Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Review of Knit Now Magazine's 2018 British Knits Issue

Image courtesy of Knit Now
Every year Knit Now magazine publishes a British special featuring all British yarns and designers. Since we've been up-and-running A Woolly Yarn enjoyed reviewing these - and this year is no exception. Rest assured that being awarded an Online Innovator knitting award from the magazine this year hasn't affected our impartiality.

What proved difficult with this year's review is finding a copy of issue 86, and therefore there are only a few days left before issue 87 comes out on the newsstands. In the small town where I live the supermarkets don't stock Knit Now but a well-known high street newsagents always has done. This month that newsagents didn't stock the magazine and nor did a larger branch a few miles away.

Finally I managed to buy a discounted second-hand copy on eBay. Knit Now's publisher, Practical Publishing, does sell copies online but charges a £2.49 P&P fee on top of the cover price. If you have the same difficultly finding a copy it may be worth your while signing up for the current subscription deal, which offers three issues for £6.

Image courtesy of Knit Now
Back to the review. The issue comes with two free gifts, a plastic row counter and a classic knits supplement  with a cute exclusive child's Paddington jumper on the front. The classic knits supplement contains the Pandora jumper pattern from West Yorkshire Spinners, which I already have as it's taken from WYS' Illustrious Pattern Book, but I don't recognise any of the other patterns in the supplement.

For me the standout article in this issue is the feature by Louise Scollay, who runs the KnitBritish website and podcast. She busts myths about British wool, such as that it's scratchy, expensive and always brown. The magazine also challenged real knitters to test British yarn at different price points and score them on areas such as enjoyability to knit with and the colour.

The news pages are good too with a round up of book reviews, expert advice (how do you stop your cat from ruining your work?) and latest releases from British wool brands.

Image courtesy of Dots Dabbles
Apart from the Paddington jumper (if you have a child you could knit for), however, none of the patterns this issue stood out, with the possible exception of a pair of socks called To The Lighthouse made with Kettle Yarn Co. Baskerville (see left).

It goes to say that a knitting magazine's patterns can't please all of the people all of the time and each knitter has their own personal taste and preferred projects. For me April isn't quite the time of year to start knitting heavy duty scarves, hats and cowls and, not being a knitted toy fan, I won't casting on the shepherd or horse and rider. There have, however, been lots of patterns in previous issues I've knitted up and I've certainly enjoyed reading the news and features in issue 86. The row counter will come in very handy too.

All-in-all it's great to see British designers and yarns being championed and not overlooked for cheap acrylic imports.

Previous Knit Now Best of British special editions

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Take Five British Yarns For Summer Knits

Today it's seven degrees celcius where I live in middle England and to keep warm I'm wearing Karie Westermann's Scollay cardigan. Surely soon Spring will finally leap into action? But what should I knit on my needles to wear in the sunnier months when it's time to pack up the aran and DK wool knits until the Autumn?

Here's a round up of five British yarns for lighter knits.

1. Erika Knight Studio Linen

Studio Linen Image Courtesy of Erika Knight
Available in 17 colours this DK weight yarn contains 85 per cent recycled rayon-linen fibre.

Knight describes her yarn as 'durable, soft, lustrous and flexible and will naturally soften with wear and washing'.

The range offers muted shades alongside dark ones and each 50g hank costs around the £5.99 price mark depending on which retailer you buy from.

Laughinghens offers 17 patterns to support the yarn including Porcelain, a classic baggy v-neck sweater to pull on during cool evenings, and Positano, a stocking-stitch vest top. Each pattern costs £2.90 to download.

2. Blacker Yarns' Lyonesse Linen Blend

Lyonesse image courtesy of Blacker Yarns
I used the now discontinued dusky pink shade to knit a free West Yorkshire Spinners' Summer Palace Cropped Sleeve Jumper pattern. Knitted up Lyonesse feels substantial yet cool on the skin and is pleasurable to wear.

It's a 50/50 blend of linen and Falkland Island Corriedale/Merino wool that's available in both 4ply and DK weights. The 50g balls cost £7.20 each directly from Blacker Yarns.

Lyonesse comes in a pastelly/summery shade range. Says Blacker Yarns, 'The wool adds presence and memory to the yarn, while the linen contributes crispness and strength. The combination creates a light yarn with good stitch definition, which will retain its block wonderfully.'

3. Eden Cottage Yarns' Titus Lace
Summer Petals Titus Lace image courtesy of Eden Cottage Yarns

Wanting a shawl for summer nights? Eden Cottage Yarns' Titus Lace is hand-dyed by Victoria in the market town of Wetherby, West Yorkshire and, as she dyes in small batches, shades available may vary. Check the website to see when the next yarn update will be.

Titus Lace is a 2ply blend of 75% superwash merino and 25% silk. Each luxurious 100g skein costs £20.

The Braithwaite shawl pattern on Ravelry supports the yarn and costs £3.

4. Triskelion Yarns' Branwen 4-Ply

Captain Cat Branwen image courtesy of Triskelion
This mix of Falklands Merino and silk would make be ideal to knit a t-shirt or tank top for the warmer months, although at £23 per 100g hank it's certainly a luxury purchase. Branwen is spun in Yorkshire from British sources.

Triskelion says that Branwen knits up quite fine for a 4-ply and 'has a great depth of colour, combined with an extra soft, cosy handle'.

Why not knit the t-shirt Waterlily with it? As a 100g hank of Branwen is approx 500 metres, all six sizes can be knitted with three hanks, with only two required for the smaller sizes.

5. Three Bears Yarn Cotton DK

Lavender Cotton DK image courtesy of Three Bears Yarn
The cotton comes from America but it's spun in England, dyed in Blackburn, Lancashire, then sent to Yorkshire for balling.

Cotton is a great summer yarn due to its breathability. Each 50g ball, available in lots of bright colours, costs £3.50 directly from Three Bears Yarn.  The company says 'English Fine Coons yarns are produced using extra-long staple (ELS) cotton varieties, which make some of the highest quality yarns produced in the world today'.

If you're substituting cotton for wool in a pattern remember that, because cotton is heavier, you're likely to need more of it than the pattern suggests.

Over to you ...

What have we missed? Which Brit summer yarns do you recommend? Let us know in the comments underneath or on our Facebook page.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Review of Susan Crawford's The Vintage Shetland Project

Image courtesy of Susan Crawford
It has been a long wait but it felt like Christmas when my copy of The Vintage Shetland Project by Susan Crawford arrived in the post.

It was back in 2015 when Susan Crawford set up a crowdfunding campaign to publish the book, inspired by her love of knitting history and Shetland traditions. Since then she was diagnosed with breast cancer, which delayed her work on the project. Happily Crawford is now cancer free and her many years of work have come to fruition.

The Vintage Shetland Project is a very weighty hardback book with 27 patterns and essays on Shetland social and fashion history over the decades.  It's Crawford's best work yet, which is saying something considering the high publishing standards and critical acclaim of her previous books A Stitch In Time Volume 1 and A Stitch in Time Volume 2.

At £48 the book not cheap but the quality is that of an heirloom. Feel the glossy paper and waft the bookish smell under your nose. The photography, all shot on the island of Vaila off the coast of Shetland, is stunning. It's obvious the whole project has been a labour of love for Crawford.

The Patterns

Crawford first saw the garments featured in the Shetland Museum Archives, some of which were degraded and missing parts. She, with the help of her husband Gavin, a computer programmer, transcribed the designs into patterns suitable for the modern number in a range of sizes.

Rose image courtesy of Susan Crawford
Each pattern has a handy schematic and the charts are printed in colour with different charts for most sizes. This is incredibly sensible and practical for the knitter: a couple of times I've bought knitting pattern books and been put off knitting a garment due to the charts being in black and white on a small grid, almost impossible to decipher.

Most patterns use Crawford's own vintage-feel yarn Fenella, although some offer an alternative or are solely knitted in Jamieson and Smith yarns.

Here are A Woolly Yarn's top three patterns from the book:

Rose Cardigan

The charming rose motifs in red and white pink on this short-sleeved cardigan make this a standout garment.

Rose is is knitted in the round from the bottom up. There's a necessary steek at the centre front and I think this may well be the pattern that challenges me to face my fear of steaks. To me there feels something dreadfully wrong in cutting knitting, but if that's what it takes to make Rose then it's a mental hurdle I'm determined to leap over.


Jeannie image courtesy of Susan Crawford
An essay in The Vintage Shetland Project explains Crawford's investigative journey from first seeing the child-size top in Shetland Museum to finding more about its designer Jeannie Jarmson.

Jeannie is worked in the round from the bottom up and knitted in silk with tiny, delicate motifs. The tiny delicate motifs are knitted in silk. Having not seen the garment knitted up I can only imagine how soft and luxurious it must feel. Kits to make Jeannie have already sold out on Crawford's website.


When Shetland sweaters are mentioned Ralph is probably the sort of jumper that will pop up in your imagination.

Ralph image courtesy of Susan Crawford
It has standard Fair Isle patterns and is knitted in traditional grey and brown shades. Whilst it will be a labour of love to knit this unisex jumper will become an eternal classic in your wardrobe.

Best of the rest ...

Of course all the patterns in The Vintage Shetland Project are covetable, but three highly recommended by A Woolly Yarn are the lemon lacy short-sleeved sweater Dorothy; Ripple a short-sleeved sweater with a black background and ripples of pastel colours; and Paterson, the bright Fair Isle top with a found neck that's featured on the book's front cover.

Which is your favourite pattern and why? Let us know below or on our Facebook page.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Let's Talk About Socks: Rachel Coopey and Verity Castledine

The mini beast from the east is set to hit us over the Easter break with cold weather and possible snow - certainly a good reason to wear warm, woolly socks.

Sock aficionado Rachel Coopey has added new neon colours to her Socks Yeah! 4ply yarn range, shades so bright that rescuers will surely find you if you end up stuck in a snowdrift with just your toes sticking out.

Image courtesy of Rachel Coopey

The shades take me straight back to middle school in the 1980s when there was a brief fluorescent sock trend. The trick was to wear odd socks, say one lime green and one florescent yellow, until the teachers got wise and banned them. Seeing Coopey's shades makes me feel nostalgic and happy, longing as I am for some colour amidst the UK's seemingly everlasting cold spell.

Image courtesy of Rachel Coopey

Dig out or buy a copy of Coopey's Socks Yeah! Volume 1 or Volume 2 pattern collections to find something to knit with your neon (I have all the yarn to knit Otis but still haven't got round to it yet because mermaid blankets for one of my goddaughters and her sister are currently taking up all my knitting time).

If it's something new you're after then sign up for Coopey's Neon & Neutrals Socks Club. For £100 plus P&P subscribers will receive five parcels through the post from May to December, each containing a pattern plus a neon yarn paired with one or two of Coopey's existing Socks Yeah! muted shades. She's also hinted that there may also be a few surprises.

Whilst I haven't seen the new neon shades in person I have knitted with Socks Yeah! yarn before and found it to be soft and hardy with excellent stitch definition.

The Sock Drawer

Verity Castledine's pseudonym is Truly Hooked, the company she founded to sell her hand dyed yarns in an array of colours. She's now branched out to writing knitting patterns and The Sock Drawer is her collection of ten sock patterns, which won the 'Favourite knitting book' category at the British Knitting and Crochet Awards 2017.

Image courtesy of Truly Hooked

Like Coopey's Socks Yeah! books The Sock Drawer is a classic both for newcomers to sock knitting and those who want to take their skills further. Ravelry shows all the patterns for you to see what you are getting before you buy. Castledine's designs are dainty and elegant, all knitted from the top down.

Suvena image courtesy of Truly Hooked

My personal favourite is 'Suvena', a travelling cable design inspired by fish tail hair braid.  The Sock Drawer is available to buy at Etsy and costs £15 plus £1.50 P&P.

Which is your favourite sock pattern to knit? Let us know below or on A Woolly Yarn's Facebook page.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Who Is This Year's Shetland Wool Week Patron? Plus Free Hat Pattern

The patron for Shetland Wool Week 2018 was revealed at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival - and it's Elizabeth Johnston, professional knitter, dyer, spinner weaver and owner of the yarn company Shetland Handspun

Elizabeth Johnston image courtesy of Shetland Wool Week
As has become tradition for Shetland Wool Week the announcement of the patron was accompanied by a hat pattern designed by them. The hat is called the 'Merrie Dancers Toorie' and is based on a fisherman's kep (hat) in the Shetland Museum and Archives' Boat hall. 

Merrie Dancers Toorie image courtesy of Shetland Wool Week

Says Johnston: "I have loved designing the Merrie Dancers Toorie. The kep has a dark background with colours that remind me of the northern lights, or 'merrier dancers', and a familiar sight to fisherman."

The pattern is free to download here. There are two size options and each uses a different yarn weight. 

Previous Shetland Wool Week hat patterns

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Review of Baa Baa Brighouse's March Birthstone Box + Daughter of A Shepherd News!

Monthly boxes are growing in popularity at the moment. Beauty boxes, where you pay a monthly fee and receive some surprise goodies in the post, started the trend and now many more have sprung up, such as stationary, books and even one for your period. Yes, really.

I usually like seeing what I'm going to get before I buy. Die hard fans of them say they love the surprise when they open their box each month, but I don't want to be disappointed if there's nothing that floats my boat inside.

One yarn company that so far has hit the spot for its wool boxes each time is Baa Baa Brighouse. Last month I reviewed their Valentine's box and this month I was thrilled to receive their March Birthstone Box for review.

Each month Baa Baa Brighouse hand-dyes 200g of of their Baa Baa Brew British Bluefaced Leicester DK yarn in an exclusive colourway inspired by the birthstone for that month. March's is aquamarine.

The first thing I noticed when opening the box was a wonderful soapy aroma coming from a little bag containing two bath bombs. The wool even smells of it too! The other non-wool goodies inside the box are:

  • A traditional oat flapjack baked in Yorkshire (delicious)
  • A bag of small buttons in the colourway
  • A birthstone fairy
  • Two aquamarine stitch markers.
The birthstone fairy is the only item I won't use but that's a matter of personal taste. Now to the main item - the wool!

The colours that make up the skeins really are beautiful. The aquamarine hues have shaken me out of my usual reds, pinks and greys yarn shade choices and are perfect for Spring. The skeins are soft and squishy and I'm looking forward to knitting them up. The difficulty when you buy yarn without a pattern is thinking of what to knit with it. I'm told that Baa Baa Brighouse have some patterns suitable for their yarn boxes waiting in the wings.

The Birthstone Boxes cost £37 each plus P&P. Baa Baa Brighouse sells a number of yarn boxes on different themes. See the currently available ones here.

Daughter Of A Shepherd Pattern News

Rachel Atkinson, who really is the daughter of a shepherd, has won many fans with her Hebridean/Zwartbles DK and 4ply yarns in their natural colours. In her email newsletter she has announced the exciting news that her first pattern book to support the yarns is now available for pre-order.

Image courtesy of Daughter of a Shepherd

Volume 1: Beginnings will contain 10 knitting and crochet patterns designed by a host of favourite names such as Rachel herself, Rachel Coopey and Sarah Hatton. The patterns will be accompanied by essays and photography of the flock.

Pre-orders are now open priced at £19.99 plus P&P on the Daughter of a Shepherd website. Each print copy comes with an ebook download code. People lucky enough to be going to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival between March 15th and 17th can buy their copy there.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Let's End Knitting Stereotypes For Good: International Women's Day Special

Today, Thursday 8th March, is International Women's Day - 24 hours to honour everything that women bring and contribute to society. As the website says, the day celebrates 'the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women'.

Lesley Manville image courtesy of Radio Times
A recent interview in the Radio Times magazine with actress Lesley Manville got me thinking crossly about how anti-feminist outdated and patronising stereotypes about knitters have survived into the 21st-century and are even uttered by women themselves.

When asked about how she felt about reaching a milestone birthday, Manville said:
"It's OK to be 60. You can have a lover at 60. You don't have to be shoved in a cardigan doing knitting."
OK, it was no doubt meant to be a light-hearted, humorous comment, but it perpetuates the trope that knitters are elderly, sexless, sitting in God's waiting room and have nothing better to offer society than a knitted teddy bear or jumper.

Firstly, it's incredibly patronising to women of a certain age who knit. Many of these women learned to do so from their own grandmothers and mothers and, bringing up their families in the 1950s and 60s, knitted out of economic necessity. Their houses didn't have central heating. Ready-made clothes were expensive to buy in the shops. These women poured their love for their families into every stitch they knitted, whether they were creating a jumper, cardigan or pair of socks. They had the skills to darn well-loved garments and re-use wool for other accessories - techniques that are becoming more popular nowadays with the advent of an anti-consumerist backlash.

Image courtesy of
Now, in their later stage of life, these knitters pass on their knowledge to younger generations and keep traditional crafts alive. People may scoff at the idea of knitted toys or scarves being sold at a school fete or church bazaar, but they're forgetting the many hours of volunteering that goes into the creation of them and the funds their sale raises for charity. A more recent example includes knitted hats and scarves being given to refugees in Europe to help them cope with biting winters. For them these gifts could help keep them alive - I would imagine the recipients would be very grateful to the women who knitted them and would not poke fun at their age and appearance. Nor would the parents of premature babies gifted tiny knitted hats to keep them warm in their incubators.

And let's not forget that there's a growing interest amongst men of all ages in knitting too, as reported on this blog last year in an interview with Lewis Ryan, the founder of ManKnit. Creating warm garments from natural products is a survival skill: even Bear Grylls can't expect there to be a branch of Mountain Warehouse in the middle of a wilderness. Knitting is a technical skill, where an awareness of maths helps greatly. Wool doesn't care which gender knits with it.

Of course knitting as a hobby isn't for everyone. We all have different interests and that's part of the beauty of diversity. Yet society doesn't stereotype traditionally-male pastimes such as woodworking and car maintenance. We don't say that a man who chooses to whittle in his spare time is styleless, past it and will never have fun in the bedroom again.

The elderly female knitter stereotype also ignores the fact that lots of girls and women of all ages like to knit. It's a creative, expressive, sociable hobby that has been proven to help those dealing with depression, cognitive function impairments and anxiety. It's women who organised the Pussyhat Project, marching to protest against the curtailment of women's rights, using knitting as a powerful political tool. It's mainly women who, appalled to see the waste of good fleece, have fought to raise the profile of British wool in this country and across the world, helping to secure the future of British sheep breeds and their farmers' finances.

Lush photo courtesy of Tin Can Knits
So Manville, with respect, knitting might not be for you but please don't add fuel to the ancient knitter stereotype fire. As women, let's stick together. Here's a thought on International Women's Day: you mention you don't want to be shoved in a corner wearing a cardigan, but perhaps if you took up a pair of needles and learned to knit a stylish one such as Tin Can Knits' Lush during your acting breaks, you might be tempted to cross over to the dark side.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Snuggly Sweaters Suitable For The Snow

Outside my window it still looks like the Arctic despite the fact that I live in suburbia in the middle of England. Today it hasn't snowed but the Met Office is warning people not to travel unless strictly necessary and forecasting that the white stuff will fall again tonight.

For the last few days I've thanked heaven for my Rowan Big Wool jumper I knitted a few years ago. It's extremely thick and warm, can fit other layers underneath and is my 'go to' sweater whenever temperatures plummet. In fact I've worn it so much it's now tatty and bobbly and could do with a good shave to smarten it up.

I no longer have the pattern and sadly a quick search online for it didn't prove fruitful. Here are some recommendations for other snow-worthy sweaters, whether I've knitted them already or they just look so irresistibly cosy ...

1. Karie Westermann's Scollay is a cardigan that doubles up as a jumper when all the buttons are done up. Mine is knitted Blacker Yarns' Westcountry Tweed DK British Wool that keeps the warmth in and the draughts out.

Image courtesy of Karie Westermann
2. Jane Ellison's Pengelly sweater has a high neck and front pockets to put your hands in when it's getting nippy. It's knitted in aran weight. Ellison's shop Purl&Jane sells a suitable The Croft Shetland Tweed Aran.

Image courtesy of Jane Ellison
3. Kate Davies' Owls is an oldie but goodie. The pattern that launched her design career is still popular and, thanks to its chunky wool requirement (I knitted a version using Toft's silver chunky wool) is very snug. Just add a cowl if your neck gets chilly.

Image courtesy of Kate Davies

4. Gudrun Johnston's Snarravoe is waiting in my yarn stash to be knitted. It's inspired by the homeland of its Shetland-born designer and if the sweater can keep you warm there it can keep you warm anywhere. The pattern requires aran weight yarn - a good choice is Erika Knight for John Lewis's 100% wool aran.

Image courtesy of Gudrun Johnston
5. Ann Kingston's Hild jumper has a hood for those days when you've forgotten to bring a hat. Choose a British aran yarn such as West Yorkshire Spinners' Aran Bluefaced Leicester. Scarf optional to keep your neck balmy.

Image courtesy of Ann Kingstone
6. Tin Can Knits' Flax is a basic sweater that is suitable for beginners and more experienced knitters can knit up quickly. I've knitted light version in 4ply. This DK versions is warmer and can be pulled on as an extra layer when needs must. Choose one of Garthenor's 15 natural shades of DK.

Image courtesy of Tin Can Knits

7. Ella Gordon's Crofthoose Yoke is knitted in Jamieson & Smith's 2ply jumper weight. The 100% Shetland wool traps air, keeping the wearer warm.

Image courtesy of Ella Gordon

8. If all else fails buy some 100% British extra-thick yarn from Chunky Row and create your own sweater like this one!

Image courtesy of
Which hand-knitted jumper keeps you warm? Let us know in the comments box below or on our Facebook page.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Online Store BritYarn To Close + Discount Code

Image courtesy of BritYarn
Sad news today for lovers of British wool - the online store BritYarn is to close on 28th March.

The website opened nearly three years ago to cater for knitters and crocheters who wanted to know the yarn they bought originated from Britain, not just spun or processed here. Isla, BritYarn's owner, brought together a cleverly-collated collection of big brands such as Blacker Yarns and West Yorkshire Spinners together with lesser-known companies like Garthenor and Dodgson Wood.

In her email to customers today Isla said:
"I can't tell you how sad I am to say goodbye to the business I started from scratch ... life takes us on lots of adventures and my BritYarn one has been amazing ... but my life is taking a different pathway and one that BritYarn ultimately can't be part of."
Small, independent yarn businesses are under pressure from the two big online players in the UK market - Deramores and Loveknitting. They have the clout to buy in bulk and ask for discounts from their suppliers, something that small businesses and sole traders cannot do. Also, so they can cater to the price-conscious customer, many yarns they sell are international, processed and contain non-natural fibres such as acrylic.

BritYarn gives a marketplace to smaller British brands you won't find on the behemoths and has introduced wool lovers to small, niche brands they otherwise may not have heard of. It will be missed.

Until its doors shut BritYarn is offering 20% off its existing stock with the discount code THISISNOTGOODBYE.


With the loss of BritYarn, where can you go online to buy British wool and yarn? If you have a favourite brand already you can usually buy direct from their own website. Try for starters:

For retailers that sell a number of brands, including British yarns, go to:

Monday, 26 February 2018

Say It With WYS' Florist Collection + Kate Davies' Carbeth Cardi

Today it snowed in my part of middle England. Whilst the white stuff didn't settle the weather forecast says there's more to come - it's a week for wrapping up in chunky Winter knits and cosy handmade socks. The calendar says it's nearly March but Spring feels like a long, long way away.

What a pleasure it was then to see West Yorkshire Spinners' latest colourful additions to their top-selling Signature 4ply range.

Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners
Looking at The Florist Collection you can almost smell the honeysuckle and sweet peas and be transformed back to a balmy summer's evening. The colours are a far cry from Winter greys, dark greens and bottle blues. As per usual the solid and variegated shades are designed to work with each other for sock knitting so your foot can contrast with your ribbing.
Image courtesy of West Yorkshire Spinners
Foxglove is my favourite for no other reason than it looks like a raspberry ripple ice cream. If I whip up a pair of socks in these, possibly using Rachel Coopey's simple Dave pattern that will show off the colour of the yarn, it may be Winter outside but my feet will be stepping firmly into Spring.

The Signature 4ply range is a blend of 75% wool and 25% nylon. Each 100g ball costs £7.20 plus P&P directly from West Yorkshire Spinners.

Carbeth Cardi

Kate Davies has released a follow up pattern to Carbeth, her Winter warmer Boxing Day jumper that's knitted with two strands of her own DK Buachaille yarn together. The Carbeth Cardigan has a cropped design and can double up as a warm jacket.

Image courtesy of Kate Davies
For those of us who haven't signed up for Davies' West Highland Way club and therefore have to wait until subscribers have seen all that collection's patterns first, the Carbeth Cardigan will keep our needles busy in the interim. The pattern costs £5.95 to download from Ravelry.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Review of Baa Baa Brighouse's Valentine's Box

Today, with a big thanks to Mr A Woolly Yarn, I excitedly received Baa Baa Brighouse's Valentine's box.

Elaine Jinks-Turner, who runs the online and soon to be bricks and mortar too wool shop, puts together a number of yarn boxes on different themes. The most well-known is the monthly Yan Tan Tethera Yarn Club, where each month subscribers receive exclusively-dyed Yorkshire wool inspired by a photograph of the Yorkshire landscape. She also sells monthly-themed hand-dyed yarn boxes - previous subjects have included Sherlock and Jane Austen. As well as yarn they come with cute little extras. Sometimes they can be difficult to find on Baa Baa Brighouse's website so you may need to hunt for them!

Here are the goodies in my Valentine's box:

  1. Two hand-dyed 100g skeins of Baa Baa Brew 100% Bluefaced Leicester British Wool DK in the one-off shade 'My Bloody Valentine'
  2. A handmade bath truffle from The Yorkshire Soap Company
  3. A cute little organza bag filled with red and white buttons 
  4. A lavender bag 
  5. A heart-shaped chocolate from the world-famous Betty's Bakery 
  6. A bar of raspberry and poppy seed soap.
Needless to say I was thrilled by the well-thought-out goodies in the box, particularly the bath truffle and the chocolate.

The star of the show though of course is the wool: each skein is packaged with a lovely little heart-shaped stitch marker. I really like the fact that Jinks-Turner bypassed the usual Valentine's red shade and instead produced this variegated pink and purple creation. It's vibrant and fun and I can't wait to see what it looks like knitted up. Any pattern ideas you can recommend? Please let me know in the comments box below or on A Woolly Yarn's Facebook page.

The Valentine's Box is a one-off and is no longer for sale. As it was a gift I'm too polite to ask Mr A Woolly Yarn the cost. For an alternative Baa Baa Brighouse currently has these themed boxes for sale:

  • Spring Equinox Yarn Box: £37 plus P&P for 200g of variegated hand-dyed Baa Baa Brew DK with goodies
  • March 2018 Yan Tan Tethera Yarn Club: £23 plus P&P for one skein of hand-dyed Unicorn Sock base yarn, a copy of the photograph used as colour inspiration, and a complementary Yorkshire gift
  • February Themed Yarn Box - Votes For Women: £26 plus P&P for one 100g skein of Baa Baa Brew British Bluefaced Leicester DK in a brand new hand-dyed colourway, a contrasting 25g mini skein and goodies
  • Mother's Day Yarn Box: £37 plus P&P for 200g of variegated hand-dyed Baa Baa Brew DK with goodies on a 'pampering mum' theme.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Upcoming Cable Books from Ann Kingstone and Arnall-Culliford Knitwear

Here's some news to brighten up a cold February: two of our favourite British designers have announced forthcoming pattern book releases. That gives us something to look forward to on these cold, cold nights.

Image courtesy of Ann Kingstone
Firstly, Yorkshire designer Ann Kingstone is to publish a print book in late February or March of her Cabled Knits patterns. It doesn't come cheap, at £25 for the print book or £33.50 for the print and ebook option (both prices don't include P&P), but if you buy the ebook it costs a much more manageable £14.45 with a 15% introductory discount.

Cabled Knits will contain 16 skilful patterns for novice and experienced knitters alike, all of which use British wool. Woodkirk (see the image on the left) is our favourite, featuring the tree of life motif on the back.

Other patterns include accessories, cardigans and jumpers. We hope to review the whole collection when the print book is published.

Meanwhile Jen and Jim Arnall-Culliford, aka Arnall-Culliford Knitwear, announced in their latest newsletter that plans are well underway for their new book Something New To Learn About Cables. As per their previous book, A Year of Techniques, the pair will include their own patterns that teach a new skill to the knitter. Pre-orders for the book will open on their website the week commencing February 19th.

Time to dig out your cable needles!

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Baa Ram Ewe Introduces Own Stranded Colourwork Wool Range

The new year brings three more shades for baa ram ewe's British wool ranges Titus and Dovestone DK, plus the launch of Pip Colourwork, 25g balls of wool in 15 shades meant for Fair Isle and stranded colour work designs. Each ball costs £3.20 plus P&P.

Pip Colourwork image courtesy of baa ram ewe
The company says that the name Pip comes from a traditional method of sheep counting in Swaledale, North Yorkshire. Pip is baa ram ewe's fifth own-brand yarn, and Pip means five after Yan (one), Tan (two), Tether (three) and Mether (four). 

We haven't had the chance yet to test knit the Pip range but on its website baa ram ewe describes the wool as 'soft and squishy yet with enough grip to bind the shades together'.  It recommends four patterns from Isabell Kraemer on Ravelry to knit with the range. 

Titus image courtesy of baa ram ewe

The three new Titus and Dovestone DK shades are North Sea, a deep blue; Nidderdale, an emerald green; and the 'does what it says on the tin' shade Muck - an earthy brown. 

Titus has increased in price to £17 per 100g skein due to the rise in the popularity of the Wensleydale fleece and a seventy per cent increase its wholesale cost: great news for the British wool industry but not so much for customers. Baa ram ewe says it has tried to keep the price of its yarns as low as possible.

Other British stranded colourwork wool ranges

If you want to try out stranded colourwork this winter there are plenty of British wool ranges to choose from. They all consist of 25g balls or skeins.
  • Erika Knight's British Blue Wool is spun from Bluefaced Leicester fleece and comes in 17 shades. Each ball costs £4.20 plus P&P from
  • Jamiesons of Shetland's has a multitude of shades in its spindrift and DK range at £3.15 a ball
  • Fenella is a 2ply yarn that knits up to a vintage 3ply tension. It was created by British designer and historian Susan Crawford for stranded colourwork patterns and costs £4 a skein plus P&P.
  • Foula Wool comes from the Scottish island of Foula, west of the Shetland Islands and all the seven shades are natural. Each DK ball is £3.95 plus P&P but you can also choose from lace or jumper weight.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Northumberland's Whistlebare Yarn & Daisy Snood Pattern Review

Why haven't I come across Whistlebare yarn before? It's right up A Woolly Yarn's street, producing yarn from British animals kept to the highest welfare standards, and is a family-run business.

On their farm in Northumberland Alice Elsworth, her husband and four sons keep Angora goats and Wensleydale sheep. The fleece is scoured, combed and spinned in Yorkshire then returned to the farm for dyeing. I tested Yeaving Bell, their 4ply 100g skein, in a barely-there grey called 'Willo' the Wisp', and knitted up their Daisy Scarf/Snood pattern that comes free with a yarn purchase.

On first impression this 80% mohair and 20% Wensleydale yarn looks delectable: a delightfully-nuanced pale grey that catches the light, wrapped in a squishy skein held together in a cute, cardboard label. When rolling the skein into a ball by hand I could feel the softness of the yarn and see its slight halo, collecting little tufts as I rolled. Yeavering Bell 4ply is delicate and can tangle easily but has a surprising toughness when pulled - no snapping here.

Here's Whistlebare's photo of their Daisy snood:

Image courtesy of Whistlebare

The pattern was fun to knit, the daisy stitch being challenging to knit yet not too difficult that it couldn't be knitted in front of the TV. It passed my EastEnders test! One 100g skein created a snood that can be wrapped around the neck twice. Knitted on 6.5mm circular needles you would think the pattern's lack of density would make it not very warm. Not so, for it certainly keeps my neck cosy on cold days.

Here's a snapshot of the delicacy of the stitches in my version:

Yeavering Bell costs £18.50 per skein plus P&P. It's available in 4ply, DK and Aran weight, in full skein or mini skein lengths. There are 21 colours to choose from: think natural, pretty and bright.

Whistlebare also sells two other yarns I've yet to test: Cuthbert's Sock, 80% mohair and 20% Wensleydale, and Cheviot Blue in 4ply and DK weight, a blend of South Country Cheviot and Blue Faced Leicester.

I asked Alice to tell us a bit more about her business.

Q: How did Whistlebare come about?

A: Whistlebare is a small (around 60 acres) very beautiful farm in North Northumberland, a stone's throw from the beach in one direction and the fabulous Cheviot hills in the other. We moved here in 2004 bringing our small herds of Aberdeen Angus Cattle and Large Black Pigs with us. These we farmed to organic standards until 2012 when a variety of factors converged to mean we needed to find a new direction. In that time I had learned to crochet and was picking up knitting needles again after a 25-year break. I was loving the c creativity and the peace induced by an evening's crafting. It was when I started to visit some of the fantastic yarn festivals around, notably the very first Edinburgh Yarn Festival, that the idea of producing our own, British, local, ethical yarn began to take root.

Q. How did you choose the fleeces to use?

A: As a teenager I had spent my holidays helping my Aunt on her goat farm in Cornwall. She had a few Angora Goats and I had always loved them and the amazing lustrous mohair they produce. After a lot of investigation and soul searching I was delighted when Angora Goats appeared to be the way forward. Our first nine Angora Goats arrived in 2013 to great excitement. I wasn't the only one who was excited, our four sons, then aged six to 11 years-old, were very keen to get involved. My husband and I decided that this was an opportunity for the boys to begin their own flock of sheep. Again, much research ensued. Wensleydales with their beautiful long locks of high lustre wool, as well as being a rare breed from my husband's native Yorkshire, seemed to be the perfect compliment to our gats. The boys' first three ewes arrived, in lamb, at the beginning of 2014.

Q. Tell me what makes your yarn ranges special.

A: Yeavering Bel lis a unique yarn ... it is soft and sleek with rich colour and very high lustre. Mohair is a hollow fibre so is very insulating whilst being very lightweight. The addition of Wensleydale, which is a much heavier robust fibre, gives the mohair enough weight to drape beautifully. Another of mohair's characteristics is that it has the highest rub test of all natural fibres so, when knitting with Yeavering Bell you can be sure that your project will last for years.

Our other mohair and Wensleydale yarn is Cuthbert's Sock. It is entirely natural fibre, 80% kid mohair and 20% Wensleydale wool spun tightly to be robust. Mohair is the perfect sock fibre ... the fibres themselves have very few scales and what scales there are lie smoothly, as a result bacteria has nowhere to cling on and so mohair socks don't smell!

Q. Where do you get your colour inspiration from?

A: Within a very few miles of Whistlebare we have dunes, beaches, the sea, castles, moorland and forestry: the inspiration for colour is all around us and endless. When planning a new palette I have to focus on a theme or particular location as the possibilities can be overwhelming otherwise. I try very hard to produce groups of colours that work well together and are truly wearable as well as being eye catching in your stash!

Saturday, 20 January 2018

A Woolly Yarn Wins Knitter Of The Year 2018: Online Innovator Award

Image courtesy of Knit Now
Today I can announce the fabulous news that A Woolly Yarn has won Knit Now magazine's Knitter of the Year 2018 award in the Online Innovator category.

It's the fourth year that Knit Now has run the awards, crowning winners in five categories: Charity Hero, Designer of the Year, New Designer of the Year, Local Superstar and Online Innovator. The lucky winners' prize, as well as mention in the magazine, is a day out at knitting company Sirdar's in Yorkshire to find out what happens behind the scenes, meet the designers and receive a sneak preview of their new season yarns and patterns.

I set up A Woolly Yarn three years ago to champion British yarns and designers whilst also delivering knitting news and reviews. I'm excited, honoured and thrilled that the blog has won this award and am grateful to everyone who reads it, follows us on Facebook and to all the companies and designers who have agreed to reviews and answering my nosey questions. A big thanks too to Kate Heppell, Knit Now's Editor, for choosing A Woolly Yarn as a winner; and not forgetting Denise Burrows who designed our new logo that launched last year.

I'll be reporting back from the Sirdar day on the blog later in the year. Is there a question you'd like me ask or something you've always wanted to know about yarn production or the design process? Please let me know via the form below or on A Woolly Yarn's Facebook page.

The list of all the winners is in Knit Now's issue 84, which hits subscribers' doorsteps today and goes on general sale in the Uk next week.

Right, time now to have a break from knitting and crack open the champagne. Bottoms up!

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Fears For The Debbie Bliss Brand As Designer Yarns Goes Bust

Logo courtesy of Designer Yarns
Yarn shops have expressed their fears about restocking British wool brand Debbie Bliss as Designer Yarns, a Yorkshire-based company that distributed yarn and accessory brands, closed on 18th December 2017.

Elaine Jinks-Turner, owner of online yarn shop Baa Baa Brighouse, said she had "attempted to place an order and discovered that since January 3rd the company's affairs were being managed by Rushton Insolvency. I'm afraid this will most likely affect our future supply of Louisa Harding and Debbie Bliss yarns."

Designer Yarns' Facebook page gives no mention of the insolvency and its website homepage has changed to give an email address for queries. Insider Media reported that the company went into administration on 14 December, that 12 people lost their jobs and although a buyer is being sought for Designer Yarns' stock the business itself is not being marketed.

Logo courtesy of Debbie Bliss
Currently Debbie Bliss doesn't sell yarn on her website Debbie Bliss Home. Responding to knitters and shops' concerns about getting hold of her yarns, Debbie Bliss, who herself is an unsecured creditor, said:

"I was sad to hear that Designer Yarns had ceased trading, having enjoyed working with the team there for many years. It was very difficult news for everyone: customers, suppliers, employees and myself. I am doing all I can to ensure that the Debbie Bliss brand will continue and will update all my knitting friends when I have more news."
Until wool shops can restock customers may find it difficult to get hold of their favourite Debbie Bliss yarns. If you know you need more of a certain colour or yarn the advice is to buy now whilst stocks last.

The full list of brands affected by Designer Yarns' closure is:

  1. Debbie Bliss Yarns and sister brand C&B
  2. Louisa Harding (the company that bears her name, not Harding's most recent venture Yarntelier)
  3. Noro
  4. Mirasol
  5. DY Choice
  6. Amano
  7. Brittany Needles.

* Blog post edited 12th January.

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