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!








Sunday, 3 February 2019

Can A C Knitwear Help Boost Your Knitting?

Knitting clubs where the customer pays upfront to receive a pattern by email every week and a print book of them all at the end of the run are proving very popular at the moment. Kate Davies has used the format a number of times and is currently running her Knitting Season club, and other designers such as Ysolda Teague sell versions where yarn comes with the patterns.

It's easy to see the draw of these clubs from both sides: the designer gets cash up-front and a rough knowledge of how many books to print/yarns to order, whilst the knitter has the thrill of seeing the new patterns before others and the feeling of being part of a special club community - often designers run Ravelry forums for their clubs.

Now A C Knitwear, the married couple Jen and Jim who are based in Frome, Somerset, have announced a sequel to their A Year of Techniques club and ebook.

Image courtesy of A C Knitwear
This time the emphasis will be on boosting your knitting skills. Making the announcement the pair said "we have twelve new techniques, twelve patterns from twelve fabulous designers, twelve sets of photo and video tutorials, and most importantly, twelve opportunities for you to experience the joy of learning something new!" Prior knowledge of the first year of techniques isn't required.

Image courtesy of A C Knitwear
Despite the enticement of learning new knitting skills, my hesitation in joining such clubs comes from a financial standpoint. I'm dubious about paying money upfront without knowing what I'm paying for. Like most knitters I have a limited budget for patterns and I want to ensure that I'm going to want to knit what I buy. I don't like shawls or wraps (a personal preference), have lots of hats, cowls and mittens I've knitted already and am picky about the styles of jumpers and cardigans that suit my short body shape.

Therefore it's great to hear that before the club membership goes on sale on Thursday 7th February (£30 including P&P, a digital pattern a month for 12 months and a print copy of the patterns in September 2019) the duo will be announcing the techniques that will be covered in the book along with the list of designers the pair have worked with to create the patterns. To keep the air of excitement and exclusivity though, the designs themselves will still remain secret.

Post-Christmas finances plus a trip to Edinburgh Yarn Fest in March, where I'm bound to be tempted to buy something, mean that I'll have to think heavily about whether to subscribe. I can say though that I have knitted with A C Knitwear's own yarn Something to Knit With 4Ply, a blend of 70% highland wool and 30% superfine alpaca, and am impressed with its softness, stitch definition and lack of splitting. If the patterns use this yarn, which also comes in aran weight (leading me to wonder whether a DK version will be coming soon) then that'll certainly be a point in its favour.

The Boost Your Knitting club will be available to buy from A C Knitwear's online shop from Thursday, 7th February.

What do you think of knitting clubs? Have your say in the comment box below or on A Woolly Yarn's
Facebook page.

6th February update

These are the techniques the club will explain:

  1. Brioche knitting, including increases and decreases
  2. Choosing colours for stranded colourwork
  3. Correcting mistakes in lace knitting
  4. Tubular cast-on in the round
  5. Dip stitches 
  6. Double knitting, including decreases
  7. Finishing techniques for toy knitting (sewing together, stuffing and embroidering faces)
  8. Gusset short row heel for toe-up socks
  9. Intarsia in the round
  10. Joining in yarns for colourwork
  11. Marlisle
  12. Tuck stitches.



Wednesday, 30 January 2019

What Is Kate Davies' New Yarn? + Marie Wallin & Daughter Of A Shepherd

Ard Thir image courtesy of Kate Davies
Designer, author and small business entrepreneur Kate Davies has launched a new yarn in her own range, the first to be available in yarn stores rather than just direct from Kate Davies' Shop.

Ard Thir (with apologies to Davies that I haven't been able to add the accent on the 'a' and 'I') is an aran-weight yarn that Davies designed in ten colours to represent the Scottish winter landscape. In her blog Davies wrote "each of the ten shades I've designed is a subtle, muted mark; each possesses its own depth and tonal variety; some can be combined into intriguing gradients, and all work together harmoniously as a range."

Davies worked with Fyberspates to produce Ard Thir. The yarn is a blend of 60% Peruvian Highland Wool and 40% Superfine Alpaca. Davies and Fyberspates say that Ard Thir is "perfect for texture, cables and colourwork" and although it's sold "as an Aran weight, it can be knitted across quite a broad range of gauges".

Image courtesy of Kate Davies Designs and Fyberspates
A Woolly Yarn has yet to see Ard Thir to review it. Each 50g ball costs £8 plus P&P from Kate Davies' Shop. At the time of writing Davies has designed two patterns to support Ard Thir:

Weel Riggit Pullover


and Weel Riggit Hat.


Here's where it gets a little complicated. The hat is downloadable on Ravelry for £4.98. The pullover is at the moment only available to people who have subscribed to Davies' Knitting Season club. It began on January 11th but places are still available priced at £40 each.

Daughter Of A Shepherd

Rachel Atkinson, aka a real life daughter of a shepherd, has renamed her Hebridean/Zwartbles range. It's now called Heritage, and is available in both 4ply and DK weights. The July 2017 clip is still available, being a mix of 75% Hebridean wool from Escrick Park Estate, and 25% Zwartbles from Exmoor.
Heritage DK image courtesy of Daughter of a Shepherd

Marie Wallin

Last year saw former Rowan designer Marie Wallin launch her own covetable yarn range British Breeds. Pre-orders of a gift box containing patterns and a 25g 4ply ball of each of the 12 shades sold out quickly as have five of the shades, which are £5.50 per ball plus P&P. The yarn took two years for Wallin to develop with spinner John Arbon and suits Wallin's delicate Fair Isle designs.

British Breeds image courtesy of Marie Wallin
Now Wallin has announced that a new batch of British Breeds is on the way along with four new colours to add to the range. For 2019 she is planning Journeyman, a book of men's Fair Isle designs using British Breeds, plus a collection called Homestead, which will consist of six designs again using British Breeds. For those who missed out first time around the British Breeds gift box will go on sale again, this time including the four new shades: foxglove, blossom, silver birch and pale oak.


The beginning of February is traditionally the time that yarn companies and pattern houses launch their Spring/Summer collections. Watch this space for more details and like A Woolly Yarn's Facebook page to find out when a new blog post is published.

Are you a yarn maker or designer living in Britain? If you'd like an impartial review of your work for the A Woolly Yarn community please get it touch by emailing penjenkins@gmail.com.


Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Debbie Bliss Proves Her Business Is Not Toast + Free Pattern Downloads

Debbie Bliss image courtesy of Debbie Bliss Online
If you've stepped inside a local yarn store recently you may have noticed the absence of what was formerly a knitting shop staple, Debbie Bliss' wool/yarns and patterns. Well, now Bliss is back, albeit online, with two new yarn ranges: Luna and Toast.

Debbie Bliss is one of Britain's best-known and loved knitting designers with her own yarn range. In 2015 she was awarded an MBE for services to hand knitting and the craft industry and in 2018 she won the best baby yarn brand and favourite designer gongs in the British Knitting & Crochet Awards.

Last January A Woolly Yarn reported that Designer Yarns, which distributed Debbie Bliss' yarns, had gone into administration due to insolvency and fans voiced their fears about the future of Bliss' business. Yarn shops were unable to order more stock and throughout 2018 sold off what they had left.

Then in September 2018 LoveCrafts, a worldwide brand that includes the Loveknitting.com website, took over the mantle as sole distributer of Debbie Bliss yarns, with Bless herself commenting "I will continue to develop Debbie Bliss yarns and create design collections with the fabulous team at LoveCrafts, and look forward to bringing you more inspiration and more of my signature yarn lines in the future." She swiftly launched Piper, a 50% cotton and 50% viscose blend.

Now, for the 2019 season, Bliss has brought out two very different yarns. A Woolly Yarn has yet to see them in the flesh, but has found out more about what's on offer:

Toast image courtesy of Loveknittng.com
Toast, pictured above in the shade gold, is a 4ply blend of 65% wool, 25% polyamide and 10% cashmere. It comes in 12 shades and Loveknitting.com describes it as 'a deliciously soft, warm blend of wool and cashmere with a dash of nylon to make it machine washable ... it's the most sumptuous yarn sock yarn ever'.

There are four sock patterns to accompany the yarn, one of which, Brandi, was free to download at the time of writing this blog post. Sock yarn is an area with tough competition, the forerunners being West Yorkshire Spinners' Signature range and Rachel Coopey's Socks Yeah! It'll be interesting to see how Toast compares.

Luna image courtesy of Loveknitting.com
Bliss' second yarn launch (pictured above in the shade twilight) is the luxurious Luna, spun from 100% cashmere. As you would imagine it's pricier than Toast, with its non-discounted price standing at £14.99 per 25g ball, making it a treat for smaller accessories projects. There are eight tranquil shades to choose from and a free downloadable pattern (at the time of writing this blog post) for a baby hat called Isabel.

Isabel pattern image courtesy of Loveknitting.com
It's great to see Debbie Bliss going from strength to strength, although it's accompanied by a tinge of sadness at not being able to have a squish of her yarns in a local wool store before you buy anymore. Whilst A Woolly Yarn usually champions small business online yarn stores, the acquisition of Debbie Bliss yarns by LoveCrafts certainly gives knitters a good reason to browse Loveknitting.com. LoveCrafts unquestionably made a crafty business decision!

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Yarn Shows To Look Out For In 2019 + Top Tips

Going to a yarn show is a great opportunity to have a good yarn squish, discover new indie dyers and wool producers, have a good day out with like-minded people and be surrounded by more woolly stuff than you can possibly imagine!


This year I'm massively excited about going to Edinburgh Yarn Festival for the first time, where I'll be reporting for The Knitter magazine and also finding out lots of information for A Woolly Yarn. The flights are booked, my husband has been bribed with the chance to sample real ales in Scotland's capital, and, thanks to the exhibitor list, I already know which stands I'm going to make a beeline for ...

Whether you're travelling far to one of the UK's big name wool festivals or supporting a local gathering there's an ever-growing number of days out to choose from, including a few newbies this year. Don't forget the following eight top tips:

1. Book your entry ticket in advance to avoid disappointment. Some shows offer reduced price tickets if you book ahead.

2. Take cash. Small vendors may not have a credit card machine, plus it helps with budgeting - once you've spent up, that's it!

3. Take a look at the event's website before you go and decide which stalls are your 'must-sees'. Head there first just in case you run out of time later on.

4. Try to arrive early to miss the queues.

5. Wear comfy shoes. Your feet will thank you for it.

6. This goes against the usual shopping advice grain, but if you see something you'd like and it's within budget then don't put off your purchase until later in the day. When you come back it may well have been bought by someone else. You could ask the stall holder to put it by for you if you definitely know you are going to buy it, for example if it's a bulky purchase and you don't want to carry it round with you all day, but don't deprive other potential customers and the vendor of a sale if you're just not sure.

7. Take some snacks and a bottle of water with you in case there's a queue for the cafe.

8. Pick up leaflets and business cards of woolly businesses you like the look of. You might not be buying anything from them at the moment but signing up for their email or browsing their website widens your options in the future.

Here's A Woolly Yarn's round-up of wool/yarn shows that have already announced dates in 2019:

January

20th - Waltham Abbey Wool Show
Essex show with VIP guest Louise Tilbrook.

February

2nd - Bring Back Blaise Wool Festival
Explore the region's woolly past at Bradford Industrial Museum.

22nd - 24th Unravel
Farnham, Surrey is the location for this three-day showcase of workshops and exhibitors..

28th Feb - 3rd March Spring Knitting and Stitching Show
Olympia, London is your base for this huge craft-based event.

March

17th - Cornwoolly
Head to Redruth in Cornwall for this day showcasing local fibres and textiles.

21st - 23rd Edinburgh Yarn Festival
Billed as the UK's premier urban hand-knitting show.

April

13th - 14th Spring Into Wool
The Grammar School in Leeds will be home to this two-day festival of woolly crafts.

14th Knit and Stitch Show
Penrith in Cumbria is home to this woolly day with over 30 exhibitors.

27th -28th Wonderwool Wales
Weekend Welsh wool extravaganza at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells.

May

11th - 12th Buxton Wool Gathering
Derbyshire based wool festival.

18th - 19th Wool @ J13
Head off junction 13 of the M6 for this family-orientated woolly weekend.

25 May - Watford Festiwool
The Lanchester Community Free School will host this year's event.

June

1st - Leeds Wool Festival
The atmospheric Leeds Industrial Museum will be transformed into a marketplace for one Saturday.

9th - Aberdeen Yarn Fest
Will include both local and national woolly vendors.

15th - 16th The Wool Monty
New two-day celebration of yarn and fibre in Sheffield, South Yorkshire.

28th - 29th Woolfest
Cumbria's celebration of nature's finest fibres.

July

13th - 14th Yarningham
Birmingham-based yarn celebration.

27th - 28th Fibre East
Head to Bedford for this hands-on show with the opportunity to try your hand at spinning and weaving.

August

2nd - 4th Woolness
Inaugural wool and wellbeing festival in Newcastle upon Tyne.

3rd Yarnfolk Wool Festival
This is the third year for Northern Ireland's wool festival in Whitehead.

9th - 10th British Wool Show
Supporting the Campaign for Wool, this show is in York.

16th - 17th EWEfest
Dundee will be home to what bills itself as Scotland's first truly national wool festival.

24th - 26th Internationalwool Festival
New festival in Anglesey, Wales, aiming to bring together artisans and wool lovers from around the world.

31st - 1st Sep Southern Wool Show
The second year for this festival of woolly crafts at Newbury Racecourse.

September

7th - 8th Perth Festival of Yarn
The fourth year for this Scottish festival bringing together weavers, dyers, spinners and felters amongst others.

13th - 15th The Handmade Fairhttps://www.thehandmadefair.com/hampton-court
Hampton Court will again host Kirstie Allsopp's event bringing together craft makers.

28th - 29th Yarndale
Exhibitions, workshops and a huge marketplace in Skipton, North Yorkshire.

28th - 6th Oct Shetland Wool Week
World-renowned festival celebrating the island's crafts and woolly heritage.

October

10th - 13th Knitting and Stitching Show Alexandra Palace
Workshops, shopping and galleries at this exhibition centre in London.

12th - 13th  Bakewell Wool Gathering
Bakewell Agricultural Centre in Derbyshire will host this two-day yarn festival.

16th - 20th Loch Ness Knit Fest
Head to the Scottish highlands for workshops, demonstrations, a marketplace and sightseeing tours of the famous Loch.

26th - 27th The Big Textile Show
Stitching and knitting event held at Leicester Racecourse.

November

2nd - 3rd Stitch Fest
Take a workshop and browse the exhibitors at Totnes in Devon.

December

28th Nov - 1st Dec Knitting and Stitching Show Harrogate
Head to Harrogate, North Yorkshire for workshops, shopping and galleries.

***

Do you know of a yarn show that's not on the list? Please tell us in the comments box below or on our Facebook page.

Monday, 7 January 2019

Rowan Launches 100% British Wool/Alpaca Yarn Moordale

For knitters who want to know the provenance of their wool and choose to buy yarn sourced from the UK there's now an option from Rowan.

Image courtesy of Rowan
Fans of 100% British-sourced wool were devastated when Rowan discontinued its Purelife British Sheep Breeds range a few years ago. Thankfully the well-known British brand, which last year celebrated its 40th birthday and is now owned by German company MEZ crafts, now has a new offering for British yarn lovers: Moordale. With its blend of 70% British wool and 30% British alpaca it knits up on 4mm needles and is aimed towards warmer garments and accessories.

Rowan describes Moordale as: "made using fine micron wool of the Bluefaced Leicester which is known for being both soft and strong. Blended with Alpaca to add a lustrous, silky touch, Moordale is a natural, robust, tender yarn which drapes well and feels comfortable on the skin."

Moordale image courtesy of Rowan
To support the yarn Rowan designer Martin Storey has produced the Moordale Collection, containing 14 garments and accessories for men and women. Rowan sent A Woolly Yarn a copy and a couple of hanks for review - all opinions are the reviewer's own.


Firstly A Woolly Yarn wanted to know why Rowan was once again launching a 100% British yarn. A spokesperson from Rowan told us "Rowan has always been proud of its British heritage (and especially Yorkshire) and with last year's celebration of Rowan's 40th anniversary they have embraced their Yorkshire heritage and chosen to work with a local spinner".

What is Martin Storey's involvement? "With Martin Storey at the design help of the collection for this new yarn, we know it's in safe hands! Martin has designed a collection fo timeless knits for both men and women, featuring his signature cable and texture detail designs."

A Woolly Yarn's final question, asking whether Rowan has plans to expand the Moordale range and/or create another 100% British yarn in the future received a less clear response from the spokesperson. "Rowan is always expanding and developing new shades and yarn ranges. We well have to wait and see what is to come later in 2019!"

Perhaps Rowan is testing out the market for Moordale before committing itself further.

The Yarn
Buckler hat image courtesy of Rowan
In order to publish this review to coincide with Moordale's launch there hasn't been time to knit up one of the review hanks.

There is, however, the Buckler Hat in the Moordale collection that requires only one 100g hank to knit up, which we shall do so soon.

A Moordale skein is soft and squishy yet hardy with a definite halo that I suspect may slightly shed. The yarn is very strong, takes colour well and looks as it it will knit into a soft drape.

It's suitable for both accessories and garments and will be a warm yarn for wearing during the colder months.

The initial collection consists of 12 colours spun in Yorkshire, think deep greys blues and reds, which are sold in 100g hanks.

How much?

Moordale is sold in 100g hanks. Rowan's website has a list of local yarn stores that sell their products. Online A Woolly Yarn found Moordale at the following prices per hank (not including P&P):

The Moordale Collection

As you'd expect from Rowan and Martin Storey the Moordale pattern book contains quality accessories and garments that are stylish without being totally fashion-focussed. 

The pattern book is very well photographed and is published in an horizontal 'flip book' format with British knitting instructions coming first and their German counterparts towards the back - this makes the book thicker and look as if it has more patterns than it actually does.

The patterns that aren there, however, provide a range for competent beginners to knitters looking for a challenge. A Woolly Yarn's favourites are:

Forge - this men's jumper uses a mixture of garter and stocking stitch to add texture.

Forge image courtesy of Rowan

Rosedale - this women's sweater has a fascinating neck/yoke that looks both stylish and warm

Rosedale image courtesy of Rowan
Sundew - a challenging cable cardigan with extra bobbles.

Sundew image courtesy of Rowan

The Moordale Collection costs £12 from Rowan.

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