The Dragon Scrolls is the blog of White Dragon Designs, a knitting and craft website run by Ruth Hilton-Robinson. Please visit for knitting patterns, tuition, handmade gifts and more!

Sunday 6 July 2014

A visit from the Muse

It's been a while since I last posted but that's because I got hit by the lightning of inspiration and have spent the last couple of weeks knitting (shock horror - actual knitting!)

I found it to be an interesting demonstration of the process of design - one idea led to another, led to another, led to another...a lot of crafters will recognise this and it's where truly inspirational designs come from. Which sounds much better than describing it as it actually is - a crafting attention span measured in milliseconds causing the creative part of your brain to leap on new ideas yelling "OOH SHINY," and eventually boshing something together out of the mishmash of different projects and techniques which is actually rather amazing. At which point you look at it and go, "How did this nugget of creative awesomeness spring forth from the hyperactive loon which is my brain?" That is why 'creative' people and professional artists are often protrayed as mercurial, whimsical and ephemeral - they live in that process all the time, flitting from inspiration to the next, spinning a cocoon of ideas from which will eventually emerge a beautiful piece of art like this:

which is possibly my favourite painting ever and the reason for my deep and abiding love of autumn shades.

Anyway, it happened like this. I was working on my coasters, and trying out new and different designs for them. Whilst looking at modular knitting techniques, I came across this pattern, had a bit of an OOHSHINY moment and started experimenting with to see if it could be made to work in the coasters. It couldn't - even if you leave off the garter ridges the decreases make the fabric too thick to allow the back of the coaster to clip in - but I was enjoying it so much I just kept adding bits. Part of this was that I could envision a knitting world in which seams and sewing up became almost non-existent...

After a little while, I started to think, "Hey, wait a minute...I could knit this into a cube by joining pieces onto two edges at once! Awesome!" So I had a rectangular shape by then, which I bent in half and added some small squares picked up along two edges of the fold. I was fiddling about with the fabric, trying to work out what order I'd need to add pieces in to form the cube, when I folded it entirely by accident so the ends looked like this:

and WHIZZ! BANG! I had a purse. So I joined it together, hand-stitched a lining from some coordinating fabric, dug out a sew-in purse clasp I got ages ago on the front of a magazine (I don't like the glue in ones, I don't trust them somehow) which by a miracle of good fortune was exactly the right size, then decided that I needed to disguise the holes on the frame and decided to add some beads. It ended up looking like this:

However, it didn't get there straight away; after I'd sewn the lining, while I was pushing it into place, I had the purse upside down and was looking at the bottom of it which all of a sudden sort of resembled a dragon's head due to the combination of shapes. THWAP! Another idea, and the more I thought about it, the more excited I got.

The purse was temporarily put aside. I started knitting, working the same combination of shapes initially but then further refining, tweaking and shaping until lo and behold, I had a 3D dragon's head. I've been working on the rest of it ever since. Once the whole thing is complete I'll write up the pattern and do a post about the steps I went through when designing it with some pictures but for now I'm keeping it under wraps as I'm not 100% convinced yet!

But there you have it - from coasters to a dragon via a purse, which I finished the other day when I was having a bit of a mental block on the dragon design. As I was working on it I was trying to think of a name and while stitching on the last few beads one came to me.

'Serendipity' means happy accident or good fortune; the entire process by which this purse came about was precisely that. The accident of folding which produced the shape, the fact that I'd managed to knit it to the exact size of the one purse frame that I had entirely by accident, then afterwards when it inspired my dragon design, which is an idea I've been toying with for a while - designing a dragon, that is - but have been unable to settle on an idea; in true slightly obsessive design snob style I wanted something different, something special, if this was to be the dragon design of White Dragon Designs. And here it was, leaping at me out of this purse, which came from an idea to knit a cube, an idea itself born out of a technique I learned in order to make coasters (I still want to have a go at making a cube). 

So the purse is now the 'Serendipity Purse', with its own little backstory. This one will be mine to keep - I've already decided there are a few tweaks I will make next time. It might end up as a pattern but to be honest, if you have a look at the linked pattern above and use the diagrams I drew (in Paint - so I hope they are decipherable) you could probably make one yourself now. If you did have a go and want a diagram for the liner, let me know via the website or our facebook page and I'll whip up another little masterpiece and post it. 

Until then, as ever all comments and questions are more than welcome; happy knitting!

Sunday 22 June 2014

Just Coastin' Along...

Like many knitters with access to the internet (Who am I kidding? Like all knitters...) I occasionally accidentally buy something on eBay.

And that's just the tiniest fraction...

Most of the time, these 'accidental' purchases turn out to be wonderful and I rip the wrapping off, spend a bit of time stroking, sniffing and cooing at the yarn within, then give it pride of place in The Stash until I decide what to do with it.
However, from time to time, like most people, I've made a purchase which has turned out not to be quite what you expected, or not suitable for the purpose you had in mind for it, or on the odd occasion makes you rear back in horror screaming "ARRGHwhatisitwhatisitwhatisitkillitkillitKILLITWITHFIRE!" (Not had many of those, thank goodness.)
A little while ago, whilst designing 'Rosslyn' I realised I had virtually no 4 ply yarn in The Stash. Given that I was getting heavily into delicate lace and textural stitches on small needles, this was something of an issue. So I turned to eBay and found someone selling a whole load of 4 ply yarn in various lovely shades, wool rich and very cheap because they were cone-ends of varying weight, unbranded. 
Reader, I bought them.
When they arrived it became clear that whilst they were undoubtedly quality yarn, they were of varying weights (many were single strands designed to be knitted together to give different weights) and were not the soft 'superwash' type yarn you need for things like mitts which will be next to the skin. So they weren't really suitable for what I wanted to do.
And I had, oh, about three tonnes of it.
I put it all on a shelf, muttering vaguely about Fair Isle (pahahahaha!) and possibly selling it on but for some reason I couldn't bring myself to part with it. Every now and again I'd think of something to do with it, take some of it down and stroke it but decide it wasn't quite right. So it just sat there making me feel guilty every time I saw it.
But lo! An inspiration came to me. I was doing some tidying up and I came across some acrylic coasters I'd bought ages ago with the intention of putting some little cross-stitch designs in them as gifts but never got round to it. It suddenly dawned on me that fine ply yarn, such as I had in regrettable abundance, when knitted in stocking stitch would not be much thicker than a cross-stitch design...I dug out my Knitter's Bible, having a vague memory of instructions for knitted square and circular medallions, selected the smallest dpns I can be bothered with (about 2.75mm - I need wine to cope with anything smaller) and went and chose some balls of the hitherto unusable fine ply in shades which complemented each other and got to work, resulting in these:

I was quite chuffed with them. They needed to be blocked but my awesome friend took the fear out of that by introducing me to spray-on starch and I discovered a new level of obsessiveness relating to the pinning out of objects.
I took them along to the two craft fairs I went to that weekend and although no one bought them they were universally admired, so I decided to make some more. There are many, many colour combinations to be discovered, in particular a whole load of lovely natural and autumnal shades into which I plan to knit some strands of metallic gold embroidery thread left over from finished cross-stitch kits.
I'm planning to sell them singly and in sets of four and six - they don't take long to do and I've found suppliers of the blanks on eBay (Where else? Srsly, is there anything you can't buy on eBay?). Hopefully they'll be available on the website as well as at craft fairs and they may be something that could be provided as a kit...the possibilities are almost endless! And whilst looking for suppliers of the acrylic blanks, I found some sets of four glass coasters in a little holder, which raises the possibility of a 'posh' version.
Until then, I have ideas for colour-themed sets - I'm working on a set I plan to call 'Mountain and Moorland' in some lovely natural, green, purple and pink shades which I'll make as a set of squares and a set of rounds.
Here's some pictures of the ones I've made so far, as ever any comments or suggestions are welcome - if you have any ideas for colour combinations you'd like to see, just let me know!

Saturday 21 June 2014

'Wise Owls' Pattern Now Available!

Well, I've promised and promised and promised - and I have, at last, started actually writing up patterns!

Available to purchase now!
'Wise Owls' is now available on the website to buy and download from our shop, as promised, one day early (!), with payment via PayPal. I eventually found a shop app that allows paid-for downloads, so no faffing about setting up an external shop and linking, although I am planning to make the pattern available on Ravelry too. It's priced at £2.50 for the download, you'll receive an email with a download link after payment is made so you can save the pattern to your computer.

Hopefully I'll get others written up and available in the next week or two. As ever, any comments or questions are more than welcome - I sincerely hope you enjoy knitting the pattern!

However, if the idea of knitting it is too much, this is one of the designs you can order on commission - please see our Brochure for details. And in the pipeline are plans to offer this pattern in kit form, so keep your eyes peeled!

Monday 16 June 2014

A Very Tired Dragon

Wow - what a fortnight! Three craft fairs and a whole lot of meeting and greeting and now it's Knit In Public Week.
The Crafty Wench and I spent most of yesterday KIP-ing and CIP-ing in Central Park, Peterborough, at the annual Sounds Central music event. Despite the slightly overcast weather and the wind which almost caused the marquee to reach take-off velocity (but a marquee - we're on the up!) and the mozzies which have left me even lumpier and itchier than usual, it was a stonking good day!

HiPsters KiP-ing and CiP-ing

We were joined by several members of HiP and had a great time chilling out listening to a fabulous bunch of musicians. Our stalls attracted a lot of attention and I've now completely run out of flyers!

White Dragon Designs' stall on the left, The Crafty Wench's on the right

The day before I'd been to Werrington Village Hall for the craft fair organised and held there by the lovely Jemma Rands, again a really busy day with lots of people stopping to say hello, chat and even make a purchase or two.

The stall at St John's

And the Saturday previously was the monthly Handmade at St John's, which was also a lovely day if slightly quiet due to the weather - we woke to thunder and lightning so despite the offer of an outdoor stall the Dragon and I had a confab and decided to politely decline! However, massive thanks to Sally who organised the event wonderfully as always, to Julie Tebb of Yarns by Girlie for keeping me company on the stall next door - hopefully some collaborations may be in the pipeline - and to everyone who braved the weather to stop by and say hello.

Julie of 'Yarns by Girlie' with her pretties!

There are some more events and craft fairs coming up and I'll keep you updated as they are confirmed - and this week I WILL get some patterns written up, although I've hit a snag with the website which doesn't allow paid for downloads - I'll try to find an app for this and if I can't I'll offer them through Ravelry with a link in the shop or Etsy for those who aren't Ravelry members (although if not, why not? It's free and awesome!)
In the meantime, I've put the White Dragon Designs Brochure 2014 on the website as a download, so you can see our tuition prices and the designs which are available as commission knits - this range will expand (hopefully) and when the shop is up and running (another I WILL project) you'll be able to order your choice online. Until then, there's a downloadable order form you can fill in and return - instructions are on the website. You can either print it off, sign it, rescan it and email it to me or you can just fill it in on your computer and put your name in the signature section.
I'll post more information about upcoming dates as I receive it, but watch this space - exciting developments are afoot!

Sunday 1 June 2014

Fun in the Sun at The Green Backyard

So today The White Dragon and The Crafty Wench took a last minute stall at The Green Backyard's Pitch in Picnic, where we sold our various shinies and offered learn-to-knit/crochet taster sessions. It was a bit impromptu for us but it turned into a very fun, sociable, relaxing and successful day! We colonised a shelter on a crossroads in the paths which weave through the veg and flower gardens, laid out our blankets and sat in a circle with our needles and hooks...and like bees to honey, people came to see, ask, try, laugh!

If only all our sessions could be here!

You're never too old...
...or too young!

You should give it a go; in a day and age when people don't even make eye contact with strangers, if you whip out your knitting everyone wants to talk to you about it - what are you knitting, when did you start, I remember my nan knitting, I used to knit when I was little...everyone has a knitting 'story' and as social creatures with a strong societal tradition of oral history we want to share and tell our story, something we often don't feel able to do these days. Knitting or crochet seems to act as a sort of icebreaker, it makes people feel like you're safe to talk to (although given that you're wielding two long sharpened sticks in a time when a teenager can't buy a Stanley knife, that could be debatable), it gives them a peg to hang their conversation on. 
I think the very fact that it is such an effective conversation-starter (as is pretty much any craft you do in public) demonstrates just how desperate people are to make that connection with others. It's just a shame that people feel they 'need' a starter-for-ten, an excuse to interact. We're just so cautious of others now and with smartphones, iPods, Kindles and all the accoutrements of the digital age our focus is so narrow and insular to the exclusion of the rest of the world it's easy to go the whole day without interacting with anyone outside our own social circle. That's one of the many reasons I love knitting - it's so comfortingly un-digital and for a technophobe - I use technology because I have to, not because I want to - it's a refuge from the digital necessities of modern life (and a welcome one!) I'm not suggesting that we all start an in-depth conversation with every person we meet; just that it would be nice if people would make eye contact with each other, smile, pass the time of day without needing a reason or an excuse to shoot the breeze. Until then, I'm happy to knit in public and to let it serve that purpose - to allow me to speak to people, make friends and just generally make the world a better, happier, friendlier place. Which is why I feel it's not an option to let Knit In Public week pass unmarked.
Wow, that got deep! Anyway, please visit The Green Backyard's website and if you live in Peterborough visit The Green Backyard itself - it's a beautiful place run by wonderful people who made The Independent's Happy List this year because of their overwhelming awesomeness. The Happy List is "100 people who, without thought of personal gain, give back and help others, rather than themselves."  We had beautiful weather, great company and delicious food, made some new friends and, most importantly, had fun. So come and join us next time!

Saturday 31 May 2014

Calling All Crafters!

Would you like to feature on our 'Links' page?

The White Dragon is looking for Weyrmates!

White Dragon Designs are proud to be part of the handmade and crafting community and we'd love to support other crafters if we can (this is why there are no attempts at selling restrictions on finished objects in ANY of our patterns - read more here) so if you would like to feature on our links page we'd love to hear from you!
Simply send us your link with a description of what you make/sell (handmade only please!) and some photographs and we'll get your link on the site as soon as possible. You can get in touch via our facebook page or by using the 'Enquiries' form on our contact page.
If you have your own page, it would be great if you could link to us - simply get in touch and we'll send you the relevant information.

Friday 30 May 2014

Forthcoming Events

White Dragon Designs will be attending two craft fairs in Peterborough in June, so come along and say hello! There will be lots of beaded gifts to buy as well as the chance to have a go at knitting with our short taster sessions. And if you find yourself hooked, you can book lessons on the day - there will be special discounts for block bookings exclusively available at these events so why not give it a try?

Handmade at St John's, Peterborough, 7th June 10am-3pm

A regular fixture in the Peterborough handmade community with many talented crafters from the local area holding stalls. St John's Church is situated in the centre of Peterborough with parking in the nearby Queensgate Shopping Centre multi-storey. There's a map here to help you find it.

Werrington Village Hall, Church Street, 14th June 10am-2pm

This is an event organised by a local crafter and is a new addition to the craft fair calendar - I haven't had a stall here before but I'm really excited about it! There's a map here to help you find it, it would be great if you could come along and support the handmade community.

Knit In Public Week, June 14th - 22nd 2014

A whole week when it is IMPERATIVE that we Knit In Public! Of course I'll be celebrating the opening day at the Werrington Craft Fayre, hopefully with some of you, but what to do for the rest of the week? There has been some speculative humming and hawing about a Handmade in Peterborough (HiP) trip to the seaside at Cromer by train on the 21st, weather permitting (or not - it doesn't say Knit In Public Outdoors, does it, and I'm sure there are plenty of welcoming hostelries in Cromer just ripe for a yarnbombing...) but if anyone feels like it we could organise some trips with our knits (or crochets) to public places in the region during the week. There's a lot of beautiful countryside round 'ere if the weather is kind and if it's not there's all sorts of interesting pubs and suchlike!

And what better way to mark Knit In Public week than by learning to knit? So come along to our stalls at these events and book yourself some lessons!