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.

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.

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