Wednesday 10 December 2014

It's beginning to look a lot like....

...people are going to get half-knitted jumpers wrapped up under the tree this year!
I don't understand where the autumn has gone! I don't know if it's the sudden addition of wedding planning, which, trust me, is not that big an affair, and we ve known what we wanted it to be like for a couple of years already yet I still seem to manage to spend hours looking at cake ideas instead of getting on with knitting. I suddenly seem to be the world's most easily distracted woman.

Nonetheless. We're a couple of weeks late but at least the house now looks Advent ready.

Advent is a bigger deal in Sweden than it is here, and I like it very much. Advent has its own set of decorations, the welcome lights and the star in the window, the four advent candles of course, some little table cloths featuring gingerbreads or little house elves on them. This means that you are not thrown straight into full glittery Christmas mode at the beginning of December, just a gentle sense of needing to get on with preparations whilst sipping hot chocolate.

I'm also enjoying the weather finally FINALLY turning cold and crisp. I know that a mild autumn is a blessing in many ways but nothing is quite as invigorating as stepping outside and seeing your breath in front of you. And as daylight is so scarse, I'm trying to make use of every moment I can to fill up, be it having coffee and scones with the best view in Caerphilly (from the Visitor Centre straight on to the Castle, much recommended) or snatching a little al fresco knitting in the garden, bundled up in all the layers you've got.

This really is the season when being a knitter comes into its own! Noone gets to be quite as toasty and cosy as we are :)

I do wish I could show you some actual knitting happening...but there are some nosy little elves who may be reading this blog and I don't want to spoil any surprises! So in the meantime, I wish you all a very happy Advent time - what presents are you working on? Do tell us below!

Sunday 16 November 2014

Oh dear....

My sincerest apologies for the gap in blogging - lots of things have been going on in the Midwinter household... Last month we thought we were gearing up for a house move to West Wales - this sadly fell through but what with silver linings, in the midst of it all, we got engaged!

Last weekend we made a little trip to London to meet the wonderful Christina Ecco who made my beautiful ring to make a couple of alterations to it - I cannot recommend her enough, both for her elegant designs and her incredible customer service and general amazingness. Do have a look at her Etsy shop, either for special occasions or just as a treat!

I could probably have arranged the alterations by post, but it felt like a good excuse to spend a weekend catching up with friends in our old home city - we lived in London for 8 years before moving to Wales. We spend the weekend mostly....stuffing our faces! The record must have been in Islington where we lunch at Wagamama and their copious portions, came out swearing we would never eat again, strolled up all 150yards of Camden Passage (via Loop, of course) and came out the other side thinking that tea and cake would be lovely round about now.

I was very restrained in Loop - I ve wanted some Madelinetosh Prairie lace weight for some time but even though I love her dyeing, I haven't been able to find a colour that quite worked for me til now. This time I found a few to hesitate between and finally settled on Dirty Panther, a beautiful graphite grey. No idea what I will make with it yet, but it's just so pretty and soft :)

As we had a couple of errands to run across London, I got a chance to spend a little longer on the Tube and get my knitting out which took me back a bit! When we lived there, most of my knitting progress happened on the TfL, entire sweaters knitted going up and down the Metropolitan line...

I wish I could tell you what that piece of knitting is, but unfortunately, we have now entered Super Secret Christmas Knitting Season and I can't say anything beyond that it is our beautiful Gotland Wool, just as I can't tell you what the yarns below are for, but they are some exciting new colours of Ullcentrum 3ply  - I don't officially stock them yet, but if you are interested in any of them, please let me know!

How is your Christmas knitting going? Are you working on anything for loved ones, or just indulging  in something special for yourself?

Tuesday 21 October 2014


"Raggsockor". The Swedish equivalent of looking forward to a mug of hot chocolate.

We Swedes like to indulge in winter. We wallow in it. We curl up indoors with mugs of hot chocolate and log fires and enjoy listening to the wind blowing around our triple-glazed windows. We even have a word for clothes for being cosy in - "myskläder". When I was little, those were mostly velour pants...

And nothing is as comforting as pulling on a pair of Raggsocks. Thick, aran-weight socks knitted in a yarn typically plied in two different colours, adding to the raggedy, rustic effect, and with a generous ribbed ankle and plain foot, these are wonderful as house socks or warming boot socks. If you are 5 years old (mentally), they are great for skating on wooden floors. But most of all, they are super quick to knit!

So as the wind and rain and autumn seem to have finally reached the UK, I am pleased to say that we now stock genuine Raggsockyarn from Svarta Fåret at Midwinter Yarns.

Traditional greys and red
Modern brights

Available in 10 marled colours as per tradition,  this is the only yarn at Midwinter that contains a percentage of man-made fibre - 30% polyamide. The only reason for that is because of the increased wear that socks suffer - I am a fierce advocate for natural fibres (i.e. a yarn snob) but even I have had to admit that adding a little poly to socks makes them last and wash so very much longer, and make them worth the work.

Adult socks take 3 balls - all purchases of 3 balls or more receive a free pattern for the socks, of course!

I tried a few different brands before picking Svarta Fåret for the shop, partly because of the fun colours, but also because it is very nice and soft, so no itchy socks here! The yarn can of course also be used for any other garments, it knits up just like a normal aran weight :)

For the ultimate in Swedish chic, wear with clogs, although sadly I don't currently own any !

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Hiro Cardigan

Finally off the needles!

Pattern: Hiro
Yarn: Vahva Pirkkalanka - Worsted weight
Colours: Deep Orange, Moss, Chartreuse, Denim
Needles: 4.5mm
Modifications: Added extra colourwork around the bottom hem, omitted buttonbands as sewed in a zip instead.


Sunday 21 September 2014

Autumn shop update

The temperature may still be teasing us in the 20s but the days are definitely drawing shorter, and thoughts turn to things warm and woolly. Therefore, I would like to take the time to introduce the new yarns that have joined Midwinter for the season:

Ullcentrum 3-ply

I have mentioned this yarn before, and it is now available in the web shop
This is a thicker version of the Ullcentrum single ply lace and 2ply fingering gradients, and comes in vibrant solid colours dyed on grey yarn for added depth. It knits up as a good DK weight and would be perfect for Christmas jumpers! 200m / 100gr

Filcolana Gotland Wool

Gotland sheep is a breed of Swedish origin but are bred elsewhere in the world too, including here in the UK. The Filcolana Gotland Wool, however, is spun in Denmark from Swedish sheep and has all the wonderful characteristics of the Gotland sheep. Light-weight and somewhat hairy, it is sometimes called "Nordic Mohair" and makes for wonderful, draping garments with a hint of metallic sheen. This one is next on my knitting list! DK weight with a generous 270m / 100gr 

Genuine Greenland Wool

This yarn proved very popular at the Bristol Wool Fair - wonderful, hardy wool from beyond the arctic circle! Great for outer layers and non-clothing items such as cushion covers, in 4 natural undyed colours.
Aran weight - 160m / 100gr

Ullcentrum - new colours

A couple of new colours have just arrived: Cerise-Red, a glorious, deep, rich combination of deep pink and red, another one that I just can't wait to knit up, and Gooseberry: forest green, soft pink and natural brown, both in the 2-ply sport weight. 

Finally, a new colour in the lace weight: dramatic Red and Black. I can imagine this with beads on for the party season!

I do hope that you'll like these new yarns and that they will inspire you for the cold season. The summer has been long and wonderful, but as a knitter, this is the season I enjoy the most!

Tuesday 9 September 2014

Bristol Wool Fair

This weekend was the first ever Bristol Wool Fair, taking place on the Durdham Downs. For a first event and a gamble by both organisers, traders and visitors, it turned out beautifully.
Making use of the ancient right for commoners to graze sheep on the Downs, the event had a real country festival feel in the middle of town. There was a great selection of independent yarn and fibre traders - some a little more seasoned, many brand new to the market like me - housed in 3 marquees around the central arena where there were sheep sheering displays and duck herding.

The weather was kindly on our side for the whole three days bar a brief spell of rain on Saturday morning.

I arrived very early on Friday morning - unusually, this wool fair was trading for a full three days - and set about putting up the stand by myself as Mark was tied up covering holidays at work. If Santa is listening, I would hereby like to ask him for an electrical screwdriver for Christmas! A couple of hours flew by just trying to get the racking up and I had barely started getting the yarn on the shelves when the safety inspector came around to check that we were ready to open, so my sincere apologies if I seemed utterly flustered around the first visitors.

I had thought that opening on a week day would give us a gentle start to the weekend, but the day absolutely flew by with a very steady stream of customers and wonderful people to chat with all day long.

I had written a new pattern for the occasion - the Linus shawl, designed to show off the gradient colours of the Ullcentrum in alternating stripes.

The sample is knitted in the Heather and Natural Greys colourways and both of those had sold out by the end of the first day. In the evening I found another 5 hanks of the grey at home that I had put aside for my next project - these too were gone by Saturday lunch time! Rest assured that I will be ordering both of these colours back in in the next couple of days and let you know as soon as they are back in the shop :)

Saturday morning was a little overcast and drizzly, but a much more relaxed start for me. I arrived a little before opening and had a lovely stroll around the grounds, greeting the sheep and the alpacas and finally getting a chance to see some of the other stalls.

My first purchase was some beautiful plant dyed Shetland yarn from the small flock at Gone Astray. Plant dyes mesmerise me -the colours are so beautiful and gentle. These are dyed with different batches of indigo, onion skins and teal plant and will become a stripy jumper...after the other two jumpers I'm already planning this winter...oops.

Sunday I snuck in a little more shopping in the morning. My stall was in the same marquee as Five Moons and Sharon, myself and a group of visitors had bonded over Gudrun Sjoden clothing. One of my favourite things is watching customers pick out colours that I would never have thought of putting together myself and coming up with truly inspiring combinations, and a recurring , Gudrun-esque theme this weekend was green and pink. Sharon had some Pirkkalanka in those shades from me, I returned the favour with a selection of her mini-skeins for 2 pairs of socks which I can't wait to cast on!

I also bought some Welsh Wool fabric for my mother for a skirt, and this ball of Estonian lace yarn from Namolio. I'm not quite sure just what I'm going to do with 1400 meters of very fine grey yarn, but one of my customers let me pet a ball that she had bought and then I just wanted one of my own!

My absolute highlight of the weekend though was having people come to my stall to show off their finished projects.
Sara and Francoise have been champions of Midwinter from our very first day at Wonderwool and on Saturday, Sara came in wearing her Ivar cardigan in the thin Pirkkalanka.

Later the same day, another lovely lady came to show me her Reverse Psychology shawl in Ullcentrum Lace weight bought at Unwind, and the very neatly matching handbag with it.

Sadly, this was the last show that we had booked for this year. I'm going to miss doing them a lot over the winter, it's so much fun going on road trips and meeting fellow knitters and crocheters and introducing the yarns and their backstories to them. Hopefully, we will be at many many more shows in the spring, in the meantime, the online shop is of course available and there is now a Midwinter group on Ravelry where you are welcome to share your projects and ideas :)

Monday 1 September 2014

Looking towards autumn

The first ever Bristol Wool Fair is kicking off this Friday, looking like a promising celebration of all things wool. Sadly it is our last show for this year - I would have liked to have done many more but due to the late spring date that we started the company, we missed most of the deadlines for applying. But don't worry, we fully intend to participate in every show that will have us from next year! There is nothing quite like the opportunity to show off the yarns "in the flesh" and interacting with knitters, crafters and other yarn traders and I really enjoy the road-trip aspect of travelling to shows as well.

After a lovely long summer, I am now really looking forward to getting stuck in to autumn knitting and taking the opportunity to introduce a few new yarns at Bristol. We'll be bringing plenty of sweater amounts, hoping to inspire some proper winter woollies :)

First up is Ullcentrum's 3ply Swedish wool. This is a thicker version of the Ullcentrum single ply lace and 2ply fingering gradients, and comes in vibrant solid colours dyed on grey yarn for added depth. It knits up as a good DK weight and would be perfect for Christmas jumpers!

I've also been working on a new pattern in the 2ply gradient - a very simple striped shawl alternating two different colourways to really show off the yarn. I will have the pattern with me at Bristol and make it available on Ravelry soon after.

After my trip to Sweden and Denmark last month, I've also been looking in to new suppliers and am very excited to say that we finally have some Gotland Wool coming our way - fingers crossed in time for the show!

I have also been test knitting a very rugged wool from Greenland, no less. Not one for your next-to-the-skin knits, but for strong, warm, lightweight aran sweaters certainly, available in a small range of natural colours.

I also want to share a little discovery with you: Tiger Stores, a cheap and cheerful scandinavian chain that are rapidly expanding across the UK, are now selling circular needles in their hobby section. For the grand price of £2 a pair, I was very impressed with the quality and design: Bamboo needles with a reasonable join and nice looking nylon-covered wire cable.

Maybe not ones for pure silk lace weight heirlooms, but I used them for test knitting the sweater yarns and found them very nice to work with, especially as bamboo needles in John Lewis will set you back £6 at least. At the moment, they only seem to be available in 60 and 80cm and whole sizes from 3 to 6mm but hopefully, with a little feedback, they might expand the range?

So don't forget to come by and say hello if you are coming to Bristol - we will be in the Blackbeard marquee....I must dig out my eyepatch for the occasion!

Tuesday 19 August 2014

Inspirations - In which Mark learns to knit

This is Mark, my other half of many years. You may have come across him being terrifyingly efficient if a little bewildered at shows: 

Although always appreciative of knitting and all things woolly, he has never expressed any desire to learn to knit himself, dismissing it as "too fiddly". Until now.
In the van on the way home from Unwind Brighton, Mark suddenly announced that "he probably should learn to knit". Apparently this was due to the two lovely bearded gentlemen who visited our stall a couple of times during the show and asked what the yarns were like to knit with. Although Mark was quite capable of answering questions about fibre content, origin and meterage, he had to admit that he was, in fact,"not a knitter". The gentlemen recoiled and looked him up and down with such vigour that it shamed him into feeling that really, if he's going to be selling knitting supplies, he should know what he is talking about.

So that became our little project for the holidays. I picked up some short, not too thin needles from the charity shop (everything at home is cabled and there was no need for those just yet) and found some nice British Breeds Jacob aran weight wool at home. We decided on a garter stitch cowl as a first project - not as soul-destroying as a neverending scarf, and something that he could actually use once it was finished.

After the initial tongue-sticking-out stage, he seemed to relax naturally into it:

We left him alone for a morning:

And before the week was up, lo and behold, finished cowl!:

So thank you, kind bearded gentlemen of Brighton, you made Mark learn to knit :)

As for me, I was inspired by a visit to my friend Lina in Sweden. I've seen plenty of pictures of her house on her blog before, and the reality made me deeply jealous, in the kindest possible way. I am frustrated by the lack of architectural thinking in the UK, a long rant which I will spare you, and realising that what is considered a "tiny little house" in Sweden is in fact on par if not slightly bigger than our very middle class new-build (but with more windows and storage) was truly disheartening.
Just imagine waking up here every morning....

photo by LinaOJ

Even her studio a short drive away in town was breathtaking: you opened the door from a normal street and inside was this magical courtyard with ancient steps and tumble down outbuildings with painted doors, and of course, Lina's kingdom of fabric. :)

She even let me have a couple of goodies, some sunshine coloured sheets and that piece of orange fabric on the top, seen here with my other textile finds:

But at the same time, Lina's is a joyous, colourful, wonderfully Swedish home and it inspired me to try and do the best I can with what we've got and fill it with colour and crafts and ragrugs and fika.

Photo by LinaOJ

Photo by LinaOJ

I've even dug out my rigid heddle loom and set about making ragrugs - very handy as it's also helping me clear my craftroom of all the fabrics I don't really use anymore!