Knitting back in vogue: Interview with designer Shirley Bradford

By Lucy Howell



Shirley Bradford has over thirty years experience working for women’s magazines in knitting departments as a designer and pattern checker, as well as working for yarn companies.

Currently working as a freelancer, Shirley is commissioned by magazines or book editors with a brief, produces drawings and knitted swatches then after the final design is chosen, writes instructions and has the sample garment knitted.

Polka Dots & Potions spoke with the designer about the rise in the popularity of knitting, the return of 40’s and 50’s patterns, and tips for new knitters.



Can you tell us what you are working on at the moment?

I’ve recently been working on several patterns for Woman’s Weekly magazine where they’ve given me patterns from their archive that they featured in the 1940’s and ‘50’s and I’ve had to re-write the designs using current yarns. The old patterns were usually only written in one size, and often in very fine yarns, so I have to adapt the new instructions to include a wide range of sizes, using yarns which are more popular today, while still keeping the look of the original garment. The magazine found that this is very popular with their readers; they print a little black and white picture of the original photo with the date it first appeared.

Are you surprised when old patterns come back into fashion?

Not at all, home and interior trends are constantly re-working styles of the past e.g. mid-century etc, so fashion is no different. There’s always a call for nostalgia. Not sure about 80s/90s big shoulders and picture knits, but a lovely fitted 40’s top always looks great, and every year the top designers do their versions of classics like Aran and Fair Isles.

A lot of younger people are taking up knitting. Is this unexpected?

No it isn’t  I think young people like to look individual, and to be able to create something unique is wonderful; the sense of achievement in making something yourself that you won’t see on anyone else. It used to be economical to knit your own sweaters, but these days it’s so easy to get nice-looking fashionable clothes very cheaply, like Primark,  so that’s not a reason for knitting any more. I think there’s a case for intelligent-thinking young people to buck the trend and do something more ethical and green, while satisfying a creative urge to make something with their hands.

What advice would you give to new starters?

Try to find someone to teach you, it’s difficult to learn to knit from books. There are demos on knitting techniques on YouTube which are really helpful. Also, there’s a growth in knitting clubs and workshops, look on the internet and you can usually find a local knitting shop, coffee shop or pub which runs a regular ‘knit and natter’ type event, it’s a lovely social thing to do, as well as getting help and tips on your knitting.

Where do you find inspiration?

For my own things, I always have at least one or two things on the go for myself, it could be after seeing something in a magazine or well known and out-of-price-range designers’ catwalk shows, maybe even a textile, ceramic or rug design.

What is your favourite style and why?

Anything really, depending on the mood. I love working with colour: Fair Isle patterns are fun to design, either based on traditional patterns or with a modern twist; lovely chunky cables or delicate lace. The only types of knitting I’m not too fond of personally are ‘novelty’ yarns which give you a multi-coloured or crazily textured effect, e.g. fun fur, without any patterning as such – not great yarns for a designer like myself, but actually quite good for a beginner as you can get the effect without too much effort. I like a bit of design and effort.

Do you think the skill should be taught at schools?

Yes I do, and there is a change in schools doing more practical lessons such as food and nutrition these days. The only thing with knitting is it’s better taught as one-to-one or in small groups. The school where I help runs an after-school knitting club which is quite successful.

Where is the best place to buy good quality knitwear?

How long is a piece of string…? Knitwear, as in finished sweaters etc, the list is endless: Missoni, Burberry, Sonia Rykiel, Isabel Marant to name just a few, if money’s no object.

Good quality knitting yarns: John Lewis has a good wool department, also Liberty. There are loads of good online ‘wool shops’, the trouble is it’s such a tactile thing that unless you’re familiar with the yarn you’re buying, it’s unsatisfactory because it’s impossible to judge the colour and feel of a yarn on a computer screen.

Get some inspiration from the high street:


1: Ivory/pink ombre jumper, £25, Dorothy Perkins 2: Grey pearl cluster jumper, £45, Miss Selfridge 3: Metallic jumper light silver, £39,99, Mango 4: Marl striped jumper, £30.40, Warehouse 5: Jumper in vintage pattern with fringing, £38, ASOS

(Press images)

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Tribes: on their new album ‘Wish To Scream’, craziest outfits and support slot for The Rolling Stones

TribesBy Lucy Howell

Polkadots & Potions caught up with Johnny (vocalist/guitarist), Jim (bassist) and Miguel (drummer) from Tribes before their first gig of the tour in Sheffield. The Camden quintet will release their second studio album, Wish To Scream, on May 20th. They are currently touring the UK, as well as playing at several festivals this summer alongside rock royalty, The Rolling Stones.

How would you describe your sound to someone who’s never listened to you before?

Jim: British Rock ‘n’ Roll

Which bands would you say you’re most influenced by?

Jim: I think the ones we all have in common are Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, real sort of song crafty writers.

Miguel: We actually just found out we’re playing with Stones at the Hyde Park gig.

That’s pretty impressive! You must be excited?

Jim: Yeah it’s gonna be wicked. We’re doing Glastonbury as well, so we’re driving  down from there for Hard Rock Calling on the Saturday then gonna drive back up to Glastonbury to watch Stones. So we’ll see them twice within about 10 days.

Here’s Jim talking about the concert :

Can you tell us a bit about the new album?

Jim: We recorded it out in La Sound City Studios with a guy called Kevin Augunas who was a great man to be around. He is a very passionate music fan with great ideas, so it was an amazing experience. And to be out in LA doing it was a dream come true.

What song were you most excited about when you were recording?

Jim: Personally ‘How the other half live’ which is the first track released off the album. It just came from being a really simple demo, then working with Kevin through it and getting these incredible sounds out and just transformed it.

How does the new album compare to your debut?

Miguel: I think it’s more mature.

Jim: The main thing with the writing is that the first album was very much based on experiences and it was retrospective in a way where as this one is way more optimistic and forward thinking.

When it comes to fashion sense, they certainly look like they know what they’re doing; but Johnny tells us that’s not always the case…

You have a great following. Are you big users of social networks? Do you it has an important role in a band’s success?

Johnny: Not at the start. It’s so sad to see bands spending all their lives on their phones instead of writing tunes. But as time went on, and we signed to Island, they were keen on us using it. Now we have someone to help us out with it. You can’t really live without it because everyone relies on it.

Do you have any final words for your fans?

Johnny: The album is out May 20th, it’s on pre-order now.

You can listen to the full interview here

Photograph by Lucy Howell

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Blue Lip Feel: on being in the studio, touring and their love for 70s fashion

By Lucy Howell

Press Shot

Press Shot

Polkadots & Potions caught up with Sheffield quartet Blue Lip Feel who are singer-guitarist Oliver Tooze, guitarist Conor Houston, bassist Will Adams and drummer Sam Bywater.

So you’ve been in the studio. How did that go?

It’s been great, you know there’s something special awaiting you on your last Mix of the studio session and we know were working harder all the time and the new material is our favourite work to date.

Who’s involved? 

Blue lip Feel, Alan Smyth (2fly) and our good friend Stevie Keys.

When can we expect an album? 

Not for a long time. There are certain steps this band has yet taken to lay the gauntlet as such and we would have to be extremely excited about tracks to record an album, in a year and a half would be about right, so expect it then I guess.

Take me through your song writing process…

It’s constantly changing, it’s sometimes all of us sat down trying to collectively add instruments and adding vocal from pre-written lyrics. Or like the most of the time, we just start singing a fresh melody.

Which song are you most excited by/proud of and why?

Man I Am, it felt like a progression with our music ability and our maturity,

You’re on tour with Tribes at them moment, how’s it going?

It’s unreal, they have been amazing to us guys. Such great talented guys and they’re just giving us a break we need. We met some amazing folk on the tour and gained so many new fans. These gigs have been amazing for us.

What kind of music influences you?

Music that has that spark that makes you want to sing, play and write music yourself.

We love artists, singers and players from all genres. Mainly guitar music but we are open to everything.

Where’s your favourite place to play and why?

The Leadmill is always amazing. There’s a certain spirit when taking to its stage. It’s our hometown favourite.

The reception you get in London seems to get better each time you play there. Would you ever consider moving there?

Yeah we’re currently considering it now.

Who would you most like to tour with and why?

Phoenix. Because they would be such a good band to watch side of the stage every night, and they’re humour in interviews looks similar to ours.

What’s your dream festival line-up? (Dead or alive)

An answer that could be time consuming…

Were thinking, The Doors, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Strokes, The Rolling Stones, Phoenix, Neil Young, Led Zeppelin, Otis Redding, Amy Winehouse, Nirvana, Hot Hot Heat, Thin Lizzy, Laura Marling, Melody Gardot, Kings of Leon, Jimi Hendrix, Arcade Fire, The White Stripes, The velvet Underground, Van Morrison, Ray Davies,

What music are you listening to at the moment, any new bands?

Transfer are the best new band we discovered, they are also on the tribes tour they are incredible.


How would you describe your fashion sense?

The Early 70’s

Do you still work at Freshman’s Vintage Store in Sheffield? 

Yeah it’s great, All freshman’s shoppers are just great people to work around.

Do you cherry pick the new stock for yourself?

I certainly do.

What’s your favourite item of clothing?

A handmade South American waistcoat.

What’s the worst thing you or your band mates have ever worn?

Jeans with no crotch.

Where do you shop?

Probably in your old man’s wardrobe.

You’ve got a young Caleb (KOL) style hairdo- was he your inspiration?

Not for the hair do, but a young Caleb was a cool cat.

Who’s your style icon if you had to pick one?

Its difficult to say most probably Marc Bolan,

Second would either be, Jim Morrison, Keith Richards or Bob Dylan

You can catch Blue Lip Feel at Mosborough Music Festival on Sunday 23rd June. Get your tickets here.

In the mean time, listen to their latest track from the band’s official SoundCloud page :

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Slimming World Chilli Recipe

Slimming World Chilli Con Carne

Slimming World Chilli Con Carne

If you are watching your weight or just eating healthily, Slimming World Chilli Con Carne is a great, wholesome and tasty meal to make. Even better, if you are following the extra easy plan it is ‘Syn’ free!

Follow our easy instructions below and take a look at our video demonstration from Slimming World member, Lesley Howell.




Fry Light spray oil

1 finely chopped onion

2 level tsp chopped garlic

2 level tsp chopped chilli

500g venison mince (or lean meat of your choice)

1 tin tomatoes

Small carton of pasata

1 tin red kidney beans

1 tsp paprika

Serves 3-4

62g rice per person


Take one large onion take off the top and bottom and the skin. Cut in half. Finely chop or use food processor

Turn on pan, spray with Fry Light. Once heated, add onion. Brown gently until soft (add lid to pan to sweat onions)

Add the garlic and chilli. Fry off for a minute

Add 500g of mince. Stir until brown

Add tin of tomatoes, Pasata and kidney beans and stir

Add paprika

If you want your chilli more spicy, you can add chilli powder/paste

Cook for 20 minutes on a low heat

Cook rice for 10-12 minutes


Read more stories from Lucy here

This week we’re listening to…The Strypes

By Lucy Howell


Press Shot

The Strypes are a rhythm and blues 4-piece made up of Ross Farrelly (vocals), Evan Walsh (drums), Peter O’Hanlon (bass), and Josh McClorey (guitar).

Hailing from Cavan in Ireland, the young rockers, aged 15 to 17, have already made their mark in the UK after their appearance on Later… Live with Jools Holland this week, where they played their debut single Blue Collar Jane.

They have also sparked an interest from fellow musicians Noel Gallagher and Elton John and supported the Modfather, Paul Weller.

Influenced by the likes of Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, The Yardbirds and The Rolling Stones, they seem well beyond their years.

Signed to Mercury records, the band released their Blue Collar Jane EP on 28th March. It will also be available on vinyl on record store day, April 20th. Watch the video for the single from the band’s official YouTube page below:

Last month it was confirmed that The Strypes will play Glastonbury as well as Live at Leeds this summer.

The band is currently recording their debut album (yet to be named) with producer Chris Thomas (The Beatles, Sex Pistols). It is due for release September 16th 2013. You can pre-order the album here.

Their shows are selling out fast. If you want to catch them live, check out their tour dates here.

Festival Fashion Hot Picks

By Lucy Howell


Credit: STA Travel

The summer festival season is getting closer and closer- time to start planning your outfits!

We have scoured the stores to find you the latest trends and fashions so that you will be rocking this summer.

Check out our must-haves below.

HOTPANTS are a festival staple. Celebrities like Alexa Chung and Kate Moss have been snapped many-a-time rocking a pair with their mud-soaked wellies at Glasto or Reading Festival.

These are our hot picks:

hotpants1: Jail Bait Fringe Denim Shorts, Evil Twin, £30, Asos 2: Pink Pom Pom Short, £49, Miss Selfridge 3: Pink Acid Was Denim Short, £14.00, Internacionale 4: Black Della Studded Shorts, Glamorous, £18, Ark 5: Dip Dye Peach Hotpants, MOTO, £28, Topshop 6: Mid Wash Crochet Hem Short, £32, Miss Selfridge

DRESSES are perfect for the warm weather that you can expect in Benicàssim but layer them with a pair of tights or funky leggings and you’ve got an outfit suitable for Glastonbury or T in the Park as well.

Here’s our pick of the best festival dresses:

dresses1: Kirnea Monochrome Tie Dye Midi Dress, £14.99, Missguided 2: Fringe Midi Dress, £49, Miss Selfridge 3: Denim Dress, £14.99, H&M 4: Sundress In Bright Aztec Print, £28, ASOS 5: Cream Lace Detailed Dress, £29.99, TkMaxx 6: Black Floral Print Button Through Mini Dress, £28, River Island

JACKETS are an important item to consider. They can be an essential to stay warm/dry or worn to make an outfit stand out. Be sure to check the weather forecast before you head off to a festival. It will always pay to have an emergency poncho in your bag (see pic 7)!

Here’s our favourites:

jackets1: Camouflage Sleeve Parka, £35, Miss Selfridge 2: Tie Dye Tassle Kimono, £60, Topshop 3: Denim Western Jacket in Bleach and Dip Dye Wash, £36, ASOS 4: Acid Wash Biker Jacket, £50, Warehouse 5: Veronika Tartan Studded Jacket In Scarlet, £29.99, Missguided 6:Multi Floral Jacket, Lashes, £75, Next 7: Pack of 2 Adult Emergency Waterproof Rain Ponchos, £1.99, Amazon

FOOTWEAR. Make sure you take at least one pair of shoes to a festival. You’ll be on your feet all day standing, walking and dancing, so comfort is everything. If rain is expected, be sure to have a pair of wellies packed.

We’ve picked our favourite pairs below:


1: Dr Martens Castel Floral 8 Eye Boots, £95, ASOS 2: Converse All star Hi Vintage Union Jack, £56.99, Office 3: Platform Canvas Shoe, £12, George 4: Unearth Tan Leather Boots, £55, Office 5: Old Skool Shoes, £57, Vans 6: Joules Wellibob Chelsea Boots, £35, Topshop

ACCESSORIES! Make sure you keep all of your belongings safe and secure. Handbags with zips are recommended. Pack a pair of sunnies to protect your  eyes, there are so many shapes and designs to choose from. Hats in hot weather are also an essential, the last thing you want is sun stroke. Glam-up your outfit by simply adding some statement jewellery or a flower-power headband.

Here’s our faves:


1: Perforated Leather Backpack, £75, Topshop 2: Polka Dot Brow Sunglasses, £16.00, Topshop 3: Black Sparkle Peace Sign Stud Earrings, £3.99, New Look 4: Daisy Chain Stretch Bando, £6, Accessorize 5: French Connection Waisted Skinny Cowboy Belt, £25, ASOS 6: Gold Monochrome Arrow Necklace, £5.99, New Look 7: Grey Studded Bumbag, £25, Topshop 8: Rovena Roller Hat With Bow, £12.99, Missguided 9: Wayfarer Havana, £117, Rayban 10: Ginge London Spike Panel Cap, £45, Urban Outfitters 11: Canvas Aztec Cross Body Bag, £5, F&F 12: Gold Tone Enamel Pastel Owl Ring, £8, River Island

*Photo credits: press images from clothing sites

For more information about festivals, check out Polka Dots & Potions ultimate festival guide here.

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Ultimate Festival Guide 2013

By Lucy Howell



Polka Dots & Potions ultimate guide to music festivals 2013

Including who’s playing where, useful tips and what it will cost you.

Top 5 UK Festivals:

1. Glastonbury


When: 26-30th June

Where: Worthy Farm, Pilton

Price: Weekend ticket- £205

Line-up: Arctic Monkeys, The Rolling Stones, Mumford and Sons, Dizzee Rascal, Primal Scream, Chase & Status, Johnny Marr, The Courteeners + more

Tips: Take your wellies and raincoat.

You can take alcohol into the arena itself.

For more information, click here.

2. Reading/Leeds


When: 23-25th August

Where: Richfield Avenue/Bramham Lane

Price: Weekend ticket-£202.50   Day Tickets -£90

Line-up: Green Day, Eminem, Biffy Clyro, System of a Down, Nine Inch Nails, Chase & Status, Foals, Alt-J, Jake Bugg, Palma Violets, Peace + more

Tips: There is a large Tesco store near by if you need to stock up on anything.

As well as live bands, the festivals has its own fairground, cinema tent, and a silent disco.

For more information, click here.

3. T in the Park


When: 12-14th July

Where: Balado, Kinross-Shire, Scotland

Price: Weekend ticket- £194  Day Tickets – £82.50

Line-up: Mumford and Sons, Rihanna, The Killers, Chase & Status, The Script, Stereophonics, Calvin Harris, Kraftwerk, David Guetta, Snoop Dogg, Beady Eye+more

Tips: Pack your waterproofs!

Recharge your phone for free at the Vodafone VIP Recharge Truck

For more information, click here.

4. V Festival


When: 16-18th July

Where: Hylands Park/Weston Park

Price: Weekend ticket- £185  Day Tickets – £89

Line-up: Beyoncé, Kings of Leon, Stereophonics, The Script, Emeli Sandé, Calvin Harris, Beady Eye, Jessie J, Two Door Cinema Club, The Vaccines, Olly Murs, The Courteeners+more

Tip: If you’re up for a bit of ‘glamping’ then V Luxury Style Camping won’t disappoint. There are premium loo’s, showers and complimentary hairdryers and straighteners at your disposal .

For more information, click here.

5. Isle of Wight


When: 13-16th June

Where: Newport

Price: Weekend ticket- £197.50  Day Tickets – £80.50

Line-up: The Stone Roses, The Killers, Bon Jovi, Paul Weller, Emeli Sandé, Jake Bugg, Ben Howard, Bastille, The Script, Paloma Faith, The Maccabees +more

Tips: When you have a gap between bands, check out Penny Lane, the Cabaret Club, The Intoxicated Tea Rooms or the Bohemian Wood.

Over the last few years there has been plenty of rainfall so be sure to pack your wellies and raincoat!

For more information, click here.

Top 5 Festivals in Europe:

1. Benicàssim

benicassim_2013When: 18-21st July

Where: Benicàssim, Castellón, Spain

Price: Weekend ticket- £160   Day Tickets – £75.20

Line-up: Arctic Monkeys, Queens of the Stone Age, The Killers, Primal Scream, Jake Bugg, Kaiser Chiefs, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Palma Violets, Dizzee Rascal, Beach House+more

Tips: Leave your wellies and coats at home and pack your suntan lotion, sunnies and best frocks!

Try to camp in the shade as the sun can get pretty intense!

For more information, click here.

2. Pinkpop

Pinkpop-2013-Logo-500x230When: 14-16th July

Where: Landgraaf, Netherlands

Price: Weekend ticket- £139  Day Tickets – £72

Line-up: Green Day, Queens of the Stone Age, Kings of Leon,  Ben Howard, Miles Kane, Palma Violets, Kodaline, Phoenix, The Script, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Stereophonics, Gaslight Anthem, +more

Tip: Keep your passport and valuables safe. All festival campsites have lockers to store valuables in. Rental Price is € 6 per safe for one day, € 8 for 2 days and € 10 for 3 days plus deposit for the safe key.

For more information, click here.

3. Optimus Live

fullsize-optimus-alive-2013When: 12-14th July

Where: Lisbon, Portugal

Price: Weekend ticket- £103  Day Tickets – £45

Line-up: Green Day, Depeche Mode, Kings of Leon, Vampire Weekend, Tame Impala, Phoenix, Jake Bugg, Two Door Cinema Club, Biffy Clyro, Editors, Band of Horses+more

Tips: The site is easily accessible by public transport. Night buses and special trains run after doors close at the venue everyday.

For more information, click here.

4. Heineken Open’er

opener-festival-2013-logo-675-675x342When: 3-6th July

Where: Gdynia, Poland

Price: Weekend ticket- £111   Day Tickets – £38

Line-up: Arctic Monkeys, Blur, Kings of Leon, Queens of the Stone Age, Editors, Animal Collective, Alt-J, Tample Impala, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds+more

Tip: Check out the Fashion Stage at Heineken Open’er Festival It features collections from the hottest new designers, you might discover the next Vivienne Westwood!

For more information, click here.

5. Rock Werchter

biffy-clyro-festival-rock-werchter-2013When: 4-7th July

Where: Werchter, Belguim

Price: Weekend ticket- £170   Day Tickets – £68

Line-up: Green Day, The Hives, The Script, The Lumineers, Sigur Róss, Bloc Party, Biffy Clyro, Jessie Ware, Palma Violets, Dizzee Rascall, Django Django, Tame Impala+more

Tip: Drink/food coupons are issued instead of handling cash. You to purchase them both in the Festival Park at 2.50 euro for each one.

For more information, click here.

(All images: Press)

Check out our festival fashion hot picks here.

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