Friday 27 March 2015

The Shetland Trader Book Two

The Shetland Trader Book Two
My lovely husband, at my behest, bought me a copy of The Shetland Trader Book Two for my birthday. I'm slightly late to the party, the book having been published at the end of last year, and it was difficult to track down a print copy. No doubt a second print run will take place soon and in the meantime a digital download of the book is available at Ravelry. For me though the pleasure of knitting books comes from leafing through them, admiring the photography and reading the patterns to see which I'd knit first. With its beautiful pictures of the designs shot in Shetland, The Shetland Trader Book Two exceeded my knitting porn expectations.

When I was around aged eight my mum, dad brother and I went to Shetland for a week's holiday. We stayed with my mum's best friend and her family who were living there for a few years whilst mum's best friend's husband worked as an engineer out on the oil rigs. It was a magical week - the first time I'd been on a plane and seen a landscape that wasn't Yorkshire or our usual holiday spot of Bournemouth. The week was sunny and bright, showing Shetland off in its best light. I remember picnics on the beach, boat trips and buying some wonderful Shetland wool fingerless gloves (this was the 1980s!) Perhaps my love of yarn began there? As an adult I'd love to go back and I follow Shetland Wool Week on the internet. My only reservation about returning is that now I'm a wheelchair user, which may be a barrier to finding accommodation and exploring outside of Lerwick.

Gudrun Johnston, aka The Shetland Trader, was born in Shetland in the 1970s and her mum ran a design company on the island. Whilst Gudrun now lives in the US her heart is still in Shetland and her homeland inspires her designs. Book Two contains an amazing fair isle jumper called Northdale and the design on the book's front cover, Nikka Vord, has an intricately-patterned yoke.

My favourite sweater is Snarravoe, knitted in Jamieson & Smith Shetland Aran. It is knitted top down in one piece, with the sleeves and body separated at the underarm. The jumper is one colour only and has a lovely rib pattern. Knitting it in the round may be a challenge for me but it's certainly one worth rising to!

The book has nine beautifully-photographed patterns, modelled by two Shetland women. The book's foreword tells the reader about the models, location and the yarns featured.

Having now discovered Johnston's work I'll be taking a look at The Shetland Trader Book One. Join her Ravelry group here. Meanwhile I'll be browsing Jamieson & Smith's website to decide which colour to knit Snarravoe in, and armchair chair planning a trip to Shetland. If anyone does have any advice for a wheelchair-friendly holiday in Shetland that involves yarn for me and wildlife for my husband, I'd be very grateful if you could let me know below. Many thanks.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Vintage Gloves & Babylonglegs Yarn

Before Christmas I was thrilled to be the highest bidder for a knitted hat on eBay. Susan Crawford, who specialises in vintage pattern designs, was selling off some of her samples and I am now the proud owner of a lovely 1920s-style knitted hat, adorned with a big, round wooden button.

The beautiful DK yarn is variegated in tones of rusty red and is soft to the touch. I asked Susan what it was so I could buy some and knit matching gloves. It was custom dyed by Babylonglegs, but thankfully Susan had a spare ball to sell to me.

Babylonglegs doesn't appear to be in business at the moment. The Etsy shop is empty. What a shame to discover a wonderful new artisan yarn only to not be able to buy any more! However, all is not lost, because through the wonders of Google, I did come across a blog, which told me that babylonglegs is a busy mum based in Leicestershire. The great news is that she's planning on reopening her yarn shop very soon.

Meanwhile I used my spare ball to knit a pair of gloves based on Susan Crawford's vintage gloves pattern, which I mentioned in a previous post. I confess I broke a big rule in the knitting book. The glove pattern is for 4 ply yarn but instead I used DK and knitted very tightly! The gloves are slightly large but the dense knitting makes them very warm. I'm thrilled with my matching hat and gloves.

Meanwhile I'm following Susan's Finish A Long thread on Ravelry. The thread is to encourage knitters who are well on the way to knitting up one of Susan Crawford's patterns to finish and sew up. The challenge runs until the beginning of April and Susan is posting useful finishing tips and hints along the way.

I'm STILL trying to finish her perfect Christmas jumper and am hoping that the Finish A Long will spur me on to the finishing line. The sleeves are done and I've nearly finished the front. The back shouldn't take too long because it's all one colour - no stranded knitting required. Watch this space ...

Friday 13 March 2015

Edinburgh Yarn Fest

This weekend sees Scotland's capital city go all woolly at the knees because of Edinburgh Yarn Fest.

The Edinburgh Corn Exchange is the venue for the yarn festival, which takes place on Saturday 14th March from 10am to 5.30pm and on Sunday 15th March from 10am to 5pm. As well as lots and lots of lovely yarn on sale there will be classes, from learning brioche stitch to knitting a fair isle brooch. In the podcast lounge there will be lots of events taking place, with the help of blogger Knit British.

Reading the list of exhibitors was a great source of information for me on Scottish woolly brands that I hadn't heard of before. I love the hand dyed yarn from The Border Tart, Old Maiden Aunt's handpainted Shetland wool, and naturally dyed yarns in The Skye Shilasdair Shop.

Day admission to the the Festival is £8, with a full weekend ticket retailing at £12.

It's my birthday this weekend and I'm hoping to celebrate next year by taking a trip to Edinburgh Yarn Fest, assuming it will take place on the same weekend. I'm already planning a list of yarn I've got my eye on, in the knowledge that my yarn diet will be over by 2016!

Sunday 8 March 2015

Baa Ram Ewe's Harrogate Branch To Close

On Thursday subscribers to baa ram ewe's email newsletter received the shocking news that their Harrogate branch is to close, with its last day of trading being on April 2nd. The Leeds branch, recently located to Chapel Allerton, is not affected.

Baa ram ewe is one of my favourite yarn shops, stocking an edited collection of Yorkshire yarns and other luxurious wool and championing small-scale British designers. Whilst it's not the cheapest place to shop for wool it's certainly the most stylish and up to date, knocking spots off the cliche of the old-fashioned wool store.

Not all its supporters in Harrogate will be able to travel to Chapel Allerton instead, and indeed that store has two steps up to the entrance, making it inaccessible for wheelchair users, people with walking difficulties, and those with prams. Customers will still be able to buy online, but of course this isn't suitable for people wanting to check the difficultly of patterns and feel yarn before they buy. Plus there's the cost of postage and, if the product isn't exactly what you wanted, return postage to obtain a refund.

So is the Harrogate branch a victim of the recession? Not so says the company:

"Being a small business and running this wonderful company brings us so much joy, but in amongst this there are sometimes difficult choices to make. Although we have had tremendous support from our Harrogate customers we feel that two shops, along with our global travels with our Titus yarn, means we are simply not giving our best to all parts of the business. We are very sad to close the store and it has been a very hard decision to make, but we hope it will make the rest of baa ram ewe an even better experience for everyone."

I've as yet, however, to hear of a company closing a thriving and profitable store. Here's hoping that Harrogate's closure, only a few months after the comparable yarn store Mrs Moon in St Margarets, near Twickenham, shut its doors and went online only, isn't indicative of a downturn in the fortunes of British yarn stores. Whilst online stores have their place, they can't replace a top quality local wool shop that champions local designers and brings the knitting community together.

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