Thursday 28 March 2019

What I Bought At Edinburgh Yarn Festival

Me meeting Jess from Ginger Twist Studio
I've been back at home for a few days now following an exciting few days in Scotland's capital to visit Edinburgh Yarn Festival. That's given me time to unpack, recharge my batteries and lovingly look over my purchases.

Thankfully for my bank balance I wasn't able to buy much due to travelling hand luggage only on the plane - although if I'd had the cash and a huge suitcase there was much, much more I could have brought home! Indeed I saw lots of women with wheely suitcases there (although whether they were stuffed with yarn or their owners were planning on travelling home after the event I don't know) and a security guard told me that one festival goer had said she'd spent over £1000 on woolly joy. It sounds a heck of a lot but with over 90 vendors to choose from, some offering premium, one-off products, I can understand why she parted with her cash.

The reason for my going to to EYF was to write a feature on it for The Knitter magazine, which will be published in a few month's time. In this blog post I thought I'd focus on my own purchases. I've been to yarn festivals before, both big and small, and EYF really stood out to me as being at the top of the game. Although it did get really busy, apparently it's the most-visited event at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange, there were places to go to get a break either in the marquee or outdoors. Plus lots of outlets selling cake.

The atmosphere was very friendly and happy, with old friends meeting up and new pals being made. Lots of people (including me, wearing my my latest knit using a Ginger Twist Studio yarn and pattern) were proudly sporting one of their hand knits. I met the lovely Jess from Ginger Twist Studio at her stand to show her my jumper, and also spotted quite a few Kate Davies and Marie Wallin designs.

I also saw this fabulous jumper knitted by a lady (see photograph on the left) who kindly let me take her photograph. The pattern is 'The Simpler Sinister Sweater' by An Caitin Beag. I'd added it to my Ravelry favourites a few months ago but seeing the jumper in bold colours, as opposed to the light grey and yellow on the pattern's cover, strengthened my resolve to knit it.

Quite frankly there were lots of stalls I could have bought the DK yarn for it at EYF. Most stands stocked either 100% wool or wool blends, with an emphasis on Scottish and British fleece. It was rather like being a child in a sweet shop, being able to see and squish all the fabulous yarns on display, many from small businesses that only sell by mail order or at yarn shows. To start off I bought the printed pattern (I much prefer buying a printed pattern rather than downloading and printing one myself) at £6 plus a cute stitch marker also from An Caitin Beag for £4.

Then it was time to hunt for the yarn to knit the sweater with. I wanted British wool soft enough to wear against my skin and found it at the very helpful Kettle Yarn Co. stall. Owner Linda and her assistant talked me through their yarns and I was impressed my their recent launch Northiam DK. It's 100% British Bluefaced Leicester wool that's surprisingly smooth and bouncy. But which colours to buy? Linda helped me whittle the choice of 11 down to two for the sweater based on her colour knowledge. I bought the greeny/teal shade 'Caspian, which will form the main body of the sweater, and 'Rosehip' as the contrasting colour. Each 50g skein was £9.25, although on Kettle Yarn Co.'s website the skeins are now listed at £9.50.

The EYF marketplace was open on from Thursday to Saturday and on Sunday there was a separate, smaller event called Make::Wool. This gave very small businesses, including textiles and ceramics as well as artisan yarn spinners and dyers, a chance to showcase their products. With the knowledge that I had barely any more room in my overnight case I stuck to one purchase, that being a handy drawstring project bag for £5 from Donna Smith Designs. The enamel badge on it is my own.

All in all EYF was a great treat and fantastic research for this blog. I met some great people making gorgeous yarns and will be featuring them on A Woolly Yarn in the months to come. Watch this space!

Did you go to EYF? What did you buy? Let us know in the comments box below or on A Woolly Yarn's Facebook page.

Tuesday 26 March 2019

Oliver Henry Announced As This Year's Shetland Wool Week Patron + Free Beanie Pattern

This year's Shetland Wool Week patron is Oliver Henry, otherwise known as the 'Man of Wool' for his 52 years of work judging, grading, sorting, promoting and researching wool on the island.

Oliver Henry image courtesy of Shetland Wool Week
2019 is Shetland Wool Week's 10th anniversary and Oliver Henry attended this year's announcement at Edinburgh Yarn Festival to launch this year's free hat pattern, 'The Roadside Beanie'.

Henry came up with ideas for the beanie, inspired by his life on Shetland. His colleague Sandra Manson turned the sheep and fishing boats into a pattern.

Says Shetland Wool Week, "Oliver has worked with sheep and wool for over fifty years, so it was clear to them that they would be a big part of his design story. Fishing has also played a big role in his life, especially growing up on the family croft at 'Roadside', in the busy fishing community of Hamnavoe on Burra Isle. Oliver's father and brothers had their own fishing boat and fishing was their livelihood. Unfortunately Oliver suffered from seasickness and could not carry on the family tradition of fisherman crofter, so he turned to Shetland wool for his work and inspiration."

Shetland Wool Week gave out free copies of 'the Roadside Beanie' on their stand at Edinburgh Yarn Festival. Don't worry if you didn't go there - the pattern is also downloadable on their website here.

The dates for this year's Shetland Wool Week are 28th September to 6th October.

Sunday 17 March 2019

What's New At Edinburgh Yarn Festival?

Image courtesy of EYF
Queen's song Don't Stop Me Now is playing on a loop in my head as I'm excitedly preparing to fly to Edinburgh for its annual yarn fest.

The trip is a mix of part-work (I'm writing a feature on EYF for The Knitter magazine) and part belated-birthday holiday with my husband, who has agreed to push me in my wheelchair around the knitting show as long as we visit a real ale pub for dinner afterwards. Deal!

In the six years it has been running Edinburgh Yarn Festival has gained a reputation of becoming one of the UK's top knitting festivals, with many visitors flying in from abroad. It's also a champion of both Scottish wool businesses and small independent producer/makers who you won't find in your local yarn store.

The marketplace runs from Thursday 21st to Saturday 23rd March and on Sunday morning there's a Make::Wool event. The classes, Make::Wool and the fringe events have sold out but there should be tickets for the marketplace available on the door at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange.

There's a plethora of stalls to visit, so much so that I'm going to have to enforce on myself a strict budget. I plan on taking cash only - once it has gone it has gone!

Designers' and wool companies' often choose EYF to launch their latest goodies. In the past week some email newsletters and social media feeds have teased knitters with what will be on offer in Scotland's capital city. Don't worry if you're not going to EYF because products will be available on the individual companies' websites once it's all over.

Here are some of the highlights:

An Caitin Beag

Not got a lot of cash? For a little treat I'm thinking this new stitch marker from An Caitin Beag's stall would make a great souvenir:

Image courtesy of An Caitin Beag
The brand will also be launching the Catwing sweater at EYF.

Marie Wallin

Her popular British Breeds gift box, containing the twelve shades in her own British Breeds wool range, will be back in stock at EYF. There will also be four new pattern and British Breeds yarn kits available, including the beautiful jumper Birch from her Wildwood pattern book.

Birch image courtesy of Marie Wallin
Donna Smith

Another cute souvenir of EYF to buy is this cute felt jumper brooch, inspired by Smith's native Shetland. She'll be selling them for £12 at EYF's Sunday morning Make::Wool event.

Image courtesy of Donna Smith

The Knitting Goddess

As well as selling the latest of her hand-dyed yarns, The Knitting Goddess is to launch her latest pattern book, Wist Tha Bahn?, at EYF. Apparently it means 'where are you going?' in Yorkshire dialect, though as a Yorkshire lass  I've never heard it! The book contains six shawl patterns.

Image courtesy of The Knitting Goddess
Kettle Yarn Co.

On Saturday morning the company will be showcasing Renee Calllahan's Midding Cardigan, knitted in a small batch of Kettle Yarn Co's Baskerville DK. You'll be able to meet Callahan and have a squish of the new Baskerville DK's colours.

Midding cardigan image courtesy of Kettle Yarn Co. and Renee Callahan
Daughter of a Shepherd

Rachel Atkinson, aka Daughter of a Shepherd, (read our recent blog post about her here), has teased on her Facebook account that at EYF there will be 'Ram Jam but not as you know it'. Ram Jam is one of her own yarns and is a blend of British fleece that would otherwise have gone to waste. What could the new addition be?

Ram Jam image courtesy of Daughter of a Shepherd

Tilly Flop Designs

The Knit Gift Kit will be on sale for the first time at EYF. According to Tilly Flop 'you'll get a sheet of wrapping paper, a greeting card, a tag with care details, a glassine envelope for all the important spares, a bulb pin to carefully fasten tag to the gift and a sachet of Soak'. Price TBC.

Knit Gift Kit image courtesy of Tilly Flop

Whistlebare will be launching its 'Canny Lass Collection' of knitting patterns. The company gave a sneak preview on Facebook of one of the designs ...

Image courtesy of Whistlebare

Shetland Wool Week

Each year Shetland Wool Week usually announces at EYF who this year's patron is going to be and also releases a hat pattern to give Wool Week goers enough time to knit it before the September event. We don't know for sure this is definitely be happening this year but if it does we'll let you now.

Are you going to EYF? Which stands have you got your eye on? A full list of exhibitors is available here.

Monday 11 March 2019

Knit In Colour With West Yorkshire Spinners' New ColourLab DK range

Break out the paintbox because West Yorkshire Spinners' new wool range for Spring/Summer DK is unashamedly bright, bold and cheerful.

ColourLab DK is spun from 100% British wool and at £6.50 for a 100g ball, is aimed at the more price-conscious knitter who doesn't want to compromise on knitting with a wool-only yarn.
Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners

There are a whopping 18 solid shades and five self-striping shades to choose from in the launch. A WoollyYarn received the shades 'very berry' and 'zesty 'orange' for review.

The two shades pack a punch together. The wool has a slight halo, is strong and comes with the tagline 'reared, sheared and spun in Britain'. I haven't yet had time to knit them up, but feel that ColourLab DK would be a good workhorse choice for both jumpers and accessories.

In my Ravelry favourites is Marna Gilligan's The Simpler Sinister Sweater.

Image courtesy of Marna Gilligan
ColourLab DK's 'citrus yellow' and 'silver grey' would be perfect to knit this sweater with.

Bo Peep Luxury Baby DK Yarn

The ColourLab DK influence has filtered down to WYS' existing Bo Peep luxury baby DK yarn, with ten new solid shades and four pale variegated colours (not shown below) on sale for the Spring/Summer 2019 season.
Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners
The photo of the yarn really makes me feel that Spring is in the air, despite the gale blowing outside as I type. Bo Peep DK is a practical blend of 52% Falkland wool and 48 nylon, designed with knitting for babies in mind.

WYS sent A Woolly Yarn the shade 'apple', a fresh, unisex light green, for review.

The yarn feels very soft and smooth, certainly suitable to be worn next all but the most sensitive baby's skin. It's very budget, friendly, with a 50g ball selling for £3.95 from your local yarn stockist or directly from West Yorkshire Spinners. I've recently seen an appeal from a maternity unit wanting hats for premature babies and I'm planning to use this yarn for them.

Friday 1 March 2019

Daughter Of A Shepherd's Guest Yarn Talk At Toft Studios

The lovely Rachel Atkinson at Toft
It's the second time that Toft in Dunchurch, Warwickshire, has invited a guest yarn into its shop and website for three months. 

This season the spotlight is on Daughter of a Shepherd's British wool, and to celebrate on 28th February DofaS, aka Rachel Atkinson, came to Toft to meet customers and tell all about her fascinating route from knitting and crochet tech editor to running her own wool ranges. And yes, she really is the daughter of a shepherd: her dad John works on the Escrick Park estate in Yorkshire caring for a flock of Hebridean sheep.

First off Toft's doors opened at 5pm to enable all of us lucky to have booked a ticket to the event to have a browse, squish and make ample use of the tea, coffee, bubbly, canap├ęs and cake on offer. Atkinson, a fellow Yorkshire lass, mingled with the guests, one of which I recognised as the sock goddess Rachel Coopey

Sadly it was crowded and busy and I didn't have time to introduce myself and see if she was wearing a pair of her own sock creations! (See Review of Coopknits Socks Yeah! DK Vol 1+ Yarn). In a past career I was a content producer at the BBC and often ended up a lift or in the cafe with people on the TV I recognised but who of course didn't know me from Adam. I never knew whether just to smile politely, call them by the first name, or pretend I didn't know them for fear of looking like a groupie. One one earth-swallowing occasion I enthusiastically greeted an older woman whom I thought was perhaps a friend of my mum, only for her to look at me like I'd escaped from a psychiatric hospital. After thinking she was very rude it twigged that she wasn't one of my mother's pals after all, but in fact the then Watchdog and The Weakest Link TV presenter Anne Robinson. Thankfully this reaction has never happened to me in the knitting world!

But back to the wool. Toft set up a stand to display Rachel's natural and undyed wool. There are also some knitted up hat samples to squish to show how the colours work together.

As well as the wool, DofaS sells blankets, tote bags and other goodies such as her first pattern book, Volume 1: Beginnings, which contains ten designs.

Image courtesy of Daughter of a Shepherd
The most popular pattern from the book, says Atkinson, is her own cardigan design, Skipwith. Sadly we couldn't try on the sample on display!

Next up Toft's founder, Kerry Lord, introduced Atkinson, who then talked about the work that goes into turning a fleece into a very covetable yarn. 

Rachel Atkinson and Kerry Lord
The initial idea
Nearly four years ago Atkinson was visiting her dad when the cheque arrived from the Wool Board, the non-profit organisation where all UK fleeces have to be sent to sell. It was for 10% of the value - a whopping 94 pence. It wasn't financially worth the cost in packing and transporting the fleece to the Wool Board and therefore it was in danger of being dumped. As a knitter Atkinson knew the fleece had the potential to make great yarn so she asked the estate owner if she could buy it and after doing her research took the fleeces after scouring to John Arbon's mill for them to be worsted spun into pure Hebridean wool skeins.

The pitfalls
After spinning 25 kilos Arbon said he couldn't spin any more because the fibres were too short, but Atkinson wasn't going to be put off by the challenge. The remedy was to blend the Hebridean with 25% Zwarbles. When it came to spinning another batch a year later there was another difficulty. Sheep fleeces vary depending on the health of the sheep and the weather. The latest fibres much shorter than the previous ones and the solution they came up with was to blend the Hebridean with Exmoor Blueface. Shades can change from year to year too. Said Atkinson, 'you never know what's going to come off the sheep!'

Expanding the DofaS range
The initial Hebridean yarn is now called Heritage 4ply. A shearer friend of Atkinson's collected fleeces from clients who would otherwise has destroyed them and they made their way into her Ram Jam line, £9 for a 50g DK skein, currently available in four colours although another grey is on the way.

For aran fans there's Brume, a blend of Hebridean and Zwarbles. Finally there's Castlemilk Moorit DK, spun from the fleeces of that rare breed. 

The earthy brown Castlemilk Moorit DK.
These are all warm, hardworking yarns for knitters who like to know the provenance of their wool and who prefer natural shades.

Kerry Lord explained that she'd chosen Daughter of a Shepherd as a guest yarn because that brand's small batch spinning and natural colour palette ethos mirrored Toft's beginnings.

After the talk it was time to go shopping, with the range proving a hit with the attendees. As for me, I went home empty handed because when I opened up my handbag I realised I'd forgotten my purse ...

Daughter of a Shepherd's wool will be on sale at Toft until the end of May.

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