From sheep to sock

In the last couple of weeks, we’ve had a completely new 100% Irish offering in the shop: S Twist’s gorgeous new Hiking Sock Yarn in lovely colours. When Diarmuid Commins introduced his handspun yarn in undyed colourways last May, he wrote a guest post about it for us. We’re very happy that he’s done the same for his new range!

The wool comes from Castlecomer, Kilkenny and is from Cheviot sheep, a breed with a centuries-long history. They’re a reliable producer of dense, firm wool that is durable without being harsh, with a long staple length and lovely bouncy crimp.


(Cheviot ewe and lamb © Donald Macleod and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons BY licence.)

In other words, it’s perfect sock wool. I add 10% nylon for extra strength, and then the wool is blended and spun for S Twist Wool. Each skein is then dyed individually. After the skeins have dried, I go through them to see which are finished as they are and which need to go back for another dyeing. Each round of dyeing adds another layer of complexity and depth to the colours of the skein. This, of course, is the part which is the most fun. It also means that every single skein is unique!

One of the main things that I love about this line of yarn is that it is like the knitter and I are doing it together. As I am dyeing up the different families of colour, I have an image in my mind of how the different skeins would work together and I use the techniques and tools of a dyer to make my image happen. As at least two skeins are needed to make a pair of socks, the knitter goes through a similar process while choosing which skeins to get. They then use the techniques and tools of the knitter to make their vision happen. At the end of it, the knitter and I have worked together to create something truly unique and special. I find that idea very exciting and a lot of fun.

I’d love to see pictures of your finished Hiking Sock Yarn projects – you can email them to thespinner@stwistwool.com, or post them in the S Twist group over on Ravelry!

Chicanery – a guest post from Jimenez Joseph

With the start date of our Knit-A-Long getting closer, we’re delighted to feature a guest post today from the designer of Chicane. She’s an incredibly talented designer living in Surrey in England – you can find the rest of her designs at this page, and she has a an active and friendly Ravelry group over at Jimi Knits and Other Bits. So with no more ado, it’s over to her!

I’m a graphic designer by trade and being creative was part of my training. Knitting is just an extension of that, I suppose. However, I’ve been knitting since Christmas 2008 – aged 40! A little late in the game you would say, but what I lacked in experience, I made up for in enthusiasm for the craft and a willingness to take risks. I would never have thought that in less than 2 years I would be designing knitting patterns!

I’ve always wanted to design something to wear that didn’t look “high street”. For me, it always had to have something unique about it – plus it had to be wearable so that I wouldn’t get laughed out of town!

Chicane was my first published sweater. My aim was to design a top that had a unique style, was economical with yarn, flattering to the body and can be custom-fit for the intended wearer. I am a visual knitter, meaning that I knit by eye, so in this case there would be very little reliance on numbers. Being made from the top down and flat, Chicane gives the knitter control and this allows them to make decisions on length and fit – and even construction.

Chicane can be modified in lots of ways:
Lace patterning: swap zigzag lace for something from a stitch dictionary (be mindful of the side decreases – some maths required).
No patterning: plain stockinette in a single colour.
Fastenings: instead of braided ties, try buttons. Work button holes into the top ribbing, or crochet some button loops instead.
No fastenings: sew up the ribbing for the sleeves, leaving a large opening for the neck (boatneck).
Colours: use contrast colour for ribbings, or as stripes.

Enjoy! Jx

Jimenez Joseph • www.jimiknits.com

Bake, Knit, Sew – Book Review and Competition

We are delighted to take part in the Bake Knit Sew Book Blog Tour. For this stop on the tour TIK Team-Member Nadia takes us through the book and tells us about some of her favourite patterns & recipes…

Cover

This wonderful book is written by Evin Bail O’Keeffe, who just happens to be a lovely customer too! Evin’s Blog has gone from strength to strength over the last few years with two finalist awards in 2012 / 2013 and finally winning in 2014. This attention to detail in her blog has transferred to her wonderful new book which left us both drooling over the recipes and adding to our Ravelry queues with her knitting patterns.

Bunting

This book is divided into months of the year with one baking recipe and a knitting or sewing pattern for that month. With 7 knitting patterns, 5 sewing projects and 13 recipes you won’t know where to start! The Strawberry Mascarpone tempted us to say the least. Just have a look at one of Evin’s beautiful pictures:

Strawberry

My favourite pattern in this book is the Falling Petals Lace Shawl. This shawl is deceptively simple even though the lace section may look a bit daunting, it’s a perfect beginner project. You can see the rest of Evin’s Knitting patterns over on her Ravelry page, though I won’t lie, the Cobblestone Boot Toppers are going to be the first thing I knit! I can just imagine them in some smooshy Cashmerino Aran!

Shawl

I really can’t say enough great things about this book and in the spirit of the season, Evin is generously offering our readers a 10% discount on Bake Knit Sew. Head over to get your copy of the eBook on Ravelry or a signed paperback directly from the publisher. Simply use the discount code BLOGTOUR for 10% off. Thanks Evin!

Evin is also offering a free ecopy of her book, AND a free paperback copy, so we will have two lucky winners. To enter leave a comment below before Wednesday 10th of December 2014, telling us which of the designs you would want to make or recipes you want to bake to be in with a chance to win an ecopy of the ebook.

No purchase necessary. Winner must have a valid email address or Ravelry account. No cash equivalent will be offered for either prize.

Check your local library!

Today, we’re featuring a guest post by Jenny O’Neill, combining her expertise in librarianship and knitting to pass on some clever advice on finding patterns. You can read more from her at her blog, Crafty Tails (worth your time just for the dog photography, though there’s so much more!)

One of my favourite pastimes is browsing patterns on Ravelry. Recently I was indulging in this hobby and researching patterns for my first ever adult garment when I spotted a new feature. I don’t know if it’s a new to Ravelry feature, but it’s new to me. When viewing Carol Feller’s Contemporary Irish Knits book, under the buying options I spotted a ‘search your local libraries’ link.

As a librarian I was intrigued and excited to see Ravelry teaming up with local libraries. To me this is a genius idea. Sometimes you only want one pattern from a book or simply want to have a flick through before buying the whole book. And sometimes stretched budgets simply don’t have enough room in them to justify buying yet another book. This is exactly why libraries exist – to give everyone equal access to information and education and knitting patterns.

Clicking the link on Ravelry brings you to the WorldCat entry for Contemporary Irish Knits. WorldCat essentially aggregates library catalogues from around the world, allowing you to search the collections of around the world. Searching for Contemporary Irish Knits in Ireland returns just one result – the library in Trinity College Dublin.

But a similar search on BorrowBooks.ie reveals that there are copies available in public libraries in Cork, Galway, Leitrim, Limerick, Mayo, Offaly, Westmeath, Fingal, Dun Laoghaire, Dublin City and Kilkenny. South Dublin even have an ebook copy available. BorrowBooks.ie is a service that allows you to search across the Irish public libraries’ online catalogues. If you are already a member of an Irish public library service you can request that a book from (almost) any library in the country be sent to your local library via a service known as inter-library loans. Cool, right?

If you are not a member of your local library then why not? You can find a full list on the Ask About Ireland website. Think of all the money you can save on knitting books that you can then spend on more yarn. See? Genius!

Presenting S Twist yarn!

If you’ve dropped into the shop in the last couple of weeks, you’ve probably been admiring our newest range, S Twist Yarn: Irish handspun yarn in lovely natural shades. It’s a unique product and a very welcome development in Ireland, so we thought you might like to hear from Diarmuid Commins, the man behind this innovative company. So over to you, Diarmuid!

S Twist Yarn Studio, located in Dublin, is the latest, homegrown yarn company. The ideas behind S Twist wool were first conceived about three years ago and the first two years were spent developing the instruments and processes for what we believe is the only hand spinnery in Ireland.

The studio’s main product is handspun yarn from Irish fleece. The wool is sourced from local farmers from around the Golden Vale area in Tipperary. We are delighted that, this year, the lion’s share of our wool will be sourced from the Camphill Community at Grangemockler.

In fact, the Camphill community was where I was first introduced to craftwork. I first learned spinning and weaving at the Camphill in Gorey, Co. Wexford, and then continued my weaving training at the community in Stroud in Gloucestershire.

It’s been great working with This Is Knit and the rest of the craft community in Dublin and elsewhere in Ireland – I really appreciate the warm welcome and I’m looking forward to much crafting and fun for all of us in the future.

Thank you, Diarmuid! We can’t wait to hear what happens next, and we hope you have a great Bank Holiday weekend!

If you’re planning to drop into the shop over the weekend, then here’s a reminder that we’re open on Saturday as usual, closed on Sunday because we’re on summer opening hours, and closed on Monday because it’s a Bank Holiday. We’ll be open as normal on Tuesday!

A new tradition

Today we’re delighted to feature a guest post by Fiona Parker and Daniel Rye, who supply us with amazing Navia yarn from the Faroe Islands. As part of the Slow Fashion movement, they’re committed to bringing traditional skills and twenty-first century styling to a wider market, and we’re very pleased to be part of that.

The Faroe Islands – a tiny archipelago in the North Atlantic – mean a lot to us. We met there, lived there, and now we import Faroese yarns. As UK and Ireland agents for Navia we are helping to spread the word about these wonderful wools and an amazing knitting tradition.

Navia (from the word Scandi-navia) was started 10 years ago by Óli Kristian á Torkilsheyggi, a young entrepreneur whose family has been in the wool business for generations, and who also finds time to tend his own flock of sheep. When we visited last summer, he helped our four-year-old daughter feed milk to a young lamb.

Navia yarn is a blend of Faroese wool with Shetland wool, and Australian lambswool. Òli Kristian is a perfectionist who is always seeking to improve the quality of his yarns, and to find new colours and blends.

The Faroe Islands have a rich heritage of knitting patterns, which Navia have taken into the 21st century by commissioning some wonderfully stylish patterns from a talented team of Faroese designers. Every 6 months or so a new pattern book is published, which we then translate into English. The photos for these patterns are taken by Òli Kristian’s sister, Beinta – it is a real family business!

We are so thrilled that This is Knit is the first shop in Ireland to stock Navia yarn and patterns, and we hope that readers of this blog will get a chance to visit the shop to see and touch these gorgeous yarns for themselves!

We’ve just got some stunningly gorgeous sample garments from Navia to display in the shop, so drop in and feel the finished product for yourself if you can. We’ll be sure to feature them in a blog post here very soon too, so there’s a treat in store for colourwork fans!

All images in this post © Navia Yarn

The passenger

Today, we’re featuring a guest post from Ken McCamish, a very good friend of ours who lives in Jeffersonville, Southern Indiana. When he told us how his car reacted to his knitting, we wanted to share it with you, so over to Ken!

We call it The Passenger. It’s the name given to my cone of Donegal Tweed I purchased at This is Knit.

The whole thing started out as a simple overseas trip to Ireland with my nephew, Cody. Since I’d never been to Ireland, the first thing I wanted to do was log onto my favorite hotel-finding site and have another window open with knitmap.com in it. Doesn’t everyone use this method to find hotels? I settled on Brooks Hotel, which looked lovely on the website and which was a very short walk to a yarn store called This is Knit.

This is Knit turned out to be a wonderful shop. It’s one of those shops where a yarn enthusiast feels right at home even though he’s 6,000 or more kilometers from home. I dutifully picked up a nice collection of yarn and then I saw a display for Contemporary Irish Knits, by Carol Feller. As I was flipping through its pages, my nephew came up behind me and noticed the Straboy sweater.

“I want one of those! Make me one of those!”

Normally I’d have shrugged it off but as my nephew was starting to express an interest in knitting and since I’m willing to do anything to get another family member into the fold, I agreed to make one for him. Nadia told me that if I wished, the shop could order the yarn on a cone and ship it to my house in America for a little less than it would cost to buy the yarn in skeins. I could get two of the sweaters from one cone! Since I’d never bought yarn cones, I knew I had to do it that way!

The yarn arrived sooner than expected and since it was cheaper than estimated, Lisa gave me shop credit. (Credit in yarn is like good cheese. There’s no such thing as too much!) I packed up the project to take to work that first night after receiving my cone. I had the book, appropriate needles and sundries, and my cone of Donnegal Tweed in the passenger seat of the car. As soon as I pulled out of the driveway I heard a beeping noise. My car was complaining that my passenger was not wearing a seatbelt.

If I wasn’t already a Knitter with a capital “K” for using knitmap to decide what hotel to book in a new city, I think I earned it the night my car mistook my yarn for a passenger. My husband, Dani, dubbed that yarn cone The Passenger and it has kept that moniker ever since.

“Are you taking the Passenger to work?”
“No, I’m going to work on these socks tonight instead . . . .”

The Straboy was not nearly as hard as I’d expected once I’d gotten the mechanics straightened out in my head. However, now that I’ve finished the Straboy sweater, I feel a little lost without my friend. Maybe I’ll wind up a huge cake of yarn or two and see if they pass the seatbelt test. Let’s see if I can get away with my next project counting as a legal passenger for carpooling!

Guest Post: So, you wanna be a designer?

One of the many lovely things about running a yarn shop is seeing our customers and friends progress in their crafts, gaining more confidence and developing new skills all the time. Aoibhe Ni was already a highly skilled craftsperson when we first met her, but in the last few years she has become an incredibly talented designer, with a huge following on Ravelry, and a highly sought-after workshop teacher.

In this guest post she shares her thoughts on the process of becoming a designer and offers some advice for others who would like to follow a similar course. Thanks Aoibhe!


I think at this stage it’s safe enough to call myself a professional crochet designer.

I design, and I make a living out of it, so the definition fits. But I have to admit that I still feel like I have a lot to learn. Around every crochet-laden corner, I find a new knot I have never encountered before, and I suspect I’ll never run out of mathematical muddles to resolve.

But there are many things I wish I had known earlier, and that’s what this post is about. This is my attempt to give a hand up to anyone thinking of taking a similar path to mine. If I can help you avoid some of the pitfalls I encountered, then my work here is done.

So, let’s launch into a list of 5 things I wish I could tell younger me.


1. Starting out, keep it simple.

Ambition is a great thing, but you have to keep a handle on it. Baby steps, folks. Don’t try to run before you can walk. Design a simple glove that you’d like to wear yourself. Then write it up. Show it to some friends, ask them to give the pattern a go. If you’re not half bad at writing, bravo! That’s your first challenge overcome.

If, on the other hand, your writing makes about as much sense as sanskrit to a monkey, then read some patterns by the pros, learn the flow that good pattern text requires. It’ll stand to you.

Really, really simple

Really, really simple.

2. Free Patterns, Yea or Nay?

I have mixed feelings about free patterns. I actively warn my beginner crochet students against them, mostly because I fear they will contain mistakes or will be badly written, leaving those new to crochet feeling like it’s their fault, and that they’ll never “get it”. But, I also offer free patterns, myself.
“What’s up with that, you hypocrite?!”, I hear you bawling. Well, I reply above the din, I think a well-written free pattern that proves you can write well, and that your diagrams are clear and your style is legible, is the best thing a new designer can do. It will ensure people trust your ability to write. This may lead them to buy a paid pattern.

But don’t undervalue your work! Offer one or two choice patterns for free, but ensure they are on the simpler end of the spectrum. The key here is to whet the appetite, not allow people to satisfy their curiosity completely.

The right free pattern can bring a lot of good attention your way

The right free pattern can bring a lot of good attention your way.

3. A good editor not within your budget right now?

Never fear, Ravelry has several very well regulated, and extremely active tester groups. Search them out, follow their guidelines for offering your pattern for testing, be up front about what you want to get out of the test (do you need your testers to calculate duration of project? Yardage used? Do you need them to use a specific yarn?) and listen to your tester’s feedback. They will be the best resource you could ever hope for when it comes to honing your skills.

The Testing Pool

This group is my favourite; The Testing Pool

4. Remember that mistakes happen.

You will release patterns with errors in them, deadlines will come and go with a whoosh, everything takes longer than you expect it to (even this blog post… sorry, This Is Knit!), but own up to the error and you will find most people will understand. Stay silent, and any good feeling you may have built up will likely start to fade.

5. Most importantly, Be You.

Design for yourself above all else. Your taste will come out in your work whether you want it to or not, so go with it. Don’t try to design something that is fashionable right now. By the time you get your version out, it’ll be 6 months forgotten.
If you design to your own taste, for your own aesthetic, it’ll always look good on you and that is why it’ll sell. But even better, you will start to gather fans around you who like that style, and will stay around to see what you produce next, confident that they will like that too. And that really, from this designer’s perspective, is the key.

Be Yourself

Your own unique view on design is your greatest asset.

So, I wish you luck, and inspiration, and lots of yarn support from your favourite yarn makers. It’s more than a full time job; you’ll never stop working and planning and promoting … but if you catch it at the right angle, and are blessed with a smile from the yarn gods, it’s worth every ounce of effort you can give it.


Aoibhe’s next workshop at This is Knit is on Saturday the 21st of September and you book a place right here.

So, are you a budding designer? Have you been inspired? Tell us about your work in the comments – we love to hear what you’re all up to!

Guest Post: TNNA by Carol Feller

We’re delighted to welcome the words of world-famous Irish designer Carol Feller to our wee blog today. Carol recently travelled to the yarn industry’s biggest trade show, called “TNNA”, in Columbus Ohio. The June show (that Lisa and Jacqui attended back in 2009, and hope to make it back to some *year* soon!) previews all that the yarn world has to offer for the upcoming Autumn/Winter season. We’re thrilled to be sharing Carol’s experiences with you all…

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At the end of June I went over to Columbus, Ohio for a trade show, TNNA Unlike most knitting shows in Ireland and the UK this show is aimed entirely at yarn stores which makes it very different. It means that buyers are there on behalf their businesses and it also means that it’s not going to be as crowded as a show that sells directly to the customer.

As a knitwear designer there are multiple layers of benefit. The most obvious one is that I get to promote my new book, Among Stones, to yarn stores.

Among Stones

Even though this is my second time going to the show it was my first time exhibiting. I have a US distributor, Deep South Fibers who has a block of booths that we can reserve. I opted to share a booth this year and I was paired with Stephen West who is always lots of fun! It is rare as a knitwear designer to meet up with other designers, so events like TNNA are a huge mental overload…but in a good way. Every year I get to meet up with old friends and meet a whole host of new faces.

Carol's Booth

This is where the next layer of TNNA comes in for me, networking. Not only do I get to spend every evening with designers I love, I also get to meet and talk with magazine and book editors that I’ve only known virtually. It’s good to have a face to put with the name and it does make emails easier when you have a personal knowledge of the person on the other end.

Irish Yarn

Last year I began doing some teaching on knitting tours for Tourism Ireland and they put together a great hamper for me to give away at my stand this year. It made me feel extra Irish to have a big basket of Irish yarn at my feet! I was astonished at how much interest there was from yarn stores about the tours. Seems like everyone wants to come to Ireland knitting.

So what about the yarn I hear you say….

There was much yarn, needle, button and knitting goodness. Interestingly there seemed to be tons of bright neon yarn, there was even a very cool yarn with light reflector material spun through it to make reflective accessories. Who doesn’t need a hat that glows in the dark right?

Swag

I discovered that I am very focused on greens at the moment, every shade from lime through to olive. The only yarns I actually brought home with me this year were Phydeaux Designs ‘Caresse’ and Anzula Yarns ‘Cricket’. You may notice they are both green…

A couple of booths, Sweet Georgia Yarns, Shalimar Yarns and Shibui Yarns really caught my eye – especially the Silk Cloud yarn…in green of course!

I forgot to go back and order some but Moving Mud had the cutest buttons and accessories. The small, flat buttons they were displaying were just beautiful.

Hopefully this post will give you a little flavour of what my extended weekend was like, now add in enough talking that your voice was gone when you got home, lots of cocktails and 17 hours of travel each way and you’ll be right there with me!

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Wow, that’s a lot of yarny goodness right there! We hope you enjoyed the round up. And, we’re curious… if you could choose one of the featured brands for TIK to stock, which one would it be? Tell us in the comments and, you never know, wishes just might come true! :)