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 ...

Saturday 8 August 2015

Review of Pom Pom Quarterly Autumn 2015 Issue 14

Receiving the latest issue of Pom Pom Quarterly through the letter box is always a pleasure; not only because of the thrill to see the beautiful patterns and photography inside, but also due to its lovely wrapping in tissue paper with a personalised thank you tag.

Firestone image courtesy of Rainbow Heirloom
This morning's arrival was very opportune. Before I looked at the post I'd ordered three skeins of Rainbow Heirloom Lush DK yarn in Firestone, a bright and cheerful pinky-orange. It's this month's limited edition dye from Rainbow Heirloom's colour club.

On opening issue 14 of Pom Pom Quarterly I saw the perfect pattern for the Firestone yarn and coincidentally it's designed by Alexa Ludmann, one half of Tin Can Knits, the other half being Emily who also runs Rainbow Heirloom yarns. It's called Hitchcock and is a unisex design. I may also knit it in a grey for my husband, once I get the half-finished jumper I've been knitting for him for over a year out of the way.

Hitchcock imagecourtesy of Ravelry
What attracts me to Hitchcock is its seemingly simple design with the few buttons coming down from the neck. It's a jumper that will show off the subtlety in a hand dyed yarn very well. Looking closer at the pattern it's not so plain as it first appears: there's some detailing around the neck and shoulders that relay add to its appeal.

The theme for issue 14 is wool. The patterns all make the reader want to snuggle up in front of a fire with needles and yarn to create something cosy to cocoon yourself in. There are ten patterns in total (one of which is crochet) and it struck me that this issue there are a few easier patterns than usual for those with more basic knitting skills to try out. Hitchcock is one of them, but there's also the Pianissimo scarf, which features a basic cable pattern, and Karusellen, a fun hat with folk horses on for those wanting to practice their intarsia technique.

Aside from Hitchcock, my favourite pattern is Woodland Tales, a pair of bright and very fun-looking mittens with a cable pattern on the front. These look like a great stash-buster project.

All in all this is another great issue from Pom Pom Quarterly and I'm extremely tempted to bake the Pumpkin Spice Cake, the recipe for which is an added bonus!

Pom Pom Quarterly costs £9.50 for a print and digital copy. A four-issue subscription sells for £30 on the publication's own website.

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