Guest author blog: Sue Stratford, author of Mini Knitted Christmas

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When I opened my shop nearly ten years ago, it never crossed my mind that I would end up writing books and designing knitting patterns. It all started with some little mice that I knitted using a yarn which just wouldn’t sell. I turned the project into a small knitting kit to boost sales. The mouse kit was spotted on my stand at The Knitting and Stitching show at Alexandra Palace by Search Press and I was asked if I had ever thought of writing a book. Those mice became one of the projects in my first book, Mini Christmas Knits.

When I look back over the last few years since the publication of that book, I have been on a very exciting journey and a steep learning curve. Not having any experience of the publishing world meant that it was all a huge eye opener for me.

The funniest thing for me is realising that I am not as bad at maths as I was led to believe at school. Designing knitted creatures and garments is full of maths and it seems that these problems are not as hard to solve as I remember. If only they had used knitting patterns in maths lessons at school!

Mini Knitted Christmas is my sixth title with Search Press and one I really enjoyed doing. I had so much fun designing the projects and I have to say the penguins in a stripy jumper were one of my favourites. Another favourite project is the reindeer; making nine was quite a challenge but when I saw them being photographed, it was all worth it!

People often ask me where I get the inspiration for my designs from. Sometimes it can be a particular ball of wool that I can ‘see’ knitted up as something in my mind. Other times it can be a picture or a thought that just won’t leave my head. The inspiration for Mini Knitted Christmas was my customers who asked when I was going to write another Christmas book as they had knitted everything in the first.

One thing that writing a book has taught me is perseverance. In the past if I tried an idea and it didn’t work I would give up (yes, I know, very defeatist!) but when you have told a publisher you are going to knit a reindeer – then you have to knit a reindeer! I now know that it may take me longer than I had planned, but in the end I get there and the sense of satisfaction is amazing.

I have a busy life. As well as writing for Search Press, I run the shop (with a lot of help) and have a large family. But I feel that if you are lucky enough to be offered the opportunity to turn something you love into your career, you should grab it with both hands.

I am currently working on a slightly different book of cute and cuddly creatures for publication next year so watch this space!

©Sue Stratford

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Now see below for a fantastic pattern on how to make Sue’s adorable penguins!

Materials
4-ply (fingering) yarn in sparkly white, black, yellow, red and green
Make a second penguin using sparkly white, grey, yellow, pink and cream
2 x 3.4mm (1/8in) black beads
Toy stuffing
Needles 2.75mm (UK 12, US 2)
Size 8cm (31/8in) high

Instructions
Body
Using sparkly white yarn, cast on 13 sts and purl 1 row.
Next row: K1, M1, (K2, M1) five times, K2 (19 sts).
Starting with a purl row, work 5 rows in SS.
Next row: (K3, M1) five times, K4 (24 sts).
Purl 1 row.
Next row: (K3, M1) seven times, K3 (31 sts).
Starting with a purl row, work 5 rows in SS.
Next row: K10, M1, (K3, M1) four times, K9 (36 sts).
Starting with a purl row, work 9 rows in SS.
Next row: (K3, K2tog) seven times, K1
(29 sts).
Purl 1 row.
Next row: (K2, K2tog) seven times, K1
(22 sts).
Purl 1 row.
Continuing in SS, cast off 8 sts at the beginning of the next 2 rows (6 sts).
Next row: K1, M1, K4, M1, K1 (8 sts).
Starting with a purl row, work 3 rows in SS.
Next row: K1, ssK, K2, K2tog, K1 (6 sts).
Purl 1 row.
Next row: K1, ssK, K2tog, K1 (4 sts).
Cast off.

Outer body
Using black yarn, cast on 13 sts and purl 1 row.
Next row: K1, M1, (K2, M1) five times, K2 (19 sts).
Purl 1 row.
Continuing in SS, cast off 2 sts at the beginning of the next 2 rows (15 sts).
Starting with a knit row, work 2 rows in SS.
Next row: K1, M1, K to last st, M1, K1
(17 sts).
Purl 1 row.
Repeat last 2 rows three more times
(23 sts).
Starting with a knit row, work 4 rows in SS.
Next row: K1, ssK, K to last 3 sts, K2tog, K1 (21 sts).
Purl 1 row.
Repeat last 2 rows three more times
(15 sts).
Next row: K1, ssK, K6, turn work.
Next row: P3, turn work.
Working only over these 3 sts and starting with a knit row, work 4 rows in SS.
Next row: K3, K3 from unworked sts, K2tog, K1 (13 sts).
Next row: P1, P2tog, P to last 3 sts, P2togtbl, P1 (11 sts).
Cast off.

Wings: make two
Using black yarn, cast on 11 sts.
Next row: K5, sl1, K5.
Purl 1 row.
Repeat the last 2 rows three more times.
Next row: K1, ssK, K2, sl1, K2, K2tog, K1 (9 sts).
Purl 1 row.
Next row: K1, ssK, K1, sl1, K1, K2tog, K1 (7 sts).
Purl 1 row.
Next row: K1, ssK, sl1, K2tog, K1 (5 sts).
Purl 1 row.
Next row: Ssk, sl1, K2tog (3 sts).
Thread yarn through rem sts and fasten, leaving a length of yarn long enough to sew the wing up.

Feet: make two
Using yellow yarn, cast on 3 sts and, starting with a knit row, work 2 rows in SS.
Next row: (K1, M1) twice, K1 (5 sts).
Starting with a purl row, work 2 rows in SS.
Next row (WS): Knit (this forms a fold line).
Starting with a knit row, work 2 rows in SS.
Next row: K2tog, K1, ssK (3 sts).
Purl 1 row.
Thread yarn through rem sts and fasten, leaving a length of yarn long enough to sew the foot up.

Beak
Using yellow yarn, cast on 7 sts and, starting with a knit row, work 2 rows in SS.
Next row: K2tog, K1, (K2tog) twice (4 sts).
Thread yarn through rem sts and fasten. Sew side seam of beak.

Making up

  • Sew the body seam. This seam will be at the back of the penguin.
  • Fill with toy stuffing. Fold the base of the penguin up and sew in place.
  • Place the two beads on the head for eyes (bearing in mind the outer body will cover the top part of the head). Sew in place.
  • It is easier to sew the eyes on before fitting the outer body onto the penguin.
  • Pin the beak onto the face, using the photograph for guidance, and sew in place.
  • Sew the small seam on the outer body, this is the top. Place the outer body over the main body, placing the centre of the outer body at the centre back of the main body so that the tail is in the middle of the back.
  • Pin in place, stretching the edges slightly to get the right shape. Use the photograph for guidance. Sew in place and sew the small seam either side of the tail.
  • Fold each wing in half with WS together and sew the side seam.
  • Pin the wings in place with the curved edge towards the front. It is a good idea to knit the sweater first and make sure the wings are in the right place for the ‘wing holes’ before sewing in place.
  • Fold one of the feet in half along the purled fold line. Sew the side seams and repeat for the second foot.
  • Pin into place on the base of the penguin, ensuring that the penguin will stand. Sew into place.

sweaters

Sweater
Starting from the top.
Using red yarn, cast on 40 sts and work 8 rows in K2, P2 rib.
Change to green yarn.
Next row: K6, cast off 8 sts, K11, cast off 8 sts, K5 (leaving 6 sts, 12 sts and 6 sts).
Next row: P6, turn work and cast on 8 sts, turn work, P12, turn work and cast on 8 sts, turn work, P6 (40 sts).
*Change to red yarn.
Work 2 rows in SS.
Change to green yarn and, starting with a knit row, work 2 rows in SS.*
Work from * to * once more.
Change to red yarn and knit 1 row.
Work 4 rows in K2, P2 rib. Cast off in K2, P2 rib loosely and evenly.

Making up
Sew the seam of the sweater matching the stripes. The seam will be at the back of the sweater. Place on the penguin.

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You can purchase Mini Knitted Christmas from Hive here and collect from your local independent bookshop, or have delivery to your home with free standard UK delivery – whilst still supporting your local bookshop.

To see more about us and how your purchases on Hive benefit local independent bookshops, please click here.

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