Monday 24 November 2014

Knitting Christmas Gifts

Have you started or indeed even finished your knitted Christmas gifts yet? It's rather like when you pile your plate with Christmas dinner - the mound of food on your plate seems eatable until you get half way through and start struggling. A list of knitted gifts to complete seems a great challenge in August, but by November when there's a load still to be knitted that's when the panic sets in!

Delilah by Louisa Harding
I have a guest column piece published in this month's The Knitter magazine, issue number 78, talking about the highs and lows of the year I decided to eschew bought presents and knit something for my family and friends instead. You'll have to read the magazine for the full story, but needless to say that some gifts were more appreciated that others, and my dad had to wait until January for his tank top ...

This year I'm knitting a few choice gifts for people I know who will appreciate them. Top of my favourite list is Louisa Harding's Delilah - a cowl that can be knitted in short or long sizes.
Little Miss Moss by Sublime

I finished this two nights ago and it's going to my best friend who gave birth to her baby daughter Delilah a few months ago. Louisa Harding always produces feminine designs and I am in love with her Noema yarn. It's a swirl of colour and shine. Knitted up in the lacy Delilah pattern the yarn looks a million dollars, but thankfully only costs £5.95 a ball.

The short cowl takes two balls and the long cowl, pictured above, four.

For Delilah herself I'm knitting Little Miss Moss, a gorgeous pattern from Sublime knitted in Baby Cashmere Merino Silk 4ply. It's a beautifully soft yarn that's perfect for little ones.

For a male relative I've knitted a charcoal colour chunky jumper and am hoping that I can't go wrong with that. A friend's little daughter, who is a huge fan of Peppa Pig, will be unwrapping a jumper with Peppa's face on, that is if I finish the intarsia in time.  Finally my husband will be receiving at some point his annual knitted jumper, but when depends on whether I finish the second glove of a pair and Susan Crawford's Christmas jumper for myself first!

What are you knitting for a Christmas gift? Let me know in the comments section below.

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Review of Pom Pom Quarterly Winter 2014

It's always a treat when Pom Pom Quarterly pops through my letter box. Underneath the bland, brown envelope is a veritable knitting treat, wrapped up in tissue paper with my name hand written on.

Photo courtesty of Pom Pom Quarterly
The latest edition of this collectable series channels all things public house - not that we need encouragement in the winter to sup by a roaring fire - with nine new patterns from homespun designers whose work you don't usually see in your average knitting magazine on the newsagent's shelf. Interspersed between the gloriously-photographed garments and the patterns themselves are short featues on subjects such as a project to visit quirky English pubs and how to make a whisky tirumasu.

My favourite design is that featured on the cover - a 1950s-inspired sweater called Fairchild. It's deceptively simple-looking, with sharp lines of pleats. Fairchild would look stunning paired with jeans for Sunday lunch down your local.

None of the patterns are aimed at beginners, but there are smaller projects suitable for knitters wanting to master a new skill, such as cabling in the Curio Mitts.

The warm jumper Cidre looks itself like a pint of the frothy apple nectar.

Photo courtesy of Pom Pom Quarterly

Plus I adore the quirkiness of the pom pom-bedecked hat Into Trees. 

Photo courtesy of Pom Pom Quarterly

The most moving article is Katie Green's cartoon story of how knitting saved her life when she suffered from depression. As anyone who has ever walked in those shoes knows, the repetitive and creative motions of knitting can help when the outside world seems too much to bear.

Pom Pom Quarterly issue 11, Winter 24, costs £8 if downloaded from Ravelry or £9.50 for both print and digital when bought direct. A four-issue subscription costs £30. 

What's your favourite pattern from this issue?

Read my reviews of previous Pom Pom Quarterly issues:

Sunday 16 November 2014

Wool And The Gang Joins John Lewis Christmas Penguin Mania

The battle of the Christmas televison adverts has well and truly begun! Sainsbury's first world war trenches advert tugs at the heartstrings and M&S offers lots of magic and sparkle, but it's the John Lewis advert that stands out, even if it there's no mention John Lewis in it. At all.

The ad is a touching story, if you're the sentimental type, of a boy and his penguin friend Monty. When the boy notices that Monty looks sadly at couples, he gives him his own penguin friend for Christmas.

Picture courtesy of John Lewis

London-based company Wool and the Gang has joined in with the John Lewis Christmas spirit to celebrate all things penguin in wool form.

Picture courtesy of Wool and the Gang

Wool and the Gang was invited to create a woollen wonderland in the John Lewis Oxford Street and Peter Jones store windows. Visual designer, Emma Davidge, who has the fabulous job of being responsible for the stores' window displays, spotted Wool and the Gang's Knit Kits. Wool and the Gang rose to her challenge, creating festive versions of their chunky jumpers and knitting up gorgeous penguin-sized versions of their signature hats, snoods and scarves.

Picture courtesy of Wool and the Gang

There's even a knitting penguin. Monty is not just a pretty face after all!

Picture courtesy of Wool and the Gang

Wool and the Gang's knit kits appear in John Lewis's Christmas gift guide. A zion hat knitting kit costs £39.50. Not cheap, but good quality, and will probably be used longer than a Monty soft toy, which will set you back £35 for the large version.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Get Knitting For Christmas Jumper Day

The charity Save The Children has declared that Friday 12 December will be Christmas jumper day, encouraging everyone to get in the festive woolly spirit and raise money too.

Full details, how to sign up and a downloadable craft guide are on the Save the Children website. The suggested donation to the charity is £2 per adult and £1 per child. Why not get your workplace or children's school involved? Just two pounds can pay for life-saving antibiotics to treat three babies with infections.

Of course Christmas jumper day is also a chance to support British wool and designers, eschewing high street chain store tat made in poor conditions abroad with acrylic yarn. Knit your own jumper to your taste, whether bright and bold or festively subtle, and you can guarantee you'll want to wear it year after year. I've browsed the best of British patterns to bring you my list of the top eight Christmas jumper patterns.

1. Susan Crawford's Perfect Christmas Jumper
This is currently on my needles. Two sleeves down with the back and front to go! I love the 1940s puffed sleeves and the reindeer intarsia motifs. I'm using Titus wool from Yorkshire yarn shop extraordinaire baa ram ewe. Crawford's pattern costs £4 in downloadable PDF format.

Photo courtesy of Susan Crawford
2. Rowan's Sasha Snowflake Jumper For Men
This is a great freebie from Rowan's website. The jumper is knitted in big wool and therefore is quicker to knit up. The snowflake on the front is rather subtle and is perfect for a man who wouldn't be seen dead wearing Father Christmas and pom poms over his chest. Download the pattern straight from Knit Rowan's website. The designer is Marie Wallin.

Photo courtesy of
3. Sirdar Country Style Sweater
Another subtle Christmas jumper, this time for women. The pattern from Sirdar costs £2.95 and has a lovely Christmas tree motif around the yoke. This one is for Winter and not just for Christmas! Sirdar's Country Style DK isn't 100% wool, having nylon and acrylic spun in too, but it is a more affordable yarn if you're stuck for cash.

Photo courtesy of Sirdar
4. Wendy Sweater Knitting Patterns For Men And Women
Turn the kitsch factor up to the max with Wendy's his and hers reindeer sweaters. The pattern costs £2.69 and if you knit them up quickly you and a chap will be sporting them in style on Christmas Jumper Day. Just don't forget to mention that you're making an ironic statement! Wendy Mode DK is 50% merino and 50% acrylic and like Sirdar Country Style DK is pitched towards the budget end of the market.
Pattern courtesy of Wendy
5. Love Yarn Christmas Jumper by Fiona Bennet
I'm loving the Christmas pudding, snowman or reindeer yokes on this design by British Army wife Fiona Bennet. The pattern is pricey at £7.50 but it's good to know the money is going to an artisan designer rather than a faceless company. Sizes range from small to extra large. Bennet recommends using Rico Essentials Soft Merino Aran. One of the benefits of this pattern is that the body is plain, meaning that it's easy to alter the length to suit your body size and shape.

Photo courtesy of Fiona Bennett

6. Stylecraft Children's Sweater
Stylecraft yarns hail from West Yorkshire and this Christmas jumper pattern for children will keep them bright and warm on Christmas Jumper Day. Choose from Father Christmas or a snowman to adorn the front. The pattern costs £2.99. Sizes range from age 1-2 years to 10-11 years. Stylecraft DK contains 25% wool.

Photo courtesy of Stylecraft

7. Coats Crafts Christmas Jumpers For All The Family
They're free, loud and proud! Knit comedy Christmas jumpers for all the family with these patterns from Coats Crafts. Sarah Hatton designed these jumpers using Patons Fab Big DK. The 100g balls retail for around £1.79 and offer great value, although sadly they contain no wool, being 100% acrylic. You could ask your local yarn seller for a wool yarn to substitute instead.

Photo courtesy of Patons
8. Purl & Jane's Child's Reindeer Sweater
Purl & Jane's Knitting Emporium is based in Skipton, North Yorkshire, and they publish their own range of patterns. This child's reindeer sweater is perfect for the Christmas period and the best news is that there's also a woman's version too! Both patterns cost £3.95. The recommended yarn is Mirasol Miski aran weight yarn, although it can be substituted for a British version.

Photo courtesy of Purl & Jane
What do you think of these Christmas jumpers? Do you have a favourite I've missed off my list? Please let me know in the comments box below.
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