Wednesday 9 May 2018

Spring and new yarns!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday 31 January 2018

The Big Blanket project

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

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

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

Photo by Linnea Öhman

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

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

Tuesday 9 January 2018

Picking up where we left off?

...or almost!
I've had several little elves nagging me to resurrect this blog, and with everything that has changed in the year (!) since the last post, maybe it's time....

I guess the biggest change at Midwinter HQ since last year is that Midwinter HQ itself has moved 400miles north to beautiful Scotland. We were sad to leave our green valley behind, but the cottage on the hillside, a roaring fire and my first white Christmas since I was a teenager more than makes up for it.

We've been in awe of Scotland since the first time we came for the Edinburgh Yarn Festival 3 years ago, and now that we live here, the proximity of breathtaking landscapes and a living wool industry is still astounding.

I spent the autumn marvelling at the colours of the moors and how they are reflected in the tweed fabrics and yarns.

We attended the Loch Ness Knit Fest in Inverness in October, driving through the Cairngorms on the way up, and Glencoe on the very scenic way down, and I had my mouth hanging open in astonishment all the way.

The Loch Ness Knit Fest itself is a small but hopefully growing event which proved very inspiring - I seem to have bought more yarn there than at any show in recent times, but I found the customers so knowledgeable and the colourwork they wore so inspiring that a couple of distinctly Scottish projects found their way into my queue: a cowl in softest, heathered Rennie colours, and yarn destined to become an Oa sweater by Kate Davies.

Picture by Kate Davies

Another show that I am delighted to be able to call "local" now is the brand new Perth Festival of Yarn. Their inaugural event was in early September and it was a one-day riot! Lots of companies that Mark and I haven't come across before, perhaps because they are smaller and don't go to the "big" shows, but are no less interesting, and I am thrilled to see that Eva is expanding to two days of woolly goodness this year! One to watch, definitely ;)

Reading back, I realised that my last post was teasing the arrival of a very exclusive to us yarn. That yarn was, in fact, the Black & Blue, and it arrived shortly after writing that post. We took it to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival a few weeks later and was all gone in a weekend!'s here again, and this time it's available online too!!
So I can therefore finally introduce it properly:

Black&Blue is our own-produced yarn, made with fleeces from a single flock in North Wales, spun in Cornwall and now hand dyed in Scotland for a truly Celtic yarn. It is a gorgeous, soft blend of white and black Bluefaced Leicester wool, producing a gorgeous marled grey when undyed, and giving depth and life to the hand dyed colours. It's buttery soft without losing its' woolly character and I just can't quite get enough of it!

I used it for a slightly modified version of Isabell Kraemer's Always in my Heart earlier this year, and am now working on the Arboreal sweater by Jennifer Steingrass.

There is of course plenty more to tell you about, many more projects have been knat, yarns that have been planned, but maybe if I leave a little to tell, I will actually come back and write another post in a sensible amount of time ;)

With all our very best wishes for 2018!
Estelle and Mark