Friday, 10 August 2018

New Season = New Yarns

Although we've yet to reach the middle of August, yarn stores and wool companies work seasons ahead. Details of their lovely new Autumn/Winter woolly offerings to tempt us have been trickling out, with some already launched and others in the pipeline.  Here's what A Woolly Yarn has learned so far, although as yet we haven't managed to get our hands on samples for the all-important review and squish test!

West Yorkshire Spinners

In 2017 WYS launched their 100% Shetland wool line The Croft Shetland Tweed. Especially for the Autumn/Winter 2018 season on August 6th the company introduced The Croft Shetland Tweed Aran colours accompanied by a pattern book designed by Sarah Hatton.
Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners
There are 12 colours in the range and each 100g hank costs £8.50 plus P&P.

Rowan

It's Rowan's 40th birthday this year and to mark their ruby anniversary the company is introducing ruby red shades throughout their yarn range. There are two new yarns for the Autumn/Winter season and both are available now: Alpaca Classic, a mixture of 57% Alpaca and 43% Cotton
Alpaca Classic image courtesy of Rowan


and Limited Edition Cosy Merino, comprising 73% wool, 15% cashmere, 7% yak and 5% nylon.
Cosy Merino image courtesy of Rowan

Baa Baa Brighouse

Especially for Autumn the West Yorkshire yarn store/indie dyer has brought out the Dales Collection.   This DK Yorkshire-spun yarn has seven colours, each given the name - you've guessed it - of a Yorkshire Dale.

Image courtesy of Baa Baa Brighouse
The collection is already on sale. Each 100g skein costs £16 plus P&P.

baa ram ewe

This Leeds-based company has announced that on August 16th it'll be launching it's newest Yorkshire yarn - Winterburn Aran.

Winterburn Aran image courtesy of baa ram ewe

Baa ram ewe says "we've picked 10 of our favourite shades to start with: Brass Band, Viking, Wesley Bob, Goathland, Aire, Lotherton, Endeavour, Yorkstone, Muck an Coal - another classic palette which all combine so well together".

Susan Crawford Vintage


Crawford has spent the summer revamping her own 100% British wool Excelana brand, which complements her vintage patterns. Expect lots of new colours when it launches at the end of September.

Blacker Yarns


This Cornish company likes to tantalise customers each year with a special limited-edition yarn to celebrate their birthday in September. Their latest e-newsletter has revealed that 2018's yarn will be "a worsted/light aran weight and very local to us both in terms of inspiration and fibre sourcing".

Last year's birthday yarn was Blacker Brushwork, which quickly sold out. Will this year's mystery yarn be as popular?

Erika Knight


Rumour has it that Knight will launch an aran weight yarn in eight heathered colours. Wild Wool will be a blend of soft wool and natural nettle.

Marie Wallin


On her website Wallin says that she will unveil her new British Breeds yarn range at Yarndale on 29th and 30th September. It will be supported by a pattern collection called Wildwood.

Northern Yarn


We've got an exclusive interview lined up with Kate, owner of Lancaster-based Northern Yarn. Her Lancastrian Poll Dorset yarn is currently being spun at the mill and will be available very soon. Price TBC.

13th August Update

Triskelion Yarn

Scylfing Sock yarn is Triskelion's latest offering, available in 18 shades from today!

Image courtesy of Triskelion
Says Triskelion, "Scylfing Sock is a blend of 50% Bluefaced Leicester, 25% Gotland and 25% Wensleydale. The fibre is from British sources, non-superwash, and the yarn is spun by Laxtons in Yorkshire."

Each 100g skein costs £18 plus P&P.

Ewe & Ply

Want a yarn made from Shropshire fleeces? Ewe & Ply's new Shropshire Ply 2018 DK is a blend of 34% Welsh mule, 28% Shropshire, 20% Sherino (Shetland and merino), and 18% Bluefaced Leicester.
Image courtesy of Ewe & Ply

The yarn comes in eight colours and each 50g hank costs £6 plus P&P.

Do you know about any new season British yarn launches we haven't covered? Please tell us via the comments section below or on our Facebook page.

Monday, 6 August 2018

Review of Marie Wallin's Bloomsbury Collection

Image courtesy of Marie Wallin
New jumper and cardigan patterns from Marie Wallin make me long for colder weather, not only to knit them up (it's a bit too hot in the current English scorching weather to knit with wool) but also wear these gorgeous creations.

The photography in Wallin's pattern books always gives me serious lifestyle envy and Bloomsbury, shot at Stoneywell Arts and Crafts Cottage in Leicestershire, is no different. The vintage setting is an ideal backdrop to the garments whose designs were inspired by the Bloomsbury group of artists and writers who defined a new era in art and literature at the turn of the twentieth century.

The jumper on the front cover, Dora, really drew me into the collection. I cheered to see that this pattern, classed by Wallin as of intermediate difficulty, looks 'doable' for knitters like me with only a small amount of stranded colour work experience. I've admired many of Wallin's patterns in the past, and the high quality production values of the printed versions have made them great coffee table books for browsing, but the complicated
Vanessa image courtesy of Marie Wallin
colour work patterns rather daunting to knit for those with only a little practice with the skill.

In fact Bloomsbury, Wallin's ninth collection as an independent designer since she left Rowan, has a good balance of classic designs both for Fair Isle novices and aficionados. When my colour work skills are up to standard I'd love to knit Vanessa, an intricately and delicately patterned cardigan with on-trend bracelet sleeves that is both classic but on-trend for Autumn 2018. (As an aside I recently received an email from fashion brand Toast informing me that Fair Isle jumpers are key pieces for the forthcoming season. No disrespect to Toast but Wallin's Fair Isle designs from Bloomsbury and her Shetland collection are far more attractive than their jumpers and the cost of the wool to knit them is cheaper than Toast's ready-to-wear price).

One drawback I've noticed before with Wallin's books, tiny black and white cable and Fair Isle charts, looks to have been rectified. In Bloomsbury she writes that the small, quite difficult to read charts are due to printing restrictions. If you've bought a paper copy only you can email Wallin to request a PDF version too and then print out the charts at your desired magnitude.

Here are the other six patterns in Bloomsbury:

Angelica: a stranded colourwork sweater in two colours with a relatively cropped body and no waist shaping.
Image courtesy of Marie Wallin
Frances: a pretty one-colour cardigan knitted in the shade Duck Egg. Involves steeking.

Image courtesy of Marie Wallin
Virginia: a traditional long-length cardigan shape in autumnal hues.

Image courtesy of Marie Wallin
Lydia: a short sleeve pullover with intricate patterns.

Image courtesy of Marie Wallin
Vita: one-shade loose-fitted jumper with detailed cabling. The yarn used is the shade Clay.


Rosamund: unfitted jumper knitted in the shade Avacado and using cabling patterns.

Image courtesy of Marie Wallin

Yarn: All the patterns use Rowan's Felted Tweed. This blend of 50% merino wool, 25% alpaca and 25% viscose comes in a whopping 39 shades - note though that the yarn does not say it's made from British wool. A quick search of online knitting stores showed that each 50g ball costs between £6.90 and £7.60 plus P&P depending on the stockist and whether they have any discounts running when you buy.

Unfortunately sometimes a few errors slip through the proofreading process. Wallin has an errata page on her website listing those that have been discovered in Bloomsbury - currently in Frances, Vita, Vanessa and Anglica (scroll down to the bottom of the page). The corrected charts can be printed off.

Buy Bloomsbury directly from Marie Wallin's website for £14.99 plus P&P. Do let me know in the comments below or on A Woolly Yarn's Facebook page which of the pattern's you'd like to cast on first.

For a trip down memory lane back to Marie Wallin's older pattern collections see:

Stop Press!

I'm gathering information about some very exciting new British yarn launches for the Autumn/Winter 2018/19 season. Watch this space and follow A Woolly Yarn on Facebook in readiness for the big reveal!

Monday, 30 July 2018

Review of Erika Knight's Studio Linen & Teatime Jumper Pattern

Teatime image courtesy of Erika Knight
Today's blog post is deviating from the norm. Instead of focusing on wool we're reviewing a light, summary alternative yarn - Erika Knight's Studio Linen. I've been knitting with it, making the Teatime sweater, during the recent hot weather and it's so much cooler on my lap than wool.

Teatime is part of Knight's five new designs using Studio Linen for 2018. Each pattern is downloadable for £5 at Erika Knight's Ravelry Store.

The Yarn

Knight's team told me that "we developed this yarn as we were looking for an elegant summer yarn that would be beautiful in both knit and crochet. The Erika Knight yarn collection is comprised of all natural fibres ... linen is an ancient, sustainable natural fibre spun from the flax plant. However it can create quite a coarse yarn, which although it creates lovely garments can be tough on the hands to work with.

With Studio Linen we have blended 15% premium linen grown in Belgium with 85% recycled linen fibres ... the resultant yarn is much softer than a pure virgin linen."

Knight's team also stressed that recycling, sustainability and 'slow clothes', rather than disposable fashion, are really important to the company.

Colours

There are 17 shades to choose from with each 50g skein retailing for around £5.99. The colour palette is relaxed and muted: think classic greys, lilacs and light shades rather than on trend neons.  Four of the colours were inspired by the ancient Japanese resist dyeing technique Shibori, which "mimics the subtle hues of indigo dye."

My favourite shade is 'Mood', a relaxing lilac that gives a subtle nod to summer, and Erika Knight sent me the yarn and Teatime pattern to review. All opinions are my own.

Studio Linen in shade 'Mood'

Teatime is a simple, stylish pattern that won't go out of fashion. I'm knitting the body a bit shorter to suit my figure but am keeping the bracelet sleeve length. When finished I'm planning to wear the jumper with jeans or black trousers. A detail I particularly like is the two buttons around the neckline giving a casual feel.

Studio Linen is a pleasure to knit with being soft yet sturdy. The only downside is that the yarn splits quite easily, which can spoil the look of the stocking stitch if you don't spot and correct it first.

I'm about two thirds of the way through Teatime now, progress having been held up thanks to a friend's request to knit her more mittens in readiness for Autumn, plus I've also got Wool & The Gang's Total Eclipse sweater knitted in their variegated cotton Out Of Space dyed yarn on the go - another cooler summer knit.

The Patterns

Teatime is one of the five Studio Linen patterns in the Spring/Summer 2018 collection. The other four are:

Promenade: a casual, oversized sweater (perfect for covering up on chilly summer nights) with a longer back and shorter, bracelet length sleeves. The stripes are eye-catching.

Image courtesy of Erika Knight

Dusk: a hug in a cardigan! There is a diagonal stitch detail on the front and the sleeves.

Image courtesy of Erika Knight

Small Hours: a delightful, t-shirt style top with a v-neck at the back and front. Studio Linen feels smooth and cooling when worn against the skin.

Image courtesy of Erika Knight

Midday: This is a pattern for crocheters. The semi-fitted cardigan has a belt to tie it at the waist.

Image courtesy of Erika Knight

One thing I was pleased to see in the collection was the diversity of models used. The women have a range of ages and skin colour that represent that real women who buy the patterns. It can be frustrating when patterns are only modelled on 25-year-old, 5 feet 8, size 8 white women!

All in all it's a classic collection from Knight and, although British wool is my first love, linen is a great choice for Summer knitting.

Saturday, 28 July 2018

Behind The Scenes At Knit Now Magazine

Image courtesy of Knit Now
Towards the end of the behind the scenes at Sirdar day back in June, Knit Now magazine's editor Kate Heppell gave a presentation on how each issue is produced.

It was fascinating to listen to and I thought I'd share the main points here. So without further ado, here's the 12 step guide to making a monthly knitting magazine:

Step 1: Know what the reader wants and give them it. Practical Publishing, the owner of Knit Now, has this as its motto: 'Passionate about providing creative people with the best products and ideas'. Heppell and her team regularly conduct surveys, meet people in the industry and have reader focus groups.

Step 2: Decide on the issue's free gift, known in the industry as the cover mount. Knitting magazines with gifts apparently sell more copies than those without. Types of gifts can include yarn and pattern kits, tools such as stitch markers and knitting needles, and pattern book supplements. Some are made abroad and have to be commissioned well in advance in order for them to reach the UK's shores on time.

Step 3: Put out a call for submissions for the issue via email. Heppell will have already put together a mood board with the type of patterns, yarns and colour palette she's looking for. A theme of issue 90's (see the top left image), for example, was ombre. There are a couple of patterns on the cover that follow this trend.

Step 4: When designers have submitted their ideas the team will score each between one to five in categories such as 'is it inspiring?' and 'will the readers' want to knit it?'

Step 5: Heppell now has to sit down with a big spreadsheet for the issue and make sure that she has a great range of highly-scored patterns to suit different techniques, tastes, types of projects and yarn weights. She's also got to take into account her budget to pay designers and the amount of pages available to fill.

Step 6: Next she has to take into account including a range of yarns at different price points and a colour palette for different tastes. Some designs will be classic, other more modern and trend-led. The issue may also include a collaboration with commercial partners.

Step 7: Once Heppell has chosen the patterns for the issue they go out to tech editors and are checked over by herself, the sub editor, deputy editor and more people to make sure they are correct.

Step 8: It's now time to photograph the designs for the issue. The photos, particularly the cover image, have to be enticing and accurately represent the garment or project. Photos encourage people to pick up the magazine from the news stand. Usefully Practical Publishing has its own studio and photographer. A hair and makeup artist is brought in to style the model and Heppell goes along to ensure everything runs smoothly and she's happy with the images.

Step 9: The magazine now starts to take shape in a plastic folder with printouts of each page in, called the flat plan . Heppell decides what will go on which page to ensure that not only can readers find the regular sections but also that the magazine flows well.

Step 10:  The art editor steps in to design each page in the magazine's signature look.

Step 11: The issue goes to the printers. It's then bagged with the cover mount and sent out to supermarkets and newsagents ready for publication day.

Step 12: It'd be nice to say that the team gets to put their feet up with cake in one hand and a glass of wine in the other but that's not the case, not in work time anyway! Once an issue has gone on sale the team meet, armed with reader feedback and sales figures, to discuss what went well and what they could do better.

* Fun fact - the annual British edition is often the best-selling issue of the year!





Friday, 20 July 2018

Di Gilpin's Saorse & Patterns Ready For Autumn

Yes, in the UK we may still be basking in a July heatwave, but this is the time of year when designers and yarn shops turn their thoughts to the Autumn/Winter season. 

Di Gilpin, whose studio is based in Fife, Scotland, not only has some covetable new designs out ready for the colder, woolly months using her Lalland lambswool yarn, but she also a brand-new Scottish yarn: Saorse. 

First up are the patterns using Lalland. There are 21 shades available. Here's the shade card: 



Haar, a very delicate pale blue shade (see above second left on the top row) is the most recent shade to be released. Now here are the latest patterns:


Image courtesy of Di Gilpin
The Geo Snood pattern costs £5 and is a great smaller project to practice your stranded colour work skills. 

There are four Lalland shades used: Furze, Silver Birch and Broch. The good news is that buying buying those four 50g balls gives you enough yarn to knit two snoods!

Gilpin sells Lalland for £8.75 per 50g ball plus P&P.






Image courtesy of Di Gilpin
This is my personal favourite out of the three patterns, using stranded colour work to showcase five shades from the Lalland range: Driftwood, Crowd, Flame, Hear and Silver Birch. 

The colour detail around the bottom of the sleeves and jumper make the design stand out from other yoke patterns. 

The pattern costs £6. Gilpin says that the jumper "started life as a commission from Shetland Wool Week Fashion Show. The sweater design, inspired by the geology and landscape of the Scottish islands, creates texture and colour in the yoke using a new interpretation of the fabulous Fair Isle OXO patterns."




Image courtesy of Di Gilpin
Coda requires the colours Agate, Haar, Driftwood and Morion from the Lalland range. 

The pattern costs £6. 

Gilpin advises that Coda is aimed at experienced experienced colour work knitters and describes it as "a Fair-Isle inspired vintage jacket with a modern twist".

The cropped body and semi-monochrome colour palette certainly give Coda a 1960s feel.










Saorse

Saorse is a one-shade-only light aran-weight yarn, a gorgeous natural ecru. The yarn is a blend of 80% Scottish fleece and 20% cashmere, being relatively soft but also a long-lasting workhorse with a slight halo and good stitch definition. It has a very slight sheepy smell, reassuring the buyer of its natural origins.

Image courtesy of Di Gilpin.
On Gilpin's website she explains the thinking behind Saorse, saying that the name is the Gaelic word for freedom. Gilpin has long wanted to make "a truly special yarn using the best fleeces from sheep reared in Scotland and blended with the finest cashmere from Mongolia". Saorse is a collaboration with Uist Wool and organic wool produced entirely on Claddach Farm in Fife. 

Gilpin's love affair with cashmere stems back from when, as a young woman, she spent some time in Ladakh on the Tibetan border teaching knitting.

What can you knit with Saorse?

The Seol Gansey Tunic pattern costs £6 directly from Di Gilpin. It requires eight to ten balls of wool to knit, depending on your chosen size.

Image courtesy of Di Gilpin
One small point about the new yarn's name: the yarn tag calls it Saorsa whereas Gilpin's website calls it Soarse.

Whatever the name, it's a premium product with a price tag to match. A 50g ball costs £22.50 plus P&P and can be bought directly from Gilpin's website. One for British yarn lovers and small, precious projects.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Review Of New Magazine - Your Crochet & Knitting

Image courtesy of Practical Publishing
Practical Publishing, who also produce Knit Now, got in touch to suggest I review the latest addition to their ranks, Your Crochet & Knitting. Whilst the copy of the first issue was a gift my review is impartial.

Go to your local newsagents and the shelf for craft magazines is crowded. My first thought about the publication of another knitting magazine for beginners was do the newsstands really need it?

It's a competitive market with both the Yarn Forward and Knit Today titles folding in the last few years. What could make YC&K stand out amongst the throng?

At a cost of £8.99 it's certainly one of the most expensive craft magazines on the market but that price includes not only the paper copy but a kit containing six balls of acrylic yarn, a pair of wooden knitting needles, a crochet hook, sewing needle and black thread (you have to provide your own toy stuffing).

The magazine is aimed at beginners who want to dabble in both knitting and crocheting. There are quite a few patterns that can be made with the included yarn including a blanket, baby bootees and a woman's hat and mitts, but the star attraction are the Mr. Men and Little Miss official toys.

I'm a beginner crocheter and therefore for essence of speed I decided it would be quicker to test one of the knitting patterns instead. They are described as 'easy, quick and incredibly cute' and hit two out of three of those descriptions.

It took me, a usually speedy knitter, about four hours to knit, embroider and sew up the Little Miss Princess toy. Not the quickest knit it must be said, but the pattern was easy and the end result is certainly cute.

My beady eye recognised the Little Miss Princess and Mr Funny knitting patterns from a supplement that came with Knit Now magazine around Christmastime. I'd kept it to keep for the future and dug it out to double-check. The crochet patterns are new to me though.

At 68 pages the magazine is rather short but it certainly packs a lot of projects in - 39 in total. As well as the patterns, which include a blanket craft-along to be continued in issue 2, there's a round up of craft news, tips from Toft's Kerry Lord on sewing up toys, a review of baby yarns, giveaways and basic knitting and crochet instructions.

So is the magazine worth it? I'm not usually a knitted toy fan but the kit and pattern to make the Mr. Men and Little Miss characters swayed it for me - they will make great gifts for my friends' children and I think are worth the cost of the well-photographed magazine. I'd like to see patterns to knit flowers with the free gift yarn in the future.

It'll be interesting to see what's in issue 2!


Friday, 6 July 2018

Hot New Patterns To Knit

Here in England the temperature continues to sizzle, which gives us Brits lots to talk about on our stereotypical favourite subject - the weather.

Whilst it may be too hot for some to dig out the wool and get ahead on knits for Autumn when we'll be swapping summer shorts and dresses for a cosy jumper, that hasn't stopped some of our favourite designers bringing out covetable patterns.

So find a shady spot, accessorise with an iced glass of lemonade, and decide which pattern is going to grace your needles next.

Tin Can Knits

Image courtesy of Tin Can Knits
Boardwalk is Tin Can Knits' latest pattern. As you'll see from the picture it's a back to front cardigan, although you can go rogue and wear it the conventional way round if you wish to!

Alexa Ludeman, one half of Tin Can Knits' design team, describes Boardwalk as 'a simple little cardigan with crisp raglan lines and sweet little split hem, made in DK weight yarn. No matter how you button it, it's the perfect addition to any wardrobe.'

As with all Tin Can Knits patterns the cardigan is available in the full range of sizes from little tots to fully-grown adults.

Download the pattern for £6.56 from Ravelry.

Linda Shearer

Image courtesy of RSPB
OK, so there's no way anyone needs to wear a woolly hat in this sunshine, but the Curlew Hat, using Shetland wool, raises awareness for the RSPB's Curlew Crisis appeal and if you cast on now it will be ready to wear once the nights start to draw in.

The pattern is free to download but Kate from Northern Yarn is offering to donate money to the RSPB for every set of Jamiesons of Shetland Spindrift wool bought from her online shop to knit the hat with. Each ball is £3.50 and you'll need six in various colours to complete the pattern.

Visit Kate's Facebook page to see how she's getting along knitting her own version of Curlew.

Renée Callahan

Image courtesy of Baa Ram Ewe
Look at the gorgeous intarsia pattern on the back of this Josephine cardigan that costs £6 to download from Ravelry.

Callahan, who lives in East London, says that her design was 'inspired by and named after my grandmother ... Josephine is a timeless style, with an elegant waterfall front, and an ususual construction.'

Yorkshire wool shop Baa Ram Ewe has promoted its own brand Titus 4ply wool, which retails at £17 per 100g hank. The shop says that the pattern is a great way to use up left over Titus from your stash.

Alternatively, for £3.50 each you can pick and mix 12g small balls of Titus - a more cost-effective way of creating the lovely colour pattern rather than buying a full 100g skein.

Marie Wallin

Image courtesy of
Marie Wallin/Baa Ram Ewe
Sticking with the Baa Ram Ewe theme, ex-Rowan designer Marie Wallin has gone from strength to strength in her freelance career and has chosen Baa Ram Ewe's Dovestone Natural Aran DK for her latest pattern launch, Brambling.

Brambling is on sale on Ravelry at a download for £5. Wallin has informed me that the pattern will soon also be available on her own  website.

With its roll-neck and slightly oversized fit Brambling will keep you warm in winter. Wallin recommends the design as a good first Fairisle garment to knit.


Whistlebare

Image courtesy of Whistlebare
New from Northumberland family-farm yarn company Whistlebare is this T-shirt-style top to whip up and wear before the balmy weather changes.

Designed by Kirstie White, Mermaids Pool (sic - no apostrophe!) is knitted in the round from the top down in Whistlebare's Cheviot Marsh 4-ply. You'll need two skeins to knit the small and medium sizes or three to knit large or extra large.

Whistlebare says Mermaids Pool is named after a pool near Coldingham Sands in Berwickshire. The pattern and yarn kit costs between £33 and £49.50 plus £4.50 P&P.



Blacker Yarns

Image courtesy of Blacker Yarns
Finally here's freebie. Blacker Yarns is offering its latest pattern, Trym Vest, as a free download.

There are three versions, depending on whether you want to knit it in DK, 4-ply or 3-ply. The DK version uses Blacker Yarns' Lyonesse linen blend, the 4-ply version Tamar Lustre Blend, and the 3-ply version in Samite Silk Blend.

The top is designed to be work over a shirt or blouse. Blacker Yarns suggests that if you want to wear Trym on its own then you may want to decrease the depth of the armholes by working fewer rows before beginning the neck shaping.

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Which is your favourite pattern? Are you too hot to knit or are you using the summer holidays to catch up on your works in progress?

Let us know on the A Woolly Yarn Facebook page.
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