The Yarn Collective


I have tried knitting with a lot of different yarns, as you can imagine – many of them have found their way in to my stash.  While I like a lot of them there aren’t many I love.

Felted Tweed by Rowan is probably my all time favourite although the current palette is a bit dull for my tastes; Yarn Stories Fine Merino DK, but I have to declare an interest in this yarn because I worked on the brand from its inception; Berger  de France Goomy – a fantastic sock yarn in really tasteful colours.  Spindrift by Jamieson’s of Shetland which has the best range of colours for my beloved Fair Isle.

Now I can add a new yarn to this select band,  The Yarn Collective Bloomsbury DK curated by Carol Feller.  Developed by Love Knitting/Love Crochet I have to admit to being a bit sceptical when I heard about it.  Their first own brand yarn, Paintbox, was not particularly good.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not averse to a value yarn but I found the acrylic too crisp and the cotton too floppy.

However The Bloomsbury DK is a lovely merino yarn with plenty of bounce and drape, and the semi solid shades give a lovely depth to your knitting. Spun in a family run mill in Peru from ethically reared sheep, the yarn is kettle dyed, which is how they achieve their distinctive colour blends.  Apparently the mill also contributes some of their profits to a school in the Highlands of Peru.  Ticking lots of boxes for me there.


Each yarn from The Yarn Collective is curated by a different designer who chooses the palette and creates some special designs for their yarn.  Carol has put her colours together in to 3 groups for the Bloomsbury DK, Surfer Blues, Fall and Fuchsia, but I think all the shades work together across the range.

I loved playing with this yarn so much that I have designed a hat to celebrate its yumminess. The blue I used is called Surf and is almost iridescent in its colour saturation. Just beautiful! You can find the pattern here.

rococo1I haven’t yet tried the worsted or lace but if the DK is anything to go by I should be in for a treat.  The only downside is that, being on a yarn diet, I can’t buy any of the yarn until next year. Rats!

A Shetlander’s Fair Isle Graph Book

img_0566I guess by now you may have realised that I am completely addicted to Fair Isle knitting in all its forms.  In fact I am even designing a pair of stranded socks at the moment.  Something I never thought I would do!

I’m not sure why or how my love affair started but the idea of having a lovely yarn in each hand and being able to create the most delicious patterns satisfies my love for knitting and for graphics as well.

Thanks to Phil at The Twisted Yarn blog I was alerted to an amazing bit of Fair Isle porn, recently published by the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers – God bless them, each and every one – with some help from The Shetland Times.

Not only is A Shetlander’s Fair Isle Graph Book In Colour essential reading (or should that be viewing) for incurable stranders like me, but it is a wonderful snapshot of patterns from the past that we can all share.

The book is dedicated to the many women and girls who knitted at all hours of the day and night, in all conditions, to keep the knitwear industry supplied with quality, hand-crafted garments. Please take a moment to salute them!

img_0571Most of the patterns go back to the 1930s an 40s from two notebooks belonging to Bill Henry at Anderson & Co, although he probably didn’t design the patterns.  The book tells us more about the company and the knitters that worked there as well as explaining where and how the patterns might have been used.

What follows is page after page of colourful designs mapped out on graph paper, some pages with dates or notes – a loving facsimile of the original books.  From simple 3 stitch and four row repeats to complex patterns often involving 3 colours on one row,  the designs from notebook one are a brilliant resource.

Notebook two gives a little more information showing which designs were for gloves (front and back), Norwegian inspired designs and which complemented clan tartans.

I could go on and on about the wonders of this publication but I won’t.  All I will say is you can buy it here.



Inspiration – 2

I had such a productive week last week that I found myself with a little time on my hands on Friday, so I turned to two of my favourite books for inspiration.

When I worked for Courtaulds, one of my roles was to run the corporate identity programme.  I found myself immersed in the world of graphic design and found it completely fascinating.  I have never lost my love of fonts and pixels (I’m married to a graphic designer) and this extends to my designs.  For me a  Fair Isle chart is a graphic feast but I am not only drawn to traditional motifs.  There are so many other graphic devices that work well when knitted up.

The two books I reached for were A Handbook of Weaves by G. H. Oelsner and Charted Peasant Designs from Saxon Transylvania by Heinz Edgar Kiewe.

Weaving charts are so very similar to the ones we use in knitting as you can see. I have worked the one on the left in to a hat for my hubby and will write the pattern up soon.  I have two hanks of Kate Davies’ Buachaille earmarked for the final design.


And the charted cross stitch designs work really well too.  You have to choose your motifs carefully otherwise you might end up doing more Intarsia than Fair Isle knitting – I am so rubbish at Intarsia. I am toying with the idea of a wrap in Kauni Effektgarn Laceweight with an extended steek so I can create some tassels when I cut it. Here is a little test swatch I have been working on.


So if you are looking for inspiration cast your net wide and keep your mind open – you won’t be disappointed.


Just a quick post this week because my youngest son is still on holiday and I intend to spend some time with in between his revision. Lucky me!

I have been working on my design for the Faroe Island holiday I am teaching on for Arena Travel later in the year. I have designed a tea cosy and mug cosies so we can practise continental knitting, two-handed Fair Isle and Steeking.  I am using Debbie Bliss’ Fine Donegal Tweed which is a lovely yarn which blooms beautifully when it has been steamed.

Here is a sneak preview for you.

Knitting for myself

The last few months have been full of knitting and designing commissions, from hats for statues as part of innocent’s Big Knit to jumpers and hats for the Eddie The Eagle movie.  I have had so little time to knit for myself that the projects I want to try have been piling up.

But now all that is behind me and I find myself in a kind of vacuum, not knowing which project to start.  I have a very long list including the Bohus Stickning jumper from my last post,  Frozen from Rowan magazine, a Fair Isle wrap in Kauni Effekt Garn I have design based on Transylvanian cross stitch designs, a pair of socks in Debbie Bliss’ Rialto Luxury sock yarn for my holiday in Scotland.  I could go on. And I have a quantity of project bags with items that need finishing including the Orkney cardigan, Flaum which features Fisherman’s rib (lots of knitting but it never seems to grow) and Loden which I took to Australia with me and has languished ever since.


My problem is that, apart from scarves and wraps, I don’t actually wear that much knitwear.  My boobage makes me look terrifying in many garments which I learned the hard way.  Imagine how soul destroying it is to get to the end of a garment and hate how it looks on you. So projects have to be chosen carefully.

The other thing  is that I can’t seem to be faithful – I am not monogamous. Knitting patterns are like a love affair.  The heady days of casting on, the promise of joy to come and then the downright day to day drudgery of finishing and sewing up. I guess that’s why I have so many projects on the go. My head is easily turned and right now I am toying with the idea of a flirtation with a lovely sock design from Helen Kurtz called Kali Kardia


My head tells me to finish a few projects but my heart is reaching for the stash and needles.  HELP!!

A Matter of Tension

I’m not a trained designer as I’m sure you know but I am fascinated by graphics and the maths of knitting.  I am really not up to grading patterns, which is probably why my humble attempts are limited to hats, gloves and geometric accessories.  But as I go through the process of designing a special project for my trip with Stitchtopia to the Faroe Islands in July (more on this later) I suddenly realised something.  Doing a tension square is now less of a chore for me and has become a necessary way of accessing my creativity and feeling my way in to a design.


I don’t like doing tensions squares when I am knitting someone else’s design.  It feels like a waste of time when I just want to get into the pattern and find out it’s intricacies and it’s rhythm. No wonder then that I have had some spectacular disasters along the way . And when I have begrudgingly decided to check my tension,  I have been guilty of only doing a 5 cm square just to get it out of the way – what a cop out. On a DK yarn if my small tension square is hiding a discrepancy of 1-2 stitches and the bust of the garment is 90cm I could be up to 18 stitches out – that’s up to 8cm difference in the garment – HUGE!

2013-05-24 15.49.42


If you think of your garment as a building then tension squares are your bricks.  You need to know your bricks are the right size to build your house to the architect’s spec.  Am I labouring the point – probably.

So these days I will knit a tension square that is more than 10cm to give me the best chance of getting used to the yarn and the pattern before I commit all my time and effort to an entire project – almost sounds like a New Year’s resolution (gulp)

Maybe we should ban the term ‘tension square’ and call it swatching.  It sound so much more creative and worthwhile.

Artesano 4ply Alpaca Silk review

A quick little yarn review for you this week.

My eldest son turned 21 recently .  He’s studying 3D Design at Manchester Metropolitan University, so I wanted to knit him a really special hat for his Birthday.

He has always loved the artist Escher and the way he repeats patterns so I hunted high and low on Ravelry and found this cracking pattern called Metallic Tessallation.

Then came the question of which yarn to use.  I wanted one that was luxurious and made of very special fibres but which also had a palette of equally rich colours that would work for a men’s hat.I chose Artesano’s delicious, buttery 4ply Alpaca Silk in shades Merlot and Celadon.  The colour saturation is a feast for your eyes.

When the yarn arrived it was so soft on the hank I was worried that the hat would be too floppy so I dropped a needle size form the original pattern to give a slightly denser fabric. Because of the quality of the silk and alpaca used, they do have a long staple length so you might think the yarn looks a bit thin but it is the nature of a yarn as luxurious as this and it does plump up a bit after blocking. Incidentally I knitted the hat while in Australia and it was a pleasure to work with despite the 30C temperature outside so you may want to consider this yarn for summer holiday projects.

4ply alpaca silk

As you can see from the swatch this yarn gives a nice even fabric in both stocking and moss stitch.  I’m not sure it has enough density for cables but that is just my personal preference – I like nice dense cables.

The drape of this yarn when knitted up is quite outstanding so my next project is going to be a woven scarf for my dear mum in Creme Caramel and Chartreuse – I’m really interested to see how it performs on the loom. Any project that sits close to the skin would be perfect.

I have had to rely on my son taking a picture of the hat on his phone so that you can see the finished article – he loved it so much I didn’t have a chance to  shoot it properly – so sorry about the quality but you get the idea.