Thursday, 19 November 2015

Some ideas for Giftmas

As knitters, crocheters and crafters, Christmas is our time to shine. There may be a running joke in the media about itchy, ill-fitting sweaters from Grandma but we know that a lovingly made item in soft wool is a wonderful way to show someone that you love them and wish them to feel warm and embraced all year long. 

Unfortunately, this does mean that this time of year can be quite stressful for knitters. Hand made gifts don't only mean having to come up with ideas and rushing to the shops to find supplies, but also the actual time required to make the gift! So here at Midwinter Yarns, we thought we'd put together a few ideas for quick, simple knits that can be done in a couple of evenings to minimise the worry.

Firstly, and we have shouted about this one before: The HYGGE collection. Karina Westermann designed this collection of 1 or 2 skein accessories specifically with Christmas knitting in mind - quick, simple but still impressive pieces. 

Particularly lovely are the Skovtur fingerless mittens. These are done in our Thick Pirkkalanka in simple colour work, meaning that the finished fabric is really thick and warm. I know that a few of these are already being made for family members in colder climates such as North America and Canada! The pattern is a great introduction to colour work if you've never tried it before, and looks suitably impressive. 

Hygge also features two brilliant little hats, both in Thick Pirkkalanka again, Top Hygge with its fun pompom and the more minimal Tryghed, shown here in 314 Deep Orange and 3734 Moss respectively. (Pictures by David Fraser)


But for ultimate warmth and speed of knitting, there is the Brygga cowl. This uses our chunky Lovikka wool and knits on size 10mm needles...truly done in an evening! 

Picture by David Fraser

We have kits available for this in all the Lovikka colours, including the printed pattern and some beautiful, hand crafted buttons made from reclaimed Applewood - so you could even give the kit as a present to a fellow knitter and save yourself the work itself :)

Speaking of Lovikka, you could also make the original Lovikka mitten - traditional mittens as worn in Lapland. These are knitted on smaller needles than the cowl for a denser fabric which will felt and become wind tight with wear. The pattern for these is free with 2 hanks of the yarn - just leave us a note with your order and we'll pop it in. 

Enrico from Parisian yarn shop Les Tricoteurs Volants has designed a fantastic pattern for the Thick Pirkkalanka: the Ianto Hat. This one is free to download on Ravelry and features some simple, contemporary cabling and options to make it a tighter, shorter hat or more of a slouchy beanie. I particularly like this one as a gift for a man, although it is unisex and of course great if you have a Torchwood fan in your life :)

And finally, for those of you whose hearts sink at requests for "a pair of socks", we have our wonderful Swedish Raggsock yarn. This is thicker and much quicker to knit than regular sock yarn and makes fantastic, hardwearing slipper or boot socks. It is our only yarn with a little bit of man made content, meaning that it can be reliably machine washed and will last and keep toes warm even in wellies. Again, pattern is free with the purchase of 3 balls (required for adult size socks), just leave us a note with your order. 

So there we are - I hope these give you a few ideas and reassurance that Christmas knitting needn't be stressful - we despatch all orders within 24hours so all you need to do is settle down with a mug of hot chocolate and enjoy the making. Oh, and to help you along a little further, we're also offering 10% off everything in store for the whole rest of November with coupon code GIFTMAS15 . We are good little elves like that! 

Monday, 5 October 2015

A busy start to the beautiful season

My favourite season is here. The misty mornings, the glorious colours, the smell of wood burning stoves in the evening...nothing compares to autumn in the country.

I am a little sad to see summer go this year. It's been a special one with so much of our wedding being centred on light, summery, joyful things but I at least know that even though the big oak tree under which we got married will soon lose it's leaves again, Mark and I will be back in that spot a month from now, watching the bonfire, clutching mugs of mulled wine and enjoying a whole different kind of warmth to the summer sun.

For Midwinter Yarns, autumn got off with the most scenic of starts: the phenomenal Yarndale wool show in Yorkshire.

Ever since we started doing yarn shows, we've heard Yarndale talked about not so much in hushed tones as with gasps of excitement. Our fellow yarn professionals couldn't say enough good things about it, about the scale of the show, the vibrancy of the organisation and the hordes of excited visitors. They. were. not. kidding.

It was fantastic - we were so busy from the minute the doors opened, with so many passionate knitters to speak to.

The lovely Karina Westermann stopped by the stand on Saturday morning to introduce the Hygge collection she designed for our yarns, advising fans and customers on colour choices...and threatening to make off with all our mustard yellow yarns!

Left to right: Fika, Skovtur, Brygga and Top Hygge

Mark was very busy holding court over the Ullcentrum table - with great success, I must say. By Sunday afternoon, so many Linus on the Line sets had gone off to new homes that we barely had enough yarn left for a single more combination.

Somehow he also managed to finish off his Shine scarf over the weekend - a pattern that he's really happy with. With the current trend for triangular or crescent shaped shawl, he'd struggled a bit to find a pattern for a modern "manly" rectangular scarf that would be exciting to knit, but the diagonal shaping and variety of stitches was just right for what he wanted, and works so well with the Lithuanian linen.

Sunday afternoon was a little calmer and I finally got a chance to have a look around the show itself. It was huge! Even though it is all housed in one building, the rows are really really long and there was so much to see that I had to break it up in to a couple of trips, not wanting to stay away from our stall for too long at a time.
It wasn't just the stalls that looked amazing, although you could tell that every vendor had done their utmost, the whole venue had the touches of a truly passionate knitting and crochet team behind it. The crochet bunting in the entrance was truly a sight to behold, as were the crocheted mandalas in the cafe area. I didn't see much of the outside myself, but you can spot some of the lovely decorations in the trees outside in this video courtesy of Just Another Crafty Stuff. You may spot a familiar face 55seconds in, too.

We also had the privilege of being invited to stay at Triskelion Yarns' secret hideaway in Haworth - a stone farmhouse from the 17th century on the path to Brontë Falls and Top Withens, the supposed inspiration for Wuthering Heights. Staying in Haworth also meant we had to endure the terrible terrible hardship of dinners at the Old White Lion Inn...a hardship so terrible we ate there both nights and could probably have come back a few more times had our waistbands allowed it!

Wanting to make the most of our stay in Yorkshire, Mark and I stayed until Monday rather than head back on Sunday evening, not least because we wanted to take a little walk around the Moors and see a little of this very special landscape.

On a perfect misty morning, we put on our best picturesque knitwear and headed off towards the Brontë Falls. I have a tracker on my phone for hikes, and whilst I can normally keep a reasonable walking pace, on this walk the pace absolutely plummeted as we stopped very couple of meters to take pictures of moody ravens in the mist....moody sheep in the mist...moody mist in the mist.

Perhaps the most lingering thought for me from Yarndale, our last big yarn show for the year, was that despite having just spent a few fairly intense days of working and being surrounded by yarn and talking about yarn, just as we have every month this year, I still came away feeling inspired and buzzing with ideas for more projects! I also realised that I seem to getting inspired for particular types of projects from different shows - at Proper Woolly it was all about spinning and fibre even though it is one of the things I normally do the least of. At Yarndale, it was crochet blankets!

I have finally learned to curb my shopping at shows, as I just can't keep up with all the lovely yarns that are waiting for me in my stash, but I managed to pick up a book on crocheted blankets by Amanda Perkins (previously of Natural Dye Studio) which I think will work well in the rich colours of our Thin Pirkkalanka.

The rest of my shopping included some chunky needles and buttons for the Brygga cowl , a vintage project bag, some his and hers British wool socks, and a solitary hank of Alpaca/Silk/Linen yarn from Five Moons...which doesn't count as shopping as it was obtained with bartering, and as Sharon *needed* some of our Raggsockyarn, it would have been rude of me not to accept a hank in return!

Saturday, 22 August 2015

An introduction to the Hygge yarns

When we first started the company, some friends a little concerned about my choice of name. Midwinter. In English mostly prefaced with "In the bleak". Why chose that as a name?
Because I'm Scandinavian. Our winters last longer and are darker than here, but instead of complaining about them, we wallow. We pull on our raggsocks and curl up, surrounded by tea lights and cute lamps , with mugs of hot chocolate and have it "mysigt". We bake cakes and take them to friend's houses with our knitting and have it mysigt with them. Once the darkness creeps in in the autumn, we place lamps on our windowsills to make our homes look inviting from outside...and show off how mysigt our house is. 

So midwinter is not negative or bleak. It is a time to enjoy and indulge in some posh tea and beautiful yarn - to ignore the wind and weather and lose yourself in an exciting knit, be it a challenging one full of texture or a simple one that will make a warming gift come Christmas. 

So when Karina Westermann approached me with the idea to create a truly Scandinavian collection of patterns, it didn't take long for us to agree on the theme of "Hygge". You see, "hygge" is the same  thing as"mys"...just in Karina's native Danish as opposed to my Swedish. 

And as the patterns are about to start being released - starting with Fika on Monday the 31st of August - I wanted to take a moment to introduce the yarns featured in the collection.

We wanted to use yarns in a variety of textures and thicknesses to best reflect our shared Scandinavian heritage. Some are finer, for a more delicate wear-everywhere fabric. Some are big and chunky for a quick, satisfying knit. What they all have in common are natural materials and deep rich colours. 
Some people think that Scandinavian style is all about muted neutrals, but that is far from the truth! Some of our best known designers are all about colour - Marimekko and Gudrun Sjöden. Their palettes are bright, but never shouty, and that is what I love about our Pirkkalanka range. Finnish Pirkkalanka produce a wonderful, crisp hard wearing wool yarn in glorious colours full of depth - the trick being that they are dyed on to a natural grey base rather than a bleached white, bringing life and variety to the colour. 

Hygge features both thicknesses of Pirkkalanka and I think Karina fell a little in love with the Deep Orange featured in the Fika shawl as it comes back a couple of times in the collection. Indeed, it is the perfect Hygge colour - warm like autumn leaves or embers in a wood burner. 

Ohut Pirkkalanka - fingering weight in 314 Deep Orange and 3734 Moss

Vahva Pirkkalanka - worsted weight in 314 Deep Orange and 308 Teal

We also wanted to include some yarns anchored in Scandinavian knitting traditions, namely the chunky Lovikka yarn. This thick singly ply yarn is traditionally used for making mittens in Lapland and is designed to slowly felt with use in snow, wind and rain - I have a pair that my grandmother wore in her youth and they are the warmest, most windproof mittens I own. 

Ullcentrum, who produce our Lovikka yarn, are a company close to my heart. They collect wool from their local farms around Öland island and the neighbouring mainland which would otherwise be incinerated as a waste product (much the same problem we have here in Wales) and turn it in to their beautiful rustic yarns. Along with the Lovikka, they also produce a stunning range of gradients - a yarn that has proven a firm favourite at shows - and we couldn't possibly produce a collection without including one of these proper, woolly, sheep-smelling, lovely Autumn, of course!

I do hope that you will enjoy discovering Hygge over the next few weeks, and creating things that will bring you pleasure both in the making and the wearing, and perhaps find a little hygge of your own. 

Fika will be released as a stand-alone pattern on August 31, but you can pre-order the Hygge: Knit the Things You Love to Wear collection now. It’ll cost slightly different things depending upon where you live, but it is 25% off from now until August 31.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Very exciting announcement!

Midwinter Yarns are very proud to announce our collaboration with the designer Karina Westermann:
Hygge (Knit Yourself the Things You Love to Wear) is a mini-collection celebrating a truly Scandinavian concept. It is a concept that can be difficult to translate, but essentially it means “a feeling of comfort, cosiness, and happiness”. It is what I would call "mys" as I am Swedish, but as Karina is Danish, she calls it "hygge". The mini-collection contains five small projects all relating to aspects of hygge – from spending time with good friends to drinking a mug of hot chocolate after a long, cold day. 
The knitting patterns are all small accessories knitted from a selection of our favourite yarns. All patterns use between one or two skeins of yarns. With hygge being the overall concept, Karina wanted the patterns to give joy and comfort – both in the process of making and in wearing. The projects are also designed to make great little gifts for people you love. Spread the joy, the warmth and the happiness.
What is next? The five patterns will be released over the next month and you’ll be able to see more at our stall at the Yarndale wool festival in Skipton this September.
Karina is now taking pre-orders for the collection and will be releasing the first stand-alone pattern very soon, so head over to her blog for all the news

Friday, 31 July 2015

July catch up

So, having barely recovered from all the festivities, we've just returned from Fibre East and found that the month is nearly over!

We're ploughing on with married life and married knitting - I'm still getting used to Mark being a knitter as it's only been a year and it still surprises me to find him rifling through the stash and itching to cast the next thing on as soon as one thing comes off the needles!

some members of our household are more disruptive of knitting than others

Some of you may have seen pictures of his mad dash to finish his Rainbow Linus in time for Fibre East...and didn't it turn out stunning?

The Rainbow colour way of the Ullcentrum yarn gets me every time - it is such a deep, rich gradient and it looks fantastic against the solid Anthracite.

I was doing some frantic knitting of my own too. I'd started mulling over Anna Maltz' Sceles already back at Iknit Fandango earlier this year, but it had fallen down the queue behind all the wedding projects. Once all the relatives had gone home and the left overs were all eaten, I realised that I didn't have an urgent project on the needles to fret about anymore, and clearly that couldn't be right?
So, with a little advice from Anna herself, I cast on in two of my favourite linen colours: Turmeric and Gunmetal (2 hanks of each). I used the Gunmetal for colour A and the smaller 4.5mm needles throughout - our Lithuanian linen is a touch finer than the original Kalinka stated in the pattern.

I cast on as for size 3 - the design is intended to be worn with extreme ease which I didn't think would suit my frame, so I chose a size that would give me a reasonably loose layering top. I then added a few repeats to the length as again, I have a bit more to, erm, cover... It's a very well written pattern though, and an easy to adapt shape, so you can really make it work to your own preferences.

Having once more knitted to a deadline, Mark and I suddenly found ourselves away from home, in the middle of a show with...nothing to knit! So we've now done the sickening newly-wed thing of casting on matching sweaters - Summer Green for me and Autumn for him ;)

In the first instalment of what promises to be a very busy autumn for Midwinter Yarns, I am very excited to announce that one of our yarns has been used for a pattern in the forthcoming issue of Pom Pom Quarterly. It is the beautiful, heavily cabled Maude sweater - pictured here in Thick Pirkkalanka in Jade. So much wonderful texture for winter, fantastically complimented by the crisp stitch-definition of the Pirkkalanka wool.

photo by Amy Gwatkin 

You can find all the details of the new issue here - and I believe that they will be running a KAL with yarn prizes to coincide with the launch over on their Ravelry group. We're also celebrating here by offering 10% off all Thick (Vahva) Pirkkalanka in the shop with coupon code POMPOM15, so please feel free to use it if the pattern has inspired you :)

Lastly, just a small announcement to say that we will be on holiday from the 8th of August. All orders placed after the 6th will be despatched on the 17th of August.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Midwinter Wedding!

So after several months of secretive knitting, bunting-making, booze-cruising and crockery-collecting, Mark and I tied the knot (literally) three weeks ago.

What was intended as a simple country wedding did turn out to be a three day celebration - our desire to have an outdoor ceremony meant that we also had to have a legal registry wedding first...twice the fun and twice the outfits!
My most special wedding splurge was the stunning silk and linen yarn from Siidegarte who I met at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, and who dyed this storm blue colour especially for me. The cardigan is Hitofude - a really exciting knit in an unusual but very clever construction.

Then there were gifts for the Mothers,  Best Lady and our own designated High Priestess. Being a summer wedding, the yarn of choice was our Lithuanian Linen - perfect for beautiful lace patterns and easy to wear stoles. The linen holds lace patterns beautifully, and it's lack of elasticity means that the fabric stays nice and flat, and of course drapes fantastically.

The Gunmetal and Ink stole was knitted with the Leaf Lace pattern, free from Ravelry

This Violet one is called Upstairs, also free

There was also one in the Rain on Window as well as the Branching Lace stitch from Eden Cottage Yarn's stitch dictionary...unfortunately we were working on these right up to the wedding and ended up giving them away before we quite got a chance to take proper pictures of them all!

And of course, I also had my own bridal shawl to make, in yarn that was gifted to me specifically by my linen supplier. The pattern is called Elderberry, but I took my inspiration from both the elderflowers that went into our welcome drinks and the hydrangeas in my bouquet and chose clear/silver beads with the green leaves. I also love the pattern because it reminds me of my favourite Berså pottery ;)

We wanted our day to be all about the things we love and this showed in everything, from the lebanese food made by a dear friend to board games, cheese wedding cake and , of course, a knitting corner. All our knitter guests were encouraged to bring their projects, and a few others asked to be introduced too! This resulted in possibly my very favourite picture of the day:

Lots of love
Mrs Midwinter

Friday, 10 July 2015


.. This could be a long one..

First off I should say that this is Mark writing this. Estelle is far too busy networking (shopping) and checking on contacts (Facebooking) and knitting (err... actually knitting!)
And that this is my first ever blog post! Woohoo! only a decade behind the rest of the world!

As this blog is a little behind (I will explain later) we've got a bit of catching up to do.


WoolFest was a great show for us, not only was it set in the beautiful hills and dales of Cumbria, it was full of nice people who seemed pleased to see us there.
We were in the smaller section of the show, fairly close to the back car park entrance. But there was so much to see, just in that smaller hall, that I have no idea how anyone managed to get around everything in one go. But thankfully there were strategically placed coffee vendors and places to sit down so people could spread the yarn overload out a little.
There was also live music in both halls, which kept my foot tapping throughout and gave the whole show a bit more of an upbeat festival air to it, which I loved!

The view from our room in a bog standard Premier Inn!

                                        Sheep! Herdwicks left and Teesdales right

                                           Estelle got far too excited over the sheep as usual

See what i mean? That is the back end of a Valais sheep
 Along the top wall of the bigger hall, the organisers had arranged a gallery showing a whole range of beautiful things you can do with wool, from stunning pieces of clothing to Art pieces. These two caught Estelle's eye.

Our friend  Fiona from the Edinburgh Wool Festival came along to show us her freshly finished, barely dry Linus! shown here with the hanks they came from- Heather and Blue,Green,Purple.

And of course it wouldn't be a good show without coming away with a little for the stash, now would it?
So we got three balls of Herdwick wool, spun in Laxtons mill. Rug wool from a local mill to complete the giant knitting kit from London. Some chunky cotton destined to become potholders. and  some last minute bargain bin cotton.
And then Estelle ruined the monochrome effect by getting some colourful fabric and a violet bag strap.

I started another Linus while in Cumbria, this time in Anthracite and Rainbow, which is going surprisingly quickly considering how slow I usually am.

So as you can see, much wool and much knitting is still happening, but I'll leave it there and carry on later when we'll get to what's been taking up so much of our time. (not much of a surprise if you follow us on Facebook but still)

To Be Continued ...