Friday 25 May 2018

Under His Eye: Review of Baa Baa Brighouse's The Handmaid's Tale Yarn Box

Series 2 of Margaret Atwood's feminist dystopian drama The Handmaid's Tale is now airing on Channel 4 in the UK and to celebrate Baa Baa Brighouse has released a a yarn box costing £26 plus P&P containing goodies and hand-dyed wool inspired by the novel and programme.

I was a latecomer to the novel, which was originally published in 1985, only reading it earlier this year after binge watching most of series 1 of the TV adaptation on a plane. Immediately I was hooked by the horrific treatment of June, otherwise known as Offred, and the other handmaids who are forced to bear children for the ruling elite.

The box contains some wonderful goodies for fans of the novel/show:

Look at this fabulous card with a handmaid on the front and the cod Latin 'Don't let the bastards grind you down' quote Offred finds carved in her closet by a previous handmaiden:

Then there are three pencils (always useful for scribbling on knitting patterns with) and a badge with the Gilead-prescribed greeting 'Under His Eye' on them, along with an Offred bookmark:

The final treat tucked at the bottom of the box is this fabulous canvas bag to put your knitting stash in, emblazoned with the slogan 'This is what a feminist looks like!'

Then of course there's the yarn, which almost feels secondary to its well-chosen accompaniments. There's one 100g DK skein called Offred and a 25g mini-skein named after Offred's mistress Serena.

The mini-skein is blue, the colour that Commanders' wives must wear to identify their high status in Gilead society. 'Offred' is a mix of cream, peachy/pink and purple - lovely shades but not obviously fitting with the Handmaids' red, white and black colour schemes.

Sadly the yarn box was a one-off and is no longer available. Baa Baa Brighouse does, however, produce a different themed box each month and June's will be on the theme of Harry Potter. For details of this and the other yarn boxes available see their current selection.  Buying a yarn box without knowing what the contents are can be a gamble, particularly if it turns out that the wool colour isn't up your street. There's nothing in this box, however, that's a dud. I've even kept the dark green ribbon used to to tie up the box for Christmas crafting!

What would your ideal theme be for a film/novel/TV-inspired yarn box? Have your say in the comments box below.

Tuesday 22 May 2018

New Yarntelier, Kate Davies and Arnall-Culliford Yarn Shades

Three of our favourite Brit indie yarn companies have released new yarn ranges and/or shades for the summer. Here's a quick round-up:

Arnall-Culliford Knitwear's Something to Knit With 4Ply

Image courtesy of AC Knitwear

Jen and Jim Arnall-Cullford have long worked behind the scenes as technical editors for other designers but last year branched out on their own to launch Something New To Learn About Cables. The book contains patterns both from themselves and others and has spawned a series: Something New To Learn About Lace will be published in early June and is now available for pre-order. There's also a third, as yet unnamed title promised for the Autumn.

Says Jen Arnall-Culliford: "We intend for this series to cover each subject in some depth, without becoming indigestible, and for each book to be the perfect size to throw in your project bag along with your work in progress."

To complement their books the couple have launched their own yarn range, with the rather long title of Something To Knit With 4Ply.

Image courtesy of AC Knitwear

The yarn comes in ten shades ranging from pastel to vivid. They describe it as having "the bounce of wool - forgiving in cables and lace, and looking smooth and even in colour work - combined with the softness of superfine alpaca." It's a blend of 70% Highland Wool and 30% Superfine Alpaca. Each 50g skein costs £8 plus P&P.

I'm looking forward to giving it the squish test when I can get my hands on a sample.

Kate Davies' Milarrochy Tweed

Last year Kate Davies launched her Milarrochy Tweed yarn and this Spring she has added three new colours to the range: Cranachan (a bright red), Hare, (brown - named after the animal), and Tarbet (maritime blue).

Image courtesy of Kate Davies
Millarochy Tweed is a blend of 70% wool and 30% mohair. A 25g ball costs £4.25 plus P&P. The balls are small because the yarn was originally designed for colour work - be prepared to sew in all the ends if you're knitting something that's all in one shade!

I love the bright hue of Cranachan. To show it off Davies has written a short-sleeved sweater pattern called Pabeigh.

Image courtesy of Kate Davies
Davies is selling a Pabaigh pattern and yarn kit from £39.50 depending on the size you with to knit, which gives a 15% discount on the two sold separately.

Yarntelier's Cashmere Lace

Designer Louisa Harding's company that specialises in Yorkshire-spun cashmere yarns has brought out four limited edition shades for the Spring and Summer season. They are Starfish, Lilac, China Blue and Storm.

Harding recommends the shades for knitting light summer scarves and shawls. Each 50g ball costs £25 plus P&P but contains a hefty 425 metres of yarn. To the touch the samples are delightfully soft and squishy with a very faint halo and superb stitch definition.

The Yarntelier website contains lots of designs to knit with the yarn and a new pattern book is planned for October.

Wednesday 16 May 2018

Exclusive Sneak Peak Of The Royal Wedding Couple

As the caterers and florists prepare for Saturday, Windsor Chapel is cleaned within an inch of its life and the guests get ready for the big day, A Woolly Yarn can exclusively reveal sneak peaks of Harry and Meghan on Buckingham Palace's balcony.

The bride wore white and the groom sported his signature beard and moustache.

The crowds gathered at Buckingham Palace cheered when the happy couple shared a quick kiss.

Then it was time for Harry and Meghan to wave goodbye and head off to their evening reception.

With thanks to Fiona Goble's Knit Your Own Royal Wedding, from which I adapted the patterns!

Wednesday 9 May 2018

Have You Knitted A Kate Davies Carbeth Yet?

Every now and again a knitwear design hits the zeitgeist, inspires numerous knit-a-longs and becomes a craze amongst the knitting community, to be spotted in multiple at craft gatherings and festivals. Previous favourites in the last few years have included Tin Can Knits' Lush and Karie Westermann's Scollay cardigans.

Now it's the turn of Kate Davies' Carbeth. What first began on Davies' needles as a Boxing Day jumper has spawned a cross-Atlantic knitting sensation. There are now three Carbeth designs to choose from:

The original roll-neck jumper:

Image courtesy of Kate Davies

A cardigan version:

Image courtesy of Kate Davies

And now Carbeth Swan Dance, a comfy, oversized version with a simple lace pattern:

Image courtesy of Kate Davies
Davies herself has written a blog post celebrating all the different Carbeth versions knitters have produced. Carbeth has inspired other designers and wool spinners too, with Knit Now magazine publishing a photo of the Editor's stripy version (sadly the photo isn't available online), and the American website Mason Dixon Knitting running its own 'Bang Out A Carbeth' knit along.

The Carbeth jumper and cardigan are knitted with two DK strands held together. Davies' patterns are written for her own Bauchaille range costing £7.49 per 50g ball plus P&P.  Northumberlan-based yarn company Whistlebare has posted on Facebook a picture of a Carbeth knitted in their own Cheviot Marsh yarn. Cheviot Marsh retails at £16.50 plus P&P for a 100g skein.

Image courtesy of Whistlebare

Jess James-Thomson, owner of Edinburgh yarn store Ginger Twist Studio, has used her own Ginger's Hand Dyed Sheepish DK for her Carbeth.

Image courtesy of Jess James-Thomson
Lovers of naturally-coloured British yarn could plump to knit a Carbeth in Daughter of a Shepherd's Brume DK, which is a blend of 50% Hebridean, 25% Zwarbles and 25% Exmoor Blueface pure undyed wool. It costs £20 per 100g skein plus P&P.

Brume image courtesy of Daughter of a Shepherd

Or Blacker Yarns offers a range of plain yarns, its Tamar Blend DK Ottery Dark Undyed being a good choice for Carbeth. Direct from Blacker Yarns each 100g hank costs £16.20 plus P&P.

Ottery image courtesy of Blacker Yarns

Davies has a new pattern book out inspired by The Scottish West Highland Way. Who knows if one of these patterns will become a classic? To buy one of the Carbeth patterns head to Ravelry. Each one costs £5.95 to download.

Why not share your Carbeth knits with us on our A Woolly Yarn Facebook page? Which is your favourite of the three Carbeth designs? Share your preferred pattern in the comments section below.

June update:

Here's my Carbeth, which I knitted to give to a good friend for her birthday. I used Debbie Bliss yarn from my stash, made the length longer and thankfully managed to get hold of a couple of extra balls online when I ran out early.

It's all blocked and ready to go to a hopefully happy recipient!

Thursday 3 May 2018

Farewell to Baaramewe's Dovestone DK & Welcome To Their New Brit Yarn

It's out with the old ...

It's sad to see wave goodbye and see an British favourite yarn go but, due to a huge 70% increase in the market cost of the Wensleydale fleece that's a part of its special blend, Yorkshire-based retailer baaramewe has decided to stop producing their own-brand Dovestone DK.

Image courtesy of baaramewe
There are still a few skeins left at £15 plus P&P for a 100g hank of this 50% Bluefaced Leicester, 25% Wensleydale Longwool and 25% Dark Brown Masham brew.

And in with the new!

To fill the Dovestone-sized hole in its local yarn range wish a warm welcome to Winterburn DK. Although it's not yet available directly from baaramewe, Winterburn has made an appearance at Blacksheepwools

Winterburn image courtesy of Freehold Yarn Co.
Available in 13 shades, Winterburn is spun from Masham fleece, which apparently "has smaller ringlets of fleece than the Wensleydale but with added bounce and loft that it gets from its hill-loving male ancestry, the Dalesbred".

Winterburn comes in the some colours as Dovestone and is designed to complement the numerous patterns baaramewe created to support that yarn. It's slightly cheaper at £13.99 per 100g skein.

Chevin image courtesy of baaramewe
I have a number of balls of Dovestone DK in Chevin - a forest green colour (see above) - that I intended to use for a land army jumper pattern but I now think I'll allocate it to something different. Any ideas?

Will you miss Dovestone DK and what have you knitted with it? Let us know in the comments box below. 

Tuesday 1 May 2018

Stitch Markers To Dye For

I can never have enough stitch markers as the free plastic ones from magazines break, some get lost down the side of the sofa and my hoard of markers get used up pretty quickly on the numerous works in progress I have on the go. More than once I've resorted to knotting some spare yarn in a loop to create a temporary marker because I've run out.

Ysolda Teague

Therefore when I received one of Ysolda Teague's regular marketing emails last week for her yarn, pattern and sundries online store, and saw this delightful stitch marker set,  I snapped one up pronto.

Image courtesy of Ysolda Teague
There are six wooden markers that are mini versions of Teague's sweater designs. Not only do they fit size 4mm-8mm needles but they look so cute too and are sturdy - no snapping here. Whilst they're not cheap, at £9 plus P&P, they should last a lifetime.


The Ysolda Teague stitch markers will have pride of place in my knitting bag alongside my two other favourites. These metal knitting-themed markers from Baabaabrighouse cost £5 plus P&P.

Image courtesy of Baabaabrighouse
The dainty pair of scissors, ball of yarn and sellotape caught my eye, along with the fact that they're available in two sizes: up to 3.75mm and up to 7.5mm. Huge stitch markers do tend to make a bit of a gap when I'm knitting on smaller-sized needles.


These adorable sheep-faced stitch markers from Herdy were my first purchase at Yarndale a few years ago.
Image courtesy of Herdy
At £7.50 for a pack of six, plus P&P, they're a mid-range price. They fit needles up to 7mm. Mine have had oodles of use out of them and are currently holding places in garments I'm in the middle of creating. All of these three sets of stitch markers put a smile on my face when I'm knitting!

Do you have a favourite stitch marker set - or perhaps you've inherited some with a special meaning? Do let us know in the comments below or on our Facebook page.
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