A Yarn Story

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. 

-Carmen


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!

-Carmen


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.

-Carmen


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