Monday 30 November 2015

Special Edition West Yorkshire Spinners' Christmas Sock Yarn + Free Pattern

Image courtesy of Brityarn
It's December and in my book that means it's officially time to put on the Christmas CDs, hang up the twinkly lights and start getting in the Christmas spirit - although it's too early for me yet to put the tree up - that'll happen in a couple of weeks. This year my husband and I are ditching the well-used fake tree for white twig tree with lights already attached.

I started my festive knitting for gifts a few months' back but now, assuming I get the presents finished in time, it's time for some 'me' knitting and West Yorkshire Spinners' special edition festive sock yarn fits that bill.

The two 100g 4 ply balls are Holly Berry - a variegated yarn that knits up to look like Fair Isle - and a solid red yarn called Cherry Drop. I bought mine from the online British wool shop Brityarn.

I've knitted a pair of socks using West Yorkshire Spinners' signature sock yarn before: see my previous post Knitting Socks Through Election Night. When I showed the finished result to my godmother she actually thought I'd knitted an intricate Fair Isle pattern, whereas really it was stocking stitch most of the way. The signature yarn knits up beautifully.

West Yorkshire Spinners has released a festive sock pattern to accompany the yarn This is what I'll be having a go at. I think the finished socks will look great worn with my red Mary Jane Doc Martins!

Here's the design:

Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners
To download the free pattern go to the West Yorkshire Spinners' pattern download page. I hope you get the chance this December to do some knitting for yourself.

Sunday 29 November 2015

Kate Davies' Buachaille Seven Skeins

Buachaille pic courtesy of Kate Davies
As of this weekend Kate Davies' own-brand Scottish wool Buachaille, spun in Yorkshire, is available for sale in her online shop. Previously the range was only available to a limited number of customers who signed up for her seven skeins club. These people received their seven skeins a few weeks ago along with seven to accompany them. Davies is publishing a book comprising the seven patterns plus essays, photos and recipes. There has been a delay at the printers but the book will be on general sale soon.

Buachaille is Kate Davies' love child after wondering why there are so few Scottish yarns available on the market. She created the yarns herself, with help from a dying and spinning company, and came up with seven colour ways: Highland Coo (rust); Between Weathers (mid blue); Yaffle (Spring green); Islay (teal); Ptarmigan (natural white); Squall (natural dark grey); and Haar (natural silver grey). Each 50g skein costs £7.49.

I will be fortunate to see all seven colours on Christmas Day because my husband bought me a seven skeins membership for Christmas. I have had a sneak peak of the seven accompanying designs though and these are my favourite:

Buachaille Baffies
Fabulous socks come house slippers. There are two designs - one with more intricate colour work and one with simpler stripes (shown below). I certainly can imagine knitting a pair for me and a pair for a friend's present.

Image courtesy of Kate Davies
This width and length of this snood can be changed depending on how tight our slouchy you like to wear them. Davies has knitted Cochal in various colour ways but the one below is my favourite - I adore the teal wool.

Image courtesy of Kate Davies
A cosy, hat with a five point crown on the back. There are two versions two knit: slouchy or more close-fitting.
Image courtesy of Kate Davies
Sadly in every pattern book there's something I wouldn't knit in a million years and here is such a pattern from Kate Davies, although I can see that she needed something small to knit to use up the leftovers from the seven skeins.

A felted bangle. I'd have loved it when I was eight years old but now? Nope. All very Why Don't You? for readers who remember the 1980s children's programme that urged viewers to turn off the TV and do something less boring instead, like threading melon seeds together to make a bracelet (true and my best mate Sarah and I actually tried it one rainy day. That anecdote still keeps us laughing).

Image courtesy of Kate Davies

And another Kate Davies pattern
If you missed out on seven skeins and would prefer to buy the wool in a kit then Kate Davies' latest design, Goats of Inversnaid, is available in her shop in a bright rust, blue and white colour way. The kit has patterns for a hat and hand warmers. I have bought one and will review it when I've finished Christmas knitting and have time to start something new.

Image courtesy of Kate Davies

I'd like to change the hand warmers into gloves. Does anyone know how to change the pattern to add fingers? If so I'd really appreciate you letting me know in the comments box below. Thanks in advance!

Sunday 22 November 2015

Christmas Jumper Patterns

December is not far off and many knitters are rushing to complete their Christmas jumper for this year.

In 2014 I blogged about knitting for Christmas Jumper Day. This year the charity Save The Children is once again planning a seasonal woolly jumper fundraiser on Friday 18th December, but the charity has also teamed up with Make A Wish and Macmillan Cancer Support.  For details of how to get involved go to this page. There will even be a special programme on ITV on 18th September to celebrate the campaign.

So - the big question is what to knit? Kitsch festive jumpers have ruled the roost and the stores for the past few years but there are other designs that give a festive feel without screaming 'IT'S CHRISTMAS!' in your face a la Noddy Holder.

Last year it lay half-completed on my needles but now my Susan Crawford Perfect Christmas Jumper is finished and waiting until it's near enough to Christmas to be worn. I customised it to suit my short figure by removing a row of pattern to make the body shorter and also calming down the voluptuous shoulders.

Here are some other patterns perfect to become your Christmas Jumper of 2015:

1. Kate Davies Boreal

This jumper falls into the quietly-festive category. Whilst it's not overtly Christmassy the snowflake patterns and cool colours give it a joyous, wintery feel. This design will last you right through until February.

Image courtesy of Kate Davies
2. Kate Heppell's Figgy Pudding Jumper

This bright and fun design appeared in issue 54 of Knit Now magazine, which should still be available in your local newsagent's. It capitalises on the Scandinavian trend for yoke designs and will be an enjoyable challenge for an intermediate knitter. Personally I would change the background colour to red, but this would make it a tad more Christmassy.

Image courtesy of Knit Now magazine
3. Sarah Hatton's Etherow Jumper

This year Rowan brought out a pattern brochure called Winterscape to support its Alpaca Merino UK yarn. Sarah Hatton's Fair Isle yoke design Etherow has a lovely, festive feel and the use of a merlot-coloured yarn rather than red adds to its rich depth.

Image courtesy of Rowan

4. Sue Stratford's Merry Christmas Jumper

Download this pattern free from knitting website The Yarn Loop, the online home of Knit Today, Simply Knitting and The Knitter magazines. It's unashamedly Christmassy and certainly will win you a lot of laughs on the big day. The pattern is taken from Sue Stratford's book Merry Christmas Sweaters To Knit.

5. Sirdar Christmas Jumper With Trees

Another yoke design but this time the pattern's snowflakes fall all the way down the body of the jumper. It's billed as a tasteful Christmas jumper and certainly is a suitable design for those of you adverse to reindeer and pom poms. I featured this design last year but have included it again because the Yorkshire firm baa ram ewe has knitted up the design in its own Dovestone DK yarn, released in 2015.

Image courtesy of baa ram ewe

6. Tin Can Knits' Snowflake Sweater

The beauty of this design is that it's available in all sizes from baby to adult. If you knit it in more muted colours it's less Christmassy, but whip it up in red or green to maximise the festive effect. I adore the sparkly yoke.

Image courtesy of Tin Can Knits

7. Purl & Jane's Christmas Reindeer Jumper

I have the pattern and yarn just waiting to knit up this fun design that in my opinion is a little more cool than kitsch thanks to the reindeer's square edges. The pattern's sizes range from 32 to 50 inch chest. Hopefully I'll have started and finished it in time for Christmas Jumper Day 2016!

Image courtesy of Purl & Jame

Tuesday 10 November 2015

Knitting & Pain

Recently I've not been too well. The chronic pain and exhaustion that comes with my physical disability has come more often than gone and my days haven't been productive.

When I'm in lots of pain life literally slows to a halt. I'm not up to doing any work, reading a book, watching TV or - and here's the rub - even knitting. Milder pain however, knitting is fabulous for, I find that getting lost in its rhythm is perfect for de-stressing. Plus when I have done some knitting, whether it's finishing off a complicated project or just having done a few garter stitch rows of a baby blanket, I feel I have achieved something in that day that's concrete and visible. It's important to me to know that I have done something useful with my day, however small that useful thing might be.

I haven't done much knitting in the last few weeks, hence the lack of posts. I did, however, manage to finish knitting a pair of Clare Devine's Elgin socks for a Brit Yarn Great British Socks KAL on Ravelry. I used up some Debbie Bliss Blue Faced Leicester Aran yarn and was pleased to be part of a the online group championing British wool and British designers.

Here are my Elgin comfy bedsocks:

Now I have a baby blanket and two jumpers to finish before Christmas for presents and then my treat is to cast on the jumper Cloudburst using West Yorkshire Spinners' new Illustrious yarn.

If you are interested in knitting as therapy and its use in combatting pain I recommend reading these articles:

Mail Online - Knitting can reduce stress
ENDOhope - How knitting helps me with my chronic pain and fatigue
BBC Radio 4 - All In The Mind: A knitting prescription
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