Thursday, 19 October 2017

Review of Marie Wallin's Shetland Pattern Collection

Image courtesy of Marie Wallin
All things Shetland are currently on trend in the knitting world what with this year's successful Shetland Wool Week, Susan Crawford's eagerly-awaited Vintage Shetland Project, and now the publication of British former Rowan Head Designer Marie Wallin's sumptuous Shetland pattern collection.

When working on Shetland Wallin collaborated with Jamison's of Shetland and used their Spindrift yarn for many of her designs. As ever, Wallin's book is superbly-photographed in locations around Shetland, once again provoking serious lifestyle envy in the reader!

Says Wallin in the book's foreword:
"Shetland is a collection of twelve beautiful Fair Isle designs inspired by the people and wild beauty of this most northerly part of Scotland.  The wool from the small and hardy Shetland sheep is warm and hardwearing, softening with wash and wear, just like a favourite piece of tweed ... because of my internet in the history of Fair Isle knitting it is important for me to use a Shetland wool which is graded, scoured, blended, carded, dyed and spun on Shetland too."

The eight garments and four accessory patterns are all beautifully designed, with their intricate colour work providing a challenge for intermediate knitters. A Woolly Yarn's favourite patterns in the collection are:

Bressay, a jumper with a deep Fair Isle yoke design knitted in the round.

Image courtesy of Marie Wallin
Fetlar, described as a simple Fair Isle scarf knitted in the round that's perfect for the novice Fair Isle Knitter.

Image courtesy of Marie Wallin
Scalloway Tam, a hat named after the old capital of the Sheltnad Mainland. The design has a traditional striped ribbed band.

Image courtesy of Marie Wallin
Unst, a fitted short Fair Isle cardigan, photographed on the Isle of Unst.

Image courtesy of Marie Wallin
Samphey, named after an uninhabited Shetland isle, this jumper has a more complex Fair Isle design.

Image courtesy of Marie Wallin
All the Fair Isle patterns are charted and these may be difficult to start of with for the inexperienced Fair Isle knitter to follow. Colour charts, rather than black and white, may have been more useful. That, however, is the drawback of what is overall a marvellous collection that, as with Wallin's previous books, is a delight to look through and admire the photography.

View all twelve of Shetland's patterns on Ravelry here. The book costs £17.99 plus P&P and is available to buy direct from Marie Wallin's website. Thanks to Wallin for the review copy - all opinions are A Woolly Yarn's own.

Want more Marie Wallin stories? Read these past blog posts:

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Susan Crawford Launches FUBC Shawl Kit Using Ghyll Lancashire Wool

Vintage knitwear designer, historian and author Susan Crawford has been open over the last 18 months about her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, which ended on Thursday 12th October with her last oncology injection.

To thank the charity Cancer Care, who supported her and other local women going through the same ordeal, and to raise awareness for breast cancer, Crawford has launched a FUBC Shawl Kit for £65, £15 of which will go directly to Cancer Care.

Image courtesy of Susan Crawford
What makes the kit extra special is that the wool comes from her 70-year-old neighbour Jeffrey's herd of Lonk, the only truly local sheep to Lancashire. Crawford took the 2016 clip and worked with four of her favourite dyers, Old Maiden Aunt, Skein Queen, Countess Ablaze and The Knitting Goddess, to create four exclusive colourways for the kit.

Crawford herself designed one of the shawl patterns for the kit with the other coming from her friend Tess Young. There are less than 100 kits available in each of the four colourways. Here are the four to choose from:

1. Susan Kit Dyed By Old Maiden Aunt

Image courtesy of Susan Crawford
2. Jo Kit Dyed By The Knitting Goddess
Image courtesy of Susan Crawford

3. Victoria Kit Dyed By Countess Ablaze

Image courtesy of Susan Crawford

4. Karen Kit Dyed By Skein Queen

Image courtesy of Susan Crawford

But that's not all that the kit contains. If I tell you that the BC part of the FUBC acronym stands for breast cancer then there are no prizes for guessing what the F and U mean. Along with the patterns and wool kit buyers will also receive the Knocker Jotter - a 200 page journal featuring photographs of 16 women, including Crawford, who are part of Cancer Care's online group Phoenix. The portraits show them sharing their scars, both physical and mental.

Image courtesy of Susan Crawford

Says Crawford in her newsletter: 'These 'Scarletts' as they became known wanted to share their personal experiences of how cancer, and particularly breast cancer, attempts to strip women of their physicality, their visual identity. Through the portraits they wanted to take back ownership of their bodies, and to be proud of who they had become.'

The kits are on sale at Susan Crawford's website here. Each kit costs £65 plus £3.35 P&P within the UK (overseas postage available for an extra charge). Don't forget that the kit is the only way to get your hands on the 2016 clip of Ghyll!

Want more stories about Susan Crawford? Read these previous blog posts:

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Shetland Wool Week Annual 2017 Review

Image courtesy of Shetland Wool Week
Shetland Wool Week 2017 may be over but it won't be forgotten thanks to the keepsake annual published to mark the occasion. Our excitement at receiving a review copy in the post was akin to that of finding a Bunty annual in our Christmas stockings aged eight.

The annual is a celebration of all things woolly in Shetland, the island off the north coast of Scotland, and contains a keepsake mixture of patterns, essays and book reviews.

The articles will keep the reader coming back again and again to the annual with their fascinating social history topics including knitting for men; the life of Arthur Anderson who founded the P&O shipping line and championed Shetland's textile industry; a look back at 50 years of Victoria Gibson's designs; rooming - the Shetland method of plucking fleece from sheep; and the renovation of a tweed-weaving building in Hillswick, once the centre of Shetland textile production.
Bousta Beanie image courtesy of Gudrun Johnston

Each year Shetland Wool Week chooses a patron who designs a pattern especially for the event. This year's patron is Gudrun Johnston, perhaps better The Shetland Trader. Her Bousta Beanie is the annual's first pattern. She says "The Bousta Beanie uses three colours combined to great effect within a simple Fair Isle pattern. What with all the colours available in Shetland Yarn, the possibilities are endless!"

There are 12 patterns in all in annual, designed by Shetland locals and other designers who have an affinity with the island's wool.
Tveir Gloves image courtesy of Ella Gordon

Stand out patterns include Terri Malcolmson's Triple Tone Circular Scarf, described as 'an enjoyable project for anyone new to Fair Isle and colourwork'; Outi Kater's Rosepath Sweater that's inspired by and named after a Nordic countries' folk weaving technique and is a warm cover up that if looked after will become an heirloom; and Ella Gordon's Tveir Fingerless Gloves that would be
easy to adapt to a full-fingered version. Says Gordon, "For somewhere with so few trees you often see them in Shetland knitwear, usually adorning a yoke but I decided to take the motif and use it on a pair of fingerless gloves. They are knit with an afterthought thumb using bright shades inspired by Autumn in Shetland.

The annual costs £18 plus P&P and is available online at the Shetland Wool Week shop. There are still a few copies of last year's annual left too.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Wool Week 2017 Plans

Each year The Campaign for Wool, whose patron is Prince Charles, runs Wool Week to showcase just how fabulous British wool is for clothing, soft furnishings, carpets and much, much more.

Image courtesy of The Campaign for Wool
The trick this year is that the week is extending to 16 days. Yes, Wool Week will begin on 7th October with celebrations continuing until 22nd October.

What's on?

The full schedule has yet to be revealed but The Campaign for Wool has announced that the flagship event will be 'Wool Fusion', a visual extravaganza of the endless versatility and natural properties of wool, featuring photography and video alongside wool clothing, furnishing, fabrics and flooring.

The event will run from 17th - 15th October at Carousel, 35 Baker Street, London. Opening hours are 10am to 6pm daily. It's free to attend and there will also be a programme of workshops, talks and special events.

Image courtesy of The Campaign for Wool
At Bicester Shopping Village in Oxfordshire there will be pop up shop featuring a selection of items from the Campaign's retail partners. Jack Wills has commissioned a short film telling of their obsession with wool, whilst John Smedley is releasing a collection for Wool Week using black sheep wool.

Retailers and designers across the country are planning to support Wool Week, ahem fortnight plus two days, with instore activities at stores including Brora, TM Lewin, Walker Slater, Finisterre, Smalls and Wool and the Gang.

Image courtesy of Loveknitting
Further information, when it is released, will be available from The Campaign for Wool's news page

Thursday, 28 September 2017

C&B Have Designs On The Youth Market + Free Patterns

C&B image courtesy of Love Knitting
This Autumn/Winter 17/18 sees the British design duo C&B, aka Teresa Conway and Nell Bliss, launch yet more fun knitting patterns for the younger crafter.

The pair founded their brand in 2014 and quickly built up a reputation for fun, colourful knits. Bliss, daughter of acclaimed London-based designer Debbie Bliss, grew up with knitting in her blood. Her old friend Conway studied Knitwear Design and Nottingham Trent University. Together they aim to encourage younger people to take up knitting and design patterns in contemporary styles they'd love to wear themselves. No classic style cashmere sweaters to be found here!

These are A Woolly Yarn's favourites from their latest collection:

CB405 - Gigi - Ribbed Yoke Sweater

Image courtesy of Conway & Bliss

CB051 - Gigi - Checkered Scarf

Image courtesy of Conway & Bliss

CB052 - Gigi - Heart T-shirt

Image courtesy of Conway & Bliss

And finally one for the boys: CB048 - Gigi - Super Simple Sweater

Image courtesy of Conway & Bliss

Free C&B patterns

The Debbie Bliss website has a number of past-season C&B patterns to download for free.

Try summer top Abigail Sweater that rocks the bare shoulder trend:

Image courtesy of Conway & Bliss
The over-sized bobble hat Dandelion:

Image courtesy of Conway & Bliss

Or the Queen B t-shirt:

Image courtesy of Conway & Bliss

As well as designing patterns the duo also have their own yarn range. These aren't British yarns, however here at A Woolly Yarn we hope to see C&B champion British wool in the future.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Autumn/Winter Brit Knit-A-Longs To Join In With

Now it's Autumn and the days are getting shorter how about using the longer nights to join in with an online knitting challenge? Knit-a-longs (KALs) can spur you on to complete a project and enjoy the online chatter with other knitters along the way.

All four require you to have a Ravelry account. For those of you who have never been to Ravelry, it's a website for the knitting community that enables you to find patterns, chat with other knitters, follow your favourite designers and yarn brands and keep an online record of your stash and completed projects. It's easy to set up an account and membership is free.


Logo courtesy of BritYarn
This online retailer that sells only British wool is planning its third annual Great British Sock KAL.

Cast-on day is Friday 22nd September and the you must use a British yarn or a local yarn to you if you do not live in the UK. Synthetic material in a blend, such as nylon, should only account for 25 per cent of the total content. You can use any sock pattern - or design your own!

To be in with a chance of winning a prize post a photo of your finished pair of socks in BritYarn's Ravelry group's FO thread by midnight on Monday 31st October 2017.

Blacker Yarns

Caradon Hill Jumper - one of the 13 Blacker Yarns designs
This yarn company has recently relaunched nine of its supporting patterns and added four new ones.  Go here to see all the designs.

Starting on 14th September the KAL runs right through until 14th December to give participants enough time to knit one of the more complicated garments. To join in, choose one of the 13 patterns to knit using any Blacker Yarn.

There are prizes both for chatter on the Blacker Yarn KAL Ravelry forum and for joining in the chat.

Ginger Twist Studio

Logo courtesy of Ginger Twist Studio
This Edinburgh-based wool shop is running a KAL for its own Tea Collection Club, but participants can also knit a pattern from Tea Collection Volume One.

The KAL is running for a whole whopping year - perfect for you if you want to join in but have some other works in progress to finish first.

To join in, go to Ginger Twist Studio's Tea Collection Club KAL forum on Ravelry. For a quarterly subscription to the Tea Collection Club go to Ginger Twist Studio's website.


Image courtesy of KnitBritish
We've all got patterns we'd like to knit and yarn that needs knitting up. The run up to Christmas is usually an expensive time, so why not use up the wool you already have instead of buying more?

That's the ethos behind KnitBritish's Good Intentions Club. Beginning in October Louise, who runs the website, will prompt those joining in to cast on to their first use-up project, with the plan being that that there will be one more each season over the following year.

Chat about the Good Intentions Club has already begun in the KnitBritish Episode 92 Ravelry forum.

Kettle Yarn Co.
Ramble image courtesy of Kettle Yarn Co.
To celebrate the launch of their Ramble DK, a blend of the finest British-reared Romney and Shetland fibres sourced directly from local British farms, Kettle Yarn Co is planning a KAL starting on 1st October.

The suggested pattern is the Vallamo jumper designed by Francesca Hughes that appeared in Pom Pom Quarterly's Issue 18.

Ramble comes in seven shades, of which three are required for the jumper. Kettle Yarn Co. has helpfully designed some different colourways that can be seen on their blog. You don't, however have to knit Vallamo: any pattern will do as long as you use Ramble yarn.

More details are on Kettle Yarn Co's KAL thread on Ravelry.

Are there any British KALs coming up that we've missed out? Do please let us know either in the comments box below or on the A Woolly Yarn Facebook page.

Also, Would you be interested in A Woolly Yarn KAL? We'd love your thoughts.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Three Rare British Yarns To Try While Stocks Last

The very welcome boom in the production of small-scale British born and bred yarns continues apace. Here are three of A Woolly Yarn's latest finds but remember, because they are produced by sole traders or small businesses with wool from a specific flock, there's only a finite amount of stock available. Once they've sold, they've gone forever! Well, until next year's clip anyway ...


Langsoond is a yarn spun from the fleece of Shetland designer Donna Smith's own sheep and that of her neighbours. The name, she explains comes from Langsound, which is a stretch of water that runs along the East coast of Burra Isle. She says, "In Shetland dialect we pronounce the 'ou' in sound as 'oo' so I have gone for the phonetic spelling".

Langsoond image courtesy of Donna Smith
The yarn will go on sale on Saturday 30th September at the Shetland Wool Week Maker's Market and will then be added to Smith's online shop. The 100g DK-weight skeins will be available in four natural colours. Smith is busy working on three designs to support the yarn.


Ysolda Teague features this certified organic British yarn in her latest pattern release Caru.

Caru image courtesy of Ysolda Teague

She used Garthenor No.2 Manx Loaghtan & Wensleydale Blend to create these cabled, fingerless gloves and sells it in her online store. The weight is described as between 4ply and DK and a 50g ball costs £8 plus P&P. As the yarn is breed-specific it's available whilst stocks last.

Image courtesy of Kettle Yarn Co.

Kettle Yarn Co. has launched Ramble, a seven-colour wool range sourced from local British farms. The blend, says the company, is only available in small batches due to it being spun from the finest-graded fibres of Shetland and Romney.

Ramble is described as lightly-processed and woollen-spun into a heather, sheep cloud that's perfect for colour work, twisted stitches, cables and rustic lace shawls.

It's a 2ply yarn and can also be used holding two strands together to create a traditional marled effect.

The seven colours are striking, with the greeny/blue hue of Burdock standing out amongst the bunch. The palette offers a good choice for both those who prefer understated colours and knitters who like their knits to be vibrant.

A 100g skein costs £18 plus P&P directly from Kettle Yarn Co.'s online store.

A Woolly Yarn hasn't yet seen any of these three yarns in person and therefore can't comment on their squishiness or review their knitability at present.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

What Louisa Harding Did Next

The Louisa Harding pattern and yarn brand has long been known for its whimsical, romantic flirtatiousness, femininity and fun. What you may not be aware of is that although the brand still bears her name, Louisa Harding no longer has any involvement with the company.

Harding grew up in London and learned to knit from her grandmother. At fashion college she fell in love with a knitting course and got a student opportunity at Rowan, which is where cut her teeth in the knitwear design industry. After starting a family she went freelance, then in 2005 launched the Louisa Harding brand.

Now she has her own venture, Yarntelier, which launched to the public at the Knitting & Stitching Show at Alexandra Palace in October 2016.

Image courtesy of Yarntelier
Yarntelier is a labour of love for Harding, who says:
"British yarn is important to me as I first explored the Yorkshire spinning mills during a placement with Rowan when I was studying textiles for fashion at Brighton Art College in the late 1980s. At that time there was a big boom in hand knitting and during my placement I visited many woollen and worsted spinning mills and learned how yarn was made. There used to be so many mills local to where I live in Yorkshire. Over the years all but a few disappeared. The idea of the new brand Yarntelier was to look at what was still available within Britain, specifically in Yorkshire, and to champion what is still available."
Yarntelier launched with two yarns: Cashmere Lace and Cashmere Gilli. Although the cashmere comes from Mongolia and China the yarns are spun in a mill less than five miles from Harding's home in the Holme Valley. Both ranges have 12 shades and each 50g ball costs £25.

Whilst certainly not cheap, the yarn is top quality, super soft and a delight to knit with and wear. Most of the patterns in the supporting pattern book Yarntelier Volume One only require one or two balls, making them within the reach of most customers for a special treat.

Image courtesy of Yarntelier
For Harding, her favourite design "is the one that I am still working on ...  I love the complexities of working out stitch patterns ... but I love to wear the Zephine shawl from Yarntelier Volume One as it is so versatile. I have worn it is a scarf, as a shawl, and the cashmere just gets softer and softer with each wear."

Zephine image courtesy of Practical Publishing.


Harding gave this blog a copy of Yarntelier Volume One and two balls of yarn for review. All views are A Woolly Yarn's own.

Yarntelier Volume One contains 15 garment and accessory patterns beautifully photographed in Yorkshire scenery. There's a good mix of patterns suitable for newish and intermediate knitters, including a stocking stitch beanie hat and more challenging lace knits. It's a luscious book to look through and, importantly for many knitters, the lace sections are in both chart and written form.

Using Cashmere Gilli I test knitted the Blythe scarf, making a few slight changes to the pattern in order to turn it into a cowl and alternate the garter stitch and lace sections. Here's Blythe in the pattern book: 

Image courtesy of Yarntelier

And here's my version on the needles:

Take a closer look at the lovely stitch pattern: 

The yarn is a delight to knit with and will, no doubt, be a delight to wear.

Yarntelier's Cashmere Lace yarn is a more delicate colour but with the same softness:

I intend to knit the Luella hat pattern with it:

Image courtesy of Yarntelier.
The other designs are equally covetable, with my favourite garment pattern being the Zelene sweater, which I imagine would feel like being cocooned in silk:

Image courtesy of Yarntelier
It does, however, require between five and seven balls depending on size, so therefore is rather a lottery winner's purchase! The one ball patterns are much more accessible for a luxurious treat that you'll wear for a long time to come.

Yarntelier Volume One costs £15 plus P&P from Yarntelier. Alternatively individual patterns can be downloaded for £4 each.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Why British Yarn Doesn't Have To Equal Expensive: 50g For Under A Fiver

It's a myth, almost universally acknowledged, that British yarn must be expensive and unaffordable (with apologies to Jane Austen for stealing and changing her opening line from Pride and Prejudice).
Go to any yarn discounter and there will be dirt-cheap balls of Chinese acrylic and nylon yarn for sale that haven't been within miles of a sheep. Real wool, well surely that's pricey isn't it, so why buy British when you can have all-you can-knit imported balls?

Image courtesy of Farming UK
Here at A Woolly Yarn we believe British is best, because of the financial benefit to farmers who in the past have had to pay more for shearing their sheep than they could make from selling the fleeces; the environmental benefits that come from using less transport miles and not burning oil barrels to make artificial fibres; wool's natural properties keeping one cool in summer and warm in winter; to educate the public about endangered sheep breeds and ensure their survival; the knock-on effect of jobs created for designers, spinners and dyers using British yarn; and of course because quality British wool feels so much better to wear than scratchy, man-made, imported alternatives.

Louise Scollay from KnitBritish kicked off an internet debate back in 2013 when she posted a feature called British Yarn Under A Fiver. Do your research as I recently have, and you'll find that four years on there are still under £5 British bargains for sale.

I have an old Wool & The Gang sweater pattern that requires aran yarn. From BritYarn I bought four 100g skeins of West Yorkshire Spinners Jacob Aran Wool for £22 plus P&P. That's enough yarn for up to size medium and works out at the equivalent of £2.75 per 50g ball - a fabulous bargain.

My £22 British yarn bargain
This prompted me to do some internet searching to see what else I could find for under £5 per 50g. Local yarn shops you know sell British wool are your first port of call for their end of line sales, but not all of us are blessed to live near a yarn store, never mind one that's eschewed foreign man-made yarns.

Five more British yarn bargains: 50g for under a fiver

Blacker Yarns' Classic DK knitting yarn retails at £4.40 for a 50g DK ball and is available in the purple shade whilst stocks last.

Image courtesy of Blacker Yarns
From New Lanark Mills comes an organic hank of aran British wool in a natural ecru shade, selling at £8 for a 100g skein (the equivalent of £4 for 50g).

Image courtesy of New Lanark Mills
Woolyknit's own range includes 100% pure British wool Big Brit Super Chunky in four shades at £5.95 for 100g (the equivalent of about £2.98 for a 50g ball)

Image courtesy of Woolyknit
Online retailer Baa Baa Brighouse is selling Wendy Ramsdale DK in the shade 'Helmsley', spun from Yorkshire fleece, for £2.48 for a 50g ball whilst stocks last.

Helmsley image courtesy of Wendy 

Available at BritYarn is West Yorkshire Spinners' Bluefaced Leicester BFL UK, available in nine colours at £4.85 per 50g ball. 

WYS BFL coral shade courtesy of BritYarn

So you see British doesn't have to equal expensive - in face it some cases it's quite the opposite. Why import cheap, oil-based yarn from across the globe when what's on our doorstep is much better quality and reasonably-priced to boot? 
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