Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Christmas Gifts For Knitters 2017

If, like us, you've not finished your Christmas shopping yet, here's our pick of gifts for the knitter in your life. You can buy them all on the internet with a glass of mulled wine in your hand, saving lots of shopping time that can be used to eat mince pies with your feet up instead. Result!


Brit Aran by Rainbow Heirloom

A skein of this 100% British Bluefaced Leicester wool, dyed in one of Rainbow Heirloom's signature shades, would make a great gift. A 100g skein costs £16 plus P&P and is quite enough to knit a cosy cowl. Our favourite hue is Princess Rockstar - a purple that will blast the Winter blues away!

Princess Rockstar image courtesy of Rainbow Heirloom


Magazine Subscription from Toft

The Warwickshire based yarn business's magazine, launched in 2016, is going strong. Toft Quarterly, as its name suggests, is published four times a year and contains five crochet and five knitting patterns, news from the business and other relevant articles. It's short and sweet with sumptuous photography. A year's subscription costs £32 plus P&P.

Image courtesy of Toft

'No Such Thing As Too Much Yarn' print by Tilly Flop

Wool lovers will be delighted by this fun green print to hang on the wall. Tilly Flop sells her designs on Not On The High Street - take a look at her cards as well. The print costs £17.50 plus P&P.

Image courtesy of Tilly Flop

Daala Mist skein from Langsoond Yarn

This DK yarn skein was produced from a 2016 of 100% Shetland wool. It's a beautiful mixture of coloured fleeces blended with natural white. Direct from Donna Smith's online shop the 220m skein costs £18 plus P&P. Perfect for lovers of British wool.

Image courtesy of Donna Smith

Ethel Canvas Shopping Bag from BritYarn

Ethel is the logo for BritYarn's website. Not only does this bag have a cute print but it can double up to be used for shopping or storing yarn. Made from unbleached and undyed canvas. The bag costs £7 plus P&P from BritYarn.

Image courtesy of BritYarn


Stitchmas Hat Decoration from PomPom

We love this wooden decoration for the Christmas tree. Leave it as it is or embroider through the holes to add a spot of colour. Measures 70mm by 63mm and costs £8 plus P&P from PomPom.

Image courtesy of PomPom

British Wool Socks from Baa Ram Ewe

Didn't quite have time to knit socks for presents? Thanks to Baa Ram Ewe you can buy them ready-made with wool spun in Yorkshire. Available in adult sizes medium in large in shades from Baa Ram Ewe's own British yarn ranges. Each pair costs £12 plus P&P directly from Baa Ram Ewe.

Image courtesy of Baa Ram Ewe

Stoneware Pottery Yarn Bowl from Little Wren Pottery

Follow the Christmas star with this decorated yarn bowl in forest green. It's handmade and has a curving shape to hook your yarn through, which leads down to a circle surrounded by a star. Made in Yorkshire. Buy from Little Wren's Potter shop on Etsy for £13 plus P&P.

Image courtesy of Little Wren Pottery

Yellow Mobile Phone Case from Debbie Bliss

Debbie Bliss isn't just a fabulous knitwear designer, she also runs a quirky online shop selling homewares and gifts. This mobile phone case with its distinctive double rib knitted design comes in a variety of sizes to suit Samsung Galaxy and iPhones. Also available in grey and pink, the case costs £19.95 plus P&P from Debbie Bliss Home.
Image courtesy of Debbie Bliss

Candy Cane Yarn Signature 4 Ply from West Yorkshire Spinners

Sock knitters will smile at this year's West Yorkshire Spinners limited edition Christmas yarn. This 75% wool and 25% nylon blend comes with a free sock pattern designed by Winwick Mum. The 100g ball costs £7.20 plus P&P directly from WYS.

Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners



The Classics Society Subscription Yarn Box by Countess Ablaze

Are you looking for a gift for a really, really special knitter? A 12-month one-skein subscription including UK postage costs £372 from Manchester-based yarn dying supremo Countess Ablaze. For that the lucky recipient will get through the post one 100g fingering weight skein per month, a booklet, plus a small, hand-designed gift. The 2018 theme is architecture in the ancient world. The montage photo below is of previous boxes.

Image courtesy of Countess Ablaze


Knitting Books

Finally, we have reviewed a number of books on A Woolly Yarn this year. Here are our favourites to gift under the tree:

  1. This Thing Of Paper by Karie Westermann
  2. Shetland by Marie Wallin
  3. The Titus Vintage Collection by Alison Moreton



Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Seven Christmas Jumper Patterns For 2017

Sleek or silly? Understated or pom poms and tinsel? Whatever your style there are patterns here for all the family to make a Christmas knit you'll never forget!
1. Looking for a super-Christmassy his and hers knit to throw on every year? This Sirdar pattern of a reindeer cocooned in a stripy scarf fits the bill. Available to download from Black Sheep Wools, it requires 3.25mm and 4.mm knitting needles and costs £2.75.

Image courtesy of Sirdar

2. For a more subtle look, Baa Ram Ewe is selling a pattern and yarn bundle to knit the Skรณgafjall Sweater. Its wintery, Scandinavian-feel design is knitted in the company's Dovestone Aran wool, including a green shade that's only available in this bundle.  The kit costs £120 direct from the Baa Ram Ewe website.

Image courtesy of Baa Ram Ewe

3. Little girls in your life will love this Dasher cardigan designed by Yorkshire-based knitter Ann Kingstone. Whilst it is bright and fun the reindeer add a touch of old-fashioned festivity to this cardigan that's destined to become a classic. The pattern is graded for ages one to nine and costs £5.25 from Ravelry.

Image courtesy of Susan Campbell
4. Head to John Lewis to buy this King Cole adult Christmas jumper pattern. The man's design has candy canes around the yoke whereas the women's has mistletoe. Change the body colour to something more vibrant if you want a more festive hue than black! The pattern costs £3.
Image courtesy of King Cole


5. Practice your intarsia skills with this snowflake jumper pattern from Wendy in white and turquoise. A red background with a white snowflake would also look great. Little Lamb Wool sells the pattern for £2.75.

Image courtesy of Wendy
6. Download this cute child's Christmas jumper pattern for free from Let's Knit magazine. The snowman, along with the smaller version to fit a teddy bear, are sure to delight little ones age two to seven. 

Image courtesy of Let's Knit

7. After a Fair Isle Scandinavian style sweater that's unique to you? Tin Can Knits' Strange Brew pattern shows you how to create your own design - knit it using prodigious amounts of red, green and white and you'll end up with a festive delight! The pattern costs $7 and lists 25 sizes from baby to extra large adult. 

Image courtesy of Tin Can Knits

Want more?

See these Christmas jumper posts from our archive:
What's your favourite Christmas jumper knit? Do post your pics on our Facebook page

Friday, 1 December 2017

This Thing Of Paper By Karie Westermann Review + Our Prize Winner!

Image courtesy of Karie Westermann
My copy of Karie Westermann's pattern book This Thing Of Paper, inspired by the designer's lifelong love of books and manuscripts, arrived hot off the press the day after its publication day, which was November 30th 2017. Westermann took to crowdfunding to fund her first book: a whopping 725 people (including me!) prepaid for their copy in anticipation.

It's a beautifully-produced paperback book - the first to be included in the Gutenberg Museum's archive of book history -  and has a Ravelry code for pattern downloads. This Thing Of Paper is a mixture of 11 patterns, grouped by the themes manuscript, invention and printed, and essays that mull over the themes and knitting. As such this is a book to read rather than just flicking through the lushly-photographed photos and patterns.

One thing that's desirable about Westermann's previous work is that it's covetable but also accessible - advanced beginners and intermediate knitters can get stuck in to her patterns with gusto without coming unstuck. Stitches are in the patterns because they produce a striking, simple effect and not because they show off the designer's technical skills. Another plus point is that Westermann makes extensive use of British yarns from the Blacker Yarns brand.

This is not a vanity project, but rather a homage to Johannes Gutenberg and his invention of the printing press circa 1450. As Westermann says in her introduction, she worked directly with primary sources ranging from fourteenth-century illuminated manuscripts to sixteenth-century embroidery manuals: "I have not attempted to reconstruct any fourteenth-, fifteenth- or sixteenth-century garments ... but rather that I have let my research guide my design instincts."

And so to the patterns!

The first to go on my knitting needles will be Letterpress, as it is a stash buster that won't take too long to knit. The cowl is worked in the round and has a cable pattern worked without a cable needle. It uses Blacker Yarns British Classic Aran.
Letterpress image courtesy of Karie Westermann

The Vellum cardigan is inspired by the laborious processes involved in producing medieval manuscripts and is knitted in Blacker Yarns Tamar DK. Its yoke pattern is a delight.

Vellum image courtesy of Karie Westermann

The Scriptorium Mittens use Blacker Yarns Swan 4 ply and have a charted pattern.

Scriptorium image courtesy of Karie Westermann

The Psalter shawl has a slip-stitch section with a deep applied edge and is made with DyeNinja Camel Silk Fingering 4 ply.

Psalter image courtesy of Karie Westermann

Incanabula is another covetable cardigan pattern that will add a touch of style to your wardrobe. Knitted in Blacker Yarns British Classic DK it is worked bottom-up.

Incanabula image courtesy of Karie Westermann
The Majuscule and Minuscule hat and mittens set play with colour and are suitable for intermediate knitters. The patterns use Blacker Yarns Swan 4 ply.

Majuscule and Minuscule image courtesy of Karie Westermann
Second on my 'to knit' list from this book is the Marginalia jumper, inspired by footnotes in a book. The jumper is knitted in knitted with the wool and linen blend Blacker Yarns Lyonesse DK.

Marginalia image courtesy of Karie Westemann
The Biblioteca shawl uses Ripples Crafts Hand Dyed Yarns Quinag Bluefaced Leicester and  is worked top-down to its full wingspan.

Biblioteca image courtesy of Karie Westermann
Finally Woodcut is a traditional garter stitch hap shawl.  It's knitted using Blacker Yarns St Kilda Laceweight.

Woodcut image courtesy of Karie Westermann
The book is a delight, well worth the wait for its crowdfunding backers, and would make a gratefully-received  gift for both knitters and book scholars alike. The inclusion of both accessories and garments in various weights means This Thing Of Paper covers all bases and knitterly desires.

The book costs £18.99 plus P&P directly from Karie Westermann (although due to high demand it won't reach you in time for Christmas). BritYarn has copies in stock at the time of writing for £18.95 plus P&P. Alternatively, if you only want the download, buy it for £19.20 at Ravelry.


Prize Winner

A big woolly thanks to everyone who entered our competition to win three 100g DK skeins of Baa Baa Brighouse yarn.

The winner, picked at random, is Lindsay Loughtman and A Woolly Yarn has contacted her to ask for her address.

Friday, 24 November 2017

The Lure Of Slow Knitting

When our Editor recently had a tidy up, which included listing all the yarns in her stash alongside the patterns she intended to knit with them, the total came to ridiculous and profligate 36.  That's 36 projects, involving jumpers, cardigans, socks, T-shirts and cowls, but not including the three already on her needles or the odds and ends of yarn stored 'just in case'.

Image courtesy of Abrams Craft
It's a situation that lots of people who have been knitting for many years can identify with. There's the special edition yarn you buy because there won't be another chance, the bargain wool that's lurking a the bottom of a cupboard, the sweater kit that you loved at the time but never got around to making ... and many more.

Just when did the excitement of choosing a new design to knit turn into guilt that you own enough already to keep you busy for the next few years? Plus how did deadlines for completing knitted presents and keeping up with your self-appointed knitting schedule eat away at the enjoyment of the craft itself?

In her book published in October 2017, published by Abrams, Hannah Thiessen argues for the concept of slow knitting: that is encouraging knitters to "step back, pare down, and celebrate the craftsmanship of their work". We haven't yet seen a copy of the book, but the concept is one that's very enticing.

Like its counterparts in slow cooking and slow TV, slow knitting's emphasis is on taking time to appreciate each stage and the finished item as a whole.

Want to give it a go? Here are A Woolly Yarn's tips for slow knitting:
  1. Think quality and not quantity. Sell or give to a charity shop any yarns in your stash you don't love. 
  2. Forget about setting yourself deadlines and goals. Knit for the love of it - it's a passion and not another thing to add to your 'to do' list.
  3. Only give a hand-knitted gift to someone you know will appreciate the time and effort that goes into it. 
  4. Don't rush - enjoy the craft of knitting and learning new techniques. It's tempting to always knit with the radio or TV on but for a change switch them off and totally concentrate on what's on your needles. 
  5. Don't buy any more yarns or patterns until you need them: you can always keep a list of your favourites on Ravelry for when that time comes. This way you'll recapture the excitement of choosing a project when there's nothing left in your stash to knit up. 
  6. When you do buy more yarn be selective and learn where it's from and how it is made. Knitting shows are great places to talk to small-scale British yarn makers and dyers and they are usually happy to explain the provenance of their product. Can you trace your hand-knitted jumper back to the herd of sheep the fleece came from?
  7. Protect your knitting time. Switch your phone off and try to ensure there won't be any distractions. Focus on your needles - save mentally planning your supermarket shopping list for another time!
Competition reminder

There's still time to win three 100g DK skeins of Baa Baa Brighouse yarn. You have until midnight on 30th November 2017 to enter! For full details see the competition blog post

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Kate Davies Launches West Highland Way Club

A recent retail trend amongst British designers and wool producers is to sell yarn and books as part of a club, where knitters pay up in advance before the individual designs are released. This year, for example, the format proved popular with Jen and Jim Arnall-Culliford's A Year Of Techniques book and optional knitting kit, and the yearly Neighbourhood Sheep Society Best of British Club is returning for 2018, offering as yet unseen yarn and patterns.

Kate Davies, based in Scotland, used the format when she launched her first yarn range Buachaille. Now she's returning to it for her latest yarn, Milarrochy Tweed.

Milarrochy Tweed image courtesy of Kate Davies
The club is called West Highland Way, in homage to her local landscape, and goes on sale worldwide at the Kate Davies Online Shop on Friday 17th November at 10am.

There are two options for the club available and its the first that has limited numbers. For £80 club subscribers will receive twelve 25g balls of Milarrochy Tweed, a canvas club bag, a weekly pattern delivered by email, 10% discount on the yarn from January to March 2018, and finally the 120 page print book.

Subscribers who don't want the yarn can plump for the second option, which costs £30 for the weekly patterns, 10% yarn discount and the print book, which will be posted out at the end of the club's run.

To whet knitters' appetites Davis has released images of the first pattern in the club, the Craigallian hat:
Craigallian hat image courtesy of Kate Davies
It suggests that the patterns in the club, which Davies says include accessories and garments, will contain stranded colour work, for which her 25g Milarrochy Tweed balls are ideally suited. Other yarns used will be her own Buachaille and Fyberspates' Cumulus.

Signing up to a yarn club is always a bit of a gamble because the patterns may not be to your taste or the yarn your preferred colour. Clubs benefit the designer because payment in advance can help with cashflow issues and knowing how many books and yarn balls to produce.

If you are a Kate Davies fan, however, and love her husband Tom's landscape photography, then buying the book and pattern package is a pretty safe bet. There's always a thrill in being one of the first to see a favourite designer's new patterns and not having to wait a few months until the book is published.

As for the more expensive option that includes the Milarrochy Tweed balls, that decision is between you, your stash and your bank balance. Or perhaps there's a friendly Father Christmas you can hint to?

Competition reminder

Our competition to win three 100g DK skeins of Baa Baa Brighouse yarn is now open! UK residents only (with apologies to our overseas readers) have until midnight on 30th November 2017 to enter. For full details see the competition blog post.

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Win Three Skeins Of Baa Baa Brighouse Yarn To Celebrate A Woolly Yarn's New Look!

Earlier in the month we launched our new logo, beautifully designed by Denise Burrows, and introduced the new strapline 'British Knitting News & Reviews' to explain what the blog is all about.

To celebrate and hopefully spread the word to lovers of British yarn who haven't got to know us yet we're offering the wonderful prize of three 100g DK skeins of hand-dyed yarn from Baa Baa Brighouse to one lucky winner! That's enough to knit a small jumper, cushion cover, or lots of accessories.



The competition is running on our Facebook page. Please do not enter via the comments box below because we don't want to fall foul of data protection laws or have you share your personal contact details with other readers.

So, without further ado, follow these instructions to enter:

1. Go to www.facebook.com/awoollyarn and click on the 'follow' button if you haven't done so already. This will deliver new A Woolly Yarn Facebook posts to your news feed. If you change your mind in the future (but we hope you won't!) you can unfollow us.

2. 'Like' the post with the competition details.

3. In the comments box under the competition details tell us which is your favourite A Woolly Yarn blog post and why.

The competition closes at midnight on 30th November. We'll announce the winner soon after and ask him/er to send a private message on Facebook to A Woolly Yarn with their postal details so they can receive their fabulous prize.

Please note that due to competition law and postage costs the competition is open to UK residents only, although we would of course love to hear the opinions of our overseas readers about their favourite A Woolly Yarn post.
Terms and conditions

1. The promoter is the A Woolly Yarn blog, which has no affiliation with Baa Baa Brighouse or Facebook.

2. The competition is open to residents of the UK aged 18 years or over.

3. There is no entry fee and no purchase necessary to enter this competition.

4. By entering this competition, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions.

5. This competition is running on A Woolly Yarn's Facebook page at www.facebook.com/awoollyyarn

6. Only one entry will be accepted per person. Multiple entries from the same person will be disqualified.

7. Closing date for entry will be midnight on 30th November 2017. After this date no further entries to the competition will be counted.

8. No responsibility can be accepted for entries not received for whatever reason.

9. The promoter reserves the right to cancel or amend the competition and these terms and conditions without notice in the event of a catastrophe, war, civil or military disturbance, act of God or any actual or anticipated breach of any applicable law or regulation or any other event outside of the promoter's control. Any changes to the competition will be notified to entrants as soon as possible by the promoter.

10. The promoter is not responsible for inaccurate prize details supplied to any entrant by any third party connected with this competition.

11. The prize is as follows: three 100g skeins of Baa Baa Brighouse hand-dyed DK wool for one winner. The prize is as stated and no cash or other alternatives will be offered. The prize is not transferable, is subject to availability and we reserve the right to substitute the prize with another of equivalent value without giving notice.

12. The winner will be chosen at the beginning of December.

13. The winner will be announced within seven days of the closing date on the A Woolly Yarn Facebook page and will be asked to send a private Facebook message with their contact details to A Woolly Yarn. If the winner does not claim the prize within 14 days of notification we reserve the right to withdraw the prize from the winner and pick a replacement winner.

14. The promoter will notify the winner when the prize is posted.

15. The promoter's decision in respect of all matters to do with the competition will be final and no correspondence entered into.

16. The competition and these terms and conditions will be governed by English law and any disputes will be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England.

17. The winner agrees to their name being published on the A Woolly Yarn Facebook page and blog. Any personal data relating to the winner or any other entrants will be used solely in accordance with current UK data protection legislation and will not be disclosed to a third party without the entrant's prior consent.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Dulux Colour Of The Year For 2018

The results are in - paint company Dulux has revealed that their colour for the year for 2018 is ...

wait for it ...

Heart Wood!

What? I hear you cry, heart wood is not a colour! Depending on how the light catches it Heart Wood is a mash up of brown, lilac and mauve that Dulux describes as 'a warm neutral with a hint of heather'.

Heart Wood image courtesy of Dulux
As colour trends tend to filter down to the catwalk we at A Woolly Yarn looked for similar shades in British yarn so knitters can pick up their needles straight away and be en vogue. Here's what we came up with:

1. West Yorkshire Spinners' Signature 4 Ply Spice Rack includes the shade Pennyroyal. It's slightly more lilac than Heart Wood but has the same warm, muted feel. Perfect for sock knitting. Each 100g ball costs £7.20 plus P&P direct from WYS.

Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners

2. This Blacker Yarn fits the bill perfectly but is currently out of stock - here's hoping more will by dyed soon. 'Bursting Figs' is a 3ply yarn from the Samite Silk range and, when available, costs £24.60 - an expensive choice but a good one for luxurious lace colourwork.

Image courtesy of Blacker Yarns
3. If you like to err on the purply side this Wensleydale Longwool Sheepshop Aran Wool in shade Wild Thyme, currently reduced to £5.90 a ball at BritYarn, is a great choice for cushion covers, jumpers and accessories.

Image courtesy of BritYarn
4. WoolyKnit's DK Blue Faced Leicester yarn in the shade mauve is slightly brighter than Heart Wood but, at £4.68 per 50g ball, is a bargain choice for jumpers and cardigans. One to keep you warm in Winter.


5. Jamieson's of Shetland sells a multitude of colours. Shade 603 Pot Pourri, from their Spindrift and Double Knitting range, is the closest to Heart Wood. A 25g ball costs £3 plus P&P direct from the company.

Image courtesy of Jamieson's of Shetland

Now all that's left to decide is what to knit with your on-trend colour yarn!

Coming soon

As you read this we're adding the final touches to our competition to celebrate A Woolly Yarn's super new logo. Hint ... three 100g skeins of British yarn will be up for grabs! Keep an eye on this blog and our Facebook page to be first to know when the competition launches.

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