Monday, 17 July 2017

Knit To Support The Grenfell Tower Block Fire Victims

The charity Knit for Peace is selling three patterns donated by designer Jane Crowfoot to raise money for victims of the Grenfell Tower Block fire in the London Borough of Kensington & Chelsea.

The official death toll of the tragedy, which took place in the early hours of 14th June, stands at 80, although police have warned that this could rise. Many residents who escaped lost everything in the fire. Knit for Peace responded to requests for knitted blankets and trauma teddies for the victims and will be sending knitting kits to survivors to help them "feel the calming effects of knitting".

Knitters are asked for a £5 donation to download each of the three patterns.

The patterns are:

Beaded Crochet Collar

Image courtesy of Knit for Peace



Comfy Crochet Cowl


Image courtesy of Knit for Peace


Moroccan Tile Wrap


Image courtesy of Knit for Peace

Download your favourite or all three here.

Knit for Peace is always keen to accept donations of new and unworn hand knitted items to distribute in hospitals, prisons, women's refuges, hospices, refugee centres and developing countries.

The charity if currently looking for gifts of warm adult clothes, bed socks, scarves, adult hats and large blankets.  Information on how to donate is on Knit for Peace's website.



Saturday, 15 July 2017

Baskerville Is Back! Plus Blacker Yarns, Countess Ablaze, Baa Ram Ewe & Kate Davies Yarn Launches

Baskerville is back!

Baskerville image courtesy of Kettle Yarn Co
Linda Lenovic, owner of Kettle Yarn Co, uses British Gotland fleece blended with Exmoor Blueface and silk to produce her own Baskerville yarn.

After months of waiting for the latest shearing to take place Baskerville is now back in stock in all seven of its hues.

Lenovic creates small batches of this slightly luminous yarn and once its gone knitters will have to wait until next year's fleece batch!

Baskerville is fingering weight and a 100g skein costs £24.


Blacker Yarns 2ply lace weight

Image courtesy of Blacker Yarns
The latest addition to Blacker Yarns' range is a 2ply lace Blue-faced Leicester yarn retailing at £7.80 for a 50g ball.

The range comes in 13 colours inspired by coral reefs. I haven't had a chance to do the squish test yet or knit up a sample square but Sonja Bargielowska from Blacker Yarns writes:
"Our BFL lace-weight yarn is worsted spun, meaning the yarn goes through an additional five processes in the mill to remove the shorter, coarser fibres. This creates a more luxurious yarn, with a sumptuous handle - it's no surprise BFL yarns are a firm favourite amongst hand knitters!"
The yarn is suitable for any lace knitting patterns including shawls and scarves.

Countess Ablaze restocks one-off lace colourways

Image courtesy of Countess Ablaze.
OAK stands for one of a kind and the Manchester-based knit dyer Countess Ablaze has restocked her online store with her latest delectable lace OAK skeins.

Her lace yarn base is a blend of British Bluefaced Leicester and mulberry silk (the yarn is spun in Peru, but I'm including it on the blog because the wool is British and it's dyed in the UK), creating a machine washable fibre that's suitable to wear next to the skin.

One 100g skein, says the Countess, is enough to knit a shawl or scarf. A skein costs £19 or £21 depending on the colourway.


Baa Ram Ewe's big balls

Image courtesy of baa ram dew
At the other end of the thickness spectrum Leeds-based yarn producer baa ram ewe is selling Big Balls in eight shades as part of its Autumn/Winter season launch range.

They cost a whopping £48 but for that you get a whole kilogram of English 56 dyed fibre, apart from the Ecru shade, which comes from Derbyshire Gritstone.

These are not spun yarn balls as we know them. The balls are suitable for spinning and/or felting at home, or alternatively you can use your arm or very large needles to knit the fibre into a bulky blanket.

Again, I haven't had chance to squish the yarn yet but the whole premise sounds like lots of fun.

Kate Davies' Aran Tweed

Image courtesy of Kate Davies
In an email to subscribers on Friday 14th July Davies teased knitters with the news that her forthcoming yarn launch will be Milarrochy Tweed, inspired by an old oak tree at Milarrochy Bay near her Scottish home.

She says that the yarn is being spun in Donegal with additional finishing in Yorkshire. Milarrochy Tweed is fingering weight and will be available in 12 shades of 25g skeins.
No images of the yarn are available yet, will it become as popular as her debut Scottish DK yarn range Buachaille?


Thursday, 13 July 2017

Vintage Special: Bletchley Park Knitting; Susan Crawford Shetland Update & Land Girl Jumper

Today's post is dedicated to recent news on all things vintage. The trend in scouring the archives for patterns from the 1920s - 1960s shows no sign of abating, with talented British designers rewriting old patterns to suit modern yarns and techniques and also creating new designs inspired by those of yesteryear.

Bletchley Park's call for hand-knit 1940s garments

The ground-breaking museum near Milton Keynes celebrates the secret intelligence and code breaking that took place there in World War 2. The exhibitions show how the emerging science of information technology changed the course of the war, with many rooms set out as they were during the 1939-1945 conflict.

In June the museum appealed for knitters to donate garments knitted using authentic 1940s patterns put on display and show what everyday sartorial life would have been like for the men and women who worked there. The appeal was so successful that applications are on hold for the moment. When the items are all on display at Bletchley Park, made famous by the 2014 film The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, the museum will be well worth another visit.

I visited in December 2014 and was delighted to see the knitting collection already there including the fabulous  'Please Knit Now' poster galvanising knitters to help the war effort.

15th July update - This fascinating article from atlasobscura tells of the wartime spies who used knitting as a tool for espionage.
Image courtesy of Susan Crawford

Susan Crawford's Vintage Shetland update

Knitting designer, writer and historian Susan Crawford is one of Britain's best known vintage knitting specialists. Sadly her latest much-awaited book, The Vintage Shetland Project, a collection of essays and patterns recreated from Shetland Museum's textile archives, had to be put on hold whilst Crawford was treated for breast cancer.

In her latest email to those who subscribed to her crowdfunding campaign to publish the book she revealed the good news that she is now feeling well enough to complete the project and it should be ready pre-Christmas.  Crawford also reveals that the book contains:
"More than 20 essays ... around 50,000 words all about Shetland knitters and designers, Shetland knitting history and the history of the island, fashion history, knitting history, the bigger picture featured in the first half of the twentieth century and the connections form these to the knitwear featured in the book." 
There will also be 25 patterns. I'm eagerly awaiting my copy and am sure the book will feature in many a vintage knitting fan's Christmas stocking this year.

The Knitter magazine's Land Girl jumper

Mavis image courtesy of The Knitter
When I spotted Penelope Hemingway's Mavis design in issue 112 of The Knitter magazine I immediately broke my 'no more yarn' rule and bought the 100% British yarn, Dovestone DK, from Brityarn taking advantage of their 10% off deal (which has now ended), to knit it with.

The pattern accompanies an article by Hemingway describing the life of Land Girls, young women who joined the Women's Land Army to work on farms during World War 2, and the clothes they were issued with.

Whilst Hemingway used the colour Eggcup to knit her jumper in I chose the dark olive green Dalby, reminiscent of the grass and greenery in the fields the Land Girls worked in.

The design is featured on Ravelry but cannot be bought there. If you can't find issue 112 in a newsagent then it can be purchased directly from the publishers here.




Friday, 7 July 2017

Toft and Baa Ram Ewe New Season Yarn Launches

As I'm writing this I'm cowering inside with all my windows open trying to cool down in the heat. Summer is here in the Midlands, UK - well for a few days at least. Yet whilst I'm carrying on knitting Tin Can Knits' Raindrops jumper in gorgeously silky 4ply, Britain's independent yarn companies and designers are busy working on their Autumn/Winter yarn launches.

Since I started writing this blog two and a half years ago my eyes have been opened as to what can truly be called British yarn. At the beginning I featured Rowan yarns with it being one of the best-known British knitting companies and having its headquarters at the heart of mill country in West Yorkshire. I since learned, thanks to some digging and information from other bloggers such as KnitBritish, that the company is now German-owned and sources its wool from abroad. The company used to sell a great British Sheep Breeds line but it was discontinued. Nowadays I'd still feature on A Woolly Yarn Rowan patterns by British designers but its yarn is a no-no.

Batch 2 image courtesy of Toft
Two new season yarn launches that can proudly call themselves British are Toft's £12 hand-dyed 50g balls - batch 2 has just been released and there will be more to come in the series - and Baa Ram Ewe's Dovestone Natural Chunky.

Toft Batch 2

Toft's DK yarn - spun in the UK from British fleeces - has been given a colourful makeover. Batch 2 is a bright turquoise colour inspired by owner Kerry Lord's gecko crochet pattern. In the last few years the company's focus has moved on from knitting to crochet thanks to the success of Lord's crocheted animals and monsters patterns. If you're not into animals and crochet this can be off-putting, but it doesn't take much leap of the imagination to see the yarn knitted up into a hat or cowl (though you'll probably need two balls for this).

The Toft website offers some great free patterns suitable for the hand-dyed DK yarn that are suitable for beginner and intermediate knitters. I recommend starting off with the YF DK Scarf or the Basic Beanie.

Baa Ram Ewe Dovestone Chunky

Over at Leeds-based Baa Ram Ewe their Autumn/Winter focus is on chunky, natural yarns perfect for warming up in Winter. Dovestone Chunky (a sister product to the store's thoroughly British Dovestone DK and Aran yarns) is launching on 13th July in five shades priced at £14 per 100g hank.

Dovestone Natural Chunky image courtesy of Baa Ram Ewe
Dovestone Natural Chunky is spun from 50% Bluefaced Leicester, 25% Wensleydale Longwool and 25% Masham wool.

For pattern support Baa Ram Ewe is publishing Learn to Knit At Home - 12 home furnishing patterns designed by Alison Moreton aimed at new and beginner knitters.

I haven't seen Batch 2 or Dovestone Natural Chunky in the flesh but hope to review them in the future.









Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The Wool Whisperer

Have you ever started knitting a project with a yarn that you love only to find out that, well, it's just not quite right? It may be colourful and squishy in skein form but when allocated to a chosen pattern it doesn't seem to work.

Hourglass sweater image courtesy of Baa Ram Ewe
Expert knitters I'm sure could explain precisely why this is - too much haze or not enough stitch definition maybe? - but for me it's a feeling, almost like a sixth sense, that can happen when I'm not using the exact yarn a pattern has specified.

Take three beautiful, hand-dyed 4ply skeins bought a few years ago from Eden Cottage Yarns because I adored their pink hue. My first thought was to knit the company's Hut 8 cardigan with it but on the needles it wasn't thrilling me and I decided to knit my garment in a Blacker Yarns special edition yarn instead.

Next, I allocated my three skeins to knit the Hourglass sweater from Baa Ram Ewe's Titus Vintage Collection. I've knitted a jumper, a hat and a cowl using Titus 4ply before: it's a warm, workhouse yarn that comes in covetable shades, but I do find that it's too itchy to wear against the skin. Conversely my Eden Cottage Yarn is soft and silky. However, yet again, when on the needles there was something not quite right about what was emerging. The yarn didn't hold the stitch definition well and after multiple tries to get the sizing right I gave up, meaning to try the pattern again with a different yarn - I may well try Titus if there's nothing else suitable in my stash.

And now? I've long-liked Tin Can Knit's Raindrops jumper pattern.

Raindrops jumper image courtesy of Tin Can Knits
So far the needles seem to be liking my Eden Cottage Yarns 4ply just fine. It suits the pattern in a way that a less silky and more woolly yarn may not. I've been itching to carry on with it and am looking forward to wearing the summery jumper of an evening with smart jeans.

My stash is slowly coming down, following my resolution not to buy any more yarn until I've used up or sold what I already have. I made one exception for a good cause, supporting Baa Baa Brighouse's crowdfunding venture to create a bricks and mortar wool shop. I'll be receiving three hanks of specially-dyed DK yarn through the post. Congratulations to Elaine Jinks-Turner of Baa Baa Brighouse for achieving her goal, but the question of what I'll knit with my three hanks remains to be answered!

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Review Of Knitting Magazine's Made In Britain Edition

Image courtesy of Knitting magazine
As this blog celebrates modern British knitting it goes without saying that I was delighted to discover that June 2017's Knitting magazine is a special Made in Britain issue, featuring 23 British knits and lots of information about boutique UK yarn brands.

The magazine costs £5.99 in newsagents, or £6.99 if bought directly from the publisher, and comes with a sock workshop booklet aimed at those new to sock knitting.

At first glance the patterns in the magazine are quite conservative and there's only one - the jumper on the cover - that I'd like to knit. Where the magazine does shine is in its content, with features on and profiles of small niche British wool brands along with interviews with home-grown cutting edge knitting entrepreneurs such as Louisa Harding and Isobel Davies.

I've long found that Knitting and The Knitter magazines have more editorial to get your teeth into than the newbie-knitter orientated titles such as Simply Knitting and Let's Knit. Two monthly features I particularly like in Knitting are the 'Style File' section where a few of the patterns are shown in different colours along with fashion advice on what to where them with, and the review section of latest yarns.

Features-wise this Made in Britain issue contains a guest column from podcaster and blogger Louise Scollay of KnitBritish fame, and a fabulous map of the UK showing businesses that create brilliant British yarns.

One huge fact I learned from the interview with Louisa Harding is that she no longer has anything to do with the yarn and pattern business that bears her name. She now runs Yarntelier, producing lace cashmere yarns and designs to support them.

Back to the patterns - is June really the time to publish cowl, mitts and scarf patterns? There's a cosy-looking Shetland Snuggle Blanket pattern knitted in super chunky yarn that caught my eye until I looked up the price of the yarn and discovered it to be £185. Amongst other patterns are a man's jumper, a tea cosy, and a few women's sweater patterns including one called Seawrack, which to me looks like first-time knitting that's gone wrong, though obviously that's my personal taste and perhaps I'm not very fashion forward!

All in all it's an issue worth buying for anyone who wants to know more about British yarns and it's great to see magazines supporting the British wool industry. One slight bugbear about the plastic sealed packaging of the magazine is that when browsing the newsagents' shelves the potential customer cannot flick through to see if they like the patterns or not before buying. All magazines that provide free gifts tend to do this - can they not print an overview of the magazine's contents on the back page to help the consumer?


Monday, 15 May 2017

Baa Baa Brighouse's Crowdfunding Campaign

Following the success of other knitters' crowdfunding campaigns such as Susan Crawford and Karie Westermann's to publish their next pattern books and Izzy Lane's quest to produce her own cruelty-free wool range, Elaine Jinks-Turner, founder of online yarn shop Baa Baa Brighouse, has started her own. Her dream is to transform the front room of her house into a shop to give Baa Baa Brighouse a bricks and mortar base in West Yorkshire, England.

There's history here - around 60 years ago Junks-Turner's house was a yarn shop and, she says, she still gets people knocking on her front door asking where the wool shop is!

Since founding Baa Baa Brighouse online three years ago Jinks-Turner hasn't taken a salary and has ploughed profits back into building the business. The yarns she sells are different from the usual baby and cheap acrylic offerings that abound lots of yarn shops' shelves: she stocks mainly British brands such as Herdy, West Yorkshire Spinners and Susan Crawford, alongside big names Rowan and Erika Knight and her own hand-dyed range Baa Baa Brew.

Rewards on offer for pledging up to certain amounts include skeins of Baa Baa Brew yarn and the company's Ganny Lock Shawl Knit Kit.

Visit Baa Baa Brighouse's crowdfunding page to see all the rewards on offer.

Image courtesy of Baa Baa Brighouse
In May Baa Baa Brighouse is selling a Shakespeare-themed yarn box for £24 plus P&P containing 100g of DK hand-dyed Baa Baa Brew yarn, a contrasting colour 25g mini DK skein, plus some Shakespeare goodies.

I'm very tempted myself, having missed out on a previous Jane Austen box!

Each month the company produces a themed yarn box inspired by popular culture. Personally I like to see what I'm going to get before I buy but knitters who like a surprise will enjoy the big reveal when the postie delivers their yarn parcel.
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