! Since I first dreamt it up, I thought this design would make a great gift for a gentleman, because it’s genuinely useful, hard-wearing, and cosy in a non-pink, non-fluffy way (though it could easily be made into both these things). I wanted it to be completely unfussy – no buttons, no drawstrings, just a simple fold-over top. There are a few short rows for the pocket to accommodate large hands, but otherwise the pattern is very straightforward.

cabled hot water bottle with pocketwood

And if you want further proof that men love this hottie, I got two commissions from builders while we were shooting these photos. I informed them that I actually sell patterns, so they’d have to learn to knit first. I can just see them at home, relaxing after a day’s work with a bit of knitting and a tipple. :)

cabled hot water bottle with pocketivy

The pattern will be released sometime next week, and I’ll see if I have time to throw in a little surprise. I’ll send everyone who commented on the last post a free copy, since it was so tricky.

Of course the other mystery that we’re all excited about is WoollyWormhead’s Mystery KAL. Here’s my progress. I don’t think it merits a spoiler warning yet. The yarn is Sirdar’s Country Style DK which isn’t ideal, but it was all I happened to have. Anyway, I like the colour and I’ve finished the first installment. Now I’m eagerly awaiting the second…

WoollyWormhead Mystery KAL 2009 Progress

6th November, 2009  // Houselock, Knitwear Design // tags: , , , , , , , .

Mary Thomas & The Knitting Bargain of the Century

“Knitting should be done thoughtfully. It should not be hurried. That is its charm to our generation, who live surrounded with a wild helter-skelter of speed.”

I hope the name Mary Thomas produces little ‘ah’s of recognition, or even a reverential silence from my readers. She may not be as popular as Elizabeth Zimmerman or Barbara Walker, but.. she should be! In case you haven’t heard of her, or haven’t quite got around to reading her books, let me give you a little guidance. Mary Thomas published two books on knitting in the 30s and 40s (before EZ & Walker hit the scene), called Mary Thomas’s Knitting Book and Mary Thomas’s Book of Knitting Patterns. She writes in the Preface to the first book:

At first I had hoped to present the whole story of knitting in one volume only, but this eventually proved impossible, as the subject was too vast. So, with the greatest reluctance, a division had to be made, leaving the fascinating art of fabric construction, which rose to such heights of beauty in the brocade and lace periods of knitting, and which is now rapidly being multiplied, for a later book. This is already in preparation.

The similarity in the names of the books is confusing; when I was buying my copies I spent some time trying to figure out whether they may not in fact be re-issues of the same book. Well, as Mrs. Thomas’s preface indicates, they’re two unique books, complementing and supplementing each other, even though they could be taken as complete works in their own right. Mary Thomas’s Knitting Book begins with the history of knitting, information on implements, yarn, gauge and tension, and continues with the foundational techniques – knitting, purling, casting on and off, etc. This is no mere instruction manual for beginner knitters though; Thomas delves into ‘knit movements’ and ‘selvedges’ with amazing detail, discussing, for instance, the English & Continental methods, in addition to several varities of ‘crossed’ and ‘uncrossed’ stitches (the ‘Eastern Uncrossed’ method is what is now often called ‘Combined Knitting’). There are then sections on increasing and decreasing, and several ornamental techniques. The last few chapters are on garment construction, shetland shawls, gloves, socks and stockings, and all are very thorough and enlightening.

illustration by Margaret Agutter in Mary Thomas's Knitting Book

The second book, Mary Thomas’s Book of Knitting Patterns, deals with the creation of knitted fabric and surface ornamentation, and how it can be used effectively in design. Her short introductory chapter on ‘The A.B.C of Design’ should be essential reading for any ‘Beginning Knitwear Design’ course. It’s worth noting that ‘Knitting Patterns’ aren’t, as we might assume, full instructions for creating a specific garment, but rather Thomas’s instructions for patterning the knitted fabric. In essence, most of the contents are ‘knitting stitches’ (or ‘stitch patterns’). Thomas’s practicality is almost unsurpassed. Both books have comprehensive indexes, and the second not only includes French and German knitting terms, but also has a ‘Texture Index’ which lists the stitches according to the projects they’re suitable for. What thoughtfulness!

I think you’ll agree that Mary Thomas was ahead of her time. Even today few books are so comprehensive or enjoyable to read – ‘textbooks’ of knitting. She was also an early proponent of charting, though many of the symbols she uses won’t look especially familiar to knitters today. I couldn’t find any information on Mary Thomas on the internet, but the Ravelry Group mentions that Richard Rutt’s A History of Hand Knitting (UK) has a brief biography of her.

illustration by Margaret Agutter in Mary Thomas's Knitting Book

As a knitter I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I love these two books almost as much for their darling little illustrations as I do for their content. They’re by Margaret Agutter, and each is based around a clever pictorial pun.

I hope I’ve been able to clear up some of the confusions that might arise from the titles of these two seminal books, and have convinced you that they are worth reading cover to cover (first of all), and later referred to frequently. The Dover editions are still in print and aren’t too expensive, though I’ve noticed their prices have been going up! The Book of Knitting Patterns isn’t quite as cheap, but it’s still a bargain for all of the information it contains. But I bought the Knitting Book from Abebooks for… 64p! As I write this there are 2 copies going for 61p. Isn’t that the knitting bargain of the century?

4th September, 2009  // Knitwear Design, Literature // tags: , , .
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