Monday, 18 November 2019

Five Free Patterns For Christmas Jumper Day 2019

Image courtesy of Save the Children
Save the date people - this year's Christmas Jumper Day to raise money for the charity Save the Children is Friday 13th December.

Schools, workplaces and anyone else who wants to join in are encouraged to wear a seasonal sweater and donate to Save the Children to support its causes around the world.

Cheesy, classic or contemporary - it doesn't matter the type of jumper you wear as long as you take part and spare what cash you can.

Knitters know it's much better to knit your own jumper that will last for years and years rather than buy unsustainable fashion that will fall apart after a few washes.  Here are five free pattern ideas:

1. Hobbycraft has a free download pattern for a woman's Christmas jumper complete with pom pom for Rudolph's nose!

Image courtesy of Hobbycraft
2. Lovecrafts has a free download of a Painbox Yarns pattern for men featuring lots of Christmas trees.

Image courtesy of Paintbox Yarns/Lovecrafts
3. DROPS design's free pattern has a festive silver stag yoke.

Image courtesy of DROPS
4. Let's Knit magazine has a free download pattern for a unisex child's snowman jumper.

Image courtesy of Let's Knit
5. The Yarn Loop has a free snowman pattern by Sue Stratford for adults who don't want to miss out on the fun!

Image courtesy of The Yarn Loop

Now all you have to buy is that yarn, that's if you haven't got any hanging around in your stash that is!

Delve into A Woolly Yarn's archive for more Christmas jumper pattern ideas:


Which is your favourite Christmas jumper pattern?






Friday, 15 November 2019

Marie Wallin's Two New Pattern Books For Winter

Meadow image courtesy of Marie Wallin
It's like waiting for a bus and then two come along at once! Fans of knitting designer Marie Wallin - who formerly worked for Rowan and now runs her own business - will be thrilled to know that she's releasing not one but two pattern books this winter.

Meadow

Meadow is already available and contains seven Fair Isle and textured stitch designs that are Wallin's speciality. The whole collection uses Jamieson's Spindrift 4ply wool. Spindrift is a hardy wool with a sticky texture that makes it suitable for steeking - if you dare!

Says Wallin about the patterns:
"The designs in the Meadow collection are lightly inspired by traditional Fair Isle patterns and ornamental design. Many of the shapes are more contemporary in look and styling with some of them being easy to change to a different colour, if so desired."
Meadow costs £18 plus P&P from Wallin's website and she is donating £1 from each copy sold to the Shetland MRI scanner appeal. The island of Shetland is close to Wallin's heart and currently residents who need an MRI scan have to travel to the mainland.

All seven designs are available to browse on Ravelry, but here are A Woolly Yarn's top three favourites:

Cowslip

This cropped, boxy-shaped jumper is knitted flat in pieces and uses 16 different shades of Spindrift. Great for a challenge!

Cowslip image courtesy of Marie Wallin
Mallow

Wallin has used the shade 'Blue Lovat' for this jumper with three-quarter-length sleeves. The intricate stitch pattern is very striking.

Mallow image courtesy of Marie Wallin
Teasel

Want a change from stranded colourwork yokes? This design places the colourwork around the waist instead.

Teasel image courtesy of Marie Wallin

Gentle

Wallin's second pattern book of the season, Gentle, uses her own British Breeds yarn range, including four new shades that will launch on 1st December to coincide with the publication of the book. Gentle is available to pre-order for £19 plus P&P from Marie Wallin's website.

Gentle image courtesy of Marie Wallin
Gentle contains 12 designs and, after a sneak early peak of them all, here are A Woolly Yarn's top three favourites:

Honeysuckle - a beautifully-shaded Fair Isle cardigan.

Honeysuckle image courtesy of Marie Wallin
Veronica Cowl - a smaller project suitable for stranded colourwork learners.

Veronica image courtesy of Marie Wallin
Mistletoe Tam - a seasonally-named hat that's almost too beautiful to wear!



Which is your favourite? Dare you steek or do you opt for designs you don't have to cut? Let us know in the comment box or on A Woolly Yarn's Facebook page.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Fashionistas Hail Knitted Power Jumpers

Reading this week's Grazia magazine one very woolly story popped out at me. Apparently knitted power jumpers are set to be all the rage: "No longer assuming a solid supporting role to coats and boots, cardis and sweaters are making a play for the limelight this winter".  The article was accompanied by photos of jumpers with prices reaching up to a whopping £684, much, much more than the hand-knitted Vinterskov jumper by Karie Westermann that I happened to be wearing whilst reading the article.

It got me thinking that fashionistas are rather slow on the knitted jumper uptake. Knitters love a statement jumper that they've made themselves - we've been practicing slow, sustainable, eco-friendly fashion for years.

Vinterskov image courtesy of Karie Westermann
During my childhood I was told to put a jumper on rather than turn the heating up and I love this time of year when the clocks go back, the nights get darker, the days cooler and crisper and it's officially cosy sweater season. I finished my version of Westermann's Vinteskov back in April this year and it's only in the last couple of weeks that it has been cold enough to wear it. My version is mainly knitted in a one-off hand-dyed yarn by Eden Cottage Yarns along with some leftover plum aran for the trees that matched the dark speckles exactly.

My version of Vinterskov 
Knitters have known for centuries that woolly jumpers are can be both practical and fashionable. Grazia says that a power knit "should simply look compellingly cosy and as if it has - and will be - in your wardrobe for years."

One jumper that fits the bill, which I finished a couple of months ago, is the cover pattern from Shetland Wool Week's 2018 Annual: Alyssa Maggie's Tree Yoke.
Image courtesy of Alyssa Maggie
My version is knitted using Susan Crawford's Excelana 4ply, with a darker grey and lighter yellow.


My other 'power jumper' this year is Marna Gilligan's The Simpler Sinister Sweater.  Marna's original is knitted in yellow and grey:

Image courtesy of Marna Gilligan
I opted for yarn from the Kettle Yarn Co. in brighter colours:


Coming soon to my needles is a fabulous new power jumper pattern by Mrs Moon using super chunky wool:
Mossy jumper image courtesy of Mrs Moon
It's going to be a Christmas gift for a relative and I'm hoping that because it's knitted on 10mm needles I'll get it finished way before December 25th!

What's your favourite hand-knitted power jumper? Or which are you planning to knit over the months? Tell all in the comments below or on A Woolly Yarn's Facebook page.

Monday, 28 October 2019

Review Of Shetland Wool Week Annual 2019

Image courtesy of Shetland Wool Week
This year's Shetland Wool Week was another success attracting visitors from all around the world to the small Scottish island renowned for its woolly heritage.

For those of us who didn't get a chance or couldn't afford to go there the Shetland Wool Week Annual 2019,  priced at £24 plus P&P, is a great souvenir and opportunity for a spot of armchair travelling. A Woolly Yarn received a review copy but all opinions are our own.

As well as containing 16 patterns inspired by Shetland (15 are knitting and one, by Marie Wallin, is crochet) the annual celebrates the tenth anniversary of Wool Week. An article looks into the history of official hat pattern releases for the festival - this year's is Oliver Henry's Roadside Beanie -
there's a left of support from HRH Prince Charles, Duke of Rothsay, who initiated the Campaign for Wool.

Image courtesy of Oliver Henry and Sandra Manson
Sumptuous photography, not only of the garments and accessories included in the patterns but also of scenes around Shetland, really give the reader a feel of the islands. There are also four features covering native sheep, Fair Isle knitting, natural dyes and how the landscape inspires craft.

The most familiar pattern in the annual, because it was released back in March to promote this year's Wool Week, is this year's patron Oliver Henry's Roadside Beanie. It's knitted using Jamieson and Smith's 2ply jumper weight wool.

Henry explained the inspiration for the hat: "My roadside beanie features two common roadside sights in Shetland: Shetland sheep and fishing boats. Both of them have loomed large in my life as a Shetlander."

The annual contains two more hat patterns to choose from: Felicity Ford's Shetland Muse

Image courtesy of Felicity Ford
and the Stavaness Toorie by Terri Malcolmson.

Image courtesy of Terri Malcolmson
If you have something to keep your head warm you'll also be wanting to keep your hands warm too. The Annual has three options, my favourite being Donna Smith's Nancy's Gloves.

Image courtesy of Donna Smith

Shawls are intrinsic to Shetland's knitting history and The Annual contains patterns for two plus one for a stole. Of course Fair Isle and stranded colourwork techniques are also synonymous with the islands.

Linda Shearer's Bonhoga Cardigan (meaning place of one's childhood') will test knitters' skills with its modern twist on a vintage 1950s-60s design.

Image courtesy of Linda Shearer
Ella Gordon's Mattie Yoke is a child's jumper with colours and motifs inspired by Taatit rugs - traditional pile bedcovers of Shetland.

Image courtesy of Ella Gordon
All the garments and accessories featured in Shetland Wool Week Annual 2019 are available to see on Ravelry.

The Annual is a great keepsake. Which pattern do you want to knit first? Let us know in the comments below or on A Woolly Yarn's Facebook page.

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Which Colours Are On Trend For 2020?

I know, I know, we haven't even had Bonfire Night yet, never mind Christmas, so it feels way too early to be thinking of the New Year. Yarn companies and other businesses such as paint manufacturers, however, work at least six months in advance and its their job to make a prophecy on the colours that customers will be wanting in the future, based on the zeitgeist, fashion trends and, well, probably clutching at straws in the wind.

The website LoveCrafts and paint company Dulux have both revealed the colours they think will be popular in 2020.

Greeny-Grey

Dulux's pick is Tranquil Dawn, a greeny-grey shade.

Image courtesy of nda.ac.uk
According to Dulux the neutral shade "reflects a growing desire to understand what it is to be human at a time when advances in technology are making us feel increasingly disconnected from each other."

It's certainly a relaxing colour with echoes of nature. I found it very difficult to find wool resembling this shade, because the ones I came across veered towards being more green or more grey.

Rowan's Pure Wool Worsted in the shade Fern is similar, but watch out because it's superwash. For more details about the damaging environmental process involved in making wool superwash see A Woolly Yarn's previous blog post Should Knitters Avoid Superwash Wool?

Fern image courtesy of Knit Rowan

Rowan's Summerlite 4ply in the shade Green Bay is also similar:

Green Bay image courtesy of Knit Rowan
Caramel

LoveCrafts suggests that caramel will be a popular colour on knitters' needles in 2020 (as well as 1980s neons but we'll pass that one by - been there, done that, not knitted the colours).

Debbie Bliss' Toast 4ply in the Gold shade is on the vibrant side of caramel:
Image courtesy of LoveCrafts
Whereas Sublime's Extra Fine Merino in the caramel shade is more muted.

Image courtesy of thewoolfactoryonline.com
Or if you're more pumpkin-shade orientated then try West Yorkshire Spinners' Bluefaced Leicester Aran:
Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners
Which trend do you prefer or do you usually reach for the tried and testers colours you like? Let us know in the comments below or on A Woolly Yarn's Facebook page.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

UK Wool Week 2019 Says 'Check It's Wool'

Is it wool or a yarn with plastic in such as acrylic? That's what this year's Campaign for Wool is urging buyers to ask when they're shopping for clothes and hand-knitting yarn.

This year's campaign, whose patron is HRH The Prince of Wales, began on October 7th and runs until October 20th. It is focussing on the 'natural performance qualities' and ecological benefits of wool as biodegradable in a drive to reduce plastic and micro-fibre pollution.

Image courtesy of The Campaign for Wool
The famous woolly character Shaun The Sheep is getting involved, tying in with the release on October 18th of Aardman's latest film Shaun The Sheep Farmageddon. The campaign says: "a short special edition animation film has been created that is being used an education platform for wool's Super Natural Benefits. Products to allow children to experience the softness and skin benefits of wool for themsleves are being provided from Smalls and Mama Owl."

Fashion company Brora is joining the campaign by selling a limited edition jumper designed for Wool Week by Jasmine Cook, a student at Jordanstone College of Art and Design. The jumper costs £145 and is available in Brora stores and on the Brora website.

Image courtesy of Brora

London company Sheep Inc is launching the world's first 'carbon negative' jumper. The campaign says: "the wool jumper takes out 10 times as much greenhouse gases as was used in its making - and includes adopting a sheep from which the wool was taken. The supply chain is so transparent that a NFC chip on the hem of the jumper can be scanned using a smartphone allowing the owner to trace the wool back to the actual sheep from which it was sheared."

Image courtesy of The Campaign for Wool

Other events for Wool Week include:

  • A launch on October 15th of John Hudson and Anderson & Sheppard  wool survival sweater, available in three colours
  • The knitwear company John Smedley is releasing a three piece range of knitwear using Bluefaced Leicester wool, with an event on October 17th featuring ex-Blur bassist and now farmer Alex James
  • Finistere, an outdoor apparel company, has launched an eco-friendly fleece made from recycled wool and manmade fibres
  • An exhibition at Salts Mill in Yorkshire called 'Weaving The Future'.

Monday, 7 October 2019

Six Yarn Advent Calendars Still Available To Order For Christmas

Although Christmas is still more than a couple of months away some companies believe it or not have already sold out of their advent yarn calendars. In the past couple of years they have become a popular alternative to their chocolate cousins, offering 24 samples of wool usually based on a theme which doesn't necessarily have to be Christmassy.



Many yarn dyers offer different price options where you can choose the amount of wool you want to unwrap each day, whether it's 10g, 20g or even more. Most also offer a few mystery treats on the way such as sweets and stitch markers.

Here's a round up of six woolly advent calendars still open for orders but be quick, orders will close soon to give the companies enough time to hand-dye the yarn before December!

Vicki Brown Designs

There are two options for this calendar: 24 x10g hand-dyed mini skeins in sock or DK weight for £65, or 24 x 20g mini skeins in sock or DK weight for £100. The price includes UK postage and some extra treats behind some of the doors.

Image courtesy of Vicki Brown Designs

Wool Is The Answer

Their yarn advent calendar costs £55 and includes free shipping. In the handmade advent calendar will be 17 micro skeins of 75% superwash merino and 25% nylon 4ply yarn in tonal solid and multi colours, plus seven 10g mini skeins of 75% superwash merino, 20% nylon and 5% stellina in tonal solids and multi colours.

Image courtesy of Wool Is The Answer

Bluebell Yarns

Bluebell Yarns non-Christmas-themed advent offering consists of hand-dyed Bluefaced Leicester 4ply. There six options to choose from depending on whether you want 10g or 20g skeins in sock yarn, 4ply or DK. Prices range from £45 to £82. Go for the low packaging option for a reduction. Shipping is free.

Image courtesy of Bluebell Yarns

Strawberry Fields Yarns

Choose the rainbow or books theme for this advent calendar. The hand-dyed skeins are available in 24 x 5g mini skeins for £32,  24 x 10g mini skeins for £60, or 24 x 20g mini skeins for £82. Shipping in the UK is an extra £3.50.

Image courtesy of Strawberry Fields Yarns

Ducky Darlings

For £95 Ducky Darlings' advent calendar includes 24 x 20g mini skeins of hand-dyed 75% superwash merino and 25% nylon 4ply sock yarn. Second class postage within the UK is included.

This year's theme is flora and fauna. The calendars will also contain a few mystery treats including chocolate.

Image courtesy of Ducky Darlings

Sheepish Fibre Art

This last option is more of a budget buster but great for knitters who want a Christmassy theme. The calendar contains hand-dyed sock yarn with colours inspired by Charles Dickens' novel A Christmas Carol.

There are two calendars to choose from. The first is 25 x 20g mini skeins for £105 and the second is 24 x 20g mini skeins plus one 100g ball. Postage in the UK is an extra £4.95.

Image courtesy of Sheepish Fibre Art

Which yarn advent calendar is your favourite? Or do you think they're a waste of money and you'd rather buy balls of wool you've chosen yourself? Have your say on A Woolly Yarn's Facebook page.


Friday, 4 October 2019

Review Of This Golden Fleece By Esther Rutter

Cover image courtesy of Granta
Imagine quitting an unsatisfying office job to spend a whole year to spend travelling around the British Isles to find out about the country's wool history and local patterns and traditions. That's what Esther Rutter did, and in doing so traced the meaning of thousands of years of Britons, right back to the Stone Age, spinning the hair of sheep and goats to knit and weave cloth and clothes.

Each chapter is centred around a particular garment Rutter decides to knit. She traces the history of it and its relationship with an area place or tradition, showing how people's use and affinity with wool has differed culturally depending on where they lived. 

Rutter, who has been a knitter for more than 20 years, writes lyrically, immediately drawing the reader into her descriptions of time and landscape. See her musings on some Shetland Heritage yarn she received the Christmas before her journey: 
"I took a sniff. A strong outdoor smell, rich and greasy, caught my nostrils. It was as unmistakably sheep funk, the same scent fro Heald Brow wood. Woolly fibres waved and snaked away from the yarn's central strand, black flecked with white, cream specks on brow. This was soft and study Shetland oo, the w and I clipped off the English word."
Author image courtesy of Jenny Brown Associates
Since the Bronze Age much of the country's wealth has come from sheep's fleece. Rutter begins her journey in the Wordsworth Museum in Cumbria looking at exquisitely patterned gloves knitted by Dentdale knitters, a place that falls within both the county of Cumbria and the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Dent knitters use a speed style called swaving, knowing that the more items they produced the more they got paid.

She goes on to more locations with her personal challenge to knit a different item a month including the Gansey - although the name hails from the Channel Islands it was worn by fisherman in many communities across Britain although local same-colour patterns would differ - a knitted bikini inspired by the knitted undergarment history of Hawick in the Borders, and a Monmouth cap.

During her journey Rutter discovers facts such as that the Soay is Britain's oldest native sheep breed dating back to the Iron Age; the writer Virginia Woolf used knitting to help her during periods of mental distress; that the spinning wheel was invented in China or India over a thousand years ago; and the earliest knitted item found in Britain is the Coppergate Sock from York, dating from the tenth century AD.

This is a great, well-written book that knitting and history lovers will enjoy. The RRP is £16.99. Thanks to Granta for the review copy - all views are A Woolly Yarn's own. 

Friday, 27 September 2019

West Yorkshire Spinners' Christmas Sock Yarn 2019 Revealed

Just like putting the tree up and leaving mince pies out for Santa there's a relatively new festive tradition in town: knitting a pair of socks in this year's West Yorkshire Spinners' Christmas sock yarn.

WYS designs a self-striping yarn each year to add to its Signature 4ply range blended from 75% wool and 25% nylon. This year's design is ....



Robin!

The yarn has brown, red, white, grey and yellow/orange speckles reminiscent of its festive bird namesake.

Once again sock knitting pattern designer Winwick Mum has collaborated with WYS to publish a pattern especially for the yarn. The pattern comes free with every yarn purchase and is in the form of a Christmas card:


I haven't had time yet to knit up the socks. Let's put it this way, I still haven't finished the second sock knitted with last year's Fairy Lights special edition. Thankfully WYS has a pair knitted up and here is what the socks look like in all their finished glory:

Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners
Each 100g ball costs £7.50 and should be available from your local yarn store. If yours doesn't stock it then you can order directly from WYS.

Here are details of previous WYS Christmas sock yarns:

WYS' 2018 Christmas sock yarn - Fairy Lights

Christmas Gifts For Knitters 2017 - Contains Candy Cane WYS Sock Yarn

WYS' 2015 Christmas sock yarn - Holly Berry

Which is your favourite?

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Five Favourite September Jumper/Cardigan Patterns

It's the season to start knitting winter woolies and UK companies are busy competing with each other to get your custom. Here's a round-up of the cream of this month's jumper and cardigan patterns they hope will entice you to part with your cash.

1. No Frills Pullover

Perfect for in-between weather, this short-sleeved pullover by the company Mrs Moon is knitted with their own Plump DK yarn.

Image courtesy of Mrs Moon
The pattern costs £5.50 downloadable from Ravelry.

2. Wythop

Sari Nordlund's delightful jumper with a rosebud bobble and lace design on the yoke is one of the designs from The Fibre Co's Foundations Autumn-Winter 19/20 collection.

Image courtesy of The Fibre Co.
It's knitted with The Fibre Co's own Arcadia yarn and the pattern is approximately £7.03 on Ravelry.

3. Cascadia

Originally published in a knitting magazine, Cascadia by EastLondonKnits is now available to buy from Ravelry for £7.20.

Image courtesy of EastLondonKnits
The yarn used is Daughter of a Shepherd's 100% British Ram Jam worsted.

4. Dexter

Baaramewe, the Yorkshire company whose Leeds store closed this month but which is continuing as an online business, is promoting German designer Isabell Kraemer's Dexter cardigan.

Image courtesy of baaramewe
Dexter showcases broken seed stitch and is knitted using baaramewe's 4ply British wool Titus. The pattern on Ravelry costs £5.08.

5. Flora

Mary Henderson's stranded colourwork yoke jumper is part of West Yorkshire Spinners' latest The Croft collection, called Shetland Country. The book costs £9.90 plus P&P.

Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners
Flora uses both existing and new shades of The Croft, which is an aran weight yarn. We hope to review the yarn and collection soon on A Woolly Yarn.

Which is your favourite and are there any new releases you think should be included? Let readers know in the comments box below or on A Woolly Yarn's Facebook page.


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