Friday, 19 December 2014

Shetland Wool Week 2015

I am absolutely delighted to announce that I will be the patron of Shetland Wool Week 2015.  The festival will be in its 6th year in 2015, and will take place from Saturday 26th to Sunday 4th October.  You can read Shetland Wool Week's blog post here

Photo: Dave Wheeler

It is a festival that celebrates Shetland wool, it's sheep, and knitting traditions and it is a huge honour to be involved in such an important event.  During the week, there will be workshops on various wool related topics, designers will open their studios to the public for example and it is great chance to meet up with other like minded folk.

I follow in the footsteps of Hazel Tindall who was the patron in 2014 and who I am pictured below with (Hazel is an amazing knitter and a lovely person so they will be very hard footsteps to follow).

Photo: Selina-May Miller
Any of you that follow me on the blog or on other social media sites will notice that hand knitting has very much featured in my more recent work.  I am planning to blog more about woolly things throughout the year, mainly knitting and other things to do with Shetland wool (starting again in the New Year).  If you want to keep updated with posts you can click on the "follow by email" widget at the right hand side to get them sent to your inbox, or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.
You can find out more about Shetland Wool Week on their website here.
Its going to be a exciting year!

Friday, 7 November 2014

Christmas Closing Time

Firstly, I would like to apologise for saying in my last post that Kate Davies book was going to be launched during Shetland Wool Week, I was wrong but the good news is it is available for pre-order from today!  I have ordered my copy and can't wait to see it.  You can pre-order it from Kate's website here.

My problem often is that I read things too fast and don't actually take in the actual information, plus I was going on holiday just after Shetland Wool Week and there was so much to do I hardly had time to think!

I am back now (spent a lovely 2 weeks in Tenerife with family) and after a bit of thought have decided to close my Not On The High Street shop next Sunday 16th November for Christmas.  It's earlier than the last couple of years but I don't have a lot of time to make brooches at the moment due to family and other work commitments.  The only craft fair I will be doing this year is one in the local village hall in Hamnavoe on Sunday 30th November.  Sometimes you have to pull back and realise your limitations.  Plus, I haven't taken any trade orders in the past month, thankfully all my buyers are very understanding as most of them are small business owners themselves, and as one of them said, sometimes you are just too busy.  And, I don't want to spend every minute of the day working, I have done that to much in the past.

There are a few new brooches in my shop this year, all made up of tiny pieces of felt.

Wool Felt Spray brooch

Wool Felt Posy Brooch - inspired by a mirror with a moulded, painted surround that used to hang in my Granny's sittingroom.

Wool Felt Rose Bouquet Brooch - inspired by vintage ceramic brooches.
You can get them here until midnight on Sunday 16th November, I have a ten day lead time so you will get your order in plenty of time before Christmas!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014


 I spent a lovely evening with knitwear designer Kate Davies a few weeks ago.  Kate is the author of Colours of Shetland and many beautiful knitting patterns and was in Shetland recently to do research for her next book "Yokes".  We spoke a lot about knitting and wool (of course) and we looked through some of my old photos.  

Yoke cardigans and jumpers to a lesser extent, have become very fashionable in Shetland in the past few years, when walking across Commercial Street in Lerwick it would be very rare not to see someone wearing one.   I remember having a Shetland wool jumper with lace yoke that my great aunt knitted to match a kilt (with attached nylon vest thing to make it into a pinafore), which I had a dislike for, Shetland wool was unfashionable at the time and the pinafore thing meant that the jumper really couldn't come off when running around made me too hot.

I have spent a lot of time lately going through old photos and concentrating on the knitwear in the pictures.  Here is the only photo I can find of said yoke jumper, I wish I had it now, I would wear it without hesitation (if I was still that size of course).  Its funny how times change.

I recall my Granny Maggie very often wearing a yoke jumper, these jumpers were (and still are) had a machine made body and sleeves and the yoke was made by hand.  Many Shetlanders recall of the man of the house making the bodies on their knitting machine and the women knitting the yokes and finishing the garment by hand.  

This is my maternal Granny wearing a traditional yoke and being herself! My Granda is on her left.
Granny's Craft group, note the traditional yokes and cardigans
While looking through old photos belonging to my granny and parents I came across the first ever yoke I knitted.  It was made from Icelanic Lopi in circular wires, I think I was bout ten at the time.  We had been snowed in a lot that winter and I remember sitting next to the Rayburn knitting it.

Chunky yokes were also very popular as I was growing up, I remember my paternal granny, Jackie made them to sell and my Dad was very rarely seen out of work not wearing one.

You can also see some more yokes on Ella Gordon's blog  - in her latest post she documents some of her knitwear collection, make sure you click on the link at the bottom of the page, this will take you to another site showing all the lovely garments in her possession.

Louise from wrote a blogpost titled "The Charm of A Yoke" a few months back - here she speaks about different types of yokes and even features my felt yoke jumper brooches - thanks Louise! 
With the rise in popularity of the yoke and with an increase in people wanting something more individual, the timing of Kate's book is perfect.  It will be launched during Shetland Wool Week, on Thursday evening at Jamieson and Smith.  I am very much looking forward to seeing the finished book and patterns and you better be quick, this is going to be a popular one.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Summer Sewing

 I tend to find I sew more in the summer and knit more in the winter.  I have of course been knitting a little bit but certainly not as much as I would like.  In the summer evenings, if I get a chance, I like to sit in the conservatory listening to the radio and watching the sunset and hopefully do something creative.
This year has been the best summer we have had for years and sometimes I find the better the weather the busier we are, out making the most of the fine weather.  One night a couple of weeks ago I had the rare chance of several hours in the evening to myself, several late nights and days spent running around meant Peerie Breeks fell asleep usually early so I managed to cut out and sew this top/tunic.
I had bought the fabric at the end of last summer when I was on a sewing roll but it must have been just as the weather changed as it got packed away until this year.  The pattern is Simplicity 3835 which I think is now out of print, but I managed to track it down on a US site last year and I am glad I did.

I originally planned to make a top but I feel more comfortable in a tunic, I didn't have enough fabric to make the tunic in the pattern but I did if I added the bottom of the tunic to the top.  As there are no openings in this version (which I like) I quickly made up version from some calico I had previously used as curtains somewhere to check I could get it on and off before I took the scissors to the actual fabric.

I wasn't sure what I would think of elastic around the neck but I like it.  The armholes were supposed to be finished with elastic too but I just made an ordinary hem.

 I used French seams which helps to give a super neat finish to the garment.
It has handy pockets too.

Overall, I am very happy with the finished garment, I have worn and washed it several times now and it behaves very well.  I finished the tunic in about 4 hours and added the pockets the next evening so it is a fairly quick project (if you can get peace!) In fact I have just bought more fabric for another and am in the process of sewing another two dress / tunics.  I just need to keep up the momentum before the light changes too much and I can get the good of short sleeves!

Some of the other things we have been up to are trips to the beach..

Taking in the hay....

We do it the old fashioned way by putting into the byre using the 60 year old tractor...

I don't have a lot of produce this year but there is always lots of rhubarb, this is a delicious rhubarb chutney using the recipe found on the Taste of Shetland blog.  You will find other recipes and interesting articles there and it is well worth a visit....

Enjoying eating outdoors with some homemade rhubarb cordial.....

And - I had my first go at clipping sheep, I certainly won't win any prizes for speed but I think they were quite neatly trimmed!

New sandals - Shetland isn't known for its warm temperatures, so I do hope I get a few more weeks to wear my new sandals (I got a bit carried away and bought two pairs).

You can see the some more pictures from the summer at Instagram - I am Donna Smith Designs over there. 

I am off to Edinburgh for the weekend so hoping for some shopping, lots of coffee drinking and a chance to wear the sandals!

Monday, 14 July 2014

A New Vintage Coat

A few years ago I bought a length of grey and white tweed with the intention of making a coat, but never seemed to find the right pattern.  Last summer I found the perfect pattern on Pinterest - Simplicity 6311 from 1965. 

Trust me to fall in love with something that probably went out of print over 40 years ago.

 A few searches on eBay though, and it didn't take too long to find the pattern in my size (from an American lady with a Scandinavian name).  Before I chopped up the tweed I thought I would use denim fabric I also bought years ago but I can't remember why.  So, if it was a disaster it wouldn't matter.  Thankfully, it wasn't a disaster.

I cut out the coat last summer and like many more projects it got packed away as sewing with pins and needles isn't particularly child friendly.  One night a few weeks ago I decided I need to finish it so I worked into the wee small hours.  Hand finishing and the covered button has been done when I could grab a few moments.

It has white and red spotty lining: 
Altogether, it was a fairly straight forward project with no button holes, no inside facings and the fit is perfect so I didn't have to make any adjustments.  The only thing I might change is to add facings and hidden buttonholes on the next one as it swings open.  The only fasteners are the button and a placket at the other side of the neck - things that swing open doesn't really work here in the Shetland winters due to the prevailing winds.  I might also lengthen the sleeves as these are bracelet length and although it looks good and is fine on a summer garment, I think a winter coat would be better with slightly longer ones.
And - just in case you were wondering, the brooch is one of my newer designs, which will be available online with a whole new range of vintage inspired floral brooches in the Autumn.
Yay! - another FO I can now tick off my list!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

UFO Invasion

I have been invaded by UFOs.  Not the alien sort but the crafty sort (i.e. UnFinished Objects).  Lately I decided to try to sort them out and to finish or recycle at least some of them.  Today I have decided to make a list as it often helps to see it in black and white.

This is not actually as bad as I thought, although these are only the ones that spring to mind or I have easy access to, I have already remembered about another one that should be on the list.  Some of these UFOs go back around 20 years when I was at university!
My problem is that I love planning and starting projects and then often for one reason or another I lay them aside; maybe I reach a tricky part, or tidy the project away and it never comes out again or I get carried away with the next exciting project.

The first one I have tackled was the mouse from Mollie Makes magazine, issue eleven.

I love how cute these little mice are and started it in January while the weather was bad, I cut it out and then made the limbs but laid it aside as it was quite fiddly.  One rainy afternoon a few weeks ago I decided to go ahead and finish it.  I made the body out of scraps of linen I had leftover from lightshades my Dad and I made for the local church hall last year and it was stuffed with washed wool from our own sheep.  The beads and thread were already in my stash so there wasn't any outlay for this project, just time.

It was a lot more fiddly than I thought and all I can say is that I was very grateful for my jewellery pliers to turn the limbs.


The little jumper was made using the lambwool I use for my scarves.  It is a light laceweight yarn and using 2.5mm needles the jumper was made using the same techniques as I would make a full sized jumper (knitted in the round) and the arm holes were made with tiny steeks.

 The jeans were made using the pattern in the magazine, the instructions are fairly limited but I have made trousers before so could figure out how to piece the pattern pieces together.  They were very wide at the top so I put a bit of elastic to give them an elasticated waist.  If I was to make them again I would add another couple of cm to the length as they really are long shorts.

He seems to have been well received and has been Christened "Moosee-E" (don't ask me why).  When asked when Mammy and Baby mice would be coming I had to say I didn't think they would be!

I am a big fan of Lotta Jansdotter's work, and bought some Bella fabric last summer to make two cushions for the conservatory.  I bought plain white cotton for the cushion backs, One, because I hate it if I am using patterned fabric and I can't get the patterns to meet and Two, because I could then get two cushions out of just a half metre of fabric.
They were for the conservatory but are currently in the sitting room.  I think they will probably just move around.

I made a simple envelope back so there were no fiddly zips or buttonholes to work with. 

Two done, a few more to go!

Finally, I have lately become a convert to Instagram, if you fancy having a look at my pictures I am donnasmithdesigns.

Just another thing to distract me from those UFOs!

Friday, 16 May 2014

A steeked Circle of Lambs yoke cardigan

I have recently finished a little cardigan for my friend's baby girl.  She is a crofter and is a big fan of sheep so lambs really had to feature somewhere in the finished garment.  The pattern is Ella Funt by Pamela Wynne and I replaced the elephants with sheep.  The pattern has a blank chart for the yoke pattern with the decreases marked in so you can dot out your own pattern.  The design possiblities are endless!

I knitted this garment in Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino which is very squiggy and soft to work with and will be super soft on a baby.  The advantage of it is that is machine washable.  Although I usually only knit with 100% wool, I think for babies (and in particular for baby gifts) its important to think about whether it can be machine washed or not.

I don't like knitting purl as I find I go too slow so I knitted the cardigan in the round on 3 DPNs and a knitting belt (of course!).  I cast on 5 extra stitches to form the steek at the front of the garment.  This photo above shows the cardigan just before I discovered I had run out of the main colour.  I ordered it nearly 3 years ago just after my baby boy was born, I was only getting back into knitting and had a plan for it but can't really remember what that plan was!  I thought I had 3 balls of denim blue but only could find 2.  So, I bought a lighter blue shade, ripped the yoke back to below the beginning and added in another row of the navy pattern to define the start of the yoke.

Once it was finished it was time to cut the steek. I machined a couple of rows of stitching each side of the central stitch ladder to reinforce the stitches and to make sure nothing unravelled.

The steek was then cut:
The raw edges were trimmed very close to the machine stitches and a ribbon was hand stitched over  it on the inside of the button bands to finish the garment.
The finished cardigan. 
For more information have a look at the project on Ravelry.

This design is very topical at the moment, the lambing on my Dad's croft has just finished yesterday.
A Shetland sheep with her triplets

Black and white twins