Parcels in the Post #2: Colours of Shetland Book

Colours of Shetland by Kate Davies

Colours of Shetland by Kate Davies. I want to knit that Scatness tam so badly!

Look what arrived in parcel #2! If you missed out on what was in parcel #1, check this blog post out. But look! My very own copy of the Colours of Shetland by Kate Davies. If you don’t know who Kate Davies is, she is an amazing designer of hand knits drawing inspiration from her life in Scotland, and particularly the Shetland Islands. She is also an accomplished writer and historian. As an archaeologist myself who has also lived a scholarly life, I really appreciate the insights and history she often shares about knitting and textile history. She is one of my favourite designers with her modern take on traditional motifs and colourwork.

Her book Colours of Shetland was published in 2012, available both as a softcover book and an e-book. If you purchase the hard copy, you will receive a complimentary free copy of the e-book too. Currently available for £14.99, I think this is an excellent price for this handsome book.

I’ll let you peek into the table of contents, outlining the 10 patterns included in Colours of Shetland. There’s also a couple of handy tutorials included in this book. And have I mentioned yet the stunning photography for the collection shot on location in the Shetland Islands? As if I didn’t want to go there badly enough before…


I also love how she explores a design and offers it in various forms. For example, the Scatness Tam that is on the cover (which I looove) is also available as a tunic too.

kate2And here is another example, the Stevenson Sweater and Gauntlets as shown in this photo. I could happily knit any and all of the patterns in this delightful book.


Also deserving an honourable mention here is a note about Kate Davies’ wardrobe aside from her gorgeous designs. She often wears fashions from England’s stylish Cabbages & Roses. All designs and fabrics are made in England, and encapsulate fun and enduring fashion at the same time. If you don’t know Cabbages & Roses, I strongly recommend that you check them out too. They’ve also partnered recently with UNIQLO for a playful line.

In conclusion, if you haven’t picked up a copy of this book, I recommend strongly that you do. Her patterns are clear and well written, and for a connoisseur of colourwork, this book is not to be missed. As she is in the midst of relocating from Edinburgh, she has noted on her blog that only a handful of hard copies are left, so you better order quickly before they disappear. It may be some time before there is a second print run. Happy reading!

x Rena


A Global Thank You


Hi foxes! Wow, this giveaway is real hit, I’m happy to report. From Bangalore to Bonn, Manchester to Madrid, Las Vegas and so many more, patterns from The Red Fox and Gown are finding good homes. I very much appreciate the notes and comments sent to me via Ravelry. Although I couldn’t reply to everyone, believe me that I’m ridiculously pleased to hear from you and that I appreciate the time taken out of your busy days to write. I’m glad that knitting can unite people like this! Thank you, as always, for your interest and support! It means a lot to me.

As a new designer, I’m usually working on my own, so it is very exciting and helpful to get feedback from you. Notes, Ravelry pm’s, comments on pattern pages, favouriting and queuing patterns gives me information about which way to go with my designs. I always have loads of ideas and it’s interesting to see what is a hit with you. So please, keep the feedback coming and I would also love to see finished objects up on Ravelry on the pattern pages.

This is the last large scale giveaway that I will conduct. But don’t worry, there will be lots of fun still to be had. There will be the occasional promotion. But at the end of the day I also need to cover costs and earn an income so pattern purchases are always welcome! 🙂

Thank you all again! Also, if you like this blog, please follow the blog and/or Twitter (on the sidebar to the right) for more news and events.

x Rena

PS – The giveaway is still on until midnight PST. See my previous post for details.

Flash Anniversary Sale! Or… Free!

photo 5

Just as the title promises, I’m having a flash anniversary sale to celebrate 1 year of The Red Fox and Gown! Yes, it’s true! It’s hard to believe that I’ve been designing for… well, it’s probably a couple of years now but a year before I actually started up The Red Fox and Gown.

So, here’s the offer:

Choose 1 pattern from the current catalogue of The Red Fox and Gown for your free download. The offer is valid for a very limited time through 20 May, 4pm Pacific time to 22 May 23.59pm. Celebrate with knitting and spread the word! Use the code ‘anniversary’ at checkout to receive 1 free pattern of your choice.

All I ask is that if you can, please post finished items up on Ravelry on the pattern pages for all to see! 🙂

Happy knitting!

x Rena

Tools of the Trade: Choosing Knitting Needles

Some knitting needles in a mug.

Every knitter has their opinions on what makes the best knitting needles for their projects. I’d like to share a review of the needles I like to use. As you can see from the lead photograph, I’m partial to bamboo and wood double pointed needles.

From left to right: wood, metal and bamboo needles.

But before I get too ahead of myself, for the benefit of those relatively new to knitting, let me provide a bit of context. Knitting needles come in a variety of forms, including straight, circular and double pointed, and materials, such as steel, aluminum, wood, bamboo and plastic.


Straight knitting needle tips.

When you think of knitting needles, usually a pair of straight knitting needles come to mind. These are used to knit back and forth. I think that straight needles are not as popular as they once were, because of circular knitting needles.

Basic bamboo and plastic circular needles.

Circular knitting needles are two needles connected by a piece of plastic, used to knit items in the round like hats or pullovers. Increasingly, people use circular needles to work back and forth, just as you would traditional straight needles. The advantage of circular needles, though, is that you can put a lot more stitches on a circular needle cord than you can on a straight needle. The circular needles, being smaller, tend to also be more portable.

Double pointed needles used to make a sock.

Before circular needles appeared on the scene, there were double pointed needles, also used to knit in the round. Knitters still used double pointed, especially for small items knit in the round such as socks and sleeves. They require a bit of dexterity to use, but it’s really easier than it looks.

I’ve learned that I like different knitting needle materials for different kind of projects. When working large projects in the round, I like metal tipped circular needles, particularly Addi Turbos. They provide little resistance while knitting, which is good when you’ve got a big project that you’re trying to finish in a hurry. I find using metal tipped circulars a lot easier on my wrists than bamboo, which provide more resistance.

Signature Needle Arts double pointed needles in 4.5mm.

However, when it comes to working on projects using double pointed needles, it becomes a bit more complicated. For fine gauge projects like socks, I like the wood or bamboo needles which provide more grip and makes the project less slippery. I usually use either Clover Takumi bamboo or Brittany wood double pointed needles. But for bulkier projects, I like metal double pointed needles, especially my lovely needles by Signature Needle Arts.


The next thing is finding a place for all these knitting needles to live. There’s a whole art to finding knitting storage. I sewed myself a needle roll to hold all of them. Ravelry has a cool feature where you can keep an inventory of all your needles, which I find quite helpful.

There’s also sets of interchangeable circular needles that come in an array of sizes where you pick the knitting needle tips to cord length. Surprisingly, I haven’t ever purchased such a set myself but I can see where it would be useful and also a cost savings overall. Although I tend to have several projects on the go at once and I usually need more than one of a certain size. Like I said, it’s complicated. 🙂 If you buy a set of interchangeable needles, I recommend that you will have tried out a variety of material types for your needles to know that you’ll like what you purchase.

Do you have a favourite set of knitting needles?

x Rena

Covet: Rain City Knits DK Merino Yarn

My very own Rain City Knits Babycakes DK sampler pack.

Guess what I’ve got? A buffet sample pack of Rain City Knits DK and several full size skeins for my designing and knitting pleasure! I am thrilled to bits. So much so that I decided to wear my skein of Steel Grey before turning it into a ball.

Me in Steel Grey.

Me in Steel Grey DK.

I am in love with the Rain City Knits DK. I totally recommend picking up a fabulous, colourful Babycakes sampler featuring 8 colours to play with. The colours are gorgeous and vivid. Each ball is 25g / 61 yds per skein in superwash merino. Colours included are Vermillion, Hot Pink, Bright Orange, Lemon Yellow, Heliotrope Purple, Kelly Green, Rain Drop Blue and Royal Blue.

babycakes sampler pack

Aside from the gorgeous signature colours from Rain City Knits, the DK yarn is delightfully soft and has a great spring to it. If you knit, you’ll know what I mean.

Steel grey DK skeins.

Steel grey DK skeins.

I am planning on using my Babycakes, along with Steel Grey, to design a garment. That’s all I’m telling you right now. I am already having lots of fun working with the yarn, turning it into balls from skein form.


Did I mention that the DK is sooo soft? I might’ve… One tip about making balls from yarn that I have for you is not to pull too tightly when hand winding. You don’t want to remove the spring of the yarn in your hand wound ball.

dk outside

I have started knitting up my Steel Grey and it has a lovely variegated look, which pleases me, as shown here under natural sunlight. I am alternating skeins as I knit, as I recommend with any variegated or kettle dyed yarn.  Truly this yarn is a delight to work with and I recommend that you pick some up from Rain City Knits to try out on your latest project.

x Rena

New Pattern: Granville Hat + Cowl


I’m happy to share that my latest pattern Granville is available for purchase on Ravelry and soon also on Etsy.  Granville features a ribbed brim edge and diagonal lace which slides closed with your favourite ribbon. So, when you untie the ribbon, Granville changes from a slouchy hat to a cowl.

granville 4

Special thanks go to my tech editor Katherine Vaughan who checks over my patterns and my Ravelry test knitters who did a great job. And thank you also to photographers Krista (of Rain City Knits) and Vasso who got some great pictures of Granville in action.

I hope you’ll try Granville out!

x Rena

Knitwear Fashion Illustration Tutorial


Thinking out loud in my sketchbook for the Edinburgh Mittens.

Edinburgh Mittens in alpaca.

Result: Edinburgh Mittens.

My sketchbook is my brain… well, almost. With each design I create, I usually have a series of pages on how that design evolved. Often there are measurements and numbers, as in my photos for the Edinburgh Mittens and skirt. But there are always illustrations of the design, with variations here and there.

Not quite knitting, but same process for designing items for sewing too. Sketches and measurements everywhere.

Take for example a simple pullover. There’s so many questions that need to be answered in the sketch. How long is it? Where do the sleeves ends? What kind of neckline? And most importantly, where do I see this sitting on the body? So, most of the designs I have usually are based on simple croquis drawings to show how the garment fits and hangs on the body.


A croquis illustration.

Now wait a second. What’s a croquis, you might be asking? A croquis is basically a quick illustration, typically a line drawing, of a real human figure. Usually these illustrations are made in a couple minutes, tops. Often enough, the same croquis outline is used to show a range of variations of the outfit or a series of outfits. You can even draw a croquis custom to your body or a model’s body to reflect the proportions of the garment.

Searching for the right collar.

Once I’ve done a few runs at the croquis, I usually have a series of other sketches where I’m working out details, like finding the right collar shape for a pullover garment.

So how do you make a croquis to use as your base for illustration? Yes, you can find them already made online if you want to skip this step altogether. But there are many benefits to making your own croquis.  You can find your starting point by using either an existing photo showing your body or even a photograph of a figure from a fashion magazine.

blog 1

Here’s a list of supplies that you need to make your own croquis and fashion drawings:

  • photograph  / fashion photograph
  • tracing paper
  • ruler
  • pencil
  • black ink pen
  • coloured markers (I like Copic)
blog 5

My original croquis. The numbers are head lengths and widths.

Place a sheet of tracing paper over the illustration and using your pen or pencil, trace the outline of the figure. It doesn’t need to be perfect, just a reasonable approximation. Draw a line across at the shoulders, bust, waist, hips, knees and ankles. You’re already starting to see some of the body proportions. Connect on the side the distance between the shoulder and waist, and then waist and hip, creating boxes like the shown croquis. Then, measure the the head height on a piece of paper, and use this to measure the total length of the figure, which should be around 7 heads high. You can also draw a vertical line through the core of the body, showing the midpoint. There’s a very handy video tutorial that’s about 10 minutes showing you in detail how to do this here.

Taking a second piece of tracing paper, trace the outline of the figure as your base. You can add as many notations from the base croquis that you’d like. For instance, you can show the waist line or centre line.  Then start drawing your garment over the figure, taking care to accurately show where your garment begins and ends and how you would like it to hang. Again, this isn’t a a perfect drawing, rather a quick drawing to help you design your garment.

blog 4

Then comes my favourite part, adding colour to the illustration, which really brings the drawing to life as you can see here. My pullover design (coming out very soon) shows the colour blocking, sleeve length and more. It’s really a handy reference for me.

sizing chart

My custom sizing chart in inches as based on Craft Yarn Council standards and British standards as adapted by designer Ysolda Teague.

When I use my illustration combined with the Craft Yarn Council’s body standards sizing charts, things start really happening. I can then begin to consider actual measurements in relation to my drawing. Basically, knitwear design comes down to a lot of measurements, which brings me to Excel, which really is a whole other post about knitwear pattern grading to make different sizes. I’ll save that for another time!

Are you going to make some of your own drawings now?

x Rena

The Red Fox and Gown Does Facebook… and a Special Offer Too!

Sage Woodland Hood


If you’re not already a Facebook fan, please join us for the shenanigans on The Red Fox and Gown Page. I have a special promotion running for the month of May for Facebook fans who like our page.

Foxy Business Hat.

The deal is 15% off all of my designs on Ravelry for the month of May… but you need to check the page out to get the details about how to get the discount. 🙂

Star Slouch Hat.

Do check out the full catalogue of The Red Fox and Gown designs here.

x Rena

The Red Fox and Gown Blog Gets a New Look for Spring


You might’ve noticed that something is different around here today. I think it’s a carry over from the spring cleaning and organization bug that took hold last month. I decided it was time to freshen up the blog and give her a makeover.

I wanted to keep the minimalist feel but also introduce a sidebar where you can see top posts and pages, recent posts, archives and tags to more easily navigate the site. Along the top of the blog I’ve updated the ‘About’ and ‘Designs’ sections, and added the ‘Newsletter’ and ‘Social Media’ sections.

If you choose to visit the ‘Newsletter’ section, you’ll find out how to sign up for The Red Fox and Gown’s e-mail newsletter that comes out four times a year. There’s special offers and news and other goodies.

‘Social Media’, as you may have already guessed, is all about social media. Shrewd. I have put a list there for all of you Twitter and Facebook users, Instagram and Etsy details, and last but not least, information about where to find me on Ravelry.

What do you think of the new look?

x Rena

Recommended Reading: The Principles of Knitting

The Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt (revised edition).

The Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt (revised edition).

If you were going to purchase a book on knitting, and only one book on the topic, I wholeheartedly recommend the revised edition of The Principles of Knitting by June Hemmons Hiatt (2012), published by Touchstone, New York. As the cover notes, the book is a comprehensive guide to knitting. I’m usually skeptical when I see books proclaiming that they are the complete guide or even a comprehensive guide on a topic, but this book does not disappoint.

Make no mistake: this is a hefty hardcover book at 712 pages in length. Although this may seem daunting, the book is written in a very accessible style and easy to follow for even the most novice of knitters. As well, the book has plenty of black and white line illustrations and photographs to accompany the text.

Table of contents.

Table of contents.

Of all my crafting books, this is the book I go to again and again. June Hemmons Hiatt covers virtually all topics a knitter’s heart can desire. Want to learn about cast on methods? Want to learn about colourwork? Want to learn about selecting yarn appropriate for your project? Go straight to the section. You do not need to read this book cover to cover to understand a topic she presents. I cannot emphasize enough what a useful guide this is. The table of contents above gives you a sneak peek into the array of topics covered.

Purling directions.

Purling directions.

I have to admit that I am one that is very leery of written directions when it comes to knitting (or most things, if I’m honest). I love visuals, especially video, to illustrate a technique. However, the written directions in this book are so clear that even I can follow them without an issue. They should be clear enough to beginners too. I only wish I had this book ten years ago when I was learning to knit – it would have saved me a lot of grief! On the subject of the purl stitch, she has several line illustrations and a thorough and clear discussion of how to purl in a variety of styles.

Knitting belt.

Knitting belt.

She has included some fascinating, less common areas of knitting knowledge too. One example is her overview of how to use a knitting belt. Until this book, I had heard of knitting belts in passing but I had no idea what they looked like or how they were used. This method is used rarely now, but it was common in 1800s Britain, which then evolved into ‘parlour style’ knitting. Such a contrast to today’s ‘do you knit English or Continental style?’. I love history, and the historical information about knitting is very interesting.

Alsace wool carpet, 1781.

Alsace wool carpet, 1781.

A favourite page of mine in the book (p.266 in case you want to know!) is a photograph of the Alsace wool carpet depicting Jacob’s Dream made in 1781. I love studying this image. The carpet was made using intarsia and a great deal of time and patience. Truly it is the work of a master of intarsia.

Handknitted carpet depicting Jacob's dream, Alsace, 1781 (wool).

Handknitted carpet depicting Jacob’s dream, Alsace, 1781 (wool).

The only drawback to the book is its lack of colour illustrations, but I can see how the costs would be prohibitive. Above is the same illustration of Jacob’s Dream from Alsace, but shown in colour to greater visual impact. I think the use of colour would have gone a long way to support the historical items in this book, as well as the colourwork sections.

However, I wouldn’t let the lack of colour in this book hold you back from picking up a copy of this classic reference work on knitting. At $45.00 a copy, I think it’s a bargain, but you can pick up a copy for less than the list price if you search – has this book listed for about $28.00. You won’t regret having this valuable reference on your shelf and I promise you will refer to it time and again.

x Rena