Sunday, 17 March 2019

What's New At Edinburgh Yarn Festival?

Image courtesy of EYF
Queen's song Don't Stop Me Now is playing on a loop in my head as I'm excitedly preparing to fly to Edinburgh for its annual yarn fest.

The trip is a mix of part-work (I'm writing a feature on EYF for The Knitter magazine) and part belated-birthday holiday with my husband, who has agreed to push me in my wheelchair around the knitting show as long as we visit a real ale pub for dinner afterwards. Deal!

In the six years it has been running Edinburgh Yarn Festival has gained a reputation of becoming one of the UK's top knitting festivals, with many visitors flying in from abroad. It's also a champion of both Scottish wool businesses and small independent producer/makers who you won't find in your local yarn store.

The marketplace runs from Thursday 21st to Saturday 23rd March and on Sunday morning there's a Make::Wool event. The classes, Make::Wool and the fringe events have sold out but there should be tickets for the marketplace available on the door at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange.

There's a plethora of stalls to visit, so much so that I'm going to have to enforce on myself a strict budget. I plan on taking cash only - once it has gone it has gone!

Designers' and wool companies' often choose EYF to launch their latest goodies. In the past week some email newsletters and social media feeds have teased knitters with what will be on offer in Scotland's capital city. Don't worry if you're not going to EYF because products will be available on the individual companies' websites once it's all over.

Here are some of the highlights:

An Caitin Beag

Not got a lot of cash? For a little treat I'm thinking this new stitch marker from An Caitin Beag's stall would make a great souvenir:

Image courtesy of An Caitin Beag
The brand will also be launching the Catwing sweater at EYF.

Marie Wallin

Her popular British Breeds gift box, containing the twelve shades in her own British Breeds wool range, will be back in stock at EYF. There will also be four new pattern and British Breeds yarn kits available, including the beautiful jumper Birch from her Wildwood pattern book.

Birch image courtesy of Marie Wallin
Donna Smith

Another cute souvenir of EYF to buy is this cute felt jumper brooch, inspired by Smith's native Shetland. She'll be selling them for £12 at EYF's Sunday morning Make::Wool event.

Image courtesy of Donna Smith

The Knitting Goddess

As well as selling the latest of her hand-dyed yarns, The Knitting Goddess is to launch her latest pattern book, Wist Tha Bahn?, at EYF. Apparently it means 'where are you going?' in Yorkshire dialect, though as a Yorkshire lass  I've never heard it! The book contains six shawl patterns.

Image courtesy of The Knitting Goddess
Kettle Yarn Co.

On Saturday morning the company will be showcasing Renee Calllahan's Midding Cardigan, knitted in a small batch of Kettle Yarn Co's Baskerville DK. You'll be able to meet Callahan and have a squish of the new Baskerville DK's colours.

Midding cardigan image courtesy of Kettle Yarn Co. and Renee Callahan
Daughter of a Shepherd

Rachel Atkinson, aka Daughter of a Shepherd, (read our recent blog post about her here), has teased on her Facebook account that at EYF there will be 'Ram Jam but not as you know it'. Ram Jam is one of her own yarns and is a blend of British fleece that would otherwise have gone to waste. What could the new addition be?

Ram Jam image courtesy of Daughter of a Shepherd

Tilly Flop Designs

The Knit Gift Kit will be on sale for the first time at EYF. According to Tilly Flop 'you'll get a sheet of wrapping paper, a greeting card, a tag with care details, a glassine envelope for all the important spares, a bulb pin to carefully fasten tag to the gift and a sachet of Soak'. Price TBC.

Knit Gift Kit image courtesy of Tilly Flop

Whistlebare will be launching its 'Canny Lass Collection' of knitting patterns. The company gave a sneak preview on Facebook of one of the designs ...

Image courtesy of Whistlebare

Shetland Wool Week

Each year Shetland Wool Week usually announces at EYF who this year's patron is going to be and also releases a hat pattern to give Wool Week goers enough time to knit it before the September event. We don't know for sure this is definitely be happening this year but if it does we'll let you now.

Are you going to EYF? Which stands have you got your eye on? A full list of exhibitors is available here.

Monday, 11 March 2019

Knit In Colour With West Yorkshire Spinners' New ColourLab DK range

Break out the paintbox because West Yorkshire Spinners' new wool range for Spring/Summer DK is unashamedly bright, bold and cheerful.

ColourLab DK is spun from 100% British wool and at £6.50 for a 100g ball, is aimed at the more price-conscious knitter who doesn't want to compromise on knitting with a wool-only yarn.
Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners

There are a whopping 18 solid shades and five self-striping shades to choose from in the launch. A WoollyYarn received the shades 'very berry' and 'zesty 'orange' for review.

The two shades pack a punch together. The wool has a slight halo, is strong and comes with the tagline 'reared, sheared and spun in Britain'. I haven't yet had time to knit them up, but feel that ColourLab DK would be a good workhorse choice for both jumpers and accessories.

In my Ravelry favourites is Marna Gilligan's The Simpler Sinister Sweater.

Image courtesy of Marna Gilligan
ColourLab DK's 'citrus yellow' and 'silver grey' would be perfect to knit this sweater with.

Bo Peep Luxury Baby DK Yarn

The ColourLab DK influence has filtered down to WYS' existing Bo Peep luxury baby DK yarn, with ten new solid shades and four pale variegated colours (not shown below) on sale for the Spring/Summer 2019 season.
Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners
The photo of the yarn really makes me feel that Spring is in the air, despite the gale blowing outside as I type. Bo Peep DK is a practical blend of 52% Falkland wool and 48 nylon, designed with knitting for babies in mind.

WYS sent A Woolly Yarn the shade 'apple', a fresh, unisex light green, for review.

The yarn feels very soft and smooth, certainly suitable to be worn next all but the most sensitive baby's skin. It's very budget, friendly, with a 50g ball selling for £3.95 from your local yarn stockist or directly from West Yorkshire Spinners. I've recently seen an appeal from a maternity unit wanting hats for premature babies and I'm planning to use this yarn for them.

Friday, 1 March 2019

Daughter Of A Shepherd's Guest Yarn Talk At Toft Studios

The lovely Rachel Atkinson at Toft
It's the second time that Toft in Dunchurch, Warwickshire, has invited a guest yarn into its shop and website for three months. 

This season the spotlight is on Daughter of a Shepherd's British wool, and to celebrate on 28th February DofaS, aka Rachel Atkinson, came to Toft to meet customers and tell all about her fascinating route from knitting and crochet tech editor to running her own wool ranges. And yes, she really is the daughter of a shepherd: her dad John works on the Escrick Park estate in Yorkshire caring for a flock of Hebridean sheep.

First off Toft's doors opened at 5pm to enable all of us lucky to have booked a ticket to the event to have a browse, squish and make ample use of the tea, coffee, bubbly, canap├ęs and cake on offer. Atkinson, a fellow Yorkshire lass, mingled with the guests, one of which I recognised as the sock goddess Rachel Coopey

Sadly it was crowded and busy and I didn't have time to introduce myself and see if she was wearing a pair of her own sock creations! (See Review of Coopknits Socks Yeah! DK Vol 1+ Yarn). In a past career I was a content producer at the BBC and often ended up a lift or in the cafe with people on the TV I recognised but who of course didn't know me from Adam. I never knew whether just to smile politely, call them by the first name, or pretend I didn't know them for fear of looking like a groupie. One one earth-swallowing occasion I enthusiastically greeted an older woman whom I thought was perhaps a friend of my mum, only for her to look at me like I'd escaped from a psychiatric hospital. After thinking she was very rude it twigged that she wasn't one of my mother's pals after all, but in fact the then Watchdog and The Weakest Link TV presenter Anne Robinson. Thankfully this reaction has never happened to me in the knitting world!

But back to the wool. Toft set up a stand to display Rachel's natural and undyed wool. There are also some knitted up hat samples to squish to show how the colours work together.

As well as the wool, DofaS sells blankets, tote bags and other goodies such as her first pattern book, Volume 1: Beginnings, which contains ten designs.

Image courtesy of Daughter of a Shepherd
The most popular pattern from the book, says Atkinson, is her own cardigan design, Skipwith. Sadly we couldn't try on the sample on display!

Next up Toft's founder, Kerry Lord, introduced Atkinson, who then talked about the work that goes into turning a fleece into a very covetable yarn. 

Rachel Atkinson and Kerry Lord
The initial idea
Nearly four years ago Atkinson was visiting her dad when the cheque arrived from the Wool Board, the non-profit organisation where all UK fleeces have to be sent to sell. It was for 10% of the value - a whopping 94 pence. It wasn't financially worth the cost in packing and transporting the fleece to the Wool Board and therefore it was in danger of being dumped. As a knitter Atkinson knew the fleece had the potential to make great yarn so she asked the estate owner if she could buy it and after doing her research took the fleeces after scouring to John Arbon's mill for them to be worsted spun into pure Hebridean wool skeins.

The pitfalls
After spinning 25 kilos Arbon said he couldn't spin any more because the fibres were too short, but Atkinson wasn't going to be put off by the challenge. The remedy was to blend the Hebridean with 25% Zwarbles. When it came to spinning another batch a year later there was another difficulty. Sheep fleeces vary depending on the health of the sheep and the weather. The latest fibres much shorter than the previous ones and the solution they came up with was to blend the Hebridean with Exmoor Blueface. Shades can change from year to year too. Said Atkinson, 'you never know what's going to come off the sheep!'

Expanding the DofaS range
The initial Hebridean yarn is now called Heritage 4ply. A shearer friend of Atkinson's collected fleeces from clients who would otherwise has destroyed them and they made their way into her Ram Jam line, £9 for a 50g DK skein, currently available in four colours although another grey is on the way.

For aran fans there's Brume, a blend of Hebridean and Zwarbles. Finally there's Castlemilk Moorit DK, spun from the fleeces of that rare breed. 

The earthy brown Castlemilk Moorit DK.
These are all warm, hardworking yarns for knitters who like to know the provenance of their wool and who prefer natural shades.

Kerry Lord explained that she'd chosen Daughter of a Shepherd as a guest yarn because that brand's small batch spinning and natural colour palette ethos mirrored Toft's beginnings.

After the talk it was time to go shopping, with the range proving a hit with the attendees. As for me, I went home empty handed because when I opened up my handbag I realised I'd forgotten my purse ...

Daughter of a Shepherd's wool will be on sale at Toft until the end of May.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Review of Pompom Quarterly Number 28 - The Botanical Issue

Image courtesy of Pompom
Pompom Quarterly magazine does what it says on the tin - it issues four editions per year, one to coincide with each season. Published in London with contributors from across the globe, each issue has a theme, the latest being botanics. Think plants, flowers and a recipe for a classic Jazz Age cocktail with home-infused gin.

Number 28 certainly is an issue with Spring in mind, with patterns mainly featuring sportweight/light fingering/4ply yarns. The A5 sized book oozes quality with its stunning photography (great to see models of different ages and races represented), freshly-printed smell and thick paper.

And so to the patterns!

There are nine in this issue, six knitting and three crochet. That's great if you are proficient in both crafts but personally, as a keen knitter whose crochet skills languish the bottom of the beginners' level, it's disappointing to see a pattern in a knitting magazine that you'd love to knit, only to find out it's crochet. I'm assuming that Pompom has done market research and that's why it's trying to please fans of both crafts, but Pompom is primarily known as a knitting magazine and in my opinion, long may it stay that way!

For me the stand-out pattern this issue is Kelly Ordemann's Adiantum.

Image courtesy of Pompom and Carolyn Carter
Described as 'the consummate spring layering piece for unpredictable days', this 4-ply jumper is inspired by sprigs of thyme and I adore the foliate motifs on the neckline and yoke. Adiantum has jumped straight onto my 'to knit' list. The yarn is Woollenflower Masgot Fine, naturally dyed by Julia Billings in Glasgow. She's currently selling a yarn kit from £49 plus P&P, depending on the size you want to knit. I confess I've bought one and intend to make a cropped version of the jumper.

Next is the cover pattern Woodwardia by Lydia Gluck.

Image courtesy of Pompom and Carolyn Carter
My first impression is that it's quite similar to Kate Davies' Carbeth sweater that took the knitting world by storm last year. If you look closely, however, Woodwardia isn't as cropped and also has a lovely geometric fern-like stitch pattern that follows the raglan shaping. It's knitted in worsted weight yarn.

The botanical theme continues with Liza Laird and Kate Maddens' Sweetfern.

Image courtesy of Pompom and Carolyn Carter

This adorable hat, knitted from the bottom up, uses two colours of 4-ply yarn and has a slouchy fit at the top. The body of Sweetfern has a garter stitch and brioche pattern, complemented by the light, leafy front design.

Aurea by Stella Egidi is a rectangular stole.

Image courtesy of Pompom and Carolyn Carter
The magazine says the design is inspired by Soleirolia soleirolii aurea, which 'commonly grows alongside ferns in damp, dark places'. It's knitted in fingering/4-ply weight yarn.

Amber Platzer Corcoran's Vivarium is bright, DK weight sweater for Spring days.

Image courtesy of Pompom and Carolyn Carter
The magazine says that 'Our Vivarium pays homage to the ingenuity of the ethical gardener and the everyday magic of the humble garden.' It's a boxy, oversized jumper with folky, plant colourwork.

The final knitting pattern is Ginkgophyte, a lightweight top that will keep you going throughout Spring and Summer.

Image courtesy of Pompom and Carolyn Carter
It's knitted in lightweight yarn and uses lacy columns of eyelid ribbing to form the large gingko leaf shape across the bodice.

Which is your favourite?

Click through to Ravelry to see the three crochet patterns:

1. Isa Catepillan's Water Clover, a boxy floral lace top
2. Judith Brand's Filix wristwarmers
3. Isa Catepillan's Davallia cardigan come shawl with tassels.

Pompom Quarterly Number 28 costs £12.50 plus P&P direct from the publishers, which includes access to the digital version.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Review of Coopknits' Socks Yeah! DK Vol 1 + Yarn

Image courtesy of Coopknits
Having previously bought sock afficianado Rachel Coopey's Socks Volume 2, and knitting the starter Dave socks, I was pleased to see that she has published a book Socks Yeah! Volume One DK in January to support her own Socks Yeah! DK yarn.

The book contains eight original sock designs in various degrees of difficulty to suit both the new sock knitter and those who love to combine colour, lace and cable in one design.

The print book costs £12 plus P&P and is available from Coopknits' own shop and other retailers. If you're happy just with an ebook version you can forgo the P&P and download it for £12 at Ravelry.

I bought the book from AC Knitwear who at the time I bought it were selling the book and three 50g skeins of Socks Yeah! DK at a discount. It was difficult to choose which three colours to go for but in the end I plumped for Sphene, Tyburn and Fleet to knit the stripy sock pattern Zlonk.

The darker colours are described as grey but look a lot bluer in the photos and real life. They really make the mustard yellow of Sphene pop. My plan was that the socks' stripes would be a gentle introduction to the knitting the patterns from the book and that once I've mastered them I can move on to something more difficult such as the pink-toed Pow.

Coopey says that as the socks are knitted in DK weight they're perfect for keeping your feet cosy in colder weather. Using a 3mm circular needle rather than the usual 4mm for DK weight means that the knit is slightly denser and sturdier than usual.

At the end of book are very helpful photographic tutorials covering the long-tail cast on and Kitchener stitch - although I've used the grafting technique plenty of times I always need a quick refresher.

It's a pleasure to knit with Socks Yeah! DK as it doesn't split and is smooth to the touch. The yarn is a blend of 75% merino and 25% nylon. A 50g skein costs £6 plus P&P. At present there are 16 shades to choose from, some of which are pictured below:

Image courtesy of Coopknits
Here's where I'm up to so far with sock number one!

I'm taking a little holiday and am hoping that I'll be going from cold England to something akin to this:

I'll be taking Socks Yeah! DK with me to keep me occupied in case the reality is more like this!

Coming soon

When A Woolly Yarn's holiday is over we'll be reviewing

  • West Yorkshire Spinners' latest yarn releases
  • Erika Knight's Wool Local.
If you enjoy reading A Woolly Yarn then a nomination for the British Knitting & Crochet Awards 2019, in the knitting blog category (question 20) would be much appreciated. It's also your chance to support your local yarn store, favourite designer and wool brands. Plus everyone who nominates has the chance to win a year's worth of yarn!

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Is It Cruel To Sheep To Knit With Wool?

It's a topic that provokes fierce opinions on all sides and one that, as 'Veganuary' has come to a close, is becoming important to a growing number of people who choose to avoid meat, dairy and animal products in the name of animal welfare. Two A Woolly Yarn readers separately requested that we cover the issue: is it cruel to sheep to knit with wool?

Image courtesy of PETA
In August 2018 the topic hit the headlines with the release of a video taken in the UK by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) capturing abuse of sheep by sheep shearers, which caused outrage in the media and was criticised alike by those within the farming industry.

According to the National Sheep Association, sheep are shorn once a year, usually in May to "ensure sheep do not get too hot and start to attract flies". On 22nd August 2018, as a reaction to PETA's video, British Wool, the Farmers Union of Wales, the National Association of Agricultural Contractors, the National Farmers Union, NFU Cymru and the National Sheep Association released a joint statement stating that "Farmers and contractors within the sheep industry take animal welfare very seriously and any behaviour that is found to fall below that standard is not tolerated. Shearing is an absolutely necessary activity to ensure that wool can be removed safely to protect sheep from heat stress and disease."

Elisa Allen, Director of PETA UK, however, disagrees about the ethics of shearing. She told A Woolly Yarn that "claiming that shearing is 'just a haircut' is like saying that amputation is 'just a paper cut'. In the wool industry, time is money, and since most shearers are paid by volume, they're motivated to work as quickly as possible with little regard for sheep's welfare. In their haste, they cut animals' body parts right off - including ears, teats, tails and testicles".

Image courtesy of the National Sheep Association
Farmers argue that it would be cruel NOT to shear sheep. The board of directors of the American Society of Animal Science say that "as long as there are sheep, shearing must be practiced for the health and hygiene of each animal. Unlike animals, most sheep are unable to shed." The problems that can occur if a sheep goes too long without being shorn, they say, include the sheep becoming overheating and dying; infections caused by urine and other materials becoming trapped in the wool and attracting pests; and lack of mobility making sheep more susceptible to predator attacks.

The majority of wool shorn from sheep in the UK goes to the co-operative British Wool, where it is graded and sold on to the international textile industry. The best quality clips may be selected to be processed and spun for hand knitting. Allen argues this is wrong, saying "sheep's wool, just like foxes' fur, is not 'fabric', and it doesn't belong to us. It had an owner who was violently robbed of it. With warm cruelty-free fabrics - including cotton, bamboo, hemp and soya-bean fibre - readily available, it's easier than ever to ditch wool and other animal-derived materials."

Not all knitters, however, want to ditch wool and argue that knitting with wool doesn't have to be incompatible with supporting animal welfare. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal stated that wool advocates "say they have been unfairly lumped in with crocodile hunters and mink farmers by overzealous do-gooders who fundamentally misunderstand what goes into sheep farming, not to mention the superior properties of wool". 

Image courtesy of PETA
When PETA put up billboards in Times Square, New York, and also Boston, displaying "a nude picture of actress Alicia Silverstone with the phrase 'Leave Wool Behind' across her backside", it angered some in the US knitting community. As the Wall Street Journal reported, author and knitting enthusiast Clara Parkes hit back saying "I know smaller producers who care for their flock better than they do their own family". The article went on to state that "The wool community says a big part of its problem is small US farms are taking the fall for rougher treatment and controversial practices employed by a few large wool producers."

Many knitters and small business have since spoken up in support of wool, for example the UK online yarn store Laughing Hens wrote in its newsletter "we know the importance of wool and natural fibres. In today's day and age, people are more conscious of their own environmental impact on a changing earth. Wool is renewable, biodegradable, and one of the warmest, most insulating natural fibres available."

Yet the reported maltreatment of sheep doesn't end with shearing. PETA's Elisa Allen points out that "once sheep have outlived their usefulness for wool production, they aren't given a peaceful retirement - instead, they're sent to slaughter, often packed by the thousands onto enormous ships bound for unregulated Middle Eastern abattoirs, where their throats are slit whilst they're still completely conscious."

image courtesy of Izzy Lane
Here in the UK there's a growing movement against this treatment of sheep. Izzy Lane is a British farmer who rescues sheep so they can live out their lives on her land in the Yorkshire Dales. As well as fashion produced ethically from wool from her flock she sells her own yarn range to raise awareness of animal welfare. Lane says that she launched her Izzy Lane brand in 2007 "to help save the British textile industry - and closer to my heart - to give animals a voice in the fashion industry, as they had none. Up until now, there had been no traceability whatsoever of animal fibre." On her website she describes how she grew her flock of 600 rescued sheep, including saving ewes that had miscarried or missed a pregnancy, male lambs and some she intercepted on their way to a halal abattoir.

How can a knitter ensure the wool they buy comes from sheep that are well-treated and haven't been harmed during shearing? Izzy Lane advises to choose wool produced by a small business that can trace the fleece back to the farm it came from. She says: "There are lots of small breeders now whose principle reason is to produce wool, rather than it being a meat by-product, so I would seek out those small producers. And then ask the questions you would like to know about their welfare and their slaughter policy."

Businesses such as Daughter of a Shepherd and Uist Wool are other examples of yarn vendors with strong traceability. Wool from such small businesses may work out more expensive than that from large companies who do not give the provenance of their fleece, but for those who want to knit with wool and appreciate its eco-credentials it's a small price to pay for the knowledge that the product comes from a farm that has high sheep welfare standards.

Vegan-friendly yarns

Ultimately whether to knit with wool is down to an individual's own conscience.  Knitters who do not want to knit with animal fibres have a great deal of options to choose from, but these must be weighed up against the environmental costs of their yarn choice's production: for example the WWF warns it takes 20,000 litres of water to produce a kilogram of cotton. Yarns that are made with petrochemicals, such as polyester and acrylic, use up finite fossil fuels.

One answer for vegan knitters could be to use recycled yarns, with the caveat that the recycling process itself requires energy and some yarns only contain a partial amount of reused material.

Wool and the Gang's latest launch New Wave Yarn, is created from 53% cotton and 47% recycled polyester.  The company says that each 100g ball contains the equivalent of three recycled plastic bottles.
Image courtesy of Wool and the Gang
Other recycled yarns on the market include Erika Knight's Studio Linen, a blend of 15% premium linen and 85% recycled rayon-linen fibre; and Hoooked's EkoYarn, consisting of 80% recycled cotton and 20% other recycled fibres.

Can you recommend any other recycled yarns? Let us know in the comments box below or A Woolly Yarn's Facebook page.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Which Are Your Most-Loved Knits?

Is there a pattern you've knitted that you've really, really loved?

With Valentine's Day coming up, it got me thinking Carrie Bradshaw-style about the hand-made knits I've loved, whether they're a long-term relationship like my Big Wool heart jumper or something new that I'm still in the early throws of delight with.

Going through my wardrobe of knitted clothes and accessories for this article I differentiated between the ones I enjoyed knitting and like the look of and the ones I've actually worn lots. I don't know if you're like me, but although I haven't got oodles of clothes, although I'm certainly not in need of any more, I tend on an everyday level to stick to a small selection of them and keep others for 'best'.

The jumper

Quite a few years ago I knitted Rowan's heart jumper using their Big Wool. The pattern was from the now discontinued Easy Winter Knits collection, and, after some internet searching, I found that at the time of writing there's one copy left at the online yarn store English Yarns

I'm very fond of this jumper. It's very warm, is roomy enough to fit over other layers, and goes very well with jeans. Indeed I liked it so much I knitted two more for my friends. I was a beginner then to intarsia and three goes at knitting the heart taught me a lot about stranded colourwork and twisting the two yarns so there are no holes - although my technique at sewing in the ends still leaves a lot to be desired! 

I've worn the heart jumper so much that it has become bobbled and, to use a euphemism, rather 'well worn', but it's still my go-to warmer on very cold days around the house when I want to put on an old favourite.

The socks

I actually took these off my feet today to photograph them. They were one of my earliest attempts at sock knitting, made with a one-off yarn colour Knitterbocker Glory that West Yorkshire Spinners released for Yarn Shop Day in 2015. Being DK weight the socks are slightly too thick to wear in the summer with trainers but they hit the spot in the Winter when it comes to wearing them with boots or just on their own in the house to keep my feet warm. They've been washed and worn so many times that they've moulded themselves to my feet shape.

The scarf/cowl

When I came back to knitting in adulthood I discovered the yarn at Toft Alpaca, whose HQ is about a 20 minute drive from my house. Nowadays the company is concentrating on its very popular crochet animals range but back then, before the publication of Toft's book Edward's Menagerie, which spawned many sequels, their focus was firmly on knitting. This scarf/cowl's (a thin knitted scarf sewn up at the cast on and off ends) pattern included ladder stitch. As a relative beginner it seemed to me totally counter-intuitive to drop a stitch but I quickly learned the technique.

I've knitted many other cowls since then - and have published my own patterns for a few on A Woolly Yarn - but when it's a bit chilly this is the one I reach for most. It's knitted in a grey lace weight yarn (sadly Toft no longer produces it) and goes with absolutely everything.

The festive knit

I finished knitting Ginger Twist Studio's Vintage Winter jumper last Spring having bought the kit at Christmastime 2017. After wearing it near-constantly in December 2018 I'm still in the throws of adoration for its boxy fit, the incredible warmth of the green aran yarn and the sheer fun of the design. Because it has Christmas trees on it's now back in the wardrobe until December 2019, but I'm currently knitting a non-festive version in Ginger's Sheepish Aran pink Trixie Mattel.

The cushion

Finally, as love affairs go this cushion, from a Debbie Bliss pattern book, is the woolly version of a pipe and slippers. When I got back into knitting as an adult I first knitting accessories and this cushion has been a mainstay on my sofa for many years, way before I tried knitting socks, in the round or intarsia. It doesn't have to impress, it's happy in its own skin and it's very comfy to cuddle up to.

A Valentine's treat for yourself

Want a quick woolly purchase for a treat? In this freezing weather I can recommend this fleece-lined bobble hat from Herdy.  I bought in one in the purple colourway in the January sale to match my new coat - whilst I have  quite a few hats I've knitted myself, none really went with my purple coat. The Herdy hat is keeping my head extra warm in icy and snowy weather.

Image courtesy of Herdy
Herdy gives a percentage of its profits to the Herdyfund, which supports Cumbria's rural communities, Herdwick sheep and upland fell farming, which means you don't have to feel guilty about buying a hat instead of knitting one yourself. I haven't received a freebie or been paid to plug the hat - I just love it so much I want to spread the word!

Which are your most-loved hand knits? Please post a pic on A Woolly Yarn's Facebook page. It'd be great to see what they are!

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