Rowan Mystery Afghan KAL – Are you ready?

There’s been a minor update to the schedule for the Rowan Mystery Afghan knit along – the first clue will now be released slightly earlier than originally planned, on Thursday 17th April. All the rest of the clues will be released weekly on Monday as per the original schedule.

What shades have you chosen? Do you have your yarn yet? You can see my colourway in this earlier blog post.

With at least 300 participants signed up already, I’m really excited to see a rainbow of blanket squares starting soon!

Sign up and get all the detailsMystery Afghan KAL

Rowan Mystery Afghan KAL – My shades & the official shopping list!

Rowan’s mystery Afghan knit-along is almost here! The official shopping list has now been released, which you can download from Rowan’s website.

If you are a Ravelry user, there is a sticky thread with information here and you can also cast on a project from the pattern page here. Make sure to get involved online if you can, as sharing progress and photos with everyone else taking part in the KAL is half the fun! You can follow progress on my project page which I will try to update every week.

This is the promotional colourway that I’ve been sent by Rowan – the squares will be done in Apple (129) and Plum (122), the trim in Crimson (123).

Pure Wool Worsted Colours

You can view all the shades on Rowan’s website but, as always, the value of seeing the shades in person can’t be underestimated so do make it to your local stockist if you can. I’d love to hear what shades you’ve chosen for your project!

Why crafty friends are the best friends

A few weeks ago I was closing one of the windows in my bedroom when my favourite silver ring that I was wearing at the time got caught on the window latch. This pulled on the ring quite hard and bent it right out of shape. I was really upset as it was a 30th birthday present from my best friend and I wear it every day. Now it just so happens that another friend, Steph, has fairly recently trained as a silversmith, so I asked if she would be able to reshape my ring. Fortunately for me, she said yes.

Just a week later, here’s my lovely ring. As good as new again!

Silver Ring

As a thank you, I baked Steph some of my favourite white chocolate, cranberry and cinnamon cookies.

CookiesCookies

This is not the first time that Steph has saved me from a pickle, she also re-hemmed one of my favourite dresses when the hem started to drop after only a couple of months. What a superstar! You can follow her crafting pursuits (which are many and varied!) on her Netty Not blog and Facebook Page.

Rowan Mystery KAL – Afghan Pure Wool Worsted Blanket!

Despite recent overtures towards Spring in England, it is hailing sideways as I type! This means I am still feeling the chill enough to be extra excited about an upcoming knit along from Rowan. Using their new Pure Wool Worsted, Martin Storey has designed a mystery Afghan blanket project. If you haven’t seen Pure Wool Worsted yet, it’s a gorgeous superwash from Rowan which does exactly what it says on the tin – it’s 100% wool in a versatile Worsted weight. And the best part is that it’s available in FIFTY shades! Check out the expansive shade range, there’s bound to be something to suit your taste.

Pure Wool Worsted

So, the Knitalong! Rowan will be releasing the full shopping list on 14th April but here’s a little sneak preview of what you will need. The blanket will be knitted in squares with a trim around the edge. The trim requires 2 balls of yarn and the squares require 16 balls in total (3 squares per ball). Rowan will be suggesting some colourways in the shopping list, but you could get thinking for some inspiration now. How about…

  • 17 shades – 1 shade for the trim and 16 different shades for the squares
  • Duotone – 1 shade for the trim and 1 for the squares
  • Alternating squares with contrast trim – 1 shade for the trim and 2 alternating shades for the squares
  • Variations on a theme – With so many shades to choose from, you could choose a range of shades in the one colour. There are certainly enough to support a 4 shade blanket in blue, or green, or purple, or brown/earth tones.

The most important date for your diary is 21st April as that’s when the first square pattern will be released. The next patterns will follow each week following, for 8 weeks in total. The next two weeks will release the trim pattern and then instructions for making up.

Having worked with this yarn before, I can see that it will make a really snuggly Afghan blanket and, with all those shades to choose from, I’m sure this KAL will produce some stunning visual results too.

Keep an eye on Rowan’s Facebook Page for teaser details and a shopping list in the coming weeks, and stay tuned to my blog for updates and photos as I knit along!

KAL Poster

Project – Hands Of Purple

Pattern: Hands Of Blue
Designer: Lucy Hague

Yarn: Rowan Alpaca Colour
Shade: Garnet (139)
Alpaca Colour 139

Ravelry: Hands Of Purple

Towards the end of last winter, I lost a lovely pair of leather gloves which left me without any nice gloves to use. I bought some cheap black synthetic ones to get me through to the end of the winter and decided to buy some nice ones for the next winter. During last year I realised that what I should obviously do was knit myself some nice gloves rather than buying them. I reviewed lots of patterns on Ravelry and got it down to a short list of two. Both patterns are gorgeous and I was completely unable to choose between the two, so I decided to make both! This pattern appealed to me not only because the design is visually stunning, but also because the name is a Firefly reference, so I was powerless to resist it.

Regular readers may recall that I was gifted a giant cloud of soft lovely Alpaca Colour by my colleagues when I left my job of 10 years back in October. I was also lucky enough to have a skein of this gorgeous yarn for review, which it turned out would be perfect to make Hands Of Blue. One skein wouldn’t quite be enough to make the full-fingered version but, being part way through my Harewood scarf, I was quite confident that I would have some yarn left over when I finished it. As such, I pinched a bit from the second skein I hadn’t started for the scarf yet, and off I went.

This pattern is really gorgeous, the combination of the twisted rib and the curved lines from the lace pattern produce a stunning result. Alpaca Colour has now taken the crown as my favourite super-soft yarn, it’s like wearing clouds on your hands! Sadly the slight fuzz to this yarn loses the stitch definition a little and my not-great photography skills mean you lose it a little more in the photo, but regardless I could not be more pleased with these gloves. They are so soft and warm and pretty, what more could a girl want? I’m especially pleased with the length of the gloves, as there’s nothing I hate more than a glove that skimps on length and leaves me with draughty wrists!

If you’re looking for a new pair of gloves, I couldn’t recommend this pattern enough. It even has fingerless, half-finger and full-finger variations so that you can match exactly to your style and warmth needs. I’m also fairly confident that you could get a fingerless pair out of just one skein of Alpaca Colour, so great value too!

Stash Management For Geeks

I came to the conclusion a few weeks ago that my stash was starting to get a little bit out of hand, when I realised that I couldn’t really remember much of what was in there. This is a problem for me because if I can’t remember what’s in there, I have little chance of being able to plan projects with it, so I’m never going to actually work through any of it. I’m sure you have probably noticed by now that I am as much a geek as I am a knitter, so there was only one possible solution to this problem: A Spreadsheet

Yes, dear readers, I went straight to Google Drive* and drew up a brand new yarn stash spreadsheet. What information could possibly be needed in such a document? Let me tell you…

  • Brand
  • Colour/Shade
  • Weight
  • Number of balls
  • Metreage per ball
  • Total metreage (calculated automatically from the number of balls and metreage per ball, obviously)
  • Project(s) assigned to the yarn

Now I have my entire stash at my fingertips wherever I am! If I stumble across a pattern in a shop or online that I like the look of, I don’t have to go and rummage through my stash to find out if I have something that might be suitable.

The spreadsheet is sorted with yarns that are already assigned to future projects at the top, followed by yarns for which I haven’t yet chosen a project underneath. Those yarns are also sorted by metreage, highest first, allowing me to see of which yarns I have the most available for new projects.

Lastly, there is a motivating element of shame in this spreadsheet, thanks to the inclusion of a grand total metreage. I now know that I have over 8 km (5 mi) of yarn in my stash. That amount would stretch from Trent Bridge to Radcliffe-On-Trent, and that’s not as the crow flies! So, yes, I definitely need to tip my knitting:acquisition ratio a little further the other way in 2014.

 

*Naturally the spreadsheet must be available on my mobile devices when I’m on the go, as well as on my laptop at home.

 

Winner! Rowan Angora Haze.

Thank you to everyone who entered the latest giveaway and for your lovely comments, clearly there are a lot of angora fans out there!

I am pleased to announce that the winner of the Angora Haze bundle prize , selected by the random number generator at RANDOM.ORG, is…

Susie Hewer

Many congratulations, Susie! I will be in touch by email shortly to arrange shipment of your prize.

Be the first to know about competitions in future via email, Twitter, Facebook or Bloglovin. All of these options are available from the sidebar on the right of any blog page.

Angora Haze

Giveaway – Rowan Angora Haze

Rowan released a brand new yarn for this season, Angora Haze. Available in a range of gorgeous shades from palest white, through soft pastels, to rich black – there is sure to be a shade to suit every taste. As you would expect from a premium Angora fibre, the yarn is unbelievably soft and, at a generous 137 m, you can get a good amount of life from a ball.

Here’s a quick overview of the available shades:

Cuddle 520Baby 521Cradle 522Nest 523Hug 524Caress 525Embrace 526Kiss 527Tender 528Caring 529Love 530Squeeze 531True 532

To accompany this delightful new yarn is the Angora Haze Collection, full of luxurious knits to make the most of the softness this fibre provides. Here are a few highlights from the collection, but be sure to check out the whole range on Rowan’s website.

LucilleBetteMarilynJudy BeretRubyBrigitte

If you have any concerns about how Rowan obtain their Angora fibres, there is more information available online about the methods they use which clarifies that all the rabbits are live and cared for during the process.

 

I was lucky enough to be sent two balls of Angora Haze to review along with the pattern brochure, but unfortunately I am slightly allergic to Angora so I can’t work with it or wear it. This is good luck for my readers though, as I am giving away the whole Angora Haze package to one lucky person! The prize is one copy of the Angora Haze Collection brochure, one ball of Angora Haze in shade Hug 524, one ball of Angora Haze in shade Embrace 526.

To enter, simply comment below with what you love about Angora yarn generally, Angora Haze specifically or the Angora Haze Collection. Entries close at midnight on Sunday 24th November and the winner will be chosen at random from all the comments received on this post up until that point.

Good luck!

Angora Haze - Yarn Lifestyle 1

Project – Forest Footballer Doll

This project was one of the few commissions I’ve done to date. A friend forwarded me a tweet from one of his friends seeking someone to knit a project on request. I got in touch with the friend of a friend, Andrew, to ask more about what he had in mind. Andrew said that one of his friends was expecting his first baby, a boy, and he wanted to gift the new father with a doll of a Nottingham Forest footballer. Having knitted a teddy bear once before, I figured I was up to the challenge of another soft toy so we agreed to go ahead.

My first search for a footballer doll pattern lead me to the wonderful Jean Greenhowe and her book of Mascot Dolls. I’ve never felt more fortunate because the footballer was absolutely perfect and even pictured in exactly the right colour strip for Nottingham Forest!

 

Pattern: Footballer

Designer: Jean Greenhowe

Publication: Mascot Dolls

 

Yarn: King Cole Dollymix DK

Shades: White (1), Red (9), Taupe (37), Black (48), Flesh (149)

 

Ravelry: Nottingham Forest Footballer Doll

Forest Footballer Doll (front)Forest Footballer Doll (back)

Good

  • How cute is this pattern?! Every single example in the booklet is beautifully crafted to be a wonderful little caricature of almost any mascot you could want.
  • Full marks to King Cole for having such a great set of colours and in little 25g balls, they are just perfect for this kind of project. I can’t recommend Dollymix DK enough if you need to do a soft toy like this one.
  • Also a glowing mention for Knit Nottingham, for having all the exact colours I needed in stock. Thanks, Eleanor!
  • On request, I altered a couple of things in order to make the doll look a little bit like Stuart Pearce. Firstly I changed the hair to brown and secondly I embroidered a number 3 on the back of the shirt. Not a bad little set of adjustments!

Bad

  • I don’t think my stuffing skills are quite up to scratch yet, so I didn’t quite do this guy justice. Still, not a bad job for only the second soft toy I’ve ever made.
  • Unfortunately I think the hair looks better in black, as it takes the edge off the stitch definition a bit more and gives a softer appearance, but not to any great detriment in the final result.
  • The facial details (including ears) were a bit fiddly and not my best work.
  • There was a lot of making up to be done in this project. Many seams to be sewn up, embellishments to be sewn on, and ends to be sewn in. If, like me, you pick up any of the patterns from this booklet, allow plenty of time for your finishing phase as it took me quite a long time, due to a combination of a lot of work and, towards the end, a lack of motivation to keep my yarn needle moving!

Conclusions

  • Jean Greenhowe is a masterful designer and I cannot recommend her patterns enough if you have any little ones to knit for. You are bound to find something they’ll love in her library, including firemen, ballerinas, cowboys, fairies, and much more.
  • Some more practise on stuffing soft toys and embroidering fine detail is probably required for future.
  • Yes, finishing remains my nemesis.

Kidsilk, That’s Amore

At the start of October, Rowan launched two brand new yarns: Kidsilk Amore and Kidsilk Amore Shimmer. These are yet another new twist on the existing Kidsilk range, this time in a chunky weight which is ideal for toasty and warm winter accessories. As part of the launch, the Rowan Ambassadors group was given a challenge from Rowan – to create a design for each yarn which used only one ball. This may not seem like a huge challenge on the face of it, but if I tell you that the yarns are only 42 m and 37 m per ball, respectively, you may be able to imagine that it was quite tricky!

I’ve never designed anything completely from scratch before, so I was a bit nervous, but decided I really wanted to try and had nothing to lose if I did. The Ambassador group is full of talented and imaginative knitters/designers so I was not surprised to find that between us we all came up with some very different ideas for designs, many of which I felt made mine look quite run-of-the-mill. Imagine my surprise and delight when I found that my patterns had been drawn in the runner-up group!

Amazingly, all the winning and runner-up designs will become free Rowan downloads and I cannot wait for them to be finalised and uploaded. Of course I will be sure to update when that happens! Until it does, here are some photos of the finished items. I should note that I had to rip out and re-knit these a few times whilst working on the designs, to ensure that I didn’t run out of yarn before each item was finished. Unfortunately this has made the yarn look a little fuzzier than it would otherwise, when I finally got to have the items photographed.

Mirage

Mirage

Photos by Andrew Woodhouse Photography

A cute little hat with a braided openwork texture pattern and a wide ribbed band. Pictured in Kidsilk Amore Shimmer, shade Chestnut 514.

 

Check That Cowl

Check That Cowl  Check That Cowl

Photos by Andrew Woodhouse Photography

A snuggly cowl, using a large checkerboard texture to help show off the striking colours in this shade. Pictured in Kidsilk Amore, shade Twilight 505.

 

I found the yarns to be lovely to work with and the colours look so much more wonderful in person than they do when photographed. Here’s a quick overview of the shades.

Kidsilk Amore

Twilight 505Chiaroscuro 506Avocado 507Flaming 508

Kidsilk Amore Shimmer

Mulled Wine 513Chestnut 514Flaming 515Chiaroscuro 516

The photos of Shimmer really don’t do it justice, unfortunately. It has a lovely thread of sparkle running through it which will look fabulous in winter sunshine.

You can read more about both yarns on Rowan’s website: Kidsilk Amore and Kidsilk Amore Shimmer.

 

Watch this space for details of my designs and the other winning and runner-up designs by my fellow Ambassadors, they are a fabulous set!