Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Join The Fight To Eradicate Malaria With Tin Can Knits' Heart On My Sleeve

In January I took some time off blogging and was off the grid for a while escaping the UK cold for some Dominican Republic sunshine. The resort my husband and I stayed at sprayed mosquito-killing chemicals twice a day and, because of that, I stupidly was rather lax in applying repellant myself. I came home with lots of itchy bites as a souvenir of my stay that have now scabbed over, resembling chicken pox.

Itchy bites may be rather annoying but thankfully the mosquitos that bit my husband and I do not carry malaria. The World Health Organisation reported that in 2015 an estimated 429,000 died from the disease, which disproportionally affects the the population of Sub-Saharan Africa.

It was with great interest then that, a day after I arrived back in the UK, I received an email from Tin Can Knits (the Canadian/Scottish company) about Heart On My Sleeve, a collaborative knitting book with all the proceeds going to the Against Malaria Foundation.

Tin Can Knits gave me a peek preview of the proofs. There are eight delectable sweaters, suitable for beginner and intermediate knitters, all of which have a heart theme. Like Tin Can Knits' other designs the patterns have sizes ranging from baby to the larger adult.

To whet your appetite, here are the designs:

Wholehearted by Bristol Ivy

This features a large-scale yoke motif the authors describe as 'architectural, yet at the same time subtle and organic'.

Crazyheart by Tanis Lavallee

You choose the colours for the bold and bright geometric yoke!

Hearthstone by Ysolha Teague

A simpler sweater with shoulder cables.

Lionheart by Shannon Cook and Jane Richmond

A fun hoodie with stripes on the hood and wrists.

Brightheart by Romi Hill

A lace yoke combined with split garter cuffs and hem give this sweater a soft and feminine feel.

Heartstring by Jojo Locatelli

I adore the delicate stitching that adorns this jumper - just look at that cute heart on the sleeve!

Tenderheart by Alexa Ludeman

To me this sweater's yoke has a very Scandinavian and Christmassy feel.

Ironheart by Emily Wessell

This final design has 'a boldly textured lace motif, organic and botanical on a garter stitch ground'.

Heart On My Sleeve launched on 14th February. It's available to download at Ravelry for $21.60 and remember that all the profits will be go towards saving lives.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Baa Ram Ewe Goes Vintage With Its Latest Pattern Collection and Yarn Colours

Image courtesy of Baa Ram Ewe
Yorkshire wool and vintage patterns are a winning combination for me, therefore I cast aside my current knitting project (a cowl pattern I designed using Debbie Bliss' Falkland Aran - more details soon) as soon as I got my hands on Baa Ram Ewe's newly-launched pattern book and three new shades of Titus DK. Throw in the fact that one of the new shades, a dusky pink, is called 'Heathcliff' and I danced around my bedroom in Kate Bush delight.

Titus is Baa Ram Ewe's own brand 4 ply wool, a 'delicious blend of Wensleydale and Bluefaced Leicester wool, combined with a touch of magical UK Alpaca in homage to philanthropist and Yorkshire mill owner Sir Titus Salt'.  The range has been out for a few years now and in the past I've used it to knit two jumpers, two hats and a cowl. Titus feels soft and squishy, knitting up with good stitch definition and a slight sheen. My skin can feel a little itchy and I wear a long-sleeved t-shirt under my jumpers knitted in the yarn.

Baa Ram Ewe kindly sent me sample balls of the three new Titus shades, each packaged in a tantalising 'pick n mix' stripy pink and white sweet bag. The colours are:


Image courtesy of Baa Ram Ewe

Reminiscent of heather on the West Yorkshire moors, Heathcliff is a merger of dusky pink and lilac: pretty but not girly.

Brass Band

Image courtesy of Baa Ram Ewe

Mustard-colour is probably the best way to describe this shade. I'm not sure I'd want to knit a full garment or accessory with 'Brass Band' but it would look stunning combined with other colours as part of a Fair Isle design. 

Rose Window

Image courtesy of Baa Ram Ewe
This colour is right up my street: bold and summery, inspired by a stained glass window.

The Titus Vintage Collection

Author Alison Moreton has written seven patterns inspired by designs in Yorkshire knitting company Sirdar's archives. There are four sweaters, a hat, mitts and a cowl that looks similar to my own design I've been working on - great minds obviously think alike!

For me the standout pattern in The Titus Vintage Collection is the 50's style 'Stormy Sunset' jumper.

'Stormy Sunset' image courtesy of Baa Ram Ewe

I love its fun colourways and bright yoke. The jumper is knitted in the Titus colours 'Yorkstone', 'Brass Band', 'Rose Window' and 'Viking'. I thought about swapping the ecru Yorkstone for another colour but on second thoughts the shades works well together as they are. 

'Stormy Sunset' is knitted top down. Not being blessed with a big bust and slim waist I'll forego the  shaping for a more sloppy Joe feel.

My next choice is the offset rib sweater 'Contemplation'. It's knitted in the round from the bottom up.

'Contemplation' image courtesy of Baa Ram Ewe

The only changes I'd make to fit my shape are to shorten the body and start the neckline higher up for modesty purposes!

Here are the rest of the patterns in the book (all images courtesy of Baa Ram Ewe):

Scarborough Spa


Stormy Sunset Hat

Contemplation Mitts

And Scarborough Spa Cowl

The Titus Vintage Collection is a printed pattern book and costs £12.95 from Baa Ram Ewe. Each 100g skein of Titus retails for £16.

'Rose Window', 'Heathcliff' and 'Brass Band' are also available in the Dovestone DK range at £15 per skein.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

What is Pantone's Colour Of The Year 2017?

The colour company Pantone has declared that 'Greenery' is its colour of the year for 2017.

Image courtesy of Pantone

Why green? Pantone says that: 'Greenery is nature's neutral. The more submerged people are in modern life, the greater their innate craving to immerse themselves in the physical beauty and inherent unity of the natural world."

In other words in these dark political times green reminds us that the world is actually still a beautiful place to live in.

Five British Green Yarns

Want to join in the trend and knit green in 2017? Here are my favourite five green British yarns:

1. Baa Ram Ewe's Dovestone DK in 'Chevin'

Image courtesy of Baa Ram Ewe

Yorkshire wool through and through. A 100g skein costs £15 from Baa Ram Ewe.

2. Woolyknit's Aran in 'Green'

Image courtesy of Woolyknit

This 50g ball is 100% British wool and is a bargain at £3.60 per ball from Woolyknit.

3. Fenella 2ply in 'Myrtle'
Image courtesy of Susan Crawford

This glorious dark green was formulated especially to be used in designer Susan Crawford's vintage patterns. A 25g skein is £4 direct from Susan Crawford.

4. Blacker Yarns' Lyonesse DK in 'Jade Green'

Image courtesy of Blacker Yarns

A blend of British wool and linen, Lyonesse is perfect for Summer knits. It's currently reduced on the Blacker Yarns website, priced £4.40 per ball.

5. Erika Knight British Blue Wool DK in 'Leaf'

Image courtesy of Erika Knight

Finally, this light green shade shouts 'Spring', is uplifting just to look and passes the soft squish set too. A 25g ball from Tangled Yarn costs £3.75.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Review of Knit Now's 2017 British Issue

Image courtesy of Knit Now magazine
As a lover and supporter of British wool and yarn I'm thrilled when Knit Now magazine's annual British issue hits the shops. Editor Kate Heppell, who is also the author of the 'Rainbow Wrap' pattern in the magazine, broadcast live earlier in the week on Facebook to promote issue 70. I took up the magazine's offer of pre-ordering the it with free P&P and it reached me on February 1st, a day before it was due to be stocked in newsagents.

First impressions? Lots of patterns - there are 41 in the issue along with 15 in the Sirdar Family Aran supplement that is packaged with the magazine. There's a fabulous variety of British yarn used in the designs, whether you're after the more budget Wendy and King Cole ranges or want to invest in Louisa Harding's new cashmere lace yarn from her Yarntelier collection.

Sadly for me there is no stand-out 'must knit' pattern in issue 70, although I recognise that designs are a personal choice and I've been entranced by many in past issues of the magazine. The British issue is, however, a great read with the latest news from the knitting industry, the results of the magazine's Knitter of the Year competition, competitions worth the bother of entering (lots of yarn!) and reviews of British yarns to suit all purses.

This month's free gift, the Sirdar Aran booklet, contains traditional cable knit jumpers for men, women and children.

My conclusion? Issue 70 is certainly worth buying to find out about the latest British yarns. It's entertianing and hopefully you'll find a pattern that'll make you want to take a trip to your local yarn shop.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Izzy Lane's Crowdfunding Slaughter-Free Wool Launched

In June 2016 I signed up to Izzy Lane's crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to create a quality yarn range from her UK slaughter-free flock of rescued sheep. The company had pledged to create 50g 4 ply balls of wool for hand-knitters in a range of colours.

A few days ago I received two balls in the post in my chosen colour of Forest Green and straight away subjected them to the squish test. They feel like real wool (because they are!) and the knowledge of their British heritage gives them that extra bit of warmth from my heart.

Forgive me for mentioning the 'C' word but I'm going to use them to knit a cowl for a Christmas present. I have the Amaranthus pattern from Yarn Stories, which I'll adapt and sew the two scarf ends together.

Joining a crowdfunding campaign can feel like risky move as there's no guarantee that the company won't go bust before the pledgers receive their wares. I was bitten once before when I signed up to support a new American cotton yarn brand only to find I was charged over £10 above my pledge by the Royal Mail in customs fees for postage from the US.

This time the process worked brilliantly and I was both thrilled to be one of the first to receive the yarn and pleased to support the small British company and their rescued sheep.

Want some wool yourself? Each 50g 4 ply ball costs £8.50 or it's £75 for a ten ball pack. There are 15 shades, both natural and dyed, to choose from. See them all at Izzy Lane.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Three Knitting Books To Look Forward To In 2017

At this time of the year TV and radio channels are awash with reviews of the year. Like a lot of people I'll be quite glad to see the back of 2016, what with Brexit, the election of Donald Trump and the tragic early death of George Michael on Christmas Day, so instead I've decided to look forward and concentrate on three exciting British pattern books to be published in 2017.

1. Susan Crawford's Vintage Shetland Project

Image courtesy of Susan Crawford
Sadly, due to Susan undergoing cancer treatment, she had to put completion of her The Vintage Shetland Project book on the back burner, as described in a blog post back in November. The anticipated publication date for this milestone book is now early 2017.

Susan's website says: "The Vintage Shetland Project is the culmination of the several years Susan has spent researching early 20th century knitting in Shetland. With the help and support of Carol Christiansen, textile curator at the Shetland Museum, Susan has studied hand-knitted garments and accessories from the 1920s to 1960s, which are held in the Museum's archives. She has chosen 25 pieces, recording their construction stitch for stitch, the recreated them for the Vintage Shetland Project. These pieces - all with their own unique story to tell - have been developed into comprehensive multi-sized knitting patterns, complete with instructions, technical advice and illustrated with colour photography shot on Shetland. With an essay reflecting on the story of each hand-knit item this book is a treasury of Shetland knitting patterns and an insight into Shetland's rich textile traditions."

I'm sure I speak for many knitters around the world when I wish Susan a speedy recovery and a happy and healthy new year, and can't wait to see her book when it's published.

2. Kate Davies' Inspired By Islay collection

Image courtesy of Kate Davies
Subscribers to Kate's club have already received the first patterns from her new book Inspired by Islay, as detailed in her blog post today. Subscribers receive a pattern a week for 12 weeks, the 120 page book in late February, and other goodies. Those of us who haven't subscribed will be able to buy Kate's patterns when the book is released on general sale.

The image on the right is of Kate wearing the Finlaggan cardigan, one of the designs in the book, which is based on the cardigan she designed for her own wedding.

Kate's describes her new collection on her website thus: "Islay, the "Queen of the Hebrides', is one of the most beautiful and beloved of Scotland's Western Isles. Drawing on the island's intriguing combination of Gaelic and Nordic cultural influences, and taking inspiration from Islay's distinctive Hebridean landscape, Kate Davies has created a collection of twelve stunning new designs in her own Buachaille yarn. Taking you on a journey around this unique island, Inspired by Islay also contains essays, interviews and beautiful photography, offering a wealth of inspiration for the knitter and general reader alike."

3. Karie Westermann's This Thing of Paper

Image courtesy of Karie Westermann
Glasgow-based designer Karie crowdfunded in 2016 to publish This Thing of Paper. On her website she describes the project: "As both a knitter and a bibliophile, I have been yearning to do a project that combines my two loves. So many of you have been asking for a physical book ... I want to produce a book that is as beautiful to hold and read as the patterns themselves will be to knit and wear.

This Thing of Paper is a book of ten knitting projects with accompanying essays. The project is inspired by the age of Johan Gutenberg and his invention of the printing press. Gutenberg's work meant that books change form being rare objects reserved for the elite to something that ordinary folk could access. I have always been fascinated by how one invention could change the course of history."

As one of the crowdfunders I'm very much looking forward to seeing Karie's end result. She recently blogged that the Gutenburg museum has requested a copy of This Thing of Paper for their archives, which sounds very promising!

And finally ...

I'll be taking a little break from blogging, partly because I have a holiday booked and also due to my laying down my knitting needles for a while and getting stuck into cross stitch instead. I'm currently completing this mini eggs cross stitch tapestry pattern from Jacqui P.

Have a wonderfully knitty 2017. Mine is going to be the year of the stash buster - the piles of yarn around my house have become too high and it's time to hunker down and knit what I already have before I splash out on the new yarns 2017 will have to offer!

Sunday, 18 December 2016

My Own Hut 8 Cardigan For Christmas

Whilst I took part in Christmas Jumper Day 2016 (see my previous post for my own homemade-looking design) it's a different woolly that I've worn constantly this month and am sure to carry on doing so throughout the cold, if usually mild for the season, weather.

I finally finished my Hut 8 cardigan from Eden Cottage Yarns' Bletchley Collection and am very pleased with the result. My chosen yarn was three skeins of Blacker Yarns' limited edition Cornish Tin II in turquoise. The vibrancy of the colour doesn't really show in my photo but it's a deep hue verging on the green - a really rich colour for the season.

At just over £16 per skein the yarn wasn't cheap and finding three skeins wasn't easy either. The turquoise shade sold out super quickly. I managed to find one online and my godmother kindly found two for me at Yarndale. Due to the price I didn't buy a bit extra 'just in case' and I nearly came a cropper! I'm used to changing patterns a bit to fit me, being short in body.  It looked, however, like I wouldn't have enough yarn to complete the final sleeve but, having contemplated having to knit the sleeve and bottom ribs in a different colour to eke out the final bit of turquoise, it turned out I had just enough for the whole cardigan.

It's warm, sturdy, stylish and already it has become a workhorse in my wardrobe, looking great with jeans.

There are just a few Cornish Tin II DK skeins left at Blacker Yarns' website in purple, pink and two shades of grey if you want to knit your own Hut 8.
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