Sunday, 25 February 2018

Scottish Adventures

Last week, in the half term break, I flew up to Scotland to visit my fellow Stylecraft Blogstar Lucia. I stayed with Lucia and her family last summer and was really looking forward to my return visit. Here are some of the highlights!

πŸ’œFeeling a bit naughty eating a Tunnocks Caramel Wafer for breakfast! πŸ’œ

πŸ’œ Getting far more excited than I probably should about seeing snow from the plane! πŸ’œ

πŸ’œ Lots of attention from Thorin, Lucia's magnificent Maine Coon cat πŸ’œ

πŸ’œ A visit to the Artist Textiles exhibition at New Lanark. πŸ’œ

πŸ’œ Being given a printed copy of Lucia's Walrus blanket pattern. πŸ’œ

πŸ’œ Going to knit and natter at Lucia's local yarn shop, Threads of Dumbarton. πŸ’œ

πŸ’œ The start of a joint creative project, inspired by our visit to the textiles exhibition. πŸ’œ

πŸ’œ Afternoon tea for lunch at The Butterfly and the Pig! Yummy! πŸ’œ

πŸ’œ My favourite painting in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery. πŸ’œ

πŸ’œ Yarn for another secret project! πŸ’œ

πŸ’œ New book for design inspiration. πŸ’œ

I hope you had a good week too. I'll be back very soon to give you and update on my Great Yarn Giveaway, and to share some more amazing prizes with you. xxx

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

The Great Yarn Giveaway update 2

The Great Yarn Giveaway has been live for two weeks now and it's all rather overwhelming. The total donated so far is just over £3000. Not in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that it would make so much money for the British Heart Foundation. Nor did I expect to be contacted by total strangers offering me a prize. I've just added the 91st  prize to the list and with several more in the pipeline, I reckon there'll be 100 or more by the time we're picking the winners! It's really rather humbling and I have been very touched by all the messages of support that I've received. It would seem that a great many of you have been affected by heart disease in your families, so the more we can do to help prevent it, the better. 

Since I last updated you, I've received more prizes and I bet you'd like to see them, wouldn't you? 

Jane Crowfoot, one of my fellow Stylecraft Blogstars and crochet designer extraordinaire has very generously donated a kit to make one of her blankets, Mystical Lanterns. It's such a beautiful design, I'd love to make this blanket myself one day. 

KnitPro have sent me an assortment of goodies which I've made into two prizes: a Midi set of Royale Interchangeable needles and some needles and a notions. The little elephant is so cute and I am wondering why I don't yet own one!

Steph (Blooming Lovely on Instagram) contacted me because she wanted to donate something and she sent me two lovely skeins of sock yarn from Japan. These will make two prizes. It's also given me a new dyer to investigate! 

I've also had offers of more patterns from Vera and Bess and Bronagh Miskelly Designs. I've been offered lots of patterns and think that I will share the work of all these wonderful designers in a separate post.  

I have added some more prizes too. Last week, during half term, I visited my local yarn shop with £40 of vouchers burning in my hand. I'd been given these vouchers from colleagues after Mr JK died, but to me it always felt wrong to be buying yarn (something I love) with a very well meant gift associated with such sadness. But buying prizes with the vouchers felt good, it was the right time to spend them. So what did I buy? A skein of Fyberspates Gleem lace, two skeins of Socks Yeah! sock yarn and two balls of Arne and Carlos sock yarn and a set of dpns.

I have several more prizes on their way to me, so will tell you more another time. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who has so generously given a prize and also to you for entering my Great Yarn Giveaway. Please do share and tell all your yarny friends about it. Each time someone does so, it reaches a few more people and results in a little flurry of donations. 

I'll remind you of how to enter. All you have to do is make a donation of £2 on my JustGiving page here (and there is also a link at the top of the sidebar). When you make your donation, please make sure that you tick the box which says 'I'm happy to be contacted by' or else I won't be able to get in touch with you if you're a winner! Prizes will be allocated in the order listed on the JustGiving page and winners will be selected randomly, either by random number generator or by putting all the names in a virtual (woolly) hat and picking them out. The giveaway is open to anyone - I'm happy to post prizes world-wide, so please enter and tell all your friends too. The giveaway will remain open until Monday 30th April and the winners will be chose as soon as possible after that date. You're already helping us to do something amazing in the fight against heart disease so thank you very, very much! xxx

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

50 Tips from Shetland Knitters - a review

Before Christmas last year, I was contacted by Hazel Tindall, the well-known Fair-Isle knitter, to see if I was interested in reviewing her latest DVD. Hazel has joined forces with another Scottish knitter, Elizabeth Johnston to produce a really informative DVD. They were both brought up on the Shetland Isles where their early lives were spent surrounded by people who were knitting quality garments for sale. This lifelong immersion in knitting means that they have a huge knowledge that they willingly share in this DVD. The tips and techniques discussed come from the questions that they get asked during workshops. Each tip is demonstrated and frequently more than one way of doing something is shown.

Hazel and Elizabeth are sat comfortably chatting and you almost feel like you could be part of their knitting group as they discuss ways of doing something and even seem to learn things from each other at times. The demonstrations are easy to follow and clearly explained, with each knitter repeating the action several times. They both knit in the traditional way, using long double pointed needles and knitting belts. I'd only seen a knitting belt in a museum before watching the DVD and I would really love to be able to watch them knitting first hand. The techniques that they share can just as easily be applied to knitting with circular needles, although neither of them is a fan! Hazel is the world's fastest knitter, able to knit an astonishing 255 stitches in 3 minutes, and you can see just how fast she is at various points in the DVD. 

The three and a half hour DVD covers a whole range of techniques, starting with long tail cast on where I learnt how to estimate more accurately the length of yarn needed for the tail. No more shall I run out of yarn before casting on all my stitches or have an end so ridiculously long that I could almost skip with it! Other cast on methods are shown as well as how to knit, purl and rib. Knitting in the round and picking up stitches, increasing and decreasing, grafting stitches, making button holes, reading charts, blocking and stranded knitting are some of the other techniques covered. I was a little alarmed when Steeking appeared at tip 10. Crikey, I thought, how complicated is it going to be by the time we get to tip 50?! But I needn't have worried. I didn't even wince when the knitting was cut into! 

I think that this DVD is perfect for people who can already knit but want to learn more and improve their skills - so perhaps a confident beginner or an intermediate knitter. It's the kind of resource that you'll want to watch again and again, dipping in and out as questions arise in your own knitting. I know that I'm going to be making good use of it this year as I try to improve my own knitting skills. You feel like you are learning from generations of knitters with tips and techniques that have been passed down and carefully curated by Hazel and Elizabeth.

It's available as either a DVD or a download. I watched it via a download on my computer and it worked fine. I could stop and start it as I wanted to watch things again. If I was trying to find something specific, it might take a little fine tuning to locate the exact part, but it's not a chore to do so. The download can be bought from Vimeo here or you can buy the DVD from a number of suppliers listed here

I was really pleased to be asked to review this DVD and would definitely recommend it. Try it, you'll definitely learn something new! Thank you so much Hazel for giving me the chance to do so. Knitting is definitely a life-long lesson. 

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Stylecraft Blogstars meet up

With everything else that's been happening this week, I've been rather remiss in telling you about the events of last weekend when I was up at Slaithwaite, home of Stylecraft Yarns. The Blogstars get together twice a year and stay overnight at a hotel, enjoying each other's company and catching up with what we've all been up to. There is plenty of delicious food, copious amounts of wine and of course it is perfectly acceptable to bring your knitting or crochet to the table! Nobody bats an eyelid. The next morning, after the luxury of a cooked breakfast, we all head down to the Mill. There was the added excitement of waking up to snow this time although one or two of us were a little anxious at the thought of driving down 'that hill'! 

When we arrived at the Mill, there were goody bags of yarn for each of us. We are lucky enough to get to play with lots of the new yarns, either just as they are released for sale, or getting a sneaky preview, which is really rather exciting. There is one particular range of yarn that will be on sale later in the spring that we were all rather excited about! 

Oooh look, goody bags of yarn! Photo thanks to Sophie at Stylecraft

We were joined, thanks to the wonders of Skype, by our overseas Blogstars Justina, Anne, Michelle, Zelna and Angela and also Julia who was up in Scotland. It's great that we are all able to share ideas in this way.

We were given a presentation by Annabelle Hill, the Sales and Marketing director at Stylecraft, who shared with us the trends for the coming season. It's hard to believe that decisions are being made now about what the fashions will be this time next year!  Some exciting new projects were discussed - you'll be hearing about the first of these next month. Squee! We also saw and squidged the new yarns and saw the pattern support for each one. The Head over Heels Boho yarn has finally been released. My Miss Parminter pattern leaflet should be available from Stylecraft stockists too.  Oooh, lots of colourful socks in my future!

This is the new yarn that we went a little silly over! I can't tell you anything more for now, but it will be coming to a yarn shop near you very soon and I think you're going to like it - a LOT! Such gorgeous, gorgeous colours...

The table that we all sit around has bowls of yarn on it and it's not unusual for people to dive in, choose their favourite and then start knitting or hooking with it. Think of it as like bowls of sweeties but just more healthy! You might recognise a few familiar faces here.

After lunch, Juliet Bernard lead a workshop in Dorset Button making. I've come across Jen Best from Beaker Buttons several times at various yarn shows and have bought her button kits as gifts for friends, but never tried making them myself. It was really fascinating and I could actually see myself making some to match a garment perfectly. Take a look at some of the buttons on Jen's website, they are truly a work of art and she is doing a tremendous job keeping this traditional craft alive and kicking. Here's my attempt...

After the button making, we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways home, but not before our group photo...

Thanks to Sophie at Stylecraft for the photo. From left to right we have Emma, Sarah, Phil, me, Lucy, Sandra, Kathryn, Helen, Lucia and Heather. Not able to attend were Julia, Janie, Catherine, Angela, Polly, Zelna, Anne and Michelle

The date is set for our summer meet up and I can't wait. Keep a watch out over the coming weeks when I'll be sharing some of the new yarns with you. xxx

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

The Great Yarn Giveaway update 1

Oh my goodness, what an unbelievable response there has been to the Great Yarn Giveaway. Julia, Charlotte and I have been totally bowled over by your generosity in donating. The giveaway has only been live for three days and already more than £1200 has been donated to the British Heart  Foundation. Words seem so inadequate but thank you so, so much. Your donations really will make a difference in the fight against heart disease.

After I'd posted photos of the prizes, I was chatting with Ann from Busy Pottering and she told me that I'd split up one of her prizes into two separate ones. Her chocolate box themed project bag was meant to go with the selection box of WYS yarns. What a brilliant idea that is! So I have amended the list of prizes on the Just Giving page and added a new photo.

In case there was disappointment for the lack of WYS yarn, I raided my own stash and threw two balls in as another prize. These will make a lovely Christmassy pair of socks (did I really say Christmas in February?!)

I also put in a skein of Hedgehog Fibres merino yarn that I'd intended to use as part of a giveaway on my blog last year but never got round to it. So I'm sure this will go to a very happy new home.

I had a lovely surprise on Monday too, as I was contacted by Flora Honeypot  to see if I would like one of her crocheted shawls as a prize. Of course I said yes and she sent me the most lovely photos. (Please note that the brooch is not included in the prize, it's for styling the photos only.)

I was thrilled when Julie from Suffolk Socks agreed to send me a prize. When I was trying to rediscover my sock knitting mojo and ordered a couple of balls of yarn from her online shop, she sent me the most lovely parcel with lots of extra treats in it that really helped to lift my spirits. Julie dyes under the label 'Yarn Tart' and her yarns are very pretty indeed! She also does yarn clubs which are rather lovely! She also included a picnic-themed project bag. 

If you're a regular at the yarn shows, you will probably remember the Sparkleduck stand, full of amazing colours and their trademark yellow ducks nestled amongst the yarn. Sadly Heather died last year, very suddenly like Mr JK. It was a huge shock when I heard as we had eaten lunch together at Unravel last February. I'd chatted with Michael, her husband, at Fibre-East last summer when he very bravely came to sell Heather's yarn and I was incredibly honoured when he offered a prize. It's a beautiful set of sparkly mini-skeins and I've added a Sparkleduck tote bag that I got last summer. Definitely a prize to treasure.

Rachel Coopey of Coop Knits is one of my favourite sock designers - fun, stylish and sometimes a little bit quirky. Rachel sent me a copy of her first Socks Yeah! book which is going to make someone very happy!

The last prizes I can tell you about today are three project bags from my dear friend Michele who owns ThreeBagsFull over on Etsy. Her bags are always beautifully made and come with coordinating glass beads. A really stylish place to keep your projects safe. I wonder which of these is your favourite?

I will post again exactly what I said the other day about how to enter the giveaway.You simply have to make a donation of £2 on my new JustGiving page here (and there is also a link at the top of the sidebar). When you make your donation, please make sure that you tick the box which says 'I'm happy to be contacted by' or else I won't be able to get in touch with you if you're a winner! Prizes will be allocated in the order listed on the JustGiving page and winners will be selected randomly, either by random number generator or by putting all the names in a virtual (woolly) hat and picking them out. The giveaway is open to anyone - I'm happy to post prizes world-wide so please do enter and tell all your friends too! The giveaway will remain open until Monday 30th April and the winners will be chosen as soon after that as possible. Your'e already helping us to to something amazing for the fight against heart disease so thank you very, very much! xxx