Saturday 28 May 2016

West Yorkshire Spinners Relaunches Illustrious Pattern Book

Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners
Last year saw the launch of West Yorkshire Spinners' Illustrious yarn range consisting of 13 shades of DK yarn that's a blend of 70% Falkland wool and 30% alpaca.

To support the yarn WYS released a pattern book with nine designs by Emma Wright. It was taken off the shelves after the first edition due to some pattern errors and to incorporate customer feedback. Now it's back with errors fixed and a wider range of garment sizes to knit.

WYS kindly sent me a review copy and all views are my own. 

I bought a few balls of Illustrious when it came out, tempted by its British heritage and range of colours. I'm currently knitting a baby jumper in the 'sea glass' shade, from a pattern in Simply Knitting magazine. The yarn is soft but firm, doesn't split and knits together well making a warm and durable non-itchy garment. The sea glass colour is perfect for a little girl who doesn't want to be dressed in pink. Not to say that there aren't shades of pink in the range - there are a few to choose from ranging from baby pink to fuchsia.

My first thought about the pattern book was how practical it is with a spiral bound edge. Why aren't all pattern books produced like this? It's easy to turn the pages and keep the book open at the pattern you are following, with no spine bending or origami-type folding required. Production-wise the book is a pleasure and is illustrated with sumptuous photographs. 

Patterns are always a personal choice. Illustrious has a few smaller projects, such as a hat and wristwarmers, for newbie knitters or those who want to try knitting the wool before they shell out on a bigger project (each 100g ball costs £10.95). Me, I have enough gloves and hats already, so I turned to the cardigans and jumpers. All are for women.

My favourite, and I like it so much that I'm going to cast on as soon as I've finished the baby jumper, is the 'Hermione' cardigan. 

Hermione image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners

As I'm quite small I look for boxy-shaped tops that won't swamp me. 'Hermione' ticks that box and it will be easy to leave out the bottom pattern row if I need to shorten it to fit. I adore the heather effect of the sleeve colour - it's the 'Lichen' shade - and will enjoy practicing my Fair Isle technique when knitting it.

Second to catch my eye was the mixed cable sweater 'Pandora'.

Pandora image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners
The colour is a bit too bright for my taste but I can imagine wearing it in the shades sea glass or dusky lilac.

The other patterns, though well designed, aren't garments I'd knit myself, but they are interesting to look at. There's a tank top; pair of socks; two more cardigans; a dress; a scarf that's modelled fastened under a belt; and a cape with a high neck

See all the patterns in Illustrious on Ravelry. Now I'd better get cracking finishing the baby jumper so I can cast on 'Hermione' and reduce my yarn stash!

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Yarningham Knitting Festival To Launch In Birmingham

Image courtesy of Yarningham
Knitting festivals are so popular that each year sees new ones to add to the knitting calendar. I've already blogged about LochessKnitFest that's taking place in Scotland for the first time between 29th September and 2nd October. Now Birmingham, England's second largest city, is launching a yarn festival. Yarningham (get the mash up between the words Birmingham and yarn?) will take place on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th July.

A list of the contributors reveals small, indie brands, many of whom I haven't heard of. It looks like it will be a great opportunity to buy one-off yarns and knitting patterns. For those who prefer a big name brand there will be ten-year-old stalwart TOFT showcasing its repertoire.

The indie brands include:

If that's not enough to tempt you to Yarningham then hear this: it's taking place in the Birmingham suburb of Bourneville, very near to Cadbury World. It's theoretically possible to feed your yarn and chocolate addictions all in one day!

A day ticket at Yarningham costs £5 plus a 50p booking fee. For more details visit the Yarningham website.

Monday 16 May 2016

Tickets Available For TOFT's 10th Birthday Party

Time flies when you're knitting and this August sees the 10th anniversary of the Warwickshire-based yarn business TOFT Alpaca. Can it really be that long?

To celebrate, owner Kerry Lord and her colleagues are planning a TOFTfest weekend on 6th and 7th August. The doors of the alpaca farm will be widely open so guests can meet the animal, shop the full range of patterns and yarns, try their hand at crafts and eat lots of birthday cake.

Image courtesy of TOFT

You'll need to buy a ticket to join in the fun. They cost £5 for a Saturday or Sunday ticket and bookable on the TOFT website.

Not a company to rest on its laurels, TOFT has treats lined up for the Autumn/Winter 2016 season. In September Kerry Lord's latest crochet book, Edward's Imaginarium, will be published, plus there'll be a new knitting and crochet pattern collection to support the company's yarns, including the most recent colour cocoa. Expect lots of one ball patterns with some larger projects thrown in for more experienced knitters.

Happy birthday TOFT!

Friday 6 May 2016

Three Upcoming Pattern Books To Watch Out For

You wait for pattern books by UK indie designers then - hallelujah! - like buses three come along almost at once. Summer will see Karie Westermann, Graeme Knowles-Miller and Kate Davies publish pattern books according to their email newsletters.

Westermann's book will be called This Thing Of Paper. She says: "The projects are aimed at advanced beginner knitters to advanced knitters. Someprojecqts will be achievable in a weekend or over a week; others will demand more involvement. The items cover texture, colour and lace ... each of the three garments will be graded across seven sizes (XS to 3X) and will have notes on how to modify fit. The accessories are a mixtures of shawls, hats and gloves."

Picture courtesy of Karie Westermann

The latest email from Leeds-based yarn shop baa ram ewe broke the good news that Graeme Knowles-Miller will be co-authoring a book for them. No more information as yet about what the book will contain but watch this space ...

Picture of Graeme Knowles-Miller courtesy of baa ram ewe

Finally, seemingly straight after launching her own yarn range the very hard-working Kate Davies is due to publish a book of haps, a shawl speciality of the Shetland Islands. In recent blog post she wrote: "Writing and photography for our forthcoming Haps books rather intensely occupied the last month, and I'm now really happy to say the end is in sight, as we put the finishing touches to the copy and prepare everything for layout."

Davies' previous career was as a university academic and this shows in her knitting publications, most of which feature essays on the history and development of patterns that have inspired her. Whilst you may not be interested in knitting a hap the book will be well worth it for Davies' scholarship.

Kate Davies image courtesy of Kate Davies

Lots to look forward to! Hopefully I'll be able to review the books in forthcoming blog posts.

Final Knit Today Issue Review

Blacker Yarns' Tamar as featured in Knit Today's final issue
"Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got til it's gone" sang Joni Mitchell, and the same is true for the magazine Knit Today, which published its final issue this month.

In my previous post I blogged about how the publisher announced that the magazine wasn't selling enough copies to be sustainable. Its demise, however, will be a real loss to the knitting magazine market, being the only magazine seemingly aimed at beginners and intermediate knitters wanting modern projects. After a makeover in 2015 Knit Today has been the most contemporary of the mainstream knitting magazines available in the newsagents and, no offence meant, it isn't aimed at granny knitters - no christening gowns here!

In its final issue there's a fabulous article about British sustainable yarns that sums up everything this blog is about. Pattern-wise there are socks, a bed runner, linen scarf and an aide bright yellow mohair tee, amongst others.

There are magazines with modern patterns out there, such as Pom Pom Quarterly, but they are subcription-only and aimed at more advanced knitters, meaning newbies are unlikely to come across them.

Here's hoping that a new title will launch to fill the gap in the market.

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