Wednesday, 30 January 2019

What Is Kate Davies' New Yarn? + Marie Wallin & Daughter Of A Shepherd

Ard Thir image courtesy of Kate Davies
Designer, author and small business entrepreneur Kate Davies has launched a new yarn in her own range, the first to be available in yarn stores rather than just direct from Kate Davies' Shop.

Ard Thir (with apologies to Davies that I haven't been able to add the accent on the 'a' and 'I') is an aran-weight yarn that Davies designed in ten colours to represent the Scottish winter landscape. In her blog Davies wrote "each of the ten shades I've designed is a subtle, muted mark; each possesses its own depth and tonal variety; some can be combined into intriguing gradients, and all work together harmoniously as a range."

Davies worked with Fyberspates to produce Ard Thir. The yarn is a blend of 60% Peruvian Highland Wool and 40% Superfine Alpaca. Davies and Fyberspates say that Ard Thir is "perfect for texture, cables and colourwork" and although it's sold "as an Aran weight, it can be knitted across quite a broad range of gauges".

Image courtesy of Kate Davies Designs and Fyberspates
A Woolly Yarn has yet to see Ard Thir to review it. Each 50g ball costs £8 plus P&P from Kate Davies' Shop. At the time of writing Davies has designed two patterns to support Ard Thir:

Weel Riggit Pullover


and Weel Riggit Hat.


Here's where it gets a little complicated. The hat is downloadable on Ravelry for £4.98. The pullover is at the moment only available to people who have subscribed to Davies' Knitting Season club. It began on January 11th but places are still available priced at £40 each.

Daughter Of A Shepherd

Rachel Atkinson, aka a real life daughter of a shepherd, has renamed her Hebridean/Zwartbles range. It's now called Heritage, and is available in both 4ply and DK weights. The July 2017 clip is still available, being a mix of 75% Hebridean wool from Escrick Park Estate, and 25% Zwartbles from Exmoor.
Heritage DK image courtesy of Daughter of a Shepherd

Marie Wallin

Last year saw former Rowan designer Marie Wallin launch her own covetable yarn range British Breeds. Pre-orders of a gift box containing patterns and a 25g 4ply ball of each of the 12 shades sold out quickly as have five of the shades, which are £5.50 per ball plus P&P. The yarn took two years for Wallin to develop with spinner John Arbon and suits Wallin's delicate Fair Isle designs.

British Breeds image courtesy of Marie Wallin
Now Wallin has announced that a new batch of British Breeds is on the way along with four new colours to add to the range. For 2019 she is planning Journeyman, a book of men's Fair Isle designs using British Breeds, plus a collection called Homestead, which will consist of six designs again using British Breeds. For those who missed out first time around the British Breeds gift box will go on sale again, this time including the four new shades: foxglove, blossom, silver birch and pale oak.


The beginning of February is traditionally the time that yarn companies and pattern houses launch their Spring/Summer collections. Watch this space for more details and like A Woolly Yarn's Facebook page to find out when a new blog post is published.

Are you a yarn maker or designer living in Britain? If you'd like an impartial review of your work for the A Woolly Yarn community please get it touch by emailing penjenkins@gmail.com.


Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Debbie Bliss Proves Her Business Is Not Toast + Free Pattern Downloads

Debbie Bliss image courtesy of Debbie Bliss Online
If you've stepped inside a local yarn store recently you may have noticed the absence of what was formerly a knitting shop staple, Debbie Bliss' wool/yarns and patterns. Well, now Bliss is back, albeit online, with two new yarn ranges: Luna and Toast.

Debbie Bliss is one of Britain's best-known and loved knitting designers with her own yarn range. In 2015 she was awarded an MBE for services to hand knitting and the craft industry and in 2018 she won the best baby yarn brand and favourite designer gongs in the British Knitting & Crochet Awards.

Last January A Woolly Yarn reported that Designer Yarns, which distributed Debbie Bliss' yarns, had gone into administration due to insolvency and fans voiced their fears about the future of Bliss' business. Yarn shops were unable to order more stock and throughout 2018 sold off what they had left.

Then in September 2018 LoveCrafts, a worldwide brand that includes the Loveknitting.com website, took over the mantle as sole distributer of Debbie Bliss yarns, with Bless herself commenting "I will continue to develop Debbie Bliss yarns and create design collections with the fabulous team at LoveCrafts, and look forward to bringing you more inspiration and more of my signature yarn lines in the future." She swiftly launched Piper, a 50% cotton and 50% viscose blend.

Now, for the 2019 season, Bliss has brought out two very different yarns. A Woolly Yarn has yet to see them in the flesh, but has found out more about what's on offer:

Toast image courtesy of Loveknittng.com
Toast, pictured above in the shade gold, is a 4ply blend of 65% wool, 25% polyamide and 10% cashmere. It comes in 12 shades and Loveknitting.com describes it as 'a deliciously soft, warm blend of wool and cashmere with a dash of nylon to make it machine washable ... it's the most sumptuous yarn sock yarn ever'.

There are four sock patterns to accompany the yarn, one of which, Brandi, was free to download at the time of writing this blog post. Sock yarn is an area with tough competition, the forerunners being West Yorkshire Spinners' Signature range and Rachel Coopey's Socks Yeah! It'll be interesting to see how Toast compares.

Luna image courtesy of Loveknitting.com
Bliss' second yarn launch (pictured above in the shade twilight) is the luxurious Luna, spun from 100% cashmere. As you would imagine it's pricier than Toast, with its non-discounted price standing at £14.99 per 25g ball, making it a treat for smaller accessories projects. There are eight tranquil shades to choose from and a free downloadable pattern (at the time of writing this blog post) for a baby hat called Isabel.

Isabel pattern image courtesy of Loveknitting.com
It's great to see Debbie Bliss going from strength to strength, although it's accompanied by a tinge of sadness at not being able to have a squish of her yarns in a local wool store before you buy anymore. Whilst A Woolly Yarn usually champions small business online yarn stores, the acquisition of Debbie Bliss yarns by LoveCrafts certainly gives knitters a good reason to browse Loveknitting.com. LoveCrafts unquestionably made a crafty business decision!

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Yarn Shows To Look Out For In 2019 + Top Tips

Going to a yarn show is a great opportunity to have a good yarn squish, discover new indie dyers and wool producers, have a good day out with like-minded people and be surrounded by more woolly stuff than you can possibly imagine!


This year I'm massively excited about going to Edinburgh Yarn Festival for the first time, where I'll be reporting for The Knitter magazine and also finding out lots of information for A Woolly Yarn. The flights are booked, my husband has been bribed with the chance to sample real ales in Scotland's capital, and, thanks to the exhibitor list, I already know which stands I'm going to make a beeline for ...

Whether you're travelling far to one of the UK's big name wool festivals or supporting a local gathering there's an ever-growing number of days out to choose from, including a few newbies this year. Don't forget the following eight top tips:

1. Book your entry ticket in advance to avoid disappointment. Some shows offer reduced price tickets if you book ahead.

2. Take cash. Small vendors may not have a credit card machine, plus it helps with budgeting - once you've spent up, that's it!

3. Take a look at the event's website before you go and decide which stalls are your 'must-sees'. Head there first just in case you run out of time later on.

4. Try to arrive early to miss the queues.

5. Wear comfy shoes. Your feet will thank you for it.

6. This goes against the usual shopping advice grain, but if you see something you'd like and it's within budget then don't put off your purchase until later in the day. When you come back it may well have been bought by someone else. You could ask the stall holder to put it by for you if you definitely know you are going to buy it, for example if it's a bulky purchase and you don't want to carry it round with you all day, but don't deprive other potential customers and the vendor of a sale if you're just not sure.

7. Take some snacks and a bottle of water with you in case there's a queue for the cafe.

8. Pick up leaflets and business cards of woolly businesses you like the look of. You might not be buying anything from them at the moment but signing up for their email or browsing their website widens your options in the future.

Here's A Woolly Yarn's round-up of wool/yarn shows that have already announced dates in 2019:

January

20th - Waltham Abbey Wool Show
Essex show with VIP guest Louise Tilbrook.

February

2nd - Bring Back Blaise Wool Festival
Explore the region's woolly past at Bradford Industrial Museum.

22nd - 24th Unravel
Farnham, Surrey is the location for this three-day showcase of workshops and exhibitors..

28th Feb - 3rd March Spring Knitting and Stitching Show
Olympia, London is your base for this huge craft-based event.

March

17th - Cornwoolly
Head to Redruth in Cornwall for this day showcasing local fibres and textiles.

21st - 23rd Edinburgh Yarn Festival
Billed as the UK's premier urban hand-knitting show.

April

13th - 14th Spring Into Wool
The Grammar School in Leeds will be home to this two-day festival of woolly crafts.

14th Knit and Stitch Show
Penrith in Cumbria is home to this woolly day with over 30 exhibitors.

27th -28th Wonderwool Wales
Weekend Welsh wool extravaganza at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells.

May

11th - 12th Buxton Wool Gathering
Derbyshire based wool festival.

18th - 19th Wool @ J13
Head off junction 13 of the M6 for this family-orientated woolly weekend.

25 May - Watford Festiwool
The Lanchester Community Free School will host this year's event.

June

1st - Leeds Wool Festival
The atmospheric Leeds Industrial Museum will be transformed into a marketplace for one Saturday.

9th - Aberdeen Yarn Fest
Will include both local and national woolly vendors.

15th - 16th The Wool Monty
New two-day celebration of yarn and fibre in Sheffield, South Yorkshire.

28th - 29th Woolfest
Cumbria's celebration of nature's finest fibres.

July

13th - 14th Yarningham
Birmingham-based yarn celebration.

27th - 28th Fibre East
Head to Bedford for this hands-on show with the opportunity to try your hand at spinning and weaving.

August

2nd - 4th Woolness
Inaugural wool and wellbeing festival in Newcastle upon Tyne.

3rd Yarnfolk Wool Festival
This is the third year for Northern Ireland's wool festival in Whitehead.

9th - 10th British Wool Show
Supporting the Campaign for Wool, this show is in York.

16th - 17th EWEfest
Dundee will be home to what bills itself as Scotland's first truly national wool festival.

24th - 26th Internationalwool Festival
New festival in Anglesey, Wales, aiming to bring together artisans and wool lovers from around the world.

31st - 1st Sep Southern Wool Show
The second year for this festival of woolly crafts at Newbury Racecourse.

September

7th - 8th Perth Festival of Yarn
The fourth year for this Scottish festival bringing together weavers, dyers, spinners and felters amongst others.

13th - 15th The Handmade Fairhttps://www.thehandmadefair.com/hampton-court
Hampton Court will again host Kirstie Allsopp's event bringing together craft makers.

28th - 29th Yarndale
Exhibitions, workshops and a huge marketplace in Skipton, North Yorkshire.

28th - 6th Oct Shetland Wool Week
World-renowned festival celebrating the island's crafts and woolly heritage.

October

10th - 13th Knitting and Stitching Show Alexandra Palace
Workshops, shopping and galleries at this exhibition centre in London.

12th - 13th  Bakewell Wool Gathering
Bakewell Agricultural Centre in Derbyshire will host this two-day yarn festival.

16th - 20th Loch Ness Knit Fest
Head to the Scottish highlands for workshops, demonstrations, a marketplace and sightseeing tours of the famous Loch.

26th - 27th The Big Textile Show
Stitching and knitting event held at Leicester Racecourse.

November

2nd - 3rd Stitch Fest
Take a workshop and browse the exhibitors at Totnes in Devon.

December

28th Nov - 1st Dec Knitting and Stitching Show Harrogate
Head to Harrogate, North Yorkshire for workshops, shopping and galleries.

***

Do you know of a yarn show that's not on the list? Please tell us in the comments box below or on our Facebook page.

Monday, 7 January 2019

Rowan Launches 100% British Wool/Alpaca Yarn Moordale

For knitters who want to know the provenance of their wool and choose to buy yarn sourced from the UK there's now an option from Rowan.

Image courtesy of Rowan
Fans of 100% British-sourced wool were devastated when Rowan discontinued its Purelife British Sheep Breeds range a few years ago. Thankfully the well-known British brand, which last year celebrated its 40th birthday and is now owned by German company MEZ crafts, now has a new offering for British yarn lovers: Moordale. With its blend of 70% British wool and 30% British alpaca it knits up on 4mm needles and is aimed towards warmer garments and accessories.

Rowan describes Moordale as: "made using fine micron wool of the Bluefaced Leicester which is known for being both soft and strong. Blended with Alpaca to add a lustrous, silky touch, Moordale is a natural, robust, tender yarn which drapes well and feels comfortable on the skin."

Moordale image courtesy of Rowan
To support the yarn Rowan designer Martin Storey has produced the Moordale Collection, containing 14 garments and accessories for men and women. Rowan sent A Woolly Yarn a copy and a couple of hanks for review - all opinions are the reviewer's own.


Firstly A Woolly Yarn wanted to know why Rowan was once again launching a 100% British yarn. A spokesperson from Rowan told us "Rowan has always been proud of its British heritage (and especially Yorkshire) and with last year's celebration of Rowan's 40th anniversary they have embraced their Yorkshire heritage and chosen to work with a local spinner".

What is Martin Storey's involvement? "With Martin Storey at the design help of the collection for this new yarn, we know it's in safe hands! Martin has designed a collection fo timeless knits for both men and women, featuring his signature cable and texture detail designs."

A Woolly Yarn's final question, asking whether Rowan has plans to expand the Moordale range and/or create another 100% British yarn in the future received a less clear response from the spokesperson. "Rowan is always expanding and developing new shades and yarn ranges. We well have to wait and see what is to come later in 2019!"

Perhaps Rowan is testing out the market for Moordale before committing itself further.

The Yarn
Buckler hat image courtesy of Rowan
In order to publish this review to coincide with Moordale's launch there hasn't been time to knit up one of the review hanks.

There is, however, the Buckler Hat in the Moordale collection that requires only one 100g hank to knit up, which we shall do so soon.

A Moordale skein is soft and squishy yet hardy with a definite halo that I suspect may slightly shed. The yarn is very strong, takes colour well and looks as it it will knit into a soft drape.

It's suitable for both accessories and garments and will be a warm yarn for wearing during the colder months.

The initial collection consists of 12 colours spun in Yorkshire, think deep greys blues and reds, which are sold in 100g hanks.

How much?

Moordale is sold in 100g hanks. Rowan's website has a list of local yarn stores that sell their products. Online A Woolly Yarn found Moordale at the following prices per hank (not including P&P):

The Moordale Collection

As you'd expect from Rowan and Martin Storey the Moordale pattern book contains quality accessories and garments that are stylish without being totally fashion-focussed. 

The pattern book is very well photographed and is published in an horizontal 'flip book' format with British knitting instructions coming first and their German counterparts towards the back - this makes the book thicker and look as if it has more patterns than it actually does.

The patterns that aren there, however, provide a range for competent beginners to knitters looking for a challenge. A Woolly Yarn's favourites are:

Forge - this men's jumper uses a mixture of garter and stocking stitch to add texture.

Forge image courtesy of Rowan

Rosedale - this women's sweater has a fascinating neck/yoke that looks both stylish and warm

Rosedale image courtesy of Rowan
Sundew - a challenging cable cardigan with extra bobbles.

Sundew image courtesy of Rowan

The Moordale Collection costs £12 from Rowan.

Which is your favourite Moordale pattern and what do you think of the yarn? Let us know below or on A Woolly Yarn's Facebook page

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Colours Of The Year 2019

New year brings businesses launching products they hope will tempt us to spend our money in the forthcoming summer months and those dealing in shades of colour are no exception. Trade trends trickle down to yarn companies who are constantly on the look out for hues their customers may like. Could these colours be top of your knitting list this year whether its a throw, jumper, scarf or hat you're knitting?

Living Coral

Firstly, colour company Pantone declared its colour of the year to be 'living coral', which it describes as "an animating and life-affirming coral hue with a golden undertone that energizes and enlivens with a softer edge".

Living Coral image courtesy of Pantone
Searching online businesses that sell British yarn A Woolly Yarn found the following shades that are similar to living coral:

West Yorkshire Spinners sells 'Fired Opal', a DK yarn made from 100% Wensleydale fleece. An 100g hank is £8.50 from your local yarn store.

Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners
Jamiesons of Shetland, in its spindrift and DK range, sells the heathered hue 'Flame' for £3.15 per 25g ball plus P&P.

Image courtesy of Jamiesons of Shetland
Rowan's DK blend of 85% cotton and 15% cashmere includes the shade 'Coral Spice'. Slightly pinker than 'Living Coral', it's available from lots of yarn retailers and as an example costs £8.49 per 50g ball plus P&P from Wool Warehouse.
Image courtesy of Rowan

Spiced Honey

Meanwhile paint brand Dulux plumped for 'spiced honey'. The company says that spiced honey "reflects the new positive mood of the moment" and is a warm amber tone that "can be soothing or calming, cosy or vibrant, depending on the palette you pair it with". Could brown be the new black in 2019?

Spiced honey image courtesy of House Beautiful
This was a harder shade to find in yarn but we did spot these:

Three Bears Yarn Cotton DK, £3.50 plus P&P, in the shade 'Mango'

Mango image courtesy of Wild&Woolly and Three Bears Yarns
Yarn Stories Fine Merino and Baby Alpaca Aran yarn in 'Toffee', which retails for £7.95 per 50g ball plus P&P.

Toffee image courtesy of Yarn Stories

From Rennie in Scotland there's a variegated shade 'Pecan' from their Unique Shetland 4ply range at £5.95 per 50g ball plus P&P.

Pecan image courtesy of Rennie

Burnt Chocolate

Ideal Home magazine in its January issue tipped 'burnt chocolate' as an up-and-coming shade. This is a plus for yarn producers who sell wool made from natural dark brown fleeces. Try:

Daughter of a Shepherd's 4ply 75% Hebridean/25% Zwartbles, which costs £22 per 100g Skein plus P&P

Zwartbles image courtesy of Daughter of a Shepherd

Uradale's Jumper Weight Organic Undyed Yarn in the shade Graeff is £7 plus P&P for a 50g ball.

Graeff image courtesy of Cradle
Blacker Yarns Jacob 4ply Basalt undyed yarn also. comes in DK weight. It's £7.50 plus P&P for a 50g ball.

Basalt image courtesy of Blacker Yarns

Which colour do you predict to be on-trend in 2019? Tell us in the comments section below or on A Woolly Yarn's Facebook page.
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