Wednesday, 14 February 2018

50 Tips from Shetland Knitters - a review


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



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




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

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

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

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

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Stylecraft Blogstars meet up


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




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


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


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




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





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




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








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




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



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

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

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

The Great Yarn Giveaway update 1




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

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


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



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


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



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


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


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


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




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







Sunday, 4 February 2018

The Great Yarn Giveaway for the British Heart Foundation


You've been patiently waiting for me to tell you all about my little 'seed' of an idea, and slightly sooner than I expected (mainly due to creating my JustGiving page and it becoming active straight away when I thought I could keep adding to it until I was ready for the Big Launch,) here it is! 

I'm holding a Great Yarn Giveaway over on JustGiving to raise money for the British Heart Foundation. It's a very important charity to me as it carries out vital research into fighting heart disease and so will hopefully help to prevent other people having to go through what I have following the sudden death of Mr JK in 2016. Two of my friends, Julia and Charlotte, are running the Brighton Marathon in memory of Mr JK and they have charity places to raise funds for the BHF. I had the idea of helping them out with their fundraising by holding a giveaway. So I contacted lots of my favourite yarny folk to ask if they would be prepared to donate a prize. And boy oh boy, what an absolutely amazing response I have had. Yet again the woolly community shows just what a fabulous bunch of people they are. I have been totally overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness shown and I'm sure you will be too when you see all the wonderful prizes that are on offer. You'd better get a drink and make yourself comfortable as this could take a while!


I've listed all the prizes over on the JustGiving page but I want to share them all with you again here. 

Prizes have come from all over the place - from Bricks and Mortar yarn shops:

Two cakes of amazingly soft Orkney Angora and a tote bag from Loop.


Two balls of merino silk yarn from my local yarn shop, Norfolk Yarn. Perfect for shawls.



A Stylecraft blanket kit from another local yarn shop, Diss Wool and Craft shop. This is going to make such a cosy blanket for someone.


Lots of gifts from Stylecraft and some of my fellow Blogstars which I collected this weekend:

An Attic24 Cottage blanket yarn pack from Stylecraft. You just can't beat Special DK for blankets and coupled with Lucy's great colour choices, this is bound to be popular.


A wee house brooch and key ring from Julia at Hand Knitted Things. Aren't they just the sweetest things ever?


Some beautiful skeins of  yarn and stitch markers from Kathryn at Crafternoon Treats. Kathryn is so talented with her dyeing.




Some review copies of books and yarn from Phil at The Twisted Yarn. Phil gets asked to review books a lot, luckily for us!





A stunning corner to corner rainbow baby blanket crocheted by Heather from The Patchwork Heart. Heather's blankets are always much sought after.


A signed copy of  Cute Crocheted Animals from Emma Varnam (and trust me, they really are cute! I've seen them in the flesh, so to speak!)



Some recycled sari yarn from Anne at Crochet Between Worlds. Such gorgeous colours here.


Lots of lovely yarn from Lucia at Lucia's Figtree. Lucia raided her craft room for some real beauties.




And not to forget lots of vouchers for patterns from the lovely Juliet Bernard, Zelna at Zooty Owl, Sandra at Cherryheart, Sarah at Annaboo's House, Justina at Every Trick on the Hook and Angela at Get Knotted Yarn Craft. Three cheers for the Stylecraft Blogstars

Instagram friends have also been very generous:

A lovely sheep bag from Gilly Makes. Gilly makes the most amazing things with her sewing machine.


An special skein of yarn and some double pointed needles from Sara at Cauldron of Colours. I have been lucky enough to receive skeins from Sara as a gift in the past.


An incredible nine (yes, nine!) gorgeous project bags from Ann at Busy Pottering, as well as a West Yorkshire Spinners mini yarn cake sock box that she's put together especially. Each bag comes with stitch markers, tea bags and sweeties too! How thoughtful is Ann?!











From some of my favourite yarn dyers, I received some beautiful skeins:

Elaine from Fab Funky Fibres sent two self-striping rainbow yarns. I'd love to win these myself!! Stripes and rainbows, what could be betters?!



Victoria from Eden Cottage yarns sent a ball of  Milburn 4 ply yarn and a project bag. It's so soft! Perfect for a pair of mitts.


Babylonglegs sent two skeins of yarn, one of which she'd handspun from her own fibre. Someone's going to be in for a real treat if they win these.


Erica from Debonnaire Yarns sent this pretty skein. Really lovely rich colours here.


Rachel from Daughter of a Shepherd sent a gorgeously sheepy skein of yarn along with a tote bag. Her yarn is 100% British and much sought after.


Daisy from Devon Sun Yarns sent this lovely pink skein of yarn. I've done a dyeing workshop with Daisy and it was so much fun. She also does weekend retreats which look a-maze-ing!


Debbie from the Skein Queen sent this lovely vivid skein of Koigu yarn and a really lovely notions case, perfect for keeping all your bits and bobs tidy. 



Friends from Fibre-East, John and Juliet Arbon sent me three skeins of their Devonia yarn along with a tote bag. It's got such a lovely lustre to it.



Two of my favourite designers, Woolly Wormhead and Melanie Berg have sent vouchers for patterns. Isn't that so kind of them? That means if you win, you get to pick your own prize from their patterns.

My lovely friend Marianne from Picperfic's Fluff'-n-Stuff has given two braids of her fibre for one lucky person to spin. Her fibre is an absolute delight.


Another old friend, Shiela Dixon from p2tog sent me five skeins of yarn - it's a Manos del Uruguay yarn and there's enough to knit a jumper! It's so soft and the colours are incredibly pretty. 


Sock knitting guru, Winwick Mum (aka Christine Perry) sent a signed copy of her sock book. If you've never tried knitting socks before, Christine will hold your hand every step of the way.



Amanda and Emma from Little Box of Crochet sent one of their boxes for one lucky person to win. I've had a couple of these boxes in the past and they are just a delight to open. You feel like it's your birthday and you are crochet queen for the day!


Poppy Treffry is one of my sewing heroes and I asked her advice about running a giveaway as she'd done one previously. She very generously offered a free motion stitched Sheep bag as a prize. Perfect for knitters and crocheters alike!


I seem to have been buying stitch markers from Sarah at Fripperies & Bibelots for almost as long as I have been knitting and blogging. Sarah was very happy to make a special tin of RingOs stitch markers and a stitch saver, themed especially for the British Heart Foundation.


I've also donated a couple of prizes - another set of F&B stitch markers - Sleepy Hedgehog,


A Blue Sky Fibers Woolstok yarn kit to knit an stunning stripy slouchy hat


And a set of mini-skeins from the much missed Natural Dye Studio.


I'm hoping to be able to stitch a cushion or two as well, time permitting. There are still prizes arriving so I will continue to update the JustGiving page and also my blog to let you know of the other prizes you might be able to win.

So let's talk about the nitty gritty - how do you go about entering the Great Yarn Giveaway? You simply have to make a donation of £2 on my new JustGiving page here (and there is also a link at the top of the sidebar). When you make your donation, please make sure that you tick the box which says 'I'm happy to be contacted by' or else I won't be able to get in touch with you if you're a winner. Prizes will be allocated in the order listed on the JustGiving page and winners will be selected by random number generator. The giveaway is open to anyone - I'm happy to post prizes world-wide so please do enter and tell all your friends too! The giveaway will remain open until Monday 30th April and the winners will be chosen as soon after that as possible. Let's try to do something really amazing and raise lots and lots of money for the British Heart Foundation. 

Thank you all so much for your support. xxx