Thursday, 13 December 2018

Review of The Loveliest Yarn Company's Sockmas Pattern Book

There's still time to knock out a few small, festive knits and if you're looking for some last-minute decorations then The Loveliest Yarn Company's Sockmas pattern book is a handy place to start.

Image courtesy of The Loveliest Yarn Company
Written by Michelle Gregory, TLYC's founder and Chief Knitter (what a fabulous job title!) the book lists a basic mini-sock pattern and gives lots of Christmassy variations on the cuff, foot and toes, as well as stranded colourwork patterns on the leg. Think Father Christmas, Rudolph, a Christmas tree and lovely lacework.

The idea is that with the help of the book a knitter can produce 24 seasonal sock decorations using just three 4ply yarn colours: red, white and green. When all are complete they can be hung up as a gorgeous festive garland.

Image courtesy of The Loveliest Yarn Company
Time to try it out. The socks in the book are knitted with West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4 Ply but I raided my stash and found the some left-over Baa Ram Ewe Titus yarn in the right colours to use up. 


The red was left over from knitting Susan Crawford's Perfect Christmas Jumper back in 2015. I bought the green and white to make a blanket with but after knitting up a couple of lace squares on DPNs I realised I didn't have the enthusiasm to carry on to the bitter end. 

The mini socks can be knitted on 2.25mm DPNs or on a circular needle and I chose the latter. I've knitted socks before but found it harder than I expected knitting something so small and intricate, despite the photography and colour stitch chart being clear and helpful. I got a bit stuck when I got to the gusset and tried to envisage how the DPN instructions transposed to a circular needle, but once Michelle advised me I picked it up straight away. Knitting another sock I think will be much easier now I've got the hang of it.

For my first sock I decided to knit a green sock with a red contrast tow, heel and cuff. It took longer to knit than I'd blithely imagined - this is certainly not a one evening project - but I was very pleased with the finished result (apologies that I haven't blocked it yet!) 


I bought some fun numbered clips in a local branch of Tiger and plan to knit 23 more to hang on a Christmas tree on the run up to the 25th of December. I've now switched to knitting a garter stitch advent blanket with the wool from my Baa Baa Brighouse Advent Yarn Box but plan to then return to Sockmas sock number two - a white and green sock with a Christmas tree pattern - and complete the whole set of 24 in time for Christmas 2019. Watch this space this time next year to see if I've finished the job!

Thank you to Michelle for the review copy. All opinions are my own. Sockmas costs £12 plus P&P directly from The Loveliest Yarn Company.

Stop press: Michelle's and her Christmas jumper design will appear on Kirsty's Handmade Christmas TV programme on Channel 4, Monday 17th December at 5pm.

Festive Mini Jumpers

If socks aren't your thing then how about mini jumpers? Wild and Woolly is selling a Matchbox Sweater Kit for £30 plus P&P.

Image courtesy of Wild and Woolly
The kit includes a patterns for mini sweaters and enough yarn to knit to knit up 12 - decorations for the 12 days of Christmas perhaps? There are four Christmas-themed colour ways to choose from.

Have you knitted any Christmas decorations this year? Do share a photo of them on A Woolly Yarn's Facebook page.

Christmas Competition 

Not long to go now until A Woolly Yarn announces its Christmas competition. Hint - the prizes will be some of the items the blog has reviewed this year!

Monday, 10 December 2018

Ten Fun Gifts To Slip In A Knitter's Christmas Stocking

This post is different from our usual ones because it doesn't feature any wool! If you're looking for a gift for an avid knitter chances are they've already got yarn in their stash to knit with and unless you know what colour/weight/brand they prefer a woolly present might not be to their taste.

So instead here's a round-up of alternative gifts Santa could secretly pop into their stocking ...

1. Farmers' Hand Cream

Image courtesy of Daughter of a Shepherd
Made using lavender grown on a Welsh farm, this 100ml tin of cream will pamper hands dry from knitting. It's not tested on animals, contains no artificial colours or perfumes and the packaging is manufactured in the UK. A tin costs £14 plus P&P from Daughter of a Shepherd and, if you're feeling flush, there's a foot cream and face cream in the range too.

2. Project Bag


Image courtesy of The Loveliest Yarn Company

If you're looking for a gift for a knitter with a filthy sense of humour, this literally is your bag. At £15 plus P&P from The Knitting Goddess, it will hold two 100g skeins - or could alternatively double up as a make up bag. It's probably best though not to buy it for your Granny.

3. Sheep Earrings

Image courtesy of Baa Baa Brighouse
Exclusive to Baa Baa Brighouse, this pair of sterling silver sheep earrings costs a reasonable £6 plus P&P. Small but fun.

4. Femiknits Pin Badge

Image courtesy of Not On The High Street
Give this badge to someone who is a loud and proud feminist and knitter. From Kelly Connor Designs on Not On The High Street it costs £8.95 plus P&P.


5. Christmas Yarn Cosy

Image courtesy of Precious Knits

Head to Etsy for this kitsch yarn cosy/ball holder from seller Precious Knits. It's virtually guaranteed to make a Christmas fan smile. The yarn cosy will keep your ball together whilst you're storing it or carrying it in a bag. Costs £6.45 plus P&P.

6. Yarn Bobbins

Image courtesy of The Knitting Gift Shop
The Knitting Gift Shop sells these wooden yarn bobbins which are just the thing for fair isle and intarsia colour work. Wrap the yarn in use around the bobbin and they will (hopefully) keep your knitting untangled. A stylish set of three costs £7.50 plus P&P.

7. Christmas Stitch Markers
image courtesy of Charmed Knitting

A knitter can never have enough enough stitch markers because they have a canny knack of being left in WIPs or disappearing down the back of the sofa. Charmed Knitting sells a great range of Christmas stitch markers. Our favourite is the set of four silver Christmas trees surrounding a snow-tipped green one. This is perfect for a quick stocking filler as it costs only £3.99 plus P&P.


8. Crazy Yarn Lady Framed Print

Image courtesy of Dear Ewe
Make a friend smile with this stylish monochrome framed print that would go well hung up in a craft corner. From Dear Ewe it costs £26.50 plus P&P for the framed version.

9. Herdy Christmas Melamine Coasters
Image courtesy of Herdy
Herdy is selling these cute coasters that are perfect for decorating your Christmas Day table. Each costs £3.95 plus P&P.

10. Yarnivore T-shirt

Image courtesy of Etsy
Head to Stitchers Tees on Etsy to buy this Yarnivore t-shirt available in white, black or an enticing-sounding grey with gold print for a bit of Christmas sparkle. Available in adult sizes XS to 3XL the t-shirt costs £20 plus P&P.

All prices were correct on the day I published this blog post and are subject to change by the vendors.

Have you seen a fun non-yarn gift for knitters? Spread the word in the comments box below on our our Facebook page.

Vote for A Woolly Yarn

If you enjoy reading this blog please vote for A Woolly Yan in Knit Now magazine's Knitter of the Year Awards 2018 Online Innovator category. This blog is a a non-profit-making labour of love and your vote will be much appreciated. Go here to vote: www.ppjump.com/KOTY2018

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

How To Design A Christmas Jumper

What does designing a Christmas jumper involve? How do you decide whether to go Scandi stylish or full-on festive fun? Today we talk to published designer Torya Winters to get behind-the-scenes information on what it takes to turn your sparkly sweater idea from imagination into reality.

Torya Winters
Photo courtesy of Torya Hughes
She looks fabulously festive in her photo (above) and Christmas is a happy time for Winters, whose ideal December 25th would involve wearing a festive jumper, knitting in a big armchair near a warm fire and having a chocolate orange within reach (preferably not melted!)

Winters started knitting at the age of four and "really got into it in a big way as a teenager. I knitted lots of clothes for my children when they were small and then started designing when I was on maternity leave with my second child. I'm entirely self-taught, and I find the maths part the hardest! My first designs were self-published on Ravelry, and then I started submitting to magazine calls."

As well as Ravelry she sells her designs on Love Knitting and has been published in Knit Now, Crochet Now, Your Crochet and Knitting, Knotions and Knit Picks IDP.

When it comes to Christmas jumpers Winters thinks that "loud and blingy Christmas jumpers are still on-trend. I do like subtle sweaters which hint at the festive season, but you can't beat a really sparkly colourful jumper at Christmas time."

For her Christmas jumper design Winters explains that she "wanted to create something which screamed Christmas, so I was influenced by colours and elements from the traditional festive season. I found this amazing Tinsel yarn from King Cole which was perfect to create a tree, and added candy cane cables and ribbing."

The first stage was to sketch out her design:
Image courtesy of Torya Hughes
Says Winters, "do lots of sketching to get all your ideas down on paper, and never underestimate the importance of swatching. I'd recommend Design Your Own Knits in 5 Easy Steps by Debbie Abrahams - it's a great book which goes through all the stages of designing and offers tips on working out the Mathis for things like sleeve caps and shaping ... it's also a good idea to look at the CYC sizing guidelines, as many publishers want you to fit in with those sizes."

The next stage was to knit up the pattern so see if it looks as good in yarn as it does on paper:
Image courtesy of Torya Hughes
Then it was time to see if Winters could sell her pattern. After submitting her design to Knit Now, following their call-out to designers, the magazine picked her Christmas jumper design for the cover of issue 95. It went on sale earlier this year. Here is the finished product!

Image courtesy of Knit Now magazine
If you missed the magazine in the shops then you can a back issue from More Mags. Huge thanks to Torya Winters for answering our nosey questions!

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Review of Baa Baa Brighouse's Advent Yarn Box

It's December 1st, which means I've given myself permission to wear a festive jumper and start bingeing on Christmas tunes.

Today is also the first window opening of an advent calendar. This year I am lucky enough to have two: a Maltesers cardboard one and an advent yarn box I bought from West Yorkshire small yarny business Baa Baa Brighouse.


Sadly the Maltesers calendar was a huge disappointment because I was daft enough to not read the small print! It's a Maltesers calendar without any Maltesers - instead there are small chocolate shapes that I don't particularly like the taste of. My loss will be Mr A Woolly Yarn's gain instead.

Therefore the pressure was on the Baa Baa Brighouse Advent Yarn Box when I came to opening it. Would it be worth its £75 price tag?

I opened the ribbon to see what's inside.


There are 24 small parcels containing mystery shades of 10g of Baa Baa Brew Bluefaced Leicester DK. It's a hand-dyed Yorkshire yarn that ticks the provenance box. There are also a long piece of red ribbon and mini clips to attach the advent parcels to it. Baa Baa Brighouse suggests you hang the parcels up as a decoration by your tree but as I've not got round to putting up any festive ornaments yet I cut straight the chase - parcel number 1.


Like a child on Christmas Day I ripped open the packaging with gusto. And here's what was inside:


It's a really lovely pinky/red skein with an extremely cute sheep charm attached. If that's anything to go by then I'll be waking up early on the next 24 days just to open the next parcel! I haven't yet decided what I'll make with the skeins but they will come in very handy for colourwork.

The box was a limited edition and is no longer available but if you're quick there's still time to order Baa Baa Brighouse's 12 Days of Christmas Yarn Box for £60 plus P&P, designed to keep you amused between December 25th and January 5th. The theme is, as you would imagine, the festive song 'The Twelve Day of Christmas'. Not sure how the partridge in a pear tree will be interpreted in yarn ...

Vote for A Woolly Yarn

 If you enjoy reading this blog please vote for A Woolly Yarn in Knit Now magazine's Knitter of the Year 2018 awards in the Online Innovator category. Go here to vote: www.ppjump.com/KOTY2018

Coming Soon

Watch out for a very special Christmas competition that will be announced on the blog and on our Facebook page. Like the Facebook page to be one of the first to find out. Until then, mum's the word!




Monday, 26 November 2018

Knits About Winter Pattern Book Review + Vote For Us!


Image courtesy of Pom Pom Press
Baby it's cold outside, so thank heavens for the Winter warmer patterns in UK publisher Pom Press' latest publication - Knits About Winter.

Just looking at the snowfall on the cover photograph (see right) triggers yearnings for woolies to wrap up warm with.

Pom Pom Press sent A Woolly Yarn a digital copy and here's our unbiased review.

What's it all about?
Knits About Winter contains 12 woolly patterns designed by Emily Foden. She moved to a small hamlet in Canada and there set up her own dye studio.

Canadian winters require you wearing a lot of cozy layers when venturing outdoors. Foden drew on her surrounding snowy landscape when designing patterns for garments and accessories that she says are functional on even the coldest of days.

What are the patterns?

All images are courtesy of Pom Pom Press.

Eastwind


This jacket with pockets has a detail of tiny crossed stitches moving diagonally across the four body pieces as if, says Foden, 'blown by the wind'. It's knitted with DK and lace weight held together.

Snowdrift


Foden states she was inspired by colours she's seen in snow when designing this shawl. It's described as an 'almost triangular' shawl that's cast on at the lower tip.

Snowshoe 


I imagine these thick socks would keep your feet warm worn under hiking boots or a pair of wellingtons. They're knitted from the cuff down with two 4-ply yarns held together.

Skyhill hat and mittens



With their simple but extremely cosy-looking design, the Skyhill hat and middens are knitted in DK wool. According to Foden they knit up extremely quickly.

Barn


This loose-fitting jumper leaves room for lots of layers underneath. Foden has designed deep armholes that won't pull or bind.

Full Moon


This rectangular wrap features Brioche 'moons' evenly spaced throughout a background of garter stitch.  There are detailed pattern charts to follow.

Persephone


Foden named these mittens after the Persephone Market Garden farm where the Romney Merino sheep flock live that produced the wool for yarn they are knit in. The mittens are designed to be worn, if desired, with her interchangeable mitten liners.

Interchangeable Mitten Liners


If it's really freezing outside these liners, worn with the Persephone mittens, will keep your digits extra toasty. They're knitted in fingering-weight yarn.

Soiree


This shorter jumper pattern was originally published in Pom Pom Magazine in May 2017. It's knitted in the round from the bottom cast-on edge. There are two versions to choose from.

Winterberry


A tank top with a lovely bobble design on the back and front. It's knitted in DK wool.

Frost


Frost is a long, lightweight jumper with a side split and a cosy polo neck. It's knitted in mohair lace yarn.

Favourite Socks


Lighter than the Snowshoe socks, Foden says these truly are her favourite! She published the original pattern for them three years ago and this version is an experimentation with colour placement, style and texture.

All 12 pattern images are browsable on Ravelry here.

What else is in the book?
As well as excellent accompanying photographs that set the scene, Foden writes eloquently about how she looks for colour inspiration, the landscape where she lives in Mooresburg, Canada, and behind the scenes at her yarn studio.

There's also a section explaining the abbreviations used in the patterns.

How much does it cost?
On Ravelry downloading the full book will set you back £18.50. Patterns can't be bought individually.

The print version of Knits About Winter, which comes with a Ravelry download code, costs £21.50 plus P&P  bought directly from Pom Pom Press.

What's the A Woolly Yarn verdict?
Knits In Winter is a beautiful book full of oversized, warm, snuggly comfort garments that's probably better browsed as a print version to get the full benefit of the photography. Just looking at the snow-strewn photos positively makes you feel cold!

I'm not a particular fan of shawls and wraps, although that's a personal choice and I know many knitters are. For me the desirable jumpers Soiree and Barn are the stand-out patterns that elevate Knits In Winter from becoming just another socks, mittens and hats pattern book.

On the practical side each design has the image and pattern together rather than having separate sections, making it much easier to find what you want to knit.

The jacket/jumper/tank top sizes are listed as 1 to 6, which may be slightly confusing for people used to choosing their size by bust inch measurements.


Vote for A Woolly Yarn

We've been nominated for an gong! This blog is a non-profit making labour of love, free from adverts and sponsors to ensure that reviews are unbiased and trustworthy. If you enjoy reading it please vote for A Woolly Yarn in Knit Now magazine's Knitter of the Year 2018 awards in the Online Innovator category. Go here to vote: www.ppjump.com/KOTY2018


Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Big Is Better With Wool Couture + Free Scarf Pattern

Epic Extreme image courtesy of Wool Couture
Chunky yarns are very on-trend this winter as they're quick to knit up, perfect for beginners and extra warm and cosy.

Wool Couture, a company based in Barnsley, South Yorkshire, is on course to turn over a million pounds from its specialisation in yarns larger than the average aran. Its largest product, Epic Extreme, is designed for whopping great 30, 40 or even 50mm needles - or you could always ditch the sticks and take a YouTube tutorial on arm knitting.

For newbies to giant knitting it's safer to start off a little smaller than the extreme. I was keen to see if big can really be better and Wool Couture sent me two balls of their Fatt Yarn to review - one in indigo denim and the other in stone wash denim (see photo below).

Fatt Yarn 
Whist Wool Couture's wool comes from South Africa or South America it's good to hear that it's dyed and spun in Yorkshire. Amy Law from the company says "Fatt Yarn was developed as out customers wanted a chunkier version of our best seller Cheeky Chunky. So we make it twice the size of our Cheeky Chunky!"

As yet the company is lacking in patterns although Law says their designers are working on whipping some up. To test Fatt Yarn I decided to wind back the years and pretend I was a beginner, knitting a simple striped scarf in garter stitch for a Christmas present. Here's the pattern:

Fatt Yarn Christmas Scarf

Requires 10mm needles - circular or straight.

With the indigo yarn cast on 18 stitches.

Knit two rows.

Change to stonewashed yarn (don't cut the the indigo yarn) and knit another two rows.

Continue in this pattern of changing colour after every two rows, ensuring you twist the two yarns when you begin a new colour to maintain a neat edge.

When you're near the end of balls finish with two rows of the indigo yarn and then cast off loosely.

Sew in the two ends.

And here's the finished creation!



The scarf is going to my friend's husband. It looks great, is superbly warm and soft and only took a few hours to knit in front of the TV.  I did find that Fatt Yarn split a little but that's something to watch out for when making stitches with your size 10mms.

Fatt Yarn is 100% merino and costs £14.99 per ball plus P&P. In my opinion it's great for quick, fun projects - whether you are a knitting newbie or an experienced knitter.





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.
© A Woolly Yarn. Powered by