Thursday 28 September 2017

C&B Have Designs On The Youth Market + Free Patterns

C&B image courtesy of Love Knitting
This Autumn/Winter 17/18 sees the British design duo C&B, aka Teresa Conway and Nell Bliss, launch yet more fun knitting patterns for the younger crafter.

The pair founded their brand in 2014 and quickly built up a reputation for fun, colourful knits. Bliss, daughter of acclaimed London-based designer Debbie Bliss, grew up with knitting in her blood. Her old friend Conway studied Knitwear Design and Nottingham Trent University. Together they aim to encourage younger people to take up knitting and design patterns in contemporary styles they'd love to wear themselves. No classic style cashmere sweaters to be found here!

These are A Woolly Yarn's favourites from their latest collection:

CB405 - Gigi - Ribbed Yoke Sweater

Image courtesy of Conway & Bliss

CB051 - Gigi - Checkered Scarf

Image courtesy of Conway & Bliss

CB052 - Gigi - Heart T-shirt

Image courtesy of Conway & Bliss

And finally one for the boys: CB048 - Gigi - Super Simple Sweater

Image courtesy of Conway & Bliss

Free C&B patterns

The Debbie Bliss website has a number of past-season C&B patterns to download for free.

Try summer top Abigail Sweater that rocks the bare shoulder trend:

Image courtesy of Conway & Bliss
The over-sized bobble hat Dandelion:

Image courtesy of Conway & Bliss

Or the Queen B t-shirt:

Image courtesy of Conway & Bliss

As well as designing patterns the duo also have their own yarn range. These aren't British yarns, however here at A Woolly Yarn we hope to see C&B champion British wool in the future.

Wednesday 20 September 2017

Autumn/Winter Brit Knit-A-Longs To Join In With

Now it's Autumn and the days are getting shorter how about using the longer nights to join in with an online knitting challenge? Knit-a-longs (KALs) can spur you on to complete a project and enjoy the online chatter with other knitters along the way.

All four require you to have a Ravelry account. For those of you who have never been to Ravelry, it's a website for the knitting community that enables you to find patterns, chat with other knitters, follow your favourite designers and yarn brands and keep an online record of your stash and completed projects. It's easy to set up an account and membership is free.


Logo courtesy of BritYarn
This online retailer that sells only British wool is planning its third annual Great British Sock KAL.

Cast-on day is Friday 22nd September and the you must use a British yarn or a local yarn to you if you do not live in the UK. Synthetic material in a blend, such as nylon, should only account for 25 per cent of the total content. You can use any sock pattern - or design your own!

To be in with a chance of winning a prize post a photo of your finished pair of socks in BritYarn's Ravelry group's FO thread by midnight on Monday 31st October 2017.

Blacker Yarns

Caradon Hill Jumper - one of the 13 Blacker Yarns designs
This yarn company has recently relaunched nine of its supporting patterns and added four new ones.  Go here to see all the designs.

Starting on 14th September the KAL runs right through until 14th December to give participants enough time to knit one of the more complicated garments. To join in, choose one of the 13 patterns to knit using any Blacker Yarn.

There are prizes both for chatter on the Blacker Yarn KAL Ravelry forum and for joining in the chat.

Ginger Twist Studio

Logo courtesy of Ginger Twist Studio
This Edinburgh-based wool shop is running a KAL for its own Tea Collection Club, but participants can also knit a pattern from Tea Collection Volume One.

The KAL is running for a whole whopping year - perfect for you if you want to join in but have some other works in progress to finish first.

To join in, go to Ginger Twist Studio's Tea Collection Club KAL forum on Ravelry. For a quarterly subscription to the Tea Collection Club go to Ginger Twist Studio's website.


Image courtesy of KnitBritish
We've all got patterns we'd like to knit and yarn that needs knitting up. The run up to Christmas is usually an expensive time, so why not use up the wool you already have instead of buying more?

That's the ethos behind KnitBritish's Good Intentions Club. Beginning in October Louise, who runs the website, will prompt those joining in to cast on to their first use-up project, with the plan being that that there will be one more each season over the following year.

Chat about the Good Intentions Club has already begun in the KnitBritish Episode 92 Ravelry forum.

Kettle Yarn Co.
Ramble image courtesy of Kettle Yarn Co.
To celebrate the launch of their Ramble DK, a blend of the finest British-reared Romney and Shetland fibres sourced directly from local British farms, Kettle Yarn Co is planning a KAL starting on 1st October.

The suggested pattern is the Vallamo jumper designed by Francesca Hughes that appeared in Pom Pom Quarterly's Issue 18.

Ramble comes in seven shades, of which three are required for the jumper. Kettle Yarn Co. has helpfully designed some different colourways that can be seen on their blog. You don't, however have to knit Vallamo: any pattern will do as long as you use Ramble yarn.

More details are on Kettle Yarn Co's KAL thread on Ravelry.

Are there any British KALs coming up that we've missed out? Do please let us know either in the comments box below or on the A Woolly Yarn Facebook page.

Also, Would you be interested in A Woolly Yarn KAL? We'd love your thoughts.

Saturday 16 September 2017

Three Rare British Yarns To Try While Stocks Last

The very welcome boom in the production of small-scale British born and bred yarns continues apace. Here are three of A Woolly Yarn's latest finds but remember, because they are produced by sole traders or small businesses with wool from a specific flock, there's only a finite amount of stock available. Once they've sold, they've gone forever! Well, until next year's clip anyway ...


Langsoond is a yarn spun from the fleece of Shetland designer Donna Smith's own sheep and that of her neighbours. The name, she explains comes from Langsound, which is a stretch of water that runs along the East coast of Burra Isle. She says, "In Shetland dialect we pronounce the 'ou' in sound as 'oo' so I have gone for the phonetic spelling".

Langsoond image courtesy of Donna Smith
The yarn will go on sale on Saturday 30th September at the Shetland Wool Week Maker's Market and will then be added to Smith's online shop. The 100g DK-weight skeins will be available in four natural colours. Smith is busy working on three designs to support the yarn.


Ysolda Teague features this certified organic British yarn in her latest pattern release Caru.

Caru image courtesy of Ysolda Teague

She used Garthenor No.2 Manx Loaghtan & Wensleydale Blend to create these cabled, fingerless gloves and sells it in her online store. The weight is described as between 4ply and DK and a 50g ball costs £8 plus P&P. As the yarn is breed-specific it's available whilst stocks last.

Image courtesy of Kettle Yarn Co.

Kettle Yarn Co. has launched Ramble, a seven-colour wool range sourced from local British farms. The blend, says the company, is only available in small batches due to it being spun from the finest-graded fibres of Shetland and Romney.

Ramble is described as lightly-processed and woollen-spun into a heather, sheep cloud that's perfect for colour work, twisted stitches, cables and rustic lace shawls.

It's a 2ply yarn and can also be used holding two strands together to create a traditional marled effect.

The seven colours are striking, with the greeny/blue hue of Burdock standing out amongst the bunch. The palette offers a good choice for both those who prefer understated colours and knitters who like their knits to be vibrant.

A 100g skein costs £18 plus P&P directly from Kettle Yarn Co.'s online store.

A Woolly Yarn hasn't yet seen any of these three yarns in person and therefore can't comment on their squishiness or review their knitability at present.

Tuesday 12 September 2017

What Louisa Harding Did Next

The Louisa Harding pattern and yarn brand has long been known for its whimsical, romantic flirtatiousness, femininity and fun. What you may not be aware of is that although the brand still bears her name, Louisa Harding no longer has any involvement with the company.

Harding grew up in London and learned to knit from her grandmother. At fashion college she fell in love with a knitting course and got a student opportunity at Rowan, which is where cut her teeth in the knitwear design industry. After starting a family she went freelance, then in 2005 launched the Louisa Harding brand.

Now she has her own venture, Yarntelier, which launched to the public at the Knitting & Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace in October 2016.

Image courtesy of Yarntelier
Yarntelier is a labour of love for Harding, who says:
"British yarn is important to me as I first explored the Yorkshire spinning mills during a placement with Rowan when I was studying textiles for fashion at Brighton Art College in the late 1980s. At that time there was a big boom in hand knitting and during my placement I visited many woollen and worsted spinning mills and learned how yarn was made. There used to be so many mills local to where I live in Yorkshire. Over the years all but a few disappeared. The idea of the new brand Yarntelier was to look at what was still available within Britain, specifically in Yorkshire, and to champion what is still available."
Yarntelier launched with two yarns: Cashmere Lace and Cashmere Gilli. Although the cashmere comes from Mongolia and China the yarns are spun in a mill less than five miles from Harding's home in the Holme Valley. Both ranges have 12 shades and each 50g ball costs £25.

Whilst certainly not cheap, the yarn is top quality, super soft and a delight to knit with and wear. Most of the patterns in the supporting pattern book Yarntelier Volume One only require one or two balls, making them within the reach of most customers for a special treat.

Image courtesy of Yarntelier
For Harding, her favourite design "is the one that I am still working on ...  I love the complexities of working out stitch patterns ... but I love to wear the Zephine shawl from Yarntelier Volume One as it is so versatile. I have worn it is a scarf, as a shawl, and the cashmere just gets softer and softer with each wear."

Zephine image courtesy of Practical Publishing.


Harding gave this blog a copy of Yarntelier Volume One and two balls of yarn for review. All views are A Woolly Yarn's own.

Yarntelier Volume One contains 15 garment and accessory patterns beautifully photographed in Yorkshire scenery. There's a good mix of patterns suitable for newish and intermediate knitters, including a stocking stitch beanie hat and more challenging lace knits. It's a luscious book to look through and, importantly for many knitters, the lace sections are in both chart and written form.

Using Cashmere Gilli I test knitted the Blythe scarf, making a few slight changes to the pattern in order to turn it into a cowl and alternate the garter stitch and lace sections. Here's Blythe in the pattern book: 

Image courtesy of Yarntelier

And here's my version on the needles:

Take a closer look at the lovely stitch pattern: 

The yarn is a delight to knit with and will, no doubt, be a delight to wear.

Yarntelier's Cashmere Lace yarn is a more delicate colour but with the same softness:

I intend to knit the Luella hat pattern with it:

Image courtesy of Yarntelier.
The other designs are equally covetable, with my favourite garment pattern being the Zelene sweater, which I imagine would feel like being cocooned in silk:

Image courtesy of Yarntelier
It does, however, require between five and seven balls depending on size, so therefore is rather a lottery winner's purchase! The one ball patterns are much more accessible for a luxurious treat that you'll wear for a long time to come.

Yarntelier Volume One costs £15 plus P&P from Yarntelier. Alternatively individual patterns can be downloaded for £4 each.

Thursday 7 September 2017

Why British Yarn Doesn't Have To Equal Expensive: 50g For Under A Fiver

It's a myth, almost universally acknowledged, that British yarn must be expensive and unaffordable (with apologies to Jane Austen for stealing and changing her opening line from Pride and Prejudice).
Go to any yarn discounter and there will be dirt-cheap balls of Chinese acrylic and nylon yarn for sale that haven't been within miles of a sheep. Real wool, well surely that's pricey isn't it, so why buy British when you can have all-you can-knit imported balls?

Image courtesy of Farming UK
Here at A Woolly Yarn we believe British is best, because of the financial benefit to farmers who in the past have had to pay more for shearing their sheep than they could make from selling the fleeces; the environmental benefits that come from using less transport miles and not burning oil barrels to make artificial fibres; wool's natural properties keeping one cool in summer and warm in winter; to educate the public about endangered sheep breeds and ensure their survival; the knock-on effect of jobs created for designers, spinners and dyers using British yarn; and of course because quality British wool feels so much better to wear than scratchy, man-made, imported alternatives.

Louise Scollay from KnitBritish kicked off an internet debate back in 2013 when she posted a feature called British Yarn Under A Fiver. Do your research as I recently have, and you'll find that four years on there are still under £5 British bargains for sale.

I have an old Wool & The Gang sweater pattern that requires aran yarn. From BritYarn I bought four 100g skeins of West Yorkshire Spinners Jacob Aran Wool for £22 plus P&P. That's enough yarn for up to size medium and works out at the equivalent of £2.75 per 50g ball - a fabulous bargain.

My £22 British yarn bargain
This prompted me to do some internet searching to see what else I could find for under £5 per 50g. Local yarn shops you know sell British wool are your first port of call for their end of line sales, but not all of us are blessed to live near a yarn store, never mind one that's eschewed foreign man-made yarns.

Five more British yarn bargains: 50g for under a fiver

Blacker Yarns' Classic DK knitting yarn retails at £4.40 for a 50g DK ball and is available in the purple shade whilst stocks last.

Image courtesy of Blacker Yarns
From New Lanark Mills comes an organic hank of aran British wool in a natural ecru shade, selling at £8 for a 100g skein (the equivalent of £4 for 50g).

Image courtesy of New Lanark Mills
Woolyknit's own range includes 100% pure British wool Big Brit Super Chunky in four shades at £5.95 for 100g (the equivalent of about £2.98 for a 50g ball)

Image courtesy of Woolyknit
Online retailer Baa Baa Brighouse is selling Wendy Ramsdale DK in the shade 'Helmsley', spun from Yorkshire fleece, for £2.48 for a 50g ball whilst stocks last.

Helmsley image courtesy of Wendy 

Available at BritYarn is West Yorkshire Spinners' Bluefaced Leicester BFL UK, available in nine colours at £4.85 per 50g ball. 

WYS BFL coral shade courtesy of BritYarn

So you see British doesn't have to equal expensive - in face it some cases it's quite the opposite. Why import cheap, oil-based yarn from across the globe when what's on our doorstep is much better quality and reasonably-priced to boot? 

Sunday 3 September 2017

Review of Let's Knit's British Yarn Collection Issue

Image courtesy of Let's Knit magazine
Issue 123 of Let's Knit magazine, published on 30th August, is a British yarn collection special. It features 18 makes in pure British yarns along with wool reviews and interviews with British designers.

At A Woolly Yarn we're always thrilled to see British yarns gain centre stage in the media and we went straight out to buy a copy. Here's our unbiased review - is the issue worth £5.99 of your cash or is it a dud?

Firstly, don't be put off by the free gift. The issue comes, like many knitting magazines these days, wrapped in a cellophane packet with the free gift obscuring the front cover: not very helpful if you want to know what's in the issue before you buy. Potential readers who can't flick through the pages have to either take a chance that it includes patterns they will want, or embarrass themselves in the newsagents by opening the cellophane and taking a look (preferably not near any CCTV cameras).

This issue's free gift is a 'Tom the cat' knitting kit with both normal and eyelash yarn. No country of origin or information about what the yarn is made from is given; therefore it's pretty safe to say it's not British and probably is man-made. It's rather a strange gift to give away with a British yarn special edition. The magazine contains lots of toy knitting patterns - great if you like knitting them but not if garments and accessories are more your thing.

Without the free gift obscuring the cover the reader can see one of the great gems of the issue, which is also the main design featured on the front cover. The Fair Isle Yoke sweater has an interesting mix of Fair Isle and lace patterning. We can also imagine knitting this for winter without the lace parts and replacing the cuffs and jumper bottom with garter stitch rib in the contrasting colour. With only two colours used this pattern is a simple introduction to Fair Isle for those new to the skill. Baa Ram Ewe's Dovestone DK is the given yarn for the pattern. There are lots of other shades to choose from if  Brass Band and Coal are not to your taste.

Dovestone DK image courtesy of Baa Ram Ewe

Other British Yarn Collection patterns include a textured cardigan knitted in Debbie Bliss Falkland Aran (see here for A Woolly Yarn's review from 2016); a waistcoat using Wendy Ramsdale; a sweater designed by Pat Menchini with West Yorkshire Spinners 100% Wensleydale Gems; and a beginner friendly cowl knitted with Baa Baa Brew Marble 4ply

Baa Baa Brew Marble image courtesy of Baa Baa Brighouse

With a mixture of garment and accessory patterns there's certainly enough patterns to suit most readers' tastes. Unfortunately as yet there aren't any images of these designs available on the internet to show you here.

The news pages highlight some British brands you may not have heard of, such as Herdy and Shropshire Ply Double Knitting. Over on the yarn review pages are the magazine's top eight picks of yarns produced and spun in the UK. Plus there's an informative feature to read about four women who are passionate about British wool.

The verdict

All in all this issue gets the thumbs up for highlighting and celebrating British yarn. It's a shame that every pattern in the magazine isn't knitted with a British yarn, but it's certainly a good start. Get past the toy patterns and this issue is a good buy for British-wool-loving beginners and intermediate-level knitters.
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