Thursday, 25 May 2017

Review Of Knitting Magazine's Made In Britain Edition

Image courtesy of Knitting magazine
As this blog celebrates modern British knitting it goes without saying that I was delighted to discover that June 2017's Knitting magazine is a special Made in Britain issue, featuring 23 British knits and lots of information about boutique UK yarn brands.

The magazine costs £5.99 in newsagents, or £6.99 if bought directly from the publisher, and comes with a sock workshop booklet aimed at those new to sock knitting.

At first glance the patterns in the magazine are quite conservative and there's only one - the jumper on the cover - that I'd like to knit. Where the magazine does shine is in its content, with features on and profiles of small niche British wool brands along with interviews with home-grown cutting edge knitting entrepreneurs such as Louisa Harding and Isobel Davies.

I've long found that Knitting and The Knitter magazines have more editorial to get your teeth into than the newbie-knitter orientated titles such as Simply Knitting and Let's Knit. Two monthly features I particularly like in Knitting are the 'Style File' section where a few of the patterns are shown in different colours along with fashion advice on what to where them with, and the review section of latest yarns.

Features-wise this Made in Britain issue contains a guest column from podcaster and blogger Louise Scollay of KnitBritish fame, and a fabulous map of the UK showing businesses that create brilliant British yarns.

One huge fact I learned from the interview with Louisa Harding is that she no longer has anything to do with the yarn and pattern business that bears her name. She now runs Yarntelier, producing lace cashmere yarns and designs to support them.

Back to the patterns - is June really the time to publish cowl, mitts and scarf patterns? There's a cosy-looking Shetland Snuggle Blanket pattern knitted in super chunky yarn that caught my eye until I looked up the price of the yarn and discovered it to be £185. Amongst other patterns are a man's jumper, a tea cosy, and a few women's sweater patterns including one called Seawrack, which to me looks like first-time knitting that's gone wrong, though obviously that's my personal taste and perhaps I'm not very fashion forward!

All in all it's an issue worth buying for anyone who wants to know more about British yarns and it's great to see magazines supporting the British wool industry. One slight bugbear about the plastic sealed packaging of the magazine is that when browsing the newsagents' shelves the potential customer cannot flick through to see if they like the patterns or not before buying. All magazines that provide free gifts tend to do this - can they not print an overview of the magazine's contents on the back page to help the consumer?

Monday, 15 May 2017

Baa Baa Brighouse's Crowdfunding Campaign

Following the success of other knitters' crowdfunding campaigns such as Susan Crawford and Karie Westermann's to publish their next pattern books and Izzy Lane's quest to produce her own cruelty-free wool range, Elaine Jinks-Turner, founder of online yarn shop Baa Baa Brighouse, has started her own. Her dream is to transform the front room of her house into a shop to give Baa Baa Brighouse a bricks and mortar base in West Yorkshire, England.

There's history here - around 60 years ago Junks-Turner's house was a yarn shop and, she says, she still gets people knocking on her front door asking where the wool shop is!

Since founding Baa Baa Brighouse online three years ago Jinks-Turner hasn't taken a salary and has ploughed profits back into building the business. The yarns she sells are different from the usual baby and cheap acrylic offerings that abound lots of yarn shops' shelves: she stocks mainly British brands such as Herdy, West Yorkshire Spinners and Susan Crawford, alongside big names Rowan and Erika Knight and her own hand-dyed range Baa Baa Brew.

Rewards on offer for pledging up to certain amounts include skeins of Baa Baa Brew yarn and the company's Ganny Lock Shawl Knit Kit.

Visit Baa Baa Brighouse's crowdfunding page to see all the rewards on offer.

Image courtesy of Baa Baa Brighouse
In May Baa Baa Brighouse is selling a Shakespeare-themed yarn box for £24 plus P&P containing 100g of DK hand-dyed Baa Baa Brew yarn, a contrasting colour 25g mini DK skein, plus some Shakespeare goodies.

I'm very tempted myself, having missed out on a previous Jane Austen box!

Each month the company produces a themed yarn box inspired by popular culture. Personally I like to see what I'm going to get before I buy but knitters who like a surprise will enjoy the big reveal when the postie delivers their yarn parcel.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Yarn Shop Day 2017 Celebrations

Image courtesy of Let's Knit magazine
Today (May 6th) is Yarn Shop Day in the UK. Organised by Let's Knit magazine, its aim is to promote local yarn and haberdashery stores, encouraging customers both old and new to go through their doors.

Highlights of this year include:

Did your local yarn shop do anything to celebrate? Mine didn't! I do hope though that the day encouraged knitters to buy from bricks and mortar shops rather than the internet - shops can only know what customers want to buy if you tell them and there's nothing like a good squish and feel of a yarn before buying!

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Interpretations Volume 4 Review

Cover image courtesy of Pom Pom Press
Pom Pom Quarterly's ad hoc range of pattern book publications is back - this time with Volume 4 in the Interpretations series.

A print and digital copy costs £15.50 + £2.70 P&P directly from Pom Pom.

The 12 patterns, created by friends Jojo Locateli and Veera Valimaki, were inspired by six words: gather, chromatic, magic, fragile, direction and hidden. Amongst the jumpers, cardigans, shawls and cowls there are designs both to keep you warm in chilly Spring or lighter weights for warmer nights.

With me not being a shawl or hap kind of person it was inevitable that my eye would be drawn first to the jumpers and cardigans, including the covetable cover design 'double trouble' (see right). Part of the 'magic' theme it's stylish, warm and woolly plus the pattern looks relatively easy to knit.

Another pattern that looks perfect for Spring through to Summer is 'Radiate', part of the 'chromatic' theme.
It's fun, pink and puts a smile on my face straight away!
'Radiate' image courtesy of Pom Pom Press

For warmer nights the lace weight yarn used for 'The 'Little Bird Pullover', part of the 'fragile' theme,  is soft and delicate. The pattern itself is suitably challenging for intermediate knitters.

'Little Bird Pullover' image courtesy of Pom Pom Press
After a huge project? The 'Winterfolk Coat' from the 'gather' theme looks like a garment that will be worn again and again for years to come. I love its hood and cabling down the front and back.

'Winterfolk Coat' image courtesy of Pom Pom Press
Although, as I've mentioned, shawls and haps aren't my thing, the 'Color Spell Shawl', also part of the magic theme, looks both heavenly and a knitting challenge.

'Color Spell Shawl' image courtesy of Pom Pom Press

The book itself is a a handy A5 size and lives up to the high art and editorial standards of Pom Pom Quarterly. It's a great addition to my collection and to the Pom Pom range.

* Although I received a review copy of this book all views are my own.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Daughter Of A Shepherd & Samite Yarn Launches

This week lovers of British wool have two more yarns to choose from. 

Image courtesy of Daughter of a Shepherd

Rachel Atkinson's Daughter of  A Shepherd 2016 batch launches today at 8pm BST exclusively on her website. The Hebridean blend yarn is undyed and available both in DK and 4ply/fingering weights. Last year's batch sold old quickly. The wool clip comes from sheep on the Escrick Park Estate where her father shepherds.

The price will be announced when the yarn goes on sale.

Want something more colourful?

Samite image courtesy of Blacker Yarns
Blacker Yarns' new Samite range went on sale last week offering 15 shades inspired by the pre-Raphaelite and Arts and Crafts Movements. The skeins are are 3ply silk blend containing a mixture of 30% Blue Faced Leicester, 40% Shetland, 20% Ahimsa silk and 10% Gotland. Each 100g skein costs £24.60.

Two free patterns on the Blacker Yarns' website support the yarn: a hap and a scarf.

I haven't had chance yet to sample either yarn but hope to do so and review so in the future.

Coming Soon

Look out for my review of Pom Pom Press' Interpretations: Volume 4!

Saturday, 11 March 2017

This Year's Shetland Wool Week Patron & Free Hat Pattern Announced

Who will be this year's Shetland Wool Week patron? That was the question on the lips of many an Edinburgh Yarn Fest visitor. Yesterday (Friday 10th March) their patience was rewarded with Shetland Wool Week's stand revealing that Gudrun Johnston is taking the coveted patron role in 2017, and she has designed the Bousta Beanie hat (see the image below) so that knitters all over the world can join in the fun.

Image courtesy of Shetland Wool Week
The pattern is free to download from the Shetland Wool Week website. Johnston has used an autumnal palette of greys and mustard for her version, but knitters have the challenge to come up with their own colour scheme.

Gudrun Johnston was born in Shetland in the 1970s and is now based in America. Her love for her homeland, however, runs deep and inspires her designs that she publishes under The Shetland Trader name. 

This year is the eight Shetland Wool Week. Details of events and classes will be released soon. 

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

International Women's Day

Image courtesy of International Women's Day
March 8th is International Women's Day, a chance to celebrate the social, economic, political and cultural achievement of women. Whilst there are some great men in the knitting industry (Jared Flood and Kaffe Fassett to name just two) it's predominately one where creative females are at the forefront of development whether it be running businesses, organising charity knits or celebrating traditional skills in their local community.

To mark the day here's my round-up of British women currently leading the way. Apologies if you think I've left out someone you think is important. Please let me know in the comments box below who you would add to the list.

Here are the women in surname order:

Countess Ablaze: expert ultra-colourful yarn dyer Countess Ablaze is about to open new premises in Manchester. Her latest subscription club is The Classics Society.

Rachel Atkinson: the real life daughter of a shepherd used clip from the sheep on the estate her father shepherds to produce her undyed, limited-edition, sustainable yarn skeins. She also regularly contributes patterns to many UK knitting magazines.

Jen Arnall-Culliford: she is a knitting technical expert and editor who writes regular columns for The Knitter magazine demystifying techniques such as steeking and short-row shaping. With her equally talented husband Jim she's due to publish the book A Year of Techniques.

Debbie Bliss: now an MBE, Bliss is an internationally-known name in British knitting. She has published over 35 books, her own knitting magazine and her some of her yarn ranges are British Knitting Award winners.

Verity Britton: she founded Leeds-based yarn shop baaramewe in 2009. Since then the business has launched its own-brand British wool ranges and has championed Yorkshire wool.

Susan Crawford: vintage designer and knitting historian whose Vintage Shetland Project book is eagerly awaited this year. Crawford's honest blog posts detailing her cancer diagnosis and treatment in the past year have inspired and informed many readers.

Kate Davies: with her own yarn Buachaille yarn range, numerous pattern books and an award for UK microbusiness of the year under her belt, Scottish-based Davies is going from strength to strength.

Isla Davison: back in 2015 Davison launched Brityarn, a website with the ethos to only sell British patterns, wool and knitting accessories. It's the first port of call for knitters who want to be sure the yarn they pick is British.

Di Gilpin: her knitwear design business employs 90 home-based knitters across Scotland. She also sells her own range of 100% Scottish lambswool.

Kate Heppell: she has edited Knit Now magazine since it launched in October 2011. The magazine is an entry and intermediate-level publication, which encourages both new and established designers to submit their patterns.

Ann Kingstone: based in Yorkshire, designer Kingstone has written many a pattern book inspired by her surroundings and is an expert on stranded knits.

Kerry Lord: Lord founded and runs Toft Alpaca in Warwickshire, which produces its own sumptuous yarns, knitting and crochet patterns, and quarterly magazine. She is probably best-known for her Edward's Menagerie book range.

Louise Scollay: she is the brainchild and editor of the blog and podcast website KnitBritish. Scollay has done much to raise the profile and benefits of British wool in an entertaining fashion. Catch her at Edinburgh Yarn Festival this weekend on 10th and 11th March where she will be running the podcast lounge.

Marie Wallin: formerly Head Designer at Rowan, Wallin now runs workshops, has her own Fairisle Club Knitalong and publishes beautiful hand-knit colourwork designs.


If you enjoy reading this blog I'd be grateful if you would follow it and forward the web address to your friends. Are you a British pattern designer and/or yarn producer who would like to let me know about your products? If so please leave your email and/or web address in the comments box below. I'm working on setting up a contact email address for this blog.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Free Wavy Cable Cowl Pattern Using Debbie Bliss Falkland Aran

Image courtesy of Debbie Bliss
I much prefer wearing cowls rather than scarves to keep snug in winter - no loose ends flapping around! Last month I decided I wanted a cozy cowl to co-ordinate with a knitted hat I'd been given.

Debbie Bliss's Falkland Aran in the shade Claret (see left) was a pretty good match for the hat in terms of colour, weight and texture. Each skein is 100g - just right for a cowl.

Next came the process of coming up with an interesting cable pattern, which involved lots of experimentation, pulling out and starting again!

Finally I hit on a relatively simple cable pattern I liked and then decided on what I wanted the vertical length of the cowl to be.  I'd keep knitting until I'd got the width right for me - not too tight round my neck making it difficult to put on, but so baggy that it would lose its warm and cosy properties.

Here's the cowl on the blocking mat:

And here's my finished pattern. The cowl has become a staple for braving the cold and the rain outdoors! Feel free to use this pattern for personal use only. If you do reproduce it then be sure to credit me and add a link to please.

Wavy Cable Cowl

Requires one 100g skein of Debbie Bliss Falkland Aran yarn, two cable needles and a pair of 5mm knitting needles.

Cast on 47 stitches loosely.

Row 1 (right side): P5, K9, p5, K9, p5, K9, P5.

Rows 2 - 8: Knit the knit stitches and purl the purl stitches.

Row 9: P5, 9st cable pattern (see below), p5, 9st cable pattern, P5, 9st cable pattern, p5.

9st cable pattern: Slip 3 to cable needle at the back, slip 3 to cable needles at the from, k3, k3 from front cable needle, k3 from back cable needle.

Rows 10 - 16: Knit the knit stitches and purl the purl stitches.

Repeat Rows 1-16 until you have your desired width. Cast off k-wise on a RS row. Block, then sew the cast on and cast off rows together to form a tube.

Keeping warm feels better when you've knitted the cowl yourself!

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.

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