Friday 29 January 2016

Review of Baa Ram Ewe Dovestone DK Latest Shades

Leeds-based yarn store baa ram ewe has launched two new shades for Spring/Summer 2016 in its Titus 4ply and Dovestone DK wool brands. Both are British yarns sold in 100g skeins.
Image courtesy of baa ram ewe
The two latest shades added to the colour palette are rhubarb - a beautifully-rich merlot purple - and lotherton, a deep blue. Due to the nature of the yarn base the colours look slightly different on Titus and Dovestone. I was fortunate to receive a skein of Dovestone DK rhubarb to review. Each skein retails at £14.00.

Dovestone DK rhubarb feels soft to the touch and against the skin. It knits up well giving good stitch definition, with a slight halo. It's very suitable, in my opinion, for warm jumpers, cardigans and hats.  

To accompany the yarn, baa ram ewe has brought out a range of patterns aimed at tempting knitters to snap up the skeins. 

Image courtesy of baa ram ewe

For those who prefer to knit toys there's Dovestone Smallholding by Ella Austin, a £15 pattern book containing seven designs: a doll, duck, hen, pig, pony, lamb and cat. A play mat finishes off the collection. 

All are brightly-coloured and fun, but my favourite has to be the pink moggy, with its cute cables on the body and limbs. My skein of Dovestone DK will look wonderful knitted up in this pattern.

Bingley image courtesy of baa ram ewe
The Landmark Collection is a group of garment and accessory patterns released this month to also support the Dovestone DK yarn range. All are inspired by places or views in Yorkshire. 

At first look none particularly catch my eye like the Dovestone Smallholding patterns. Two are shawls: these accessories seem to be popular in knitting magazines but, apart from occasionally at a wedding, I've never seen anyone actually wear one. Perhaps I'm the only knitter who think shawls are best left in the pages of history books. 

The other five patterns are more promising, being a cushion, blanket, man's jumper, woman's cardigan and a cowl. The yarn shades used in the patterns are rather muted - using the brighter shades of Dovestone DK will transform the designs for people who prefer a more vibrant hue. Bingley is the name of the man's sweater knitted in the round. In the pattern it's knitted in grey. I've certainly got my eye on knitting this for my husband in the blue lotherton shade. 

When Dovestone DK first launched in 2015 it was accompanied by seven designs by Carol Feller. I look forward to seeing more patterns published to support the yarn, which will surely become a British classic. 

Sunday 24 January 2016

Review of Pride & Preju-Knits by Trixie Von Purl

I've always been a voracious reader. My parents brought my brother and I up with bedtime stories, and I had extra time to read as a child due to fractures, operations and hospital stays. When you're waiting for a broken leg to heal there's not much else you can do. Reading was my escapism into the imagination, travelling to different worlds and being anywhere but stuck in a hospital bed covered by a regulation NHS blanket.

Image courtesy of Search Press
My love of reading grew into a love of literature. A level English Literature introduced me to the classics, particularly the wonderful world of Jane Austen. I remember the sadness at finishing all six of her novels and knowing there were no more Elizabeth Bennets or Emma Woodhouses to discover.

Now, thanks to the author Trixie Von Purl, there's a way I can combine my two hobbies of knitting and literature ... by knitting scenes from Austen's novels. Yes, really. Mr Darcy's second proposal to Elizabeth; Emma's infamous picnic; Willoughby rescuing Marianne in the rain - they're all here, complete with attention to period dress and, my favourite, a knitted piano.

I first noticed the trend for knitting characters, as opposed to toys, when Fiona Goble published her book Knit Your Own Royal Wedding back in 2011. I had fun knitting the Queen, a page boy and a corgi until the stuffing was rather knocked out of my amusement by an assistant at my local yarn store who looked at me as if I were a madwoman when I asked for the right coloured yarn to knit the Archbishop of Canterbury's robes.

Von Purl's book is great fun and lovingly produced with artistic care. Each scene has a introduction to the relevant story and there are suggestions on how to pose your knitted characters. I particularly like the different outfits, including Mr Darcy's breeches, there are to knit.

Jane Austen fans will enjoy flicking through this book with a smile on their face. The characters are a fun way to use up odds and ends of yarn and the finished versions will be great to introduce young children to Austen's characters and storylines. That's if you don't keep them all for yourself.

Pride & Prejuknits is published by Search Press and the list price is £9.99.

Thursday 7 January 2016

More British Wool Brands & Shades Launched

It's a bumper January for fans of British wool as not one, not two, but three different British brands have announced new shades or a yarn range.

Firstly, following on from her successful launch of her 100% Scottish wool range Buachaille at the end of 2015, Kate Davies is selling three more extremely tempting shades from Sunday 10th January.  Each 50g skein costs £7.49. The shades are:

Furze (a deep yellow)
Photo courtesy of Kate Davies

Hedder (a heathery pink)
Photo courtesy of Kate Davies

And Macallum (raspberry red).

Photo courtesy of Kate Davies

Leeds-based wool store baa ram ewe is bringing out two more shades of its Yorkshire wool Titus 4ply and Dovestone DK for Spring/Summer 2016. The two shades are Lotherton (a sea blue) and Rhubarb (a striking pinky-purple shade). Both are available for pre-order on baa ram ewe’s website with Dovestone DK retailing at £14 per 100g hank and Titus at £14.99 per 100g hank.

Image courtesy of baa ram ewe
Finally internet knitting retailer Baa Baa Brighouse has announced it's launching its own Yorkshire yarn range for the Spring. The yarn will be called Baa Baa Brew - a reference to Yorkshire folk liking their daily cuppa? - and is 100% Blue Faced Leicester reared, sheared and spun in the county then dyed in Brighouse.

The four shades come in pastel colours and are named after areas of Brighouse. No pricing details are as yet available.

Image courtesy of Baa Baa Brighouse

What a great British way to start the new year! I hopefully will be getting my hands on some of the yarns and will blog about them soon.

Tuesday 5 January 2016

New Year Knitting Resolutions

The decorations are down, the tub of chocolates is empty and life is returning to normal in the cold January light. I'm not a great fan of resolutions because they can become a big stick to beat yourself with when you don't achieve them, but this last year I have learned a few knitting things that I'll remember as resolutions this year.

1. Do I like it or LOVE it?
My friend wearing Owligan
Every time I flick through a magazine or knitting book I see a pattern I like. That's why, in times past when I was feeling flush, I bought the yarn for the project and now have yarn bags shoved in drawers all round the house, despite last year having a cull and reducing the stash. This year I'm not going to buy the yarn and pattern for a new project unless it's something I really love and can see fitting in well with my other clothes and their colours.

A good example was the Kate Davies Owligan cardigan. I spent a lot of time and money knitting it in the smallest adult size using the extremely strokable Toft Chunky yarn and blogged in May 2015 about finishing it. The trouble was it was just too big. The body and arms were the right length but the chunky yarn swamped me. It wasn't comfy to wear and felt like I was sporting a big sister's cast-offs. So I donated it to one of my lovely best friends who stands just over five foot and it fits her perfectly. The photo of her wearing on it is on the right and seeing it I know I made the right choice - better the cardigan gets worn than sits in my drawer unused.  (Please excuse the photo's poor quality - I can't seem to work out why my camera's setting makes everything look yellow!)

This year's first knitting project for me is making Owligan again using the largest size of the children's pattern Wowligan. This time I'm using the equally-strokable Toft DK in Silver and it's knitting up well. I like the knitting in the round construction and lack of sewing up that needs to be done. So far I've completed the body and am on the second sleeve before starting on the yoke. This is a project I can't wait to finish and wear, plus it's a great example of a design I love, not just think's nice.

2. Is it vintage?
Image courtesy of Susan Crawford
When I got back into knitting nearly a decade ago it was seeing Susan Crawford's vintage designs on the internet and her stand at the Harrogate Stitching and Knitting Show that drew me into vintage fashion styling.

Apart from finishing Crawford's Perfect Christmas Jumper and knitting half a vintage-style top that is now languishing in my 'must finish' pile, last year was pretty vintage-free.

Later this year I'm going to spend a day with Susan Crawford at her farm, looking through her samples for her Shetland project and learning as much as I can from her about knitting and adapting her patterns to fit me. I'll also be leaving with skeins from her wool range so I can knit a few of the patterns I love at home (I paid for this once-in-a-lifetime experience as part of her crowdfunder appeal for her The Vintage Shetland Project book).

This year will hopefully be for me the year of the vintage knit and I'm hoping to become pretty proficient in Fair Isle.

3. Does it have a twist on the old?
When another of my friends announced her pregnancy at a Christmas party my first thought was congratulations and the second dismay at having to knit yet another baby blanket. It's become a tradition that I knit a blanket for new arrivals, using mostly my own pattern I designed. Last year I knitted for seven babies, so you can understand that baby blankets have become, well, rather boring.

I don't want to be a bah humbug scrooge, and so when I came across a baby butterfly blanket pattern in the January issue of Knit Now magazine I was delighted to see a project using yarn and stitches I haven't tried before. I admit that the yarn isn't British, and I'm breaking my own rule here, but I chose just this once to use the yarn recommended for the pattern. I'll blog about the blanket when it's finished.

Wishing you all very happy, healthy and woolly 2016.

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