Saturday 28 February 2015

The Mobile Yarn Shop

With local yarn shops closing at an alarming rate due partly to the recession, to business rates and because of price undercutting on the internet, it's lovely to hear of a woolly business in Essex that's bucking the trend and bringing yarn into the community.

The Woolly Giraffe, based in Southend-On-Sea, is catering for both internet and real-life shoppers, running a monthly show on the second Thursday of each month at Southminster Parish Hall, and also selling online.

The business travels round in its branded van to various shows throughout the year in south east Essex. Run by Kate Strange and Jiona (aka the Woolly Giraffe), the business displays the pair's passion for taking their hobby out into the community.

Could this be a business model to save local yarn stores in the future, having both a virtually business and one that travels out within the community, whilst not having to pay the overheads that come with a high-street store?

Whilst many knitters love to travel to knitting shows and exhibitions, for those who find it harder to get out and about or don't have a weekend to spare the opportunity to browse and buy the latest yarns from your local church hall or community centre is a welcome one.

On a different note I recently came across a wonderful sewing and wool store in the village of Tickhill, South Yorkshire. From Rags To Stitches doesn't have its own website but there is a Facebook page. One half of the shop is dedicated to sewing, with the other half to wool. Whilst there's a small range of budget wool, what really caught my eye is its specialism in Debbie Bliss and Louisa Harding yarns, with the most recent additions to the collection on display just a few weeks after launch.

There were a few knitted up garments on display, for inspiration, with a small but carefully curated collection of pattern books to go with the yarn. I'm currently sworn to not buy any more yarn this year until I've used up my large stash ... but my husband was easily persuaded to buy me a couple of balls of Louisa Harding Noema yarn for my forthcoming birthday. From Rags To Stitches is fabulous store to visit and Tickhill village itself has enough history and charm to make a day trip of it.

Sunday 15 February 2015

Knitting In Hospital

I recently blogged about how knitting isn't so great for your mental wellbeing if you get stuck with the pattern and have to keep pulling rows out. Now I'm looking for for the opposite - a pattern that's quick to knit and simple without being dull.

Tomorrow I'm going to hospital for an exploratory operation and will probably be in for a couple of nights. In the blurb I received about preparing for an operation is this advice:

"You may also want to bring something to do while you wait to go into theatre. For example:
  • a book/magazine/newspaper
  • crosswords
  • knitting."
Toft's giant beanie
The only crosswords I'm any good at are about celebrities and names of TV shows. Anything cryptic and my eyes glaze over. For someone who has the patience to spend hours and hours knitting a complicated pattern, and has a father that does The Daily Telegraph's crossword religiously every day, it's odd that my eyes glaze over at the mention of them.

With regards to books, I'm a voracious reader but what if I get to a cliffhanger and have to put the book down to be wheeled off to theatre? So knitting it is then. 

Looking through my hefty stash of yarn and patterns I wanted to something to knit that's relatively compact and that I could realistically complete during my hospital stay.

What I came up with is Toft's giant beanie. It's knitted with two strands of chunky yarn together in the round, meaning you can put it down at any time and there's no rush to finish a row. I have in my stash enough yarn to knit two, just in case there's a long wait! One will be in brown and the other in cream and these will be, dare I say it, be the first gifts I've knitted for Christmas 2015.

Here's hoping that knitting will work its therepeutic magic and keep the heebie jeebies at bay during my hospital stay!

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Mrs Moon Plump DK Review & Free Neckwarmer Pattern

Mrs Moon Plump DK shade Rhubarb Crumble
It's always a pleasure to test out new wool and when I heard that Mrs Moon, the yarn store based in St Margarets that turned internet-only after Christmas, was launching a DK version of their chunky plump yarn I couldn't wait to get it on my needles.

The original chunky plump is ethically sourced and very squishy indeed, but as you'd imagine it's only suitable for large-stitched designs. Plump DK comprises of 80% new merino and 20% baby alpaca, giving it the softness of its older sister but more pattern versatility due to being DK weight.  Recommended needle size is 4 - 4.5mm and the yarn is hand wash only. 

Mrs Moon sent me the 'rhubarb crumble' shade, which I'd describe as peachy/pink. It comes as a hank, meaning you have to roll it into a ball yourself, but I found that the fibres didn't stick together and it rolled up easily.

I designed a quick and easy neckwarmer pattern (one hank doth not a cowl or snood make!) to knit with the yarn. Plump DK is soft against the skin and I think that its texture makes it perfect for a neckwarmer or scarf. As it's slightly fuzzy it doesn't show intricate lace or stitch patterns up well, therefore I plumped (ahem - sorry!) for a rib pattern.

Neckwarmer pattern by A Woolly Yarn

With a 4mm circular needle cast on 110 stitches. Join in the round being careful not to to twist the stitches.

Knit two rows then purl two rows. Repeat 11 times.

Knit two more rows then cast off knitwise.

This left me with enough yarn left to sew up with and more. I am, however, quite a tight knitter, therefore if you are a loose knitter you may need to only repeat the knit two rows and purl two rows 10 times in order to have enough left to finish off.

Here's the cosy finished result!

Friday 6 February 2015

Tin Can Knits' Twelve Months, Twelve Sweaters Challenge

Tin Can Knits, the knitwear design company with a foot in Edinburgh and the other in Vancouver, Canada, has
thrown down the gauntlet ... to knit 12 sweaters in 12 months. Alexa and Emily, the owners, have declared 2015 to be the year of the sweater. They are each going to knit a sweater a month, share their progress on their blog, and offer techniques and tips along the way.

There are prizes too for three lucky people who join in the challenge:

1. A year's worth of sweater yarn from Emily's Scottish-based dyeing company Rainbow Heirloom (I've got my eye on that prize)

2. A signed copy of the pair's latest pattern book, Road Trip

3. The Tin Can Knits elibrary.

To join in the challenge go to the competition's Ravelry thread. You get bonus points for knitting a sweater from a Tin Can Knits pattern.

I'm going to give it a whirl and will list my progress here. I finished a Peppa Pig jumper for my goddaughter in January and will post a pic as soon as I have one.

The challenge is much easier to achieve if you knit baby sweaters. I've got the opposite on my needles - a man's XL jumper for my husband. There are two jumpers for me I'm part way through and then the rest will come from my stash. I'm looking forward to achieving a double whammy: finally making some room in my cupboards overflowing with yarn, and also treasuring some new jumpers for me. Plus, dare I say it, getting a head start on Christmas presents for 2015 ...

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