A Yarn Story

Welcome Amanda! February 24 2017 1 Comment

As introductions go this one is so long overdue that I shouldn't really call it an introduction. The lovely Amanda Jones joined the AYS team last Autumn and it's just been so busy we haven't had a chance to officially share her story.

Amanda is an avid knitter and crocheter and has been designing knitwear for most of her adult life. Among her many accomplishments, she has knit a sweater for and personally presented to the Queen! I'm super excited to have Amanda on board to share her wealth of expertise with us. You'll find her both in the shop a couple days a week and teaching lots of classes for us. She's part of my master plan to properly learn to crochet this year. Amanda has kindly shared a bit of her Yarn Story with us below.

Q: What is currently on your needles?
A: I have just cast on a commission for The Knitter magazine. All I can say is that it is a jumper knitted in John Arbon Knit by Number 4ply. A lovely yarn.

Q: When did you start knitting? Who taught you?
A: I was about seven when I started. It was my mother who taught me as she was always knitting jumpers for my brothers and me. I wanted to copy her. I was fascinated by what she was doing.

Q: You've been designing knitwear for a while, what's your favorite project or pattern you've created and why?
A: Over the years I have produced so many things but I have to say the gloves I knitted last year are probably my most favourite things as they were so complicated to do but they worked really well and I`m wearing them every day as they keep my hands so warm. I have actually knitted two more pairs and gave them away for Christmas gifts.

 

Q: What is your favorite fibre to work with?
A: I love knitting with wool – a good merino with maybe a small blend of Alpaca or silk or both.

Q: What do you enjoy most about knitting?
A: I love being able to create different textures with yarn. Turning yarn into garments of my own design is great.

Q: What is the last project you completed? 
A: I have just completed two garments for Walcot yarns. I`m very excited about these as the yarn is beautiful and the designs I have produced have worked really well.

Q: What has you most excited about joining the AYS team? 
A: I really enjoy working in the shop and meeting all the people who come in. I like being able to help people with their yarn choices and also, if I can, help them out with any knitting problems.
Being part of the team has also meant doing workshops – I love teaching people and get a real buzz when a beginner goes away happy with a new skill.
And of course, who wouldn`t want to work surrounded by so much wonderful yarn.

Q: Anything else you would like to share about yourself? 
A: As well as yarn crafting, I love cooking but I`m no good at following recipes. I always think that I know what will make it taste that little bit better or maybe if I don`t have the right ingredient I will substitute it with something else. Sometimes it goes horribly wrong! (but usually it doesn`t)

Aren't those gloves just stunning? Welcome to the team Amanda!

-Carmen


TO BLOCK OR NOT TO BLOCK, THAT IS THE QUESTION February 15 2017

(with apologies to Shakespeare)

Allow me to set the scene: a knitter triumphantly casts off the last stitch, puts the needles down and gleefully admires the glorious handknit before them. All the hours spent, all the stitches counted, all the tinking back and making sure every single bit of the project was right, and now the crafting is finished. It’s time to show off that new project to the world!

But put the brakes on for just a moment, and look at the pattern finishing instructions . Usually there’s a phrase there that many of us like to overlook in that victory lap of finishing a long-time WIP: “block item to schematic measurements”, “block aggressively”, block, block, block…

OK, we get the picture: we’re supposed to block our new FO. But what exactly does that mean and how do you do it?

Simply put, blocking is the process that allows your knitted and crocheted stitches to finish settling in to their proper places. It evens out wonky stitches, and makes textures pop and lace sing. Blocking is the ultimate finishing touch for making your knit and crochet pieces look their best.

Blocking is also critically important for lace and stranded knitting, as it makes the lace open up and evens out uneven tension and floats in colourwork. It’s also just a good idea to block to get rid of any muck that might have gotten into your project as you’ve been working on it – think of it as a final primping before the big debut!

How you block will vary depending on the item and the fibre content of the yarn. I usually wet block everything; I soak the item in cool-to-lukewarm water with some wool wash (Soak is my favourite for many reasons but a big one is that no rinsing is required!) for at least 15-20 min. Longer is ok too - more often then not I forget its in the sink and come back to it several hours later…

The next step is to squeeze out as much water as you can. In my blocking, this usually means putting it in a lingerie bag and running it through the spin cycle on my washing machine, which gets rid of almost all excess water. If you’re nervous about doing that, you can wrap the item in several towels and stand on the roll to squeeze out as much water as possible. It’s very important to avoid moving your project around too much – don’t wring it out! – because this can cause felting if you’re working with wool.

When you’ve gotten rid of as the excess water, the next step is to lay out the piece and leave it to dry. For things like jumpers, socks and most other accessories, I like to spread the item out and pat it into shape, making sure it’s as symmetrical as possible. For jumpers, I will measure at critical fit points – bust, hem, sleeve – and check against the pattern schematic to make sure its going to be the size I want it to be when it’s dry! The Gauge Cloth from Cocoknits makes this dead easy as it's a 1" square grid you can lay your garment on. I sometimes use pins and blocking wires (if needed) to help get the right measurements.

Blocking wires and pins become very important if you are knitting lace and want it to look its best. As anyone who’s ever knit a lace shawl can attest, unblocked lace looks like a pile of overcooked spaghetti. However, after a soak and a good strong block, the yarn overs of the lace open up and the inherent dynamic structure is revealed. Lace should always be blocked, and stretched out farther then you’d think is possible, to show off all that hard work you’ve put into it.

 To block a lace shawl, blocking wires are a great investment: these are semi-flexible wires that can be threaded through the edges of your lace and pinned out, thereby removing the need to use forty million pins on each point of your edging, and making it easier to block evenly.

You can thread the blocking wires through your piece before you soak it or afterwards, but it’s usually easier to do when the item is dry. Just make sure you can still get the whole piece wet with the wires already in place! Use the same procedure for soaking and getting rid of the excess water, and then find a good big space and stretch that lace out.

Some types of fabric don’t benefit from wet blocking. If you’ve got a fabric that is very highly textured, you may want to steam the piece instead of wet blocking and risking losing some of that texture. To do this, use a steamer or iron with a steam setting, lay the piece out and let the steam penetrate the fabric. Move back and forth until the entire work has been exposed to the steam and then let it dry.

Wool blocks beautifully and will hold its blocked shape well (at least until it gets wet again). Wool blends will also block well, whether the wool is blended with silk, plant fibres or a small proportion of synthetics. Cotton should be blocked, not necessarily to get the correct shape or measurements (cotton has very little memory), but to even out any uneven tension in the piece. However, things made out of 100% acrylic will certainly benefit from a wash, but they can’t be blocked out and stretched the way wool fibres can.

In the end, the choice of whether to block or not is entirely up to you, but if you want your finished objects to really shine give them a bit of extra TLC with a bath and a bit of a primp, and you'll be amazed by the results!

-Rachel of PorpoiseFur


Yarn Review: The Fibre Co. Luma February 07 2017 1 Comment

There seem to be new yarns popping up all the time, and every season I take a look at what's on offer and decide what I like best and what's going to fit into the shop well. I always get excited when I hear that The Fibre Co. has created a new yarn as they always seem to come up with something beautiful.

The latest yarn from The Fibre Co. is Luma a DK weight blend of 50% wool, 25% cotton, 15% linen and 10% silk. Each 50g hank is 125m / 137 yards and should be hand washed. As is typical for a yarn from The Fibre Co. it is hand dyed and "intentionally crafted with subtle texture and colour variances."

Luma arrived in the shop a couple of weeks ago and the first thing I noticed was the art deco feel of the color palette. Sure, I had seen the shade card and some images beforehand but its just not the same as seeing it all in person. The palette really works together and there are several possibilities for interesting color combos in a project. Because of the fibre content the shades are all slightly muted versions of themselves while still retaining good color saturation if that makes sense. For example, Flamingo (used in my swatch) is a pastel at first glance but it also has a depth of color, something I quite like.

I got to swatching the other night and was knitting away without really thinking about it. I suddenly thought to myself 'ooops, I was supposed to be concentrating on the feel of the yarn so I could write about it later' but then decided that the fact that I had zoned out so quickly was actually a really nice quality of the yarn. It wasn't splitting and was moving with ease along my needles. It got softer the more I worked with it, a lovely result of the linen content and the swatch held it's shape well after I blocked it. (Yes, I absolutely blocked my swatch!) The resulting fabric is lovely and lightweight; perfect for for creating garments to be worn as light layers or a spring shawl. 

The Fibre Co. also released the April in Paris Collection last week which has some great pieces in it. I quite like the cardigan pattern Rue Cambon and the sweater pattern Rue St. Antoine, I could see both fitting into my wardrobe well. Galerie d'Apollon is also stunning and you can so clearly see the inspiration of Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face. In addition to be stunning with a red ball gown, I would love to see it with some cropped black trousers, a crisp white blouse and black loafers - perfect outfit for sitting in a Parisian cafe enjoying a glass of wine in April. Galerie d'Apollon is FREE for the whole month of February too, just use the code "lumalove" at checkout on Ravlery

So all in all, I'm once again impressed with what Daphne and the team at The Fibre Co. have produced. Luma is a truly year round yarn with it's unusual blend of fibres and the totally wearable fabric it creates.

You can see all the shades of Luma and a trunk show of the April in Paris collection next week at the AYS stand at Unravel.

- Carmen

 


Cast Ons Part I January 31 2017

In January, we’re all excited about new beginnings: new year, new projects, new inspiration abounds! In this blog post, I’m going to talk about cast ons, and how to pick the perfect cast on for your new project.

Because let’s be honest: how many times do you stop and think about what type of cast on you’re going to use? How many times do you use the same cast on that has served you perfectly well before or just use the one given in the pattern without really thinking about whether it’s appropriate for the project at hand? It’s ok to say “never”, and hopefully the rest of this post will give you a starting point for thinking about what to do for your next new WIP.

Most of the time, using a tried and true start will work out just fine, but there are some questions to ask yourself before you tie that first slip knot that will help your project be a success.

  1. Do I need a strong, stable edge?
  2. Do I need a super stretchy and elastic edge?
  3. Do I need a provisional cast on?
  4. Do I need a centre-out/circular cast on?

For this post, we’ll cover the first two questions in more detail, and save the trickier Questions 3 and 4 for the next cast on instalment.

Strong, stable edges

Some projects need structure built in to the piece to help it maintain its shape. Bags jump to mind, as do heavily cabled jumpers that are going to be quite heavy. Likewise, jumpers and tops knit out of yarns that have little or no elasticity (think cotton, silk, flax). This also includes projects during which you have to cast on in the middle of the piece to add additional stitches (necklines of top-down sweaters worked in the round, some lace edgings). You could also include items with turned hems in this category, although the type of cast on you’d use for a turned hem isn’t the same as what you’d use for a strong edge!

Let’s start with the most straightforward of strong, stable cast ons, which is likely one many of you are familiar with: the long-tail cast on.

Long tail cast on video – knittinghelp.com (http://www.knittinghelp.com/video/play/long-tail-cast-on)

The long-tail cast on is super versatile and good for all sorts of projects. One thing to keep in mind is that the manner in which it is worked means you are basically working the first row of the piece - I always like to work the second row as a wrong side row if working flat.

For instances where I need to add stitches in the middle of a piece, I like the knitted on cr cabled cast on.

Knitted on cast on – knittinghelp.com continental version (http://www.knittinghelp.com/video/play/knitting-on-continental), english version (http://www.knittinghelp.com/video/play/knitting-on-english)

Cabled cast on – knittinghelp.com continental version (http://www.knittinghelp.com/video/play/cable-cast-on) english version (http://www.knittinghelp.com/video/play/cable-cast-on-english)

These both give a strong edge that won’t sag or stretch out of shape - perfect for a sweater knit sideways in which you have to cast on extra stitches for the body once the sleeve is finished. If you need to add stitches to a lace edging, I’d recommend the knitted on cast on done loosely – it has a bit more give and will allow more room for blocking.

Some patterns call for turned hems, which are also a strong stable edge. However, in this instance, you want a cast on edge that is going to be stretchy, so it can stretch and move with the rest of the garment once it is sewn down.

Turned hems can either be sewn or knitted closed. For a turned hem, I like to use the backwards loop, sometimes called the thumb, cast on – this is the easiest of all easy cast ons, and can be done quickly. It also creates an edge with easily picked up loops for knitting your turned hem closed (or tacking down if you prefer to sew the hem closed.

Backwards loop cast on – knittinghelp.com (http://www.knittinghelp.com/video/play/backward-loop-cast-on)

The only downside (apart from creating an edge with almost no structural strength) is that working the first row after the cast on can sometimes be a bit tricky, and likely will not be terribly even. Perfect for hiding inside the hem of your sweater!

Elastic, stretchy edges

Some items require edges that will stretch and contract as needed, say over your head as you pull on a new hat, or along a sleeve cuff so you can push your sleeve up and have it stay where you put it. You could use the cast ons discussed above in these cases if you make sure to keep lots of slack in the cast on edge, but my favourite stretchy cast on for everything from hats to cuff-down socks to sweaters is the tubular cast on.

Somewhat fiddly to start, the tubular cast on creates a beautiful round edge to ribbings – perfect for hat brims, sleeve cuffs and hems. Even better, it can be paired with the tubular bind off for perfectly matched cast on and cast off edges.

The tubular bind off begins with your hands in a similar position to the long tail cast on, but after casting on the required number of stitches, you work two set up rows. On each set up row, one stitch is knit and the next is slipped – you are essential knitting half the stitches on the first row, and the other half on the second row, creating an edge that is a type of seamless double knitting. On the third and following rows/rounds, the stitches are worked in rib – either k1, p1 or k2, p2 (the second requires some rearrangement of the stitches).

There are a number of ways to do the tubular cast on, but my favourite is Ysolda Teague’s method, which doesn’t require waste yarn (great if you’re like me and decide while you’re out and about that you must use the tubular cast on NOW but you don’t have any waste yarn). She’s got a great video on how to do the tubular cast on here (http://blog.ysolda.com/tutorial/tubular-cast-on/), which includes rearranging the stitches for k2, p2 rib, and joining to work in the round.

There are almost as many ways to start your project as their are colours of yarn in the world, and picking a cast on suited to your project will help ensure that you are happy with the finished object. And it’s always good to have a few more arrows in your quiver, so go out there and try a new cast on!

- Rachel of Porpoisefur


Your Yarn Story: Renée Callahan of EastLondonKnit January 25 2017

Renée has been to AYS to teach a few times already and I thought it was time you got to know a bit more about her. She is a knitwear designer and teacher extraordinaire with a background in fashion design. As a teacher Renée is patient and able to adapt to any students needs and as a designer she's inspiring and thoughtful. Her garments are designed to fit and meant to be worn, her shawls are works of art and her patterns well written and easy to follow. What more could you ask for in a knitwear designer?

Here is a little more about Renée and how she came to be a hand knitting enthusiast.

Q: What is currently on your needles?

I have so much good stuff on the needles right now! I started the year with a bit too much enthusiasm and now am slightly overwhelmed by my pile of wips (works in progress). I was keen to take part in the Blackerpodkal, so I cast on a new sweater design in Tamar DK, and I'm working on a cardigan design in The Wool Kitchen 4-ply. My transport knitting is one of several hats I cast on to send to Knit Aid for refugees. There are works in progress in every room of my house.... sometimes more than one...

Q: When did you start knitting? Who taught you?

Strangely enough, I didn't start knitting until I began a degree in fashion design with knitwear. We learned on machines and I came to hand knitting on my own, with loads of help from youtube and a sympathetic tutor.

At college, I found a dvd of Elizabeth Zimmerman's hidden in a back corner of the library and because craft was really not the cool thing in fashion college, I really believed I had discovered this super obscure video no one had ever seen. Little did I know....

Q: What do you enjoy most about knitting? What keeps you coming back to the craft?

There are so many things to love about knitting! I have found my people through the craft and am grateful for that. I love how it is one of those gifts that keeps giving--there is always more to learn, and the satisfaction of creating something beautiful and useful never wears off.

Q: Do you have a favorite thing to knit? 

Cardigans, sweaters, shawls... the list goes on. The only thing I can't seem to get into is socks, which is weird, because I have knit a few pairs and really like wearing them.

Q: What is the last project you completed?

I knit a basic rib hat with 2 ends of DK held together for Knit Aid. I can knit one in an evening or two, and there is something pretty satisfying about that. Especially when my design-work knitting is being, er, problematic.

Q: You own a yarny business, how did you get started with EastLondonKnit?

After I graduated from fashion college, I had the opportunity to purchase some industrial knitting machines. Dubieds are really gorgeous antique machines that are rare and often very expensive, so when I was presented with the chance to buy a set of beautifully preserved machines, I couldn't say no. I found studio space in Hackney Wick, and named the studio EastLondonKnit, where I worked for several years making samples for fashion designers and helping fashion students with knitwear.

After the Olympics, studio rents went up considerably, and I decided it was time to pursue my hand-knitting dreams, taking the name EastLondonKnit with me.

Q: Where do you get inspiration from?

I find many things inspiring--yarns, abstract ideas, stitch patterns, natural forms, art. Much of my inspiration is an attempt to solve a problem. Often that problem is; I have nothing to wear, what would I love to wear right now?

Q: If you could only knit with one yarn for the next year, what would it be? In other words what is your current yarn crush?

It is a close run race between The Fibre Company's Cumbria and Kettle Yarn Co.'s Islington really. They are both gorgeous yarns that you could knit forever and not be tired of.

Q: How has knitting effected your life? or What role does knitting play in your life?

Knitting has taken over my life. And I couldn't be more pleased about it :)

Renée will be teaching Brioche Basics and Next Steps as well as Learn to Knit Fair Isle this February.

-Carmen


New Year New Knits January 05 2017

Can you believe it's 2017 already? I had so many projects still to finish from 2016...

Last March I decided that I would knit myself four garments before the year's end. The Georgia cardigan got done and well that's about it. I am really close to finishing Enso and I was working away, my ball of yarn ran out and I couldn't find the remaining yarn I had wound for the project. This is what happens when I decide to 'organise my knitting.' I have since found the yarn, don't worry. I had also swatched and cast on both Sombra and Mangata but am no where near finishing either. Let's not even get started on the shawls and a baby blanket still to be finished.

But let us not dwell on the things that didn't happen, let's think about the things that will happen. In 2017 I will, crochet my first project, learn to darn a hole properly and knit more socks. Lots of other stuff will happen and things will inevitably get in the way of the things I have planned but I do like to put a few goals out there nonetheless. 

I want this year to be more about the joy of knitting and the joy of this fabulous fibre community. There were several large divisive issues we experienced in the world last year and it hung over our heads like a dark cloud. But this community is amazing and so many beautiful things came out of the unpleasantness. Just take Ysolda's bold campaign #inclusivelys as an example of how small ideas can have a big impact. 

Well, I have about a million and one things planned for the shop as usual and we'll see how many of them I manage to execute. I'm really excited about expanding the AYS team, doing more shows, getting more classes on the schedule and sharing more of your stories. I hope your year has started off well and I'd love to hear what your craft goals are for this year, hopefully we can accomplish some of them together.

 -Carmen


Happy Holidays 2016 December 28 2016

The year is drawing to a close and I hope everyone has had a lovely holiday season. My sister has been here visiting from the States and I have had the chance to show her around Bath and London and we've also had some fabulous lazy knitting time. 

Over the weekend three project were cast-on. My sister was inspired a shop sample of Alice by Antonia Shackland and got herself some gorgeous Road to China Light in Cobalt to knit it in. I joined in the Little Bobbins Christmas Eve Cast On #lbkchristmasevecaston2016 and started Helen Stewart's Vintage Fairy Lights Socks in the brand new La Bien Aimée Tough Sock. I just had to snag a skein of this yarn in Peanut Butter Jelly before it was all gone - I love this colourway! The yarn has been fantastic to knit with and I'll tell you more about it in the new year. And my friend Sarah started Enso by Renée Callahan in beautiful John Arbon Textiles Knit by Numbers.

Just a reminder about out opening hours over the holidays, we are taking a break from Saturday 24. December - Sunday 8 January, 2017. The shop is re-opening on Monday 9 January 2017. We are sending out online orders during this time but not with the frequency we do when the shop is open so please allow an extra couple of days delivery.

I get to go visit my parents in Oregon during this time and I'll be back in the shop on January 17th. You'll find Amanda and Helena in the shop until then, happy to help you with anything you need. Any questions, you can always reach us via e-mail: hello@ayarnstory.co.uk

Happy New Year everyone, may 2017 be filled with yarn and beautiful projects.

- Carmen


I Wish I Was an Octopus: Chunky Knits December 01 2016 1 Comment

As usual there are so very many things out there that I want to knit and only two hands with which to do this. The saving grace this time of year though is chunky yarn. Chunky yarn creates beautiful, quick knits that will keep you cozy warm during these frosty winter months.

I finished off my Sonder Shawl by Helen Stewart a couple of weeks ago which I have been wearing non-stop since. This was the last pattern in her Shawl Society collection and it's knit using The Fibre Co. Tundra and I just love it. It's actually the only pattern in the collection that I've managed to knit so far despite having yarn set aside for at least two of the other patterns. I am inspired to knit up another of these shawls, as Dani of the Little Bobbins podcast knit up her Sonder Shawl and then attached TOFT alpaca pom poms instead of tassles to her shawl! Now I need a version like this, so I'm thinking Petrel with black pom poms. Totally doable in the next week of so, yay!

Helen has several great quick knit pattern in Tundra, including the Ice River Hat and Cowl from her Knitvent collection last year. Or if you want something a bit different I love Julie Weisenberg's Stranded Cowl. I made a version of this using Tundra and Knightsbridge last winter, then made one for my sister as well. There are several version on Ravelry using Malabrigo Rasta as well. Then there is the einter Nordlándda collection by Rachel C. Brown. Super cute cable hats that will knit up quickly and make great gifts for either yourself or loved ones. 

We've just added Mrs. Moon Plump Superchunky to the shop, which is a soft, smooshy chunky yarn. Great for a cute bobble hat for kids or adults. My plan was not to knit any Christmas presents this year but now I'm tempted to whip up some hats for my little cousins as I could make something from Tilly's Hat Snood and Mitts Set. I'd also really like to get better at crochet (one of my personal goals for 2017) and Mrs. Moon has some great crochet patterns for this yarn. Hmmm...

Malabrigo Rasta is the ultimate of the chunky yarns. It's a Super Bulky, 100% merino hand dyed in both some lovely semi-solids and some crazy variegated colourways. I've made a Red Rasta Cowl in this yarn already and I love it but I've been eyeing up the Bushwick hat pattern as I really want a big warm funky hat for the winter. Maybe in Baya Electric and Whale's Road? or Laguna Negra and Plomo? So many choices, how is a girl to choose!?! Or what about the cheeky Julie Weisenberg pattern Smitten - it's a two handed single mitten design so you and your loved one can hold hands and stay warm. 

 Ok and totally not on the chunky front but something I want to cast on immediately nonetheless is from the Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life revival that Netflix released last weekend. I don't know about you but I was quite excited to sit in my jammies with my knitting and binge all four episodes. I was then blown away by a couple of the scarves featured on Paris and Rory in the first episode and even more blown away when I found out they were handknit in The Fibre Co. yarns and the patterns are available on Ravlery! Paris wears Eponymuff in Road to China Light while Rory is wearing Dots n Dashes knit Knightsbridge. What colors to use? I've got a few ideas, so I'll at least stash some yarn for these and then hopefully find some time to knit one over the Christmas holiday.

As usual too many awesome things I want to knit and too few hands and too little time, though I do have a glimmer of hope in getting some of this accomplished this month as it is mostly chunky projects.

Happy Making!

-Carmen


Walcot Winterfest! November 15 2016

For the past few months I've had the opportunity to work with a great group of small business owners on a community event here on Walcot Street in Bath. For those of you unfamiliar with Bath and the Walcot area, it has a long history of irreverence and was once the high street of old Roman Bath. Anchored at one end by the Cattle Market and Corn Exchange and a small round-a-bout at the other which was once where all Roman roads merged to Bath. There is a lot to love about this street both historically and in it's present form and I was so thrilled to be able to open A Yarn Story on Walcot Street. 

Walcot Winterfest

Walcot Winterfest was born out of a desire to bring the community together and remind both Bathonians and visitors that a strong presence of independent businesses thrive here on Walcot Street. It's easy to stick to the glitzy high street chains that are prolific throughout our city centers and on many a high street this is all that is left. Fortunately Bath is full of independent shops, restaurants and businesses and Walcot has the quirkiest of the bunch. Known as the Artisan Quarter many creative businesses reside here, including several artist's studios, a stationers specializing in letter press and hand calligraphy, a glass blower, a weaver's studio and such much more. 

I could go on about my love for this fabulous street and how it has been fabulous to get a chance to work with so many talented and enthusiastic entrepreneurs but I'll instead tell you what will be happening this weekend during the (first annual) Walcot Winterfest.

The weekend kicks of with Foodie Friday and many of the street eateries will be showing off their best starting at 4pm. We have a special event at the Walcot Chapel, which we've turned into a Piano Bar with food served by special guest Burgers & Barrels. Sam's Kitchen is pulling out all the stops with an on street grill of whole lamb shoulder, flat bread, tzatziki and a halloumi option for vegetarians. The street will be filled with music by local performers and several of the local pubs have special musical acts planned for Friday night. 

Saturday is Small Shop Saturday with special offers and late night shopping. There is a Secret Winter Cinema planned at Nexus Methodist Church, a film for the whole family is promised (hint: it won't be Frozen). Face Painting, calligraphy tattoos and a photo booth will be fun for the whole family as well. I'm excited to see the new exhibition by Fringe Arts Bath opening this weekend as well, it's a long term collaboration between art and science students at Bath University and Bath College and it sounds amazing. They've also got some spectacular light projects planned.

Artisan Sunday is all about showcasing the talented crafts people along the street. Many shops, including A Yarn Story, will be open on Sunday from 11 - 4pm and many will be hosting demonstrations and mini workshops. We will be hosting a drop spindle demo from 12 - 2pm where you can come along and give the ancient art of spinning yarn a try. This is open to children and adults and is a free event. 

Lastly, you can get to know Walcot with a fun scavenger hunt, it's on the back of the Walcot Winterfest programs and there is a larger hamper of items from Walcot businesses to be won. Light, fire, music and general festive cheer will also be available in abundance this weekend and that is actually my favorite part. It's been a rough few months in the world and I know many of you, myself included, are feeling a bit down or depleted in the aftermath which is why its all the more reason to get together with your community and support those close to to you. 

Hope to see some of you this weekend, I know for many Bath is maybe a bit too far to journey to but I wish you too a weekend of joy and celebration.

- Carmen


Inishmeane - Designer's Perspective October 26 2016

Last Friday we released the brand new pattern Inishmeane, a men's sweater designed in The Fibre Company's newest yarn Arranmore. I wrote about the sweater and a bit of the design process on the blog last week but I thought it would be fun to share the designer's perspective as well, as really, Rachel did most of the work. So, in her own words - here is what my friend and talented designer Rachel Brown of Porpoise Fur has to say about designing Inishmeane:

Early this past summer I got a ping from Carmen at A Yarn Story saying "Have you seen this new Fibre Company yarn Arranmore? It's luscious and glorious and I want a men's sweater design for it!" Before I knew what had hit me we were looking at a Pinterest board and discussing constructions and yarn colours and motifs. We debated henley style versus gansey, raglan versus set in sleeve...the possibilities were endless!

Most importantly, we wanted to come up with a men's sweater that would appeal both to men and the knitters who knit for them. The stereotype is that men want plain, boring, miles-of-stockinette navy or black or brown or dark green pullovers. That's it. But honestly, who among us wants to knit that? I can envision a scenario in which my brain was so fried that I would be good for nothing but plain stockinette in the round, but the prospect is just a bit too blah to be appealing for very long.

So we decide on a mostly stockinette sweater (to cover the standard insistence on "plain") which would highlight the tweedy rustic nature of the yarn, but with some interesting details to keep the knitter of said sweater from going nuts in a sea of blank canvas. A couple of serious cables for example, and a saddle shoulder construction. A tall collar and a henley neckline. A cozy sweater in a glorious Aran yarn that wraps around you like a big hug.

Then there was swatching and knitting (in the ludicrous heat that was Washington DC this past summer when we were there) and a frantic round of button choosing, and some pattern writing. And now, Carmen and I are thrilled to present Inishmeane, named for a small island off the coast of County Donegal.

A dog almost as cute as The Wee Ridiculous Dog that lives in my house

Worked in seven sizes (finished chest measurement from 96.5-157.5 cm/38-62"), Inishmeane is worked in the round from the bottom up, starting with a turned hem. The body is worked in the round to the underarms, and then the front and back are worked flat. Sleeves are worked (also with a turned hem) with a mirrored cable panel on each, and then the cable continues across the shoulder, getting attached to the front and back as you work. Then the collar is worked flat, with the cables continuing on either side, and the front button bands are picked up and worked flat.

I am super thrilled with how this sweater has come out, but it wouldn't have happened without the support of a lot of people: first off, Carmen, who asked me to come up with something for her, and was an absolute pleasure to work with from start to finish (let me know when the next one needs to come through, ok?), my lovely tech editor Deb for her eagle eyes (!), Daphne and Ian at The Fibre Company for yarn support and being generally all around some of the most lovely people it's been my pleasure to meet in this industry, and Tommy Martin who takes unbelievably phenomenal pictures of knitwear in the Lake District (as evidenced by these photos and the gorgeous shoot he did for Nordlándda last year).

The pattern is available now from Ravelry and from A Yarn Story directly, along with oodles and oodles of gorgeous Arranmore. I'm already contemplating what colour to pick for my, I mean Alex's Inishmeane!

Thanks so much for sharing Rachel and thanks for creating such a beautiful garment!

- Carmen


New Pattern Release: Inishmeane October 21 2016 1 Comment

There was a pub very near our house in Ireland called Roches. It was one of those local pubs that showed it’s history on the walls. The pub was set on a bog and had been sinking for decades and every few years they would pump some concrete under which ever side was sloping the worst and thus angled doorways and crooked windows were created. We loved this pub, it poured the best pint of Guinness it was full of welcoming locals and there was always a comforting peat fire on the go. We spent many an evening there listening to local trad music, including one during which a local woman was asked to sing. The musicians started to play and she began to sing and within seconds the entire pub had fallen silent and the musicians had stopped and the most glorious music I have ever heard was filling the room. Our collective breaths were taken away.

This sweater is dedicated to that pub, as I imagine this is where it would be worn. After a long day, with a pint in hand chatting with your mates and a fire in the background. This is what hand knit sweaters are made for and we really wanted to create something that would be both lovely to knit and to wear.



A Yarn Story has had the pleasure of having The Fibre Co. Arranmore on the shelf since the Spring when we launched it to the world as part of Yarn Shop Day. It has started many a conversation and inspired many a knitter in this time. And one of this conversations I was having often was with husbands who had come into the shop with their wives - hinting that they would like to have a their next sweater knit in this beautiful tweedy yarn. I have often had conversations with customers, either women looking for a pattern to knit for a man or with men looking for a pattern that they would like to knit for themselves. Let’s be honest, the pickings are much slimmer for men’s knitting patterns and thus an idea was born.

Inishmeane


I am not a designer, so this is not an endeavor I could take on on my own, but I knew just the woman for the job and she thankfully said yes. My friend Rachel Brown of Porpoise Fur was very excited when I approached her about the idea and very luckily she had time in her schedule. I love collaborating with people in general, I love bouncing ideas around and seeing things from the perspective of others.

We both wanted a sweater that the men in our lives would be happy to wear and we’d be happy to knit for them. Arranmore screams CABLES! so we knew there would be some cables but not too many.

Innishmeane

We spoke and Rachel went away to make some sketches and swatch some yarn and then the idea was a go and Rachel began knitting and writing the pattern. I felt slightly guilty about this part of the process as I had nothing to do at this point and Rachel set off on summer vacation to the East Coast of the US in a humid heatwave with a cosy aran weight sweater to knit. I suspect she sat right next to an air conditioning unit while knitting.

So we bring you Inishmeane, a sweater you’ll love to knit and you’ll love to wear. I’ve been pretty much living in the sample since I finally got my hands on it last week. Arranmore creates the most beautiful and cosy fabric, this yarn wants to be a sweater. It feels like a great hug from an old friend. I will absolutely be knitting one for my Dad because he is totally knit worthy and he’ll love this sweater!

Inishmeane

Inishmeanne is worked in the round from the bottom up with turned hems. The body is worked first in stocking stitch to the underarms, then the front and back are worked flat. The shoulder stitches are left live on holders while the sleeves are worked. The cable detail running up the outside of the sleeve is then worked with the live shoulder stitches to form a saddle shoulder. Finally, the tall collar and front plackets are picked up and worked flat.

You can find the pattern available for purchase on via Ravelry or on the website or in the shop of course.

Inishmeane

I’d also like to extend a big THANK YOU to The Fibre Co. for photographing Inishmeane alongside their own collection Innisfree with the fabulous Tommy Martin behind the lense. The images are simply stunning.

We hope you fall in love with Innishmeane as much as we have and next week Rachel will share her thoughts and process on creating this pattern, so stay tuned.

- Carmen


Your Yarn Story: Mark of Midwinter Yarns October 18 2016

If you've ever encountered Midwinter Yarns at a fibre show, you'll probably have met Mark. He can usually be found knitting away on the stand and usually chatting up a storm or in quiet moments making sure the yarn is organized and tidy - he has a thing about this. Mark is the other half of the Midwinter Yarns story, we chatted with Estelle last year; both equally passionate about their yarns and their knitting. 

Caption: Mark knitting away at Yarndale Photo by Victoria Magnus

I encountered Midwinter Yarns for the first time at the first UK fibre show I attended a few years ago. It was Wonderwool Wales and I believe it was their first show as well. It was Mark I met on the stand - not yet a knitter at the time but very enthusiastic and helpful and I was convinced to walk away with enough yarn to knit several sets of mittens. He has since become an avid knitter and has quickly expanded his repertoire, though as you'll read below, he has a favorite he goes back to again and again.  

 So here is Mark's story, I think you'll enjoy it:

Q: What is currently on your needles?

Currently there is yet another Linus shawl on my needles! It's my 5th or 6th one now, but we had some new colours come in just ahead of the pop-up and they just looked so good together. It's the Dark Crocus combined with the new Cerise on Grey.

Q: When did you start knitting? Who taught you?

It's quite a funny story, actually. One of the first shows we attended after setting up Midwinter Yarns was Unwind in Brighton. I didn't yet knit at this point, but approached yarn-selling from my retail background. I was familiar with the weights and lengths and prices and was serving two gentlemen when they asked...."But what is it like to knit with?". I had to admit that I didn't knit and they took a step back and looked me up and down with raised eyebrows. I had no choice but to ask Estelle to teach me once we got home. My learning project was a garter stitch cowl which is somehow much looser at the end than the beginning, and has some short rows in places where there really shouldn't be any.

Q: What do you enjoy most about knitting? What keeps you coming back to the craft?

I enjoy creating with a medium that I had not really considered before (I have degree Mixed Media Fine Art) and seeing the colours and textures develop. I also enjoy keeping my hands occupied and am starting to reach the stage where I feel restless if I'm sat with nothing to do.

Q: Do you have a favorite thing to knit?

I do most of my knitting while on the stand at wool shows, so I prefer simpler knits that allow me to keep talking to customers. This is why I've ended up making so many Linus shawls! They're very simple to knit, but the ever-changing gradient colours keep them exciting.

Q: What is the last project you completed?

eeeeeeerrrrr.....a Linus? I have knitted other things, honestly, but the last one was the "Funky" Linus. It was a colour combination picked up by a customer: the very bright Cerise-Orange with the equally unsubtle Blue Blend. We were a little skeptical at first, but when she sent us pictures through, it actually looked fantastic and is now part of the standard kits.

Q: You are part of a yarny business, how did you get started with Midwinter Yarns?

I was only supposed to be the help! But then my many years in retail kicked in and I started to get more and more involved. I really enjoy talking to customers and have found the yarn business to be full of very passionate and creative people. It's different from selling someone, say, a pair of shoes. Each hank is something that someone will spend time working with, maybe as a treat for themselves, maybe as a thoughtful gift. It's just more involved and I like that.

Q: Where do you get inspiration from?

I knit whatever Estelle tells me we need on display!

Q: If you could only knit with one yarn for the next year, what would it be? In other words what is your current yarn crush?

I'm still fairly new to the craft, so I've started by familiarising myself with the Midwinter range and have mostly worked with that. I do have a small stash from various shows though, and one of my favourites at the moment is from Dye Ninja. I like her deep saturated colours and we've bonded over our love of Terry Pratchett as the proceeds from some of her colours go to an Alzheimer charity in his name.

Q; How has knitting effected your life? or What role does knitting play in your life?

Knitting has become very central to my life - almost all my traveling and a whole new set of friends has emerged from working with Midwinter Yarns. I've also discovered that there is a great nerd community amongst the knitters where I feel right at home.

The Midwinter Yarns Pop-Up runs from 15. October - 22. October in the shop with a wide selection of their scrumptious Scandinavian yarns, including a super special kit for the iconic Baa-ble Hat by Donna Smith, which you can see modeled here by both Mark and Estelle. 

Happy Stitching!

- Carmen