Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Picking up where we left off?

...or almost!
I've had several little elves nagging me to resurrect this blog, and with everything that has changed in the year (!) since the last post, maybe it's time....

I guess the biggest change at Midwinter HQ since last year is that Midwinter HQ itself has moved 400miles north to beautiful Scotland. We were sad to leave our green valley behind, but the cottage on the hillside, a roaring fire and my first white Christmas since I was a teenager more than makes up for it.

We've been in awe of Scotland since the first time we came for the Edinburgh Yarn Festival 3 years ago, and now that we live here, the proximity of breathtaking landscapes and a living wool industry is still astounding.

I spent the autumn marvelling at the colours of the moors and how they are reflected in the tweed fabrics and yarns.

We attended the Loch Ness Knit Fest in Inverness in October, driving through the Cairngorms on the way up, and Glencoe on the very scenic way down, and I had my mouth hanging open in astonishment all the way.

The Loch Ness Knit Fest itself is a small but hopefully growing event which proved very inspiring - I seem to have bought more yarn there than at any show in recent times, but I found the customers so knowledgeable and the colourwork they wore so inspiring that a couple of distinctly Scottish projects found their way into my queue: a cowl in softest, heathered Rennie colours, and yarn destined to become an Oa sweater by Kate Davies.

Picture by Kate Davies

Another show that I am delighted to be able to call "local" now is the brand new Perth Festival of Yarn. Their inaugural event was in early September and it was a one-day riot! Lots of companies that Mark and I haven't come across before, perhaps because they are smaller and don't go to the "big" shows, but are no less interesting, and I am thrilled to see that Eva is expanding to two days of woolly goodness this year! One to watch, definitely ;)

Reading back, I realised that my last post was teasing the arrival of a very exclusive to us yarn. That yarn was, in fact, the Black & Blue, and it arrived shortly after writing that post. We took it to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival a few weeks later and then....it was all gone in a weekend! But.....it's here again, and this time it's available online too!!
So I can therefore finally introduce it properly:

Black&Blue is our own-produced yarn, made with fleeces from a single flock in North Wales, spun in Cornwall and now hand dyed in Scotland for a truly Celtic yarn. It is a gorgeous, soft blend of white and black Bluefaced Leicester wool, producing a gorgeous marled grey when undyed, and giving depth and life to the hand dyed colours. It's buttery soft without losing its' woolly character and I just can't quite get enough of it!

I used it for a slightly modified version of Isabell Kraemer's Always in my Heart earlier this year, and am now working on the Arboreal sweater by Jennifer Steingrass.

There is of course plenty more to tell you about, many more projects have been knat, yarns that have been planned, but maybe if I leave a little to tell, I will actually come back and write another post in a sensible amount of time ;)

With all our very best wishes for 2018!
Estelle and Mark

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Happy New Year!

Hello everyone, it's Mark here - a bit late, but better late than never?
Though to us, the show year is just about to get started and who looks at countdowns on big clocks when you've got a yarn show to look forward to!

We were lucky this year, in that we made a bit of a guest appearance to start the year off with. We were asked by the lovely Enrico to help out on his first ever Les Tricoteurs Volants stall at the Aiguille en Fete in Paris.

We had a great time and met so many fantastic people, not at least those people who had to put up with my total lack of French (I hope my miming skills were amusing though... ever seen someone try to mime through an explanation of how a shawl is constructed without coherent words?)

Also those amazing people who took a power cut in their stride and despite the lack of light, turned on the torches on their phones to carry on, examining the yarn as best they could by torchlight! As if a mere power cut could stop knitters...

On the home front, we have some really exciting things brewing in the background  here at Midwinter Yarns. There *may* be a new, completely exclusive yarn coming to us soon. I can't say much more at the moment - until it magically arrives at the premises I don't want to jinx it but I can say we're really, really thrilled by the prospect and can't wait to get started.

In the meantime, we're impatient to to get the show season started and we'll be Unravel in Farnham Maltings this weekend. It's a three day show in a really lovely venue, there is quite a bit to see with about 70 vendors selling a variety of yarn and woolly things.
If you're interested just click the link -Unravel 2017

                                                 On The Needles:

Estelle - Is power knitting her way through her Ready For Fall sweater to get show ready for the weekend. Although she did relieve Enrico of some hand spun in Paris to make herself a hat on the side.

Mark - I'm finishing off my Boneyard in the beautiful Loch Lomond yarn I discovered in Paris. The unusual choice of colours is Estelle's , but I think she did that on purpose so she can steal it when it's ready. 

                                               Upcoming Shows:

Unravel will be 17th-19th Feb  in Farnham.
A great show to start off with, some really interesting vendors and really nice customers. We will be in the same space as we were last year in the main hall.

Edinburgh Yarn Festival will be 10th-11th March in the Corn Exchange, Edinburgh.
If you've never been to this show, then you've been missing out. We're in a different spot this year, in a corner stand, so hopefully we'll be easy to spot! 

Thursday, 15 December 2016

It's not too late!

Christmas is looming very fast now, but fear not if you haven't got all your presents sorted yet! It's not too late....
Here are a few ways that Midwinter Yarns can help....mainly by way of hats!
Hats, I have discovered this year, are a great last minute hand-knit gift. No second-anything syndrome, and in worsted or aran weight they work up really quick!

I made this "Dripping on the Side" hat by Justyna Lorkowska while waiting for the Christmas cake to bake. 

It uses 2 balls of Suomivilla with some colourful scraps to liven up the pompom for a teenage recipient. 

Also in the lovely Suomivilla are these two manly man hats. 

The patterns are "Jason's Cashmere Hat" and "Stepping Out", both free to download from Ravelry. 

Another great, free hat pattern is "Ianto's Hat" by our good friend Les Tricoteurs Volants, here knitted with just one hank of Thick Pirkkalanka in the Chartreuse colour....perfect for the sci-fi fan in your life, perhaps, or just a cool pattern in itself!

We also have a few kits left for the super quick Raggsocks. The new version of this yarn that we brought in this autumn has proved very popular with its classic marled colours and bumper 200gr in the kit which is enough even for the largest of ogre feet, and as they knit up on 4mm needles, they too make for a great last minute knitted present. Or you can do what I did a couple of years ago and give your mother-in-law one sock for Christmas and the second one for New Years Eve....oops

But if you've really had enough of knitting for the season and time is running out, we've also got a few ready-made gift ideas for knitters ready to ship.

There are still plenty of the lovely Baa-ble hat kits available. These contain 4 balls of the natural shade Suomivilla Finnish wool, and Donna Smith's professionally printed pattern for her perfect little sheep hat at £22.

The pattern is a great introduction to colour work , if you know someone who hasn't yet dared test their skills ;)

As some of you may know, we have had some supply difficulties with the standard Linus on the Line kit colours this autumn. However, for the month of December, any order for two hanks of Ullcentrum 2ply yarn will receive a free Linus pattern, so you are free to make up your own combinations, and we will package it as a kit - another present idea, or perhaps a project for yourself for those many hours of Christmas telly? 

We also still have plenty of our vintage fabric knitting bags in stock. These are project bags made with original 1960s and 70s fabrics, lined in sturdy cotton, and priced at £18. 

And of course, if all else fails, or you just want to allow someone their own pick of yarns, this year we have introduced Gift Cards for £10, £20 and £50. 

Please note that our last posting dates for Christmas delivery are:

Canada, USA, Scandinavia: Thursday 15 December
Western Europe: Friday 16 December

UK: Tuesday 20 December

Royal Mail has published assurances that the planned strike by some of their workers will not impact on shipping times and that these dates still stand. The strike will affect *some* Post Office branches, but in my vicinity I have 4 to choose from which I doubt will all be on strike, if any. 

We will also continue posting out orders throughout the Christmas season, those are just the dates for orders to arrive before Christmas :)

Wishing you all a calm and stress-free last run-up to the festivities!
Midwinter Yarns

Sunday, 23 October 2016

'tis the season to get knitting!

It's finally here! Autumn! The crisp mornings when you can see your breath in the air. The glorious display of leaves changing colour. And most of all....temperatures cold enough to pull out all your best woollen knits or indeed, weather rough enough to justify staying indoors with a big mug of tea and a lovely new project.

And we are nothing if not ready for the beautiful season here at Midwinter Yarns. First of all: a formal introduction of our great new yarn for winter: Suomivilla. 

This beautiful aran weight yarn is made of pure wool from Finland and is lovely, lofty and squishy (yes, this is a recognised technical yarn term).  It comes in 6 natural sheep shades and it is absolutely fantastic for proper, solid winter sweaters and has wonderful stitch definition, as shown here on Heidi Kirrmaier's Catch of the Day sweater. 

This sweater was a joy to knit: unusually for a cabled pattern, it is knit seamlessly from the top down to Heidi's very systematic instructions, and although I think the pattern may have been intended for ladies, I think it works just as well for men...although I might be stealing this back off Mark soon enough.

If a whole cabled sweater seems a little daunting to you, or perhaps you are starting to think of Christmas and need some quick to knit presents, then we also have kits made up with the Suomivilla for Donna Smith's iconic Baa-ble hat. This joyful hat is a great first introduction to fair-isle knitting: the chart is very clear and instructions well written, and what better way to celebrate the sheep who give us wool than with their natural and diverse shades?

The kits are available online now. 

Next up on the agenda? YARNPORIUM!

Only 2 weeks until this brand new yarn festival right in the heart of London, and just in time to plan your special Christmas knits, be they presents for yourself or for your loved ones. We will do our very best to bring you inspiration for the season, from ready-to-knit kits to project bags to yarn for that perfect Christmas jumper.
There will be a new sweater on display for the thicker Ullcentrum 3-ply. Most of you are already familiar with the 2-ply from our Linus kits, which is a sport weight. 3-ply has, as it says on the tin, a third ply, making it a heavy DK weight, all in that same, warm, rustic Swedish wool.

We will also have our hand made Vintage Fabric Knitting bags with us. These roomy project bags are made using original vintage fabrics from the 50s, 60s and 70s and lined with a heavy weight cotton. They have a folded-under base to allow them to stand on the table while you are working, and a simple drawstring closure.

and finally: a little housekeeping

With so many new and exciting things happening this winter, we are making a little room by having a great big sale on two of our lines:
Ohut (thin) Pirkkalanka is now only £8 a hank, and the chunky Lovikka is only £5

Friday, 9 September 2016

Breathing Space Sweater

I recently completed my Breathing Space sweater by Veera Välimäki. Some of you may have followed its progress on Instagram, but I am just so pleased with the result that I think I want to show it off some more!

It all started with the Lightest Grey colour arriving to Midwinter HQ from Ullcentrum. It is a wonderfully subtle blend of natural white with just a hint of undyed grey and I became obsessed with it. I had plenty on my needles to get on with, but it was definitely next in line. 

I had also been pondering a sweater version of our Linus shawls for a while. In my mind it was going to be a simple top-down cardigan, but when I came across Veera's pattern I thought it would make a more interesting and modern take on the striped idea, and be a little more interesting to knit too!

Photo by Jonna Jolkin for Veera Välimäki

It certainly lived up to my expectations: the pattern is very well written, very straightforward with just a little bit of technical challenge to keep you interested and the ever changing colours of the Lapland gradient made the whole thing into a really enjoyable knit. 

The Lapland colour way never ceases to amaze me. Of all the lovely gradients that Ullcentrum produce, it is the one that seems to capture people's imagination the most, and I can see why. In the hank it looks almost too bright, too primary-coloured....but knitted up, the gentle transitions between the colours give it so much more depth , and all of this with the warmth and texture of pure Swedish wool. 

To me, my Breathing Space is a perfect Back To School sweater. It's that combination of sensible grey with all the rainbow colours of your brand new pencils. It's also a lightweight, warm cover-up for the first autumn chills, and one that won't be too bulky under a coat later in the year either. 

You could of course make it in any combination of Ullcentrum 2ply Sport weight....maybe one of these?

L-R: Monochrome Cold Grey/Anthracite, Cool Sky Turquoise/Marine, Vibrant Cerise-Orange/Plum

Pattern: Breathing Space

Designer: Veera Välimäki

Yarn: Ullcentrum 2ply (sport weight) in Lightest Grey and Lapland
Amounts: 3 hanks Main Colour, 2 hanks Contrast Colour

Needles: 3.75mm

Gauge: 23sts/10cm - this is a larger gauge than given for the pattern. I worked to the instructions for 42" chest and got a 50" finished sweater. 

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Summer catch-up

It's a busy couple of weeks here at Midwinter Yarns right now: we have just returned from Fibre East and are heading up to the British Wool Show in York this weekend.

Fibre East was lovely and vibrant this year - I will admit that the poor weather last year rather marred my impression of the first show, but it was made up for this weekend! 

We were stationed in the newest Herdwick hall together with our good friends Eden Cottage Yarns, Triskelion Yarn and Fibre and Five Moons, which brought a higher level of giggling and after-show drinks than usual. Victoria from Eden Cottage also turned out to be an enabler of the worst order when a simple "mosey around the show" resulted in my buying a new handbag. And yarn!

There were a few new things on display this time - I've really tried to adapt a bit more to the seasons and finished the Diagonapples scarf by Anna Maltz just in time. The scarf is worked in our Lithuanian Linen mini hanks so provides lots of lovely summer colours with the cool, draping feel of linen. 

Also using the linen is my version of Heidi Kirrmaier's Climb Every Mountain, this time held together with a strand of our Indiecita Alpaca yarn. Together these yarns produce a wonderful fabric: all the drape and fall of the linen but with the softness and fullness of the alpaca, and I think that works particularly well with Heidi's lovely little layering top...sort of like a comforting half poncho, half sweater. 

Also off the needles is Mark's Fika Shawl by Karina Westermann. Karina designed the great Hygge collection around our yarns last year and we had her original samples on loan for the winter. However, she was rather missing her favourite shawl so it was returned to her to be paraded around Glasgow and Mark cast on his own in the original Deep Orange of the pattern. 

Fika is made using 2 hanks of the fingering weight Ohut Pirkkalanka - available from the shop now. 

My personal obsession at the moment is the Breathing Space sweater by Veera Välimäki . I fell in love with the Lightest Grey Ullcentrum yarn as soon as it arrived and was looking for the perfect striped sweater to use it for. I'm really pleased with how it's looking so far - I've just started on the slanted stripes and starting to see the colour change in the Lapland contrast yarn - think it's going to make a really cool, graphic, go-with-anything sweater for early autumn.

                                     Pirkkalanka Sale!


                                       More show news

We will be at the British Wool Show in York next week , at the fantastic Yarndale in Skipton in September and are very pleased to announce that we will be part of the brand new Yarnporium in London on the 5-6th of November! 

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Summer already??

I know, I know, I've been AWFUL at posting on the blog, and now spring has flown by again! 
We've had a few exciting moments - Wonderwool Wales was fab as always, especially from our new spot and larger stall looking out onto the cafe. Wonderwool of course has a special place in our hearts: it was there that we had our very first day of trading 2 years ago, and it is always lovely to see so many familiar faces who have supported and encouraged us from the start there, plus our knitting group always comes by and feeds us cheese scones and such. 

We were also featured on the lovely Shiny Bees podcast...in a full length interview, no less, where I prattle on about the story of our little company....and also about cake. You can find it in full here. 

The Knitter magazine also dropped by and fell in love with our Scattered Showers shawl, so much so that they featured it in their news section last month!

We've also got a whole new yarn in the shop: our very own, hand dyed range!  The base for this yarn is spun by Ullcentrum, using the strong Swedish wool that we know and love but adding 20% Silk for that extra shine and softness, and hand dyed by us here in the Welsh Valleys.

This sport weight yarn is worsted spun with some "thick-n-thin" for added texture and interest. The lustre in the yarn really shows when you start knitting with it, and gives the fabric beautiful drape, a real treat without losing the rustic character of the wool. 

And with all those news keeping us busy for the last couple of months, time has already come around to start getting ready for Woolfest next weekend. 

I am desperately hoping to finish my Climb Every Mountain layering top. I am really excited about this one as it's an unusual combination of yarns that I think will work so well to wear. I am using one strand of Indiecita Alpaca and one strand of Lithuanian Linen to give me a soft fluffy garment with structure and fantastic drape. I'm also looking forward to finishing it as it's going to be the perfect thing to wear at the semi-open venue in Cumbria in this not-quite-hot summer weather we're having. Only 15-20cm to go, should be doable ;) 

Mr Midwinter is working on the Fika shawl in Thin Pirkkalanka - the designer Karina Westermann took her samples back earlier this year (and has been greedily wearing the shawl ever since) so we needed our own version to show off. Mark thought about a few different colours but decided that the original Deep Orange was the best to go with the pattern, so there it is. Not entiiiiiiiiirely sure he will have it ready for next weekend, even with the best will in the world, but maybe for Fibre East? or Yarndale? or Christmas?

Since he's too much of a chatterbox to follow a lace pattern whilst on the stand, he will be bringing his latest (fourth!) Linus with him to work on at Woolfest. Dubbed "the Mad one", this fantastically bright version started life with a customer of ours. She picked out the colours and I must admit that we were a little hesitant if they would work. She later sent me a picture and the result was surprisingly great! I think it has something to do with opposing colours on the colour wheel or something along those lines, but it totally works and we've seen a few of these be made already :)

We will also have supplies with us for our latest Midwinter Yarns design: The Sunset Sunburst Scarf. This crochet scarf uses one pack of Linen Mini Hanks and two regular Linen hanks in a simple granny square variation, and the pattern is available to download now from Ravelry.

So there we are, getting ready and looking forward to meeting lots of you in the beautiful Lake District very soon! You will find us in stall I184 - hope to see you there!!

PS. We will have a slightly smaller stall than usual at Woolfest so will not be able to bring our full range of yarn - if there is anything in particular you are hoping to see, do send me a message beforehand to make sure we bring it ;)