Friday 31 October 2014

Understanding Yarn Weights

For the last couple of weeks I haven't felt like knitting, thanks to food poisoning coupled with a chest bug that's going around. Whilst I've been resting, however, I've been browsing through my knitting books and trying to come to terms with what different yarn weights are. I've found this particularly confusing when looking at books written for both the UK and US markets, which mention hitherto unknown to me terms such as 'sport weight'.

So here's my quick and hopefully easy guide to different yarn weights and the needle sizes to use (the size you choose will depend on the outcome of your knitted test square):

  1. Lace weight/feather weight - the thinnest yarn, used for shawls and very delicate items. Check the pattern for the needle size.
  2. 2 ply - a thin yarn not often used in modern patterns. Knit with 1.5 - 2.5 needles.
  3. 4 ply - also known as fingering weight and sport weight. Used for more delicate knits with 2 - 3mm needles. Great for socks - you may see this yarn marketed as sock yarn.
  4. DK (double knitting) - This is a common yarn weight in the UK and is usually knitted with 4 or 4.5mm needles. It is known in some other countries as 8 ply.
  5. Worsted and aran - these are heavier than DK but not as thick as chunky.  Worsted may also refer to the way the wool is processed. usually knitted with 4.5 - 5.5mm needles.
  6. Chunky - 12 to 16 ply, great for knitted garments and accessories speedily. Use with 5.5 - 8mm needles.
  7. Super chunky - for very big knits! Requires a needle size larger than 8mm.  

I've treated myself to some killer flamingo yarn from Rainbow Heirloom, custom dyed in the UK by Emily Wessel. It is a pinky/orange yarn I spotted at Yarndale, but didn't buy. It has been on my mind ever since and I'm looking forward to knitting a hat and cowl with it when my three skeins arrive.

Monday 13 October 2014

Vintage Knit Review

I love a freebie and today the postman brought me one thanks to a competition win. Vintage Knit is a lovely hardback book by Marine Malak with Geraldine Warner, filled with 25 knitting and crochet patterns from yesteryear refashioned for the modern knitter.

Now I have to say that my first foray into vintage knitting was when I came across Susan Crawford's patterns and samples at the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show a few years ago. There began my admiration of her work adapting 1930s/40s/50s patterns for today and also creating new ones on a vintage theme. I've got used to her style, but it was very interesting with Vintage Knit to see how others have approached the genre.

The cover image instantly attracted me. Marine Malak has a graphic design background. Her work on Vintage Knit combines her love of knitting and fashion with her passion for publication design. There are lots of colour photos in the book alongside with the original black and white shots from decades ago. Otherwise the design is quite sparse. The pattern instruction pages are set out in two columns, which I found slightly odd, but no doubt I'll quickly get used to when knitting.

Photo courtesy of

The book is aimed at intermediate knitters, although there are a range of projects from easy to difficult. Many of the designs use elements of crochet as well. If you're not handy with a crochet hook this may be a turn-off.

Co-author Geraldine Warner, a life-long knitter, says that "one of the most interesting elements of mid-20th century knitting is the way it was allied so closely to the fashion of the time, and yet the quality and style give the designs an everlasting longevity". For me, some of the designs, such as the first in the book, '12 polo mode hats' opened my eyes as to the gulf between what was fashionable then and what is today.

Photo courtesy of

Others, however, screamed 'knit me!' I paricularly like the 'twinset in simple stitches (sadly I don't have a photo of it), brought up to date by knitting a fuschia cardigan and bright orange short-sleeved jumper. The way it's photographed is simply stunning and certainly follows the current colour-blocking fashion.

Also fabulous if you aspire to becoming a Hollywood screen siren is the 'fashionable housecoat'. I love the idea of lounging around my home on a wet Sunday wearing this rather than my PJs. The colours chosen in the book are a bit too 1970s for my taste but can easily be altered.

Photo courtesy of
I would have liked more information on where the original photos and patterns were sourced from, and I had to google what 'fingering' yarn is: 3ply or otherwise known as sock yarn.  However all in all I'm very pleased with the book, which works well as a coffee table tome to flick through as well as a source of patterns.  Vintage fans will love it.

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Wool And The Gang Wool Week Competition and Designs

Wool Week 2014 is upon us! The Campaign For Wool, which encourages us to use British wool in our textiles and fashions, is once again running events this week to showcase how green, versatile and fun wool can be.

Eek beanie
The fashion wool company Wool and the Gang is joining in the fun with a competition to win £200 of its yarn. Whilst the yarn is Peruvian, it is made from upcycled t-shirts and the company is based in London. To enter the competition go here. If I don't win I hope you do!

The company has recently become known for its catwalk collaborations with the designer Giles Deacon. Remember the Giles eek beanies as modelled by Cara Delavigne? I recently received one to review (my opinions are my own). Despite having a few years on Cara I love the beanie's fun element. It's big enough to fit all size heads but not too big as to to look enormous on those with smaller heads - instead it slouches at the top.

The yarn is chunky and soft. You wouldn't know it's recycled and its eco credential gives it extra brownie points. To buy ready-made the beanie costs £85 which is, even for a designer item, very expensive. Instead buy a kit for £40 plus P&P and knit your own.

Emoji beanie
Wool and the Gang has designed a couple of patterns especially to celebrate Wool Week. A number
of brands across the spectrum of age,style and taste were invited by the Campaign for Wool to showcase designs that sum up how fabulous, stylish and versatile wool is.

Womenswear brands taking part are: Brora, Christopher Raeburn for Barbour, Daks, Harvey Nichols, Christopher Wijnants, Jigsaw, Jaeger, John Lewis, John Smedley, Johnston’s of Elgin, Pringle of Scotland, Richard Nicoll, Sibling ,Viyella, Caroline Charles and of course Wool and the Gang.

For menswear there's: Austin Reed, Brora, Barbour, Daks, Gieves & Hawkes, Jigsaw, John Lewis, John Smedley, Johnstons of Elgin, Lyle & Scott and Richard Nicoll.

Wool and the Gang's, contribution, an emoji beanie, is a fun beanie with a smiley face design that will be familiar to texters. There's also a sloppy, oversized wool jumper that will be donated to an auction organised by the Rainforest Foundation (UK) for their 25th birthday in order to ensure that rainforests will be still standing for another 25 years.

WATG Campaign for Wool jumper
If you're near Oxford Street London's John Lewis on Thursday at 2pm or 7pm then head to the fourth floor where the Gang will show you how to knit your own Zion Lion beanie or Lil Snood Dog. Everyone who comes along will be given a free Lula Hoop pattern.

For details on other events taking place for UK Wool Week see their events calendar.

Thursday 2 October 2014

Millamia's Naturally Soft Aran Yarn

Ida cowl knitted in naturally soft aran
Trying a new yarn is always a thrill, especially when it's so smooth and knitable as Millamia's latest product - naturally soft aran. 

The pattern and yarn company Millamia is based in London (hence me including it as British) with a Scandinavian design heritage. I've knitted baby cardigans and a blanket before in the company's naturally soft merino and, being pleased with that, I had high expectations of the aran yarn launch.

In the past I've sometimes found aran to be slightly prickly and scratchy, which has put me off using it for knitting anything that sits next to the skin. Millamia's aran, however, lives up to its naturally soft name and is a joy to knit with. It's £5.50 for a 50g ball bought direct from Millamia, and comes in lots of bright colours.

I received a review sample of four balls of naturally soft aran yarn in magenta and the accompanying pattern book Finishing Touch to review. All opinions are my own. The pattern book contains lots of delicious winter knits including scarves, cowls, hats and wristwarmers. It also includes a slightly inconguous pattern for a pencil case, which I turned the page over from quickly.

Finishing Touch pattern book
Top of my list is the Ida cowl. I quickly got my knitting needles out and within four nights had happily completed it. It was a dream to knit - the yarn doesn't split - and the pattern was easy enough to knit whilst watching TV yet had enough variation to make it interesting. It feels a joy to wear and I'm sure will be a staple to keep me warm this Winter.

The photography Finishing Touch is stunning and the patterns will interest both beginner and more advanced knitters. Whilst the book is comprehensive on accessory patterns I'd like to see in future some women's jumper and cardigan patterns to support the yarn.  Naturally soft aran does what it says on the tin and would knit up a wonderfully pleasurable to wear garments.

Both the yarn and pattern book are available at
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