Friday 27 June 2014

Yorkshire Council Orders Removal of Tour de France Bunting

This weekend it's Woolfest in Cumbria, sadly a bit too far for me to drive to. In North and West Yorkshire, however, the knitting preparations are steaming ahead for next weekend's Tour de France's Le Grand Depart - the first leg of the famous cycling race.

Tour de France bunting.
Leeds and Harrogate knitting shop Baa Ram Ewe has led the way with knitted celebrations, encouraging well-wishers to send in knitted jerseys to display as bunting on the route. Over 20,000 will line the way. Elsewhere in Yorkshire crafters have customised ten bikes with wool along Yorkshire themes - the Woolly Bike Trail is part is part of the Yorkshire Festival 2014 to celebrate the Tour de France with craft and other artistic activities.

One council in the picturesque North Yorkshire town of Masham, however, has told yarnbombers to get on their bikes. Bunting put up to celebrate the race has been removed for health and safety reasons. Apparently, so the powers that be say, if it rains and the knitted jersey bunting gets too heavy, the could, ahem, bend the lamposts. Who knew that knitted bunting has superhuman powers?

Read all about the knitted preparations in Yorkshire for the Tour de France in my article published in issue 74 of The Knitter magazine, coming out next month. In the meantime if you're going to Woolfest this weekend or Yorkshire next weekend have a great time!

Ps If you fancy knitting jersey bunting for yourself, see Baa Ram Ewe's pattern here.

Tuesday 24 June 2014

The Terrible Knitters of Dent

My copy of The Knitter magazine issue 73 arrived in the post yesterday and inside there's a feature by me about The Knitters of Dent on the Yorkshire border. As I'm a Yorkshire lass I take a special interest in Yorkshire history and this piece was a favourite of mine to research.

Image courtesy of The Knitter magazine
Today Dentdale is prime holiday country but in pre-industrial times up until the early 1900s the main industry there was knitting, making use of all that Yorkshire wool. Children were taught to knit at a young age and all family members would knit at every possible moment. Payment was per garment - gloves, socks etc - and if they weren't up to scratch you forfeited the money.

My parents visited the area last year on holiday and did some background research for me, taking photos and picking up leaflets. My dad gave me an old book he had about Yorkshire history from the 1950s, which contained some quotes from people reminiscing about the old days in Dent. I then did some background research and found a museum near Burnley, Gawthorpe Hall, that displays a pair of gloves knitted in Dent.

For the Dent knitters knitting was a necessity to earn poverty-level wages. Farming and knitting were the only jobs available in the area. A modern day comparison is factory workers in Bangladesh sweatshops working very long days for a pittance. I feel extremely fortunate to live in an age and country where knitting is a hobby, not a necessity, that I can devote hours of love and care to. As all knitters know, producing a garment takes a lot of skill, effort and time. Even today in the UK designer-makers struggle to make a living wage from their craft. If you take the cost of the wool and add on the minimum wage for each hour it takes to knit and sew up a jumper practically no-one would pay the price.

It's about time we as a society start to value the work knitters create more and not compare UK knitted garments to those in cheap shops imported from abroad. Best Magazine has reported a woman who found a label sewn into her Primark dress with a plea for help from the maker: "Forced to work exhausting hours". Of course you can't buy a hand-knitted jumper for the same price as a machine-knitted one in Bangladesh or China. But which will last the longest, be a higher quality and have been knitted with love? Quality, not quantity is the way to go.

Tuesday 17 June 2014

World Wide Knit in Public Day

This blog title is actually a bit of a misnomer because this year World Wide Knit in Public Day is actually a whole week. The organisers though have kept the original name and extended the amount of time knitters can celebrate with their needles outdoors.

The fun takes place from the 14th to the 22nd of June. Here in the UK most events to mark the occasion are taking place on Saturday to enable more people to join in at the weekend. There are 49 events in the UK registered on the WWKIPD website, ranging from pic-knits (geddit?) in the park to collections of knitters at cafes. Check the WWKIPD website to find the event near with you and why not join in to show the world how fun and sociable knitting can be?

I'm off on a long weekend to Bergen this weekend and will be joining in with the WWKIPD spirit before I leave. Tomorrow I'm meeting a friend in a cafe to catch up on our latest projects and get the knitting needles out.

If I weren't going to Bergen I'd be taking part in Toft Alpaca's Adult PicKnit event in Warwickshire on Saturday 21st June.  It's a chance to knit in public whilst enjoying a yummy picnic and seeing the alpacas kept there. What are you planning to do? Have your say in the comments box.

Talking of Toft Alpaca I have a very exciting blog post coming soon in conjunction with the company. I'll be publishing an exclusive pattern from them to celebrate their latest launch. Watch this space for more details!

Monday 2 June 2014

New Look Knit Today Review

Knit Today June 2014 issue
As I mentioned in a previous post I was fortunate to take advantage of an offer for a free copy of Knit Today magazine, which has recently had a redesign. On Saturday the issue came through my letterbox. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the issue I received is July's issue that on its arrival wasn't yet for sale in newsagents. I went out and bought June's issue as well because I'd been holding off buying it as I'd that that issue would be my free copy. June's issue came with a cute sheep tape measure and there was a jumper pattern on the front I liked the look of - both were reasons for me to spend the cover price of £4.99. I think its the same price as other two knitting magazines aimed at beginner and intermediate knitters that come with a cover gift: Simply Knitting and Knit Now.

I prefer reading British knitting magazines as there's no confusion with knitting style, needle size or pattern terms, and they give a great overview of British yarns and designers. When browsing the newsagent's shelf it's usually the free gift that catches my eye first and if it's not something I'd like then I confess I don't pay a great deal of attention to the patterns inside - I skip to the next magazine.

Knit Now's June issue certainly came up trumps with its relaunch cover gift. The sheep keyring tape measure is cute, handy and just the sort of essential tool to go in your knitting bag. It also came with a party pattern booklet with designs for children to dress up in. That's not particularly relevant to me but it was interesting to flick through.

July's cover gift is less desirable. Firstly there's a crochet hook. In a knitting magazine. Surely with a plethora of beginner's crochet magazines on the market, such as Simply Crochet and Inside Crochet, knitting magazines should stick to what it says on the tin? Secondly the yarn that comes with the hook is a cheap-looking vibrant orange colour. The supporting patterns are three crochet flower brooches. They may be OK for a practice but I certainly wouldn't wear an orange crocheted brooch outside my house. That's just a personal view though and others may like the summery colour.

The design of both issues is clear, bright and easy to read. The feel is modern and patterns are well-laid out. There's a good mixture of news, patterns, competitions and features. Both issues contain patterns from knitting books and those exclusive to the magazine. I've heard criticism in the past from readers who dislike magazines publishing patterns from books because they feel cheated if they have the pattern book already. I on the other hand like their inclusion: the more patterns the merrier and if I really like a particular pattern I'm tempted to go out and buy the whole pattern book.

Such is the case with June's Cinnamon pattern from Sublime. It's a man's sweater knitted in tweedy aran yarn and will be one of my husband's Christmas presents in December. I took advantage of the 15% off offer and placed a yarn order for it online. The other pattern I have my eye on is a woman's short, slouchy sweater with intarsia stars. It's called Super Star.

Patterns are always a thing of personal taste and there aren't any in July's issue that I plan on knitting. It does, however, have a good range of patterns for different audiences and the editorial content makes the magazine an interesting read. I do find with most knitting magazines that it's hit and miss whether they include a 'must knit' for me. That's a good thing because my 'to knit' list is long enough as it is!

All in all I was very pleased with my free copy and the June issue I purchased. I probably wouldn't have bought July's if I hadn't have received a complimentary copy. I'm impressed enough, however, to take out a trial subscription for three months to see what the magazine brings in the future.

On 29 May the news was announced that Immediate Media, the publisher of Knit Today, is to buy Future Publishing's craft magazines. The knitting magazines affected are Simply Knitting, The Knitter and the general craft magazine that also contains some knitting patterns, Mollie Makes. Future Publishing's staff will transfer to employment with Immediate Media. I do hope the acquisition won't result in the axing of any of the knitting titles. Healthy competition is great for the British knitting magazine market, and the market has already shrunk due to last year's closure of Yarn Forward.

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