Saturday, 13 August 2016

Three Articles Of Mine In The Knitter Issue 101 + Tin Can Knits Spoiler

Apologies for the little boast but I just wanted to let you know that I have not one or two but three features in this month's The Knitter magazine, which is issue 101.

Image courtesy of The Knitter magazine

Image courtesy of Di Gilpin
It's a great privilege to keep being asked back to write for the magazine - I was a subscriber long before I started writing for it and have a collection of every issue since The Knitter launched. I really enjoy coming up with ideas for articles and especially love writing profiles of designers because it's a chance for me to get to know highly-skilled knitters and also to be nosey!

Firstly I profiled the great knitwear designer Di Gilpin. She has made Scotland her home and, along with creating internationally-renowed knitwear designs, has also started her own Scottish yarn range. More details and a review to come soon on this blog.

Image courtesy of Linda Lencovic
Secondly I wrote a feature on Linda Lencovic and her up-and-coming business Kettle Yarn Co. Her latest dyed yarn, Baskerville, a 2-ply British blend, was used in a pattern in Pom Pom Quarterly's Autumn 2016 issue - Lencovic is certainly a rising star in the yarn world. Again, I hope to review her yarn soon. The Vellamo pattern in PPQ would be perfect to show off Baskerville's blue hues.

My final feature in this month's issue is a column about what to do with leftovers in your yarn stash. Even though I had a year of resolving to not buy any new yarn (well, I nearly stuck it out, and birthday and Christmas presents didn't count!) I still have lots of part-balls stored in colour groups in clear plastic shoe boxes.

I won't spoil it for you by giving away anything more about the features but I do hope you enjoy reading them. Now it's time for me get thinking of more ideas for forthcoming issues of the magazine.

Tin Can Knits Spoiler

It's so very hard to keep a knitting secret but a copy embargo is a copy embargo. All I can say is that I've had a very special sneak peak of Tin Can Knits latest pattern book, due to be released on September 10th. Let's just say that the future is bright ... find out more next month!

In the meantime, once I've finished my latest WIP I'll be starting their Lush cardigan in Rainbow Heirloom yarn.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

What's Happening At Rowan?

It has been a tumultuous year at Yorkshire yarn house Rowan. What we do know is that the company was taken over, although details about what has gone on are hard to find.

Rowan's website Knitrowan still lists Coats Crafts as the owner. Follow the trail to the Coats Crafts website and their 'about us' page says that Rowan is one of their brands. On the Rowan Facebook page 'about' tab there's no mention of Coats Crafts but no mention of any other owner either, just that the business was established in 1978 by two Yorkshire men.

So who owns Rowan now? Well on the 'contact us' page of the Rowan website there's information on how to contact MEZ Crafts UK (not the best company name I've ever come across). Google MEZ Crafts and you'll find a basic PR website for a multi-national company. Gone is the old Rowan base at Holmfirth, where the business started out, and in comes a new base at a mill near Halifax.

MEZ Crafts also owns the yarn company Patons and the embroidery brand Anchor. I tried seeing what results would bring and it led to a holding page for websites in Germany, Spain, Italy and the UK. So I went back to the English website only to find no details about the company, its history, ethos or game plan.

When I contacted Rowan for clarification a spokesperson said: "MEZ actually bought the Rowan brand last year and is running as it normally did to keep the quality of the brand name that it has always been in the past."

There is one big difference, however, that the consumer will notice following Rowan's takeover. If you have seen a plethora of discounted Rowan lines in shops and online yarn stores over the summer it's because the company decided to slash their range to concentrate on a much smaller range of products.

Going out:

So it's bye bye to:
  • Big Wool Silk
  • Superfine Merino DK & Aran
  • Pure Wool 4-ply
  • Kidsilk Haze Stripe
  • Mohair Haze
  • Wool Cotton
  • Rowan Finest
  • Rowan Tweed
  • Fine Art & Fine Art Aran
  • Alpaca Colour
  • Tetra Cotton
  • Cotton Lustre
  • Panama
  • Revive
  • Pure Linen
  • All Seasons Cotton
  • Soft Knit Cotton
  • Truesilk
  • Lima & Lima Colour
  • Fazed Tweed
  • Colourspun
  • Thick n Thin
  • Alpaca Chunky
  • British Sheep Breeds
  • Creative Focus Worsted
  • Chenille
  • Big Wool Colour

Image courtesy of Rowan
Phew! That's a lot of balls of yarn. Of these I will mourn British Sheep Breeds as this yarn was British produced and spun and, for me, encapsulated Rowan's Yorkshire heritage. I loved it's real sheepy smell and, after buying it to knit some accessories, it introduced me to the whole idea that wool doesn't have to be shipped in from China when we have loads of it in our fields and centuries of experience of the wool industry in this country. In my opinion the axing of this is a real loss, but I presume it has got the chop because it wasn't bringing in enough profit. Could this be to the lack of updated yarn support though?

I still have a few balls left in my stash and will enjoy knitting them up. Look back at my earlier post to see the moss stitch cowl I knitted in British Sheep Breeds Boucle.

Coming in:

Rowan's July 2016 e-newsletter reports that the company is launching two pop up yarns for Autumn/Winter 2016. Called Selects, these are limited edition yarns that will only be available for a short period.

Fine Silk is a lace-weight yarn made from silk, wool and viscose. It's available in seven jewel-like shades.

Rowan Fine Silk image courtesy of Laughing Hens

Cashmere is a blend of 95% cashmere and 5% wool. Available in six shades there's also free yarn support containing five patterns from Martin Storey.

Rowan Cashmere image courtesy of Laughing Hens

At the time of writing this post the two yarns aren't on the Rowan website; however the 2ply fine silk is available from Laughing Hens - the cashmere is listed as coming soon. To the best of my knowledge both yarns are not British-made.

It's business as usual when it comes to Rowan's biannual magazines. Rowan Magazine 60 is out now priced £12.50 with 37 patterns for the Autumn/Winter 2016 season. I have yet to see a copy and therefore can't review the designs.

Image courtesy of Rowan

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Wool & The Gang Billie Jean Yarn Review + Free Summer Scarf Pattern

The British company Wool and the Gang kindly sent me a couple of balls of their new Billie Yarn jean to test.  My review is independent from the company.

Whilst Billie Jean doesn't pass the British made test it does have eco-friendly credentials: it's made from up cycled pre-consumer denim waste. That's right, it comes from the factory offcuts of your pair of jeans.

The yarn comes in two shades: dirty denim, which I used to knit a summer scarf; and washed out denim - a variegated blue colour. Wooly and the Gang says of both shades:
"This waste is ground back into fibre and women into our new Billie Jean Yarn. Using no chemicals and no dyes, we manage to save 20,000 litres of water per kilogram of upcycled material."
Each 100g ball costs £4.95, which I think is pretty reasonable as many 50g balls of cotton yarn from other brands can cost that much.  But how does it knit up? Despite the yarn splitting easily on the needles - after lots of pulling out I just had to accept that there would be a few split stitches - I found it softer and easier to knit with than Rowan's denim yarn. That yarn turned my fingers blue when knitting it up. Wool and the Gang does warn that there may be a small amount of colour transfer, but I didn't experience this. The company also says that the knitted garment may fade, like a pair of jeans does, during the first wash.

To test the yarn I made up a pattern for a summer scarf. I'm very pleased with the result. One ball produced a decent length scarf, although if I knit again I will make it a couple of stitches thinner in order to gain a bit of extra length.

Here's the finished scarf modelled by my friend Catherine:

Close up you can see the lacy design:

The pattern

I had a look through my well-used Vogue Knitting book to find a stitch that I thought would be suitable for a summer scarf. And I did! It's basic faggoting stitch. As well as being a simple-enough stitch to remember it creates some lovely cool (using the temperature rather than the fashion meaning of the word) holes between stitches.

Using size 6 needles I cast on 18 stitches using the cable cast on method.

Row 1: K1 * yo, SSK (repeat from * until the last stitch), K1.

Repeat row 1 until the ball is nearly finished, then cast off knitwise.

Wool and the Gang's yarn support

The company sells its own patterns to use with Billie Jean, including tops and a pair of shorts (?). I've found in the past that whilst the patterns are good quality they are, for the adult garments at least, one size only. This may be fine if you are five foot eight size 10 model, but it's certainly not for little me. When I buy a pattern I don't want to have to do extra work figuring out how to make the proportions smaller. Therefore, sadly, there's no sale from me.

If the patterns were multi-sized this is the one I would choose. It's a baggy, slouchy, weekend-style jumper that I think would be a perfect summer cover up for when the sun goes down:

Image courtesy of Wool and the Gang
I particularly like the wide sleeves and the neckline. So please Wool and the Gang, release the pattern in a woman's size 6 for me and the full gamut of sizes to fit the array of women out there who'd like to wear it!

Friday, 22 July 2016

Why The Lack Of Beginners Patterns For Boys?

My youngest nephew getting stuck in!
Last year on our annual family holiday I introduced my two nephews, then aged eight and twelve, to knitting. They'd asked to learn and I brought along chunky wool and needles for them to knit a garter stitch scarf each. With a lot of help from me and their Granny the boys finished their scarves, albeit they were rather too short to wear!

This year we have another family week away in August and my youngest nephew wants to do more knitting. The older one, now nearly 14, is too cool to want to knit again but I suspect that once he sees his younger brother get stuck in he'll want a go too.

So what can I teach them to knit this time?

Searching the internet brought little inspiration. Some patterns aimed at beginners assumed that they already knew how to knit, purl, increase and decrease - no good for complete beginners. There are some books and patterns for girls learning to knit - lots of pink headbands and phone cases - but nothing for boys. No self-respecting lad is going to want to be seen with a knitted phone case or get excited about knitting another of the internet's suggestions: a dishcloth.

Is the lack of patterns available due to no demand from the consumer, or is it sexism from the industry assuming that knitting isn't a boys hobby? Let's not forget that there are great male knitwear designers out there to act as role models, such as Martin Storey, Kaffe Fassett and Jared Flood.

There's a saying that 'if you want something doing, do it yourself' and that's exactly what I'm going to do. I will write my own basic pattern for a knitted monster. Pros: monsters interest boys; it doesn't matter if they are a bit misshapen because that makes them more scary; and it's a good way to use up odds and ends of wool left over from other projects.

When I've written the pattern I'll post it on this blog and hopefully it will encourage other boys to pick up a pair of needles. I feel a campaign coming along here ...

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Dovestone Aran & Lastest Shades From Baa Ram Ewe Review

It's a common marketing trend to entice shoppers with details of products that'll be available soon, whipping up excitement and demand until the big launch day arrives. That's the case with Yorkshire store baa ram ewe's latest British yarn launch - Dovestone Aran - to add to its homegrown stable of Titus 4ply and Dovestone DK.

Image courtesy of baa ram ewe

Available in 100g skeins in six natural shades, Dovestone Aran uses the same blend of Bluefaces Leicster, Wensleydale and Masham fleeces as baa ram ewe's Dovestone DK yarn but it's a thicker weight suitable for cosy, warm jumpers with that bit of extra bulk.

Image courtesy of baa ram ewe
I was fortunate to receive a test skein in shade 03 - a mid grey- before the official launch, which will be on Thursday 14th July. Apart from its soft squishiness one of the first things I noticed about it was the faint smell of wool - not unpleasant at all and reassuring that the yarn is natural and hasn't been near any nasty acrylic or polyester.

To test its knitting properties I chose a pattern from the accompanying pattern book The Dovestone Natural Aran Collection. This has yet to be launched on the baa ram ewe website and is a collection of seven patterns - five larger garments and two accessory projects. Baa ram ewe advised me that the Arika Cowl pattern is perfect for using up one skein of Dovestone Aran. Until the pattern book is launched the cowl pattern can be found on Ravelry. The original cowl has tassels on but I left these off so as not to channel the Wild West look.

Here is the finished article modelled by my friend Denise:

The yarn is warm and not itchy or scratchy in the slightest, with a hint of fluffiness. It was a joy to knit and, being knitted on 6.5mm needles,  didn't take too long to see the effect.

The cowl is knitted all in one. The first section is rib and the second eyelet ribbing. When you have cast off the cowl has to be blocked to create the pointed 'v' stretched look.

Dovestone Aran is available to pre-order now at £14 per 100g skein plus P&P.

Autumn/Winter 2016 Colours

It's not just Dovestone Aran that's new at baa ram ewe. The two existing yarn ranges, Titus 4ply and Dovestone DK, are gaining three new shades for the Winter season.

Viking is a burnt yet vibrant orange; Dalby a forest green and Bishopthorpe a deep purple. All are named after places in Yorkshire.

Titus is £14.99 per 100g skein and Dovestone DK costs £14. The three new colours launch on Thursday 14th July.

Image courtesy of baa ram ewe
Also launching on 14th July at £15 is Yorkshire Shores, a collection of nine patterns using Dovestone DK, again with a mixture of garments and accessories. Graeme Knowles-Miller is co-author along with Alison Moreton. Knowles-Miller worked in the now defunct Harrogate baa ram ewe store whilst studying for a Master's degree in knitting design and it's great to see that the company has nurtured his talent.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Last Chance For Izzy Lane Cruelty Free Wool Crowdfunder + Jamieson & Smith New Yarn

Izzy Lane, who runs a woollen design business using the fleece from her flock of rescue sheep, is running a crowdfunding campaign to fund the manufacture of more wool from her 600 + strong herd.

Image courtesy of The Yarn Loop

Her target is to raise £18500, which will enable her to invest in the processing and manufacture infrastructure needed to produce 4ply wool from her British flock in many different colours.

Image courtesy of The Yarn Loop
As of today, Sunday 7th July, there are only three days left to go to pledge your support on Kickstarter. There are different 'rewards' available for different prices; for example £8 will nab you a ball of Izzy Lane wool in your chosen colour, and £125 will buy your a woollen Izzy Lane throw.

It's a great opportunity to ensure that none of Izzy Lane's fleece is wasted and for you to try some cruelty-free wool.

Jamieson & Smith's New Yarn

The Shetland wool company has a new addition to its coveted yarn range. Shetland Heritage Naturals is a range of six undyed colours in various shades of cream, grey and brown.

Image courtesy of Jamieson & Smith
The company says: "Shetland Heritage yarn recreates the original characteristics of handspan  'wursit' used in old Fair Isle garments. The yarn is replicated from that found in knitted Fair Isle garments in the collection of Shetland Museum and Archives."

Each ball is 25g, is described as slightly finder than 4ply, and costs £3.20. I haven't had chance to road test it but when I do I'll write a review.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Free Cowl Pattern Using Loop's Alpaca Tweed

Back in June I blogged about Loop's British alpaca tweed yarn. Since I published my review I've had time to write a cowl pattern that plays with herringbone stitch and only needs one skein. The yarn was a joy to knit with, holding stitch patterns well. Being worsted weight it knits up quite quickly, which is always a bonus, particularly when on a break from trying to complete more of Kate Davies' Catkin sweater in 4 ply!

I hate modelling my knits but due to lack of time to persuade someone else to model my cowl that I've named Lichen (due to 'The Hotel of Bees' colour and the stitch pattern) I've made an exception.

The pattern was very satisfying to create. Here's a close up:

This turned out to be a very interesting and fulfilling project. Here follows the pattern. Feel free to use it but if you reproduce it please quote that it's copyright AWoollyYarn and give a link to this blog.

Lichen Cowl Pattern

Yarn - one 100g skein of Loop's alpaca tweed yarn.

Pair of 8mm needles.

Using cable cast on method cast on 99 stitches.

Row 1 - K2. (SSK, dropping on the the first stitch off your right needle. Repeat this until you have two stitches remaining on your left needle.) K2.

Row 2 - K2. (P2tog, dropping only the first stitch off your right needle. Repeat this until you have two stitches remaining on your left needle.) K2.

Repeat rows 1 and 2 until you have the width that you require to wrap the cowl around your neck - some people like them tighter than others.

Row 3 Knit to end.

Row 4. Knit to end.

Cast off knitwise.

To sew up:

Block your finished work then sew together the cast on and cast off ends.

If you do have a go knitting Lichen please let me know how you get on via the comments box below.
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