Musings

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It gives us terrific pleasure to introduce Oisín, the youngest member of the This Is Knit family. He was born nearly eight weeks ago, and he’s the dotiest wee person imaginable. And up above he’s posing in the Owlie sleepsack knitted for him by his Auntie Jen.

That beautiful picture is one of a series taken by Emmylie Cruz, a terrifically talented portrait photographer and a very good friend of This Is Knit. Her facebook page is at Emmylie Cruz Fotographia, and it’s such a treat to visit. Her images of children are particularly lovely, and the pictures of Oisín are amazing!

And here’s another picture, this time of Lisa bringing Oisín on his very first visit to the shop.

So welcome, Oisín, and the very biggest congratulations to Lisa and Ronan, your amazing parents!

Doing some good

With St Patrick’s Day just peeping over the horizon, Age Action Ireland Ireland launched a sweet Knitted Shamrock campaign earlier this week, and we’re delighted to tell you about it.

Here’s how it works: there’s a pretty shamrock pattern to download at this link. A shamrock takes just minutes to make, and we’ve all got oddments of yarn that can be put to good use.

Age Action Ireland is aiming for 20,000 shamrocks, which will be sold at a cost of €2 each from retail outlets throughout the country from March 1st, so every single one is precious. The deadline is February 25th, and you can find the address to send them to at that link as well.

Over the years, our customers have shown staggering generosity and ingenuity in Innocent’s Big Knit, which also benefits Age Action. Seasonal knitting, a fast-as-lightning pattern and a good cause – what could be better?

With the New Year just cast on, it’s a good time to remind ourselves of what 2013 brought us – and didn’t it do well?

Early in the year, we blogged about Veera Välimäki’s Color Affection shawl, and someone suggested a Knit-Along, and from then on, it was one glorious striped shawl after another! There was so much fun to be had in choosing colours and exchanging tips, and while the image above captures the range of gorgeousness well, it’s not even the full tally. The real total is probably more than one hundred, because we lost count around seventy five with, happily, no end in sight! It was our biggest Knit-Along so far, and who knows what will follow it in 2014?

Apart from being wonderfully talented and inspiring designers, what did Ysolda Teague, Aoibhe Ní, Carol Feller, Mary Jane Mucklestone, Gudrun Johnston and Woolly Wormhead have in common this past year? They all led workshops at This Is Knit, and the result was delighted crocheters and knitters with new skills and finished objects. There’s nothing quite like the happy buzz from the teaching area upstairs when there’s a workshop in progress, and it’s something we’re looking forward to hearing more of!

Aoibhe Ní and Carol Feller were guests of ours right here on the blog, too when they wrote guest posts for us. Aoibhe’s was a fascinating insight into how her flourishing design career has developed, and Carol’s was a field report on her visit to TNNA, the US trade fair for yarn stores (and it’s as exciting as you’d imagine).

And in August, a little earlier than previous years, we had the Yarn Tasting. What a night, with both Louisa Harding and Debbie Bliss there to present their new designs and yarn. So many samples to try out, so many garments to try on, so many friends old and new – it’s the best night of the year, and we can’t wait for the next one!

Very very special thanks to Louisa and Debbie! Over the years they’ve become valued friends of This Is Knit’s. We’d like to wish them both a very happy new year, and hope that it brings them back to see us again.

Over the year, we’ve seen so many beautiful finished objects, too. Babies were characteristically well provided for – there was Jenny O’s wonderful colourful blanket, for example (and the same post featured a beautiful blanket of Lisa’s too)…

…and we can’t resist showing you the Candy Floss booties again, because they’re probably the year’s most cooed-over sample in the shop.

There was also a very special This Is Knit wedding this year, so once again, our very best wishes to Nadia and John.

As the year drew to a close, we had the excitement of the Irish Yarn Club 2014, which led us neatly into thoughts of this new year and what it’ll bring yarnwise. There’s no doubt that there will be beautiful things to show you right through the year, and that most of them will be made by you, our talented and inventive customers. Seeing the yarn come back in through our doors, its final destiny all fulfilled, is truly the best part of running a yarn shop.

So from all of us at This Is Knit, may we wish you a very happy New Year! We can’t wait to see what it brings, can you?

Group think

Knitting group, stitch and bitch, craft night – whatever you call it, if you like crochet or knitting or tatting or embroidery and the idea of doing it in good company appeals, this is for you!

There are groups all over the city and the country – indeed, they’re all over the world! From beginner to expert, everyone’s welcome and you’ll soon see proof that everyone messes up sometimes. What’s more, you’ll get to know lovely people that you’d probably not meet otherwise. There’s no better place to find admiration for your finished object or commiseration when your work in progress doesn’t cooperate.

Dublin has a terrific resource in the Dublin Knit Collective – both on that site and in the related Ravelry group, you’ll find details of what’s convenient for you. For the rest of Ireland, the Irish Knitters group is a good place to look, and to ask if you can’t see anything. Then just come along with your project – and something simple’s perfect here, because all the laughter and chat can distract from the complicated stuff.

If you can’t find a group that suits you, then why not start one yourself? All you need is a venue with good light and some people to come along. Cafés and bars are good places, and community centres and public libraries are popular too. It’s a good idea to have a couple of core people who’ll show up every time until the group gets a head of steam. If there’s a sign on the table to announce that you’re a group and that people are welcome to join, you don’t just look like a few friends knitting while you chat.

Then tell the world! If you’re in Dublin, let the Dublin Knit Collective know, and post in Irish Knitters. Notices on noticeboards (especially in your venue) will bring people in too. Setting up a group of your own on Ravelry will mean that you’re findable there – and if you’re going away on holidays or for work, why not search if there’s a local group where you’re going and join them for an evening? They’ll be delighted you found them.

Yarn, skills, new friends – all that’s missing is you!

In other news, we’re over the moon about making the Irish Times shortlist for the Best Shop in Ireland. Thank you so much to all our lovely customers who nominated us! Voting has closed, with over three thousand nominations whittled down to just fifty, and we’re very proud to be in such wonderful company. You can see all the other nominees at that link, and the ten favourites will be announced on September 7th. We’re very excited!

Local

Descending into Glenmalure, Co. Wicklow (JP) / CC BY-SA 2.0

This past weekend, we got very excited about a grey woollen coat. This article in Irish Times Life and Style section tells of how Aisling Clancy, a graduate in textiles from NCAD, set out to make a glorious winter coat from home-grown Irish fibre, keeping the entire process as close to home as possible.

Starting with Wicklow Cheviot wool and alpaca from Kildare, the entire process happened in Ireland, with long-established mills and weavers contributing to the finished project culminating with Aisling’s tailored and elegant design. You can watch a video of the entire project here. It’s a really inspiring insight into the entire supply chain, as well as being beautifully directed and shot.

The renaissance of heritage breeds of sheep has been such a success in recent years, with Shetland (now with EU protected status) and Blue-faced Leicester leading the way. What if Wicklow Cheviot was next?

We’re in a particularly good mood – it’s St Patrick’s Day this weekend, the leaves are coming out on the trees and the days are getting longer. So we’ve decided to celebrate with a competition!

We want photographs of your crochet or knitting in a uniquely Irish setting! It can be a finished object or a work in progress (we love both!), and as for what “uniquely Irish” means, you decide! Baby booties by the Cliffs of Moher, a tea cosy snuggling up to a pot of Barry’s Gold Blend in Edinburgh, a bookmark nestling in a copy of Dubliners in Tokyo…. “Irish”, after all, means lots of things!

Entering this competition is easy: just post your picture in the thread in our Ravelry group. You’ve got until midnight on March 24th 2013 IST to post your entry, so there’s plenty of time to scout a location and get your work in the frame.

If you don’t know how to post a picture on Ravelry, here’s a chance to find out how very simple it is. There’s details on this help page, but we thought a couple of screen shots might be useful.

The easiest way of posting a picture in a forum thread is to upload it to somewhere else on the internet and then link to it from the thread. “Somewhere else” can mean a flickr account, a photobucket account, your blog, or simply a project page on Ravelry. Since everyone that’s entering the competition will already have a Ravelry account, this last is the one we’ll concentrate on here.

When you’ve set up a project page for your chosen object, you can add pictures to it by clicking on the tab that the arrow’s pointing to here:

That will bring you to a screen offering you all the photo upload options – we’re going to concentrate on one here…

…the one that makes it easy to post a project picture in a thread. So when you’ve uploaded your project pictures, go to the thread you want to post in, and click on “reply to thread”, down at the bottom right hand corner of the page. This will open a reply box, with a set of little images running along the top of it. The arrow’s pointing to the one you click on to add a picture:

You’ll be offered a number of choices here. We’re linking straight to the picture on the project page, so select that option:

This will allow you to select the project picture you want to display in your post, and then to add text if you like.

And that’s it! Your picture will appear as if by magic in the thread. What’s more, your readers can hop straight to your project page just by clicking on the picture.

But what, you ask, is the prize? It’s an armful of Irish yarn! Head on over to the competition thread for details, and then show us what we’re made of this St Patrick’s Day!

As for this coming weekend, we’re open as usual on Saturday, but closed on Sunday and on Bank Holiday Monday. We’ll be open again on Tuesday morning at 10.30am

When we heard some time ago that Kate Davies was writing a book, we knew we could expect a rare treat. We are, after all, some of her biggest fans. We’ve been reading her blog for years. We’ve loved her talks and classes here (and we’re very much hoping she’ll be back soon). We’ve knitted her designs with gusto. Even so, we weren’t entirely prepared for what she has delivered.

Called Colours of Shetland, it’s simply beautiful. It’s a very handsome book, amply illustrated with stunning photography by Tom Barr and John Moncrieff. It contains ten patterns for lovely garments and accessories, all using Jamieson and Smith 2-ply Jumperweight. (As soon as we heard that the book was coming out, we just ordered all the colours Kate uses in it, so they’re here and oh my! they’re lovely.)

There’s stripes and stranded colourwork here, and there’s clever techniques like top-down construction and steeking, and there’s cunning ruses such as the Stevenson Gauntlets, which are lovely in their own right (they’re in progress in the picture above) but also function as the tension swatch for the Stevenson Sweater. There’s hats and mittens and cardigans, with full colour charts and generous size ranges. You can see the full range over on Ravelry at this link.

The layout of the patterns is perhaps the clearest we’ve ever seen. The stages of the work are laid out under numbered headings (“1: cast on, work turned hem; 2: divide for pockets, and waist shaping to fronts and back” and so on), each introducing clear, unhurried instructions. If only all patterns were set out thus. And for once, the techniques section isn’t a catch-all “how to knit” chapter, but tells you how to work specific techniques such as steeking, corrugated rib and short rows. There’s even a couple of pages on how to make your own buttons from yarn.

So far, it’s a knitting pattern book, with charming patterns and lovely colour. It’s so much more than that. This is a knitting book in the sense that Elizabeth David’s or Claudia Roden’s works are recipe books. Colours of Shetland is a hymn to the Shetland Islands, divided thematically into five sections, each examining a different aspect of the islands. There’s history, there’s geology, there’s archaeology, there’s dialect geography, there’s botany. And there’s puffins.

Kate’s written a book which is deeply suffused with love and respect for a culture that reaches back four thousand years, at the crossroads of Northern European trade and travel. Buy this book, and you may find yourself planning a trip. You could even stay in a lighthouse.

_____

Colours of Shetland is now available to buy from our online shop here.

There’s something rather nice about the very final stages of a project – the last few ends to weave in, the buttons to sew on, a waft of the steam iron, and then it’s done, ready to take its place beside the other finished objects. Years are like that: the planning, the execution, the modification on the fly, and then the accomplishment after.

So before we get started on a fresh and shiny 2013, let’s have a look at what we’ve just finished. You might, as with the best projects, want to sit down with a cup of something while we look back.

The big news early in the year was the launch of the new online shop. This involved a lot of lists and a lot of pictures of yarn and a lot of computer code, and the result was a huge improvement on what it replaced. So we have happy memories of shooting beautiful yarn (that’s definitely Noro in the foreground, and isn’t that Studio Donegal Soft Merino ready for its close up?).

Judging from what you’ve been saying, you like it too (and we still want your feedback if we can make it better for you).

But really soon, it was spring, and our thoughts turned to garments that would be useful right through the summer. The Spring Knit Along kicked off in February, with a choice of two cardigans – it was enormous fun, with new skills learned and new yarn tried out and a wonderful supportive Ravelry thread. The result, in Lisa’s case, was this: a Fan Jacket that’s pretty and vibrant:

So keep an eye out for our next KAL – and spring can’t be far away now.

Over the course of the year we had the privilege of welcoming a lot of illustrious visitors to teach at This Is Knit, some old friends and some new. Carol Feller gave an excellent workshop on seamless garment construction, and one result of that was several of Carol’s pattern centenary cardigan, Ravi.

Kate Davies came back to This Is Knit in April and gave us the world premiere of her Steek Sandwich workshop. There was a lot of trepidation, and then a lot of triumph, as the steeks were cut and the stitches behaved:

We love Kate. We hope she comes back soon.

We were also very proud to host Aoibhe Ní to give a number of her clever Tunisian Lace crochet workshops – it’s been an amazing year for her, and we can’t wait to see what she does next.

Woolly Wormhead came to give a fabulous class on making the perfect hat in August, and goodness, there were so many to be inspired by: an entire table covered with clever, flattering headwear:

In September, we took over the theatre upstairs in the Powerscourt Centre for the annual Yarn Tasting. It was a lovely night, and Ysolda Teague and Carol Feller were our special guests for the evening.

There were exciting garments to try on…

…there were piles and piles of samples to rummage gleefully through…

and there was tempting new yarn to go home with. What more could you want as the evenings drew in?

Carol’s coming back in February to give us some more workshops, this time on short rows and on cables and charts – you’ll find details here.

In fact, that’s something else that was new in 2012: we started using a new booking system, the one that we blogged about back in April. It makes finding out what’s coming up and then seizing your place very convenient. A word of advice, though: events can book out very fast indeed when they’re announced (Woolly Wormhead and Ysolda’s workshops were full in a day or so), so the sooner you hear about them the better. The best way to keep up to date is to follow us on twitter – we’re @Thisisknit, and we announce sales, events and all sorts of things there, so keep an eye on our feed.

Indeed, if you were following us back in October, you’ll have found us live tweeting from the Blog Awards – we’re very happy to have been finalists, and we’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who nominated us, as well as a big Congratulations! to the winners. It was a fabulous night, and thank you to everyone who worked so hard to organise it.

Right in the middle of the year, we had the worldwide spectacle of the Ravellenic Games, with Team This Is Knit marching proudly into the stadium behind a small but appealing alpaca. Impressive feats of skill and daring were on display, new techniques mastered, new patterns deciphered, and in one case, a cardigan finished and then entirely frogged during the Olympic Closing Ceremony (it didn’t fit, and both the knitter and the yarn are much happier with something else). To everyone who took part, or cheered, or provided tea, salutation, and to our tireless Team Captains Jacqui and Nadia, thank you!

We’ve said many times that our favourite thing ever is when the yarn comes back into the shop, all made up into your finished object, so we can admire both it and your skill. This was a particularly good year for us, then.

Back in May, Clare, who’s clareblove on Ravelry, brought in her outrageously lovely steeked Latvian Garden Baby Blanket. Knitted in the round and then cut open before being backed with cotton fabric, this is a knitting tour de force.

It’s still on display in the shop, and not a day goes by without someone exclaiming over it in wonder. It’s all of that and more. Come see it.

Sometimes we get to see beautiful things that aren’t knitted, too. Late in the year, we made two new friends, Catherine and Annabel, who are visiting Dublin from Mauritius. It turns out that although knitting isn’t that big there (one can easily imagine why not!), other crafts certainly are. One day, Catherine brought in some of her ribbon embroidery to show us, and we gasped:

That’s the house where Catherine grew up. Such three-dimensional beauty, with the flowers spilling out of the frame, and every one of those flowers a little yellow ribbon French knot. And there’s more.

This one’s still in the embroidery frame, and it’s a riot of exuberant flowers in all the colours. We were simply charmed by it – thank you, Katherine, for showing us your lovely, inspiring work.

For all-round knitted delight, though, one event stood out this year. In April, Jenny, one of our customers, married Rossa. The wedding was one of the most beautiful and original we’ve ever encountered – a lavender theme, hand-made stationary, a wee knitted bride and groom on the top of the cake, and the loveliest Echo Beach shawl, all alight with Swarowski crystals.

The wedding photographer was Julie Matkin of halfadreamaway.com, and a very good friend of ours. All of these wedding pictures are her work (used with permission, of course), and if you want to see more, then go over there and look through the gallery, or click through to onefabday, which this week featured Jenny and Rossa’s day as one of their highlights of the year.

A lavender theme, you see! There’s more, much more, on the crafting of this delightful and touching wedding on Jenny’s own blog Crafty Tails. Go have a look – you’ll be glad you did. Jenny and Rossa, our very best wishes for a long and happy life together!

Finally, there was yarn! Boxes and boxes of it arriving through the door and leaving in smart paper bags – new brands, new ranges, new colours to show you. This year we added Coolree Yarns to the mix, hand-dyed in County Wexford by the very talented Alex McLeod:

And if you want to see it knitted up, here’s a shawl of Jacqui’s (looking back over these pages, she made a staggering number of shawls this year, including the Cladonia right at the top of this post) – doesn’t the colour work beautifully with the stitch pattern?

Also new this year were Jamieson and Smith Shetland wool in jumperweight and laceweight (we’re avidly awaiting Kate Davies’ new book), lovely soft Aran merino by Rico, MillaMia sportweight in those lovely bright shades and soft and colourful yarns from Katia. So much to crochet and knit, so much to plan….

Well, we’ve come to the end of the year – that’s the last end woven in, the last blocking wire removed. Time to fold up that project and cast on a new one. Knitting? Crochet? Spinning? Earthy cabled Aran or delicate lace (from the Irish Indie Dyers’ Lace Club, perhaps)? Oh, why choose – let’s do all of it!

Happy new year!

To the rescue

Here at This Is Knit, we’re very big fans of Ravelry. It’s useful in choosing patterns, it’s useful for substituting yarn, it’s useful for asking advice (after all, where else can you find thousands of crocheters and knitters eager to answer your every question?).

But there’s many other ways in which the combined wisdom of the Ravelry crowd can be helpful, so we thought we’d mention a few of them that you mightn’t have thought of.

The pretty little shawl above is an example of one. This is Stephen West’s Lakedale, designed for Malabrigo Sock. In the original printed version, there was a problem: some of the pattern was missing. But the designer, via Ravelry, came to the rescue. If you look at the pattern page for Lakedale, you’ll find the needed corrections. This sort of aftercare is simply invaluable and Ravelry provides a place where it can be provided free to us all. Indeed, before you start a pattern, it’s always a good idea to check out its pattern page to look for errata and see what comments other Ravellers have left.

A couple of years ago, a tragedy was averted. One of our customers embarked on the Print o’ the Wave stole. It’s a beautiful piece of lace, but it’s not a very quick project. The central panel is knitted first, with the lovely waving border knitted on around the edge. In total, there’s about five metres of border, made from easy repeats of a sixteen-row pattern. It takes a while, but it’s great fun.

Until the yarn ran out, ten centimetres short of the end. Ten centimetres out of five metres. You can see a picture of the gap by scrolling down right here, though it makes for heart-rending viewing. Since some months had passed since the yarn had been bought, the dye lot had changed, and the colour of the new one was strikingly different. (That advice to check your dye lots? That’s in deadly earnest.)

So the knitter posted a thread in the This Is Knit group, asking for scraps of the original dye lot. You can read what happened here, but suffice it to say that a fellow Raveller invetigated the posted stashes of others and found the single ball of yarn that completed the project. And so the Big Pink Pretty was saved, which would have been impossible otherwise. And lo! there was much rejoicing.

But what if you run into an issue with a pattern or have some question you’d like to ask a designer? In pre-Rav days, it was hard to get in touch, but now many, many designers are members themselves. What’s more, there are designer-specific groups, set up by fans or by the designer in question.

For example, there’s Kate Davies (Love), a group devoted entirely to Kate’s delightful patterns. Or there’s Aoibhe Ní’s group, called simply Aoibhe Ní, where you’ll find advice on her exciting new crochet lace techniques, news about her workshops and notifications of new patterns and crochet-alongs.

Then there’s special events like the knit-along for Carole Feller’s 100th pattern, Ravi. (That’s Jacqui’s one above). You’ll find the group here (though we’re happy to see that it’s turning into a group for other KALs of Carol’s new releases too).

So if you’re not already using Ravelry, or if you’ve just dipped your toe in to look for a pattern, there’s lots, lots more to the place, so come join the fun. You know, the best thing is this: it’s the users that make it what it is. And that means you.

Bunnies!

May we introduce Animal? Animal is an angora rabbit whom we had the opportunity to meet earlier today – she’s currently on holiday at Shauna’s Pet Shop on Capel Street, and since we don’t often get the chance to meet fibre animals in the city centre, we jumped at the chance.

Angora rabbits (and angora goats and angora cats) are named for the city of Ankara in Turkey, and they’re one of the oldest domestic breeds, though they’ve only been widely known in the West for a century or so. They produce extraordinarily fine hair which can be spun into the softest yarn imaginable.

They moult several times a year, and they need to be groomed several times a week to stop those gorgeous coats from matting. Unlike cats, they can’t get rid of hairballs and can become seriously ill without a good brushing every day or so. Luckily, they enjoy the process hugely – or at least, Animal did. She sat there on her special cushion and clearly loved being groomed with the big red grooming mitt.

And grooming produces quantities of the softest fluff – a couple of passes of the brush yielded this, which disappeared into a bag to be spun and knitted later by a fortunate craftswoman:

We’ll be stocking not only angora blends over the coming season, but also some pure angora, so we’ll all have reason to be thankful to Animal and her relations. Watch this space for details.

And we’re also very grateful to Shauna and her wonderful shop – you’ll find the Facebook page at this link. As well as bunnies and tropical fish, she’s got wonderful exotic creatures like iguanas and pythons and axolotls. You can’t get yarn from an axolotl, though.

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