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.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Yarn Shop Day 2017 Celebrations

Image courtesy of Let's Knit magazine
Today (May 6th) is Yarn Shop Day in the UK. Organised by Let's Knit magazine, its aim is to promote local yarn and haberdashery stores, encouraging customers both old and new to go through their doors.

Highlights of this year include:

Did your local yarn shop do anything to celebrate? Mine didn't! I do hope though that the day encouraged knitters to buy from bricks and mortar shops rather than the internet - shops can only know what customers want to buy if you tell them and there's nothing like a good squish and feel of a yarn before buying!

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Interpretations Volume 4 Review

Cover image courtesy of Pom Pom Press
Pom Pom Quarterly's ad hoc range of pattern book publications is back - this time with Volume 4 in the Interpretations series.

A print and digital copy costs £15.50 + £2.70 P&P directly from Pom Pom.

The 12 patterns, created by friends Jojo Locateli and Veera Valimaki, were inspired by six words: gather, chromatic, magic, fragile, direction and hidden. Amongst the jumpers, cardigans, shawls and cowls there are designs both to keep you warm in chilly Spring or lighter weights for warmer nights.

With me not being a shawl or hap kind of person it was inevitable that my eye would be drawn first to the jumpers and cardigans, including the covetable cover design 'double trouble' (see right). Part of the 'magic' theme it's stylish, warm and woolly plus the pattern looks relatively easy to knit.

Another pattern that looks perfect for Spring through to Summer is 'Radiate', part of the 'chromatic' theme.
It's fun, pink and puts a smile on my face straight away!
'Radiate' image courtesy of Pom Pom Press

For warmer nights the lace weight yarn used for 'The 'Little Bird Pullover', part of the 'fragile' theme,  is soft and delicate. The pattern itself is suitably challenging for intermediate knitters.

'Little Bird Pullover' image courtesy of Pom Pom Press
After a huge project? The 'Winterfolk Coat' from the 'gather' theme looks like a garment that will be worn again and again for years to come. I love its hood and cabling down the front and back.

'Winterfolk Coat' image courtesy of Pom Pom Press
Although, as I've mentioned, shawls and haps aren't my thing, the 'Color Spell Shawl', also part of the magic theme, looks both heavenly and a knitting challenge.

'Color Spell Shawl' image courtesy of Pom Pom Press

The book itself is a a handy A5 size and lives up to the high art and editorial standards of Pom Pom Quarterly. It's a great addition to my collection and to the Pom Pom range.

* Although I received a review copy of this book all views are my own.




Thursday, 30 March 2017

Daughter Of A Shepherd & Samite Yarn Launches

This week lovers of British wool have two more yarns to choose from. 

Image courtesy of Daughter of a Shepherd

Rachel Atkinson's Daughter of  A Shepherd 2016 batch launches today at 8pm BST exclusively on her website. The Hebridean blend yarn is undyed and available both in DK and 4ply/fingering weights. Last year's batch sold old quickly. The wool clip comes from sheep on the Escrick Park Estate where her father shepherds.

The price will be announced when the yarn goes on sale.

Want something more colourful?

Samite image courtesy of Blacker Yarns
Blacker Yarns' new Samite range went on sale last week offering 15 shades inspired by the pre-Raphaelite and Arts and Crafts Movements. The skeins are are 3ply silk blend containing a mixture of 30% Blue Faced Leicester, 40% Shetland, 20% Ahimsa silk and 10% Gotland. Each 100g skein costs £24.60.

Two free patterns on the Blacker Yarns' website support the yarn: a hap and a scarf.

I haven't had chance yet to sample either yarn but hope to do so and review so in the future.

Coming Soon

Look out for my review of Pom Pom Press' Interpretations: Volume 4!

Saturday, 11 March 2017

This Year's Shetland Wool Week Patron & Free Hat Pattern Announced

Who will be this year's Shetland Wool Week patron? That was the question on the lips of many an Edinburgh Yarn Fest visitor. Yesterday (Friday 10th March) their patience was rewarded with Shetland Wool Week's stand revealing that Gudrun Johnston is taking the coveted patron role in 2017, and she has designed the Bousta Beanie hat (see the image below) so that knitters all over the world can join in the fun.

Image courtesy of Shetland Wool Week
The pattern is free to download from the Shetland Wool Week website. Johnston has used an autumnal palette of greys and mustard for her version, but knitters have the challenge to come up with their own colour scheme.

Gudrun Johnston was born in Shetland in the 1970s and is now based in America. Her love for her homeland, however, runs deep and inspires her designs that she publishes under The Shetland Trader name. 

This year is the eight Shetland Wool Week. Details of events and classes will be released soon. 

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

International Women's Day

Image courtesy of International Women's Day
March 8th is International Women's Day, a chance to celebrate the social, economic, political and cultural achievement of women. Whilst there are some great men in the knitting industry (Jared Flood and Kaffe Fassett to name just two) it's predominately one where creative females are at the forefront of development whether it be running businesses, organising charity knits or celebrating traditional skills in their local community.

To mark the day here's my round-up of British women currently leading the way. Apologies if you think I've left out someone you think is important. Please let me know in the comments box below who you would add to the list.

Here are the women in surname order:

Countess Ablaze: expert ultra-colourful yarn dyer Countess Ablaze is about to open new premises in Manchester. Her latest subscription club is The Classics Society.

Rachel Atkinson: the real life daughter of a shepherd used clip from the sheep on the estate her father shepherds to produce her undyed, limited-edition, sustainable yarn skeins. She also regularly contributes patterns to many UK knitting magazines.

Jen Arnall-Culliford: she is a knitting technical expert and editor who writes regular columns for The Knitter magazine demystifying techniques such as steeking and short-row shaping. With her equally talented husband Jim she's due to publish the book A Year of Techniques.

Debbie Bliss: now an MBE, Bliss is an internationally-known name in British knitting. She has published over 35 books, her own knitting magazine and her some of her yarn ranges are British Knitting Award winners.

Verity Britton: she founded Leeds-based yarn shop baaramewe in 2009. Since then the business has launched its own-brand British wool ranges and has championed Yorkshire wool.

Susan Crawford: vintage designer and knitting historian whose Vintage Shetland Project book is eagerly awaited this year. Crawford's honest blog posts detailing her cancer diagnosis and treatment in the past year have inspired and informed many readers.

Kate Davies: with her own yarn Buachaille yarn range, numerous pattern books and an award for UK microbusiness of the year under her belt, Scottish-based Davies is going from strength to strength.

Isla Davison: back in 2015 Davison launched Brityarn, a website with the ethos to only sell British patterns, wool and knitting accessories. It's the first port of call for knitters who want to be sure the yarn they pick is British.

Di Gilpin: her knitwear design business employs 90 home-based knitters across Scotland. She also sells her own range of 100% Scottish lambswool.

Kate Heppell: she has edited Knit Now magazine since it launched in October 2011. The magazine is an entry and intermediate-level publication, which encourages both new and established designers to submit their patterns.

Ann Kingstone: based in Yorkshire, designer Kingstone has written many a pattern book inspired by her surroundings and is an expert on stranded knits.

Kerry Lord: Lord founded and runs Toft Alpaca in Warwickshire, which produces its own sumptuous yarns, knitting and crochet patterns, and quarterly magazine. She is probably best-known for her Edward's Menagerie book range.

Louise Scollay: she is the brainchild and editor of the blog and podcast website KnitBritish. Scollay has done much to raise the profile and benefits of British wool in an entertaining fashion. Catch her at Edinburgh Yarn Festival this weekend on 10th and 11th March where she will be running the podcast lounge.

Marie Wallin: formerly Head Designer at Rowan, Wallin now runs workshops, has her own Fairisle Club Knitalong and publishes beautiful hand-knit colourwork designs.

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