Sunday 20 December 2015

Review of Flatland by Katya Frankel

Vector image copyright Katya Frankel
Have you got all your Christmas presents bought, wrapped and given out and are now sitting smugly on the sofa with a glass of mulled wine feeling rather pleased with yourself? No? Me neither - I'm in a dash trying to sew up and block a jumper gift before Christmas Eve.

If you're looking to buy a pattern download as a last-minute gift for a knitter then Flatland, Katya Frankel's latest pattern collection, is worth more than a browse. It's a short but very sweet collection of three 'Autumn essential' patterns comprising a bobble hat called Vector (pictured right), mitts and an oversized cowl. What I like about this collection is that they're all doable, in that the three patterns are immensely wearable with a bit of a challenge to knit but not too much as to be off-putting.

Tesseract image copyright Katya Frankel
Frankel is a UK-based designer who has a fascination with geometrical shapes. Her work has appeared in British mainstream knitting magazines and she has also published two other books. Flatland's inspiration is apparently, according to the press release, "a Victorian science fiction novel, called Flatland, in which 2D shapes strive to a higher degree of regularity, in in their words 'perfection'". To the layperson I think this means that the three designs have fun with geometrical patterns.

The cowl, named 'Tesseract', can be worn long or alternatively folded twice round the neck to create an extra-snug fit. Knitted in chunky yarn, it has a garter stitch and lace pattern framed by ribbing. This pattern is less complicated than 'Vector' and is one I would knit in front of the TV, with it not requiring my full attention to follow.

Tangent image copyright Katya Frankel
Finally, the 'Tangent' mitts have a design that plays with the idea of angles and curves and are knitted in the round. This pattern uses DK yarn. Mitts have been very on trend for the last few years. Although they look lovely it's a slight bugbear of mine that it's difficult to find glove patterns these days for those of us who like to keep our fingers warm. It would be great if Frankel published a version of 'Tangent' with full fingers.

Flatland is available from Ravelry as an ebook costing £5.25. Alternatively the three patterns can be bought individually for £3.50 each.

All in all this is a lovely small pattern collection, which makes me want to follow Frankel's work in the future.

Thursday 10 December 2015

Take Heart - Review of Pom Pom Press' First Pattern Book

Image courtesy of Pom Pom Press
Pom Pom Quarterly magazine has built a reputation for being a cutting-edge indie knitting magazine with a luxurious paper feel. Now Pom Pom has expanded its activities to launch Pom Pom Press. Their first pattern book, Take Heart - A Transatlantic Knitting Journey, has been published in time for Christmas.

The accessory patterns, all 11 of them, are the brainchild of designer Fiona Alice. Fiona is originally from Canada but has since crossed the Atlantic herself to live in London.

At first glance at my review copy I was delighted to see that each pattern uses an indie yarn from Canada and the UK. As this blog celebrates British yarn it's these designs I'm most interested in. The Take Heart beanie uses Toft Alpaca Aran silver yarn, whilst the Lunenberg Harbour socks are knitted in Toft Alpaca Silk Extra Fine. I'm a great fan of Toft's quality British yarn. Toft Alpaca itself seems to be concentrated on the crochet side of the business, with its Edward's Menagerie crochet patterns of animals and birds, so I was particularly pleased to see new knitting patterns using their yarn.

The Chester Basin Mittens, which match the Chester Basin Hat, are knitted with Border Mill Alpaca Tweed, a brand I was previously unaware with but now am keen to take a closer look at. If a wrap/shawl is more your thing in Winter weather then Three Cliffs, knitted with John Arbon Textiles Viola, is a cosy-looking pattern. The Uncommon Thread BFL Fingering yarn is used for the Pennard Castle legwarmers. It's a beautiful pattern but my legwarmer-wearing days ended as a child in the 1980s.

Patterns using Canadian yarn are also work more than a look, my favourite being the Martinique Beach Cowl using SweetGeorgia Yarns Trinity Worsted.

Take Hart includes stunning photography, shot on the Gower Coast in South Wales, of the finished garments. Alice has also added her schematic sketches of her designs. Clearly a lot of care has been taken in the production of the book.

The digital book is available on Ravelry for £14.40. Alternatively buy a print and digital copy from Pom Pom Press for £14.50 plus £1.80 post and packaging within the UK.

Wednesday 2 December 2015

Christmas Gifts For Knitters

Now that the commercial buying frenzy of Black Friday (which turned out to last the whole weekend) and Cyber Monday are out of the way it's time to support Small Business Saturday on 5th December. Awoollyyarn believes in buying British yarn, particularly wool, and supporting our island's designer/makers rather than the big multinational companies that pile acrylic and polyester yarn high and sell it cheap.

Here is my choice of ten presents for knitters that can be purchased online. Buying one of these creates a double whammy: not only will you put a smile on the recipient's face on Christmas Day, but also you'll be supporting the livelihood of the independent yarn stores and designer/makers who rely on the Christmas season to make the bulk of their yearly profits.

I've avoided choosing patterns and yarns because it can be difficult to guess the colour, style and weight your gift recipient may like. Please note that all prices were correct at the time of writing and do not include postage and packing.

1. Baa Baa Brighouse Stitch Markers

These adorable stitch markers come on a large safety pin that in itself will be handy for a buttonless cardigan. The stitch markers come in two sizes, up to 3.5mm and up to 7.5mm. The six designs include a ball of wool, tape measure and pair of scissors. £4.

Image courtesy of Baa Baa Brighouse

2. Herdy Tape Measure

A tape measure is a necessity for knitters and this version from this company founded in the Lake District has a cute sheep on the front, which is also the company's mascot. £3.50.
Image courtesy of Herdy

3. Susan Crawford's Vintage Shetland Project Book

This book chronicling Shetland's rich knitting history and featuring 25 patterns for garments from Shetland Museum's textile archive, along with an essay on each piece, is available for pre-order. It's a book that both knitting and social history fans will treasure. £25.

Image courtesy of Susan Crawford

4. Max's World Knitting Needles Earrings

Knitters with pierced ears will adore these handmade ball of wool and knitting needle earrings. The yarn is hand dyed 100% lace weight merino with a streak of sparkle running through. £10.

5. Kelly Connor Designs Knitting Bag

Nobody puts my knitting in a corner! So says this delightful knitting bag, reminiscent of the famous Dirty Dancing movie line said by Patrick Swazye 'Nobody puts Baby in the corner'. Practical and fun, what's not to love? £24.95.

Image courtesy of Kelly Connor Designs

6. Brityarn's Stitch Safe Mini Hooks

Not only are these small hooks gorgeous to look at but also they are very handy at picking up dropped stitches. Available in purple, red or cream. £8.50.

7. Loop Heavy Duty Wooden Ball Winder

This is more an investment piece than a one-off present but although it's not cheap it will be a lifeline for knitters sick of trying to use their arms and a back of a chair to untie yarn skeins and roll them into a ball. £290.

Image courtesy of Loop Knitting

8. The Yarn Ball Yarn Bowl

I've got my eye on this myself. Handmade by ceramicist Annette Bugansky the ball splits in the middle. Pop your yarn inside, pull the end out of the top and you have an efficient yet beautiful solution to keeping your yarn-in-progress safe. £70.

Image courtesy of Knit With Attiutde

9. Baa Ram Ewe Travel Mug

Leeds-based yarn store baa ram ewe has produced this travel mug as an antidote to the throwaway packaging used for takeaway coffees. There are three cheeky designs at £10 each:

  1. Voulez vous crochet avec moi ce soir?
  2. Get your steek on
  3. No woman no ply
Image courtesy of baa ram ewe

This entry receives a special dispensation to appear in the list. Although the sheep is hand carved in Japan it is of the much-loved British sheep and sold by a Yorkshire company. Hailing from Yorkshire myself I'm biased towards most things connected with my birth county! This wooden sheep is a lovely ornament for sheepy wool lovers. £30.

Image courtesy of Eden Cottage Yarns

And finally ...

Just in case you need a spare present on hand in case there's someone you haven't thought of how about this Brighton-made small alpaca necklace from Toft Alpaca? Non-knitter ladies will love it too.
Image courtesy of Toft Alpaca
Are there any gifts you think are perfect for knitters? Do let me know in the comment box below.

Monday 30 November 2015

Special Edition West Yorkshire Spinners' Christmas Sock Yarn + Free Pattern

Image courtesy of Brityarn
It's December and in my book that means it's officially time to put on the Christmas CDs, hang up the twinkly lights and start getting in the Christmas spirit - although it's too early for me yet to put the tree up - that'll happen in a couple of weeks. This year my husband and I are ditching the well-used fake tree for white twig tree with lights already attached.

I started my festive knitting for gifts a few months' back but now, assuming I get the presents finished in time, it's time for some 'me' knitting and West Yorkshire Spinners' special edition festive sock yarn fits that bill.

The two 100g 4 ply balls are Holly Berry - a variegated yarn that knits up to look like Fair Isle - and a solid red yarn called Cherry Drop. I bought mine from the online British wool shop Brityarn.

I've knitted a pair of socks using West Yorkshire Spinners' signature sock yarn before: see my previous post Knitting Socks Through Election Night. When I showed the finished result to my godmother she actually thought I'd knitted an intricate Fair Isle pattern, whereas really it was stocking stitch most of the way. The signature yarn knits up beautifully.

West Yorkshire Spinners has released a festive sock pattern to accompany the yarn This is what I'll be having a go at. I think the finished socks will look great worn with my red Mary Jane Doc Martins!

Here's the design:

Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners
To download the free pattern go to the West Yorkshire Spinners' pattern download page. I hope you get the chance this December to do some knitting for yourself.

Sunday 29 November 2015

Kate Davies' Buachaille Seven Skeins

Buachaille pic courtesy of Kate Davies
As of this weekend Kate Davies' own-brand Scottish wool Buachaille, spun in Yorkshire, is available for sale in her online shop. Previously the range was only available to a limited number of customers who signed up for her seven skeins club. These people received their seven skeins a few weeks ago along with seven to accompany them. Davies is publishing a book comprising the seven patterns plus essays, photos and recipes. There has been a delay at the printers but the book will be on general sale soon.

Buachaille is Kate Davies' love child after wondering why there are so few Scottish yarns available on the market. She created the yarns herself, with help from a dying and spinning company, and came up with seven colour ways: Highland Coo (rust); Between Weathers (mid blue); Yaffle (Spring green); Islay (teal); Ptarmigan (natural white); Squall (natural dark grey); and Haar (natural silver grey). Each 50g skein costs £7.49.

I will be fortunate to see all seven colours on Christmas Day because my husband bought me a seven skeins membership for Christmas. I have had a sneak peak of the seven accompanying designs though and these are my favourite:

Buachaille Baffies
Fabulous socks come house slippers. There are two designs - one with more intricate colour work and one with simpler stripes (shown below). I certainly can imagine knitting a pair for me and a pair for a friend's present.

Image courtesy of Kate Davies
This width and length of this snood can be changed depending on how tight our slouchy you like to wear them. Davies has knitted Cochal in various colour ways but the one below is my favourite - I adore the teal wool.

Image courtesy of Kate Davies
A cosy, hat with a five point crown on the back. There are two versions two knit: slouchy or more close-fitting.
Image courtesy of Kate Davies
Sadly in every pattern book there's something I wouldn't knit in a million years and here is such a pattern from Kate Davies, although I can see that she needed something small to knit to use up the leftovers from the seven skeins.

A felted bangle. I'd have loved it when I was eight years old but now? Nope. All very Why Don't You? for readers who remember the 1980s children's programme that urged viewers to turn off the TV and do something less boring instead, like threading melon seeds together to make a bracelet (true and my best mate Sarah and I actually tried it one rainy day. That anecdote still keeps us laughing).

Image courtesy of Kate Davies

And another Kate Davies pattern
If you missed out on seven skeins and would prefer to buy the wool in a kit then Kate Davies' latest design, Goats of Inversnaid, is available in her shop in a bright rust, blue and white colour way. The kit has patterns for a hat and hand warmers. I have bought one and will review it when I've finished Christmas knitting and have time to start something new.

Image courtesy of Kate Davies

I'd like to change the hand warmers into gloves. Does anyone know how to change the pattern to add fingers? If so I'd really appreciate you letting me know in the comments box below. Thanks in advance!

Sunday 22 November 2015

Christmas Jumper Patterns

December is not far off and many knitters are rushing to complete their Christmas jumper for this year.

In 2014 I blogged about knitting for Christmas Jumper Day. This year the charity Save The Children is once again planning a seasonal woolly jumper fundraiser on Friday 18th December, but the charity has also teamed up with Make A Wish and Macmillan Cancer Support.  For details of how to get involved go to this page. There will even be a special programme on ITV on 18th September to celebrate the campaign.

So - the big question is what to knit? Kitsch festive jumpers have ruled the roost and the stores for the past few years but there are other designs that give a festive feel without screaming 'IT'S CHRISTMAS!' in your face a la Noddy Holder.

Last year it lay half-completed on my needles but now my Susan Crawford Perfect Christmas Jumper is finished and waiting until it's near enough to Christmas to be worn. I customised it to suit my short figure by removing a row of pattern to make the body shorter and also calming down the voluptuous shoulders.

Here are some other patterns perfect to become your Christmas Jumper of 2015:

1. Kate Davies Boreal

This jumper falls into the quietly-festive category. Whilst it's not overtly Christmassy the snowflake patterns and cool colours give it a joyous, wintery feel. This design will last you right through until February.

Image courtesy of Kate Davies
2. Kate Heppell's Figgy Pudding Jumper

This bright and fun design appeared in issue 54 of Knit Now magazine, which should still be available in your local newsagent's. It capitalises on the Scandinavian trend for yoke designs and will be an enjoyable challenge for an intermediate knitter. Personally I would change the background colour to red, but this would make it a tad more Christmassy.

Image courtesy of Knit Now magazine
3. Sarah Hatton's Etherow Jumper

This year Rowan brought out a pattern brochure called Winterscape to support its Alpaca Merino UK yarn. Sarah Hatton's Fair Isle yoke design Etherow has a lovely, festive feel and the use of a merlot-coloured yarn rather than red adds to its rich depth.

Image courtesy of Rowan

4. Sue Stratford's Merry Christmas Jumper

Download this pattern free from knitting website The Yarn Loop, the online home of Knit Today, Simply Knitting and The Knitter magazines. It's unashamedly Christmassy and certainly will win you a lot of laughs on the big day. The pattern is taken from Sue Stratford's book Merry Christmas Sweaters To Knit.

5. Sirdar Christmas Jumper With Trees

Another yoke design but this time the pattern's snowflakes fall all the way down the body of the jumper. It's billed as a tasteful Christmas jumper and certainly is a suitable design for those of you adverse to reindeer and pom poms. I featured this design last year but have included it again because the Yorkshire firm baa ram ewe has knitted up the design in its own Dovestone DK yarn, released in 2015.

Image courtesy of baa ram ewe

6. Tin Can Knits' Snowflake Sweater

The beauty of this design is that it's available in all sizes from baby to adult. If you knit it in more muted colours it's less Christmassy, but whip it up in red or green to maximise the festive effect. I adore the sparkly yoke.

Image courtesy of Tin Can Knits

7. Purl & Jane's Christmas Reindeer Jumper

I have the pattern and yarn just waiting to knit up this fun design that in my opinion is a little more cool than kitsch thanks to the reindeer's square edges. The pattern's sizes range from 32 to 50 inch chest. Hopefully I'll have started and finished it in time for Christmas Jumper Day 2016!

Image courtesy of Purl & Jame

Tuesday 10 November 2015

Knitting & Pain

Recently I've not been too well. The chronic pain and exhaustion that comes with my physical disability has come more often than gone and my days haven't been productive.

When I'm in lots of pain life literally slows to a halt. I'm not up to doing any work, reading a book, watching TV or - and here's the rub - even knitting. Milder pain however, knitting is fabulous for, I find that getting lost in its rhythm is perfect for de-stressing. Plus when I have done some knitting, whether it's finishing off a complicated project or just having done a few garter stitch rows of a baby blanket, I feel I have achieved something in that day that's concrete and visible. It's important to me to know that I have done something useful with my day, however small that useful thing might be.

I haven't done much knitting in the last few weeks, hence the lack of posts. I did, however, manage to finish knitting a pair of Clare Devine's Elgin socks for a Brit Yarn Great British Socks KAL on Ravelry. I used up some Debbie Bliss Blue Faced Leicester Aran yarn and was pleased to be part of a the online group championing British wool and British designers.

Here are my Elgin comfy bedsocks:

Now I have a baby blanket and two jumpers to finish before Christmas for presents and then my treat is to cast on the jumper Cloudburst using West Yorkshire Spinners' new Illustrious yarn.

If you are interested in knitting as therapy and its use in combatting pain I recommend reading these articles:

Mail Online - Knitting can reduce stress
ENDOhope - How knitting helps me with my chronic pain and fatigue
BBC Radio 4 - All In The Mind: A knitting prescription

Sunday 18 October 2015

Hats off to Clare Devine's Latest Collection

Scotland-based knitwear designer Clare Devine has brought out her latest pattern collection - this time focussing on hats. It's certainly the right time of the year to start knitting warm accessories, and Devine's patterns, The Tea Collection, look particularly inviting and much nicer than a beanie picked up in a chain store.
Earl Grey photo courtesy of Ravelry

Each of the 11 patterns are named after a particular type of tea. Says Devine on Ravelry:
"Consisting of eleven hats this collection features an interesting range of hats, some are easy and relaxing, others great for learning new skills. None are are overly complex and each one is an utter delight to knit."
Peppermint Leaves image courtesy of Ravelry
What makes the collection extra-special in my eyes is that the suggested yarn is also Scottish, dyed and sold by Jess from the wonderful Edinburgh yarn shop Ginger Twist Studios. She's also the model in the photos. The pair have collaborated together before on the pattern book Head to Toe. Coincidentally I finished a couple of days ago knitting the Elgin socks from this book: after a couple of false starts whilst I got the hang of a new technique they were fun to knit, look great and are snuggly to wear around the house.

It's difficult for me to choose a favourite design from The Tea Collection, being a close call between Peppermint Leaves - I adore the leaf design on the top of the hat - and Earl Grey, mainly because I'm a sucker for a pom pom. For me, whilst I'd love both, I think Peppermint Leaves just wins by an edge.

The collection costs £12 on Ravelry and for buying the lot Devine will throw in two free cowl patterns.

Find information about Clare's work and other patterns on her website Yarn and Pointy Sticks.

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Knit Aid for Refugees + Scollayalong Prize

We've all heard the tragic stories of displaced peoples fleeing countries such as Syria with nothing but the few bags they can carry. Now that Autumn is here and the Winter weather is drawing in a new charity, Knit Aid, is asking for knitted accessory donations to give to the refugees.

Image courtesy of Knit Aid
The charity was set up in September by Shahnaz Ahmed, one of Wool and the Gang's gang makers. Says Ahmed:
"We believe that everyone deserves to have access to clothing of the quality we'd make for ourselves, so I only knitted donations with the best yarn I had ... We've just had our first successful donation drop of for refugees in Europe, after we'd received lots of donations from knitters all over the country."
The Knit Aid website has a free pattern to knit a scarf/snood, and it costs £5 to buy a beanie pattern. The charity is running knitting workshops in central London and also accepting donations for its next drop off - the deadline to send knits in by for this is 7th November.

Send your donations to:

Knit Aid
37 Pembury Avenue
KT4 8BU.

Wool and the Gang's crazy sexy wool yarn, used in both the beanie and snood patterns, is high quality but, at £15.50 per 200g ball, it's also expensive. If you'd like to knit for refugees but can't afford Wool and the Gang's prices, you may be able to substitute another super chunky yarn but don't forget to knit a swatch first to see it affects the pattern.

See Knit Aid's Facebook page here for the latest news..

Scollayalong Prize!

I did it! My first knit-a-long effort, making the Scollay cardigan, won me a prize. I have to confess that this wasn't for technical ability - I was a randomly-picked winner - but that certainly hasn't wiped the smile off my face. I won four 100g balls of West Yorkshire Spinners 4ply sock yarn.

Now I'm busy knitting the second sock for Brit Yarn's Great British Socks Away knit-a-long. Read all about it on Ravelry and see pictures of the socks others have finished already. It's not too late to join in, however the final cast of date is 8th November.

Friday 9 October 2015

Last Chance To Buy Blacker Yarns' Cornish Tin

Cornish Tin image courtesy of Blacker Yarns
No-one likes to arrive late at the party and miss out on what everyone else is talking about. Sadly by the time I tried to buy Blacker Yarns' 10th anniversary special edition yarn Cornish Tin, the door had shut, the empties were in the recycling bin and everyone had gone home. Yes, special edition really did mean what it says and, probably due to the buzz surrounding the yarn in the knitting press and a wow appearance at Yarndale last month, Cornish Tin didn't take long to sell out.

There is, however, still hope for us late birds. On 23rd October Blacker Yarns will release the final few skeins left of Cornish Tin on their website. It's the truly final chance for knitters to get their hand on this Cornish-spun yarn. So why is it so special?

Available in both 4ply and DK weights, the yarn is a blend of the following high-quality British fibres: Alpaca, Gotland, Jacob, Shetland, Black Welsh Mountain, Mohair and English Merino. Thankfully Blacker Yarns gave me small sample of the 4ply to knit for myself and judge its merits. I made a headband and found the yarn really easy to knit up, with no splitting or fluff. It's soft to the touch but sturdy enough to be warm, gives great stitch definition and the five shades are stunning, carefully selected to complement each other.

The colours, all named after Cornish tin mines, are:

  1. Levant Grey
  2. Penguin Green
  3. Botaliack Blue
  4. Dolcoath Turquiose
  5. When Rose Red

Here's my very warm if hastily-knitted moss stitch headband:

Blacker Yarns have provided three patterns to support Cornish Tin. I'd love to knit the Azurite Mittens if I can get my hands on a skein of grey and turquoise. Each skein is 100g and costs £12.90.

Please, please, Blacker Yarns, can you do a Kathy Beale in EastEnders and resurrect Cornish Tin from the dead? That would please many a customer, including me.

Monday 5 October 2015

It's UK Wool Week + Waitrose Woolly Bag Update

It's that time of year again - the beginning of October means it's UK Wool Week, just in time for all of us thinking of getting our knitted jumpers out to wear in the colder, seasonal weather.

Image courtesy of The Campaign For Wool
Organised by The Campaign for Wool, UK Wool Week brings together designers, manufacturers and retailers to celebrate all things British wool. Forget nasty polyester and acrylic that masquerade as yarns, nothing can beat the warmth, durability and eco-friendliness of real wool.

The celebrations kicked off today in Savile Row, London, where two sheep breeds are grazing, posing with male models promoting wool for menswear.

Friday 9th October has been designated 'Woolly Hat Day' where supporters will wear their finest woolly hats to support the charity The Mission to Seafarers'. This week will also see a pop up exhibition in central London showcasing the Year of the Sheep; a wool talk at London department store Heals on Thursday 8th October at 6pm; and online talks by the 'Incrediwools' - key designers in the knitwear industry, including Wool and the Gang.

Elsewhere, retailers are getting in the woolly spirit offering special discounts this week. Loveknitting has an 'up to' 30% off wool sale, whilst Deramores is offering 20% off wool and wool-blend yarns. Blacker Yarns this week is offering all its single breed limited edition balls at £4.50 or less.

Want to knit something for charity during UK Wool Week? The UK Hand Knitting Association (click for the full list) has collated a list of charities that would be delighted to receive donations from its 'commit to knit' campaign. It includes knitted knockers, blankets for animals and clothes for premature babies. There's something there to suit all knitters' tastes and causes.

Waitrose Wool Bags Update

Image courtesy of The Campaign For Wool
I previously blogged here about Waitrose's special edition, all wool shopping bag. As today a 5p per plastic bag charge has been introduced in England, reusable bags are even more topical.

My heckles rose when I found out that Waitrose bag was only available in three upmarket central London stores: Belgravia, Gloucester Road and Marylebone.

Finally the supermarket has plans to broaden its horizons and make the woolly bags available in more stores. These will be:

From 5th October: Kings Road, Wimbledon and Oxford Street
From 19th October: Morningside, Bath and Ipswich
From 2nd November: Barnes, Putney and Richmond
From 16th November: Exeter, Harrogate and Witney.

Now I appreciate that Waitrose doesn't exactly open stores in run down areas, but the new locations to buy the bags are all posh and mainly Southern. Come on Waitrose, make them available in ALL your stores. Wool is for everyone, not just those who live in the wealthiest English postcodes.

Wednesday 30 September 2015

Scollayalong Finished!

I made it by the skin of my teeth! Despite having to pull lots out in the early stages, running out of wool and waiting for more to arrive, and then my circular needle snapping and enduring another wait until a new one arrived in the post, I finished my Scollay cardigan just before last Friday's competition deadline.

I love the warmth of the cardigan. It will certainly be worn a lot, being a great barrier against the winter weather and looking oh-so-stylish too. The buttons are from a local sewing shop and I chose the colour to stand out against the flecked wool.

The lace pattern that caused me a lot of heartache looks pretty now, particularly around the yoke. It was worth the effort.

To see other Scollayalong participants' results, see the final Ravelry thread in the KnitBritish forum.

Here's me wearing my Scollay at a friend's vintage makeover party the day after I finished it. I whipped it out for the camera to wear over my vintage-style dress.

So what have I learned from my first online knit-a-long?

Firstly, don't rush. I went hell for leather at the beginning and made mistakes, meaning I had to pull a lot of my knitting out. I focussed too much on getting a head start and too little on the pattern. It's great to see how other people are getting on in the forum but don't take their progress to heart: they may ahead of you because they're speedy knitters or simply have more free time to knit with.

Secondly I found the forum was great for asking questions when I wasn't sure about an aspect of the pattern. Friendly, timely advice was the name of the game.

Lastly the deadline kept my attention fixed on finishing the cardigan, rather than putting it aside to work on something else for a while. It's marvellous to have a finished product for my efforts. As the Scollayalong was sponsored by BritYarn and KnitBritish I also had the pleasure of being introduced to British wool I hadn't tried before, namely Blacker West Country Tweed.

Fingers crossed I'll win one of the prizes up for grabs!

In October I'll keep the knit-a-long momentum going and join in BritYarn's Great British Socks knit-a-long. Click on the link to find out more and register yourself. The rules are that you must use a British sock pattern and British yarn. My yarn and circular needles are on standby for tomorrow.

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Shetland Wool Week Annual 2015 Review

Image courtesy of Shetland Wool Week
Visiting the Scottish island of Shetland during wool week is on many a knitter's a wish list. With its rich textile traditions paired with modern pattern designers the island's creative industries are flourishing, and how better to immerse yourself in them than by taking a class and seeing the best of what wool week has to offer?

Sadly Shetland is not a cheap place to stay and the expense of flights on top of accommodation can push a trip out of people's price range. This year, however, Shetland Wool Week is publishing an annual available to anyone, whether you can attend the festivities or not. I was fortunate enough to receive a review copy and, when opening the pages, I instantly got a feel of the knitting delights Shetland has to offer.

Now the last time I read an annual it was Smash Hits! in the late 1980s. This annual is nothing like my adolescent counterparts. It's A5 size, printed on lovely paper with many well-shot colourful photos, and there's absolutely no reference to Madonna and Wham! whatsoever.

The publishers have included articles and patterns from some of the island's greatest knitting names, such as Ella Gordon, Gudrun Johnston (better known as The Shetland Trader) and Hazel Tindall. This year's Shetland Wool Week patron is Donna Smith and she writes the introduction to the annual. She also designed the Baa-ble hat to promote this year's event. The pattern is in the annual and is also available as a free download on the Shetland Wool Week website.

My favourite of the patterns, although they are all gorgeous with a distinctive Shetland design twist, is Gudrun Johnston's Belmont cardigan. It's feminine, cosy and very, very covetable.

The articles are very stimulating, particularly the feature about the role of Shetland women in World War One.

The annual is available to buy from today, 16th September, and costs £9.99 plus £1 postage and packing to the UK. The postage cost is more for overseas orders. Buy your copy from Shetland Wool Week. I shall certainly knit at least one pattern from the annual, once the current projects I'm working on are finished, and I'll enjoy keeping it to browse through the articles at leisure. I hope that a 2016 annual will be published next year too.

Friday 4 September 2015

Toft Alpaca Publishes Edward's Menagerie Pattern Book

For a brief change from knitting, why not take up crochet?

When Toft Alpaca Shop founder Kerry Lord was pregnant she used her spare time to take up crochet. The toys she made became the crochet pattern book Edward's Menagerie, and now there's a sequel for sale of the avian kind: Edward's Menagerie Birds.

Image courtesy of Toft Alpaca
I had the pleasure of receiving a digital review copy. The first thing that struck me was the colours used in the designs. The original Edward's Menagerie book used the natural alpaca colours Toft is known for - creams, greys and browns. For the sequel Toft has dyed their wool in six colourful shades, whether it's for the pink of a flamingo or the yellow of a bill, the shades make a great addition to the yarn range. I hope they will be carried over to the company's garment and accessories designs.

So to the patterns. They make fabulous small projects for crochet fans. The birds are not just for kids either - I've spotted quite a few grown women in the Toft Alpaca Shop buying yarn to crochet the collection for themselves. Each bird comes in four sizes, small, standard, large or giant, depending on the thickness of yarn you use, from fine to chunky.

Sophia the flamingo image courtesy of Toft Alpaca
Novice crocheters may find the patterns a little tricky and I'd advise complete newbies to learn the basic stitches before they attempt a bird. The patterns are divided into three levels, the first being for those relatively new to the craft; the second for those who have mastered the loop/fur stitch; and the third comfortable with more complex colour changing and splitting techniques.

At the back of the book there are instructions on crochet stitches and sewing up techniques. Some pattern designs have wings or feet the same as others. If you're new to crochet and have mastered how to make a flying wing you may wish to pick out other pattern with the same feature to make before you attempt a different style.

Browsing through the book is a visual pleasure. The colour and the clarity of the photographs are excellent and certainly inspire the reader to get hooking. Needless to say that if toys are your thing then this book probably isn't for you.

My personal favourite pattern is Sophia the flamingo. She's a level one pattern and therefore one of the easiest to make, plus she's pink. Enough said! There are, however, over 40 patterns to choose from if pink doesn't float your boat.

The book is also available as a book and yarn package, which comes with your choice of 100g, 25g and 10g yarn plus 10 extra digital patterns. Or why not book a crochet workshop and learn how to make the bird of your choice?

Scollayalong Update

Nearly finished the first arm now as well as the body. My progress is terribly slow thanks to work and other things taking up my knitting time. I'm going on holiday for a couple of weeks and will be taking a break both from blogging and the Scollay cardigan - I think I'll just take a small and simple knitting project with me. See how other Scollay knitters are getting on in the Scollayalong Ravelry forum.

Monday 31 August 2015

Sneek Peak At This Year's Campaign For Wool Celebrations

Image courtesy of Campaign For Wool
Since 2010 the Campaign For Wool has celebrated every October all that's wonderful about British wool. From soft furnishings to high fashion, the campaign has brought over 100 companies together yearly to showcase the benefits of using wool. In fact the campaign is now global, all under the patronage of HRH The Prince of Wales.

A few snippets have leaked out about this year's woolly shenanigans - and what a showstopper it's going to be. Wool Week 2015 takes place from the 5th to the 11th of October. The Campaign is going to go back to its inaugural roots and will once again transform London's Savile Row into a lush, green meadow complete with two flocks of 30 sheep.

Elsewhere more than 25 tailors have been partnered with over 25 of the UK's most influential wool mills with the challenge to create a bespoke look. The outfits will be modelled at a special event. Know any men who love to wear wool? British GQ magazine is going to snap the best dressed men in wool during the day.

Friday 9th October is woolly hat day to support the Mission to Seafarers' charity. From September (eek, that's tomorrow!) the Campaign for Wool website will publish hat patterns by Marie Wallin, Craft Revolution, Wool & The Gang and other designers. My needles are on standby.

Scollayalong update
I've now knitted about half a sleeve as well as the body. It seems to be taking so long ... probably because I know I'm up against the clock. Fingers crossed I'll hit the end of September deadline.

Monday 24 August 2015

Autumn Brings Three New All-British Yarns

Cornish Tin - image courtesy of Blacker Yarns
Autumn has always been my favourite season, not that I don't like the others but there's something cosy and comforting about the nights drawing in, the red hues of leaves on the trees as they begin to fall, and getting those comfy woollen jumpers out of the back of the wardrobe.

This year there are three more reasons to love Autumn: the launch of three new all-British yarns. I hope to review them all when they are on the market but, until then, here's all the information I can glean so far ...

Buachaille by Kate Davies
Newly-wed prolific knitwear designer Kate Davies, whose Catkin jumper is still in my work in progress pile, teased her email followers with news that she's soon launching her own yarn. Called Buachaille (apparently pronounced byookaya), it will be produced from Scottish wool and spun in Yorkshire.

Forget any preconceptions about Scottish wool being coarse and scratchy. Kate says: "My yarn will be woolly and spring and durable - speaking of this land, and of the animals that grew it - but it will also be smooth and light and soft enough to wear next to the skin."

There's no word yet as to colours, weights or prices, but Kate has set up an email list for those who want to be first to here. Go here to sign up.

Illustrious by West Yorkshire Spinners
West Yorkshire Spinners is keeping details of this yarn  under wrap, with the company placing tantalising adverts in various knitting magazines it trailing it with the picture of a closed box. The suspense is killing me ...

Cornish Tin by Blacker Yarns
I loved Blacker Yarns' previous yarn launch. Read my review of Lyonesse here. Expectations, therefore are high for the forthcoming Cornish Tin, a limited release 10th birthday blend for the company. The yarn will be in both 4ply and DK weights, comprising of British fibres spun in Cornwall.

The launch date is 18th September with five colours in the range. All five are striking but from the publicity photograph my favourite is the bluey-green.

I'll review the yarns as soon as I can get my hands on them!

Thursday 20 August 2015

Let's Twist Again: Review of Twist It 2 magazine Autumn 2015

Image courtesy of Immediate Media
The first Twist It magazine appeared on the shelves many months ago. Without any fanfare the second edition, published by Immediate Media, hit the newsagent shelves this month. I have no idea whether this is going to be a regular seasonal publication or an ad-hoc magazine, but the design of Twist It, with its glossy photography and premium paper is that of a collectable periodical.

Twist It contains 33 'modern patterns', interviews with prominent designers and an opening news section with a collection of modern knitted products available on the internet, such as arrow cushions, though I draw the line at knitted distressed leggings that look as if a five-year-old knitted them. So far, however, so good.

The next thing, however, that I noticed when flicking through is that the magazine contains a pattern for a jumper called Sandhurst that's currently on my needles.  I found it in the free pattern section on Artesano's website. It's a great pattern but considering it's available for nothing on the internet it seems strange that it has been published in a paid for magazine.

Looking at the other patterns in Twist It the vast majority have been taken from published books and design house pamphlets. It's very difficult to tell if any are exclusive to the magazine. In the crowded marketplace of knitting magazine publishing readers do expect to receive original patterns for their hard-earned cash.

That said, the interviews with Jared Flood, Kerry Lord and Laura Strutt (a specialist in arm knitting!) are interesting and the magazine has high production values with its design and photography. It's just a shame that none of the patterns particularly leap out and shout 'knit me!' - although that's my personal opinion and other readers may think differently.

Twist It's strapline is 'A New Take On Knitting'. The concept is a good one, I only hope that Twist It 3, if there is to be one (there's no mention in the magazine of a forthcoming issue), contains some original patterns to give readers a compelling reason for spending their £7.99 on it.

Wednesday 19 August 2015

New Look For Knit Today Magazine

Knit Today magazine is celebrating its 116th issue with a redesign making it brighter, more modern and seemingly aimed at a younger audience than its sister magazine Simply Knitting.

Whilst Simply Knitting has a reputation for both its toy patterns and also jumpers and cardigans in many sizes, Knit Today has gone for a youthful, neon look with easy patterns including a necklace, bracelets clutch bag and stripy t-shirt as seen on the cover.

The redesigned magazine is focussing on attracting beginner knitters by including 28 easy patterns. I love the neon stripy t shirt designed by Lynne Rowe and also the features on Kerry Lord of Toft Alpaca and the knitting life of knitwear designer Jessica Briscoe. The jazzed up news section contains information and products new to the market. It features a knitting needle set by the shop Berylune, which handily is only a few miles from where I live. I'll definitely be popping in to buy my own set.

The free gift with his issue is a zipped knitting needle case - great for beginners starting out on the craft but no way big enough for experienced knitters with an extensive needle stash. I doubt knitters who want a complicated pattern will find what they are looking forward in this issue. Knitting a face cloth, hot air balloon or soap scrubby just won't cut the mustard. Those readers should look at The Knitter magazine instead, another sister magazine of Knit Today, but aimed at intermediate and experienced knitters.

Overall the redesign is a success because it has repositioned Knit Today in the knitting magazine marketplace by aiming itself at younger, beginner knitters. I have high hopes for issue 117 thanks to the trailer for it in the back of the magazine showcasing an easy lace knit t shirt designed by Sarah Hatton and a free Christmas Robin knitting kit.

Tuesday 18 August 2015

Passing Knitting Skills On Again

I took a break from blogging last week because instead of sitting inside with a laptop I was on holiday in beautiful North Yorkshire with my family: mum, dad, brother, sister-in-law and two nephews. Hubby unfortunately had to work.

Statue of Richard III at Middleham Castle
My childhood was spent in industrial South Yorkshire, a world apart from its more scenic and spacious neighbour to the north. Our holiday cottage on the outskirts of Richmond was a delightful place to explore the small towns and surrounding countryside from, including the ruins of Middleham Castle, famous for being the seat of King Richard III whose body was dug up in a Leicester car park in 2012.

This is sheep heartland and reminded me where the wool I knit with (no acrylic for me!) comes from and its indelible link with the area's history. Whilst it was mostly sunny when we were there I could appreciate how cold it would be in a blustery winter and, in a rural world in the days before electricity and central heating, how necessary a thick wool jumper would have been to keep warm.

When my nephews, aged 8 and 12, asked me to teach them how to knit on holiday, you could have knocked me down with a feather. I brought along two pairs of 6mm needles with me and two balls of chunky yarn in a merino and wool mix. It was a great pleasure to teach them how to knit and start making a garter stitch scarf.

Beginners' Garter Stitch scarf pattern: cast on 15 stitches and keep knitting until the ball has nearly all been used up!

My youngest nephew engrossed in his knitting
I was amazed when I got up the next morning to find both boys voluntarily knitting away then asking for help with something they were stuck with. I've been knitting so long that I can't remember exactly when I first started, but the boys' issues brought back memories of remembering which way to twist the wool around the needle, where in the stitch to insert the needle in and wondering how those pesky extra stitches got there!

Next holiday they nephews want to learn how to knit a hat. Bring it on! Sadly I wasn't so successful with my Scollay cardigan I took with me to carry on with as part of the Scollayalong on Ravelry. I must have pulled the back out about eight times due to having cast on the wrong number of stitches, going wrong with yarn overs and generally mucking it up. Trying to knit the lace pattern in the back of a car whilst on windy roads didn't help either. I'm determined, however, not to let it beat me and, now I'm back on the straight and narrow, am plodding on ...
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