October 7th, 2013

This is the price of watching a British soap opera (Mistresses), one of those guilty pleasures that has you counting the hours til the end of the day when you can tune in and knit. I know you know what I’m talking about.

There I was, peacefully  following my chart to make this hat for my little nephew Ruben, heaving a sigh of relief as I completed the motif and began the downhill slope decreasing at the top of the hat. As I’d worked this far, I noticed that the hat seemed annoyingly flipped over the needle, something I thought (remember the show is gripping) would “iron itself out” at the end. Hmmm. No. It was a classic twist, more dramatic than any faux pas I’ve made in the past because it involved all that color work.

Here’s my second attempt. Much better.

For the hat pattern I used Karen Canapa’s Earflap Hat 

The motifs I found at Tricksy Knitter

I used Koigu Kerst2400 and 2341

Check for twisting before going too far!

Topsy-Turvy winner

September 3rd, 2013

Hello Everyone,

Thank you all, for entering this competition. You appreciate Susan’s work, and for good reason. What an important member of the knitting community she is, so full of enthusiasm and ideas.

Congratulations to Patricia McAdams who is the winner of a copy of this wonderful book. Patrica is keen to make the topsy turvy doll which is the other project I also want to make but didn’t include in my blog post. You can see it in Susan’s Ravelry projects here.

I really recommend buying the book if you didn’t win it. The fun you’ll have making these charming toys, and the smiles you’ll see when you show them off, make the purchase worthwhile. There’s a Kindle version as well as hard cover: Topsy-Turvy Inside-Out Knit Toys.

Happy toy knitting!

I am in New Zealand at the moment, for sad reasons, but I’m enjoying seeing my extended family and my wonderful friends who are letting me stay at their homes. At the weekend I took the train out west to see Ingrid and Graeme. They’re long time friends whom I’ve know since the early 80s when we all lived in London. They returned to Auckland and over the years, had a lovely daughter, Una, and built a house on the land where Ingrid grew up in a house her parents built in the 50s. It’s been a labor of love. Ingrid and Graeme are practitioners of the “do-it-yourself” kiwi philosophy. They were recycling furniture and making things by hand (a whole house!) long before it became popular to do so (note that I’m resisting using the word trendy because I think it’s over-used and also, dismissive of a very worthy way of life ). I love their house. Its many wood surfaces, hand printed textiles, paintings and furniture remind me of the famous Eames house in Los Angeles. It’s an inspiration.

Here’s a taste of my weekend:


Sunday afternoon we went for a hike along a spectacular section of the Ed Hillary trail between Muriwai and Te Henga, picnicking on the cliff top..

Next week I return to Santa Monica where I’m teaching a workshop at Wildfiber: the cover bonnet from Knitting Gifts For Baby, September 21 & 28, 2 to 5 pm.

Also on Saturday September 28 I’m going to be part of this fun event at the New Zealand Consulate. I’ll be selling and signing books, and displaying my work. If you’re in the Los Angeles area and you’re interested in attending, please email me at

xo Mel

topsy turvy book giveaway

August 26th, 2013

Update August 30.

Hi Everyone,

Thank you to everyone who left a comment to win Topsy-Turvy Inside-Out Knit Toys!  The competition is now closed.

I’m visiting old friends outside Auckland for the weekend. I’ll be back and will announce the lucky winner on Monday. Stay tuned!

Hey, look who showed up on my doorstep today.

Mrs Squirrel and Mr Penguin are my latest knitting project and they’re from the loveliest book, Topsy-Turvy Inside-Out knit toys, by Susan B Anderson. Susan has such a wonderful sense of fun and this book is just sheer cuteness from cover to cover. All of the toys double as something else. For example, the squirrel transforms into a cute hedgehog (below) and that egg he’s looking at has the penguin inside.

My husband requested the penguin on looking through the book and he laughed out loud when I showed him the finished toy. What joy. I can’t wait to give them to my niece’s children in New Zealand.

Here’s the cover of Susan’s book.

Susan has four kids, and it must be really fun to have her as mom, because she is wonderfully inventive. You can visit her blog here and see her designs on Ravelry here

I want to make so many of these toys! Next comes this dog and doghouse…


and I can’t wait to make this: first it’s an egg…

next it’s an alligator…

The thing I love about these toys is that they’re educational as well as cute.

Here’s how the penguin works as per the illustration in the book. As well as the patterns, the book has clear photos of techniques. Everything is there.

The icebergs in this just tickle me. I happen to love penguins because like me, they’re from the southern hemisphere.

and now for more pics of Squirrel who wants you to see her acorn…

and her tail…

The hedgehog is adorable. For her spikes I learned how to make twisted loops which I’ve never attempted before.

I used different yarns from those Susan recommended. That’s the great thing about these toys. You can use bits and pieces from your stash.

My squirrel/hedgehog is made with Koigu KPM and the penguin/egg with Cascade 220.

So now for the giveaway. If you leave a comment, you’ll be in the drawer to win a copy of this gorgeous book.

[I'm sorry but it's only available to readers in the USA].  The giveaway will close Friday August 30, at noon Pacific time.

happy knitting, everyone!

xo Mel



August 18th, 2013

At last I’ve published the pattern for Stella, the womens’ and girls’ version of the baby bonnet on the cover of my book, minus the chin strap.


It’s available on Ravelry here 

and is named after my friend Anna’s daughter. Isn’t she lovely?        


This is a quick post, as I’m off to New Zealand tomorrow.

I’ll be in touch from there. In the meantime, I wanted to share this photo with you. It’s my friend Gilda’s grandson in a sailor suit she knitted for him. It begs for one of those “if only my grandmother would stop knitting” captions, doesn’t it…..?

With my thoughts now turning to  New Zealand, I’m looking forward to some familiar sights, like these villas in my old stomping ground.

Look for my post nest week when I’ll be writing about an exciting new book I’ve been knitting from.

There will be a giveaway, too.


how much is that

August 2nd, 2013

doggie in the window of a store on Montana Ave. I find myself wondering if dogs actually enjoy wearing sweaters? Especially in LA?

This guy looks happy without one. I love his old soul demeanour.

Lots of good things are happening.

Walks to the ocean and back every day. Hula hoops are in, evidently, as exercise. This was a class taught by the girl in the blue hair who did an elegant Hawaiian hip roll.

Tiny house purchase approaching.

Knitting projects: a new slipper pattern (coming soon in PDF), a toy from Susan Anderson’s new book, a neon striped sweater for myself in Koigu KPM, top down with a subtle cable

and a cardi for myself which I’ve already worn and like very much. Short sleeves and open pattern (sea foam) make it a perfect summer item. Pattern is Frontier, from Rowan Magazine 51. Yarn is Filatura Di Crosa Zara.

Discovered a fantastic new taco place on Santa Monica Blvd at 23rd St. Tacos Punta Cabras serves seafood and vegetarian tacos and tostadas with exotic cashew mayonnaise and pineapple salsa. I’m addicted. It’s all served with surfer dude style and attitude. It gets busy at lunchtime. Evenings are more serene. I hate to admit it, but it rivals La Super Rica in Santa Barbara and Mexican Specialties in Auckland and they’re both hard acts to follow.

Observations of the varied and interesting place I live in.

Roses outside our cottage

 What is big sexy beach hair?  David and I are calling it  BSBH or big sexy for short, whenever we see a head of something we think might be IT.

We ventured Down to Echo Park recently, to visit a prefab house we’re considering, and found ourselves here

Birds seem to be the theme in textile decor


and the clientele

Down town, bicycle bike racks, how witty of the City

and now to house keeping

Questions have been asked about South Seas Knitting and whether it will reopen. Everything displayed on the website is available (prices are New Zealand). If you see something you’d like to purchase, email me and I’ll give you a USA price and a shipping quote, then send you a paypal invoice. Items will be shipped from Santa Monica. My patterns are available on Ravelry or Patternfish or directly from me:

til next time xo Mel



July 17th, 2013

Thank you thank you lovely readers for your words of encouragement! You’ve given me renewed enthusiasm!

Let me tell you about one of the best days of my life so far.

It was my birthday. And a big one. David asked me how I wanted to spend it,  and received the strictest instructions of the “don’t you dare” variety not to organize a surprise party. Eeew. I’m phobic about being the center of attention.

One doesn’t really want to think too much about such a birthday let alone come up with a way to celebrate it, so I was quite pleased with myself for remembering that ever since I’ve lived in LA I’ve wanted to visit Lotusland, the garden in Montecito.

Montecito is just south of Santa Barbara. If you’re visiting the LA area, and you like plants, it’s a must see. Due to parking restrictions, reservations are required. Information here. This is because the neighbors on the surrounding estates were not keen on it being open to the public, so they struck a compromise and restricted the number of cars that could be there at any one time. If you’ve ever driven around the meandering Montecito roads and wondered what’s behind the grandiose gates, this is your chance to look inside.

It was the most beautiful day in every imaginable way, not the least least of which was my family surprising me and showing up to accompany us.

lotus land
A place or state of languid contentment.
[After the Land of the Lotus-eaters in the Odyssey]

I love gardens, especially Southern California/Mediterranean gardens.

This one was established by an eccentric Polish woman and sometime opera singer, Madame Ganna Walska, who married a succession of rich men, hence accumulating wealth which she chose to spend on a 37-acre garden. I can’t think of a better way to spend a fortune. Her style is distinct and very beautiful, with large numbers of any particular plant and in some cases, like cycads, plants that no longer exist in the native habitat. She could never buy just one of anything, or even 10, she bought hundreds. This was her style. It gives a feeling of lushness and plenty and is visually stunning.

The climate in Montecito is my kind of perfect, not too hot, with ocean breezes that make a garden tour on a sunny day a very pleasant thing to do.

First sight on beginning our tour: a lemon-covered pergola. What a fantastic idea.

I won’t attempt to name all the plants since I didn’t have the good sense to write them down and now I don’t remember but this one we all know – an organ pipe cactus about to flower

prickly pear


beautiful sculptural agave

California live oak

olives – hey, I’m doing all right with my naming so far

one of several ponds, this one edged with abalone shells in the shape of lotus flowers

giant clam shell waterfall

in the Japanese garden

large pond filled with lotus

is this bamboo?

just when you’re completely dazzled by the combinations of bright green and silver, you come across the pink residence and signs of Delft

does anyone know what plant this is?

Dracaena from Africa. Lotusland has a spectacular collection.

the fern garden – masterful plantings of trees give it shade.

Even though my small house will have only a tiny space for a garden, I’m inspired by Madame to make it beautiful.




what I’ve been up to

July 6th, 2013

I used to be a conscientious blogger. But then I decided to move countries, again. The result was an adventure that has not been easy. But here I am, back in my beloved Santa Monica, and life is starting to take shape once more.

My new book, Knitting Gifts for Baby has been released at last!

Here are a few photos from the inside pages:

Little Fishing Vest

Spring Blanket


Horseshoe Pullover


Cable Cape

There are 26 projects in total, for newborns and toddlers. I’m very proud of this book. If can say so myself, it’s beautiful. I did all the photo styling myself, and knitted all the projects. It was a labor of love.

For anyone who lives in Southern California, I’m teaching workshops at Compatto, on Wilshire Blvd in Santa Monica. The green Spring blanket (above) is one scheduled for August.

I have a new passion. For a few years now I’ve been interested in small houses and their increasing popularity.  As anyone who visited me in Auckland will know, I lived in a rather large modern house. Many an evening David and I discussed how little of it we actually used. In fact we’d stride around the kitchen and living area and demonstrate to ourselves how wasteful we were.  While it’s wonderful to have space, there are heating, water and electricity costs, and padding around the big empty rooms reminds you that your family have left home, as if you needed a reminder. So here we are in California, about to buy a small house and put our money where our mouths are. Our object of desire is a teensy cottage in Ocean Park, just around the corner from Whole Foods  on Lincoln Blvd (walking distance, yes!), Rose Ave, and the beach. I’m not sure what we’re going to do with it as much depends on the state of the walls and foundations, which we’ll know more about once we take possession.We may renovate it, or we may build a new, small house.  This will keep me busy, so knitting is going to become for the first time in many years, my hobby.

Knowing this was going to happen, I’ve been deciding whether to continue with this blog or start a new one. I love knitting, but it’s not all of my story. I still haven’t decided and I welcome your input.

In the meantime, here are some photos of the Getty Center which I’ve visited several times since we’ve been back in LA. I love the outdoor spaces and the spectacular views even more than the galleries. I’m thinking that once I’m living in my small house I’ll be able to come here for a sense of grandeur.

terrace with the city Pacific Ocean in the distance

fabulous curves

later afternoon shadows

the rill

giant bouquets of bougainvillea above the pond








new book!

April 16th, 2013

Advance copies of my new book arrived from the printer last week. How excited was I to go to the Fex Ex office to pick them up? Very!

Here it is

It turned out to be a timely arrival. The LA Yarn Crawl was happening and I was able to  show it to knitters at my event at Compatto where the projects were on display. It’s always fun to see people react to your work. I watched a man (there were a few men, all knitters) thumb through it, his facial expressions changing with each page. He loved it, and ordered a signed copy.

The Leia Bonnet on the cover is one of my favorite projects, so I decided to make a pattern for a larger version to fit girls and bigger girls. I’ll be publishing it as a PDF in a couple of weeks.

The new hat on my lovely friend Anna

and her daughter Stella, after whom the hat will be named

I’ll be publishing Stella the PDF on Ravelry soon.

You can order Knitting Gifts For Baby here.

Best wishes,


waiting for my ship to come in

April 2nd, 2013

We are living small. Our possessions tucked tightly into a container on a ship crossing the Pacific Ocean, we’ve been living out of one suitcase for five months and now realize how much is in that large container and how much of it we really don’t need.

So, here we are in a small apartment in Santa Monica. adjusting to a new kind of life with a bare minimum of stuff and trying not to buy more, even as need arises.

There’s our $5 yard sale chair with a ball of shocking pink Manos Maxima, bought to make a hat I’ll show you soon. …a new design in the works

Our formica table found on Apartment Therapy (love that site) with another new hat-in-progress

our bookshelf

borrowed sofa bed and glamorous bedside table: Miele vacuum cleaner box

knitting news:

I’ll be teaching a class on the Everyday Cardigan in May.

place: Compatto Yarn Salon, 2112 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica. 310.453.2130

time: May 7, 14, 21, & 28 from 6pm-7:45pm.


and more knitting news:

I’ll be showing the projects from my new book, Knitting Gifts for Baby, also at Compatto Saturday afternoon April 13, 2 to 5 pm. If you’re in the area, come and see them in person. The book is due to be released in May, so this will be a preview. I’m quite excited about this book. Love babies, love baby projects. More to come on that.

Oh yes, the book is available to pre-order on Amazon here.

I know, I’ve been a truant blogger of late. My excuse is something to do with upheaval. Thank you to those who have asked me if I’m planning to continue. I am.

no ordinary person

March 9th, 2013

Before I left New Zealand I ruminated to the point of obsession on what I would miss once I left. I thought if I did this ahead of time I’d avoid unexpected attacks of sadness. No matter how much love your new home there is always something you will MISS. For me, it’s people. My dearest friends are there and it was very hard to leave them.

This is Dave Harré and his wife Barbara, two of the most extraordinary people you could ever meet.

They have several kids and grandchildren, all of whom lead fruitful and busy lives of their own, but can often be found helping out around the family homestead, or cooking one of the delicious meals that are always offered to the revolving parade of visitors. Everyone is welcome at Dave and Barbara’s house. And what a house it is. A 19th century homestead in Oratia on the outskirts of Auckland. Dave likes to restore and protect old things. The house is one of these. It was his family’s home, where his mother supported the family by running a restaurant on the premises. It’s a beautiful old villa set back from the road.

There is always a project on the offing, and collections of things that might be needed for that project

A recent undertaking was the wallpapering of a bedroom. Barb was papering the old fashioned way, on scrim.

Dave loves to restore things. He once heard of a prayer house that was tagged for demolition, rescued it and placed it on his land. He organizes recitals there in summer time. But trams and trains are his passion. He has already restored one and given it to the city of Whanganui. This is a train carriage he brought all the way from Arizona. He shortened it and is turning it into a self-powering tram, the track for which is being laid across the lawn. It will be a moving guest house when it’s finished. I can’t wait to try it!

his workshop

The whole property is in a state of elegant and controlled decay. That’s the way they like it. Location scouts do too.

Everything is perfect in its wildness. Whenever I’m there, I get inspired by the way nature is left to take it’s course with the minimum of interference. No perfectly mowed lawns or  preened flower beds here.

A vineyard on the property. The wine is good, and the bottles recycled.

Betsy trying her come hither look.


Let’s go inside the house. The dining room is lined with native kauri planks, on the walls and floor. Sitting at the table you feel like you’ve dropped in on another century. When I first met Dave it was at this table, over which hung a flickering light that was powered from a dam on a stream that crosses the property.  His very own hydro-electric power. Dave is inventive and prescient. He was doing things the authentic, slow way before the green movement was in diapers.

early New Zealand pottery

hand made textiles on every chair



Dave is a francophile. He ends most statements with total! pronounced the French way, and keeps this 2CV, bought during a family trip to France where they lived for a year in the Pyrénées.

No story of Dave would be complete without this one: on a trip to visit his nephew in Paris, he was wandering home one evening and found a pile of stuff discarded from a nearby building. Never one to lose an opportunity for a good fossick, he rescued a set of architectural drawings of a neo-classical house and this coat. Both came home in his suitcase. This is his attempt at a Napoleonic pose, sans chaussure.

A sense of mischief keeps Dave younger than his years. So does his generous spirit. When I was there taking photos for Everyday Finery, he appeared at lunchtime with a pot of hot soup for our whole team, models, photographer makeup and me. Thank you Dave. You’re a treasure.

Dave and Barbara created a folk art museum on their property which you can visit by appointment. It’s open Sundays 1-4 pm, at 527 West Coast Road, Oratia, Auckland. Phone number is 09 813 3884