Tuesday 30 April 2019

Review of Knit Now Magazine's 2019 British Issue

Image courtesy of Knit Now
To use a well-worn cliche, knitting magazines' British wool special issues are like buses - you wait ages for one and then two come along nearly at once.

On April 1st (no joke) A Woolly Yarn reviewed Knitting magazine's British issue. A few weeks' later Knit Now magazine published their annual British wool special, issue 101.

What the issue is very strong on is featuring a wide variety and price range of British wool, busting the myth that wool and anything that's not imported from China is going to be expensive. Yes, luxury hand-dyed yarns are available on the market but you won't find them in here.

The 'Best of British' features in the magazine showcases yarns for low to mid-range budgets including Jamieson's of Shetland Spindrift DK at £3.25 a ball; West Yorkshire Spinners' Bo Peep DK at £3.79 a ball; and Erika Knight's Wool Local (to be reviewed very soon on A Woolly Yarn) priced at £11.49 - yarn weights vary.

Knit Now patterns are aimed at both beginners and intermediate knitters.  Here's a collage of the main patterns in the issue:

Add caption
My favourite in the issue is one that's great for practicing colourwork - the Counting Sheep Hottie Cosy. Find it middle right on the grid. You might not need of a hot water bottle now but it's a great one to cast on and get ready for later in the year. The sheep are so cute and the project s knitted in Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift.

Another of my favourites, which highlights the ongoing trend for yoke patterns, is the Tylwyth Jumper designed by Rosie Woodland (bottom left on the pattern grid). As it uses only two colours the stranded knitting should be easy to pick up. The pattern uses West Yorkshire Spinners' The Croft Shetland Aran. Garments using thicker yarns knit up relatively quickly, which is always a bonus!

Other patterns include a pair of socks, toys, two more jumpers and scarves.

Image courtesy of Knit Now
In a partnership with the RSPB the issue comes with a book of 12 bird patterns to knit and three blue tit stitch markers. I started using the stitch markers today on 5mm needles with room to spare. There isn't a clasp and therefore there's no chance of them falling off, plus they look cute too.

For readers wanting to know about British wool Zoe Potrac reports on what really goes on at a sheep shearing; there's a interview with Carmen Schmidt who runs Walcot Yarns, and Ella Doran talks about wool, art and sustainability.  Plus there's a competition to win lots of British Wool goodies and tickets to forthcoming new yarn festival The Wool Monty.

All in all, whether or not the patterns float your boat (and it's frustrating when magazines are wrapped in plastic meaning you can't flick through before deciding whether to buy), it's a strong issue. As always it's great to see British yarn and designers championed.

The issue costs £6.99.

See the reviews of Knit Now's previous British wool specials:

Thursday 25 April 2019

Sat 27th April Is Yarn Shop Day 2019

Image courtesy of Let's Knit
This coming Saturday sees the sixth outing of Let's Knit magazine's annual Yarn Shop Day.

The aim is encourage knitters to support their local independent wool/yarn shops, spreading that word that if you don't use it you might lose it!

Stores that have signed up to take part will have some special offers for knitters, whether it's star appearances, special patterns or some good old-fashioned free tea and cake.

The list of shops in the UK and Ireland taking part is here. Sadly there are no shops in A Woolly Yarn's county of Warwickshire (perhaps this could be a woolly retail opportunity?) but other areas of the country are very well catered for.

Are you doing anything for Yarn Shop Day? Let us know in the comments below or on A Woolly Yarn's Facebook page.

Monday 22 April 2019

The Dye Shack Easter Yarn Calendar Review

Enthused by the fun experience last Christmas of opening Baa Baa Brighouse's advent yarn calendar on the run up to the big day I decided to shell out (spot the pun!) for an Easter version.

The one I chose was from The Dye Shack, a Somerset-based small yarn hand-dying business. I ordered and paid for it back in February then promptly forgot about it - therefore it was a lovely surprise when it turned up in my post a few weeks ago. Here's what I received: a large plastic yellow egg and a smaller, orange one.

Inside the orange egg were some chocolate treats.

I then put away the yellow egg in my wardrobe and forgot that the first skein to open was on Palm Sunday. Thankfully I saw The Dye Shack's Facebook post reminding customers that it was time to open their egg. Inside was a small bag with three Easter-themed stitch markers:

These look extremely pretty but sadly weren't so practical because their individual clasps kept opening as I knitted leading to them falling off ...

And then we came to the nine wrapped and numbered mini skeins, the last of which was to be opened today (Easter Monday). Here are some of them:

What beautiful, bright colours! When I ordered the Easter yarn calendar I decided to use the skeins to knit a thinner version of the Land of Sweets cowl.

I spent a few hours on Saturday and Easter Sunday knitting and here's where I'm up to so far:

I love it and am looking forward to finishing it and wearing it. The yarn is 4 ply sock yarn and could be used for any number of other projects, yet knowing in advance what I wanted to knit enhanced the yarn calendar experience for me.

All in all I was very pleased with my purchase. To add to the forgetful theme I can't remember what I paid for it but it was one of the cheaper ones I could find.

The Dye Shack's Easter yarn calendar is no longer available but keep an eye out for a Christmas version on sale later this year. My tip is to save in your Ravelry folder in advance any patterns you come across that may be suitable for knitting with lots of mini skeins in order to avoid a 'great yarn but what on earth am I going to do with it?' moment!

Wednesday 17 April 2019

April's Knitting Patterns To Look Out For

In Spring, with British weather changing from sunny to cold and rain at the turn of a dice, it's a puzzle whether to continue knitting warm garments and accessories or to ditch the DK and choose summery lace weight and 4 ply knits.

This month A Woolly Yarn is rounding up some of the best patterns recently released by independent designers. If you're wondering what next to knit, then why not be inspired by one of these?

1. Debbie Bliss

Her latest collection, available at loveknitting.com, was inspired by the TV series The Crown, which follows the life of Queen Elizabeth II from her accession to the throne. Think 1950s style with pretty colourwork. The patterns showcase her yarn Debbie Bliss Rialto 4 ply and, as such, are a lighter knit.

Joan image courtesy of Debbie Bliss/loveknitting.com
Joan is a light jumper to throw on during balmy evening. 

Vera image courtesy of Debbie Bliss/loveknitting.com
Vera is a more demanding pattern for knitters who want to try out their stranded colourwork skills. The vintage-style top certainly wouldn't look out of place on the TV drama Call The Midwife! Both patterns are instantly downloadable at a price of £3.50 each.

2. The Fibre Co

This Cumbria-based company, as well as designing some patterns in-house, also runs a yarn support programme for independent designers around the world. Here are a few recent stand-outs using their wool:

Winter Harbor Shawl image courtesy of Beatrice Perron Dahlen
It might be knitted in The Fibre Co.'s chunky Tundra yarn, but the Winter Harbor Shawl (pattern downloadable for $7.20 on Ravelry) looks to be a great cover up for Summer evenings when the sun goes down.

Forest Sweater image courtesy of Carmen Garcia de Mora
If it's not time for you to give up on the DK just yet, Carmen Garcia's de Mora's Forest Sweater is a good pattern choice. The yarn used is The Fibre Co.'s Lore spun from 100% Romney wool. The image above shows the jumper knitted in an autumnal brown shade, but there are brighter, more summery shades also available in the range. The pattern costs 7.20 Euro on Ravelry.

3. Ann Kingstone

Yorkshire designer Kingstone has released her sport weight sweater design, Esholt, as a one off pattern. Previously it was only available in her Cabled Knits book. 

Esholt image courtesy of Ann Kingstone
Kingstone says her sweater is perfect for Spring and is knitted using Carol Feller's Nua yarn. Esholt costs £7 to download.

4. Baa Ram Ewe

Baa Ram Ewe's Winterburn Aran is perfect for sweaters/cardigans worn on colder days. 

Rune image courtesy of Jennifer Wood
US designer Jennifer Wood has used the Yorkshire wool for her Rune cardigan design - I love the stitch definition on the yoke. The design costs $8.40 on Ravelry and each 100g hank of Winterburn Aran is £15.

5. Winwick Mum

Socks are perfect for knitting whilst on the go. Internet hit-designer Winwick Mum, otherwise known as Christine, has teamed up with West Yorkshire Spinners for a yarn/pattern designer combo. 

Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners
Each of the four sock yarn colour ways in the collection costs £7.20.

Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners
The accompanying pattern book is £8.50 either direct from WYS or your local yarn store.

Which pattern will you knit first? Or is there one you can recommend to A Woolly Yarn readers? Please let us know in the comments box below or on our Facebook page.

Monday 1 April 2019

Review Of Knitting Magazine's British Knits Issue

Image courtesy of Knitting magazine
At A Woolly Yarn we love British wool and designers, and it was great to discover that once again Knitting magazine has devoted an entire issue to British knits: Issue 192, April 2019, priced £5.99.

Knitting is aimed at intermediate and higher-skilled knitters, although each issue does have a few patterns suitable for beginners. So what's inside?

Well there are 24 patterns ranging from women's jumpers and cardigans, shawls, children's knits, a man's jumper and some accessories for the home (fancy and egg or tea cosy?)

All of the garment patterns are classic and practical, perhaps with the exception of Kaffe Fassett's Rowan Felted Tweed intarsia sweater in glorious blue and green (picture sadly not available). The range of British yarns featured include Baa Ram Ewe's Dovestone Natural Chunky for a shawl by the magazine's editor, Christine Boggis; Daughter of a Shepherd's Ram Jam for Jane Lithgow's socks; newcomer Walcot Yarns Opus for the Treadworks cardigan by Amanda Jones; Kettle Yarns Co Northiam DK for the Starflare Cowl designed by the company's owner Linda Lencovic; Blacker Yarns Jacob 4 Ply for Jo Allport's Cable Lapel Cardigan, and Wendy Traditional Aran for Pat Menchini's man's gansey.

Erika Knight's British Blue 100 wool is the yarn Emma Wright chose for her Isla cardigan:

Isla image courtesy of Knitting magazine
Says the magazine, "this simply classic design from Sheffield-based Emma Wright shows off this delicious fibre at its best".  I can imagine the jumper would become a stable to wear with jeans.

Being honest there isn't a pattern in the issue that stands out to me as a 'must knit', but I recognise that it's a matter of personal taste and what there already is in your knitwear collection.

For me the strength of the British knits special is in its features. The new section has details or Erika Knight's latest release, Wool Local (we'll be reviewing it on the blog soon), and Kate Davies Ard-Thir.

Wool Local image courtesy of Erika Knight

There's an extract from Kate Davies' book Handywoman, in which she discuses how her life changed after she had a stroke at age 36. Zandra Rhodes looks back over her 50 years in fashion in one feature, whilst another describes how yarn producer Laxtons is championing British wool and spinning.

One stand-out feature is the comprehensive yarn review, which of course this issue features only British yarns. Lesser-known yarns featured include Cat and Sparrow's Sweater Weather DK (a blend of 75% Bluefaced Leicester and 25% Masham), and Mahoodly's 100% Bluefaced Leicester 4 Ply Superwash.

If your local newsagent doesn't stock a copy of the magazine you can buy it online direct from the publisher here.

How does this issue compare with last year's Knitting magazine's British special? Read our 2018 review here.

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