Monday 28 October 2019

Review Of Shetland Wool Week Annual 2019

Image courtesy of Shetland Wool Week
This year's Shetland Wool Week was another success attracting visitors from all around the world to the small Scottish island renowned for its woolly heritage.

For those of us who didn't get a chance or couldn't afford to go there the Shetland Wool Week Annual 2019,  priced at £24 plus P&P, is a great souvenir and opportunity for a spot of armchair travelling. A Woolly Yarn received a review copy but all opinions are our own.

As well as containing 16 patterns inspired by Shetland (15 are knitting and one, by Marie Wallin, is crochet) the annual celebrates the tenth anniversary of Wool Week. An article looks into the history of official hat pattern releases for the festival - this year's is Oliver Henry's Roadside Beanie -
there's a left of support from HRH Prince Charles, Duke of Rothsay, who initiated the Campaign for Wool.

Image courtesy of Oliver Henry and Sandra Manson
Sumptuous photography, not only of the garments and accessories included in the patterns but also of scenes around Shetland, really give the reader a feel of the islands. There are also four features covering native sheep, Fair Isle knitting, natural dyes and how the landscape inspires craft.

The most familiar pattern in the annual, because it was released back in March to promote this year's Wool Week, is this year's patron Oliver Henry's Roadside Beanie. It's knitted using Jamieson and Smith's 2ply jumper weight wool.

Henry explained the inspiration for the hat: "My roadside beanie features two common roadside sights in Shetland: Shetland sheep and fishing boats. Both of them have loomed large in my life as a Shetlander."

The annual contains two more hat patterns to choose from: Felicity Ford's Shetland Muse

Image courtesy of Felicity Ford
and the Stavaness Toorie by Terri Malcolmson.

Image courtesy of Terri Malcolmson
If you have something to keep your head warm you'll also be wanting to keep your hands warm too. The Annual has three options, my favourite being Donna Smith's Nancy's Gloves.

Image courtesy of Donna Smith

Shawls are intrinsic to Shetland's knitting history and The Annual contains patterns for two plus one for a stole. Of course Fair Isle and stranded colourwork techniques are also synonymous with the islands.

Linda Shearer's Bonhoga Cardigan (meaning place of one's childhood') will test knitters' skills with its modern twist on a vintage 1950s-60s design.

Image courtesy of Linda Shearer
Ella Gordon's Mattie Yoke is a child's jumper with colours and motifs inspired by Taatit rugs - traditional pile bedcovers of Shetland.

Image courtesy of Ella Gordon
All the garments and accessories featured in Shetland Wool Week Annual 2019 are available to see on Ravelry.

The Annual is a great keepsake. Which pattern do you want to knit first? Let us know in the comments below or on A Woolly Yarn's Facebook page.

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.


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

Image courtesy of
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

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
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. 
© A Woolly Yarn. Powered by