Sunday, 20 December 2015

Review of Flatland by Katya Frankel

Vector image copyright Katya Frankel
Have you got all your Christmas presents bought, wrapped and given out and are now sitting smugly on the sofa with a glass of mulled wine feeling rather pleased with yourself? No? Me neither - I'm in a dash trying to sew up and block a jumper gift before Christmas Eve.

If you're looking to buy a pattern download as a last-minute gift for a knitter then Flatland, Katya Frankel's latest pattern collection, is worth more than a browse. It's a short but very sweet collection of three 'Autumn essential' patterns comprising a bobble hat called Vector (pictured right), mitts and an oversized cowl. What I like about this collection is that they're all doable, in that the three patterns are immensely wearable with a bit of a challenge to knit but not too much as to be off-putting.

Tesseract image copyright Katya Frankel
Frankel is a UK-based designer who has a fascination with geometrical shapes. Her work has appeared in British mainstream knitting magazines and she has also published two other books. Flatland's inspiration is apparently, according to the press release, "a Victorian science fiction novel, called Flatland, in which 2D shapes strive to a higher degree of regularity, in in their words 'perfection'". To the layperson I think this means that the three designs have fun with geometrical patterns.

The cowl, named 'Tesseract', can be worn long or alternatively folded twice round the neck to create an extra-snug fit. Knitted in chunky yarn, it has a garter stitch and lace pattern framed by ribbing. This pattern is less complicated than 'Vector' and is one I would knit in front of the TV, with it not requiring my full attention to follow.

Tangent image copyright Katya Frankel
Finally, the 'Tangent' mitts have a design that plays with the idea of angles and curves and are knitted in the round. This pattern uses DK yarn. Mitts have been very on trend for the last few years. Although they look lovely it's a slight bugbear of mine that it's difficult to find glove patterns these days for those of us who like to keep our fingers warm. It would be great if Frankel published a version of 'Tangent' with full fingers.

Flatland is available from Ravelry as an ebook costing £5.25. Alternatively the three patterns can be bought individually for £3.50 each.

All in all this is a lovely small pattern collection, which makes me want to follow Frankel's work in the future.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Take Heart - Review of Pom Pom Press' First Pattern Book

Image courtesy of Pom Pom Press
Pom Pom Quarterly magazine has built a reputation for being a cutting-edge indie knitting magazine with a luxurious paper feel. Now Pom Pom has expanded its activities to launch Pom Pom Press. Their first pattern book, Take Heart - A Transatlantic Knitting Journey, has been published in time for Christmas.

The accessory patterns, all 11 of them, are the brainchild of designer Fiona Alice. Fiona is originally from Canada but has since crossed the Atlantic herself to live in London.

At first glance at my review copy I was delighted to see that each pattern uses an indie yarn from Canada and the UK. As this blog celebrates British yarn it's these designs I'm most interested in. The Take Heart beanie uses Toft Alpaca Aran silver yarn, whilst the Lunenberg Harbour socks are knitted in Toft Alpaca Silk Extra Fine. I'm a great fan of Toft's quality British yarn. Toft Alpaca itself seems to be concentrated on the crochet side of the business, with its Edward's Menagerie crochet patterns of animals and birds, so I was particularly pleased to see new knitting patterns using their yarn.

The Chester Basin Mittens, which match the Chester Basin Hat, are knitted with Border Mill Alpaca Tweed, a brand I was previously unaware with but now am keen to take a closer look at. If a wrap/shawl is more your thing in Winter weather then Three Cliffs, knitted with John Arbon Textiles Viola, is a cosy-looking pattern. The Uncommon Thread BFL Fingering yarn is used for the Pennard Castle legwarmers. It's a beautiful pattern but my legwarmer-wearing days ended as a child in the 1980s.

Patterns using Canadian yarn are also work more than a look, my favourite being the Martinique Beach Cowl using SweetGeorgia Yarns Trinity Worsted.

Take Hart includes stunning photography, shot on the Gower Coast in South Wales, of the finished garments. Alice has also added her schematic sketches of her designs. Clearly a lot of care has been taken in the production of the book.

The digital book is available on Ravelry for £14.40. Alternatively buy a print and digital copy from Pom Pom Press for £14.50 plus £1.80 post and packaging within the UK.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Christmas Gifts For Knitters

Now that the commercial buying frenzy of Black Friday (which turned out to last the whole weekend) and Cyber Monday are out of the way it's time to support Small Business Saturday on 5th December. Awoollyyarn believes in buying British yarn, particularly wool, and supporting our island's designer/makers rather than the big multinational companies that pile acrylic and polyester yarn high and sell it cheap.

Here is my choice of ten presents for knitters that can be purchased online. Buying one of these creates a double whammy: not only will you put a smile on the recipient's face on Christmas Day, but also you'll be supporting the livelihood of the independent yarn stores and designer/makers who rely on the Christmas season to make the bulk of their yearly profits.

I've avoided choosing patterns and yarns because it can be difficult to guess the colour, style and weight your gift recipient may like. Please note that all prices were correct at the time of writing and do not include postage and packing.

1. Baa Baa Brighouse Stitch Markers

These adorable stitch markers come on a large safety pin that in itself will be handy for a buttonless cardigan. The stitch markers come in two sizes, up to 3.5mm and up to 7.5mm. The six designs include a ball of wool, tape measure and pair of scissors. £4.

Image courtesy of Baa Baa Brighouse

2. Herdy Tape Measure

A tape measure is a necessity for knitters and this version from this company founded in the Lake District has a cute sheep on the front, which is also the company's mascot. £3.50.
Image courtesy of Herdy

3. Susan Crawford's Vintage Shetland Project Book

This book chronicling Shetland's rich knitting history and featuring 25 patterns for garments from Shetland Museum's textile archive, along with an essay on each piece, is available for pre-order. It's a book that both knitting and social history fans will treasure. £25.

Image courtesy of Susan Crawford

4. Max's World Knitting Needles Earrings

Knitters with pierced ears will adore these handmade ball of wool and knitting needle earrings. The yarn is hand dyed 100% lace weight merino with a streak of sparkle running through. £10.

5. Kelly Connor Designs Knitting Bag

Nobody puts my knitting in a corner! So says this delightful knitting bag, reminiscent of the famous Dirty Dancing movie line said by Patrick Swazye 'Nobody puts Baby in the corner'. Practical and fun, what's not to love? £24.95.

Image courtesy of Kelly Connor Designs

6. Brityarn's Stitch Safe Mini Hooks

Not only are these small hooks gorgeous to look at but also they are very handy at picking up dropped stitches. Available in purple, red or cream. £8.50.

7. Loop Heavy Duty Wooden Ball Winder

This is more an investment piece than a one-off present but although it's not cheap it will be a lifeline for knitters sick of trying to use their arms and a back of a chair to untie yarn skeins and roll them into a ball. £290.

Image courtesy of Loop Knitting

8. The Yarn Ball Yarn Bowl

I've got my eye on this myself. Handmade by ceramicist Annette Bugansky the ball splits in the middle. Pop your yarn inside, pull the end out of the top and you have an efficient yet beautiful solution to keeping your yarn-in-progress safe. £70.

Image courtesy of Knit With Attiutde

9. Baa Ram Ewe Travel Mug

Leeds-based yarn store baa ram ewe has produced this travel mug as an antidote to the throwaway packaging used for takeaway coffees. There are three cheeky designs at £10 each:

  1. Voulez vous crochet avec moi ce soir?
  2. Get your steek on
  3. No woman no ply
Image courtesy of baa ram ewe

This entry receives a special dispensation to appear in the list. Although the sheep is hand carved in Japan it is of the much-loved British sheep and sold by a Yorkshire company. Hailing from Yorkshire myself I'm biased towards most things connected with my birth county! This wooden sheep is a lovely ornament for sheepy wool lovers. £30.

Image courtesy of Eden Cottage Yarns

And finally ...

Just in case you need a spare present on hand in case there's someone you haven't thought of how about this Brighton-made small alpaca necklace from Toft Alpaca? Non-knitter ladies will love it too.
Image courtesy of Toft Alpaca
Are there any gifts you think are perfect for knitters? Do let me know in the comment box below.

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