Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Spring and new yarns!

Temperatures finally started rising in Scotland last week, just in time for the May Bank Holiday, and suddenly, everything is springing! 
There have been gorgeous little lambs in the fields around us since last month. It's the first time I've lived so close to them and they are such a joy to watch. 



Mark and I finished the Big Blanket for his mum's 60th and delivered it to her new house on the Gower when we visited after Wonderwool Wales. I'm really pleased with how it came out! The squares themselves are nice and mindless to knit and the sewing-up is surprisingly painless too as you are mostly sewing cast-on edges together, so the stitches line up nicely.  We liked having it on display so much before gifting it that we've started on another one for ourselves, this time using Ullcentrum's wealth of neutral shades with just the occasional pop of colour.



Pattern: The Big Blanket by Linnea Öhman
Yarn: Ullcentrum 3ply (17 hanks used - 48 squares)
Needles: 4.5mm



There have also been a couple of new additions to our range recently. Firstly, the gorgeous Blåne from Norway. 



This 100% Norwegian wool is made by Hillsevåg Ullvarefabrikk - a historical mill and ecomuseum just outside of Bergen. The yarn itself is a chunky weight spun from Norwegian Pelsau sheep - a breed with much in common with Gotland sheep - a natural grey colour, great drape and a slight halo - but feels rather softer to wear. With that in mind, the first thing I used the yarn for was a Tiglar sweater, originally designed for Icelandic Lopi yarn. 

Pattern: Tiglar by Védis Jónsdóttir 
Yarn: Blåne by Hillesvåg - French Navy, Olive Green and Cognac
Needles: 6.5mm




Blåne is also a perfect yarn to use for Kate Davies' Carbeth patterns that have taken the knitting world by storm this season. I chose the cardigan version in the gorgeous Deep Red colour. I extended the body by a good 12cm and chose a tighter fit rather than the recommended ease for a style better suited to my shape.  I thought I'd missed my chance to wear it as I only finished it at the end of April, but as it happens, it makes a great little jacket for the not-so-sunny Scottish spring mornings, and a SUPER FAST knit (around a week each for both this and the sweater)

Pattern: Carbeth Cardigan by Kate Davies
Yarn: Blåne by Hillsvåg - Deep Red
Needles: 6.5mm



Another new yarn that we are delighted to have in our range is something a little different. Garngrossisten who make our popular Raggsock yarn have produced a pure wool Recycled Yarn called Ulligen (Woolagain). They use fibres discarded by the clothing industry and spin them into a surprisingly soft 4ply weight yarn in a range of 7 beautiful tweedy colours. Perfect for lightweight cardigans or gorgeous, draping shawls that don't feel too bulky to wear. 



Pattern: Sunwalker by Melanie Berg
Yarn: Ulligen Recycled Wool in Red and Mole
Needles: 3.25mm





In non-yarn news, I've also been busy sewing up some more vintage fabric knitting bags using original 60s and 70s fabrics in really happy colours....all available online now. 





Wednesday, 31 January 2018

The Big Blanket project

Mark and I have started on a new project together: the Big Blanket.




Our thicker Ullcentrum 3ply yarn has become something of my favourite yarn this winter: it has the wonderful sheepiness and rustic texture of Ullcentrum's Swedish wool, but in a heavy DK weight that is just perfect for sweaters: warm enough to wear on its own on a sunny autumn day, but not so bulky that it won't fit under a winter coat. And as the Grettir that Mark has been wearing for 3 years now proves, it's fantastically hard wearing too!



Then an opportunity arose that meant that we need to make something big for a special occasion, something that we could work on together, and it struck me that the yarn should make a really wonderful blanket!
I know that traditionally, we see blankets as an opportunity to use up left-overs and scraps, but for this, I wanted something that had less of a scrappy feel. I came across this beautiful (and free!) pattern by Linnea Öhman (of Siri Cardigan fame) and I just love the graphic effect of the radiating garter stripes, and how unified it looks with the restrained colour palette.

Photo by Linnea Öhman

For our project we needed to be a little more colourful, so I have chosen a neutral as the base for each set of squares, and am contrasting it with Ullcentrum's beautiful dyed colours.



Our little pile is growing nicely - it's a very easy and portable pattern to work with, although I am already planning a version all in natural colours like Linnea's original...


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
Enjoy!




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.