Wednesday 30 September 2015

Scollayalong Finished!

I made it by the skin of my teeth! Despite having to pull lots out in the early stages, running out of wool and waiting for more to arrive, and then my circular needle snapping and enduring another wait until a new one arrived in the post, I finished my Scollay cardigan just before last Friday's competition deadline.

I love the warmth of the cardigan. It will certainly be worn a lot, being a great barrier against the winter weather and looking oh-so-stylish too. The buttons are from a local sewing shop and I chose the colour to stand out against the flecked wool.

The lace pattern that caused me a lot of heartache looks pretty now, particularly around the yoke. It was worth the effort.

To see other Scollayalong participants' results, see the final Ravelry thread in the KnitBritish forum.

Here's me wearing my Scollay at a friend's vintage makeover party the day after I finished it. I whipped it out for the camera to wear over my vintage-style dress.

So what have I learned from my first online knit-a-long?

Firstly, don't rush. I went hell for leather at the beginning and made mistakes, meaning I had to pull a lot of my knitting out. I focussed too much on getting a head start and too little on the pattern. It's great to see how other people are getting on in the forum but don't take their progress to heart: they may ahead of you because they're speedy knitters or simply have more free time to knit with.

Secondly I found the forum was great for asking questions when I wasn't sure about an aspect of the pattern. Friendly, timely advice was the name of the game.

Lastly the deadline kept my attention fixed on finishing the cardigan, rather than putting it aside to work on something else for a while. It's marvellous to have a finished product for my efforts. As the Scollayalong was sponsored by BritYarn and KnitBritish I also had the pleasure of being introduced to British wool I hadn't tried before, namely Blacker West Country Tweed.

Fingers crossed I'll win one of the prizes up for grabs!

In October I'll keep the knit-a-long momentum going and join in BritYarn's Great British Socks knit-a-long. Click on the link to find out more and register yourself. The rules are that you must use a British sock pattern and British yarn. My yarn and circular needles are on standby for tomorrow.

Wednesday 16 September 2015

Shetland Wool Week Annual 2015 Review

Image courtesy of Shetland Wool Week
Visiting the Scottish island of Shetland during wool week is on many a knitter's a wish list. With its rich textile traditions paired with modern pattern designers the island's creative industries are flourishing, and how better to immerse yourself in them than by taking a class and seeing the best of what wool week has to offer?

Sadly Shetland is not a cheap place to stay and the expense of flights on top of accommodation can push a trip out of people's price range. This year, however, Shetland Wool Week is publishing an annual available to anyone, whether you can attend the festivities or not. I was fortunate enough to receive a review copy and, when opening the pages, I instantly got a feel of the knitting delights Shetland has to offer.

Now the last time I read an annual it was Smash Hits! in the late 1980s. This annual is nothing like my adolescent counterparts. It's A5 size, printed on lovely paper with many well-shot colourful photos, and there's absolutely no reference to Madonna and Wham! whatsoever.

The publishers have included articles and patterns from some of the island's greatest knitting names, such as Ella Gordon, Gudrun Johnston (better known as The Shetland Trader) and Hazel Tindall. This year's Shetland Wool Week patron is Donna Smith and she writes the introduction to the annual. She also designed the Baa-ble hat to promote this year's event. The pattern is in the annual and is also available as a free download on the Shetland Wool Week website.

My favourite of the patterns, although they are all gorgeous with a distinctive Shetland design twist, is Gudrun Johnston's Belmont cardigan. It's feminine, cosy and very, very covetable.

The articles are very stimulating, particularly the feature about the role of Shetland women in World War One.

The annual is available to buy from today, 16th September, and costs £9.99 plus £1 postage and packing to the UK. The postage cost is more for overseas orders. Buy your copy from Shetland Wool Week. I shall certainly knit at least one pattern from the annual, once the current projects I'm working on are finished, and I'll enjoy keeping it to browse through the articles at leisure. I hope that a 2016 annual will be published next year too.

Friday 4 September 2015

Toft Alpaca Publishes Edward's Menagerie Pattern Book

For a brief change from knitting, why not take up crochet?

When Toft Alpaca Shop founder Kerry Lord was pregnant she used her spare time to take up crochet. The toys she made became the crochet pattern book Edward's Menagerie, and now there's a sequel for sale of the avian kind: Edward's Menagerie Birds.

Image courtesy of Toft Alpaca
I had the pleasure of receiving a digital review copy. The first thing that struck me was the colours used in the designs. The original Edward's Menagerie book used the natural alpaca colours Toft is known for - creams, greys and browns. For the sequel Toft has dyed their wool in six colourful shades, whether it's for the pink of a flamingo or the yellow of a bill, the shades make a great addition to the yarn range. I hope they will be carried over to the company's garment and accessories designs.

So to the patterns. They make fabulous small projects for crochet fans. The birds are not just for kids either - I've spotted quite a few grown women in the Toft Alpaca Shop buying yarn to crochet the collection for themselves. Each bird comes in four sizes, small, standard, large or giant, depending on the thickness of yarn you use, from fine to chunky.

Sophia the flamingo image courtesy of Toft Alpaca
Novice crocheters may find the patterns a little tricky and I'd advise complete newbies to learn the basic stitches before they attempt a bird. The patterns are divided into three levels, the first being for those relatively new to the craft; the second for those who have mastered the loop/fur stitch; and the third comfortable with more complex colour changing and splitting techniques.

At the back of the book there are instructions on crochet stitches and sewing up techniques. Some pattern designs have wings or feet the same as others. If you're new to crochet and have mastered how to make a flying wing you may wish to pick out other pattern with the same feature to make before you attempt a different style.

Browsing through the book is a visual pleasure. The colour and the clarity of the photographs are excellent and certainly inspire the reader to get hooking. Needless to say that if toys are your thing then this book probably isn't for you.

My personal favourite pattern is Sophia the flamingo. She's a level one pattern and therefore one of the easiest to make, plus she's pink. Enough said! There are, however, over 40 patterns to choose from if pink doesn't float your boat.

The book is also available as a book and yarn package, which comes with your choice of 100g, 25g and 10g yarn plus 10 extra digital patterns. Or why not book a crochet workshop and learn how to make the bird of your choice?

Scollayalong Update

Nearly finished the first arm now as well as the body. My progress is terribly slow thanks to work and other things taking up my knitting time. I'm going on holiday for a couple of weeks and will be taking a break both from blogging and the Scollay cardigan - I think I'll just take a small and simple knitting project with me. See how other Scollay knitters are getting on in the Scollayalong Ravelry forum.

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