Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Feel The Fear & Knit It Anyway

Is there anything knitting-wise that scares you? Proper, huge spider in the bathroom-like tribulation? Knitting is a craft that even if you spend your whole life perfecting it there will always be something new to learn. Whether it's a different type of cast-on, stitches or cable and lace, new pattern introduces different challenges.

Usually, with the help of the pattern's written instructions and video tutorials on the internet, techniques that are new to you are relatively easy to pick up, even if it does involve pulling your knitting out and having another go a few times before you get the knack. But is there something you put off because you find it really, really hard and it's much simpler to knit yet another stocking stitch jumper?

Bressay image courtesy of Marie Wallin
Sound familiar? I'll share my fear with you. It's Fair Isle/intarsia colour work. I've had a go a few times with not great results. With intarsia I never seem to twist the different coloured yarns properly to avoid a hole, plus I get the various bobbins all mixed up. With Fair Isle I find it difficult following the charts - particularly if they're not in colour, and end up pulling the yarns too tight or not tight enough.

Still I pore longingly at jumper patterns with Fair Isle yokes. They look stunning and the sort of knitwear that I'd treasure for life and would never go out of style. So it's time to put aside the easy stuff that passes the EastEnders test (can I knit it easily in front of the TV without losing the drama plot or my place in the pattern?) and bite the bullet.

My chosen design is Marie Wallin's Bressay jumper from her Shetland collection that I blogged about last year. It's gorgeous and the yarn from Jamieson's of Shetland cost me just under £60. I wouldn't be able to buy a proper wool jumper made in the UK on the high street for that.

On the right you'll see what it's supposed to look like. The jumper is knitted from the bottom up and, with 2ply wool on a 3.25mm circular needle, is time-consuming. Soon however I'll be up to the colour work part and that's when the fun will begin!

Fellow knitters on Marie Wallin's Ravelry forum have been very encouraging with advice and support. I'm determined that I'll finish Bressay in time for Christmas and not let it languish on my needles because it's too much like hard work.

Mind you, when it's finished I've no excuse to face my next fear, which is steeking. Cutting my knitting? Nooo!!

Do you have a knitting fear? What are you most proud of knitting? Let us know in the comments below or share a picture on our Facebook page.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Is Making Things A Rival To Ravelry?

Making Things, billed as a new contender to Ravelry, launched on October 30th promising a 'clunk-free' alternative to pattern downloads. For a monthly fee, currently $11.99 (approximately £9.25), subscribers have unlimited access to a pattern library from independent designers and digital tools such as row highlighters to help the knitting process.

Vatsland jumper image courtesy
of Ella Gordon Designs
To gain full access to the website you need to subscribe, making it difficult to decide whether it's worth it or not. Unlike Netflix, which the site compares its subscription service to, there is no free trial on offer.

Scrolling down Making Things' patterns library I found some Ella Gordon sweaters I'd certainly be interested in knitting. The photographs of all the patterns are certainly high quality.

Users can search for a pattern if they already know what it's called, or alternatively can type in a designer's name. I tried a few well-known names such as Marie Wallin, Kate Davies and Karie Westermann, but it seems they aren't currently taking part. The search term 'fair isle' only produced one result, a hat from Vogue Knitting.

It's clearly early days for Making Things who are hoping to attract many more designers to their business.

So if the hook is unlimited pattern access, video tutorials (at the moment covering basic stitches such as knit two together and yarn over purlwise) and pattern support for subscribers, what's in it for the designers? Making Things says that their service has been developed with the input of over 500 knitters, crotcheters and designers. receive. Half the subscription fee goes to the website with the other half to designers, but it's not clear how Making Things will differentiate between a pattern users have browsed and ones they've knitted up.

Is it worth subscribing?

In my opinion, if you enjoy browsing designs, are looking for new patterns to knit and are happy reading patterns on a screen (patterns aren't downloadable) then it's worth a go for a month.

At the moment. however, I've decided I won't subscribe. This is for three reasons:

  1. I have lots of patterns I've already paid for that I want to knit.
  2. Making Things is new and as yet can't compare with the choice on Ravelry.
  3. I prefer printed patterns I can scribble on rather than reading a pattern on a screen.

It's certainly worth keeping an eye on Making Things though to see how it develops.

What's your opinion on Making Things? Have your say in the comments box below or on A Woolly Yarn's Facebook page.





Sunday, 28 October 2018

Shetland Wool Week Annual 2018 Review

The fourth Shetland Wool Week Annual, released during Shetland Wool Week in September, continues the festival's tradition of bringing together designers to celebrate the Scottish island's vibrant current knitting scene, combining traditional skills with a contemporary twist.

The 2018 Annual contains 12 patterns. Here's my choice of four which really stand out:

Image courtesy of Shetland Wool Week
Tree Yoke Jumper by Alyssa Malcolmson

A Woolly Yarn featured the Annual's cover pattern in our Six Yoke Jumper Patterns To Covet.

Malcolmson says 'In a traditional Shetland yoke jumper there is almost always a Ferm pattern between each star pattern. I have always seen the era as a tree and I love how simple but effective it is. 

I decided I wanted a yoke jumper that included only the tree, and after a lot of charting I finally got a pattern that I was happy with. I decided to put dots throughout the body and sleeves of the jumper because it adds a little ore texture and breaks up all the plain knitting."  

The yellow gold body colour really pops against the grey shade in the yoke. It's my favourite out of the 12 designs in the annual and is on my 'to knit ' list.

Lunna Mitts by Anne Eunson

These mitts provide a great contrast to the heavier wool designs one might expect from Shetland knitwear (although of course lace shawls, or 'haps', are also a local speciality). They're knitted in Jamieson's of Shetland Ultra yarn (lace weight). In the Annual Eunson explains the inspiration behind the pattern. "The Print an' the Wave is a traditional Shetland lace pattern and one of my favourites. With the gently waving lace running up the back of the hand and pulling the cast-on edge into soft waves of its own, these classic mitts need no other decoration."

Image courtesy of Shetland Wool Week
Merrie Dancers Toorie by Elizabeth Johnston

Johnston was 2018's Shetland Wool Week patron and she designed the Merrie Dancers Toorie hat especially for the event. The free pattern was released in March but it's also available in the 2018 Annual for those who missed the download.  

Says Johnston: "My Merrie Dancers Toorie (knitted hat) is based on a fisherman's keep on a display at Shetland Museum and Archives' Boat Hall. It was knitted about 1950 by an old woman from the island of Yell, who remembered patterns knitted by the womenfolk for the fishermen in her family.  

Such keps were worn when the men rowed to the far have (deep sea fishing grounds) in large open boats."


Autumn Mitts by Marcia Galvin

Image courtesy of Shetland Wool Week
These mitts would be a great hand warmer for in-between weather when it's not quite cold enough to wear full mittens or gloves. 

The chevron pattern is relatively simple to knit but really stands out. 

When asked out about her inspiration for the pattern, Galvin said it was her favourite season. "Autumn is an exciting time for the knitting community, as the cooler temperatures mean we can bring out our knitwear. 

The colours of my Autumn mitts remind me of family forest walks back home in England and collecting berries for home-made jams and pies. You can choose colours to remind you of your own happy memories."
There's more to the Annual, however, than the patterns. Turn to the back to read essays on the early 20th century herring boom in Lerwick; The Crofthouse Museum; rearing organic native Shetland sheep on the small island of Vaila; and the organisation dedicated to raising Shetland's next generation of knitters. 

The Annual costs £19 plus P&P directly from Shetland Wool Week's website

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Six Yoke Jumpers Patters To Covet

Wool jumpers with colour work yokes are all the rage at the moment in the shops. Brora has released its own version in conduction with Wool Week 2018, but at £135 it's out of a lot of people's price range!
Brora Campaign for Wool Week jumper image courtesy of Brora
Knitting your own is certainly the way to go. But what design to choose? Here's A Woolly Yarn's top five yoke pattern picks:


Asta Sollilja image courtesy of Kate Davies

Kave Davies loves yokes so much she wrote a book about them. Published in 2014, Yokes contains 11 designs. Our favourite is Asta Sollilja, which features the Icelandic hammer rose motif. We love the coloured hem, neck and cuffs, plus the shade contrast between the grey and blue. Download the Yokes ebook for £19.99 on Ravelry.

Voe image courtesy of Brooklyn Tweed/Jared Flood
The Shetland-born designer has come up with this fun, long-length jumper with a contrast yoke. It uses 4ply yarn. The pattern costs approximately £8.71 on Ravelry.


Threipmuir image courtesy of Ysolda Teague

Another Icelandic-inspired yoked jumper knitted in 4ply wool. The yellow in the design really stands out against the dark colour of the body. It costs £7 to download Threipmuir on Ravelry.


Wren Fair Isle Yoke image courtesy of Marie Wallin

Wallin is the master of Fair Isle and her designs never disappoint. Published in 2016, her Wren Fair Isle Yoke pattern is knitted in baa ram ewe's Titus 4ply. Download the pattern on Ravelry for £5. 


Crofthoose Yoke image courtesy of Ella Gordon
Knitted in Jamieson and Smith 2ply wool this fun jumper was inspired by croft houses on the Shetland Islands. Gordon is a former patron of Shetland Wool Week. The pattern costs £5.04 to download on Ravelry and there's also a matching hat!

6. Tree Yoke Jumper by Alyssa Malcolmson

Tree Yoke jumper image courtesy of Shetland Wool Week
This fabulous jumper with a pop of yellow against light grey is the cover star of 2018's Shetland Wool Week Annual. Tree Yoke jumper is knitting using Jamieson's of Shetland's Spindrift. The annual costs £19 plus P&P and contains 12 patterns in total - look out for a review of it in our next blog post. 

What have we missed? Have you knitted a yoke jumper recently? Share photos of your knits with us on our Facebook page.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Blogger Exclusive! West Yorkshire Spinners' Christmas 2018 Sock Yarn Revealed

It has become a tradition that each year West Yorkshire Spinners brings out a special one-off Christmas edition of its Signature 4ply sock yarn.

A Woolly Yarn can exclusively reveal this year's design, Fairy Lights:


WYS says that for this year's Christmas special "we wanted to create a unique print (a speciality of ours) and recreate the twinkle of fairy lights with a bright and cheerful feel".



The self-striping yarn has splashes of white, green, red and blue. Fairy Lights is a blend of 75% wool and 25% nylon. Each 100g ball should be enough to knit one pair of socks - unless you have very large feet! The great news is that when you buy Fairy Lights WYS throws in a free sock pattern.

A ball of Fairy Lights costs £7.20 from independent yarn shops. There's a stockists page on West Yorkshire Spinners' website to help you find one near you.

I'm going on a long-haul flight soon and will be using the time to cast on Fairy Lights. Hopefully I'll have a festive new pair of socks come Christmas Eve!

Sunday, 7 October 2018

Covent Garden Pop Up Set For This Year's Campaign For Wool Week

This year is the ninth The Campaign for Wool UK Wool Week and there are a lot of woolly events planned! The term Wool Week is a bit of a misnomer because celebrations are actually taking place between 8th and 21st October.

The campaign will showcase the excellence of British wool in a variety of products. The main event is a Covent Garden pop-up on Thursday 11 and Friday 12th October to educate consumers about the 'careability' of wool, dispelling myths that clothes made out of wool are hard work to launder and look after.

Pop-up image courtesy of campaignforwool.org
Two huge containers filled with wool-covered furniture carpets and garments will also have AEG washing machines to demonstrate how easy wool is to care for.

Other Wool Week events include:
  • Northern Yarn hosting talks at Lancaster City Museum with a knitwear design researcher, a shepherdess and a couple who run a farm in Cumbria on Friday 19th October
  • Freestyle weaving workshop at London Loom running from 10th - 13th and 17th - 20th October
  • Wool and the Gang wool care workshop on Thursday 11th Oct from 7-9pm in Covent Garden
  • Arm knit a throw workshop on Friday 12th October at Stitch Up in Leeds
  • The Knit-Tea Retreat on Sunday 21st October in Llandaff.
Scottish fashion brand Brora has designed a limited-edition sweater exclusively for the campaign, priced at £135:
Brora jumper image courtesy of Brora. 
Keep an eye out on A Woolly Yarn for a future post rounding up our favourite yoked sweaters knitting patterns!

To see the full list of Wool Week planned events go to the Campaign For Wool Week's website.

Is your local yarn shop running an event for Wool Week? Let us know in the comments box below or on our Facebook page.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

The Croft Shetland Colours Aran + Pattern Book Review

In 2007 West Yorkshire Spinners launched an aran-weight yarn The Croft Shetland Tweed. This year, for its Autumn/Winter season, the company has built on its popularity by bringing out 12 solid colours in the range, dyed on the same 100% Shetland Island wool base.

The Croft Shetland Colours image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners
There's also an accompanying book containing 14 patterns for men, women and children designed by Sarah Hatton.

The Croft Shetland Colours book image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners
West Yorkshire Spinners kindly sent A Woolly Yarn a copy of the pattern book and two skeins of Shetland Colours wool for review. The shades are all named after places in Shetland and the review shades were Lerwick (light grey) and Ollaberry (magenta)


Lerwick and Ollaberry
They are certainly eye-catching and softly squishy skeins and the ball band undoubtedly has vintage-style instagram appeal. But what was it like to knit up?

One pattern in the book, the Kingsley children's hat requires just two skeins to knit up (with some wool left over for the smaller sizes). Here's what it looks like expertly photographed in the book:

Kingsley hat image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners
To test out the wool I decided that the hat would be a great Christmas present for my friend's young son and cast on Lerwick for the brim in size 3 to 5 years. The Croft Shetland Colours Aran is strong and hardy, yet soft enough to wear next to your skin. It has a slight halo and shows up cables really well. It's good value too at £8.50 per 100g skein.

I didn't have any problem with the wool splitting and it was a lovely little knit that took me a couple of nights to complete in front of the TV. Here's the result!


It feels like the hat will be really warm for the young lad to wear and I'm really pleased with how it turned out. The pattern was easy to follow, the only slight bugbear being that the special abbreviations are on the page before the actual pattern so I had to keep flicking back until the meaning of C4B and C4F became stamped on my brain.

The Patterns

Kingsley is just one of the patterns in the book. West Yorkshire Spinners has a very practical style for its pattern books, ring binding them to make it simple to keep your page open. Having said that, the photo quality standard is as high as a more coffee table style publication.

My favourite pattern in the collection, probably because I've got two WIP yoke jumpers on the go at the moment, is the Paisley cardigan for women. The orange really pops out against the dark grey.

Paisley image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners
Men don't have to miss out on the cardie fun either: Rory is a cardigan for men with a handy collar that can be put up to keep his neck warm in the wind.

Rory image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners
For children there's Paterson, a warm-looking cabled hooded jacket, that will suit either sex:

Paterson image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners
If a quicker but challenging knit is more your style then there's try the unisex Addison hat and scarf pattern.

Addison image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners
Plus there are nine more patterns in the collection. See all designs at The Croft Shetland Colours Pattern Book where you can also buy the book directly from West Yorkshire Spinners for £12.95 plus P&P.

A Woolly Yarn's verdict is that The Croft Shetland Colours Aran is a great budget yarn available in shades that will please all the family. The pattern book gets a thumbs up for having a practical design and large colour work charts.

Which is your favourite pattern from the collection? Let us know in the comments box below or on our Facebook page.

Here's a little hint if you'd like to win the pattern book: look out for Father Christmas coming to A Woolly Yarn in December!
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