Monday, 31 July 2017

Two New Covetable Brit Sweater & Cardigan Patterns + FOMK

Aaah - can Brit designers please take a six month break from releasing patterns to allow me to finish what I'm currently knitting? We've all been there, happily halfway through knitting a current project then wham! comes a new design you really want to knit straight away. Do you add it to your Ravelry favourites and steadfastly finish what you've started, or do put your half-finished creation to one side and get cracking with your latest pattern crush?

The acronym FOMO (fear of missing out) was coined for the social media generation when on Facebook, Instagram etc it seems like everyone else is out having a great time when you're stuck indoors doing the cleaning. I've made up the acronym FOMK (fear of missing knitting) for when crafters spot a lustworthy new pattern that they want to be one of the first to finish.


Praline image courtesy of Dani Sunshine
Emails about two such new patterns inspiring FOMK dropped into my inbox over the last few days. The first was from Kettle Yarn Co, showcasing a fabulous design from designer Dani Sunshine knitted in KYC's Beyul DK (see left).  Praline is a short cardigan perfect for wearing over floaty dresses. It's a great twist on a cardie and I want to wear it immediately!

At the time of writing this post Sunshine is offering 30% off the pattern if bought through Ravelry using the code BEYULSHRUG. I couldn't resist.

I haven't seen KYC's Beyul yarn in all its squishy glory. It's a mix of baby yak, silk and ethically sourced merino. Sadly it doesn't pass the A Woolly Yarn British origin test, so I looked at the other yarns on offer from the company.  Islington DK is a blend of 55% Blue Faced Leicester wool and 45% silk and is said to be hard-wearing, low pilling and long-lasting. I've settled on the shade icicle - a silver hue - as my favourite and one that will go with most garments in my wardrobe. At £21 per 100g skein it's certainly not cheap (this is where I thank my lucky stars I'm size extra small, needing the least amount of yarn) but I see Praline as an evening wear treat that will last as long as I do.


Image courtesy of Ysolda Teague
In her latest email Jen from Arnall-Cullinford Knitwear features a chat with Edinburgh-based designer Ysolda Teague. This month Teague published the Icelandic-inspired sweater Threipmuir and it's another I really want to knit. I haven't yet knitted a sweater with a multi-coloured yoke and would like both add the skills to my repertoire and have a snuggly jumper for the forthcoming winter.

The Threipmuir pattern is £7 to download on Ravelry. It uses S Twist Wool, which I'd never heard of. Following a little internet searching I discovered that S Twist Wool an Irish company and their sock weight yarn, used for the jumper, is a blend of fleeces from Tipperary and Kilkenny. It is available online in 100g skeins priced in euro.

If you'd prefer a Brit wool version sold in sterling then I'd recommend these two: Blacker Classic 4 Ply British Wool or the same company's pricier range Blacker Yarns Tamar 4 Ply, which has very vibrant shades. Blacker Classic costs £4.40 per 50g ball and Tamar is £16.20 per 100g skein.

Which to cast on first when I finish my current two projects - Raindrops and Lush??

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Commemorating The Life of Jane Austen + Katya Frankel's Kitty's Chemise

Image courtesy of
Bodleian Library
Did you know that author Jane Austen was between 5 feet 6 and 8 inches tall and skinner in her 30s than the current model du jour Kate Moss?

This year marks the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen's death. I discovered the titbit of information about her figure when I recently visited an exhibition celebrating her life and work at the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

I've been a fan of Austen's novels ever since studying Pride and Prejudice for A level English Literature. Further undergraduate and Masters degrees in English Lit didn't dampen my enthusiasm for her. Indeed, I remember rationing her novels rather than bingeing on them and the subsequent sadness I felt when I finished her sixth knowing there were no more left to read...

Even if you've not read any of Austen's novels then it's likely that the BBC's 1995 Pride and Prejudice television adaptation, making a star out of actor Colin Firth playing a smouldering, wet breeches-clad Mr Darcy (although a BBC news story burst the fantasies of many women by showing what Regency period Mr Darcy would probably have actually looked like - and it involves a grey wig). Since then the film and television remakes of Austen's novels have kept on coming, but, whilst they are very entertaining, none can live up to the wit of her sparkling prose.

Pride & Preju-Knits

In 2016 I had the pleasure of reviewing a book, Pride & Preju-Knits, containing patterns to knit your favourite characters from Austen's novels.

Whether it be Lydia and Wickham's wedding in Pride and Prejudice:

Image courtesy of Geraldine Warner

Anne Eliot playing the piano forte for Persuasion's Captain Wentworth:

Image courtesy of Geraldine Warner

Or our heroine's wedding in Emma, there are plenty of patterns for Austen fans to knit! Which character would you cast on first?

Image courtesy of Geraldine Warner

Geraldine Warner, the book's author (who writes under the pseudonym Trixie Von Purl) has even made a short movie mash up featuring her knitted characters. Watch it on her website - scroll down the page to play the embedded youtube movie.

Which Jane Austen?

Image courtesy of Bodleian Library
As well as finding out about Austen's figure at the Which Jane Austen? exhibition there was lots to discover about her writing inspiration and the culture in which she lived.

For me, to see her handwritten letters and manuscripts, her portable writing desk and a replica of the silk pelisse coat she bought with her writing earnings, was thrilling. The objects and contexts - from her childhood to the influence of the war with France and her trips to cosmopolitan society in London - really brought Austen's character alive in my imagination and challenged the perceived image of her as a middle-aged spinster living a quiet life in the back of beyond. No knitting was there, but there was a needlework sampler on display reputed to be Austen's.

Whilst I waxed lyrical about the exhibition my husband was rather more appreciative of our next stop, the Turf Tavern, reputedly Oxford's oldest pub. He declared Which Jane Austen? to be like watching paint dry, only more boring!

Kitty's Chemise

I was delighted to hear that talented Newcastle-based designer Katya Frankel has timely re-released her Kitty's Chemise pattern, which can be downloaded on Ravelry for £4.

Image courtesy of Katya Frankel
It's inspired by the undergarment a gentile young lady such as at Kitty in Pride and Prejudice would have worn, and in the 21st century makes a great t-shirt rather than a vest!

Image courtesy of Katya Frankel

Kitty's Chemise is knitted in the round from the bottom up in panels of stockinette and reverse-stockinette stitch The photographs of the back of the chemise (above and below) show this well.

Image courtesy of Katya Frankel

The chemise is fitted at the waist. It has ribbing at the hem and i-cord trim at the neck and sleeves. Whilst the prescribed yarn on the pattern isn't British, Brityarn has a selection of homegrown DK yarns to substitute it with. It goes without saying to knit a tension square first.

I haven't had time to knit this pattern yet - such was the rush to blog about it - but I will choose one of the following yarns that are easy to wash and soft against the skin:
  1. West Yorkshire Spinners' Illustrious DK - I've a penchant for the delicate green that is 'Sea Glass'
  2. The Knitting Goddess' Merino Sparkle DK - its sparkles would make a great going out top for the evening
  3. Blacker Yarns' Lyonesse DK - this wool and linen blend gives a more lightweight knit and offers a more autumnal palette of shades than the other two choices. 

More Jane Austen

To find out about more events taking place to mark the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen's death, visit the Jane Austen 200 website.

For details of the crafts that a gentlewoman would have indulged in during the Regency period - and it's not just knitting and needlework - see Emily Hendrickson's Regency Craft & Pastimes post.

Monday, 17 July 2017

Knit To Support The Grenfell Tower Block Fire Victims

The charity Knit for Peace is selling three patterns donated by designer Jane Crowfoot to raise money for victims of the Grenfell Tower Block fire in the London Borough of Kensington & Chelsea.

The official death toll of the tragedy, which took place in the early hours of 14th June, stands at 80, although police have warned that this could rise. Many residents who escaped lost everything in the fire. Knit for Peace responded to requests for knitted blankets and trauma teddies for the victims and will be sending knitting kits to survivors to help them "feel the calming effects of knitting".

Knitters are asked for a £5 donation to download each of the three patterns.

The patterns are:

Beaded Crochet Collar

Image courtesy of Knit for Peace

Comfy Crochet Cowl

Image courtesy of Knit for Peace

Moroccan Tile Wrap

Image courtesy of Knit for Peace

Download your favourite or all three here.

Knit for Peace is always keen to accept donations of new and unworn hand knitted items to distribute in hospitals, prisons, women's refuges, hospices, refugee centres and developing countries.

The charity if currently looking for gifts of warm adult clothes, bed socks, scarves, adult hats and large blankets.  Information on how to donate is on Knit for Peace's website.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Baskerville Is Back! Plus Blacker Yarns, Countess Ablaze, Baa Ram Ewe & Kate Davies Yarn Launches

Baskerville is back!

Baskerville image courtesy of Kettle Yarn Co
Linda Lenovic, owner of Kettle Yarn Co, uses British Gotland fleece blended with Exmoor Blueface and silk to produce her own Baskerville yarn.

After months of waiting for the latest shearing to take place Baskerville is now back in stock in all seven of its hues.

Lenovic creates small batches of this slightly luminous yarn and once its gone knitters will have to wait until next year's fleece batch!

Baskerville is fingering weight and a 100g skein costs £24.

Blacker Yarns 2ply lace weight

Image courtesy of Blacker Yarns
The latest addition to Blacker Yarns' range is a 2ply lace Blue-faced Leicester yarn retailing at £7.80 for a 50g ball.

The range comes in 13 colours inspired by coral reefs. I haven't had a chance to do the squish test yet or knit up a sample square but Sonja Bargielowska from Blacker Yarns writes:
"Our BFL lace-weight yarn is worsted spun, meaning the yarn goes through an additional five processes in the mill to remove the shorter, coarser fibres. This creates a more luxurious yarn, with a sumptuous handle - it's no surprise BFL yarns are a firm favourite amongst hand knitters!"
The yarn is suitable for any lace knitting patterns including shawls and scarves.

Countess Ablaze restocks one-off lace colourways

Image courtesy of Countess Ablaze.
OAK stands for one of a kind and the Manchester-based knit dyer Countess Ablaze has restocked her online store with her latest delectable lace OAK skeins.

Her lace yarn base is a blend of British Bluefaced Leicester and mulberry silk (the yarn is spun in Peru, but I'm including it on the blog because the wool is British and it's dyed in the UK), creating a machine washable fibre that's suitable to wear next to the skin.

One 100g skein, says the Countess, is enough to knit a shawl or scarf. A skein costs £19 or £21 depending on the colourway.

Baa Ram Ewe's big balls

Image courtesy of baa ram dew
At the other end of the thickness spectrum Leeds-based yarn producer baa ram ewe is selling Big Balls in eight shades as part of its Autumn/Winter season launch range.

They cost a whopping £48 but for that you get a whole kilogram of English 56 dyed fibre, apart from the Ecru shade, which comes from Derbyshire Gritstone.

These are not spun yarn balls as we know them. The balls are suitable for spinning and/or felting at home, or alternatively you can use your arm or very large needles to knit the fibre into a bulky blanket.

Again, I haven't had chance to squish the yarn yet but the whole premise sounds like lots of fun.

Kate Davies' Aran Tweed

Image courtesy of Kate Davies
In an email to subscribers on Friday 14th July Davies teased knitters with the news that her forthcoming yarn launch will be Milarrochy Tweed, inspired by an old oak tree at Milarrochy Bay near her Scottish home.

She says that the yarn is being spun in Donegal with additional finishing in Yorkshire. Milarrochy Tweed is fingering weight and will be available in 12 shades of 25g skeins.
No images of the yarn are available yet, will it become as popular as her debut Scottish DK yarn range Buachaille?

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Vintage Special: Bletchley Park Knitting; Susan Crawford Shetland Update & Land Girl Jumper

Today's post is dedicated to recent news on all things vintage. The trend in scouring the archives for patterns from the 1920s - 1960s shows no sign of abating, with talented British designers rewriting old patterns to suit modern yarns and techniques and also creating new designs inspired by those of yesteryear.

Bletchley Park's call for hand-knit 1940s garments

The ground-breaking museum near Milton Keynes celebrates the secret intelligence and code breaking that took place there in World War 2. The exhibitions show how the emerging science of information technology changed the course of the war, with many rooms set out as they were during the 1939-1945 conflict.

In June the museum appealed for knitters to donate garments knitted using authentic 1940s patterns put on display and show what everyday sartorial life would have been like for the men and women who worked there. The appeal was so successful that applications are on hold for the moment. When the items are all on display at Bletchley Park, made famous by the 2014 film The Imitation Game starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, the museum will be well worth another visit.

I visited in December 2014 and was delighted to see the knitting collection already there including the fabulous  'Please Knit Now' poster galvanising knitters to help the war effort.

15th July update - This fascinating article from atlasobscura tells of the wartime spies who used knitting as a tool for espionage.
Image courtesy of Susan Crawford

Susan Crawford's Vintage Shetland update

Knitting designer, writer and historian Susan Crawford is one of Britain's best known vintage knitting specialists. Sadly her latest much-awaited book, The Vintage Shetland Project, a collection of essays and patterns recreated from Shetland Museum's textile archives, had to be put on hold whilst Crawford was treated for breast cancer.

In her latest email to those who subscribed to her crowdfunding campaign to publish the book she revealed the good news that she is now feeling well enough to complete the project and it should be ready pre-Christmas.  Crawford also reveals that the book contains:
"More than 20 essays ... around 50,000 words all about Shetland knitters and designers, Shetland knitting history and the history of the island, fashion history, knitting history, the bigger picture featured in the first half of the twentieth century and the connections form these to the knitwear featured in the book." 
There will also be 25 patterns. I'm eagerly awaiting my copy and am sure the book will feature in many a vintage knitting fan's Christmas stocking this year.

The Knitter magazine's Land Girl jumper

Mavis image courtesy of The Knitter
When I spotted Penelope Hemingway's Mavis design in issue 112 of The Knitter magazine I immediately broke my 'no more yarn' rule and bought the 100% British yarn, Dovestone DK, from Brityarn taking advantage of their 10% off deal (which has now ended), to knit it with.

The pattern accompanies an article by Hemingway describing the life of Land Girls, young women who joined the Women's Land Army to work on farms during World War 2, and the clothes they were issued with.

Whilst Hemingway used the colour Eggcup to knit her jumper in I chose the dark olive green Dalby, reminiscent of the grass and greenery in the fields the Land Girls worked in.

The design is featured on Ravelry but cannot be bought there. If you can't find issue 112 in a newsagent then it can be purchased directly from the publishers here.

Friday, 7 July 2017

Toft and Baa Ram Ewe New Season Yarn Launches

As I'm writing this I'm cowering inside with all my windows open trying to cool down in the heat. Summer is here in the Midlands, UK - well for a few days at least. Yet whilst I'm carrying on knitting Tin Can Knits' Raindrops jumper in gorgeously silky 4ply, Britain's independent yarn companies and designers are busy working on their Autumn/Winter yarn launches.

Since I started writing this blog two and a half years ago my eyes have been opened as to what can truly be called British yarn. At the beginning I featured Rowan yarns with it being one of the best-known British knitting companies and having its headquarters at the heart of mill country in West Yorkshire. I since learned, thanks to some digging and information from other bloggers such as KnitBritish, that the company is now German-owned and sources its wool from abroad. The company used to sell a great British Sheep Breeds line but it was discontinued. Nowadays I'd still feature on A Woolly Yarn Rowan patterns by British designers but its yarn is a no-no.

Batch 2 image courtesy of Toft
Two new season yarn launches that can proudly call themselves British are Toft's £12 hand-dyed 50g balls - batch 2 has just been released and there will be more to come in the series - and Baa Ram Ewe's Dovestone Natural Chunky.

Toft Batch 2

Toft's DK yarn - spun in the UK from British fleeces - has been given a colourful makeover. Batch 2 is a bright turquoise colour inspired by owner Kerry Lord's gecko crochet pattern. In the last few years the company's focus has moved on from knitting to crochet thanks to the success of Lord's crocheted animals and monsters patterns. If you're not into animals and crochet this can be off-putting, but it doesn't take much leap of the imagination to see the yarn knitted up into a hat or cowl (though you'll probably need two balls for this).

The Toft website offers some great free patterns suitable for the hand-dyed DK yarn that are suitable for beginner and intermediate knitters. I recommend starting off with the YF DK Scarf or the Basic Beanie.

Baa Ram Ewe Dovestone Chunky

Over at Leeds-based Baa Ram Ewe their Autumn/Winter focus is on chunky, natural yarns perfect for warming up in Winter. Dovestone Chunky (a sister product to the store's thoroughly British Dovestone DK and Aran yarns) is launching on 13th July in five shades priced at £14 per 100g hank.

Dovestone Natural Chunky image courtesy of Baa Ram Ewe
Dovestone Natural Chunky is spun from 50% Bluefaced Leicester, 25% Wensleydale Longwool and 25% Masham wool.

For pattern support Baa Ram Ewe is publishing Learn to Knit At Home - 12 home furnishing patterns designed by Alison Moreton aimed at new and beginner knitters.

I haven't seen Batch 2 or Dovestone Natural Chunky in the flesh but hope to review them in the future.

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