Sunday, 21 December 2014

Christmas Jumpers I Wish I Had Made But Totally Don't Have Time For

Oh, I have missed the boat this year, and definitely don't intend to attempt a sweater in 4 days (yes, yes I know it is possible, some of you crazy folk out there have done it, but I simply don't have the attention span or willpower required).   I'll need to content myself with some simple socks, mulled wine and walnut cake, what a hardship...

There are, however, a few items I'd love to add to my list to knit for next year.

"Boreal" by Kate Davies
Boreal is one of my absolute favourite winter knits.   It's an aran weight (maybe I could do it in 4 days...), and perfectly winter-like.  Not too christmassy, so I could still wear it through December and January.   Kate Davies seems to produce wonderful colourwork sweaters without fail, so perhaps it's time I try one!

"The Perfect Christmas Jumper", by Susan Crawford
This one is definitely a christmas day jumper, and I adore it.  Knit in 2-ply, it might take a little extra motivation to convince me to start, but I am a sucker for those puff sleeves.  Susan Crawford makes some beautiful vintage-style patterns.

"Strokkur" by Ysolda
One of my current top 'to-do' yoked sweaters, this is another aran masterpiece.  Lovely detail without taking over the whole sweater.  It's also one of those patterns I really want to knit *exactly* as it was made originally.  Good excuse for some post-christmas yarn shopping then?

"Clayquot" by Tin Can Knits
Clayquot is one of the new patterns from Tin Can Knits newest book 'Road Trip'.  As with their other cardigans (e.g. Lush, which I knitted a few months ago), the pattern is simply written, pleasing to read and easy to knit.  This one is definitely on the cards!

"Homestead" by Martin Storey
Last but not least, we had to have one more lot of reindeer, no?

Do you have a christmas jumper you've knit for yourself?  Or intend to?  I'm afraid it'll be next year before I join you...

Monday, 15 December 2014

Cuppa & Cake with Jo & Kate of The Golden Skein

The Golden Skein very recently started sourcing and collating yarns from across the globe for some beautiful yarn clubs.

Currently, their main club is the 'Power of Three'.  An inspiration photo is chosen with related colours created by three different independent dyers.   By the look of the Golden Skein website, we have some rather interesting clubs to look forward to!

I signed up for the 'Power of Three' club for the past two quarters, and received some truly lovely yarn.  During Autumn, the dyers worked on the 'Harvest' inspiration photo (below), and the plan was to dye all colours on the same base so that they could be used as part of one large project if wished.    I've already turned the gold skein above into a pair of magnificent 'Tintern Abbey' socks.  The green and blue are also destined for socks.  Socktober has changed me.

This quarters inspiration was this gorgeous firework filled photo.  One thing which really draws me about TGS collections is that you can receive three TOTALLY different yarns, both in colour and base, depending on how the dyer interprets the photo.

I won't spoil this quarter for you, in case you're still waiting, or considering, but they're all completely different and all very cool!  

I recently had a wee chat with The Golden Skein duo.   Their answers are very wonderful, and I was very moved by Jos story about why 'The Golden Skein' was important to her.  It's a sad story which we can all relate to - why wait to do things / use things / spend things we want to, when we really have no idea what could get in the way of those options in the future?  It's probably a thought which resonates with anyone who has lost a friend or family member or suffered an illness, and really motivated us to make the most of each and every day!

1. Introduce yourself!  Who are the brains behind The Golden Skein?

The Golden Skein is run by Jo Milmine and Kate Ellis. Jo is a part time evil mastermind and full time enabler. With a magpie-like tendency for beautiful yarn, and a poor ability to fight the urge to cast on every pattern in sight, she came up with the idea of The Golden Skein to justify amassing yet more yarn. Voice of the Shinybees knitting and craft comedy podcast, she blogs and has just moved to the north of Scotland, which is an excellent place to live if you love knitwear.

Kate is a law lecturer by day and knitter by night. Her yarn addiction was well and truly fuelled when she took a part-time job at Loop London for a year or so. Kate writes a blog and has published several of her own knitting designs as Kate’s Twirl. Previously the Co-ordinator for P-Hop (Pennies Per Hour of Pleasure), you may also have heard Kate operating as a roving reporter and occasional guest on the iMake Podcast. Kate is aided and abetted by her feline sidekick, Mabel, who, unlike most cats, has a healthy respect for luxury yarns.

2. When did you dream up TGS, and what was your inspiration?

The initial idea for The Golden Skein came from Jo's husband, James, aka Mielie (which means sweetcorn in Afrikaans, long story!) on one of their nightly walks around the area in which they lived in South Africa. He was inspired by the vast selection of wines available in the country, and suggested a wine tasting club, but for yarn, would be quite good fun. Jo took this idea and ran with it, to produce the format you now see in the Power of 3 yarn club. This involves three different hand dyers being sent the same inspiration picture to use to create their colour way. There is no other direction from TGS apart from this, so the dyers are free to work to their own individual style. Not only does this produce some really interesting but related skeins, but it also gives a great illustration of that dyer's personal style. It also means our subscribers are introduced to lots of lovely new dyers and yarn bases. Because everyone needs enabling!

The inspiration for the name and the general ethos of freeing special skeins came from a tragic accident, in which one of Jo's friends was killed, along with 2 others, in a mid-air collision over the Moray Firth. After this, Jo mused in a podcast episode about how we have these special 'golden skeins' that we all keep in our stash. We love them, but we're also a little bit afraid of them. We take them out, pet them, marvel at their wonderous beauty and put them back in the stash, not to see the light of day again for another few months. They are so pretty, we're too scared to use them in case we 'spoil' them. Jo decided that it was time to stop doing this, as if she died into a plane crash tomorrow, she wouldn't be sat up on a cloud somewhere thinking, "I am glad I never knitted that skein." She pledged from that day on to release the golden skeins and replace them with new ones. 

3. What'll be your next club to open, and what can we expect from it?

The next club to open will be the 837 Club, which will be a journey from Land's end to John O Groats via the medium of British hand dyed yarns. We have a few surprises up our sleeves with that one, so we don't want to give too much away at this stage. The release date for that club will be confirmed in December. There is also a potential top secret project in the wings for early next year that we are working on.

4. What's your favourite skein so far?

Jo: Oh this is a hard one! I have found that it varies enormously and I switch from one to another, particularly within each shipment. I think my all time favourite is Mrs Wilmott's Ghost by Yarn Garden, which is a 50% Merino, 50% Silk blend. It was dyed for the Tornado Over London picture in the first quarter. That picture was chosen as a combination of both of us coming together and launching our first proper club. It symbolised Kate living in London, in a high level apartment with a great view across the city, which I enjoyed on my first visit down there to plan how it was all going to work. For me, it was the Tornado, due to the aircraft crash. I never thought I liked grey that much until that club and now I am a full on addict! 

A very close second was the 'Fields of Gold' colour way from the latest club, dyed by Michelle at Hartlam in South Africa. She drew upon the photo we provided as well as the natural beauty surrounding her in the Western Cape to create the colour way. It reminds me of the country I pine so often for, and the depth and tones in the skein are just stunning.

Kate:  Initially I would have said the same as Jo.  Those 2 skeins are just gorgeous.  I am, however, going to go a little left field with this.  There were 2 skeins which I just didn't know what to knit with them.  To be honest, they are skeins which I would not have naturally chosen if it weren't for doing the club. They were Dye for Yarn's Tornado Over London, which I just thought was a bit too dark and fluffy - it's merino with baby camel, and Desert Vista Dyework's Fruits of Summer - I don't really knit socks and lacked the imagination of what else to do with a self stripe.  After a false start with a generic pair of socks, I spotted a project from one of our members and really liked it.  I ended up using both these yarns together to make an Endless Rainbow shawl.  When knitting with the Dye For Yarn, I completely fell in love with it.  It is soooo very soft and the various underlying hues are amazing.  It goes stunningly well with the vibrant colours in the the Desert Vista.  The shawl is delightful, one of my favourite all time knits, which I am wearing to death. One of my favourite things about the club is that it takes me out of my comfort zone and makes me use yarns which are neither blue, nor contain silk...

5. What do you do when you're not picking out gorgeous skeins for us?

By day, Kate works as a senior lecturer in Construction Law, which is a bit of a departure from the yarn fume filled madness you might expect! She's also an avid tea drinker and a tad over in love with her cat.  She also enjoys abandoning said cat so that she can travelling to exotic destinations (we're talking jungles here) as well as frequent trips back to Guernsey. She can often be found enjoying a cocktail or three in the company of the fabulous Charles Evans, also of iMake fame. More than a closet liker of Blue Nun.

Jo is a child and dog wrangler by day, often found performing death defying stunts in the pursuit of Boden/Pedigree Chum ideals of what parenthood and dog ownership is all about. She is also a freelance enabler, working with independent hand dyers and designers, when not enabling folk to The Golden Skein. For fun, apart from knitting, Jo enjoys dog agility and was recently cast as the pantomime cat in Dick Whittington. No, this isn't a euphemism, this actually happened.

The inspiration photos for next year have already been released, and I think I'll have to go for Autumn & Winter again :D

If you want to hear more from Jo & Kate; Jo can be found over here and her podcast makes for happy listening,  Kate can be found on her website, designing new knitting patterns.  

And last but not least!  Last month we had a wonderful giveaway from Saras Texture Craft, followed by a very inspiring guest post about dying your own yarn & not being afraid of the colour!

The lucky winner was SheilaOKeefe, and Sara will be in touch soon about sending some smooshiness your way!  

How is your christmas knitting going?  Have you taken part in or knit anything from the gorgeous Golden Skein yarns?

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Socktober update

This month has been incredibly busy.  And, I have to admit, I'm slightly relieved that i'll be off to a new department soon where I'll have many, many, many more weekends off than I had before :D  More time for knitting, blogging, sleeping...

First of all, my socktober socks!  Now, they're not all finished yet (even though we're now almost in December) but they were begun in October so they still count, right?  Also in October, was this amazing red yarn from The Skein Queen.  It's merino and silk and yak and it is YUMMY.  Very squishable, dyed onto a grey base for a deeper colour and really matching the book she intended.    Very sad I only have one of these club arrivals left!  The next one will be inspired by 'Gone Girl', so I'm excited to see what she comes up with!

The first pair of socktobers is the Owlie Socks by Julie Elswick Suchomel.  They were a great knit, easy to follow and with cute little cables.  The yarn was great too, it was the Jawoll SUperwash by Lang Yarns, in the beige/grey.  It's great because it comes with a little bobbin of thread to knit through the heels & toes to reinforce them.  

My second pair were the Tintern Abbey socks by Brenda Dayne.  These were toe up, and I'll be hard pushed to knit top down again.  I can try these lovelies on as I knit!  They're knit from one of the gorgeous skeins which arrived with the August Golden Skein club - Hartlam sock in the Fields of Gold colourway.   Knit on chicagoos, the ones which have the twirly cable.  Definitely thought that was a gimmick, but trying to go back to non twirly needles and twisting them every couple of rounds?  Those twisty cables really do spoil you.  

There's also a shiny new pair which needs tested :p  They've definitely been slower than I intended too, because this glorious little magazine arrived.  Not only that, but I'm studying again - thought once uni was over with that would be too!  No such luck, and I have a scary exam in January.  Saying that, it has been a lovely week filled with walls of yarn.  The lovely wall of drops yarn at the local yarn store The Yarn Cake, and then my own accidental wall of yarn which is slowly taking over the bookshelves...  Do you have a wall of yarn?  How can you keep it all in boxes?!  Is so pretty!

It's starting to get chilly in the morning now, so all these socks really are just in time.  Though I'm still too scared to wear them often in case I put holes in them.  They're like little decorations atop my dresser, so I'll need to man up and wear them soon.   This is my view on the way to work.  Brrr. 

The socks on the go in the first photo are being knit with some lovely grey sock yarn from sara's texture crafts (you can still enter to win some of her lovely yarn over here).  It's really lovely to knit up, with nice tones throughout and good stitch definition on the 2.25mms. 

Then there might already be another set cast on with some of Ginger Twists amazing yarn-  just look at that colour!  

Falling so behing with everything!  There's the studying, the knitting, the work, the sorting my house out.  But it's all ok, because I have beer and yarn.  That means the world is an OK place.   Oh, and the Pigeon Pied Piper.  He was quite the sight in the botanics.  

What have you been doing lately?  What's on your needles and have you started your christmas knitting yet? (I haven't).

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Guest Post: Don't Be Afraid of Bold Colour Mixes by Sara Millis

This week we have a guest post from the lovely Sara, whose gorgeous yarn is also up for grabs for you to win over here!  

Hi, My name is Sara and I run an indie dye business called Sara’s Texture Crafts. I am delighted to have been invited to write a short piece for Amanda on her lovely blog OwlPrintPanda. I hope you enjoy what I have written and if you have any questions, please ask.

A very brief bit about me… I studied fashion business at the London College of Fashion, which lead to my working for a number of British Fashion Designers and a few Textile houses. It was here that I became drawn to wool as a fibre and so Sara’s Texture Crafts was born. I started out supplying felt makers, which led to learning to spin and weave so that I could extend my ranges. Recently my yarn range has taken off and so I‘m learning lots of different dye techniques to provide interesting colourways for you to knit with too.

So while thinking about what I wanted to write about, I was also planning my yarn giveaway with Amanda and so it seemed only right to concentrate my efforts on one of the questions I am most often asked by yarn buyers at shows… How does that (yarn colourway) knit up?

As an indie dyer I have probably close to 65/70 colours for yarn alone; available in variegated, semi solids, two tone, gradients and colour blocks… with some new ideas on the way. So it is impossible to swatch every colourway and display it on my stall clearly. I try to work on swatching ideas from each main dye technique instead, so you can see how an example of that might look.

Now given that this is a big subject with lots of dye techniques to cover, I thought it best to start us off with my tips for looking at bold colour mixes in variegated yarn.

I find occasionally that buyers shy away from bright bold mixes in variegated yarns, especially if they haven’t knitted something similar before.

I am here to say… Don’t be afraid of bold colour mixes!

Let me first show you an example from my range… colour Rosemoor (inspired by RHS Rosemoor Gardens).

Rosemoor is made up of bright pinks, greens and a mix of those to make teals. It can be quite a shock to see it in the skein like that… it’s very bright and bold.

When you start knitting with Rosemoor you can immediately see that this particular mix softens down.

From a distance the finished project culminates into a fabric that reminds you much more of the swaying sprays of flora in a garden on a summer’s day (as intended in this case) and less like the bold pop art interpretation that the intensity of the skein originally gave off.

Let’s think about that for a minute… going back to that beautiful garden on the summer’s day… from a distance a flower bed seems blended and harmonious, but up close in actuality the flowers are bold and unforgiving in their colour to attract insects. It’s the planting design that gives that blended feel from a distance.

This is the same with variegated yarns… They are designed so that bright skeins can often be more muted and blended in the knitted fabric.

It is the art of diffusion.

This is how I design my variegated colourways… to allow the colours to blend in a harmonious way.

So don’t be afraid of bold colour mixes!

Here are some Tips to Consider When Buying Variegated Yarns;

·       View the yarns in natural light where possible. This will help you see clearly how the colours look and if they might suit you. On-line shops will do their best to show you a good representation of those colours on their website, if you aren’t sure about colour tones then ask before you buy.
·       Ask to see a sample of that dye technique. Stall holders and shop owners do try their best to show examples. Depending on the base the example is knitted in, compared to the yarn you are looking to buy they will be able to give you some guidance.
·       Remember; the more colours in the yarn then the smaller the number of stitches each colour will travel across in your knitted row, allowing for more colours per row and creating a more diffused ‘space dye’ effect. Generally dyers seem to produce variegated skeins with 3-5 different colours, or blended colours they have chosen to work together as a harmonious knitted effect.

Tips on Pattern and Stitch Choice for Variegated Yarns;

·       Experiment with smaller accessories projects. If you aren’t used to such bright colours, then play with knitting socks and mitts to start with… bold pops of colour can really make an outfit stand out. If you are unsure of such bold colour choices, then knitting garments that sit away from your face will help you learn to get used to their intensity and also hide the colour choices that didn’t quite work for you.
·       Experiment with sock blankets and home d├ęcor. A skein of variegated yarn would make a wonderful addition to hearts in Amanda’s Heart Garland pattern. Equally it would break up solid shading in sock blankets too. This is a great way to use bursts of colour… you might find an affinity with variegated yarns through working projects like this.
·       Keep stitch choice simple. Simple stitch patterns, like a stockinette, garter or slip stitch will make the best of the colour… but remember intricate lace will get lost in bold colour variation.

Tips on Wearing Variegated Yarns;

·       Think Simple. Wear variegated yarns against softer or neutral shades to help soften the colours further and wear it against a black or charcoal to intensify the colour.
·       Print or not to print. Paired with simple colours and shapes the variegated yarn becomes the star of your outfit… but pair it with a very clever print and it will fade the intensity of your knit and give you a diffused colour element to compliment the colours in the print.

From here I plan to take this further in one of my new Tutorial Series over on my blog Crafts of Texture. Pop over if you’d like to learn more.

I hope you have found this useful… Happy Knitting and thanks for having me!
Sara x

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Giveaway with Sara's Texture Crafts

Sara trained in fashion, working as a Fashion and Textile Designer British Fashion Designers.  She dabbles in lots of wooly crafts including felt making, weaving, crochet - especially spinning and knitting. 

She creates some lovely hand dyed yarns & fibre.  I've often spotted her stall at festivals, it's always busy and looks great.  I particularly love the curly locks of fluff she dyes!

Sara says she strives to source the very best of products to sell.  At the moment, she works with a selection of UK Farmers (locally where possible), crafts people and suppliers to be able to do this.  

**Giveaway now closed** (edit 11/12/14)

For our giveaway, Sara has offered a dyed to order skein of her superwash sock!!  Sara dyed great solids, tonals and variegated yarn.  

To enter, just let us know which of her yarn colours is your favourite and why?!  You can enter here on the blog, and by sharing the blog link on facebook or twitter (remember to let me know where you've shared the link in your comment!).  That's up to three entries for everyone :). Remember to leave your ravelry username or another way to get in touch if you win! 

The giveaway will run for one month until the 10th of December!  

My favourite colours are these two:  'Night' and 'Gunmetal'.  They're a little moody, yet oh so squishable.  And they'd be perfect together for a shawl...  

You can find Saras shop here, or her blog here.

She's also on Ravelry & Twitter!!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Shawl Together: Shapes of Shawls

This post is part of the Fall Shawl Together [], a collaborative project featuring great shawl-related content from designers, bloggers, and podcasters. We're featuring a new post each week, now - December. You can check out all the posts on the Fall Shawl Together Project Page [] and show us what you're working on by tagging your shawl projects!  #shawltogether

Not long ago, Cate dropped a little email in my inbox about the Fall Shawl Together, which is a wonderful idea!  From last month until December, the Shawl Together page will be updated with lots of great bloggers posting about different aspects of knitting and shawls.

This week, is the turn of the shape of the shawl.   

Which do you prefer?  Why?  And do you prefer to knit one shape, but prefer to wear another?  It's very interesting to hear how this small decision can divide a group of knitters before even choosing your colours.  

The most common shape to crop up when searching for shawls on Ravelry, and the one you probably knit first, is the good ol' triangle.  The first shawl I knit was the 'Age of Brass & Steam' Kerchief by Orange Flower Yarn.  It was simple, it was a trangle, I figured it wouldn't make me cry.  Not that all triangual shawls are simple! For example, Rosemary Hill creates magnificent shawls, through the whole scpectrum of difficulty.  Saying that, my favourites are still Artesian and Knitwitch.  They're based on a simple idea, but have wonderful touches added. 

Triangles hang well over the shoulders, lending themselves well to shawl pins or being tied at the corners.


Knitwitch by Romi Hill

Sticking to the simple shapes, you could knit a square.  This shape is definitely easier than the triangle, but that all depends on which stitch patterns you fill it with!  There are some beautiful examples of the square shawl on Rav; this is Quill by Jared Flood.  It just looks so cozy.

Squares are slightly less easy to wear than triangles, and tend to be used as lap blankets or folded back into triangles before wearing.  

Semi-Circles are one of my new favourite shapes to knit.  I love the way it seems to radiate outward around a wee central shape to grow into something wonderful.  My most recent design, Aston Lane, is a semi-circlar shawl which incorporates short rows to allow different distances between the strings of beads.  It's inspired by a lane filled with fairy lights and cobblestones near my flat in Glasgow.

There are also some wonderful circular shawls, though I've yet to bring myself to attempt one of these lovelies, they're usually massive and made from lots of laceweight.

Semi circles are similar to triangles in that they cover the shoulders nicely but sometimes do need a little help staying on.

Ashton Lane

Time for my favourites.  Crescent shawls are my favourite to wear (which is confusing because, as I just said, the semi-circles are my favourite to knit!).  Because of this, Bru & Kelvinway are garter & lace crescents.  I find that crescent shawls fit well, and sit snugly around my neck without the need for pins.  They're also usually made from one skein of yarn which makes for a nice portable project.

Many people love wearing crescents because they stay on much like scarves.  Longer and thinner than your typical shawl, we can wrap them around our necks, no shawl pins required.

Last but not least on this list, is the asymmetrical shawl.  One of the largest KALs I've taken part in was Ysoldas 'Follow Your Arrow', which provided 5 stages with two options for each.  I used Manos Silk blend which was magnificent.   There are too many combinations to describe, so if you're interested the projects page is amazing.

Now, this isn't by any means an exhaustive list!  There are heart shaped, pentagonal, hexagonal - you name it, I'm sure you could find it (or make it yourself).  My favourite atypical shape is this beauty - it's the Maple Leaf shawl by Elfmoda.

If you're just starting out knitting shawls, last weeks contribution to the shawl together project was about the garter tab cast on by Alex Tinsley.  This is a very common technique which is used to start off a shawl - it ensures your shawl can start with enough stitches in a small space whilst looking very presentable.  And stuck for colours?  Cates post on colour theory was very pretty!

What's your favourite shawl? or shape?

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Spinning, Reading, Skein Queen Yarn & More Socks

Knitting was put on hold last weekend, because I was determined to finish spinning this lovely fluff.  It's a blend of Bluefaced Leicester, Cashmere & Silk from fondant fibre and, as usual, it was beautifully prepared.  I'm not sure what it'll knit up to be yet.  Theres a lovely transition from white to dark grey through it, so I think it'll have to be a nice shawl which shows it off!

That ludicrous orange is going to be a pair of coopknits socks; Saxifrage to be precise!  They had to be a ludicrous colour, because so far my socks have been pretty tame (I'll need to pop them all here and show them off!).  How did you do with your Socktober?  I managed 2.5 pairs.  Not bad?  I'm proud of myself, at least!

Saxifrage by Coopknits

And possibly the most enjoyable part (yes better even than new spinning and new socks) is that every Month, Debbie Orr of Skein Queen dyes up two colourways to match a chosen book.  This month, she chose 'Eeny Meeny' by M.J. Arlidge and, my-oh-my, were those yarns glorious.

The base is a merino/silk/yak blend - it's beautiful.  It's burning a hole in my stash shelf, and I really need to find something to knit with it soon!  Ideally, I'll find a gorgeous big shawl which requires two different colours of yarn so that I can use both the solid and variegated provided by the club together.  Any ideas?  If not I'll just have to spend yet more hours browsing Ravelry...

The club is a great motivator for me to pick books I wouldn't usually pick, encourages me to hurry up and finish them and leaves a lovely little bit of anticipation as I wait to see what colours Skein Queen will dream up.  I really do love reading, and since starting work it has been hard to wind down, to take time out just to read for a few hours, so I've been teaching myself to chill out again!  Y'know, in between the studying.

If you'd like a little book club with added yarn, there's a group here on Ravelry, and if you fancy joining the club it's over on the Skein Queen website.  

OH!  I almost forgot!  Since there now appears to be a growing number of Glasgow inspired shawls, there'll be a wee KAL over in the OwlPrintPanda ravelry group :D.  The Ashton Lane shawl won second place in the Glasgow School of Yarn competition a couple of weekends ago, which was lovely!  It's even more lovely to see people want to knit it together :)

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