A Yarn Story

Your Yarn Story: Helen Stewart June 21 2018 2 Comments

One of the very best things about owning a yarn shop are the amazing people that I get to meet. Sometimes there's a chance to collaborate too, as with our next guest to the blog, Helen Stewart. Helen is the prolific designer and podcaster behind Curious Handmade, a creative brand that brings together her love of knitting, travel, craft and community. Following Helen's busy time in May with the Curious Handmade Bath Retreat, I got her to give me the scoop on her own Yarn Story. 

Q. What is currently on your needles?
A. At the moment I have many swatches for new designs on the needles. I’m also working on a larger size of Little Meg Shawl- I designed a small size for the Curious Handmade Country House retreat in March: since I’ve had so many requests for a larger version I’ve decided to create one. The yarn for this shawl is Canopy Fingering by TFC and is so drape-y and lovely to knit.

Q. Who taught you how to knit? Knitting only or crochet too?
A. My Mum taught me to knit so I could get my Girl Guides (Brownies) knitting badge! My great aunt was a prolific crocheter and taught me how to crochet too.

Q. What influences and inspires you as a designer? Where do your ideas come from?
A. I’m often very inspired by the yarn I'm working with: a specific skein will send my mind off in some direction and I just follow it wherever it goes.

Other times I might get an idea for a collection, like The Secret Garden for Season 3 of The Shawl Society, and that just sets off a flow of more ideas and image. I’m also interested in what's going on in fashion and am occasionally inspired to design something that I want to wear myself.

Q. I love that your collections centre around a particular theme or idea. How do you create that story?
A. I love to get carried away by a theme. The Secret Garden was a book that I loved very much when I was a child. Back then it really sparked my imagination, so it was amazing to experience that again as an adult. I recently rewatched the movie and was grabbed by some of the scenes. That’s where the ideas came from for this particular theme.

Q. Do you have a "yarn crush"? What's your favourite yarn to work with?
A. It’s very hard to name a favourite. I adore The Fibre Co. for their luxury and incredible attention to detail and thoughtfulness. I really love using merino singles for shawls and am having lots of fun at the moment with mohair silk lace: knitting Joji Locateli’s Like a Cloud recently has reignited my love for Shibui Silk Cloud.

Q. What is your design aesthetic?
A. Romantic, modern, romantic and just a little bit boho. I play with different influences and references to create the right balance of each element. It’s a lot of fun.

Q. You're also the host of a wildly popular podcast, Curious Handmade. How did you get into podcasting and how does it connect to your knitting story?
A. I was listening to audio podcasts a lot to keep me company while I was on maternity leave and not able to get out and socialise as much. When I decided to get serious about Curious Handmade as a business I thought it would be a fabulous way to connect with my knitters and that has been the case.

Q. How has knitting affected your life? What role does it play and how does it keep you coming back?
A. It affects my life in every way! It’s gone from being a hobby and social outlet to being my business. Sometimes you hear that it’s tough to make that transition without losing any of your passion. I didn’t find that to be the case. I still love it and knit almost every day. I LOVE the feeling of yarn and fabric. That’s been true for as long as I can remember, so it is amazing that I get to spend so much time doing something that lights me up.

Q. You're often traveling to yarn shows or knitting retreats or further afield like back home to your native Australia. How do you plan your travel knitting? What are your top tips?
A. I usually take way too much, and I’m still working on it! My top tip would be to just take a simple sock project or an easy shawl - but I never actually follow that advice and instead pack about 6 different projects for a weekend. Total overkill but it is nice to have the choice. I’ve never had a problem bringing knitting needles on a plane. I always take circulars which may help. I also recommend to always bring roll up vacuum pack bags, especially if you’re going to a yarn festival. You can fit so much more in your suitcase!

Huge thanks to Helen for taking the time to answer my questions and wishing her safe travels on her summer holidays!

Your Yarn Story: Karie Westermann June 07 2018

Glasgow-based designer Karie Westermann is teaching at A Yarn Story for the first time later this month and we can't wait! Karie loves crisp, woolly yarns and bright colours. We got Karie to tell us her Yarn Story in advance of her visit to Bath.

Karie Westermann

Q. What is currently on your needles?
A. I am currently working on a shawl - I cannot get the edging quite right from an aesthetic point of view, so it's in Time Out. I'm also working on a colourwork project and a hat. I tend to about three things on the go at the same time. 

Q. You travel a lot to teach - how do you plan your travel knitting for those journeys?
A. It needs to be portable, easy to work in a small space (so no project that requires 12 different balls!) and fairly easy to remember. I like knitting hats and shawls when I'm on the road.

Karie's great grandmother with her mother

Q. Who taught you how to knit? Knitting only or crochet too?
A. I was taught to knit by my great-grandmother when I was very small. My aunt Tove taught me to crochet. I come from a very crafty family, so I don't think there's a craft out there I didn't try as a kid.

Minuscule mittens by Karie Westermann 
Q. What influences and inspires you as a designer? Where do your ideas come from?

A. My ideas come from all over the place! I'm Scandinavian, so I take my inspiration from a lot of the various Scandi traditions. I'm very much rooted in storytelling too: everything I work on has a background story (even if it's not visible in the finished design,  it is still in every stitch). Previously I've explored archaeology,  psychogeography, and book history in my work - so you never knows what is next!

Karie's Rubrication shawl in Travelknitter Tanami

Q. Do you have a "yarn crush"? What's your favourite yarn to work with?
A. This is a tough question! I like yarns that tell a story, that are unapologetic about what they are and where they come from. Jamieson's 2ply jumperweight, for instance. I also love handdyed yarn where the dyer has a sure sense of their colour identity.  I used Travelknitter Tanami in my book, This Thing of Paper, and it is a glorious yarn. I used to work for Rowan Tarns many years ago and I still love Felted Tweed.  And I have quite the impressive stash of single ply laceweight in various sheepy colours. I think I just love yarn!

Q. What is your design aesthetic?
A. Rather classic with Scandinavian influences (no fussiness!) and a strong sense of colour. 

Karie Westermann selfie
Q. What advice do you have for knitters wanting to make a leap to designing professionally?
A. Work hard. Find out who you are as a designer. Be patient. Be smart. Be nice. 

Q. How has knitting affected your life? What role does it play and how does it keep you coming back?
A. Knitting has given me a wonderful life! I get to meet so many amazing, kind knitters who all have such interesting stories to tell. I use knitting to explore storytelling and also make stuff that keeps me warm. It is truly fantastic. 

Karie will be teaching her Little Effort, Big Effect: Mock Cables & Twisted Stitches and Design Your Own Lace & Shawl classes at the shop. 

Your Yarn Story: Kate Atherley February 28 2018

You've probably heard us shouting from the rafters and our newsletter that Kate Atherley is coming back to A Yarn Story to teach some new workshops. Kate is an amazing knitter, teacher and designer and can quite possibly make anyone a sock knitter! We had a chance to ask her some questions about her own yarn story.

Kate Atherley

Q: What is currently on your needles?
A: Three things on the go: a pair of socks in WYS 4-ply, for easy knitting to help me combat jet-lag, a rework of my Souvaine design, in a lovely silk and cashmere blend, and a new lace design for Indigodragonfly.
Q: You're currently traveling and teaching around the UK. How do you plan/pack your projects for such a trip? What's your strategy?
A: See above! My strategy is always the same for long trips. I have a plain sock with me, for easy knitting for social time, when I’m tired, and when I’m at a pub. And then I like to have a couple of other small gauge projects, sometimes socks, sometimes lace. One is always a design-in-progress which is going to be challenging and time-consuming – ideal for long flights and train journeys. And then the other one is something that is engaging but not stressful for times when the design-in-progress isn’t working out! And then I always have space in my bag for a souvenir skein of sock yarn, just in case the socks get completed.

Kate and her granny Hilda 
Q: Who taught you how to knit? When did you get started? Do you crochet too?
A: My Grannie taught me. I don’t actually remember learning to knit – I must have been five or six. She spent a lot of time with us when I was very young, and she always had knitting on the go. I wonder if I didn’t just absorb it by osmosis! She did attempt to teach me to crochet, but that didn’t take.

One of Kate's partially knit socks
What's your go-to type of project/favourite thing to knit?
A: There’s always a pair of socks on my needles. I love knitting socks. It’s just so *satisfying*.
Q: You're one of the hardest working folks in the knitting industry. How did your passion for knitting evolve into being the source of your livelihood?
A: It all started because I offered to help out a friend who was opening a yarn shop, around 2002. I offered to teach a few classes. For a few years, I kept working at my day job, teaching at night and on the weekends. I started designing patterns first for the shop, and then I got a great break with an article in Knitty! In 2010 I quit the day job and went full-time. Every day I’m amazed and thrilled that I get to do this for a living!
Knit Mitts book by Kate Atherley
You're also a published author with a number of books about your favourite things: socks and pattern writing. Tell us about your new book Knit Mitts.
A: Like the sock book, it’s designed to help teach skills and solve problems – there’s a detailed discussion of yarn choices and strategies for warmth, tips for dealing with the inevitable hole at the base of the thumb, and so forth. And there’s also a master pattern template for both mittens and gloves, covering 13 sizes and 13 gauges, so you can design your own!

The Wild One - knitted motorcycle jacket
Do you have to balance between work knitting and your own knitting or is it all the same?
A: It’s funny, I would usually say that I don’t often to get to knit for myself… but I’ve learned in the past couple of years that I’m happiest with my designs and they are most successful when they are things I would knit for me. That is, my recently-published Women of Mathematics collection contains three shawls that I wanted to wear, things that I designed for my own needs and to my own tastes. And the motorcycle jacket, too! I designed that because I wanted to wear it. The challenge is that when knitting for publication, I have to keep the samples under wraps until the pattern is published, and sometimes that can be a pretty long wait. This trip is my inaugural outing for my Noether shawl, even though I had finished knitting it more than six months ago, and I’m thrilled to be able to finally wear it! For me, there are two  modes of knitting: something that I plan to publish, and something I don’t. There’s always at least one pair of plain socks on the go, and that’s entirely selfish knitting, and most often the rest is “work” knitting, whether that’s for self-publishing or for publication with a third party or in a book.
Q: Do you have a yarn crush or favourite yarn to work with?
A: I will confess to having a ridiculous weakness for self-striping sock yarns. Anything with fixed stripe patterns makes me ridiculously happy.

Kate shows off some yarn
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
A: See above! For me, my designs are inspired by what I want to wear. (I’m selfish that way!) Put another way, they’re most often inspired by clothing or wardrobe items that I want to have. For example, the Noether shawl design came about because I wanted an all-purpose travel scarf, to replace the old plain store-bought pashmina I had been using for years. Although the designs themselves may not be practical, my inspiration is. I also love to design things that teach or build skills – for example, I’m working a set of three brioche cowls that will build skills for newer brioche knitters.
Q: What's your most recent finish?
A: I have just – like, 2 days before I left -- finished a pair of plain socks, using a self-striping Regia yarn that had been lying around in my stash. I wore them on my flight! I also finished a brioche cowl that’s destined to be part of the brioche-skills-in-the-round tutorial pattern set.

Huge thanks to Kate for taking the time to answer our questions and we can't wait to welcome you back to the shop!

- Carmen

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

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. 


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.


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

Your Yarn Story: Justyna Lorkowska May 24 2016

A few months ago I received a really lovely e-mail to my inbox from a designer that I had been following and admiring for a while now. That designer is Justyna Lorkowska of Lete's Knit whose elegant yet fun designs are a pleasure to knit and wear. Justyna is an incredibly versatile designer and creates equally sophisticated shawl patterns as well as chunky cabled accessories. It is this range of designs that I particularly admire.

Justyna will be coming over from her home in Poland in a few weeks and teaching a couple of her very popular classes Eastern Uncrossed Knitting and The Beauty of Knitted on Borders. She'll also be in the shop for a Trunk Show on Saturday 11 June from 11-1pm to show of her beautiful samples and sign patterns. I asked Justyna if she would answer a few questions about her knitting journey for us and she happily obliged, so here is her yarn story:

Q: What is currently on your needles?

I’m a very polygamous knitter, which means that my needles are constantly busy. At the moment I’m working on several different projects. I’m finishing a new shawl design.  I’m also knitting a simple striped sweater in my husband’s first hand-dyed yarn. I’m working on a couple of collaborations, as well as a very special project that's particularly close to my heart. As you can see, there’s no room for boredom.

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

A: Actually I began crocheting first when I was a young girl, but watched my mom with her knitting needles all the time, and my transition to knitting somehow happened on its own. I observed her and tried to copy what she was doing, and this is probably why I knit a little bit differently. She had been taught by her mother-in-law (my grandma) whose family came from the East.  Thus I've knit Eastern Uncrossed style since childhood. 

3. What do you enjoy most about knitting? What keeps you coming back to the craft?
You want to know the truth? It is largely the pride I feel when I wear something I have made with my own hands. There is just something magical in every stitch you’ve created yourself. Knitting also gives me an outlet for my creativity. Actually, it’s not only knitting. I love spinning, weaving and sewing as well. All of them give me a sense of accomplishment and joy.

Q: Do you have a favorite thing to knit?

A: Recently I’ve been knitting lots of shawls. They are so much fun to make. Probably like most knitters I often fall in love with an irresistible yarn so I buy a single skein and then nothing happens. Shawls are perfect for using those lonely skeins. I also enjoy knitting for my kids, but mostly because their knits are cute and fast to make. My most dreaded knits are endless seas of Stockinette, sleeves, and simple scarfs.

Q: What is the last project you completed?

A: That’s a dress! I started it in January just for fun and because I saw a gorgeous lace motif in one on my stitchionaries. I was knitting it on and off for a couple of months (yes, the dreaded endless Stockinette!), but now it’s done and I can’t wait to wear it.

Q: Do you have a design philosophy that guides you?

A: I’m not sure if it’s a philosophy, but I always try to make something I would gladly wear myself. If I wouldn’t, I just don’t make it. I like simple knits with a twist, and I always try to achieve a balance in colors and patterning.

Q: You are very versatile in what you design, everything from shawls, garments and hats, to children's clothing: do you have a favorite item to design? Why is it your favorite?

Not really. I like everything, and the things I make come straight from my heart. If I stop loving it, I just rip it without hesitation. As I said, if I don’t want to wear it, I won’t make it.

Q: Where do you get inspiration from?

A: Mostly from my stash and knitting books. The ideas from both mix in my head and then are transferred onto the needles. Sometimes I do draw a sketch, but that’s mostly when I’m discussing the final ideas for collaborations.

9. 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?

That’s a very hard question. I have a couple of yarn crushes which won’t go away - not that I’m trying to fight them ;-)  I love everything dyed by Vikki of Eden Cottage Yarns. I’m fascinated by the colors from Triskelion. I’m closely observing Snail Yarn. And now I’m almost “swimming” in yarn as my own husband has begun dyeing.

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

A: Knitting has had a huge impact on my life, and at the moment it seems my whole family is “infected”. I knit every day, and it has become my profession (I used to teach in my previous life).  My husband plays with yarn and acid dyes. My son is trying to talk me into buying a sheep, and my daughter is begging me to teach her crochet. One crafty family, huh?

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give someone who is just starting out as a designer?

A: Work hard. Talent is just 1%; the rest is just work.  

If you'd like to join us for one of Justyna's classes you can sign-up here.


Your Yarn Story: Rachel of Porpoise Fur November 17 2015

I got a bit distracted by actual knitting these past few days. I meant to post this late last week and I've been working on the Doodler MKAL and then the Nordlándda Collection was released on Saturday and I haven't been able to put my needles down. So apologies for the tardiness of this post.

In case you missed it, we are hosting a Knit-A-Long for the Nordlándda Collection which was designed by Rachel C. Brown for The Fibre Co. Rachel is a designer, hand-dyer (Poprpoise Fur is her fibre company), tech editor, one half of Yarn in the City and all-around fibre enthusiast. I met Rachel just over a year ago at the 2014 Great London Yarn Crawl and have had the great pleasure of getting to work with her in various capacities since then. What strikes me most about Rachel is her absolute passion for all things fibre and her incredible breadth of expertise and knowledge on the subject.

So this week I get to share Rachel's Yarn Story with you. She's answered some questions below about her fibre journey and her inspiration for the new collection. I think you'll agree that it is a facsinating and fun read.


Q: What is currently on your needles?
A: I’m obsessively working on the 2015 Woolly Wormhead mystery KAL every time a new clue is released, which is loads of fun. I'm also working on a handspun sweater of my own design with an interesting construction that can best be summarised as a seamed sweater with no seams. ;-)
I'm also contemplating casting on all the things for Christmas presents. Sadly my available knitting time does not fit with the number of presents I seem inclined to cast on, so we'll see how that works out.

Q: When did you start knitting? Who taught you?
A: I actually know exactly when I started knitting, due to my father obsessively saving letters from long ago. When I was seven, my Dad got a Fullbright scholarship so my family moved to New Delhi, India for a year. My mother, brother and I moved back to the States after 6 months, and not one month later my Dad heard about my grandmother teaching me to knit. I can still remember the yarn she taught me with: red, white and blue Red Heart Super Saver acrylic (ugh!). When my grandmother passed away a few years ago, one of the keepsakes I got from her house was a skein of that same yarn - now over 30 years old, but still moth-free!

Q: What do you enjoy most about knitting? What keeps you coming back to the craft?
A: I think what I enjoy most about knitting is the creating, which can be as mindless or as engaging as I want it to be. I vacillate between being a process knitter or a product knitter. This time of year I'm definitely in product knitter mode, so lots of smaller things that work up quickly (accessories for the win!), with garter stitch or stockinette being big components.
What keeps me coming back? I wouldn't know what to do with my hands while watching tv otherwise....

Q: Do you have a favorite thing to knit?
A: It’s probably easier to list the things I don't like to knit: I'm not a fan of knitting intarsia of any sort. I do occasionally knit intricate lace shawls, but find that I can only work on them in small doses and when I've got the focus for them, which is not very often.
My recent projects for me have definitely focused on sweaters and shawl-type things. And hats. I also love knitting socks, particularly out of handspun.

Q: What is the last project you completed?
A: I just finished the Angostura Vest by Ysolda out of some of Blacker Yarns' amazing 10th birthday yarn, Cornish Tin.

Q: You work in a variety of roles in the yarny industry, how did you get started? Do you have a favorite role that you play?
A: I started off in the industry, if I can call it that, by submitting my first design to Knitty.com in 2009. That pattern wasn't accepted, but ended up as Drummossie, which was the final round for Sock Madness 4 in 2010. I kept on designing things here and there, and then found myself with some free time and a supportive spouse who encouraged me to start a business of some kind. I thought about selling handspun for a while (I'm a huge spinner, maybe even more then I am a knitter these days), but decided in the end to sell handdyed fibre for other people to spin. That business is Porpoise Fur.
In 2012 I met my Yarn in the City partner-in-yarny-crime Allison at a retreat, and within six months we were planning the first Great London Yarn Crawl. That side of things has expanded dramatically over the past year, and we now are involved in a number of projects, including a book (The London Craft Guide, coming out very soon!), and a number of events and workshops, including the Bath Craft Crawl, which is coming up in a few weeks!
Of all of the things I do in the yarn industry, I have two favorites: one is throwing colours on wool and seeing what comes out on the other side of the dye pot, and the other is working as a freelance technical editor for independent knitwear designers, publications and yarn companies. I've had the great pleasure to work with some absolutely brilliant people through that channel, and I love having the opportunity to help designers get their designs written into clear and understandable patterns that everyone can enjoy.

Q: You’ve just designed the Nordlándda collection for The Fibre Co., can you tell me a little bit about that process and what your inspiration was for the collection?
A: Working with Daphne from The Fibre Co. on this project has been a pleasure from the beginning. The original brief was to create a collection for their gorgeous bulky weight yarn, Tundra - ideally smaller projects that would take 2-3 skeins, and highlight the gorgeous softness and colours of the yarn. Accessories were the obvious projects, and we decided to include a range of different types; the collection includes two cowls, three hats, a scarf/shawlette and two pairs of fingerless mitts. As the collection was destined for an autumn release, I knew immediately that I wanted to do cables. I tend to use textured stitches in my designs in general, but cables seemed to me to be an obvious choice. And the yarn works so well in cabled designs, particularly when worked at a slightly looser gauge, giving a fabric with great drape that maintains good stitch definition.
The process for the collection involved swatching of a lot of different cable stitches to find ones that worked well with the yarn fibre content and the bulky weight. The first design that popped into my head was the Moen Cowl, a cozy cowl with tons of cables and movement, that can be worked up in either a close-fitting version or a longer infinity cowl that can be wrapped around the neck a couple of times.

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: My current yarn crush (and not coincidentally, the most recent commercial yarn I've worked with!) is the sadly now sold-out Cornish Tin from Blacker Yarns, which speaks to every woolly, rustic, crunchy, sheepy bit of my soul. It is such a great combination of strength and softness, with a gorgeous bit of halo. I wish I'd gotten truckloads of it!
Beyond that, my all-time favourite yarns to knit with are handspun, without a doubt. There is a special pleasure in knitting with yarn that you've made, knowing it is truly one-of-a-kind.

Q: What role does knitting play in your life?
A: Knitting is a huge creative outlet in my life. My professional training is as a biomedical research scientist, which has it's own creative side but also involves a fair bit of drudgery and repetitive work in rooms without windows. I find that knitting of any sort gives me an opportunity to let the science-oriented, analytical side of my brain take a break and just chill out in the background for a while. I knit or spin for at least a little while every day, and it plays an integral role in my mental well being. Plus it keeps me warm!


Rachel will be in Bath as part of the Yarn in the City Bath Craft Crawl on Saturday 28 November and will be teaching a project class on Sunday 29 November in the shop before she heads back to London. The class will focus on the Moen Cowl from the Nordlándda Collection and the techniques used in the pattern, including a tubular cast-on and off, cabling without a cable needle and reading charts.

There's still plenty of time to join in on the #AYSWinterCablesKAL too! You can find more information here.


Your Yarn Story: Estelle of Midwinter Yarns October 21 2015

This is a new series I'm starting on the blog called "Your Yarn Story." One of the things I love about the knitting and crochet community is that everyone has a story to tell. Whether it's how you got started with your craft or why you continue to be in love with it, it's an aspect that really binds us all. In this series I'll be asking friends, customers and colleagues to share their yarn story.

I get to begin with Estelle of Midwinter Yarns whose cosy Scandanavian yarns are in the shop this week for a little Pop-Up. Originally from Sweden and now living in Wales with her husband, she has a long history with wool and craft. Estelle was kind enough to answer some questions, so I'll let her tell you the rest:

Q: What is currently on your needles?

I'm working on yet another Linus - a shawl in alternating gradient stripes in our Ullcentrum yarns. I see this one as having a bit more of an urban twist, using a black-grey-white gradient against a solid vibrant green.

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

My mother taught me when I was 6 or 7. It was an absolute chore and I had to be bribed to finish a row. But my mother was a very keen knitter and most of our travels would center around visiting yarn shops, so it was hard not to get inspired and eventually start new projects. My first ever finished garment was a knitted duffel coat - it's still in pretty good nick actually, even if yarn has come an awful long way since!

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

I'm not sure about "coming back" to the craft....I don't ever seem to leave it! I enjoy the feeling of working closely with natural materials and feeling the texture between my fingers and watching the fabric grow - yarn often looks so different knitted up than it does in the hank and I like watching that magic transition.
I am also a terrible homebody and like to wallow in what we Swedes call "mysigt" (or Hygge in Danish, the inspiration for Karina's collection) - that sense of curling up indoors on a stormy day, with hot tea in your favourite mug, a cat by your side and something equally comforting on the needles.

Q: Do you have a favorite thing to knit?

I'm not sure I can choose! I love knitting big woolly sweaters with yarn that smells of sheep, but I also like delicate cowls in the softest, silkiest of hand dyed yarns. I'm good at acres of plain knitting, terrible with small, fiddly things in the round, like fingers on gloves! Generally, I think I struggle with precision: my seaming is awful and I'd rather bodge a lace pattern than unpick!

Q: What is the last project you completed?

A plain top-down cardigan in our gradient Ullcentrum - we've done so much work with the Linuses that I wanted to show off just a single gradient, and I needed a little cardigan to wear at the shows we do in semi-open cattle market type venues where it can be a little nippy in the morning.

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

I briefly had a little yarn dyeing enterprise and came to realise that most UK indie dyers were using the same source for their base yarns, meaning that although the colours were very different, to handle it was all essentially the same yarn. So I started looking around for options and eventually my thoughts led me back to my native Sweden where I realised just how much wonderful and natural yarn is produced but not promoted abroad! I also realised that other indie dyers were making a much better job of dyeing than I was (see precision issues above) and that what I wanted to concentrate on was sourcing and promoting these unknown yarns from smaller, sustainable companies and spread the joy of Scandinavian knitting.

Q: Where do you get inspiration from?

Visitors at yarn shows! It's a real danger to my budget! A lot of knitters take visting a yarn show as an opportunity to show off their best work, or their latest project, so being a trader means seeing a constant parade of stunning knitwear stream past all weekend, and it is incredibly hard to resist asking customers what they are wearing and where they got the yarn from and then running off to get some!

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?

eeeeek, just one? I have a lot of ideas in mind for our Thin Pirkkalanka which could probably keep me occupied for the best part of a year...although as much as I have knitted with it recently, I would probably still say our Ullcentrum 2ply because of the variety it provides: the gradients are always entertaining to knit with and the solid colours are just so vibrant, plus the resulting fabric is a good all-rounder, warm and woolly but not heavy.
In someone else's yarns, I would say Madelinetosh. It's been my special go-to treat yarn for years!

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

Knitting plays a huge part in my life. It is something that has been constant since my childhood and has now allowed me to fulfil my dream of working from home. My husband has started knitting too, turning it into a true family business. It has allowed us to travel around the country and meet likeminded people, both faithful customers and inspiring fellow yarnies, yet it never feels like "work" - I can spend an entire weekend talking wool with customers and still come home itching to cast something on.

The Midwinter Yarns Pop-Up is going on until 24th October and Estelle will be in the shop on Saturday, so do stop by and say hello.