Sunday, 31 August 2014

Catwalk Gives Thumbs Up To Knitwear

Opening up Grazia magazine this week (issue 489) I came across fashion spread featuring the 'wonder of woolies'. Apparently this season knitwear goes head to toe as a skinny model sat on a horse, frolicked in a field and looked sultry next to a tree.

Picture courtesy of Stella McCartney
The knitted jumper has always been an Autumn/Winter staple but now designers are favouring knitted dresses, bags, jackets and even trousers. I must admit that even I draw the line at knitted trousers: they look OK on the model, just, but baggy is not best for every woman's figure.

It's great to see British designers embracing the woolly look. Knits feature heavily in Stella McCartney's collection, with lots of black and neutral shades as well as a vibrant blue. My favourite is the chunky knit asymmetric sweater, but at £550 you've got one of Stella's celebrity friends to be able to afford it.

So how can you knit the look yourself? I did a quick search for patterns online and came up with the lovely Louisa jumper on Ravelry and a great asymmetric pattern from Rowan's Farmhouse Knits. Depending on the quality of yarn you choose - and in my opinion it's worth plumping for the best you can afford to ensure the finished make is soft and ever-wearable - you should be able to knit one for around £50.

And the knitted trousers? Well virtually all the patterns I found were for children under two years old, unable yet to voice their protestations about wearing them. I did find, however, one pattern on Ravelry for casual bootcut pants that look just about wearable. Sadly Grazia magazine's pictures of knitted trousers aren't online to show you.

Is wearing knitted trousers a step too far for you? Or will we all be wearing them this time next year? Let me know what you think in the comments box below.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Learning About British Wool

Want to put your needles down for a bit and read about your favourite hobby? I've come across two interesting features on the internet recently that promote and teach about British wool and its heritage.

Images courtesy of Loveknitting
The first is a blog post from the online wool store Loveknitting. Complete with some lovely photos the post tells that wool traditions date back to 10,000 BC - that's a very long time ago - and that wool shearing and production have been an integral part of the British economy for centuries. In the Middle Ages we exported our wool to many countries across Europe.

During the Industrial Revolution the wool industry and its mills rose to the fore with the mechanisation of the spinning and weaving process.

Over British Wool Learning there's a curriculum-based resource for teachers to pass on our heritage to their pupils from early years to age 11. There's also a family section with craft ideas and games. The activities there are great to help a child while away a rainy afternoon - and to introduce them to crafting with British wool of course. For an addictive game yourself why not play 'count the sheep'? The challenge is to do it without falling asleep!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Debbie Bliss Knitting Magazine Issue 13

Debbie Bliss is a powerhouse: her brand goes from strength to strength with the regular launch of new yarns, pattern books and her twice yearly knitting magazine, which is published on both sides of the pond we call the Atlantic Ocean. On top of all this in the Spring she launched a homewares collection with great gifts for knitters who have enough yarn in their stash to keep them going for some time. Stitch mug and tea towel - check! Knitting aid apron - check!

The latest issue of Debbie Bliss Magazine, issue 13, is in the shops now. As well as showcasing the many facets of Debbie's business it contains some great articles and patterns. The only way a British reader would know that the magazine also caters for the American market is by the mention of 'fall' instead of 'Autumn' and adverts for wool stores in the US.

Now here comes a confession: I'm slightly biased when it comes to reviewing this edition because I've written an article in it all about the ways to keep in touch with Debbie Bliss via social media. Reader, I'll leave it up to you to decide whether you like that feature or not. Elsewhere there's a great round-up of Debbie's new pattern books and yarns, without giving them the hard sell. Luscious photography certainly makes the yarns look attractive. I also like the 'Ask Rosy' page with knitting questions. I was glad to see I'm not alone in wondering how to tell if a small amount of yarn will last for another row or not. The '25 ways to be a better knitter' article contains some good tips.

Pattern-wise there are lots for women and children, with a range of garments, accessories and gifts. My favourite is the Ombre Sweater that channels the on-trend ombre look with varying shades of blue at the bottom of a cream, cosy jumper.

It's great to see this British designer (who is just as lovely in person as her designs are) going from strength to strength and conquering America! In the UK you can buy a magazine subscription online from GMC Publications.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Follow the Herdy

Picture courtesy of Herdy
A short Summer break in Northumberland has meant that I've not updated the blog for a while. Now I'm back, full of praise for the county's wonderful coastal scenery and general sense of spaciousness you feel driving along its country roads, past fields and fields of sheep.

Whilst I wouldn't want to be in the field with one I do love pictures of sheep and the crafty versions. Sheep, in all their different breeds, appear to be such British, cuddly animals, with their fleeces bringing much joy to knitters.

The British company Herdy has a sheep on their logo and sells a craft line of wool and patterns. They've recently added a sheep crochet pattern to their range, along with patterns for fabulous adult or children's hats.  Herdy is short for Herdwick sheep from the Lake District. As well selling a fun yarn line made from Herdy sheep, sourced from a cooperative of Herdwick farmers, the company supports rural and community projects both at home and overseas.

Picture courtesy of Herdy
I'd love to visit one of their shops in Grasmere, Hawes or Keswick, but until then I get my crafty sheep fix from their website. Herdy is great example of a modern British wool company. Next year I'd like a North Yorkshire Summer break to visit the Hawes shop. Until then I'll have to make do with crocheting a Herdy sheep - but which colour to choose from Herdy's signature green, grey, light blue, dark blue, pink or orange yarns?

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Rowan's Big Wool Colour Collection

When I first got back into knitting, about a decade ago, some of my first projects were with Rowan Big Wool. As it's so chunky it knits up quickly and it's possible to knit up a bag or hat in a night - perfect for the born-again beginner who wants to see quick results.

Big Wool Colour - Carnival
I've used Big Wool sporadically ever since, most notably to make a heart jumper, which some of my friends liked so much they asked me to knit one for then. Now there's a new Big Wool variation in town: Big Wool Colour.

Rowan kindly sent me a ball of Big Wool Colour and the supporting pattern book, Big Wool Colour Collection, to review. My opinions are my own. Big Wool Colour is the same weight as Big Wool but is twisted with lots of different shades. There are six colourways: Fete, Fairground, Carnival, Jamboree, Waltzer and Carousel. I received Carnival. It's fun and bright, with the same knitting qualities I'm used to with Big Wool.

Me modelling Rumba
The supporting patterns in Big Wool Colour Collection use both Big Wool and Big Wool Colour. To try out the yarn I tried out the looped scarf pattern Rumba. The pattern uses two balls but as I only had one I made a shorter version. After casting on, Rumba only has one row of instructions which is continually repeated. The looped scarf knitted up like a dream and looks great. Big Wool does have a tendency to split, being so thick, but using size ten (UK) needles it's easy to avoid.

Big Wool Colour Collection gets the thumbs up from me too. Published for the Autumn/Winter 2014 season, it includes 13 patterns with both quick and easy knits (like Rumba) and slightly less quick knits including a jumper or cardigan. Big Wool Colour doesn't come cheap, retailing at around £10.50 per ball, so beginners may want to start with a two ball hat or scarf project. The medium size of the wonderful sloppy joe jumper Cancan, which I have my eye on to knit, uses nine balls.

All in all Big Wool Colour and the Big Wool Colour Collection are a great addition to Rowan's yarn and pattern range. My guess is that they will be particularly beloved by beginner and younger knitters who will be charmed by the yarns' bright colours, the patterns' funky designs, and the short amount of time they take to knit up.

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