A Yarn Story

Your Yarn Story: Aleks Byrd February 14 2018

Color & Knit Mittens is the debut book from local designer Aleks Byrd and we're delighted to help her celebrate the launch. We sat down with Aleks to find out her yarn story.

Aleks Byrd

Q: What is currently on your needles?
A: I've currently have two projects on needles, both are jumpers. One is the Kiuru sweater from Issue 3 of Laine Magazine being knit out of Walcot Yarns Opus in a stunning golden yellow color called Goldenrod. I love the mix of cables and twisted stitch patterns! I just cast on a few days ago the Carbeth jumper by Kate Davies. I fell in love with it when I saw the photos she posted on Instagram. It's a nice fast, simply mindless knitting project in contrast to the complexities of the Kiuru sweater. I am knitting it out of Wollmeise DK is an adaptly named colour for a Scottish pattern; Single Malt. 

Kiuru sweater wip

Q: When did you start knitting/crocheting? Who taught you?
A: I learned how to knit from my mother when I was probably about 8-10 years old. It has been a progression to obsession and passion as I have gotten older. I became more interested when I was in middle and high school as there was a knitting club with girls my age. 

Q: What do you enjoy most about knitting? What keeps you coming back to the craft?
A: Part of what I love about knitting is that it's a community. I have had the opportunity to travel extensively and live in different places. Each time and place I've visited there are always a group of knitters that are very welcoming and make you feel a sense of belonging. Meeting so many knitters has opened my eyes to a wealth of knowledge of different techniques, styles of knitting as well as amazing places to shop for yarn and patterns. Its a welcoming and supportive community for knitters but also designers. 

Q: Do you have a favourite thing to knit?
A: I tend to knit a lot of cowls. I am a scarf lover and cowls are  easy to knit and wear, as well as a great canvas for trying out different knitting techniques. 

Q: You're also an amazing illustrator - where does your inspiration come from? 
A: A lot of my inspiration comes from my travels, experiences and cultural background of Estonia. I always have a sketchbook on me when I go somewhere new or interesting to capture ideas for a pattern or record details about the place and what's unique in my eyes about it.  I love patterns and colours particularly those used in nordic knitting and their folk costumes. Lately I've been trying to create a bridge between my love of illustration and knitting by illustrating the wonderful whimsical  experiences of knitting based on my own as well as my knitter friends' experiences-  knitting socks and jumpers on ourselves to get the fit just right! It has also been a great opportunity to bring to life potential ideas for new patterns on paper.

Aleks' design studio
Q: Tell us how you came up with the idea for Color & Knit Mittens. Do you have plans for other books?
A: I'm a knitter that doesn't like to stick to colours planned out in a given colourwork pattern. I think that might come out of being a being an illustrator & designer as well as having gone to art school! I like to modify my colours particularly with stranded colourwork knitting, which can get confusing when reading a chart printed in colours that aren't close to what I'm using. I thought it would be interesting to try to create a chart that was blank that could then be coloured in with the colours that I wanted to use and how I wanted to use them. I had designed and had published  a colouring book already (a Christmas themed Estonian colouring book published in Estonia) and had seen the adult colouring book trend continue even amongst my friends and family. I thought it time to maybe try to combine the colouring book trend with colouring work knitting- it seemed to make sense to me and it would continue to bridge my loves of knitting and illustration. I would love to create more books, maybe continuing the concept of the knitting colouring book with a different patterns possibly hats or cowls/scarves. Maybe at some point I'll take the plunge to design a jumper or cardigan!

Aleks and mittens from her book
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?
A: This is incredibly challenging to pick just one! I really enjoying working with variegated yarns particularly in stranded colourwork so I would pick Claudia Hand Painted Yarns Addiction Fingering at the moment. Her yarns have a nice painterly quality in their colours and knit into a nice squishy fabric.

Sock knit girl
Q: How has knitting affected your life? Or, what role does knitting play in your life?
A: Knitting started out as just a hobby. Another hobby that I could share with my mom and slowly and increasingly share with friends as I taught them how to knit. It has become so much more in the last few years. I never thought of myself before as  a knitwear designer or even becoming one. I remember going on a knitting workshop with my mom a few years ago. The knitters in the workshop were asked to pick out yarns to knit a fair isle cowl that would be a knit-a-long. I didn't like the pattern of the cowl and thought I could come up with something better myself- which I did and it sparked so much more. Knitting has become more than just an enjoyable and relaxing outlet but also where I can let my creativity run wild. I always loved textiles and wanted to put my illustration and pattern ideas onto something that I could wear and use. Being able to sit and figure out the puzzle of translating something from paper to wool is an enjoyable and gratifying challenge and one that I am excited to continue to build and incorporate into my expanding career interests of knitwear design and illustration. 

In celebration of Aleks' new book we're throwing a little party and book signing! No need to RSVP, join us in the shop on Saturday, March 10th from 1-3pm where you can meet Aleks, pick up a copy of the book and see the wonderful mittens she's created. 

- Carmen

Your Yarn Story: Rosee Woodland January 26 2018

We're really excited to be hosting the multi-craftual and multi-talented Rosee Woodland in the shop for a few workshops and I thought it would be great to have her share her Yarn Story with us.

Rosee is a knitting designer and writer but she also sews, crochets, makes and works as a technical editor and stylist too. Read on to learn more about Rosee's passion and inspiration.

Rosee Woodland

Q: What is currently on your needles?
A: Some rainbow socks for commuting knitting, a new cable mitten design, a design in Socks Yeah yarn that I really must finish, and, most importantly, the swatches for my new book.

Greenwich Village socks by Rosee Woodland

Q: When did you start knitting/crocheting? Who taught you?
A: My nana taught me to knit when I was about seven and my mum taught me to sew around the same time. There are textile people going back generations in my family; my great grandfather was a tailor, his wife was seamstress to Lady Winston Churchill (!) and my aunt had a small fashion label before she retired, so it’s in the blood! Having said that, although I’ve always sewed, knitting didn’t really ‘take’ until I was in my late 20s, but from then on I was addicted. I taught myself to crochet a while later from Debbie Stoller’s Happy Hooker book.

Q: What do you enjoy most about knitting? What keeps you coming back to the craft?
A: I love how versatile knitting can be. I’m a big fan of strong colour, which you don’t find much of in high street shops, so I enjoy how freeing it is to make my own clothes in whatever hue I choose. I’m tall with long arms, so I also appreciate being able to adapt patterns to fit me perfectly. I usually have to add 10cm to ‘normal’ length sleeves!

Owl Feathers cardigan by Rosee Woodland

Q: Do you have a favourite thing to knit?
A: Socks were my first knitting passion and you can get such great yarns for them these days (hello La Bien Aimee!) but yoked sweaters are my absolute favourite. I have designed a few (more coming soon...) and it’s so satisfying working out how to adjust the yoke patterning as the stitch count decreases. You can make them super colourful too and I just find them really fun to design.

Q: You're a multi-craftual person and also crochet and sew too. Do you have a favourite craft? How do you balance your time between all your interests and makes?
A: I don’t really have a favourite craft. Knitting is probably what I’m most skilled at, and I love its portability, but please don’t make me choose! I am also pretty obsessed with quilting, but I’ve decided to keep that for myself, rather than doing anything professional with it. To be honest, I’m not great at balancing my crafts as I have so many unfinished projects. If I didn’t have to work I’d quite happily just make things all day long!

Sigga sweater by Rosee Woodland

Q: You're also a knitting designer and are teaching our Design Your Own Jumper class. Where do you get inspiration from?
A: I take a lot of inspiration from the natural world - my use of colour is bold, but it usually comes from something natural to start with. I am a keen wild swimmer and freediver so I get to see beautiful marine animals up close and they really inspire me.The wildlife, plants and flowers on my allotment give me lots of ideas too. I’m also really interested in the history of textile crafts and have a lot of books about traditional knitting that help me with starting points for designs.

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?
A: I’m probably most smitten by traditional style ‘workshorse’ yarns, like Jamieson and Smith Jumper Weight or Frangipani Gansey yarn. At the other end of the scale, I also adore the speckled yarns that are so on trend and have bought quite a few hanks of La Bien Aimee from A Yarn Story - the colours are absolutely incredible. But if I have to choose, I would go with Cascade 220 - a worsted weight pure wool that comes in a zillion colours. It’s an incredibly versatile yarn - I’ve used it on 3mm and 6.5mm needles and everything in between to great effect. The shade range is the widest I’ve found and really frees me up to be completely creative and express my love of colour.

Montana hat by Rosee Woodland

Q: How has knitting affected your life? Or, what role does knitting play in your life?
A: Well, without knitting I’d probably still be a news journalist, which is how I began my career. I worked on a big local daily paper and it was a very fast-paced, high pressure environment with six editions to get out every day. After years on the paper I ended up as deputy news editor. It was a job I loved, but it was an absolute grind, so I started knitting again to bring some calm to the rare free moments I had during a long newsdesk shift. My editor was totally bemused, but knitting reawakened my love of all crafts, and I eventually side-stepped into magazines, editing The Knitter and Knit Today, before going freelance a couple of years ago. I don’t miss the newsroom at all and love my work these days, as a writer, designer, technical editor and tutor. It gives me creative freedom and I don’t have all that crazy stress any more! 

Rosee will be teaching Design Your Own Jumper over two days this April and a Learn to Knit Socks class this February. Update: The socks class is now sold out but we'll be scheduling it again so send us an email and we'll put you on the list to be notified when it's running again.

- Carmen

2018: Sock Drawer Goals January 09 2018

At some point over the Christmas holidays I must have had really cold feet while enjoying the winter wonderland that was Oregon state when I was home for Christmas. Instead of fixating on eating healthier or what bad habits I want to break when the new year rolled around all I could think about was how great it would be to have a drawer full of socks by the end of the year. Or it could be that I’m just sick of the one handknit pair that I’ve been wearing to death. Ugh.

Ravelry even seems to want to help me with this goal as they have a new challenge feature that they’ve added to everyone’s project page. Now I feel super motivated to plan out all the socks I want to knit this year and pair them up with some of our yummy yarns.

I’m usually a pretty non-fussy sock person. I like them pretty basic with not a lot of patterning on the foot, maybe a bit at the top. Here’s some of the patterns that inspired me while I was down the Ravelry rabbit hole:

Free patterns

RyeTin Can Knits
I can’t recommend the Tin Can Knits patterns enough to people and this cushy sock pattern from their Simple Collection is a quick knit in Worsted or DK weight yarn. The pattern is also sized from baby to big so you can make them for your whole family.


LemonadeYuka Takahashi
This ankle sock features pretty eyelets and calls for a sport weight yarn. Perfect for our SweetGeorgia Superwash Sport (this would look AMAZING in Mango Ice!). The pattern is one size but knit toe-up so should be easy to adjust.

Hermione’s Everyday SocksErica Lueder
If you’re looking for something with a little texture then these socks inspired by the Harry Potter heroine are for you. These are top down and one size as well but adjustable. With over 21,000 projects listed in Ravelry there’s lots of inspiration to see how others have knit them!

No-Heel SpiralSocksLa Maison Rililie
La Maison Rililie has taken an old idea for socks and modernized it beautifully with these socks, including a mirroring of the spiral, six different sizes and two different toe options. They’re toe-up and I love the contrasting toes and cuffs. Great way to use up leftovers in other colours!

Rose City Rollers Orange Knits Designs
Wool has such amazing temperature control qualities and I think these would be so cute to wear in the summer. Without the body of the sock to knit too, they’ll be an even faster finish.


YinYang Kitty Ankle SocksGeena Garcia
Another adorable ankle sock pattern. What’s not to love about these kitties, knowing that they’re hiding in your shoes? And it’s easy to knit them longer, or to match too.

Patterns for purchase

Jelly RollsOrange Knits Designs
If you thought the Rose City Rollers socks were cute, check out these Jelly Rolls! They feature a second roll around the ankle, as well as colourwork patterning in the heel and arch – another fantastic way to use up leftovers.

Vintage Fairy LightsHelen Stewart
I absolutely love how the pair of these that I knit last year turned out. So much, that I think I’m destined to knit some more! Perfect for speckled yarns that make those colours pop out in just the right places.


Evesham SocksJoanne Scrace
And because I’m determined to get more proficient with my crochet this year, I’m including these pretty, lacey socks. I’m comforted by designer Joanne’s description that they’re easier than they look!

Socks are the ultimate in portable projects. Knowing how much travel I have planned for this year I’m hoping that’s a good sign that I’ll be able to get a lot of sock knitting done. And with such a small canvas, they’re the perfect way to explore new techniques and stitches. If my big goal is to have a drawer full of handknit socks by the end of the year then my sub goal is to delve more into sock construction and find my perfect sock fit.

If you haven’t knit socks before you know we’ve got classes, right? Our next Learn to Knit Socks class is scheduled for February 4th. Or if you’ve already got some sock knitting under your belt, why not join us on March 3rd to learn from sock knitting maven herself, Kate Atherley? Kate will be teaching us how to knit Two Socks at Once, Side by Side.

- Carmen

Knitting in Public June 07 2017

We all know there are projects that are great for taking along to knit group or out to the pub with friends and there are projects that aren't so great for group activities. Some of us might very well be able to work black lace weight yarn in a complicated lace chart pattern in near pub darkness but I think for most of us we prefer a project that doesn't require as much concentration and has less risk of mistakes. With World Wide Knit in Public Day coming up this Saturday 9 June, I thought it'd be nice to talk about projects that are great for taking along to public outings.

Everyone has their own take on what they consider an easy or difficult project, so it's not about difficulty level, it's about concentration level I think. For me the perfect project for group knitting activities has three requirements:

1. It should fit in my hand bag

2. I shouldn't have to look at the pattern

3. No more than two colors are needed for a two hour knitting session

Now, rule one about my hand bag - I have several different size hand bags, so I'm not specific about which hand bag it should be able to fit in, but it does need to fit in one. I don't want to have to take and extra bag out with me. Now, I love a pretty project bags and I have several scattered around the house with various projects in them and I will throw one of those in my hand bag and head out to knit group but I also love a ziplock style plastic bag for a project on the go as well. It's water proof, I can squish all the air out of the bag and I can see what I've brought with me. Practicality is my friend.

Rule two doesn't mean I I will only take projects that require long rows of garter stitch, it just means I need to be far enough into a pattern that I don't have to look at it every few minutes to see what I'm doing. So a simple lace repeat that I've already been working on or a repeating colorwork pattern is fine, I just don't want to to have to concentrate on looking at the pattern, I want to chat with my friends.

The third rule relates to the first and it's about storage space. I'm happy to have two balls of yarn with me because I'm working on something with stripes or I know I'm about to have to change colors but I don't want to want to carry five balls of yarn around with me. That not only probably won't fit in my hand bag it could easily become a tangled mess and I really hate untangling yarn. 

With my rules in mind, here are a few patterns I think would work really well as public knitting projects. The Before and After Bias Scarf by Churchmouse Yarns is a super simple and elegant knit which can be made in any number of yarns. Our Tuesday morning knit group has made at least five between everyone. Pictured above is one of Fiona's versions using Midwinter Yarns Lithuanian Linen

I quite like to take socks out with me for knitting in public. I only ever really knit what I would call a vanilla sock, so I find it easy to just knit around and around while enjoying everyone's company. I mostly knit socks for my Dad, who really just wants a plain sock so I've been using Rachel Coopey's pattern Dave as my starting point for those. A good solid vanilla sock great for showing off pretty yarn and great for knitting in public. I made a pair of Helen Stewart's Vintage Fairylight Socks over Christmas, this was a great pattern and totally knitable in public. Hermoine's Everyday Socks are also a fan favorite at our knit group, free pattern, a bit of interest, great for showing off hand dyed yarn and easy to knit while chatting. 

A garter stitch shawl of some description is also always a good choice. So very many options in this category really. I love the pattern Joji Locatelli just released Ebba's Garden Shawl, it ticks all the right boxes for me. Stephen West's Garter Goodness is a great choice, though this one does get a bit big at some point and doesn't tick all the boxes anymore. 

What do you like to knit when you're out with friends? What will you be knitting this Saturday out in Public?

If you're in Bath this weekend we'd love for you to join us at the Boston Tea Party from 10-12 as we join forces with the Bath Knitting & Crochet Guild this year. After the morning event we invite you to come down to Walcot Street and continue knitting with us. For other WWKIPD events in your area you can check out their website here.

Happy Knitting everyone!


I Wish I was an Octopus: Spring Flings May 19 2017

I don't about you but I feel like there is a plethora of amazing designs out there at the moment and I want to knit them ALL. And I mean all of them. I haven't written a post in the "I Wish I was an Octopus" serious in a while so I thought it was time to talk about some of the many patterns inspiring me at the moment.

Who hasn't been totally caught up in the "fading" craze? The talented Andrea Mowry captured our imaginations with her Find your Fade shawl at the beginning of the year (I do have one of these on the needles but more on that at a later date) and then last month she released the So Faded sweater pattern in both an adult version and a pint sized version. And just look how amazing her and her daughter look in their sweaters? Lots of great fading versions have been created already and it is just a great little summer sweater. 

The yet to arrive second Issue of Laine Magazine is full of gorgeous patterns including another shawl pattern by Andrea called Bird of  Feather. But that's not the pattern I'm clambering to start knitting, no it's Morning Fog by Laine co-founder Jonna Hietala which is an elegant light weight cardigan knit in Shibui Knits Silk Cloud. This cardi just looks so cozy and relaxed and would just be the perfect item to dress up my summer uniform of jeans, a tank top and sandals. It will work well into the autumn and winter as well as a light layer. I can't wait to see more pics and dig into the pattern when the magazine arrives next week.

Have you seen the Pom Pom Quarterly Summer 2017 preview on Ravelry yet? It's full of cute patterns and I love the bright cheerful photographs they've taken for this milestone 5th Anniversary edition. The magazine should be arriving in the shop next week, which means I could in theory cast-on the Bash hat by Linda Dubec. I love everything about this hat, the geometric design, the colors used (though I have been playing around with altering that so that I could replace the yellow with pink)  and the yarn. I love working with The Fibre Co. Cumbria Fingering yarn and a hat is a reasonably sized project that I may even manage to complete in the nearish future. Maybe even in time for Pomfest in July, watch this space...

I came across this adorable kids pattern in a friend's Ravelry favorites the other day; it's the Teddy Bear Sweater by PetiteKnit and it's just so darn cute. It's a simple top down raglan sweater with some cleverly placed embroidery on the front. I have lots of friends with young kids at the moment and I'd love to make this for at least one of them. 

And last but not least for this edition of "I Wish I was an Ocotopus" is a shawl pattern by Melanie Berg. Melanie will be here teaching in June and I'd love to knit another of her designs before she arrives and I'd love the chance to use Shibui Knits newest yarn Lunar which makes Whiteout the perfect choice. Melanie used Pollen and Ivory which is a stunning combo but not a color combo I can wear. I've been playing around with color choices all week and I might so for a darker version in Abyss and Imperial. 

Let's see how many of these, if any I manage to get on the needles. I'm trying to finish up several projects at the moment including a pair of Dave socks for my Dad, the Enso sweater I started for myself last Spring, the Joji Locatelli MKAL and at least five other projects I can't think of at the moment. 


Yarn Shop Day / Anniversary Wrap Up May 11 2017

Just a quick one today to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who joined us last Saturday for Yarn Shop Day and our 3 year anniversary party! It was amazing to see everyone and chat about yarn, patterns and of course the super yummy cake provided by Didicakes!

What's really lovely about having an event like Yarn Shop Day is we get to see so many of you all in one place and all at the same time. It just really warms my hear to see so many passionate knitters and crocheters all in the shop at the same time. Peaches was here for the celebrations as well and did her part playing hostess :)

 I didn't take any photos during the day it turns out, too busy chatting and eating cake. There were a few beautiful snaps by customers of the shop and their purchases on Instagram so I'll share those here. Our good friend Allison from Yarn in the City snapped this gorgeous collage below - I love when the shop looks this tidy (and believe me it did not by the end of the day...)

The lovely Dani of the Little Bobbins podcast came out with Bobbin himself. So both Peaches and Little Bobbin were in the shop at the same time eyeing each other up - it was adorable and yet we took no pictures. Dani took this great photo when she got home. If I'm not mistaken the SweetGeorgia Yarns skein is going to be included in her So Faded sweater she's working on. She had the sweater with her and it's going to be so cute when it's finished. 

And last but not least I love this flat lay that Alli took of her goodies from the day. She snatched up a couple skeins of Walcot Yarns, a box of the new Letterpress Cards and a copy of Cocoknits fab new book Sweater Workshop

Again a heartfelt thank you to everyone who joined us last Saturday and a thank you to Let's Knit magazine who organizes Yarn Shop Day. It's so great to see so many people supporting local yarn shops. There are a lot more images from all over the country on Instagram if you check out #yarnshopday and #yarnshopday2017

Until next time, happy making everyone.


Cast Ons Part II April 26 2017

This time around we’re going to talk about Questions 3 and 4 from the previous cast on post:

3. Do I need a provisional cast on?

4. Do I need a centre-out/circular cast on?

For both of these questions we’ll be dealing with projects that can’t be started with a simple straight edge cast on, which can be a daunting prospect sometimes! For example, a circular shawl that starts from the middle or a toe-up sock. Another example would be a cardigan or a long rectangular stole worked sideways from a central point.

Provisional cast ons

Let’s start off by defining what is meant by a provisional cast on. Casting on provisionally means you start your knitting by creating two sets of stitches, one of which is worked and the other of which is held to be used later in the piece. The provisional cast on is used in toe-up socks, and in pieces that have a knitted on edging added at the end. It is also very useful if you’re not sure if you have enough yarn for a sweater: use a provisional cast on for the sleeves, work the body and yoke, and then go back to finish the sleeves with the remaining yarn.

In the last post I mentioned using this cast on for a turned hem that is knit closed instead of being sewn down afterwards – in this instance you would provisionally cast on the stitches for the body of the sweater (or the sleeve), knit the hem and the turning ridge, then work until you had the same length of sleeve as the inside hem. You would then take another needle and pick up the provisionally cast on stitches (the second set) and then k2tog one stitch from the working stitches and one stitch from the provisional cast on all the way around to close the hem.

There are many, many ways to do a provisional cast on, and the choice of cast on to use will be driven by what you’re working on. For example, for a rectangular lace stole that is worked from the centre out in two halves, you could use a provisional cast on with waste yarn. This can be done with the knitting needles only or with a crochet hook.

The knitting needle only version uses a scrap of waste yarn in a cast on that uses the waste yarn as a kind of life line – you end up with one edge where the stitches are held in place by the waste yarn running straight along the bottom. (written tutorial here and a video here).

With the crocheted version, you use a crochet hook and the waste yarn to crochet over the knitting needle, essentially creating a row of stitches that are then worked. When you need to go back and work the other set of stitches, carefully pull out the crocheted chain and pick up the live stitches as you go (written tutorial here or video tutorial here).

These provisional cast ons are also useful for turned hems and for situations where you’re not sure about yarn requirements or length – provisionally cast on with one of these techniques and you can easily come back and work in the other direction when needed.

Toe-up socks are best done with a slightly different technique. Both of the cast ons above  result in a tiny gap in the fabric right at the tip of the toe, which some people find annoying and which is a potential weak spot. But don’t worry – Judy Becker has come up with the solution! Judy’s Magic Cast-On (written version here and video tutorial here) allows you to cast on for the toe of your sock provisionally (so there’s no gap or seam) and then lets you start working in the round immediately.

The result is stitches flowing invisibly over the toe with no seam or gap. Judy’s Magic Cast-On (sometimes abbreviated as JMCO) can also be used in other situations where you need a provisional cast on detailed above. In those instances, you would work flat instead of in the round.

Centre-out or circular cast ons

To be fair, there aren’t too many instances in which you want to cast on in the middle of a piece and work outwards in the round. I can think of three obvious ones: circular shawls, blankets (either in one piece or as modular units) and top-down hats.

The fact that this type of cast on is relatively uncommon is not a bad thing, as it can be quite tricky to execute well! The standard circular cast on is one popularised by Elizabeth Zimmerman – Emily Ocker’s Circular Cast On (photo tutorial here or video tutorial here). This cast on uses a crochet hook to cast on the initial round of stitches. If you’ve ever crocheted a granny square and used the magic circle cast on, this is the same. In essences, after crocheting the required number of stitches, you transfer them to a circular needle or dpns. The tail left from the loop at the beginning of the cast on is pulled tight and closes up the hole in the centre.

An alternative to Emily Ocker’s Circular Cast On is the Disappearing Loop Cast On (photo tutorial here or video here). This cast on is the same in principle, but doesn’t use crochet for the first round so all the stitches are the same from the very beginning.

I don’t know about you, but I am not good with things that are fiddly. So my favourite way to start centre-out knitting is by cheating. TECHknitter’s blog refers to this technique as the Umbilical Waste Cord Method (photo tutorial here) which describes it very well (although it isn’t terribly appealing!)

For this cast on you start with some waste yarn and work a length of i-cord – the length worked is up to you, but at least 2-3 cm is a good starting point.

When you’ve got your i-cord well established, split the stitches on to 2 dpns and begin working with your working yarn as follows:

Set up round: Leaving a long tail, work 1 round of i-cord.

Round 1 (increase round): *K1, M1; repeat from * to end. 

Round 2: Knit.

You now have twice as many stiches, which can be distributed over multiple needles for working in the round.

Repeat these two rounds until you have the number of stitches needed to work as directed in the pattern.

At some point you’ll need to cut the cord so to speak, and get rid of the piece of i-cord sticking out from the front of your work.

Thread a yarn needle with the tail from the working yarn from that very first round, and pick up each loop from that first round one at a time as you remove the waste yarn.

At the end of this process you’ll have a hole in the middle of your work, with the cast on tail run through all of the live stitches.

Pass the tail once more through the first stitch only, and pull carefully to close up the middle hole. Ta da!

This cast on results in the same finished look as the more fiddly versions, with much less effort and stress (at least for me)!

Hopefully you’ve now got a grasp on a few more cast on techniques to add to your arsenal. Happy knitting!

- Rachel porpoisefur

Welcome Anna! April 05 2017

Anna joined the AYS team in February and here's your chance to get to know her a bit better.

A weaver and recent graduate of Bath Spa's renowned Textile Design for Fashion and Interiors program, I'm thrilled to have Anna in the shop. With an amazing eye for color and a sleek modern design aesthetic she's a perfect fit. You can usually find Anna in the shop a couple days a week, so if you get a chance stop by and say hi, in the meantime she shares a bit of her Yarn Story below.

Q: What is currently on your needles?
A: I am just about to start the final section of Brenna from The Fibre Company’s Fell Garth Collection. I also have a moss stitch draped jacket which I started literally years ago but I am determined to finish it soon!

Q: When did you start knitting/crocheting? Who taught you?
A: I think I was about 14 when my Mum taught me to knit as a way to switch off my brain in the evenings. This pig from Laura Long’s book Knitted Toy Tales and was the first thing I knitted that wasn’t a flat rectangle! I taught myself to crochet a few years later but it’s never stuck in the same way as knitting.

Q: You recently graduated with a degree in textiles and have specialised in weaving - what drew you to weaving in particular?
A: I was torn between specialising in print or weave at university and chose weaving partly as it was the less popular option! But the main reason was that I like the balance between the technical skill and creativity. There is also nothing quite as satisfying as taking a length of cloth off the loom which started as (often quite a tangled) collection of yarn.

Q: What is your favorite fibre to work with?
A: I love working with merino and alpaca as a base and then adding in different textures such as a silk mohair- the softer the better.

Q: What do you enjoy most about the textile crafts?
A: I love colour- choosing the colour palette for a new project is always my favourite stage which may seem odd as I am nearly always wearing black or grey! 

Q: What is the last project you completed?
A: I have just completed my first big weaving project since graduating which was for a National Trust Competition. It was quite daunting but it felt good to be designing and making again.

Q: What has you most excited about joining the AYS team? 
A: I feel very lucky to have a job which I look forward to going to in the mornings! I have particularly enjoyed learning more about all the different yarns (which has proved a good test for my self restraint) and getting to know the customers.

Q: Anything else you would like to share about yourself?
A: I have a worryingly large collection of nail varnish, I enjoy taking a book down to the Crescent on sunny evenings and I have a tendency to name inanimate objects; I have a new houseplant called Fergus, my car is called Mildred and my sewing machine is called Sybil.

If you'd like to see more of what Anna creates with her loom you can follow her on Instagram here.

Your Yarn Story: Dani Sunshine March 24 2017

Dani is a knitwear designer and pattern writer living on the south coast of England with her lovely family. She designs everything from hats and shawls to adult garments but some of our favorites around here are her adorable children's designs.

I recently had the pleasure of collaborating with Dani on a new pattern. She wanted to create something for her youngest daughter, Juliette who they lovingly nicknamed "Jelly" and so of course we had to create a something using the Hedgehog Fibres colorway of the same name. We are totally in love with Juliette - both the pattern and the adorable model.

Here's a little more about Dani and her knitting life and design inspiration as she kindly shares her Yarn Story with us.

Q: What is currently on your needles?
A: I always have about a dozen things on the needles. I get bouts of start-itis followed by inevitable WIP overload followed by a ripping & finishing spree. I'm in finishing mode right now. I've just cast off a lightweight sweater for Jelly (the model in the Juliette pattern), a Juliette cardigan for my 7 year old daughter, and am nearly done with a sweater in The Uncommon Thread yarns.

Q: When did you start knitting? Who taught you?
A: I learnt to knit as a child. I guess my mum taught me but I don't remember, I remember knitting a Spurs scarf for my dad. I picked it up again when my friend gave me a pair of handknit socks, I was blown away and asked her to teach me. I'm sure she rues the day, haha!

Q: What do you enjoy most about knitting? What keeps you coming back to the craft?
A: I think it has replaced smoking for me! I never really could kick the habit until I took up knitting seriously. I always need to have something to do with my hands.

Q: Do you have a favourite thing to knit?
A: I like to knit sweaters for my kids. It makes me so happy to see them wear them! I really enjoy learning new techniques and incorporating them into my designs.

Q: Where do you get inspiration from?
A: I usually knit something to go with clothes that are already in my wardrobe or my kids' wardrobe. If my daughter gets a new dress I suddenly have the idea for the perfect thing to go with it! I'm definitely a product knitter, I visualise the outcome and enjoy the puzzle of figuring out how to make it happen. The problem is what inspired me.

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?
A: Always 100% Merino DK, hand dyed, preferably speckled :)

Q: How has knitting affected your like? Or, what role does knitting play in your life?
A: I was always an arty, crafty kid, always drawing or making something and I've always liked puzzles, so knitting is the perfect hobby for me. I love the maths and problem-solving in it.

You can find Dani on Instagram as Lionessarts and you can see more of her designs on Ravelry.

Thanks for sharing Dani and for creating such a beautiful and fun design for us. 


Stash Enhancement March 08 2017

We are now well underway on the wool festival season, so it seems like a good time to talk a bit about how to keep our stashes well-curated and (sort of) under control.

There is a continuum among yarn crafters as to the level of stash that they are comfortable holding, ranging from only buying yarn for the next project when the previous project is finished to Stash Amassed Beyond Life Expectancy (SABLE). Most of us lie somewhere in between these two extremes, but lots of people talk/worry/feel guilty about their stash.

The goal of this blog post is to share some tips on how to have a guilt-free stash, of whatever size best suits you, and how to get the most out of the yarns you have. After all, you must have bought them for a reason, right?

Step 1: Stash Assessment

One of the biggest problems I run into when thinking about my stash is that I don’t know exactly what’s in there! So the first key step to thoughtful stash enhancement is to take a bit of time to look through everything and make sure you know what’s there.

Go through your stash (I try to do this once a year, usually over the winter holidays) and take a close look at everything. This is a great opportunity to make sure that no little critters have found their way into your precious skeins, and also to take stock: that skein of gorgeous teal laceweight that you’ve had for five years – are you really every going to knit it? What about those wildly variegated skeins of sock yarn that you couldn’t walk away from, but you know you’ll never use? This is a chance to do some stash pruning, and find a new home for those yarns that you know you’ll never use. Some of these can be put up for sale, some can be donated to the charity shop or other yarn-taking organisations like Knit for Peace. Before you know it, you’ll have a nice pile of things to clear out, and a stash that has a bit of breathing room for upcoming purchases.

Find a way that works for you to keep track of your stash that you can refer back to and identify what you’ve already got without having to unpack everything again. I like to keep track of my stash on Ravelry but am very bad about keeping it updated and current – you may find a different method that works well for you. It may also work better for you just to keep a list of gaps in your stash that you might like to fill. However you do it, having a method for knowing what you’ve got in your stash and what you need at any given time is key!

Step 2: Prioritise Future Projects

The next step after sorting through your stash but before being overwhelmed by yarn fumes at your next show is to think a bit about upcoming projects. What are you aching to start – a new jumper? A glorious lace shawl? A mini-skein project? Make a list of your to-do projects and prioritise them so you have a clear vision of what’s going to be next on your needles or hook.

Then go back to your stash (either in person or via your record keeping system): do you have anything that will already work for any of those projects? If so, you are golden! Get started right away, or put the yarn aside with the pattern and tools so as soon as you are ready to start, you have everything together in one place.

If there’s a project you have on your list and you don’t have any suitable yarn in the stash, that yarn can go on a new list – the shopping list. Make sure you note down any key characteristics needed: weight, yardage needed, particular fibre content you want to match, and maybe a few notes about the project.

Another good tactic for using your stash is identify if you have any yarns that might work for part of a project – for example, a skein of 4-ply that would be great as the main colour for a shawl that uses mini-skeins. Then you can put the mini-skeins on your shopping list, knowing that you’ve already got the rest of the shawl in stash.

Step 3: The Shopping

Now comes everyone’s favourite part: yarn shopping. Whether you are going to your LYS or to a festival, there’s always the danger of being overcome by all the inspiration, so here are a few tips that may help.

  • Take a look at the LYS website or the show website and see what’s available. If there’s a particular vendor at a show that has a yarn on your list, make sure you know where they are so you can find them easily.
  • Remember to take your shopping list, maybe with purchases prioritized
  • Stick to your list (this is the hardest one!)
  • At a show: if sticking to your list is going to be tough, set aside a set amount of money that you can splurge with on things you just can’t walk away from. When it’s gone, it’s gone.
  • Only take cash and leave the credit cards at home.

More generally – really think about what you’re buying. You don’t have to have a specific project in mind, but now that you know you already have five skeins of blue and purple 4-ply yarn in a box at home, it will be that much easier to put that lovely skein that’s calling to you back on the shelf.

The bottom line is this: take a bit of time to sort through what you’ve already got on hand and get rid of yarns that aren’t calling to you any more. Armed with a better knowledge of your existing stash, you can then go out and fill in the gaps that you’ve identified for upcoming projects.

-Rachel aka PorpoiseFur

New Venture: Walcot Yarns March 02 2017 1 Comment

Last summer I received a phone call and that phone call started a wonderful new venture for me: Walcot Yarns. On the other end of the phone was Sharon Spencer of Great British Yarns and she had an idea. Sharon and I had spoken a few times about potential collaborations but this particular time she had a concrete idea for us to work on. 

Now you might think it strange that owners of two different yarn shops in the same relatively small town would decide to work together. There is a lot of competition in this world of ours, the yarn world included and so I get the double take of our story of Walcot Yarns but I firmly believe in collaboration and working with good, smart people that complement my own skills and Sharon is absolutely one of those people.

So, for the last few months we have been working hard behind the scenes to launch Walcot Yarns and now the debut date is nearly upon us. We'll be debuting our first yarn and pattern collection at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival next week! Our first yarn Opus, is a truly lush blend of 70% Falkland Merino and 30% Baby Alpaca with a handle and loftiness more similar to cashmere than a typical merino/alpaca blend. 

 Opus is a versatile 4-ply weight with 325m to 100g, spun here in the UK and will be available in 11 shades initially. Nine of the 11 shades are over dyed on the natural Grey base, giving a rich smokey undertone to the color palette, something I love. For the launch at EYF next week we will have the two undyed shades of Splashed White and Grey available.

The first collection of patterns will also be launching next week, On the Surface: A Study in Texture contains eight patterns by four designers. Our own Amanda Jones has designed two stunning garments, Rachel C. Brown designed a Hat & Mitts set, Sharon created a simple cowl and beautiful shawl and last but not least Jo Smith designed two crochet shawls. We'll get to have all the samples here in the shop after EYF, so stop by and have a look if you get a chance.

If you want to hear a bit more about setting up a yarn business you can check out the interview I did with the Yarn in the City ladies on their podcast a couple of weeks ago. You can also follow our Walcot Yarns adventures over on our website.

We hope you enjoy Opus and the On the Surface collection as much as we do, we're really excited to finally show it you!


New Shop Hours March 01 2017

With lots of new plans, new items and new classes planned for the shop, we are also changing our shop hours. Starting March 1, 2017 our shop hours are expanding to seven days a week and longer opening Monday - Saturday.

New Hours:
Monday - Saturday 9:30 - 5:30
Sunday                    11 - 4


In addition to being open on a Sunday, we are offering a weekly drop-in Knit Surgery every Sunday afternoon from 2 - 4pm. This is a great opportunity to get a helping hand on a tricky project or new technique you've been working on. You can find out more information about the weekly Knit Surgery here

Keep on the look out for new classes being added to the schedule all the time.