Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Warning When Buying Yarn From Abroad

Image courtesy of cornbreadandhoney
One of the great things about the internet is that it has democratised the craft industry and allowed small producers and designers to reach a worldwide audience. Craftsy and Etsy showcase marvellous products that you can't find in the shops in your local area. But watch out - you could get caught out.

For a while I've been looking for wool to knit Andrea Mowry's So Faded jumper. I hadn't found a colourway that really popped out at me until I came across the Starry Night three skein set from cornbreadandhoney, a seller based in the US, on Etsy (see photo on the right).

Look at those gorgeous yellow and blues. They ticked all my boxes and I placed my order. The yarn worked out pretty good value with the dollar/pound sterling exchange rate and I was happy to pay to a larger than average postage charge considering the seller was posting from the US.

All seemed well until a Royal Mail bill for £20.87 arrived on my doorstep this morning.

It was for a £12.87 customs charge plus an eight pound 'handling fee'. The need to pay customs duty on the yarn because I'd bought it from abroad hadn't occurred to me. It wasn't mentioned on the seller's page although to be fair I wouldn't expect an owner/maker who sells all over the world to know the customs laws for each country.

Next I looked on Etsy to see if customs charges were mentioned anywhere. I went to the 'help' page and typed in 'customs duty'.  In the information for sellers there's a page stating that buyers are responsible for paying customs charges - as you would expect.

However I couldn't find any information for buyers warning about potential customs charges. There was no mention of them on my receipt or despatch notification.

Considering I'd already spent quite a bit of money on the yarn, and if I didn't pay the charges it would be sent back to the seller, I paid the customs charges. Now I'm waiting for the delivery. I'm sure the yarn will be fabulous and I mean no disrespect to the seller at all but I do think I should have been warned about extra charges. This was Etsy's reply when I contacted the company:
"Customs fees vary greatly from country to country, and fees aren't applied until the item reaches your country. Because sellers aren't able to predict what customs fees, if any, will be applied, we're unable to hold them responsible for unexpected fees or taxes."
The reply dodges my original question, which was why Etsy doesn't warn buyers about potential customs charges, at the checking out stage, when they are buying items from abroad.

Buyer beware!

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Tin Can Knits Launches Four Summer Patterns

I'm a great fan of Tin Can Knits, the designer duo where Emily is based in Scotland and Alexa in Canada, therefore it was great to hear today that they have published four new knitting patterns for summer. Having just finished knitting Karie Westermann's Vinterskov aran-weight sweater it's time to cast on something lighter on my needles.

Love Note

Image courtesy of Tin Can Knits
This cropped lacy sweater is my favourite out of the four new patterns. Tin Can Knits used a combination of single ply merino and mohair lace but the pattern would also work using a DK yarn. Rainbow Heirloom is selling a yarn kit for Love Note.

Penny Sweater

Image courtesy of Tin Can Knits

Choose whether to knit the Penny sweater in full or cropped length. There's a sweet lace pattern on the back as well as the front and it's knitted in DK yarn.

Penny Hat

Image courtesy of Tin Can Knits

Knitted in sock weight yarn this hat has a delicate sculptural lace pattern.


Image courtesy of Tin Can Knits

This shawl/oversized scarf has a delicate floral lace pattern. Choose to either knit it in light or heavyweight yarn.

All the patterns are available on Ravelry at approx £6.68. There's a discount of 25% off until the end of May 2019 if you buy all four together.

Monday, 6 May 2019

Do You Know Your Worsted From Your Woollen Spun?

However long you've been knitting, whether it's a few months or most of a lifetime, there's some knitting jargon and woolly processes that you think you know but when it comes to explaining them, well ... that's where the things start to fall down.

When I went to Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March I thought one of the most interesting stands was that of The Woolist. Its the brainchild of uber wool lover Zoe Fletcher, whose recently completed PhD was on the subject of British sheep and wool characteristics for knitwear.

Zoe Fletcher image courtesy of The Woolist
For her studies she travelled the UK to see all the different sheep breeds. At Edinburgh Yarn Festival she displayed the results of her research along with some very interesting wool facts. There were also samples of different wool breeds to squish.

The Woolist stall at EYF

With thanks to Zoe, here are five interesting woolly facts:
  1. Worsted and woollen spun refer to what happens to wool before it is spun. Worsted-spun yarns have their fibre straightened and aligned before spinning, resulting in a smooth yarn. Woollen-spun yarns, however, aren't straightened before spinning, trapping air and resulting in a matte surface with a soft halo when knitted up.
  2. Superwashed means that the wool has been chemically treated to either remove the wool fibre scales or smooth them over with a coating. This helps to prevent felting and shrinking when cleaned in a washing machine.
  3. 72 is the number of British sheep breeds in the UK according to the British Wool Marketing Board in 2011.
  4. The most predominant British breeds are the Shetland, Bluefaced Leicester, Herdwick and Jacob.
  5. Wicking is a term that means taking water away from the skin. Wool is able to absorb up to 30% of its weight without feeling damp.
Thanks to Zoe Fletcher, The Woolist and the EYF guide.

Read about Edinburgh Yarn Festival in The Knitter magazine

My feature on this year's EYF, along with lots of photos of sumptuous yarn, is in the latest issue of The Knitter magazine, which is issue 137.

Image courtesy of The Knitter

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Review of Knit Now Magazine's 2019 British Issue

Image courtesy of Knit Now
To use a well-worn cliche, knitting magazines' British wool special issues are like buses - you wait ages for one and then two come along nearly at once.

On April 1st (no joke) A Woolly Yarn reviewed Knitting magazine's British issue. A few weeks' later Knit Now magazine published their annual British wool special, issue 101.

What the issue is very strong on is featuring a wide variety and price range of British wool, busting the myth that wool and anything that's not imported from China is going to be expensive. Yes, luxury hand-dyed yarns are available on the market but you won't find them in here.

The 'Best of British' features in the magazine showcases yarns for low to mid-range budgets including Jamieson's of Shetland Spindrift DK at £3.25 a ball; West Yorkshire Spinners' Bo Peep DK at £3.79 a ball; and Erika Knight's Wool Local (to be reviewed very soon on A Woolly Yarn) priced at £11.49 - yarn weights vary.

Knit Now patterns are aimed at both beginners and intermediate knitters.  Here's a collage of the main patterns in the issue:

Add caption
My favourite in the issue is one that's great for practicing colourwork - the Counting Sheep Hottie Cosy. Find it middle right on the grid. You might not need of a hot water bottle now but it's a great one to cast on and get ready for later in the year. The sheep are so cute and the project s knitted in Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift.

Another of my favourites, which highlights the ongoing trend for yoke patterns, is the Tylwyth Jumper designed by Rosie Woodland (bottom left on the pattern grid). As it uses only two colours the stranded knitting should be easy to pick up. The pattern uses West Yorkshire Spinners' The Croft Shetland Aran. Garments using thicker yarns knit up relatively quickly, which is always a bonus!

Other patterns include a pair of socks, toys, two more jumpers and scarves.

Image courtesy of Knit Now
In a partnership with the RSPB the issue comes with a book of 12 bird patterns to knit and three blue tit stitch markers. I started using the stitch markers today on 5mm needles with room to spare. There isn't a clasp and therefore there's no chance of them falling off, plus they look cute too.

For readers wanting to know about British wool Zoe Potrac reports on what really goes on at a sheep shearing; there's a interview with Carmen Schmidt who runs Walcot Yarns, and Ella Doran talks about wool, art and sustainability.  Plus there's a competition to win lots of British Wool goodies and tickets to forthcoming new yarn festival The Wool Monty.

All in all, whether or not the patterns float your boat (and it's frustrating when magazines are wrapped in plastic meaning you can't flick through before deciding whether to buy), it's a strong issue. As always it's great to see British yarn and designers championed.

The issue costs £6.99.

See the reviews of Knit Now's previous British wool specials:

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Sat 27th April Is Yarn Shop Day 2019

Image courtesy of Let's Knit
This coming Saturday sees the sixth outing of Let's Knit magazine's annual Yarn Shop Day.

The aim is encourage knitters to support their local independent wool/yarn shops, spreading that word that if you don't use it you might lose it!

Stores that have signed up to take part will have some special offers for knitters, whether it's star appearances, special patterns or some good old-fashioned free tea and cake.

The list of shops in the UK and Ireland taking part is here. Sadly there are no shops in A Woolly Yarn's county of Warwickshire (perhaps this could be a woolly retail opportunity?) but other areas of the country are very well catered for.

Are you doing anything for Yarn Shop Day? Let us know in the comments below or on A Woolly Yarn's Facebook page.

Monday, 22 April 2019

The Dye Shack Easter Yarn Calendar Review

Enthused by the fun experience last Christmas of opening Baa Baa Brighouse's advent yarn calendar on the run up to the big day I decided to shell out (spot the pun!) for an Easter version.

The one I chose was from The Dye Shack, a Somerset-based small yarn hand-dying business. I ordered and paid for it back in February then promptly forgot about it - therefore it was a lovely surprise when it turned up in my post a few weeks ago. Here's what I received: a large plastic yellow egg and a smaller, orange one.

Inside the orange egg were some chocolate treats.

I then put away the yellow egg in my wardrobe and forgot that the first skein to open was on Palm Sunday. Thankfully I saw The Dye Shack's Facebook post reminding customers that it was time to open their egg. Inside was a small bag with three Easter-themed stitch markers:

These look extremely pretty but sadly weren't so practical because their individual clasps kept opening as I knitted leading to them falling off ...

And then we came to the nine wrapped and numbered mini skeins, the last of which was to be opened today (Easter Monday). Here are some of them:

What beautiful, bright colours! When I ordered the Easter yarn calendar I decided to use the skeins to knit a thinner version of the Land of Sweets cowl.

I spent a few hours on Saturday and Easter Sunday knitting and here's where I'm up to so far:

I love it and am looking forward to finishing it and wearing it. The yarn is 4 ply sock yarn and could be used for any number of other projects, yet knowing in advance what I wanted to knit enhanced the yarn calendar experience for me.

All in all I was very pleased with my purchase. To add to the forgetful theme I can't remember what I paid for it but it was one of the cheaper ones I could find.

The Dye Shack's Easter yarn calendar is no longer available but keep an eye out for a Christmas version on sale later this year. My tip is to save in your Ravelry folder in advance any patterns you come across that may be suitable for knitting with lots of mini skeins in order to avoid a 'great yarn but what on earth am I going to do with it?' moment!

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

April's Knitting Patterns To Look Out For

In Spring, with British weather changing from sunny to cold and rain at the turn of a dice, it's a puzzle whether to continue knitting warm garments and accessories or to ditch the DK and choose summery lace weight and 4 ply knits.

This month A Woolly Yarn is rounding up some of the best patterns recently released by independent designers. If you're wondering what next to knit, then why not be inspired by one of these?

1. Debbie Bliss

Her latest collection, available at loveknitting.com, was inspired by the TV series The Crown, which follows the life of Queen Elizabeth II from her accession to the throne. Think 1950s style with pretty colourwork. The patterns showcase her yarn Debbie Bliss Rialto 4 ply and, as such, are a lighter knit.

Joan image courtesy of Debbie Bliss/loveknitting.com
Joan is a light jumper to throw on during balmy evening. 

Vera image courtesy of Debbie Bliss/loveknitting.com
Vera is a more demanding pattern for knitters who want to try out their stranded colourwork skills. The vintage-style top certainly wouldn't look out of place on the TV drama Call The Midwife! Both patterns are instantly downloadable at a price of £3.50 each.

2. The Fibre Co

This Cumbria-based company, as well as designing some patterns in-house, also runs a yarn support programme for independent designers around the world. Here are a few recent stand-outs using their wool:

Winter Harbor Shawl image courtesy of Beatrice Perron Dahlen
It might be knitted in The Fibre Co.'s chunky Tundra yarn, but the Winter Harbor Shawl (pattern downloadable for $7.20 on Ravelry) looks to be a great cover up for Summer evenings when the sun goes down.

Forest Sweater image courtesy of Carmen Garcia de Mora
If it's not time for you to give up on the DK just yet, Carmen Garcia's de Mora's Forest Sweater is a good pattern choice. The yarn used is The Fibre Co.'s Lore spun from 100% Romney wool. The image above shows the jumper knitted in an autumnal brown shade, but there are brighter, more summery shades also available in the range. The pattern costs 7.20 Euro on Ravelry.

3. Ann Kingstone

Yorkshire designer Kingstone has released her sport weight sweater design, Esholt, as a one off pattern. Previously it was only available in her Cabled Knits book. 

Esholt image courtesy of Ann Kingstone
Kingstone says her sweater is perfect for Spring and is knitted using Carol Feller's Nua yarn. Esholt costs £7 to download.

4. Baa Ram Ewe

Baa Ram Ewe's Winterburn Aran is perfect for sweaters/cardigans worn on colder days. 

Rune image courtesy of Jennifer Wood
US designer Jennifer Wood has used the Yorkshire wool for her Rune cardigan design - I love the stitch definition on the yoke. The design costs $8.40 on Ravelry and each 100g hank of Winterburn Aran is £15.

5. Winwick Mum

Socks are perfect for knitting whilst on the go. Internet hit-designer Winwick Mum, otherwise known as Christine, has teamed up with West Yorkshire Spinners for a yarn/pattern designer combo. 

Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners
Each of the four sock yarn colour ways in the collection costs £7.20.

Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners
The accompanying pattern book is £8.50 either direct from WYS or your local yarn store.

Which pattern will you knit first? Or is there one you can recommend to A Woolly Yarn readers? Please let us know in the comments box below or on our Facebook page.

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