Friday 22 July 2016

Why The Lack Of Beginners Patterns For Boys?

My youngest nephew getting stuck in!
Last year on our annual family holiday I introduced my two nephews, then aged eight and twelve, to knitting. They'd asked to learn and I brought along chunky wool and needles for them to knit a garter stitch scarf each. With a lot of help from me and their Granny the boys finished their scarves, albeit they were rather too short to wear!

This year we have another family week away in August and my youngest nephew wants to do more knitting. The older one, now nearly 14, is too cool to want to knit again but I suspect that once he sees his younger brother get stuck in he'll want a go too.

So what can I teach them to knit this time?

Searching the internet brought little inspiration. Some patterns aimed at beginners assumed that they already knew how to knit, purl, increase and decrease - no good for complete beginners. There are some books and patterns for girls learning to knit - lots of pink headbands and phone cases - but nothing for boys. No self-respecting lad is going to want to be seen with a knitted phone case or get excited about knitting another of the internet's suggestions: a dishcloth.

Is the lack of patterns available due to no demand from the consumer, or is it sexism from the industry assuming that knitting isn't a boys hobby? Let's not forget that there are great male knitwear designers out there to act as role models, such as Martin Storey, Kaffe Fassett and Jared Flood.

There's a saying that 'if you want something doing, do it yourself' and that's exactly what I'm going to do. I will write my own basic pattern for a knitted monster. Pros: monsters interest boys; it doesn't matter if they are a bit misshapen because that makes them more scary; and it's a good way to use up odds and ends of wool left over from other projects.

When I've written the pattern I'll post it on this blog and hopefully it will encourage other boys to pick up a pair of needles. I feel a campaign coming along here ...

Tuesday 12 July 2016

Dovestone Aran & Lastest Shades From Baa Ram Ewe Review

It's a common marketing trend to entice shoppers with details of products that'll be available soon, whipping up excitement and demand until the big launch day arrives. That's the case with Yorkshire store baa ram ewe's latest British yarn launch - Dovestone Aran - to add to its homegrown stable of Titus 4ply and Dovestone DK.

Image courtesy of baa ram ewe

Available in 100g skeins in six natural shades, Dovestone Aran uses the same blend of Bluefaces Leicster, Wensleydale and Masham fleeces as baa ram ewe's Dovestone DK yarn but it's a thicker weight suitable for cosy, warm jumpers with that bit of extra bulk.

Image courtesy of baa ram ewe
I was fortunate to receive a test skein in shade 03 - a mid grey- before the official launch, which will be on Thursday 14th July. Apart from its soft squishiness one of the first things I noticed about it was the faint smell of wool - not unpleasant at all and reassuring that the yarn is natural and hasn't been near any nasty acrylic or polyester.

To test its knitting properties I chose a pattern from the accompanying pattern book The Dovestone Natural Aran Collection. This has yet to be launched on the baa ram ewe website and is a collection of seven patterns - five larger garments and two accessory projects. Baa ram ewe advised me that the Arika Cowl pattern is perfect for using up one skein of Dovestone Aran. Until the pattern book is launched the cowl pattern can be found on Ravelry. The original cowl has tassels on but I left these off so as not to channel the Wild West look.

Here is the finished article modelled by my friend Denise:

The yarn is warm and not itchy or scratchy in the slightest, with a hint of fluffiness. It was a joy to knit and, being knitted on 6.5mm needles,  didn't take too long to see the effect.

The cowl is knitted all in one. The first section is rib and the second eyelet ribbing. When you have cast off the cowl has to be blocked to create the pointed 'v' stretched look.

Dovestone Aran is available to pre-order now at £14 per 100g skein plus P&P.

Autumn/Winter 2016 Colours

It's not just Dovestone Aran that's new at baa ram ewe. The two existing yarn ranges, Titus 4ply and Dovestone DK, are gaining three new shades for the Winter season.

Viking is a burnt yet vibrant orange; Dalby a forest green and Bishopthorpe a deep purple. All are named after places in Yorkshire.

Titus is £14.99 per 100g skein and Dovestone DK costs £14. The three new colours launch on Thursday 14th July.

Image courtesy of baa ram ewe
Also launching on 14th July at £15 is Yorkshire Shores, a collection of nine patterns using Dovestone DK, again with a mixture of garments and accessories. Graeme Knowles-Miller is co-author along with Alison Moreton. Knowles-Miller worked in the now defunct Harrogate baa ram ewe store whilst studying for a Master's degree in knitting design and it's great to see that the company has nurtured his talent.

Sunday 10 July 2016

Last Chance For Izzy Lane Cruelty Free Wool Crowdfunder + Jamieson & Smith New Yarn

Izzy Lane, who runs a woollen design business using the fleece from her flock of rescue sheep, is running a crowdfunding campaign to fund the manufacture of more wool from her 600 + strong herd.

Image courtesy of The Yarn Loop

Her target is to raise £18500, which will enable her to invest in the processing and manufacture infrastructure needed to produce 4ply wool from her British flock in many different colours.

Image courtesy of The Yarn Loop
As of today, Sunday 7th July, there are only three days left to go to pledge your support on Kickstarter. There are different 'rewards' available for different prices; for example £8 will nab you a ball of Izzy Lane wool in your chosen colour, and £125 will buy your a woollen Izzy Lane throw.

It's a great opportunity to ensure that none of Izzy Lane's fleece is wasted and for you to try some cruelty-free wool.

Jamieson & Smith's New Yarn

The Shetland wool company has a new addition to its coveted yarn range. Shetland Heritage Naturals is a range of six undyed colours in various shades of cream, grey and brown.

Image courtesy of Jamieson & Smith
The company says: "Shetland Heritage yarn recreates the original characteristics of handspan  'wursit' used in old Fair Isle garments. The yarn is replicated from that found in knitted Fair Isle garments in the collection of Shetland Museum and Archives."

Each ball is 25g, is described as slightly finder than 4ply, and costs £3.20. I haven't had chance to road test it but when I do I'll write a review.

Thursday 7 July 2016

Free Cowl Pattern Using Loop's Alpaca Tweed

Back in June I blogged about Loop's British alpaca tweed yarn. Since I published my review I've had time to write a cowl pattern that plays with herringbone stitch and only needs one skein. The yarn was a joy to knit with, holding stitch patterns well. Being worsted weight it knits up quite quickly, which is always a bonus, particularly when on a break from trying to complete more of Kate Davies' Catkin sweater in 4 ply!

I hate modelling my knits but due to lack of time to persuade someone else to model my cowl that I've named Lichen (due to 'The Hotel of Bees' colour and the stitch pattern) I've made an exception.

The pattern was very satisfying to create. Here's a close up:

This turned out to be a very interesting and fulfilling project. Here follows the pattern. Feel free to use it but if you reproduce it please quote that it's copyright AWoollyYarn and give a link to this blog.

Lichen Cowl Pattern

Yarn - one 100g skein of Loop's alpaca tweed yarn.

Pair of 8mm needles.

Using cable cast on method cast on 99 stitches.

Row 1 - K2. (SSK, dropping on the the first stitch off your right needle. Repeat this until you have two stitches remaining on your left needle.) K2.

Row 2 - K2. (P2tog, dropping only the first stitch off your right needle. Repeat this until you have two stitches remaining on your left needle.) K2.

Repeat rows 1 and 2 until you have the width that you require to wrap the cowl around your neck - some people like them tighter than others.

Row 3 Knit to end.

Row 4. Knit to end.

Cast off knitwise.

To sew up:

Block your finished work then sew together the cast on and cast off ends.

If you do have a go knitting Lichen please let me know how you get on via the comments box below.

Kate Davies Appears On BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour

Image courtesy of Kate Davies
Great news for knitting and radio lovers - designer Kate Davies is to appear on the longstanding BBC radio programme Woman's Hour.

Set the alarm on your phone for 11am on Monday - that's 11th July - when Davies will be talking about her passion for knitting, research and her own Scottish yarn range Buachaille. She revealed exclusively on her blog that the recording of the interview with her and presenter Jane Garvey has already taken place in Glasgow.

As part of Woman's Hour Listener Week Davies was asked to nominate someone who has inspired her. We'll find out who it is on Monday. The interview will be available as a podcast after broadcast.

As an aside I'm still trying to finish Davies' Catkin sweater. I keep stopping and starting because I'm finding the pattern difficult - not the cables but the 'in the round' construction - will I ever get to wear it???


It was fascinating listening to Davies' interview on Woman's Hour - not only because I'd never heard her voice before but also for her story of her stroke, recovery, and the importance that knitting played in relearning to do physical tasks again.

I can very much to relate to knitting as therapy when you're in pain and dealing with a chronic condition. Knitting not only fulfils one's creative side but also it's wonderful to see the achievement, however small, when a pattern is finished. When I'm having a bad pain day, I'm dosed up on strong painkillers and even getting out of bed is difficult, doing a few rows of knitting means that the day hasn't been wasted and at least I've accomplished something. It's a far cry from the days in my 20s when I was a producer at the BBC, busy working long days, studying for a part time MA and nipping round the country at weekend to see friends; but although it's a different life it's still one that can bring me fulfilment and happiness.

Davies has nominated Felicity Ford aka Knitsonik to also be interviewed on the programme.

Listen to the Kate Davies interview on Woman's Hour here.

Sunday 3 July 2016

Marie Wallin's Springtime Collection Six Reviewed

Image courtesy of Marie Wallin
Marie Wallin, former Head Designer at Rowan  who now runs her own design company from rural Leicestershire, has released the latest in her series of hand knit designs - Springtime Collection Six.

Each book in the collection has a different theme and this sixth, as its name suggests, contains pretty springtime flower patterns for sunny but cool days.

Wallin kindly sent me a copy for review and the my first impression was how beautiful and feminine the designs are. There are eight designs: six jumpers and two cardigans. All bar two use the intarsia technique for patterns and the two that don't create detail with cables.

This is not a collection for beginner knitters. I would rank myself as an intermediate knitter and certainly would find these patterns a challenge but that's the great fun of knitting - practicing existing skills and learning new ones to create a garment you thought may be beyond your level.

Here are the designs, all of which are knitted in Rowan Felted Tweed. All images are courtesy of Marie Wallin:


This is the design featured on the book's cover.


I adore the rose pattern on the yoke.


A short-sleeved jumper for warmer days.


The vintage-style sleeve and shoulder construction here grabs my attention.


Three-quarter length sleeves and lots of pattern!


An intricately-cabled jumper.


Cabled cropped cardigan.


The rose at the centre of the jumper is complemented by a rose on the sleeves and roses at the bottom.

All in all this is a beautiful collection. Rowan's influence on Wallin is still apparent by the yarn she has chosen and the model whom I recognise from previous Rowan pattern books. It is beautifully-photographed and lovely to look at even if the patterns may be slightly too challenging. Don't forget that less-experienced knitters can forgo the intarsia and knit the jumpers instead all in one colour.

Springtime Collection Six costs £12.99 plus P&P and can be bought directly from Marie Wallin's shop.
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