The Yarn Collective

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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.

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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!

Inspired by Islay

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I am a huuuuuge fan of Kate Davies.  Her designs, the articles she writes, her blog – HUGE.

Before Christmas I signed up to her Inspired by Islay club.  Each Wednesday a pattern arrives in my Ravelry library for me to lust over.  When I took out this subscription I was kind of expecting accessories but, so far, two of the designs have been the most beautiful garments.

The price is such good value.  Unbelievable in fact, when you take a closer look at the patterns.  Kate and Jen have worked so hard on the actual pattern writing itself.  I am about to cast on Finlaggan and had a good read through of the instructions.  The first thing that struck me is that Kate doesn’t tell you what size needles to use.  This means you have to swatch – something I am very in favour of – both in stocking stitch and the decorative cable.

I tried out two different yarns that I thought might work with quite different results.  The first was from Colourmart, a merino yarn that has some size still on it so, to get an accurate swatch you might need to wash it first. Because the pattern calls for Sport weight yarn I started with 3.75mm needles.

img_20170114_125537I wasn’t completely happy with the results – it just felt a bit thin and the stitch definition wasn’t brilliant, so I tried again using Lang Thema Nuova which is described as Virgin Wool.  These swatches worked out much better. This time I dropped down to 3.5mm needles because the first swatches were oversized.

img_20170114_125549The other thing I noticed about the pattern is the use of numbers to help you orientate yourself as you knit with a brief description of what you are about to do in that section. A simple thing yet so very helpful.  I can’t wait to see what else the pattern teaches me!

The club lasts for 12 weeks – that’s another 7 whole patterns for me to get my teeth in to. Thank you Kate and Jen!

#wearenotinvisible

Last week I was on a shoot for one of my clients, Yarn Stories.  I met a woman called Kate Goode who is an art director, stylist and all round amazing person.  She is a similar age to me and, as often happens when women in their 50s get together we chatted about the problem of being who we are at a ‘certain age’.

To give you a bit of background, Kate and I must have bumped into each other in the heady days of London in the 80s.  Post punk and just about post New Romantic it was an incredibly creative time in the fashion industry.  Within 3 weeks of starting my job at Courtelle I had met Paul Smith.  Lynne Franks (Abfab) was our PR and Lamb and Shirley did our graphics.  In my second year I worked with Jean Paul Gaultier and in my third John Galliano.  The parties we went to were ridiculous and I loved every second of it.  I didn’t earn much so I mainly shopped from the High Street, but whatever I bought was chopped and changed to make it individual and trendy.You could wear anything and it was accepted as you being you.

Over the years I have struggled with my look.  Having been a Sassoon house model I have always focussed things on my hair as a starting point – do you remember my mohawk from a few years ago? – then my shoes and now my glasses, but clothes have become harder and harder to wear.  For a start I am a good 2 stone heavier and my bust has got significantly bigger since becoming a mum.  But I also have a  super-sensitive mutton alert that seems to go off if I even go near a Miss Selfridge or Zara.

What further complicates things is my age.  Now that I could technically be a grandmother I have become invisible.  I used to get appreciative comments or looks when I walked in to a room but this just doesn’t happen now and its amazing how much this has dented my confidence.  These days I would rather don a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, and cocoon myself in a voluminous cardigan so I can merge in to the background.  I have  a fantastic pair of mock leather culottes I bought from Zara in my wardrobe.  I would love to team them up with ankle socks, killer wedged suede boots and a man’s shirt but I just can’t get past the fear that I would look ridiculous.   I never used to worry about this so what has happened to me? Don’t get me wrong I don’t want to be or look younger – I am happy with my age, I just want to be a bit more me.

This is what Kate and I talked about, the dilemmas of the ageing woman.  I don’t really have any answers because it is a very personal thing, but seeing how great Kate looked and following our chat I am determined to take a few more ‘risks’.

The day after we met Kate commented on an image on Instagram and used #wearenotinvisible at the end of her comment.  Brilliant!  This is now my mantra so watch out!

In Praise of the Bed Jacket

It’s taken me ages to get out of my mum what she wants for Christmas.  I have already knitted her a pair of Estonian mittens from a kit I bought at Ally Pally but was really stuck on what else to give her.

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While we were talking she mentioned she would love a bed jacket for her 80th Birthday in February.  She has really started to feel the cold at night and has a bit of arthritis in her shoulder. It set me to thinking about the garment itself. Very much of its time the bed jacket was an incredibly practical creation, when most homes had no central heating.  In my imagination it is also a glamorous garment, worn by movie stars wafting around in their boudoir. Soft, fluffy, with ribbons and in pastel colours. It’s a shame it has fallen out of fashion.

A quick scout around Ravelry and I was amazed to find how many bed jacket patterns there were available.  Some are vintage patterns that can be hard to find but this one is available free from the Australian Woman’s Weekly archive here.

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But my mum is not a twee person and I wanted something a bit more stylish.  At the moment she is wearing just a normal cardigan so I searched out some lacy cardigans and found this little beauty called Pergola by Maria Magnusson which I think fits the bill with its delicate lace and three quarter sleeves.

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In order not to break my yarn diet in the New Year I though I’d better get the  yarn now. She wants something luxurious and made from natural fibres and I have chosen Sublime Baby Cashmere Merino Silk 4ply in a suitably soft blue called Paddle.

So I’m all set. I’d love to think I was glamorous enough to wear a bed jacket but I’m more of a onesie kind of girl.

 

 

Knitting Clubs

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At this time of year lots of us have put yarn or pattern clubs on our Christmas list. Either because we really want to try one out but often in desperation because family don’t really know what yummy treats to get us the Christmas-frankly it’s safer if we choose them for ourselves, don’t you think? In my case I often rationalise signing up for another club as research-it is part of my job.

I have had mixed experiences over the years. I love Debbie Abrahams mystery blankets club and have already signed up to the 10th anniversary  offering ages ago. I do feel slightly guilty that I still haven’t finished the Norwegian influenced one from a few years ago – I’m going to try my level best to finish it over Christmas. What I particularly like about what Debbie does is the range of techniques and beautiful colour combinations she puts together and the mystery element of not quite knowing how the project will look in the end.

I also did Kate Davies’ Buachaille Seven Skeins club and really enjoyed the patterns being delivered to my inbox. I could choose how to use the yarn from the hanks included in the club. I have just signed up for the Inspired by Islay club which is an exciting mix of patterns and other goodies. Kate’s designs are always so well constructed and beautifully written

All the clubs I have described above offered amazing value for money for the knitter and are a real treat.There is only one club that I have been disappointed with but I am not going to name the designer.  The price was very high and I felt more about making money  than putting the knitter at the heart of the project but that is just my opinion.

Knitting clubs are huge fun so why not join one to 2017.

Mixing colours

img_20161115_124118When I was at Black Sheep Wools recently, one of their lovely staff showed me a new yarn from Wendy called Evolution.  Made up of 4 ends the colours gradually change one strand at a time.  There is also a German company called 100 Farbspiele that offers more unusual colourways.

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I was quite intrigued but Evolution is a cotton blend and I’m not keen on knitting with cotton.  This set me thinking about how I could create my own version of this yarn.  I am a huge fan of the webshop Colourmart, where you can buy yarn on the cone in the most luxurious blends so I spent a happy hour putting together colour combinations.  I would love to have worked only in cashmere but until I am sure I can make this technique work I decided to limit myself to laceweight merino yarn and chose 3 lovely shades to try.

img_20161115_104901I had to sit down in a dark room to work out the maths – I thought I’d share my little chart with you.

img_20161115_104926Each cone has 1300 metres on so this was the best combination to use up most of the yarn. I used a fishing line counter to measure the meterage and wound the yarn off in to cakes.

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My gradient will start with the taupe, go through the teal to the blackcurrant.

To combine the yarns I used wooden knitting needles threaded through a box and a ball winder.Then simply gather up four ends of you first colour and change as each cake runs out.

img_20161115_120302I am very happy with the result and am going to knit Xanadu by Kitman Figueroa – her designs are always such a pleasure to knit.  The designer has used a 4 ply and according to my measurements this new yarn is coming up as nearer a dk so I will need to swatch and  hope that I have enough yarn. Wish me luck!

Sophie Digard

large-alice_sophie-digard2-2048x2048_to-sendI have always loved Sophie Digard’s work.  She is a Parisian based designer who creates the most amazing scarves and accessories made of tiny crocheted motifs.  She is influenced by nature and artists like Gustav Klimt, and has a unique way of blending extremely fine yarns to create a subtle palette in each piece.  Sophie uses skilled artisans on the island of Madagascar to manufacture her work helping to keep their skills alive.

Last year, at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate there was a wonderful exhibition of her work that was so inspiring. The designs vary quite a lot from square motifs to delicate flowers, from the graphic to the natural, but each is a complete work of art.  I just wish I could afford to own one small piece!

I was rooting through my stash the other day and found a project bag with several balls of Noro Sekku Lace which is sadly discontinued, and a 1.5mm crochet hook.  When I went to Australia last year I crocheted for much of the flight, small filled granny squares measuring about 4cm, to make into a scarf reminiscent of Sophie’s work. I did try smaller squares to start with but the thought of all that making up…

The colours in Sekku are so delicious and each square looks slightly different.  They may not be quite as exciting as Sophie’s designs but I think it will look amazing when it’s done.

You can see more of Sophie’s work on the Selvedge website.