Thursday, 17 October 2019

Which Colours Are On Trend For 2020?

I know, I know, we haven't even had Bonfire Night yet, never mind Christmas, so it feels way too early to be thinking of the New Year. Yarn companies and other businesses such as paint manufacturers, however, work at least six months in advance and its their job to make a prophecy on the colours that customers will be wanting in the future, based on the zeitgeist, fashion trends and, well, probably clutching at straws in the wind.

The website LoveCrafts and paint company Dulux have both revealed the colours they think will be popular in 2020.

Greeny-Grey

Dulux's pick is Tranquil Dawn, a greeny-grey shade.

Image courtesy of nda.ac.uk
According to Dulux the neutral shade "reflects a growing desire to understand what it is to be human at a time when advances in technology are making us feel increasingly disconnected from each other."

It's certainly a relaxing colour with echoes of nature. I found it very difficult to find wool resembling this shade, because the ones I came across veered towards being more green or more grey.

Rowan's Pure Wool Worsted in the shade Fern is similar, but watch out because it's superwash. For more details about the damaging environmental process involved in making wool superwash see A Woolly Yarn's previous blog post Should Knitters Avoid Superwash Wool?

Fern image courtesy of Knit Rowan

Rowan's Summerlite 4ply in the shade Green Bay is also similar:

Green Bay image courtesy of Knit Rowan
Caramel

LoveCrafts suggests that caramel will be a popular colour on knitters' needles in 2020 (as well as 1980s neons but we'll pass that one by - been there, done that, not knitted the colours).

Debbie Bliss' Toast 4ply in the Gold shade is on the vibrant side of caramel:
Image courtesy of LoveCrafts
Whereas Sublime's Extra Fine Merino in the caramel shade is more muted.

Image courtesy of thewoolfactoryonline.com
Or if you're more pumpkin-shade orientated then try West Yorkshire Spinners' Bluefaced Leicester Aran:
Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners
Which trend do you prefer or do you usually reach for the tried and testers colours you like? Let us know in the comments below or on A Woolly Yarn's Facebook page.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

UK Wool Week 2019 Says 'Check It's Wool'

Is it wool or a yarn with plastic in such as acrylic? That's what this year's Campaign for Wool is urging buyers to ask when they're shopping for clothes and hand-knitting yarn.

This year's campaign, whose patron is HRH The Prince of Wales, began on October 7th and runs until October 20th. It is focussing on the 'natural performance qualities' and ecological benefits of wool as biodegradable in a drive to reduce plastic and micro-fibre pollution.

Image courtesy of The Campaign for Wool
The famous woolly character Shaun The Sheep is getting involved, tying in with the release on October 18th of Aardman's latest film Shaun The Sheep Farmageddon. The campaign says: "a short special edition animation film has been created that is being used an education platform for wool's Super Natural Benefits. Products to allow children to experience the softness and skin benefits of wool for themsleves are being provided from Smalls and Mama Owl."

Fashion company Brora is joining the campaign by selling a limited edition jumper designed for Wool Week by Jasmine Cook, a student at Jordanstone College of Art and Design. The jumper costs £145 and is available in Brora stores and on the Brora website.

Image courtesy of Brora

London company Sheep Inc is launching the world's first 'carbon negative' jumper. The campaign says: "the wool jumper takes out 10 times as much greenhouse gases as was used in its making - and includes adopting a sheep from which the wool was taken. The supply chain is so transparent that a NFC chip on the hem of the jumper can be scanned using a smartphone allowing the owner to trace the wool back to the actual sheep from which it was sheared."

Image courtesy of The Campaign for Wool

Other events for Wool Week include:

  • A launch on October 15th of John Hudson and Anderson & Sheppard  wool survival sweater, available in three colours
  • The knitwear company John Smedley is releasing a three piece range of knitwear using Bluefaced Leicester wool, with an event on October 17th featuring ex-Blur bassist and now farmer Alex James
  • Finistere, an outdoor apparel company, has launched an eco-friendly fleece made from recycled wool and manmade fibres
  • An exhibition at Salts Mill in Yorkshire called 'Weaving The Future'.

Monday, 7 October 2019

Six Yarn Advent Calendars Still Available To Order For Christmas

Although Christmas is still more than a couple of months away some companies believe it or not have already sold out of their advent yarn calendars. In the past couple of years they have become a popular alternative to their chocolate cousins, offering 24 samples of wool usually based on a theme which doesn't necessarily have to be Christmassy.



Many yarn dyers offer different price options where you can choose the amount of wool you want to unwrap each day, whether it's 10g, 20g or even more. Most also offer a few mystery treats on the way such as sweets and stitch markers.

Here's a round up of six woolly advent calendars still open for orders but be quick, orders will close soon to give the companies enough time to hand-dye the yarn before December!

Vicki Brown Designs

There are two options for this calendar: 24 x10g hand-dyed mini skeins in sock or DK weight for £65, or 24 x 20g mini skeins in sock or DK weight for £100. The price includes UK postage and some extra treats behind some of the doors.

Image courtesy of Vicki Brown Designs

Wool Is The Answer

Their yarn advent calendar costs £55 and includes free shipping. In the handmade advent calendar will be 17 micro skeins of 75% superwash merino and 25% nylon 4ply yarn in tonal solid and multi colours, plus seven 10g mini skeins of 75% superwash merino, 20% nylon and 5% stellina in tonal solids and multi colours.

Image courtesy of Wool Is The Answer

Bluebell Yarns

Bluebell Yarns non-Christmas-themed advent offering consists of hand-dyed Bluefaced Leicester 4ply. There six options to choose from depending on whether you want 10g or 20g skeins in sock yarn, 4ply or DK. Prices range from £45 to £82. Go for the low packaging option for a reduction. Shipping is free.

Image courtesy of Bluebell Yarns

Strawberry Fields Yarns

Choose the rainbow or books theme for this advent calendar. The hand-dyed skeins are available in 24 x 5g mini skeins for £32,  24 x 10g mini skeins for £60, or 24 x 20g mini skeins for £82. Shipping in the UK is an extra £3.50.

Image courtesy of Strawberry Fields Yarns

Ducky Darlings

For £95 Ducky Darlings' advent calendar includes 24 x 20g mini skeins of hand-dyed 75% superwash merino and 25% nylon 4ply sock yarn. Second class postage within the UK is included.

This year's theme is flora and fauna. The calendars will also contain a few mystery treats including chocolate.

Image courtesy of Ducky Darlings

Sheepish Fibre Art

This last option is more of a budget buster but great for knitters who want a Christmassy theme. The calendar contains hand-dyed sock yarn with colours inspired by Charles Dickens' novel A Christmas Carol.

There are two calendars to choose from. The first is 25 x 20g mini skeins for £105 and the second is 24 x 20g mini skeins plus one 100g ball. Postage in the UK is an extra £4.95.

Image courtesy of Sheepish Fibre Art

Which yarn advent calendar is your favourite? Or do you think they're a waste of money and you'd rather buy balls of wool you've chosen yourself? Have your say on A Woolly Yarn's Facebook page.


Friday, 4 October 2019

Review Of This Golden Fleece By Esther Rutter

Cover image courtesy of Granta
Imagine quitting an unsatisfying office job to spend a whole year to spend travelling around the British Isles to find out about the country's wool history and local patterns and traditions. That's what Esther Rutter did, and in doing so traced the meaning of thousands of years of Britons, right back to the Stone Age, spinning the hair of sheep and goats to knit and weave cloth and clothes.

Each chapter is centred around a particular garment Rutter decides to knit. She traces the history of it and its relationship with an area place or tradition, showing how people's use and affinity with wool has differed culturally depending on where they lived. 

Rutter, who has been a knitter for more than 20 years, writes lyrically, immediately drawing the reader into her descriptions of time and landscape. See her musings on some Shetland Heritage yarn she received the Christmas before her journey: 
"I took a sniff. A strong outdoor smell, rich and greasy, caught my nostrils. It was as unmistakably sheep funk, the same scent fro Heald Brow wood. Woolly fibres waved and snaked away from the yarn's central strand, black flecked with white, cream specks on brow. This was soft and study Shetland oo, the w and I clipped off the English word."
Author image courtesy of Jenny Brown Associates
Since the Bronze Age much of the country's wealth has come from sheep's fleece. Rutter begins her journey in the Wordsworth Museum in Cumbria looking at exquisitely patterned gloves knitted by Dentdale knitters, a place that falls within both the county of Cumbria and the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Dent knitters use a speed style called swaving, knowing that the more items they produced the more they got paid.

She goes on to more locations with her personal challenge to knit a different item a month including the Gansey - although the name hails from the Channel Islands it was worn by fisherman in many communities across Britain although local same-colour patterns would differ - a knitted bikini inspired by the knitted undergarment history of Hawick in the Borders, and a Monmouth cap.

During her journey Rutter discovers facts such as that the Soay is Britain's oldest native sheep breed dating back to the Iron Age; the writer Virginia Woolf used knitting to help her during periods of mental distress; that the spinning wheel was invented in China or India over a thousand years ago; and the earliest knitted item found in Britain is the Coppergate Sock from York, dating from the tenth century AD.

This is a great, well-written book that knitting and history lovers will enjoy. The RRP is £16.99. Thanks to Granta for the review copy - all views are A Woolly Yarn's own. 

Friday, 27 September 2019

West Yorkshire Spinners' Christmas Sock Yarn 2019 Revealed

Just like putting the tree up and leaving mince pies out for Santa there's a relatively new festive tradition in town: knitting a pair of socks in this year's West Yorkshire Spinners' Christmas sock yarn.

WYS designs a self-striping yarn each year to add to its Signature 4ply range blended from 75% wool and 25% nylon. This year's design is ....



Robin!

The yarn has brown, red, white, grey and yellow/orange speckles reminiscent of its festive bird namesake.

Once again sock knitting pattern designer Winwick Mum has collaborated with WYS to publish a pattern especially for the yarn. The pattern comes free with every yarn purchase and is in the form of a Christmas card:


I haven't had time yet to knit up the socks. Let's put it this way, I still haven't finished the second sock knitted with last year's Fairy Lights special edition. Thankfully WYS has a pair knitted up and here is what the socks look like in all their finished glory:

Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners
Each 100g ball costs £7.50 and should be available from your local yarn store. If yours doesn't stock it then you can order directly from WYS.

Here are details of previous WYS Christmas sock yarns:

WYS' 2018 Christmas sock yarn - Fairy Lights

Christmas Gifts For Knitters 2017 - Contains Candy Cane WYS Sock Yarn

WYS' 2015 Christmas sock yarn - Holly Berry

Which is your favourite?

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Five Favourite September Jumper/Cardigan Patterns

It's the season to start knitting winter woolies and UK companies are busy competing with each other to get your custom. Here's a round-up of the cream of this month's jumper and cardigan patterns they hope will entice you to part with your cash.

1. No Frills Pullover

Perfect for in-between weather, this short-sleeved pullover by the company Mrs Moon is knitted with their own Plump DK yarn.

Image courtesy of Mrs Moon
The pattern costs £5.50 downloadable from Ravelry.

2. Wythop

Sari Nordlund's delightful jumper with a rosebud bobble and lace design on the yoke is one of the designs from The Fibre Co's Foundations Autumn-Winter 19/20 collection.

Image courtesy of The Fibre Co.
It's knitted with The Fibre Co's own Arcadia yarn and the pattern is approximately £7.03 on Ravelry.

3. Cascadia

Originally published in a knitting magazine, Cascadia by EastLondonKnits is now available to buy from Ravelry for £7.20.

Image courtesy of EastLondonKnits
The yarn used is Daughter of a Shepherd's 100% British Ram Jam worsted.

4. Dexter

Baaramewe, the Yorkshire company whose Leeds store closed this month but which is continuing as an online business, is promoting German designer Isabell Kraemer's Dexter cardigan.

Image courtesy of baaramewe
Dexter showcases broken seed stitch and is knitted using baaramewe's 4ply British wool Titus. The pattern on Ravelry costs £5.08.

5. Flora

Mary Henderson's stranded colourwork yoke jumper is part of West Yorkshire Spinners' latest The Croft collection, called Shetland Country. The book costs £9.90 plus P&P.

Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners
Flora uses both existing and new shades of The Croft, which is an aran weight yarn. We hope to review the yarn and collection soon on A Woolly Yarn.

Which is your favourite and are there any new releases you think should be included? Let readers know in the comments box below or on A Woolly Yarn's Facebook page.


Friday, 20 September 2019

First Look At Blacker Yarns' 14th Birthday Yarn Cornish Garden

It's 20th September and it's launch day for Blacker Yarns' limited edition 14th birthday yarn Cornish Garden. Here's what we know about it already ...

There will be two weights available

Says Blacker Yarns, 'Like all our birthday yarns Cornish Garden is woollen spun to achieve a light, fluffy, bulky yarn with a strong memory to increase elasticity and resilience. This year we have used fine fibres, so have been able to make a fine 3ply yarn as well as a thicker sport weight yarn.'

Cornish Garden will come in six shades


Here's the shade card. There are four vibrant colours - Bononnoc Pink, Trebah Blue, Heligan Green and Cotehele Gold - along with two more neutral shades of Hepworth Natural and Tremenheere Dark Grey. All are named after Cornish gardens.

Each 100g skein contains a whopping 460m of wool


To make the blend, Blacker Yarns says 'we have combined some soft fine and rare English merino with a few other special things. The yarn is blended from 40% natural white and fawn English Merino plus 17% fawn and grey Shetland, 26% Blue-faced Leicester and, to add some texture and help the planet, we have also recycled 17% pale nails from our frosted combing processes.

There will be pattern support

Blacker Yarns told A Woolly Yarn that there will be two new patterns especially for Cornish Garden. One is a pair of socks using two colours of sport weight, and the other is a shawl knitted in the 3ply yarn.

It passes the squish test

A Woolly Yarn received two sample skeins for review in the shades Hepworth Natural and Heligan Green. All opinions are our own.


First impressions are that the Heligan Green is a vibrant, jewel-like shade and Hepworth Natural is a solid shade of grey - not too light or dark.

The wool is squishy and bounces back to the touch. There's a satisfying slight sense of sheep reassuring the consumer that the yarn is all wool.

Cornish Garden has a slight halo and is woollen spun. One thing to bear in mind is that I snapped the fibre easily. Knitters with tight tensions beware!

What we don't yet know

The price. This will be revealed at launch on Blacker Yarns' website and local yarn stores.

Interested in Blacker Yarns' previous birthday yarn launches?  Delve into the A Woolly Yarn archive:

Monday, 16 September 2019

Exclusive Interview With The Woolist's Zoe Fletcher

Image courtesy of Zoe Fletcher
She's the queen of sheep after dedicating her PhD research to British breeds and their fleeces' properties. A Woolly Yarn met Zoe Fletcher at this year's Edinburgh Yarn Fest and we're thrilled that she has since taken some time away from all things sheepy to answer our nosey questions!


Q1. How did your PhD research come about?

A. I've always loved making things and studied Textile Design for Fashion at Manchester School of Art for my BA. I became increasingly aware of how using different materials in hand and machine knitting affected my design outcomes.

I wanted to explore this further. Whilst studying for my Masters at London College of Fashion I focussed on finding out more about the ethics and sustainability of my raw materials and their journey - 100% wool is great, but the more I know of their properties and backstory the more I can be in control of the yarn and design outcome.

After graduation I worked in industry for a few years before deciding to continue my test for further understanding the different qualities of wool from different British breeds, undertaking an AHRC-funded PhD at Manchester School of Art. My practice-based research aim was to find out more about these pure breeds of sheep, which have all been developed over generations for specific land, weather and breed management practices. So I set my self a challenge. I wanted to collect a sample of yarn (and fleece) from each of the 72 pure breeds I had amassed. I met with designers, knitters, farmers and production mills amongst others and began to build up my collection. I sampled and documented each stage of the journey, with the aim of creating a practical database of knowledge.

Q2. What were the highs and lows of the project?

A. Getting to meet so many amazing people and connecting with farmers, producers, makers, designers and attending shows and fairs across the country was really exciting, and I gathered so much knowledge and collected such great data.

However I was still tied to the constraints of the PhD format and writing up in the last year was quite a lonely and challenging experience - continuing to sample and thinking through my practice work helped me (along with my really supportive supervisor team and the support of all the contributors I had met along the way!)

Q3. Why do you think hand knitting is so important?

A. Hand knitting connects you to the whole process of making - you are in full control of how the 'fabric' and 'end-product' will turn out. Each and every stitch is considered and due to it being such a tacit experience you get to understand the qualities, handle and feel of the different properties of the wool as you are manipulating each stitch. I do machine knit as well and this has its own set of positives and challenges when working with the different materials.

Q4. Most people think that wool is wool. How do different British breeds differ in their knitted up qualities?

A. There are 72 pure breeds of different British sheep found across the UK today. They have been farmed for generations and adapted to different geographical locations that vary in weather conditions, soil quality and land management. They have been bred to highlight different qualities - some farmers want easy-to-rear breeds, some want good mothering abilities, some want fast growers for meat, some want to keep the traditional qualities alive.

Wool samples image courtesy of Zoe Fletcher
From the hardy Herdwicks of the Lake District with their distinct 'teddy bear' like face and grey tonal wool (which has a high micron count, so relatively thick fibres which can feel a bit harsh, sometimes prickly because of the kemp, next to the skin - but keeps the sheep nice and dry thus these qualities are transferred to the knitted qualities), to the fine Southdown with its dense and short-stapled fleece (said to be one of the finest clips) which creates a crisp, fine yarn. So they all have different colourings, handle qualities, staple lengths (that affect the processing of Woollen or Worsted spinning), elasticity and fineness that depict how differently the knitted stitches will turn out.

Q5. Do you have a favourite wool?

A. It depends what I want to use it for! Each wool has a purpose, but if you wanted to make a beautiful draped silky scarf a Scottish Blackface's wool would not highlight these qualities, whereas using Blueface Leicester wool would. So I can't choose a favourite as it would depend too much on what I wanted to make it into!

Q6. What do you think will happen in the next ten years to the British sheep industry and the hand knitting industry?

A. Looking at it positively, hopefully with the public's awareness of welfare standards, natural fibres and renewable/sustainable principles being challenged and heightened (we have seen it in the food industry with locally-sourced, organic and fair trade being more widely available) and their awareness of the damaging impact the fast fashion industry has across the world, we'll begin to see the benefits of slowing down the fashion cycle and investing in quality 'local' products that benefit the communities they are grown/produced/made in as well in the consumer - that's in the perfect world!

Digital media as a positive tool can be (and is being0 used to connect people - giving them access to patterns, materials, communities, information that doesn't always have to be about fast consumption but connecting with like-minded people who can take inspiration from each other and find out about individuals and small companies doing amazing things with local wool that might have been hard to find before Hopefully this will continue to be positively strengthened.

Q7. Is there a favourite jumper/accessory pattern you like to be knitted up with British wool?

A. You can't beat a nice thick pair of stripy stocks for Winter - one of my favourite patterns is a Winwick Mum DK one. I use up all the different colours I can't resit buying and mix them with all my leftover DK weight naturally coloured yarns!

Q8. What's the current state of The Woolist Project?

A. The Woolist Project is continuing to be worked hard upon behind the scenes. Summer has been a great time for getting out and about to different shows and fairs and talking to lots of different people about future ideas. Now that Autumn is creeping in it's time to get hibernating and start getting all these things online. 

The Woolist exhibition on tour image courtesy of Zoe Fletcher
There are a couple more big outings of the practical research before Christmas  - workshops and pop-up exhibitions of work and products across the UK which I update for Instagram (@thewoolist).

Q9. What are you aiming for for the future?

A. To develop and create an online resource that allows people to find out more about British wool, that can act as a bridge to connect people wanting to learn more and use more local materials, and materials with a significant historical story, to producers, makers and designers who are using them today.

Thanks so much Zoe for answering A Woolly Yarn's questions! Find out more about the project at The Woolist website.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Toft Turns To Earthy Shades For Autumn 2019 Knit Collection


Image courtesy of Toft
Toft, based in Warwickshire, has announced its Autumn knit and crochet collection to correspond with the latest publication of its Quarterly magazine.

These days the company is probably best known for its crocheted animals range but its own brand 100% wool is brilliant for garments and accessories too. The wool comes in a multitude of natural colours, such as greys, beiges and browns, plus there are a few bright colours in 25g balls, which although they are intended to be used for the crocheted animals are also great for stranded colourwork and Fair Isle.

For its Autumn/Winter knitwear patterns Toft has chosen to go for a very autumnal beige and brown colour palette - though of course if brown isn't your thing you can knit them in silver, cream or black instead.

Here are the new designs. Buy Toft Quarterly Autumn 19 at £8 plus P&P for the patterns only or alternatively each is available as a yarn and pattern kit:

Dovecote Jumper
Image courtesy of Toft
This is my favourite from the collection because I'm very partial to a decorative yoke. Toft has used the shades stone, cream and cocoa in this design.

Mill Headband
Image courtesy of Toft

More stranded colourwork with the shades mushroom, cocoa and stone to keep your head warm this Autumn.

Linhay Hat
Image courtesy of Toft

Geometric colourwork using the colours cream and cocoa. Make your own pom pom or buy a ready made one from Toft for an extra £10.

Granary Shawl
Image courtesy of Toft
Knitted in the shade stone, this shawl can be worn in the traditional fashion with the point at the back or instead with the point at the front to keep your neck warm!

Oast Scarf
Image courtesy of Toft
This is a great project for beginner knitters. The scarf uses the shades mushroom, cocoa and cream.

There are lots of pattens and wool being launched for Autumn from many knitting companies - keep an eye out on A Woolly Yarn for the latest news.



Monday, 2 September 2019

Why Is September A Top Month For Knitting Shows?

As knitting as a hobby continues to soar in popularity you can nowadays find a knitting show to go to every month, or even every weekend in the summer months (I've never heard of someone visiting two shows in one day but it's hypothetically possible!)

A Woolly Yarn's blog post back in January listed the bigger shows to look out for in 2019.  We've already enjoyed some of the big names, including Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March (sadly taking a break in 2020) and Wonderwool Wales in April. September though is host to two huge knitting show favourites that have become much-loved over the last few years: Yarndale and Shetland Wool Week (which runs from 28th September to 6th October).

Image courtesy of Yarndale
Smaller, local knitting shows tend to showcase local talent, mainly consisting of small businesses and people who combine working with yarn along with a regular job. The bigger shows like Yarndale, although they also support small businesses, have the pull to entice bigger indie businesses that knitters can usually only buy from online, such as Toft, Di Gilpin, Moel View Yarn, John Arbon Textiles and Baa Baa Brighouse. There will be over a whopping 200 exhibitors at Yarndale this year!


Shetland Wool Week's USP on the other hand is its classes and events based both in the capital Lerwick and also around the island. Rather than just buying products from stallholders - although with the wonderful quality of wool Shetland produces there's plenty to buy and pack in your suitcase - it's a destination event. As well as learning new knitting skills Wool Week gives an opportunity to explore the culture and hospitality of the area.

Why September?

The summer holidays are over, the climate in Shetland is still promising and, more importantly, with colder weather moving in knitters' thoughts turn to knitting jumpers and accessories. Plus it's the time to start planning knitting Christmas gifts.

A few yarn companies launch their Autumn/Winter season in August (see our post on Rowan), but the majority do so in September. New products tempt knitters to increase their pattern and yarn stash and exhibiting at knitting shows is a great way to reach out to new and existing customers. Expect to see businesses saving their launches for Yarndale, and at Shetland Wool Week there being a plethora of yarns, kits and other souvenirs available especially for the event.

If you can't make Skipton for Yarndale or Scotland for Shetland Wool Week there's also the Perth Festival of Yarn on 7th/8th September and The Handmaid Fair at Hampton Court from 13th - 15th September.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Review of Kate Davies' Bold Beginner Knits

Popular knitwear designer Kate Davies has turned her attention to beginners for her latest pattern book. Not just beginners though - bold beginners who already can cast on and off, knit and purl, increase and decrease plus knit in the round.

Image courtesy of KDD & Co
Davies trailed the patterns online over a few weeks to encourage pre-orders for £15 including free postage and packing. Although I would describe myself as an intermediate-level knitter I bought one for myself, attracted by the prospect of simplish patterns that look more complicated than they actually are!

The paperback book contains six patterns, which are:

Corryvreckan

Slipped-stitches create graphic waves on this three-colour hat.

Image courtesy of KDD & Co
There's a very handy chart in colour to explain when to slip stitches and after reading the pattern the design certainly looks more difficult to knit than it actually is. I'm not sure though when I was a beginner I could have managed knitting in the round, changing colours and slipped stitches all at the same time.

Upstream

You've practiced on the hat, now transfer those skills to knitting the jumper Upstream (which surprisingly is before Corryvreckan in the book).

Image courtesy of KDD & Co
Upstream is knitted from the bottom up, meaning that jumper-knitting newbies will get to practice their stocking stitch until they reach the more complicated part of adding in the sleeves and knitting the yoke. Again there's a very helpful coloured chart.

Footfall

Is it a scarf or is it a wrap? The beauty of this one-size design is that it can be either.

Image courtesy of KDD & Co
However the construction of triangular shawl knitting is new to me and, combined with the lace design and reading from the chart, I think a beginner would have to be extremely bold to attempt to knit Footfall. Perhaps it's a pattern to try last once you've conquered the other five.

Skep

I love the colours in the blanket and its modern, hexagonal design.

Image courtesy of KDD & Co
It's garter stitch only and each of the 36 hexagons are knitted individually before being sewn together in strips and then the strips together to form the blanket. The pattern is relatively simple.

Midstream

One size fits all (hopefully, though not me being rather short) for this textured shrug.  The pattern requires knowledge of the three-needle bind-off technique and the ability to follow a chart.

Image courtesy of KDD & Co
Again, this pattern requires a very bold beginner to follow the rectangle construction which is then folded, secured and a border added.

Downstream

I've saved my favourite pattern until last. Downstream is the reason I bought Bold Beginner Knits. I have some aran yarn in my stash and can see me getting a lot of wear out of this cardigan, with or without a decorative safety pin at the front to hold it together.

Image courtesy of KDD & Co
Davies says you can knit Downstream with or without the stripes. It's knitted from the top down and there are five sizes to choose from.

What's the verdict?

It's a beautifully-photographed, well set out book with a foreward from Davies herself who says that learning to work from a chart is important in expanding your knitterly horizons.

The book was inspired by Davies' friend and employee Jane Hunter (the model in Bold Beginner Knits) who had taught herself to knit but was unsure how to progress from the basics. Davies believes that beginners shouldn't be put off by patterns that look difficult, "even if a project seems beyond your skill level, you are more likely to surprise yourself with your own resourcefulness and ingenuity in the face of knitterly frustration than you are likely to every truly fail."

Davies places great importance on swatching and finding the right needle size for your tension. Therefore she doesn't give needle sizes to use but rather specifies 'gauge' and 'below' gauge where you might be expecting 4mm and 3.25mm. Not great if you usually skip swatching and hope for the best but it's certainly a good habit to get into.

This is not a book for absolute beginners, I'd recommend that they start with Pom Pom Press's Knit How, but it's certainly a reasonably-priced one for bold beginners and intermediate knitters to add to their collection.

Lastly, a word about the yarn specified for the patterns.

Image courtesy of KDD & Co
All the patterns in Bold Beginner Knits use Davies own aran-weight yarn Ard Thir, a blend of 60% Peruvian wool and 40% alpaca. I've not seen the yarn myself and it certainly sounds good quality but at £8 per 50g skein it's not cheap. Beginners may not want to spend that much (for example Downstream requires 12 skeins) if they're not sure they'll be able to complete the project to a wearable standard.

Cheaper alternatives could include West Yorkshire Spinners' Aran Bluefaced Leicester wool, at £8.69 per 100g skein, or Blacker Yarns' Limited Edition Tor Lanlavery Aran, currently on special offer at £6 per 100g skein.

Which is your favourite pattern in Bold Beginner Knits? Tell us in the comments section below or on A Woolly Yarn's Facebook page

Monday, 19 August 2019

What To Do If You've Spent All Your Cash On Your Yarn Stash

Some women like to buy shoes, some clothes, some handbags. I do have a penchant for a retro-style handbag but for me my spending triggers are books and yarn. Books because, well, they're educational aren't they? I have piles of novels in my bookshelf and teetering on top of my bedside table just waiting to be read. As the author of a novel, which I hope to find a publisher for, I tell myself that my profligate book habit is market research.

Then there's wool. For this blog I follow designers and the latest trends, the result being that I have a huge favourites list on Ravelry.  I see patterns I love and don't resist temptation to buy the yarn for them, particularly if the wool is limited edition, hand-dyed and won't be available next year, despite the fact I have a chest full of unstarted projects already along with about five sweaters and accessories I've already begun and switch between as my fancy takes me.

Stash costs cash!
But now it's reckoning time. I hit this with books last year when there was just no more space on the shelves or available wall to put a new bookcase against and I felt frustrated every time I saw my huge pile of books, which resembled the leaning tower of Pisa, on the floor. The moment came for me to 'woman up' and have a cull, selling online or donating to charity those I knew I wouldn't read again or hadn't read and didn't really want to. It was tough but I did it and made a reasonable sum in the process. Yet I slowly but surely kept discovering something new I wanted to read and now there are again very few spaces again in my shelves. In attempt to keep my reading habit under control I've now rejoined the local library and am starting again borrowing books for free.

Now it's time to do so with my yarn. Previously I have periodically sorted through my stash and sold or given away anything I know I'm not going to use. I donated all the odds and ends of balls I'd kept to charity. I matched my yarn with patterns I own and have even a few balls MORE so I'd have enough to knit the top I wanted (talk about false economy!)

I bought the kit to knit this jumper at The Wool Monty
Yet there's no more room. My wardrobe nearly has more bundles of yarn in it than clothes. Zipper bags contain the jumpers and tops I've knitted already. I've more than enough jumpers to keep me warm for the next ten winters and then add on top the ones I haven't knitted and I'll be about up to point of being able to wear a different sweater or top every day for a couple of months.

So I don't need any more yarn. Wanting, however, is a different kettle of fish. Patterns launch that scream 'knit me!' and indie dyers and makers bring out a glorious range of new yarns. The free time I have to spend knitting can't catch up with my intake of projects. My bank account is shouting at me to stop. It's time to go cold turkey.

When I first heard about Marie Kondo and her theories of tidying and throwing stuff out, I was rather sniffy about her concept. I'm not a minimalist. I want to have things in my house that bring back memories whether it's a photo in a frame, a souvenir brought back from holiday or a cross stitch I crafted on a wall. Yet Kondo advises to ask whether something you have 'sparks joy'. At first that phrase sounded far too hippyish for my liking, but, after mulling on it for a while, I saw where she was coming from. The photo of my husband and I on holiday makes me smile every time I see it because we look so happy and I remember the fabulous time we had. The pile of magazines, flyers and bills waiting to be filed on the kitchen worktop, however, pricks me with annoyance every time I see it; partly because it looks a total mess and partly because it's my fault I haven't got round to doing the household admin yet.

One of the 'buy now or you'll miss out' balls of hand-dyed yarn in my stash
The last time I had a clearout of my yarn stash, mentioned above, I did get rid of everything I knew I wasn't lusting to knit. Now, since I've bought more, it's time to put a lock on my purse and follow these self-made rules:

  1. Don't buy any more patterns or yarns this year. No ifs, no buts.
  2. 'Favourite' any patterns I really like in Ravelry. They'll still be there when my yarn and pattern ban is lifted.
  3. When tempted to buy more yarn open my wardrobe and remind myself THERE'S NO MORE ROOM. 
  4. Don't be sucked in by the promise of one-off yarns. There will be other one-off yarns produced next year that I'll love just as much.
Will it work? Hopefully by next Summer I'll have thoroughly enjoyed knitting up most of the stash I do have and will feel super-smug with more room in my cupboards and a bigger bank balance.

Of course then I'll probably treat myself for being so good by going to one of the larger knitting shows and blowing it all on more yarn ...
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