Tuesday 30 June 2015

Baa Ram Ewe To Launch Dovestone DK Yarn In August

Image of Dovestone DK courtesy of Baa Ram Ewe
After the success of Titus, its home-grown Yorkshire 4 ply yarn, Leeds-based wool shop Baa Ram Ewe is to launch a sister yarn - Dovestone DK - in August. It's now available for pre-order on the Baa Ram Ewe website.

Dovestone DK comprises 50% Bluefaced Leicester, 25% Wensleydale Longwool and 25% Dark Brown Masham. A 100g hank has approximately 230 metres and costs £14. The wool is 100% British and spun and dyed in Yorkshire.

Baa Ram Ewe says:
"By blending the fleece of the Bluefaced Leicester and Masham, along with the drape of the Wensleyale, we have created something truly special. Soft yet robust and with a lovely woolly bounciness, Dovestone is perfect for jumpers, cardigans, accessories and home items."
Dovestone DK will have 11 colours in its range, all with the same names as Titus.

Carol Feller has designed seven new patterns to support Dovestone DK. Baa Ram Ewe has an Autumn/Winter look book to give a preview of the designs before publication. There are four garments and three accessories in the book. Carol says that "all are designed with unique, distinctive key features but just as importantly they can become everyday staples. I think knits should be for everyday use, not special occasions."

It's great to see the launch of a new truly British yarn - roll on August!

Tuesday 23 June 2015

I'm A Knit-Along Newbie

Scollay image courtesy of Ravelry.com
Although I've been happily knitting for a decade now I still haven't joined a knit-along, whether in person or online. There's something about the pressure of having to complete a project by a certain time that reminds me of school and I'm concerned it might take the fun out of knitting. When more experienced knitters with more time on their hands to knit than me post up their excellent progress online I fear that my attempt may seem rather rubbish.

Last week, however, I heard about knit-along that's seriously tempting me to lose my knit-along virginity. KnitBritish (not to be confused with the unconnected online shop KnitBritish.com) and their sponsor BritYarn, an online wool store selling only British yarns, are going to run a Scollay-along knitting the wonderful cardigan pattern designed by Scot Karie Westermann. It's designed to be knitted from the bottom up on circular needs, with lace details at the bottom rib, wrists and yoke. The knit-along will cast off on 17th July and cast off by September 25th. Hopefully, although it covers the summer holiday period of August, that will be enough time to complete the cardigan if I concentrate solely on it and not let my attention wander to the other few projects I already have on the needles.

I've signed up on the KnitBritish Ravelry forum to take part. Yet I have a problem - which yarn to use? Initially I was planning to use some Debbie Bliss Blue Faced Leicester Balls I have in my stash but then discovered that Scollay requires DK yarn and my Debbie Bliss is aran weight.

BritYarn suggests Wensleydale Long Wool Sheep Shop DK or Blacker Lyonesse. I'm already knitting a top using Lyonesse and the former recommendation is a tad rough and scratchy for my liking. It would be fine if I only wear the cardigan over a long-sleeved top but as I plan to wear it with a short-sleeved t-shirt I'd like a yarn that's soft against my skin. Added to this I'd like a yarn that's slightly variated, not one block colour, and therefore a hand-dyed yarn would probably fit the bill, yet they are rather pricey. As for the shade, I'm not sure, but I suit warm rather than cool colours.

Do you have any recommendations? Please help me out in the comments box below. So far I'm looking at Rainbow Heirloom's fabulous hand-dyed yarns. Old Maiden Aunt sells some wonderful hand-dyed superwash Blue Faced Leicester yarns but I don't know how soft this is or what it's like to knit with, and the colours that caught my eye are out of stock. Countess Ablaze sells some lovely DK colours, but at £17 a skein for Tainted Love, my favourite from their selection is expensive. There are only two skeins left too, which isn't enough to knit Scollay.

Two cheaper, non-hand-dyed options are Blacker West Country Tweed, and West Yorkshire Spinners Blue Faced Leicester DK. For both of these, however, there isn't a colour that initially springs out at me.

When you are knitting which is most important, price or colour? Would you rather spend more on yarn but knit less items, or buy budget yarn and knit as many garments as your heart desires?

Meanwhile I'll keep pondering my options ...

Tuesday 16 June 2015

Woolly Wormhead Publishes Painted Woolly Toppers Book

It's always a delight when hat aficianado Woolly Wormhead releases a new design and this week knitters have a real treat - a whole new pattern book!

Image courtesy of Woolly Wormhead
Painted Woolly Toppers contains ten hat patterns designed for hand-dyed, painted and variegated yarns. This year, thanks to starting to knit socks, I've taken a real interest in these yarns and the effects they produce when knitted up. It's great to see patterns designed to make the most out of those yarns - plus as hand-dyed yarns tend to be one-off purchases I'm very happy to have found patterns that only require one or two skeins.

So what can knitters expect from the book? The hats come in lots of different styles, whether you prefer slouchy, bobbled, beret or close-fitting. Knitters can order either the e-version or PDF and print version from Woolly Wormhead's website. The e-version is also available to browse and buy on Ravelry.

Beautiful photography shot in an approachable setting accompanies the designs. You really can see how the designs and stitch patterns compliment the variated yarn.

Here are all the delightful designs. All the images are courtesy of Woolly Wormhead.











Knowing the type of hat style that suits me my personal favourite is Helical. It's not too slouchy nor too tight-fitting and has a fabulous stitch-effect that looks like diagonal lines.

Included at the front of the book are hints and techniques needed to knit the toppers, such as provisional, alternate cable and cable cast on; knitting in the round using DPNs or a circular needle; short rows and cabling with out a cable needle.

I'm looking forward to getting started on Helical once my I've completed my current knitting projects. I only hope that the yarn Woolly Wormhead used will still be available, seeing as hand-dyed yarns tend to be 'one off' productions. A stockist list would have been useful but seeing as businesses change all the time it would have got out of date very quickly.

Which is your favourite pattern? Let us know in the comments box below.

Monday 15 June 2015

Waitrose Wool Bag Exclusive To Three Stores

Upmarket British supermarket Waitrose has championed British wool by creating two reusable shopping bags - a shoulder bag and a larger shopper bag - with the aim of customers cutting back on the amount of plastic bags they use.
Image courtesy of Twool

The bags are made by Twool, a company that produces yarn made from the fleece of Dartmoor rare breed sheep. West Country Entrepreneur, Kim Stead, and bag brainchild told Waitrose Weekend newspaper:
"We were determined that it should be an entirely British bag and it was challenging finding a weaver. We finally found a mill in Bradford. That sort of thing has been typical. It's been a struggle to find the right people at every step of the way ... but British manufacturers have worked with me."
At the time of writing the bags are only available in three London Waitrose stores: Belgravia, Gloucester Road and Marylebone. I rang the the Marylebone store to ask if I could buy a bag over the phone and have it posted to me. The shop assistant told me it wasn't possible. Next I emailed Waitrose customer services with the same question, only to receive the following negative reply:
"Thank you for your email regarding one of our shopping bags. Sadly, we do not have the facility to be able to take on order, or charge you over the phone for the bag."
It seems then that the bags are aimed at shoppers only in the three expensive London areas. Could this be because Waitrose wants to keep them very upmarket and doesn't want the provinces getting their hands on them? Whilst I appreciate that perhaps only a small amount of bags may have been manufactured, they could have been shared out across all Waitrose stores or have offered the facility to buy one from the John Lewis website.

The ethos behind the bag is an excellent one, promoting the use of British wool, reviving the British textile industry and encouraging shoppers to use less plastic bags. It's just a shame that not all Waitrose customers have the chance to buy them. At the time of writing Waitrose has not announced any plans to sell the bags in any more of its stores.

My story does, however, have a happy ending. Thanks to a Facebook plea a friend of mine from London has picked me a shoulder bag up. I'll soon be doing my shopping with a Belgravia Waitrose wool bag.

Sunday 14 June 2015

World Wide Knit In Public Day Shenanigans

Image courtesy of Baa Baa Brighouse
Saturday 13th June saw lots of events around the UK to celebrate World Wide Knit In Public Day, or WWKIPDAY. Here are just a snippet of what took place ...

Up in Edinburgh wool lovers enjoyed an indie yarn crawl around the city, getting their 'passport' stamped at participating shops. Ginger Twist Studio, Kathy's Knits and Be Inspired Fibres were the stops on the crawl, along with, I suspect, a few taverns. Raffle prizes, goodies and discounts added to the fun. Also in Scotland Abbot House in Dunfermline joined in with the local library for a yarn bombing session.

Over in Northern Ireland the Belfast Stitch and Bitch Group boarded a bus with their knitting to take a tour of the city, ending up outside City Hall.

Welsh knitters gathered in mid-Glamorgan at Pontypridd Library for a knit and natter session.

On England's south coast the arts and crafts shop Seeded in Southsea was the venue for locals to show off their latest projects. Bath's Fashion Museum brought hosted a WWKIPDAY event. Over in the Isle of Man knitters held their celebrations on Sunday 14th June in Douglas's Sea Terminal.

Down in Devon, The Knit Stop, an Exeter project that established 12 knitting groups across the city, gathered together knitters at St Stephen's church to knit squares to make 60 cushions, with plans to display them on benches on Exeter High Street.

In Lancashire, Thornton Library held free classes for beginners and also invited experienced knitters to show others how it's done. Yorkshire saw Baa Baa Brighouse in Rastrick host a knitting gathering for jointly for WWKIPDAY and to celebrate's the internet shop's first year of trading.

Wool and The Gang yarn bombed Hackney City Farm in London and held a raffle for everyone who joined in. London Craft Club celebrated the day at The Bald Faced Stag pub in North London, lending needles to knitting newbies.

I rather let down the sisterhood by sewing bunting at a friend's hen do rather than knitting. All the bunting we made will be sewn together to be displayed at the reception do - a lovely souvenir for the bride to keep for prosperity and great way to decorate the venue.

My bunting with charms to disguise the not-so-pointy edges
What did you do for WWKIPDAY? Let us know in the comments box below.

Sock Competition Update

Rachel Coopey, sock knitting pattern specialist, is running a WWKIPDAY competition. Upload a pattern of yourself knitting a Rachel Coopey pattern in public and you could win your choice of two of her patterns. See here for details.

Friday 5 June 2015

BritYarn Online Wool Shop Opens

Logo courtesy of BritYarn
There's a burgeoning community of knitters who want to champion and support British wool, like here at A Woolly Yarn,  and now there's a new online shopping choice for all of us who want to buy British.

The wonderful blogger KnitBritish spread the word that BritYarn.co.uk opened its virtual doors this week to online shoppers. Isla Davison, the store's owner, explains her vision behind her business:
"I have been knitting for several years and have become really interested in where the wool or fibre comes from. However, as a knitter, I was becoming increasingly frustrated when it was either not clear where the wool originated from or was simply labelled as manufactured in Britain. This desire to understand the provenance of my wool has developed into BritYarn and our woolly principles."
BritYarn includes British Overseas Territories such as The Falkland Islands in its definition of British.  Davison says that wool content in a yarn must be 100% grown for her to stock it. Patterns and accessories included on the site are exclusively from British suppliers too.

At present there's a small but very select amount of products on offer including patterns from designer favourites Kate Davies and Rachel Coopey and wool from Eden Cottage Yarns, Jamieson and Smith and West Yorkshire Spinners amongst others.

My eye was immediately drawn to The Knitting Goddess' Britsock self-striping yarn spun in Devon and dyed in Harrogate - at £21 its pricey but very covetable and I haven't seen it for sale anywhere else. It's the sort of small-scale brand I love to discover.

The Knitting Goddess' Britsock - image courtesy of BritYarn
I haven't yet ordered anything from the BritYarn and therefore can't comment on their service. Delivery costs £3.50 for orders less than £30 and is free for orders over £30.

It's great to see a yarn store dedicated to selling only British yarns, patterns and accessories. Now perhaps BritYarn could open a bricks and mortar store too - preferable near my house? Looking at wool online is never as good as squishing it in real life!

Monday 1 June 2015

Free Shaun The Sheep Picnic Blanket Download

Image courtesy of Rowan
What with the Shaun the Sheep movie DVD released today and the Shaun the Sheep trail moving from London to Bristol, opening on 6th July showcasing 70 colourful Shaun statues, the UK is going crazy for our favourite cartoon sheep.

Rowan has got in on the act too by today (1st June) launching a free pattern to knit a Shaun the Sheep picnic blanket - perfect for sunny days in the park or back garden. As Rowan itself says, the blanket is 'b-ewe-tiful'!

The blanket comprises 25 squares, each coming together to create a fun and colourful blanket. As well as squares showing Shaun's face, complete with stitched on floppy ears, there are also Shaun's friends from the farm and squares showing off different knitting stitches.

This would be a perfect knitting project for the summer, as knitters can work on the squares individually and take them wherever they choose to knit - no need to carry the whole lot around with you!

Thirty-two balls of Rowan Pure Wool DK make up the blanket - the pattern gives the exact details of how many balls to buy in which colours. In July 2015 Rowan is launching Rowan Pure Wool Superwash DK and this yarn may be more preferable if you're planning on taking the blanket to a festival or muddy field!

Download the pattern for free now here on the Rowan website.
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