Category Archives: Yarn

So Shall We Find Out Which Lucky Folk Have Won The Giveaway?

I know. It’s been a fair few days since the gong sounded, marking the end of the It’s A Stitch Up giveaway. (To be fair, the gong didn’t sound particularly loudly, since it’s made entirely of yarn.) In meagre defence of my tardiness, we’ve had the inspectors in at the hospital where I work this week, and I had to pop across the Severn Bridge into south Wales, in order to go and endure the viva exam for my MPhil degree in (novel-)writing. The viva went surprisingly well. And no, the novel has absolutely nothing to do with knitting or crochet.

Photo credit: (c) Suzie Blackman

So let’s get on with the happy job. As announced here, two lucky folk amongst you are to win a gorgeous 100g skein of Awesome Aran wool, as well as the pattern with which to knit it, all courtesy of the over-generosity of Suzie at It’s A Stitch-Up.

Altogether, there were 280 entries to the contest. Wowzers! Thanks to each and every one of you for taking part. And if you’re not lucky enough to win this time, do go and have a browse amongst the goodies available through Suzie’s website. (Please note, I cannot accept responsibility for the ensuing damage to your credit card. Seriously. I can’t.) Oh, and there are more giveaways coming up soon, so you’ll have more chances to win stuff after Christmas.

So let’s find out who’s won. Usual Twisted procedures apply: all entries have been numbered, then the oracle that is random.org has been consulted for the numbers of the winning entries. OK?

So who exactly are the mysterious people hiding behind these numbers? Step forward and take a bow, M. Curran and Sheila Harvey-Larmar! CONGRATULATIONS! I shall be in touch pronto to ask for your address which I shall pass on to Suzie so that she can send you your prize.

Right, I’d best get on with starting my Christmas preparations. Oops. This is poor, even by my low standards. Still, the kitchen is sporting little touches of festive cheer…

…And we’ve enacted the annual ritual of going to buy the tree, much to the excitement of the twinnage.

…And Rudolph ‘the buck stops here’ the reindeer has come downstairs from his usual spot on the wall of the guest room.

knitted reindeer head

…Also, my friend has been making the sweetest little decorations using the husks of real silk cocoons. How clever is she?! Look! She takes orders if you ask her very nicely.

Anyway, judging by how many of you joined me on the naughty bench after my last post – sorry it was such a squeeze – it seems that I’m not alone in my festive tardiness. I think I’d better go and buy a bigger bench.

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A Small Diversion

Yes, (on the off chance that you were about to ask) there is still time to enter THIS most fabulous and fluffy of giveaways! Go take a look!

Also, if you’re in the mood to win stuff and are reading this post within an hour or two of it being published, I designed and knitted a little decoration which could yet be yours through the Stylecraft Advent Giveaway, today only: look!

So, yeah. Following this debacle, I had a post almost written about my change of plan, jumperwise:-

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Jumper-in-progress

But then somehow, I ended up going and looking at some rather splendid yarn and needles, which I can’t resist telling you about instead.

It was Saturday, and I’d read about a rare open day at the premises of a local supplier that sells unusually marvellous yarn and the equipment with which to knit it. It would be tough to argue that I need any wool or needles right now, but you can probably guess exactly where this blog post is going.

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Somehow – and it will forever remain a mystery how this happened when I’d been so very dedicated to the important quest of going out to buy vacuum cleaner bags and broccoli – somehow, I ended up looking both ways to check that the coast was clear, then sneaking over the Oxfordshire border into the rolling hills of west Berkshire. The sun was just beginning to set in a particularly photogenic way, but I didn’t get any pictures for you (sorry) because time was not on my side.

On one of those whims that usually gets me into all manner of trouble, I was heading for the premises of a company called Purlescence. If you happen to see the Stoic Spouse, please don’t tell him: he’s under the illusion that vacuum cleaner bags were particularly tricky to find that day.

Anyway, it wasn’t far. Let’s just ignore the fact that I stank of diesel after an unfortunate incident at a petrol station on the way.

Now of course most of you are in no way local (but Purlescence operate via mail order worldwide so in effect, you are), but will you look at this yarn! You have to let them know if you want to visit because they don’t operate a conventional bricks-and-mortar shop. (To be fair, I probably wouldn’t let anyone in if I had all this yarn, either.) But occasionally, they hold an open day.

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Those beauties in the foreground? They’re Fyberspates Vivacious, which I’ve loved for its inky richness ever since I used it when I designed this:-

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There was so much yarn in that room. I may have drooled just a little, but hopefully nobody noticed. Triskelion (see this picture ↓) is new to me, but hello, handsome. That’s 70% baby alpaca, right there.

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This is sounding far too much like some sort of sponsored post, but I promise that it’s not. The very kind owner did refuse to let me pay for a couple of pieces of equipment that I will be reviewing here early in the new year just as they’re properly launched, but this really is just a saw-stuff-from-a-local-indie-supplier-and-loved-it post. Go take a look!

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The Perfect YARN GIVEAWAY For A Winter’s Day

On a cold and dull* November day, what do you need to warm the cockles of your heart? Well, duh: lovely hand-dyed yarn, of course, and a pattern with which to knit it. So don’t you reckon it’s time for another giveaway, open worldwide?

Photo credit: (c) Suzie Blackman

Photo credit: (c) Suzie Blackman

 

Enter from stage left, Suzie, bearing skeins of marvellously colourful wool.

Twisted: Hello, Suzie.

Suzie: Hello, Twisted.

Twisted (shivering): Cold, isn’t it?

Suzie (also shivering): Gosh yes, it is cold… as one might quite reasonably expect at this time of year.

Twisted: Indeed. Shall we stop speaking as though we’re characters in an exceptionally badly-written play?

Suzie: Yes, lets. Would you like some yarn?

Photo credit: (c) Suzie Blackman

Photo credit: (c) Suzie Blackman

Suzie is based in east London, from where she runs her indie yarn/pattern company, It’s A Stitch Up. IASU started out as a blog, and her tutorials and patterns rapidly became super-popular. Last year, she started selling her hand-dyed yarn, too, shipping worldwide to meet ever-increasing demand. Her yarn is ethically-produced (in terms of animal welfare and environmental impact), British-spun, and dyed with inspiration from her surroundings, especially from the natural world. Yup, I’m struggling to find anything not-to-like, too.

Photo credit: (c) Suzie Blackman

Photo credit: (c) Suzie Blackman

Suzie got in touch with me recently to talk about her yarn. As it happens, she’s a friend-of-a-friend, but that’s beside the point. We talked particularly about her Awesome Aran (think worsted-weight, USians), which is spun from British-produced wool from the always-haughty-looking Bluefaced Leicester sheep.

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Superior-Sheep Knows It’s Superior.
(Photo credit: Andrew Curtis.)

Have you knitted or hooked with Bluefaced Leicester? It’s soft and it’s tough (in a good way, I promise) which is why it’s often used for sock yarn. It has quite a lustrous appearance, too. Suzie sent me a sample skein, along with the pattern for her Shipwreck Cove cowl. Look at the very subtle hint of variegation in this semi-solid colourway. It’s called ‘Heart Of Glass’, and it’s available in 100g (3.5oz) skeins. It feels soft and dense, and it’s very cosy against the skin. Look!

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Anyway, I knitted the cowl. Maybe my gauge was off, but I ran out of yarn just before the end, so I decided to use some spare yarn I had lying around to make the cord and the pom-poms. (It was cotton, so it separated beautifully to make the pom-poms extra-fluffy.)

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Ah, pom-poms. I hadn’t made them since childhood.**

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Fortunately, I could just about remember what to do. (Yeah, I know you can buy pom-pom makers but really, two doughnuts of cardboard work just fine.) Place the pieces of card together, wind yarn (doubled, quadrupled, or whatever to save time) around and around until you can’t fit it through the centre any more or until your layer of yarn is looking nicely thick. Use a crochet hook to pull the yarn through the centre hole if needed. I also used a crochet hook to wedge the yarn in place whilst I began to cut every strand of yarn around the perimeter of the disks.

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Then, when you’ve cut every strand, you’ll need to pull the cardboard disks apart VERY SLIGHTLY to enable you to wind a piece of yarn around all your strands and tie a knot that’s tighter than any knot you’ve ever previously tied in your life.

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Now you can remove the card, fluff up your lovely pom-pom, and give it a light trim where needed. Do NOT allow anyone with perfectionist tendencies to complete this stage, as they will trim and trim (and trim) until there’s nothing left.

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Isn’t it cutesome? (Oughtn’t I to be taken outside and shot for crimes against language, having used the ‘word’ cutesome?)

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And here, expertly modelled by my headless assistant, is the finished cowl. It’s very cosy. And pretty.

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If you browse the It’s A Stitch Up website, you can see all the rich shades that Suzie has dyed in Awesome Aran, as well as her other yarns. She also sells knitting kits, her own knitting patterns, and vintage haberdashery.

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But let’s talk about the giveaway, because it’s a good’un, thanks to Suzie’s extreme generosity. She is offering TWO shivery-but-yarn-loving readers of this blog from anywhere in the world the chance to win a 100g skein of Awesome Aran, and the cowl pattern to go with it. See? I told you it was good.

Usual Twisted contest conditions apply. To enter, leave a comment at the bottom of this post. To gain an additional bonus entry, visit this blog’s Facebook page, ‘like’ the page and leave a comment on the post about this giveaway, with some way of reaching you if you win – Raverly username, for example.

The contest is open from RIGHT NOW until 12.00 midday (UK time) on Saturday 10th December 2016. After this, a random number generator will be used to select two lucky winners, whose details will be passed to Suzie so that she can contact them and arrange delivery of the prizes. Good luck!

Photo credit: (c) Suzie Blackman.

Photo credit: (c) Suzie Blackman.

∗ The weather is now scuppering the mood of this blog post by suddenly being sunny. Still it’s cold. Very cold. You’ll need knitwear.

∗∗…when I used to make big pom-pom critters with stuck-on eyes, and arms made of pipe-cleaners. They were irredeemably naff, so let us speak of them no more.

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Getting Cosy

Our letterbox is a mean and fearsome beast. Unusually narrow but psychopathic of nature, I swear that I’ve heard it growl on occasion. Postal staff approach with dread, and if you saw the state of the few letters that make it as far as the doormat, you’d be forgiven for assuming that we owned a very large and ill-tempered dog.

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Beware Of The Letterbox

So when I was contacted about a company that claims to deliver vacuum-packed, letterbox-friendly yarn, I said, “Yeah, right. Charming idea, but you haven’t met our letterbox.” At the very least, some innocent postal worker would lose a finger or two in the attempt.

“Don’t worry, it’ll be fine,” they said. “We’ll send you some yarn.” But the physics just didn’t add up: large, fluffy balls of wool versus bity, mean-mouthed, letterbox. I was pretty sure I knew who’d emerge triumphant and un-shredded from that battle.

I was curious, though, so I investigated a little more. The company is called Cosywool, and they supply yarn, patterns, and knitting/crochet equipment worldwide via mail order. Their website is here. Yarnwise, they’ve got a nice broad range from eighteen of the major producers (including Stylecraft, Rowan, Rico, Debbie Bliss, King Cole, Noro, Red Heart). The number of shades stocked for many of the yarns isn’t (yet) quite as humungous as for some of the other major online yarn shops, but their prices are about as low as you can get, e.g. a ball of Stylecraft Special DK is only £1.65 (up to 34p cheaper than from other major online suppliers), and Rowan Felted Tweed DK is £6.35 (up to 94p cheaper than elsewhere). These prices are good. Very, very good.

The needles, hooks, and accessories are all by KnitPro* and Pony, with the emphasis on the Symfonie range from KnitPro, and knitting accessories from Pony. There is only one range of crochet hooks available at present. From the history described on the Cosywool website, it sounds as though this firm is expanding fast, so perhaps more crochet tools will follow soon.

But their big, shiny, distinctive, ‘thing’ is that they vacuum-pack their yarns just before despatch, so that the package will fit comfortably through your letterbox whilst you’re out, rather than sitting on the doorstep being liberally watered by a passing cloud. “Hmm, OK,” I said, eventually. “Send me some yarn. But you’ll regret it, and so will Colin the Postman.”

The next day, I came home from work expecting to see the shredded remains of a package – and possibly of a postman, too – on the ground outside my house. But there was nothing. So I was very surprised to open the door and see this:-

cosywool vacuum packed yarn wool

After a brief tussle (pictures too violent for family viewing so not included here), I managed to prise the package from the jaws of the rabid letterbox. Look! Now that is thin.

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I’d say no more than a centimetre thickness, max. Even our letterbox is wider than that. It was genuinely difficult to imagine that this pack included real yarn. But it did!

I've eaten pancakes that are thicker than this.

I’ve eaten pancakes that are thicker than this.

Time to fetch the scissors and set the yarn free. As soon as you begin to cut, the balls of yarn magically** begin to swell.

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Yarn! Real yarn… that within seconds returned to the normal proportions you’d expect from two balls of Debbie Bliss Rialto Chunky, especially when you give it a little squoosh:-

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Also, in the package they send you a mint. At least it looked like a mint. I ate it, just to be sure. Yup, mint. Fresh breath and yarn: what’s not to like?

The website is attractive and user-friendly, which only increases the danger of people like me buying all the yarn. They aim for same-day despatch, too.

To be serious for a rare moment, I was genuinely surprised by how well the vacuum thingy and the returning-to-normal-fluffiness thingy worked for this yarn. The balls of wool are sitting beside me as I write this post, and the only visible sign of harsh treatment is that the ball bands look a bit folded. But hey, you don’t knit with the ball bands, do you? Opening up your vac-packed yarn doesn’t feel quite as nice as when you burrow into an oversized box to find pristine, organza-wrapped skeins of perfection, BUT that’s a trade-off I’m happy to make if it means my order doesn’t have to do time on the doorstep in the company of the local cat population.

If you want a unique, hand-spun skein of something for your glass-cased stash, then you might want to go elsewhere, but if you want speedy low-cost deliveries of major brand yarn to knit/hook (and a mint!) then I seriously recommend looking at this supplier.

Enjoy.

 

∗ That’s Knitter’s Pride to you in North America.

∗∗ Disclaimer: no actual magic is used in this process, as far as I’m aware.

Please note that this is a sponsored post, but all views are very much my own. What? Why are you looking at me like that? A lass has to top up her yarn budget now and again. Yarn doesn’t grow on trees, y’know. Well, except rayon maybe – sort of…

Also, I’m not exaggerating about our letterbox.

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Giveaway Winners? Giveaway Winners!

So, to the Stylecraft giveaway. Do we have some winners? WE HAVE SOME WINNERS, OH YES!

Wow, a big fluffy THANK YOU for the 232 entries you submitted here and on the ‘Yarn’s Facebook page, and for the enthusiastic/kind/funny/interesting comments that you left in your entries. And THANK YOU to Stylecraft for providing the prizes.

So that means that the pattern for THIS COWL will be coming next post...

So that means that the pattern for THIS COWL will be coming next post…

So at midday on Sunday, the giant gong sounded, signalling the end of the giveaway. Did you hear it? I guess not, given that it’s made of yarn – a fatal design flaw that I should probably have foreseen – and is thus almost completely silent.

As I did for previous giveaways in these ‘ere parts, I allocated each entry a number, and then used the random number generator at random.org to pick the winners. Would you like to see the results?

Well, of the 232 entries, 136 were for the UK contest, and 96 were for the non-UK contest*. Let’s find out who’s won the UK prizes (£10-worth of Stylecraft vouchers) first…

Wa-hey! Rolling the 136-sided dice, we have…

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So who is the mysterious, shadowy Person 19, and the equally mysterious Person 96?

Step forward into the spotlight, Rainbow Junkie, and Sue Jameson! Congratulations! Would you like to make a speech? No, please don’t cry! I’ll be in touch to request your contact details (unless you get on the keyboard to thetwistedyarn@outlook.com first), and will then pop your prizes in the post. Happy yarn shopping!

Now for the non-UK contest. Two winners each win two Stylecraft bags and Stylecraft keyrings. Where’s that 96-sided dice when you need it? Ah, here it is. OK, ready?

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Look! It’s entrant 5 and entrant 75! So who are the people hiding behind the numbers?

Take a bow, Jan Wilesmith, and Sandy! Again, I’ll be in touch today to request your contact details so that I can post those happy prizes out. Congratulations!

And to everyone else, I’m sorry that you weren’t successful this time, but I have plenty more Stylecraft vouchers sitting here just longing for a good home, so there’ll be more giveaways coming soon.

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Prizes!

∗ The teeny-weeny number of entrants who forgot to say whether they were UK or non-UK were placed in the non-UK category, as the UK prizes aren’t valid in the rest of the world whereas the non-UK prizes are just fine and dandy anywhere.

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Stylecraft Batik Yarn Review

It’s about time I published a review of Batik, Stylecraft’s brand new yarn. (Disclaimer: I didn’t pay for the yarn, so clearly my fickle head has been turned by this freebie and not a single word of the following is to be trusted.)

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I wanted to thoroughly road-test the yarn before I wrote this, so I got the knitting needles out and started designing something that incorporated all sixteen shades:-

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You know what you need in the heat of August? A nice warm, fluffy cowl, that’s what. So I designed one, just in case the sun disappeared behind a cloud and it started to SNOW. Stranger things have happened. The cowl pattern will be available very soon, in case you want one too.

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We were away for ten days, you see, first staying in a cottage in the wilds of the North York Moors, and then – after a seven-hour drive – staying with dear friends in their beautiful old south west Wales cottage. The perfect opportunity to knit without guilt. The perfect opportunity to let my imagination off the lead, so that it could scamper about in the undergrowth and come up with lots of nature-inspired patterns.

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I knitted everywhere.

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And then I re-knitted, over and over again, because I kept changing my mind about the pattern. But that was part of the fun.

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Anyway, let’s talk about the yarn.

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Batik is a DK-weight (i.e. light worsted) blend of 80% acrylic and 20% wool. Just to cover the basics, it’s available in 50-gram balls, with a recommended hook/needle size of 4mm (US size 6), gauge 22 sts per 10cm/4 inches. But that’s not what you came here to read, is it?

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There are 16 shades in the range, and they do work rather well together.

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The yarn has a painted effect, each shade mottling with white. I think this makes it ideal for fairisle/stranded colourwork – much better than solid colours – but the mottling effect is not subtle, so I needed to make sure that for each section of the pattern, I picked two shades that really really contrasted, to avoid the pattern looking like a blurry muddle.

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There’s a high degree of twist to this yarn, which was a deliberate decision by the folk at Stylecraft HQ to create a product that’s ideal for crochet as well as for knitting.

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And I have to say that it’s a pleasure to work with, although I do hope they expand the colour range further. If you want a very affordable (£1.99 in the UK) acrylic-based yarn, I absolutely recommend Batik. It looks good, the colours are rich and intense, and Stylecraft are super-hot on the consistency and quality of their products (I saw their testing lab) so you can trust what you’re getting.

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Right, I’d better go and write up that cowl pattern, hadn’t I? Is it snowing yet?

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Giveaway? Giveaway!

Shall we have a giveaway? Wa-hey, let’s have a giveaway! Start sharpening those typing fingers in order to enter, because details are coming later in this post.

This is the third and final part of my triptych* of posts about the exciting Yorkshire/Stylecraft/Blogstars shenanigans. (Previous parts: the mill tour, and the first evening.) But it’s very hard to produce an even mildly amusing post when absolutely nothing about the experience was catastrophically disastrous or weird. The closest I came to problems was when they interviewed each of us on camera (yikes! …with a side order of yikes!!) and I stupidly sprinted down and then up several flights of stairs at the mill immediately beforehand (mills are tall), thus ensuring that 103% of my attention (I have a lot of attention) was on trying to look as though I wasn’t hyperventilating, leaving a mere -3% of my attention for the questions that were being asked. Please forgive the number of sub-clauses in that sentence. And don’t expect to see me anchoring the six o’clock news any day soon after that bumbling on-screen performance.

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Anyway. Yes. Right. T’was was the morning after the night before, and those of us from the previous day plus a few more assembled again at the mill, although the weather was no longer as shiny as in this picture:-

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In addition to the nine of us I showed in my last post, I should tell you about the other three Blogstars who seem to think that things like living-on-the-opposite-side-of-the-planet-whilst-just-this-very-second-having-given-birth constitute an adequate excuse for non-attendance. 😉 Allow me to introduce Angela of Get Knotted Yarn Craft, as well as Emma Varnam, and Jane Crowfoot. They were there in spirit, at least. Here again are the rest of us (excluding me, because, well, camera).

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Fine fibrous folk, L-R: Julia (Hand Knitted Things), Lucy (Attic24), Kathryn (Crafernoon Treats), Sarah (Annaboo’s House), Sandra (Cherry Heart), Juliet (Stylecraft via Blue Bear), Sue Pinner, Heather (The Patchwork Heart), Helen (The Knitting Exploits Of Josie Kitten).

So, those of us there in person got to attend the most delightfully colourful meeting ever (and I say that as someone who’s attended a lot of meetings in the past two decades). Imagine a meeting where you walk into the room and there are bowls of yarn laid out for you to squidge and squoosh, and you’re positively encouraged to knit/hook throughout. Oh well, if you insist:-

Needles: lovely Karbonz. Yarn: Batik.

Needles: lovely Karbonz. Yarn: Batik.

Annabelle and Juliet told us all about forthcoming developments in yarnery** in general and at Stylecraft in particular. (Sock yarn! I want to tell you about the sock yarn!)

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Annabelle (sales director at Spectrum Yarns), Juliet (Blue Bear, working with Spectrum and Knit Pro, amongst other brands).

See those shelves full of yarn in the background? That’s Yarn Stories, the gorgeous 100% merino and merino-alpaca blend range that I’ve written about before. It’s made here at the mill. Shall we take a closer look?

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Anyway, back to the meeting. Concentrate, Twisted, concentrate. Colour trends are identified a year or more in advance. Want to know what we’ll all be knitting soon? Well autumn/winter 16/17 in yarn is all about the “World Marauder”. Here’s a mood board:-

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See those luscious, rich colours? Get your needles and hooks ready to maraud, folks.

And coming soon after, a cluster of colours and loose, unstructured shapes termed “The Humble Labourer”:-

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I lurves these soft, natural shades.

There are professionals whose sole reason for crawling out from under the duvet of a Monday morning is to go and forecast the colours, shapes, and styles that folk will be buying 18 months or more down the line. Their expertise can be bought by companies designing clothes, homewares, and in this case yarn. I guess these forecasts become self-fulfilling prophecies, but they’re still interesting.

So how does this translate into the bundles of fluff that’ll be available in your local yarn shop? Well, in keeping with World Marauder, Stylecraft has just this moment launched Batik, a DK-weight range of 16 intense shades of 80% acrylic, 20% wool, recommended needle/hook size 4mm. They wanted to develop a yarn that was suitable for crochet as well as knitting, so Batik has quite a high degree of twist, meaning it hooks up rather nicely. Look!

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They gave us a ball of each shade. Mine seem to be settling in quite happily at home:-

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I’m thinking a fairisle scarf, after which I’ll write a proper review. The list price is £2.15 for 50g, in case you’re wondering. Available now.

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And coming next month is A RANGE OF SOCK YARN! Hurrah! 75% wool, 25% polyamide, named ‘Head Over Heels’ as it’s good for shawls as well as socks. I won’t lie – I’m properly excited. Stylecraft make high-quality acrylics but it’s good to see them also going in a more woolly direction, especially with yarn produced in this ol’ Yorkshire mill.

We adjourned to the very top of the building for lunch.

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The day was greyer than its predecessor:-

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View through a rain-spattered window.

And then far, far too soon, it was all over, although the blow was softened somewhat by the generosity of the goody-bag they gave us, with many treats including the whole Batik range and an interchangeable set of my very favourite needles (Knitpro Karbonz). Here’s some – but by no means all – of it:-

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And at the end of all this fun, after the goodbyes? Well before beginning the long drive south towards home, I met up with my friend who lives but a few miles from Slaithwaite. We sat in a wine bar by the river, sipping green tea, knitting, and talking feminism and politics. It was very good to see her. She’s dyed her hair bright red and it looks AWESOME.

So, do you want to know about this little giveaway?

Well, one of the treats in the goody bag was a fat bundle of vouchers for money off Stylecraft yarn, intended for you, dear readers. So let’s get on with giving out the first four. (There’ll be more to come, later.) Each voucher is worth £5 off any Stylecraft product(s) AT BRICKS-AND-MORTAR SHOPS ONLY, NOT ONLINE, and two lucky people will win two each (i.e. £10-worth each). Now – and this is where you need to pay attention – these vouchers are only spendable in the UK and I’m aware that more than half of you live elsewhere and I really don’t want to leave you out, so two lucky readers from outside the UK will each win two Stylecraft bags like the one in the photo above (perfect for projects or for shopping) and one pink Stylecraft keyring.

With me so far? Good.

To enter, leave a comment at the end of this post, stating whether you’re entering the UK competition or the non-UK competition. For an additional entry, ‘like’ the ‘Yarn’s Facebook page and leave a comment (UK or non-UK, AND some way of contacting you if you win, eg Ravelry name) on the Facebook post about this competition.

The competition is open from… ready, steady…. wait for it… NOW, until noon GMT on Sunday 14th August. After this, two UK winners (£10 in vouchers each) and two non-UK winners (two bags and a keyring each) will be randomly selected, and prizes despatched. Good luck, and may the gauge consistency be with you.

 

I know, the panels of a triptych should be attached by hinges. This one is a little more… unhinged.

** I shall not rest until I make the word ‘yarnery’ happen. My friend works on new words at the Oxford English Dictionary – on my to-do list is asking her whether she’s accepting bribes…

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To The Mill!

Evenin’. We all here? Good, good. Do have a seat… NO, NOT THAT ONE! Sorry, didn’t mean to shout, but that’s the chair the twinnage have booby-trapped. What’s that you say? Oh, um, trust me, you don’t want to know, but… you’re not scared of worms, I hope?

Help yourself to some wine. You’ve brought yarn? Ha, silly question: of course you’ve brought yarn.

Speaking of yarn, would you like to see round an old woollen mill? It’s just that a few of us knit/crochet bloggers* were invited to Yorkshire at the weekend by the fine fibrous folk at Stylecraft for the inaugural meeting of the Blogstars programme. (More on that over the next few posts, including a giveaway, and some rather exciting insider gossip about future yarny developments…) So I loaded up the ol’ Stinkwagon with knitting paraphernalia, a toothbrush, and a change of socks, and headed up to Slaithwaite. Look!

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The first thing we did on arrival was tour the mill with Richard Brown, owner of Spectrum Yarns (which produces Stylecraft, Yarn Stories, and some luxury merino clothing treats). Want to see? The mill is oldish – 1907. Spinning skills in this area run deep amongst local families, so it’s no accident that Spectrum’s spinning happens here, whereas its knitting operations are over in Derbyshire. (Their acrylic is made under licence in Turkey, just in case you were wondering.)

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Considerably more than fifty shades of grey.

If you’ve ever knitted with Yarn Stories yarn (as I have), it was spun here.

See this stuff in the picture below? It’s ‘tops’ – undyed, untwisted, sheep fluff. Yes it does feel as nice as it looks.

Mmmmmmmm......

Mmmmmmmm……

The yarns produced here are worsted-spun, i.e. comprising tightly twisted, neatly parallel, same-length fibres, producing a smooth, dense, hard-wearing yarn. (Stop me if you know this already, but the alternative is woollen-spun, in which fibres are all over the place prior to spinning – making a fluffier, wilder, warmer, but less hard-wearing product.) I remember reading all about the two processes in this book, but it was interesting to see worsted spinning in action.

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So yeah. The machines here can combine up to ten feeds of tops, mixing light with dark shades as required. By the way, some of the tops is sent off for dyeing as soon as it arrives, and the rest is dyed as yarn.

Richard Brown explains.

Richard Brown explains.

Next, the spinning frame draws the fibre out to its correct width, and applies twist. So by this stage we’re dealing with something resembling yarn, rather than just a hairy bucket o’fluff. Progress!

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The exact width and quality of the product is monitored electronically. Also, there’s a whole lab dedicated to micro-assessing of the quality of yarn.

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They take their work seriously in the lab:-

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If I had a job there, I’d demand to see a lot of yarn samples:-

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Or I might just sit and drool at the display on their wall:-

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Anyway, back to the shop floor. After spinning, the yarn is twisty – a little too twisty, to be frank. If you hold up a length of yarn, it fights you to ravel itself into a spirally knot. So the next stage of the process is to pop it in a steam oven to persuade it to calm the heck down.

The steam oven.

The steam oven.

The result is a lot calmer and more biddable.

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I could look at this yarn all day.

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On one floor of the mill are boxes (and boxes) of yarn, ready for dispatch. I tried to linger behind the group as they left, hoping to get locked in with more yarn than I could conceivably knit in a lifetime, but unfortunately somebody noticed.

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Oh, and d’you see that lovely wooden floor there? Richard had a tale to tell about that. The six-floor building was originally constructed as a cotton mill. Cotton dust (‘fly’) is a notorious risk for explosion, so in order to prevent any irritating infernos and loss of life, the floors were made of beautiful solid maple, which carried a low risk of sparking.

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Meanwhile workers at the time wore iron-soled clogs, and over the decades, their footsteps wore two deep dips in the sandstone staircase:-

Look, d'you see how those steps have worn?

Look, d’you see how those steps have worn?

So that, my friend, is the basics of the process. More soon on the Blogstars programme, and a giveaway!

 

∗ Lucy from Attic24, Julia from Hand Knitted Things, Sandra from Cherry Heart, Sue at Susan Pinner, Kathryn from Crafternoon Treats, Sarah from Annaboo’s House, Helen from The Woolly Adventures Of A Knitting Kitty, Heather from The Patchwork Heart… and present in spirit if not in person, Jane Crowfoot, Angela from Get Knotted, and Emma Varnam.

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We Have A Winner!

Did you hear that gong sound? Yesterday at noon GMT.
That gong signalled the close of the ludicrously generous yarn giveaway by Wool And The Gang on this blog.
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At the time, I was sitting in the garden at my good friend Selma’s home, discussing future yarn-related projects with and sipping cordial. Man, that gong was loud.
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A heartfelt thank you to all 195 of you who entered. (Smallprint: as stated in the competition details, email addresses from everyone who entered will be added to the Wool And The Gang database. You can of course unsubscribe at any time. But hey, it’s yarn, how bad can their emails be? 😉 )
So we need a winner, don’t you think? I love the comments you left, by the way – they made me wish that all of you could win. Sadly, that’s not possible. So I consulted the oracle of randomness at random.org, and yielded this fine result:-
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Who exactly is the mysterious number 150? Please step forward and take a bow, Elaine who commented at 2100hrs on 29th April! Hurrah! Congratulations, you’ve just won 800G of Crazy Sexy Wool in shades of your choice! Not too shabby, huh?
I’ll pass your email address to a lovely lady at WATG who will invite you to choose your colours. And I hope that this luscious yarn brings you many, many hours of joyful knitting/hooking. Actually it knits up pretty speedily, being so chunky, so it won’t take you that many hours to produce summat wondrous. Enjoy.
Commiserations to those of you who didn’t win, but there’ll be more giveaways here on this blog in future.
Finally, a big twisted-shaped thank you to WATG for the yarn. You guys rock (and you manufacture damned fine wool).
Right, back to admiring the springtime in Selma’s garden. Fortunately she’s the sort of understanding fellow blogging friend who doesn’t bat an eyelid to find me lying in her flower bed taking pictures of the sky:-
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Oh, and I’m sorry to be a little late in responding to comments at the moment. Still catching up with life after a couple of weeks of illness.

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Ludicrously Generous Yarn Giveaway, Right Here

So. Today, we have a giveaway of such monumental extravagance that the Plausibility Police are after me because it surely can’t be true.

And yet it is. 🙂

Some of you will no doubt have heard of those fine fibrous folks at Wool And The Gang, yes? Well it turns out that they’re rather generous as well as being super-friendly. I’ve had to keep this a secret these past few weeks, but they contacted me recently in order to hatch a little plan. No wait, that’s a lie, it’s a big plan. It’s the sort of plan that involves one of you winning a vast stonk-load of the softest Peruvian mega-chunky pure wool in funky colours of your choice, so I’m assuming that you’ll approve. (And once you’ve won, it also involves me popping round to your house on a daily basis in order to admire the aforementioned yarn and stroke it gently whilst dropping hints about you lending me just a wee bit. Sorry-not-sorry about that. I promise that I’ll be quiet and keep out of your way.)

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This giveaway is open worldwide.

So in case you haven’t yet had the pleasure, allow me to introduce you to Crazy Sexy Wool.

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It comes in a splendid box.

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And within, a bag.

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Before you finally, near-wild with excitement, tear open the packaging to reveal the treasures within. Look at this!

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Let’s be serious for a minute. This wool is very, very chunky (a massive 7 stitches per 10cm – woah!) And very, very soft. And it’s fluffy. Yes I confess that I didn’t pay for this gorgeous collection, but I’m a mean and cynical old curmudgeon, so I’d cheerfully tell you ‘It’s rubbish’ if that was what I thought. But you know, this wool is very pleasantly vibrant and soft and warm. There isn’t a great deal by way of twist, so it is rather prone to descending into a floaty length of random fluff but hey, I can’t complain when it’s so soft and luscious. But if you want a defined number of neat plies all tidily, tightly, twisted, you might be disappointed. The colours are rich and strong – that’s good.

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It will surprise precisely nobody that I started knitting at this point. Those WATG people (did I mention that they’re generous?) sent me nearly a kilogram of pure Peruvian wool in colours of my choice. They didn’t ask for payment, although they did hint that I might like to help with the washing up next time I’m near their office. Fair enough.

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But what to make? Yarn this big really needs to be used for a statement piece. I decided to design a cowl.

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Much fun was had.

I went bold. This is not a cowl for shrinking violets on a shy day. Just sayin’.

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I’ll post the pattern for this cowl (free, of course) within the next few days, just in case you’re feeling bold, too.

But really, you want to know about the giveaway, don’t you? OK. WATG are offering four balls (i.e. 800g) of their luscious Crazy Sexy Wool to one over-lucky winner of this giveaway. That’s £62-worth ($90) of pure wool. And you get to choose the colours. Not entirely bad, all things considered, huh?

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The usual Twisted rules apply, except that there are no Facebook entries allowed this time. In order to enter, leave a comment on this post ↓below↓ hinting that you’re not entirely averse to the prospect of winning. In doing so, you agree to your email address being eaten for lunch with a superior brand of mayonnaise by the people at WATG. (Don’t worry, you can un-subscribe at any time. They definitely won’t steal your soul.)

See, the cowl is also perfect for giraffes.

See, the cowl is also perfect for giraffes.

The competition is open from RIGHT NOW THIS VERY SECOND, YO, until Weds 4th May at 12.00 noon British time. As I said, anyone, anywhere on this marvellous planet may enter. (Sorry, Tim Peake.) As the great bell tolls midday on that auspicious date, I’ll use an online random number generator to select a winner, whose email address will be forwarded to WATG so that the lucky person can select their colours. OK? Please share, here and via your favourite social media. You could even leave your house and pop next door to tell Mrs Entwistle next door: I’m sure she’d like to win.

So as I said, I knitted a cowl. The pattern will be here for you within days. I named it the Moo-Cowl. The Stoic Spouse reckons that it should be called Simon. Groan. I’m convinced that no court in the land would convict me if I murdered him at this point, right?

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Yes, I really do have a tree growing out of the top of my head. But I’m sure you’re far too polite to mention it.

 

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