Wednesday 29 April 2015

Yarn Shop Day on Saturday 2nd May

This Saturday it's your chance to support and celebrate local yarn shops. We all can be tempted to bulk buy wool from internet-only retailers, enticed by the discounts they offer, but there's nothing like feeling, squeezing and choosing the yarn colour before you buy. That's where your local yarn shop comes into its own.

More than 200 shops around the UK are taking part, offering incentives for customers to drop in such as book signings, appearances by well-known designers, workshops, discounts and goodie bags. 

West Yorkshire Spinners is releasing a special new yarn for Yarn Shop Day called Knitterbocker Glory. Part of their Aire Valley DK range, the yarn is a blend of 75% wool and 25% nylon dyed in multicolour candy colours.

Knitterbocker Glory

To find the nearest participating yarn shop near you see Let's Knit magazine's website. There's also a useful list of every store that's taking part and what they have planned.

Highlights include:
  • Designer Sarah Hatton holding a class and Q&A session at A Good Yarn in Cleethorpes
  • Crocheter extraordinaire Sue Pinner visiting Get Knitted in Bristol
  • Rowan designer Martin Storey dropping in at The Periwinkle in Ilfracombe.
If your local yarn shop isn't taking part why not badger them to get involved next year? That's what I'll be talking about with mine. 

Saturday 25 April 2015

Blacker Yarns Launches Lyonesse

Lyonesse shade card
The first of May will see Blacker Yarns, a company that sells 100% pure, natural British yarns, launch its latest summer yarn called Lyonesse. I was fortunate enough to receive a ball of this yarn, a 50/50 blend of soft white Corriedale/Merino with linen. Lyonesse comes in two weights, DK and 4 ply, and six colours: moonstone (cream), aquamarine, jade, rose quartz, ruby and lapis (blue). A shade card is available here for £1.50.

Why the name? The company told me: "This is our summer range, named after the mythical sunken land of Lyonesse, lost under the waves millennia ago from the far west coast of Cornwall". She went on to tell me that Lyonesse's six summer shades and its linen composition make it ideal for summer cardigans, tunics, cowls and shawls.

Although I received a complimentary ball of Lyonesse to review, my thoughts are purely my own and are not influenced by Blacker Yarns. The shade I received is a pretty pale pink, called rose quartz. Happily it's my favourite shade out of the six on the shade card.

Lyonesse rose quartz

The first thing that struck me was the yarn's lovely, soft feel, squishy without being furry or shedding in any way. I thought that it would knit up well using patterns with stitch definition. Rose quartz also has a vintage look about it and a very subtle variation in colour due to the linen. I was going to find a one ball pattern to knit but was swayed when I browsed through's free patterns to find one suitable for Lyonesse - at the time of writing Blacker Yarns hadn't released any of their own patterns to support the new yarn.

When I saw West Yorkshire Spinner's free downloadable PDF pattern, Summer Palace Cropped Sleeve Jumper, I immediately thought it would be perfect for my ball of Lyonesse. And so it was! The pattern in the smallest size requires four balls of DK and I only had one, so couldn't knit up the whole jumper - I'll have to wait until Lyonesse is on general sale - but what I did knit with one ball looks amazing.

This is the jumper's back and you can see that the yarn has clear stitch definition and knits up really well. It has a very cool feel to it, perfect for summer months. The pattern has three quarter length sleeves but I'm going to change it to short sleeves instead. Here's a close up of the stitch pattern:

Please note I haven't blocked the piece yet because it's not finished!

I'm thrilled with this new yarn and look forward to it being on general sale. It's great see another 100% British yarn from a British company.

Monday 20 April 2015

Vintage Knitting By Liza Hollinghurst Book Review

Vintage Knitting 
As part of my love of all things woolly and British I'm very partial to vintage knitting patterns that take you back to knitting's heyday in the 30s, 40s and 50s. In those decades knitting for most people was a cost-effective way to warmly clothe themselves and their families, wool having the property to keep a body cool in the summer and warm in winter. My grandma told me tales of unravelling old jumpers when they had worn patches or her children had grown out them so as to re-use the yarn for another project. Wasting yarn was unthinkable.

Vintage afficianado Liza Hollinghurst is publishing her first book, Vintage Knitting, in May. You can pre-order a copy at Waterstones here. Hollinghurst is an expert in vintage fashion. She writes for Her Vintage Life magazine and blogs about her life and crafts at The Vintage Knitter.

The colourful design of Vintage Knitting's front cover immediately made me want to dive on in. Inside there are 18 patterns from 1941 accompanied by original black and white photos. Patterns include underwear, a turban, sweaters, gloves, a cardigan and even a balaclava to keep the man in your life cosy outside. The patterns are a fascinating piece of social history and it's interesting to see the models' hair, make up and how they put an outfit together.

Knitting using vintage patterns is not without its challenges and Hollinghurst gives tips for the modern knitter on tension, needle sizes and suitable modern yarns to use. The patterns were originally published during the Second World War and with them comes advice on economical knitting and making new from old.

All in all this is a wonderful little hardback book that, even if you don't choose to knit any of the patterns, is a great read in itself.

For more books about vintage knitting see my previous posts:

Friday 17 April 2015

Free Sheltand Wool Week 2015 'Baa-ble Hat Pattern + British Knitting Awards 2015

Needless to say as a knitter I am very partial to the animal that gives us the majority of the yarn we use - sheep. Scattered around my house are knitted ones and paintings of this very British animal. To celebrate this year's forthcoming Shetland Wool Week, which will take place from 26th September to 4th October, the organisers today launched a free pattern to knit a gorgeous sheep hat they're calling 'baa-ble'.

Baa-ble hat - photo courtesy of Shetland Wool Week

Donna Smith designed wonderful knitted baubles with sheep on last Christmas and thanks to their popularity she has now turned her hand into changing the design for a hat that's perfect for keeping your head warm in Shetland during the chilly winter months.

Download the pattern here, where you'll also find details of what's planned for this year's wool week.

If you love Donna's design and/or are passionate about wool spun and dyed in Shetland why not nominate them in this year's British Knitting Awards? The annual contest, organised by Let's Knit magazine, is once again asking the public to vote for their favourite yarn brands, independent knitting shops, designers, website and pattern house. To bribe you for voting the magazine is offering one random lucky person £200-worth of knitting goodies.

A Woolly Yarn champions British wool brands, knitting stores and designers, particularly small, independent businesses who don't have the financial clout of the big name retailers. The British Knitting Awards 2015 is a chance to bring their names to the attention of the knitting industry and give them the recognition and market share they deserve.

Not sure who to vote for? Read these previous blog posts that highlight some of my favourites from the last year:

  1. Coopknits Socks Volume 2 Review
  2. The Shetland Trader Book 2 Review
  3. Mrs Moon Plump DK Review
  4. A Stitch In Time Volume 1 Review
  5. Yokes by Kate Davies Review
  6. Millamia's Naturally Soft Aran Yarn Review
  7. Yarn Stories Launch of Yorkshire Wool

7th May 2015 update

Donna has blogged about the lovely different colourways people have used to knit her baa-bel hat. From a turquoise sky to a grey, wintry backdrop the hats all look fantastic!

Saturday 11 April 2015

Sock It To Me - British Sock Yarns

In my last post I reviewed Rachel Coopey's Socks Volume 2 book and revealed my aim to dip my toe (ahem) into sock knitting with some wonderful variated British yarn. Knitted socks need beautiful shoes to compliment them. As an incentive to get knitting I bought myself a pair of fabulous red patent Dr Martens with that little bit extra sock room.

Now to finding some indie British sock yarns, known as sock weight or 4 ply. Here are my favourites:

1. Old Maiden Aunt
Scottish company Old Maiden Aunt is run by Lilith and Helen. All their yarn is handpainted in Scotland and the yarn used is ethically sourced. They do sell some yarn from overseas but all the British yarn is processed locally to the animal it comes from. I headed straight to the 4ply/sock weight handpainted yarn page, which has seven subcategories for the fussy sock knitter. Being new to sock knitting I haven't a clue about which yarn is best for the foot, but my eye was drawn to the super wash merino/cashmere/nylon - practical but also luxurious. The balls are £15 for 100g and there are a multitude of colours to choose from. Unfortunately when I looked most were out of stock, but my favourite colouray is Selkie - an ocean swirl of sea green and brown. Perhaps it's not the best colour to go with my shoes but it certainly looks fabulous.
Selkie by Old Maiden Aunt

2. Five Moons Yarns
Sharon Jane is the brainchild of Five Moons Yarns, a company dedicated to hand dying yarns. Its website has five categories for sock yarn, but it was the vintage yarn section that caught my eye. They are mostly solid colours with a faded, dusted or vintage feel. Being a vintage fan myself I adore the chateauneuf, a purplish red 'with hints of garnet and raisins'. Each skein is 50g and costs £6.50. Helpfully the website tells you which colour ways are out of stock without having to click through to the specific yarn page first.
Chateuneuf by Five Moons Yarns

3. Eden Cottage Yarns
Yarn sold here is hand dyed in Yorkshire. All the yarn is dyed in the owner, Victoria's kitchen sink, and hung out in her garden to dry. There are eight subcategories of sock yarn on the website to choose from and prices vary depending on the type of yarn you choose. Bedale, a blend of baby yak and silk, attracted me instantly, as did the Titus pure merino 4ply. Apparently this washes well in the washing machine - a bonus point for me. My colour of choice is the orangey/yellow sunset, which costs £18 for a 100g skein.
Sunset by Eden Cottage Yarns

Can you recommend any other indie, hand dyed sock yarn companies? Please let me know in the comments box below. Next up is picking which of the three to get started on a pair with ...

Sunday 5 April 2015

CoopKnits Socks Volume 2 Review

Last year I met the lovely Rachel Coopey at Yarndale in Skipton. I'd read about her love of sock knitting and designing patterns in knitting magazines but not having felt the urge to knit socks myself I hadn't taken much notice. Yet when I saw her stand, the intricacy of her sock designs and the sheer fun that she's had with pattern and colour, I decided not to write off sock knitting per se.

A few years ago I knitted a pair of long socks for my brother for Christmas, a slightly dull job because I was rushing to meet the December 25th deadline and hadn't learned how to graft properly. I still haven't. Needless to say I wasn't inspired to knit any more pairs. The socks for my brother were knitted in DK on two needles - at that point in my knitting history I hadn't yet ventured into knitting on DPNs.

Dave socks
Now I'm keen to dip my toes (excuse the pun) into the world of sock knitting again. Previously I thought why go to the effort of knitting socks when you can buy a cheap five pack from M&S? Seeing Rachel Coopey's samples with my own eyes, however, persuaded me how desirable and quirky handknitted socks can be. I choose to knit jumpers, cardigans, gloves, scarves and hats instead of buy commercially-made ones so why should my socks be any different? Hopefully too, as with my other knitted items, I'll look after socks I've made myself much better than the lone chain store version found at the back of the washing machine.

Coopey published her Socks Volume 2 pattern collection back in February. Its cover, shown above, shows a selection of her designs for women - and men given that the leg above the green sock is rather hairy! There are 12 patterns in the book, with all but one being knitted in one colour. As a beginner sock knitter that's an advantage for me not having to worry about yarn changes as well as DPNs and a cable needle.

The first pattern is the one I'll be starting with. It's called Dave and is a 'no fuss' sock pattern that introduces the knitter to the techniques involved in sock making. Despite the fact that it's all stocking stitch the socks in the book's photo look stunning thanks to the variegated 'Another Crafty Girl Merino Sock Yarn' they are knitted in.

The other sock patterns look wonderfully comfortable to wear on your feet and play with cable, rib and texture. Otis is the design that uses mini skeins to create a striking, shades of orange pattern.

At the back of the book there's a section of tips and techniques for knitting socks with advice on casting on, tension, sizing to the length of your foot and using charts. I can't wait to get started on knitting 'Dave', but first I need some sock yarn to knit the pair with. In my next blog post I'll hunt for a variety of desirable British sock yarns to choose from.

Knitting stash update - I've finally finished knitting Susan Crawford's Perfect Christmas Jumper, albeit over three months too late! Now it just needs to be sewn up ...
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