Wednesday, 30 November 2016

It's Wool Wednesday!

Last week we sat through Black Friday and Civilized Saturday, whilst this week was home to Cyber Monday. Carrying on the theme I'm declaring today Wool Wednesday and am highlighting three lovely newish wool ranges I've come across recently.

Di Gilpin Lalland 100% Scottish Lambswool DK

I recently interviewed Di for The Knitter magazine and was delighted to hear about her wool range that's proudly made in Scotland.  There are eighteen shades in the range: the yarn is soft with a slight halo.

Image courtesy of Di Gilpin

My favourite shade is Haar, as pictured above, which is a delicately coloured wool I'd describe as a cross between light blue, green and grey. This colour sold out when it launched at the Loch Ness Knit Festival. In my 'to knit' pile is the Moray Star Gansey in Haar.

On a side note, Di is running a 12 Days of Christmas sample sale from 1st to 12th December. Each day there will be a special collection of ready to wear samples available.

Erika Knight British Blue Wool

There are two weights in Erika's range - medium and fat. The yarn feels delightfully soft and is available in many different colours. The vintage range has brighter colours whilst the standard medium colour palette is more pastel and muted.

Here's the maxi wool:

Image courtesy of Erika Knight

The vintage:

Image courtesy of Erika Knight

And the standard British Blue Wool:

Image courtesy of Erika Knight
In my opinion the British Blue Wool is particularly suitable for baby knits and accessory projects that will be worn close to the skin.

West Yorkshire Spinners' 100% Wensleydale Gems Collection

I haven't had chance to feel this yarn in person in yet but from the description and photographs on West Yorkshire Spinners' Website I'm keen to buy some very soon. What attracts me is the depth of the jewel-like colours in this new British yarn range.

Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners

My favourite is the ethereal shade Moonstone:

Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners

The hanks are 100g weight and retail from the company at £8.50.

It's great to see more 100% British yarns available on the market. More for your Christmas list I wonder?

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Get Ready For Christmas Jumper Day On 16th December

This year's Christmas Jumper Day, raising funds for Save the Children, will take place on Friday 16th December. Whether you're at work, at school or at home, the charity encourages you to wear your festive woolly and donate to a very worthy cause.

Last year I knitted Susan Crawford's Perfect Christmas Jumper. For this year I finished Purl & Jane's Christmas Reindeer Jumper but alas, even the smallest size that I knitted is too big for me. My friend will be opening it on Christmas morning instead, leaving me with the dilemma of what to wear on Christmas Jumper Day.

The answer is a mash up of a child's Wool & The Gang jumper pattern, with a few stitches added to make it larger, and experimentation with sewing on a motif instead of knitting it intarsia.

Here's the result!

Whilst it certainly looks homemade I don't mind as that's all part of the fun of Christmas Jumper Day. Much better to wear something I've knitted myself than one made in China.

I'd love to see your homegrown Christmas Jumper knits. Please do post the web address to your photos in the comments box below.

Meanwhile Karie Westermann has published a very hand knitters' gift guide for the Christmas season. It's well worth taking a look and/or sending to your loved ones with your chosen gift highlighted!

Thursday, 17 November 2016

It's Wovember!

Image courtesy of
On 21st October I flew out of a UK preparing for Halloween and Bonfire night. When I flew back from my Oz trip a week ago Christmas presents had flooded the shops; the nights were a lot darker due to the clocks going back; it was a heck of a lot colder than it was on Hamilton Island on the Great Barrier Reef; and of course it's now Wovember, a month-long celebration of wool and its properties.

So much else has happened in the British knitting world since I've been away.

Here's a quick round up of what I've gleaned from blogs and email newsletters:

Baaramewe has launched knitting kits complete with patterns and yarn, perfect for Christmas presents. I love the very Christmassy Crowberry Jumper Kit

Kettle Yarn Co has released its latest yarn Beyul DK, "a baby/Yak/Silk/ethically farmed Merino - a heavier, more deliciously squish version of the beloved yak-y blend."

West Yorkshire Spinners is selling their Autumn collection of patterns including a plethora of lovely warm jumpers

Toft Alpaca's Winter edition of its quarterly magazine is on sale. The cover pattern, the Abergledie Lace Back Cardigan, is stunning and a welcome change from the company's crocheted creatures.

Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2017 confirmed its exhibitor list.

Wovember makes me really appreciate the talented spinners, designers and dyers we have in the UK. When in Australia I didn't have much time to wool shop but when I did, in a shop that was the equivalent of a British Dunelm and TK Maxx all rolled into one, I was amazed at the lack of Australian yarn available. I'd wanted to buy some for a souvenir but could only find one range made of Australian wool spun in Australia. The Australian merino balls had been produced in China.

The one true Australian wool range I could find.

No doubt if I'd gone to a flagship store in Sydney I could have found some more but I couldn't help feeling that Australia is many years behind the UK when it comes to supporting their indiginous wool industry. My cousin, whom I visited in Sydney, told me that wool was the backbone of the Australian economy until after WW2 when man-made fibres were invented and the bottom dropped out of the market. Nowadays fleeces are a loss-making by-product. What an utter waste.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Two Of My Articles in The Knitter Issue 103

Issue 103 image courtesy of The Knitter
The Knitter magazine issue 103, I'm very pleased to say, contains two more of my knitting features. The first covers Knit for Peace's knitting holiday to India and the second looks at the history of knitting in the East Midlands.

Both were a pleasure to write and research. Geraldine Maggio, who attended the Indian knitting holiday at the beginning of this year, was a pleasure to interview. For the history feature, on the other hand, more old fashioned research skills, finding and reading relevant books, came in handy.

I won't spoil the articles for you by revealing any more but needless to say it's an honour again to be published in my favourite knitting magazine.

From the UK to Down Under

The Knitter magazine has a loyal readership in Australia and I"m thrilled to be going there very soon on holiday. My husband and I are visiting Sydney, where my cousin and his family live, and then will fly to the Great Barrier Reef.

In Sydney I'm looking forward to visiting a yarn store and hope to pick up some Australian yarn for a souvenir. The internet tells me that Morris & Sons is the shop to head for. Looking at their website it seems that the British yarns are popular in Australia as well as home-grown yarns. 

What knitting to pack? I'm deliberating whether to take socks I started a while back (small and portable but slightly samey) or my newly acquired turquoise Cornish Tin II yarn and the Hut 8 cardigan pattern. It uses a 3.75mm circular needle and as mine is made of wood it should be allowable on the plane. 

It'll be a few weeks before I write my next post. In the meantime I'll be thinking up ideas for future stories and I wish you very happy knitting time!

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Debbie Bliss Falkland Aran Review

My ears pricked up when I hard about the launch of Debbie Bliss's Falkland Aran yarn as part of her Autumn/Winter 2016 collection.

Made from extra fine Falkland merino wool (being from the Falklands it counts as British) the yarn is organic, eco and animal friendly and, as I discovered when knitting up one 100g skein, it's oh so lovely and soft.

Falkland Aran image courtesy of Debbie Bliss
Debbie Bliss kindly sent me a couple of skeins, one cream and one turquoise, to review along with the accompanying Falkland Aran pattern book.

Image courtesy of Debbie Bliss
She had this to say about Falkland Aran:

"We were launching the pure Bliss Collection of luxury fibres for A/W16 and were presented with this stunning yarn from the Falkland Islands which was being spun by Laxations in Yorkshire. I fell in love with it as soon as I watched it; the fabric is super soft but also has the crisp stitch definition. It is perfect for the textured knits that I love to design so the yarn informed the collection, with cables to the fore in knits for men, women and children."

The book has twelve patterns, including both garments and accessories. I chose the blackberry stitch cowl pattern to knit up. The pattern calls for two 100g skeins but I knitted a shorter version with only one. Aside from spending ages rolling the skein into a ball (!) the yarn was a delight to knit with. It didn't split, it has great stitch definition and being aran weight knits up relatively quickly.

Here's the finished cowl:

Not only does it look great but it's very warm to wear. The two ball version in the pattern book has enough length to loop the cowl round the neck twice.

There are 16 colours to choose from and each 100g skein retails at approximately £12.99.

I liked the yarn so much that I've bought the 'mustard' shade to knit Gudrun Johnston's Snarravoe jumper:

Snarravoe image courtesy of Gudrun Johnston

Certainly for me Falkland Aran's British credentials, it's soft properties and warm feel earn it a big thumbs up.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Wool Week Is Back! 10th - 16th October

Hasn't time flown! It's time again for UK Wool Week and all the woolly fun that it brings. Wool Week 2017, organised by the Campaign for Wool,  runs from 10th - 16th October. Here's a round up of events and shenanigans to join in with.

Wool BnB

Imagine a room where everything is made of wool. That dream will come true when the Campaign for Wool opens its first every Wool BnB in Islington where carpets, cardigans and everything in between will be woolly.

Image courtesy of Campaign for Wool
After Wool Week there'll even be the opportunity to stay at the Wool BnB overnight for a fully-immersed wooly experience!

Woolly Hat Day

Friday 14th October will see the Campaign for Wool teaming up with the charity The Mission to Seafarers for Woolly Hat Day 2016. The charity's mission is to help seafarers across the world experience difficulty and knitters can help by hosting an event, woolly or not, to raise money.

Image courtesy of The Mission to Seafarers

Bicester Village Wool Boutique

Head to the Oxfordshire mall outlet on 13th October to see the pop up wool boutique featuring the upmarket brands Chinti & Parker, Pringle of Scotland, John Smedley, Brora, Markus Lupfer, Crumpet, Jostens of Elgin and Ross Barr.

Knit-along with Baa Baa Brighouse

Join in the Ganny Lock Knit-Along organised by Baa Baa Brighouse. The pattern was designed by the online store's owner Elaine Jinks-Turner.

Image courtesy of Baa Baa Brighouse
To knit the shawl pattern you'll need two skeins of the company's Baa Baa Brew yarn, which can include their two new shades for autumn Bailiff Bridge and Wellholme:

Sign up here to join the knit-along. It starts on Monday 10th October and knitters who subscribe will receive seven free pattern updates via email from the 10th to the 22nd October.

Monday, 3 October 2016

British Knitting Awards 2016 Winners

Today Let's Knit magazine announced the winners of the 2016 British Knitting Awards. Readers could vote for their favourite designer, yarn, product and more.

Here are the well-deserved winners:

Winner Best Brand for British Yarn; Winner Best Sock Yarn Brand; Runner up Best Independent Yarn Brand

These three awards went to West Yorkshire Spinners, whose country birds sock yarn is a customer favourite.

Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners.

Winner Best Value Yarn Brand; Winner Best Overall Yarn Brand; Winner Best Yarn for Crochet; Third place Favourite Pattern House; Third Place Best Baby Yarn Brand

Any guess who won these awards? The answer is Sirdar, the budget brand. Its chunky, fashion self-patterning yarns are particularly valued by beginners. I haven't covered Sirdar on this blog because although the company is British their yarns are made abroad.

Image courtesy of Sirdar

Winner Bast Baby Yarn Brand; Winner Favourite Knitting Designer; Winner Favourite Book - The Knitters' Knowledge; Runner up Best Luxury Yarn Brand; Third Place - Best Baby Yarn Brand

Debbie Bliss was made an MBE in 2015 and the awards keep coming with her winner three categories, runner up in one and third place in another. I've interviewed her for The Knitter magazine and not only is she an extremely lovely and down to earth woman she is a font of knowledge about knitting and styling. Whilst all her yarns aren't British made her recent launch Falkland Aran is and I'll be reviewing it and its supporting pattern book very soon.

Image courtesy of Debbie Bliss

Winner Best Knitting Needle Range; Winner Best Accessories Range; Runner Up Best Crochet Accessories Range

Knitters are probably no stranger to the Knit Pro needle range. I particularly like their circular needles as they are sturdy and reasonably-priced - I've never had one snap unlike a cheap one I got free with a magazine.

Image courtesy of Knit Pro

Third Place Favourite Book

This result wasn't in Let's Knit email publicising the winners but a quick internet search told me the that blogger Winwick Mum won this award for her book Super Socks. 

Image courtesy of Winwick Mum

A comprehensive list of all the winners will be published in Let's Knit's Christmas edition. I haven't got my hands on a copy yet and am interested to find out the winners in the other categories.  Well done to all the winners.

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