Thursday 23 June 2016

Sad News For Norbury Yarn Bombers

Image courtesy of the Croyden Advertiser
Bombing yarn not people is a concept that the world could certainly benefit from. Sadly when knitters in Norbury, part of the London Borough of Croydon, yarn bombed the town's high street with knitted decorations to celebrate the Queen's 90th birthday, Transport For London (TfL) took exception and ordered their removal.

Why? The Croydon Advertiser reported it was because "they could distract drivers". Should all billboards and advertising by the road be banned then? Or is it just knitting that is distracting?

Over 30 crafty volunteers spent six months knitting up the red, white and blue decorations. During June's bank holiday they adorned the high street with their work to put a smile on people's faces. They topped bollards with patriotic hats and wrapped red white and blue tubes around bike racks. After the celebrations the group had planned to wash the knitting and use them to make scarves, blankets and hats for charities supporting refugees and homeless people.

After a week TfL ordered street cleaners to remove the decorations. Fortunately a few pieces were saved and will be sold for charity.

Future yarn bombers are advised to inform the authorities before they display their work - rather takes the spirit and fun out of it don't you think?

Wednesday 22 June 2016

Latest Lyonesse Colours + Supporting Patterns Launched By Blacker Yarns

After teasing us on their Facebook page Blacker Yarns has at last revealed Lyonesse 4ply and DK's new season's colours.

To recap, Lyonesse was launched last year and is a British yarn consisting of a natural linen and Falkland Island Merino/Corriedale wool blend. I used the rose quartz shade to knit a vintage-style jumper and found that Lyonesse has fabulous stitch definition, no haze and is cool to wear (as in temperature rather than hip - though it can be that too!)

Blacker Yarns kindly sent me a shade card so I could see the new colours for myself. Out, sadly, are Rose Quartz and Jade. Moonstone (undyed), Aquamarine, Ruby and Lapis are here to stay and to join them are these delightful hues:

Dark Pearl


Red Beryl

(The name of this shade is off-putting as it's a brown colour, not red).










All photos are courtesy of Blacker Yarns.

My favourite shade is Sapphire, it being a denim-type mix of grey and blue that would look fabulous knitted up in a slouchy sweater and worn with jeans.


Blacker Yarns released seven patterns this week to support Lyonesse. Regular readers of this blog will know that I never bother with shawls - of which there are two in this collection. I do like the multicoloured cowl though and this would be a quickish project to knit in time for Autumnal weather.

Feldspar Ombre Cowl

The collection also contains a jumper, a cardigan and, great for summer knitting, a t-shirt designed by Sonja Bargirlowska.

Talland Tee
The patterns are free to download from the Blacker Yarns website.

Each 50g ball of Lyonesse costs £6 plus P&P. Whilst stocks last Blacker Yarns is selling the two discontinued shades, Rose Quartz and Jade Green, for £4.40 per ball.

The shades are also for sale at Brityarn - the website that does what it says on the tin and only sells British Yarns.

Which is your favourite shade?

Sunday 19 June 2016

Two More Brit Indie Dyer Lots Hit The Online Shelves

One of the special things about indie-dyed yarns is that they're one offs- once the batch is sold it has gone - and there won't be another exactly the same as your skein.

Following on from my post yesterday about new British yarns, I've come across two indie British favourites who have been busy dying this week. The results are available on their websites whilst stocks last.

The skeins aren't cheap but remember that indie dyers are self-employed and with the yarn you're paying for their skill and expertise!

Rainbow Heirloom

This Scottish indie brand dyes a plethora of colours on its popular Rainbow Heirloom sweater yarn, made from 100% superwash merino. Sadly it's not British wool but the dyeing counts as British.

'Lion's Roar' photo courtesy of Rainbow Heirloom
I've bought the yarn previously in two shades: Killer Flamingo - a bright pink/orange melange; and Favourite Aunty, a deeper red. Rainbow Heirloom is a sister company of Tin Can Knits (Scottish-based Emily Wessel used to run the company but now she's on maternity leave Nina Davies has taken over the helm), and I've earmarked Favourite Aunty is earmarked for knitting the Lush cardigan with. 

As well as the bringing back old favourites there are also new shades to choose from, including a deep blue Boyfriend's Jeans shade and a deep purple Gothic Elephant. Lion's Roar - a wonderful autumnal shade of dark yellowy orange - is available for pre-order. 

Following on from Wessel's monthly dye club last year Davies has launched her own monthly Home from Home club. It's cheaper to pay upfront and receive your skeins as a surprise, or alternatively wait until the month the skein is released to see the colour you'll get before you buy.

This month's colourway is Springtime Valley, dyed on Rainbow Heirloom Heather yarn. A skein costs £18 plus P&P.

Springtime Valley photo courtesy of Rainbow Heirloom

Countess Ablaze

The super-talented Countess Ablaze has used rare British sheep breeds Wensleydale (DK weight), Black Hebridean (light fingering weight), Bluefaced Leicester and Masham (both DK) for her latest shop stock-up.

Image courtesy of Countess Ablaze

Her online shop lists the number of skeins still available - prices range between £14 and £16 per skein, plus P&P. I haven't knitted with Countess Ablaze's yarn and therefore can't comment on its knitability, but the colours are truly scrumptious and she gets thumbs up for stocking British yarn.

My favourite colourway is Persia - a DK yarn that's the colour of summer skies and tropical seas. The variegated tone suggests lapping waves to me.

Persia image courtesy of Countess Ablaze

And finally ...

I had intended to include Eden Cottage Yarns in this post because last week they released another home-dyed batch of their 75% superwash merino and 25% silk base Titus 4 ply yarn (not to be confused with baa ram ewe's own British 4 ply yarn that's also called Titus).

However in the three days since I received an email about Titus it has nearly all sold out! At the time of writing this post there are literally just a few skeins left at £18 per 100g skein plus P&P. Look here to see what's left.

Are there any British indie yarn dyers you would recommend? Please let me know in the comments box below.

Saturday 18 June 2016

More New British Yarns For Your Stash + Knit The Queen!

The more I delve into the world of knitting and solo dyers the more I realise the talent and passion for British yarn that there is in this country.

Here's a round up what's recently released or up and coming:

Wool and the Gang Bille Jean

"Billie Jean is not my love" sang Michael Jackson, but perhaps this latest yarn from Wool and the Gang will be yours.

Image courtesy of Wool and the Gang
Its USP is that the yarn is is made from pre-consumer denim waste. It comes in two shades, raw denim and dirty denim, and Wool and the Gang's website says it feels like dry, light cotton. I'll post a full review soon.

Baa ram ewe 

I gave a squeal of delight when I heard from baa ram ewe's e-newsletter that they're going to launch new shades in 4 ply Titus and Dovestone DK and a whole new yarn! I'm on the list to receive a sample and will do a full review when I receive it. Baa ram ewe is based in Leeds and prides itself on the Yorkshire heritage of its yarn.

Whilst we're waiting to find out what the new colours are, here's a picture of the last two shades released for Titus and Dovestone:

Image courtesy of baa ram ewe

Updated shades for Blacker Yarns' Lyonesse

I'm a firm fan of the Lyonesse yarn range, a wool and linen blend first released in 2015. A previous blog post shows the summer jumper I knitted with it in rose quartz, a shade which reputedly is getting the chop. On Tuesday 21st June new shades, with five accompanying patterns, will be launched. No word yet as to what the shades are but perhaps this photo from Blacker Yarns' Facebook page is a clue?

Image courtesy of Blacker Yarns
Full details and a review to follow soon.

Countess Ablaze Sparkly Sock Yarn

For me, sparkly yarn certainly makes socks more fun to knit.

Countess Ablaze has launched the sparkly blue faced baron sock yarn, dyed by her own fair hands. It's a mixture of Bluefaced Leicester and Firestar (trilobal nylon - whatever that may be). At the moment there are quite a few shades to choose from, although colourways will disappear from the website once they are all sold out. My favourite is called 'Rebelling Against Suburbia' - this is a neon shade you won't want to hide away in boots! A 100g skein costs £17.

Image courtesy of Countess Ablaze

Phileas Yarns Wanderlust BFL

KnitBritish's latest email brought the delightfully deep red-colour from Phileas Yarns' Wanderlust BFL collection to my attention. Louise Scollay knitted a swatch to test the yarn and was pleased with the finished result's drape and lustre.

Image courtesy of Phileas Yarns

The yarn itself is available to buy from and retails at £14 for a 100g skein. I haven't tried it myself but highly trust Scollay's opinion - it was her blog that got me interested in finding out if wool from a British brand really was sheared and spun in the UK. She recently updated her blog post recommending British wool for all budgets. I recommend reading this and going to Brityarn, which only sells British yarns, to buy your stash for your next project.

Knit The Queen!

Finally, happy 90th birthday your Majesty! For a woolly souvenir why not knit the Queen herself?

Image courtesy of BBC News and Getty
Let's Knit magazine's website contains a free pattern to download after signing in. Although she isn't wearing the neon green outfit she chose for the Trooping the Colour parade on her big day!

I was one of the many people who took up the challenge from Fiona Goble's Knit Your Own Royal Wedding book back in 2011 but only got so far as the Queen, the Archbishop of Canterbury and a corgi. This new pattern has given me impetus to search out my stash and keep on going!

Friday 10 June 2016

Here's One I Made Earlier ...

In the last few months I've had a few projects on the go, whether it be finishing off a project that's languished on the needles, knitting a present for a mum-to-be, or suddenly getting the urge to use up a few balls of wool from my stash. Now they are all finished, apart from one jumper I'm stuck on - Kate Davies' Catkin sweater - which has gone to my godmother, both fairy and actual, to sort out. The problem involves moving stitches on the circular needle around the stitch markers and I'm baffled as to what goes where.

Still with Kate Davies, I attempted casting on her Keith Moon sweater using her own Buachaille yarn. Trouble is Buachaille is DK and the pattern requires aran weight. My attempts to resize using DK and shortening the length went belly up, so I cut my losses, frogged the whole thing and have found another jumper pattern to use the Buachaille for.

The rest of my projects I"m very pleased with. So in true Blue Peter style  - here are those I made earlier!

Summer Palace Cropped Sleeve Jumper

I was sent a ball of Blacker Yarns' Lyonesse DK in the rose quartz shade to review.  On I discovered a free pattern with a vintage vibe from West Yorkshire Spinners that I thought would go perfectly with the yarn and I bought more balls from BritYarn, benefitting from owner Isla's great customer service and knowledge of which yarn would work well with which pattern. Blacker Yarns is reviewing its Lyonesse range and I've heard a rumour that the rose quartz shade will be discontinued - a shame as it's my favourite colour in the range and its linen/wool blend is perfect for summer garments.

Baby Blanket in Butterfly Stitch

It has become a tradition that I knit a baby blanket for my friends' new borns, however when I started I didn't realise how many babies they'd go on to have! This blanket is going to my friends Rachel and Si's first child, due any day now. For a change I chose a baby blanket pattern from Simply Knitting magazine that I'd never tried before and saw it as a great opportunity to learn butterfly stitch. Sadly I didn't use a British yarn because for best results I chose to use the yarn recommended in the pattern.

For copyright reasons the pattern I used is not available online but this free download is a good alternative. My blanket knitted up well and was transformed by blocking it at the end to stretch it to an even shape. Here's a close up of the butterfly stitch:

Toddler Jumper With Alphabet Buttons

Another pattern from Simply Knitting magazine published to use with the alphabet buttons that were that month's free gift. The original pattern had lots of stripes in but I decided to knit it in one colour that would contrast with the pink buttons. I've knitted it for my friend's toddler, Katharine, and wanted to avoid the 'all pink for girls' stereotype. Instead I used up one and half 100g balls of West Yorkshire Spinners' Illustrious yarn that I won in the shade sea glass. Here it is on the blocking board (I've had so much better blocking results since I ditched the old towel and forked out for a KnitPro blocking kit):

When I sewed up the jumper I realised that the head hole probably wasn't big enough. My work around was to cut the button side of the neck, stitch up the ends safely, then add a tie in pink wool to fasten when little Katharine has the jumper on. Have you ever come across the problem with head holes?

Moss Stitch Cowl

We've had some lovely sunny days here but evenings have been cold. One nippy night last week inspired me to look through some leftover Rowan British Sheep Breeds Wool I have. Rowan is currently streamlining its range and I think that the British Sheep Breeds Boucle is to be discontinued. I bought three balls a few years back whilst on holiday in Whitby. Originally I was going to knit a bolero but with only two and a half balls left I thought it would be perfect for a cowl.

After a bit of trial and error to work out the right width for me I decided to cast on 17 stitches. I then knitted a simple moss stitch pattern until the cowl was the right length for me, cast off, and sewed together the ends. The moss stitch shows the boucle effect off well and looks the same each side, perfect for a cowl that's looped a couple of times round the neck.

What's Next?

I've plenty to keep me busy and lots of patterns with yarn to choose from in my stash. There's another cowl I'm going to knit using Loop's alpaca tweed; the Catkin sweater when my godmother has worked out where the stitch markers move to; the Vaara t-shirt from Pom Pom Quarterly 17, which I'll blog about soon; the Dottie Pullover, to use up more of my Illustrious yarn; and finally finishing the Hermione cardigan from the Illustrious pattern book.

Wednesday 8 June 2016

Loop Launches Its Own Alpaca Tweed Shades

'The Hotel of Bees' image courtesy of Loop
I quietly cheered when I received an email about Loop's alpaca tweed yarn because it's made from alpaca fibre grown, sheared, dyed and spun in Britain. No artificial fibres or multiple air miles here - just a fabulously-soft British yarn - exactly the kind that A Woolly Yarn celebrates.

Alpaca tweed comes in 12 colours - a few which are exclusive to Loop - and is sold as a 100g skein. I received a skein to review and naturally all opinions are my own. My skein is in the colourway 'The Hotel of Bees', which is one of shades to be found only at Loop. At first look it appears to be an acidic shade of pale green, but on closer inspection reveals tweedy hints of orange and yellow.

The yarn is a worsted weight but Loop advises that it is multifunctional and can also used for patterns requiring DK or aran weights.

Each skein feels luxuriously soft but what does it knit up like? I'm going to design a simple pattern for a cowl and report back when the skein has been magically transformed into a knitted accessory.

Loop is a bricks and mortar shop in London's Islington and also also a modern-looking online store. Each 100g alpaca tweed skein costs £22.95 - not cheap certainly but high quality. One small downside is that the alpaca tweed page on the Loop website doesn't link to patterns that support the yarn. There is, however, a separate patterns section but it's a case of searching through to find the garment/accessory you want to knit that requires alpaca tweed's weight.

Check back soon for a free cowl pattern and to find out how alpaca tweed knits up!

Wednesday 1 June 2016

Karie Westermann's Crowdfunding Exceeds Target + Kate Davies Reveals Hap Designs

Image courtesy of Karie Westermann
As I mentioned in a previous post, indie designer Karie Westermann has plans to publish a pattern book called This Thing Of Paper, inspired by Johannes Gutenberg's invention of the printing press. It will have ten projects with accompanying essays.

Her dream has come that much closer to reality since her crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter met her target in a day. Thanks to the extra cash she's planning a larger print run and a launch party in Glasgow, which everyone who has pledged £30 or more will receive an invite to.

As of 1st June there are still 20 days to go before Westermann's Kickstarter campaign closes. I choose the £30 option. Offers include:
  • £5 for a printed thank you in the book
  • £20 for a copy of the book and a printed thank you
  • £30 for a signed copy of the book, a printed thank you, two bookmarks and an early backer pattern
  • £500 for a signed copy, two bookmarks and badges, tote bag, access to exclusive Facebook group, a printed thank you in the book and a weekend with Karie in Glasgow (travel, accommodation and food not included).
Meanwhile Kate Davies has revealed the patterns which will appear in her Haps book. It's now available to order on her website for £19.99 plus postage and packing. 

Image courtesy of Kate Davies
As with Westermann's book each pattern will be accompanied by an essay detailing the history, construction and design inspiration of the garment.  There are 13 patterns, all beautifully designed using different construction techniques and well photographed.

A hap is a traditional Shetland shawl. The book looks like a great coffee table tome for those interested in the history of knitting, but would you wear a hap? Apart from on a mannequin at a knitting show I've never seen one worn. They are large garments that require a lot of time and yarn. I'm a great fan of Davies and, as I'm typing this, I'm wearing her Owligan cardigan, but this time I think I'll be giving The Book of Haps a miss. 

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