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Friday, 27 February 2015

TUTORIAL - applied I-cord

When we first launched the new Naturally Soft Aran and supporting accessory collection, Finishing Touch back at the end of last year, I immediately conjured up a cold and bitter winter and me, all cosied up in swathes of sumptuous aran scarves and cowls. Such is the depth of my fantasy knitting life, that I had completed not one, but two of the beautiful, but seriously oversized Annette Scarves - one in Stone and one in Emerald, a Gullan Snood in Damson, a Bia Cowl in Cinder and Cherry Red and a pair of co-ordinating Elika Wristwarmers for every piece of neckwear . . . oh the delights of a healthy knitting delusion!

In reality, I did manage to knit LOTS of pairs of Elika Wristwarmers . . . which all went to well-deserving homes, but I didn't manage to cast on even one piece of neck adornment on my fantasy list. For one, and I make no excuses here, the weather just wasn't cold enough to prompt me into a frenzy of oversized scarf knitting. Much as I loved (nay yearned for) the luxurious weight of an Annette Scarf to swaddle myself in, it just didn't seem practical to expend all that knitting energy on something I could only wear occasionally in the mild English winter.

So, as you may remember I embarked on a cardigan by one of my favourite independent knitwear designers Bristol Ivy. This was of course, just as I had also cast on the Honey Honey Cushion, which in turn was quickly followed by my Big Love Cushion . . . I had three substantial MillaMia projects on the needles simultaneously and at one critical point began to wonder if any of them would see completion.

The Naturally Soft Aran gives such crisp stitch definition that the cables really pop

To cut a long story (and a lot of rows) short, I finished everything on time and am now the proud owner of a rather fabulous (and practical) cardigan in one of my favourite Aran colours - Stone. The Maeve is more of a shrug than a cardigan, and more of a wrap than a shrug . . . it almost defies description but I think you can see from the pictures that the shape is loose and fluid while still retaining an amount of structure that makes it comfortable and easy to wear. Of course, the star of the Maeve show is the exquisite cable detail which flows effortlessly around the front edge providing a collar and border all at the same time. The construction is fairly complex, if like me, you find it difficult to imagine flat pieces in their eventual 3D form, but Bristol provides good instructions, pictures and a diagram to help with putting the knitted pieces together.

The final elegant flourish is the addition of an applied I-cord around the entirety of the piece. I love the professional finish it gives to my cardigan, and it's incredibly easy to execute - though also worth bearing in mind that this technique requires a large number of stitches to be picked up really precisely around the entire edge. The quality and quantity of picked up stitches has a real impact on the finished edge, though happily Bristol also gives guidance on how to manage this effectively too.

I've provided a short tutorial here to demonstrate just how easy, and satisfying it is!

1) Cast on 3 stitches provisionally and put these on the left hand needle. It's important to cast these on provisionally as you will need to graft these together with your remaining 3 stitches at the very end.

2) Pick up stitches around the edge you want to apply the I-Cord.

3) Now there are 3 cast on stitches on your right needle and the rest of the picked up stitches on your left. Knit 2 cast on stitches and then ssk the last cast on stitch together with the next stitch on your left needle.

4) Slip these 3 stitches straight back to your right needle.

5) Continue as set - knit 2 stitches, ssk 1 cast on stitch and 1 stitch from the left needle and then slip these 3 stitches back to your right needle.

6) Graft your final 3 live stitches together with the 3 you provisionally cast on (you will need to unzip these) et voila!

3 stitches on the right needle

Knit 2 of the 3 stitches

SSK the final stitch on the right needle with the next on the left needle

Slip these 3 stitches back to the right needle to begin again

The 'right side' of the applied I-cord

The 'wrong side' of the I-cord edging looks super neat

And just to prove that I did indeed finish it in time to wear at the UK CHSI trade show . . .  here are Helena and I enjoying ourselves on the stand!

(posted by Max)

Friday, 20 February 2015

EVENTS - CHSI Stitches 2015

As a small business without a huge team of reps going out into the woolly world, we really look forward to a big trade show like Craft Hobby & Stitch International / Stitches. It gives us a chance to reconnect with our existing stockists in a much more personal way, and gives them the opportunity to physically see all of the new products we are excited to be launching in the coming year.

There is always a moment or two to stop and chat with the wonderful yarn shop owners who carry our yarn and patterns - they have become more than just business relationships over the 5 years that we've been trading, and a platform such as CHSI enables us to reinforce and build on those vital and cherished friendships.

Of course, the Show is also the best way to attract new business, and this year we were encouraged by the interest we had from many potential new stockists, although the footfall was down on previous years and the aisles seemed quiet at times. We delightedly welcomed 5 new stockists to the MillaMia fold during the course of the Show and hope that one of these will turn out to be close to you!

Clockwise from top left: Winter Knitting and the Valentine's Cushion collection, our rainbow merino yarn wall, a view from the stand. Katarina sporting 'Annette Scarf' knitted in Naturally Soft Aran (colour Stone)

Stitches very helpfully coordinated the carpet to our Limited Edition colour Pumpkin this year!
Welcome to these wonderful new MillaMia stockists:
Guthrie & Ghani - Birmingham
Harbour Yarns - Seaham, County Durham
Sew Vintage - Wells, Somerset
Baby Nog - Online stockist specialising in baby yarn and handmade items
Six West - Alresford, Hampshire

Lastly, what do you imagine would be the best way to make the most of a few quiet minutes at the Show? Yep - knitting of course! Here is our very own Katarina knitting on a Jens Jumper for her son Freddie - she is super speedy . . .

(posted by Max)

Friday, 13 February 2015

KNITTING - interior love

At last I can sit back and revel in the satisfaction of completing a couple of projects. The cast on frenzy that overwhelmed me at the beginning of the year has begun to subside and the slight discomfort of having too many WIP's on the needles has forced me into a period of dedicated finishing. For me, and many other knitters, the knitting is often the most enjoyable part of the creating process, and the finishing . . . not so much!

Surprising really, as the abiding and wholly satisfying sense of achievement as the last seam is stitched is second to none. And these days we can share that proud moment with our fellow crafters on all sorts of social media platforms in order to receive the generous 'pats on the back' that we all secretly love.

As soon as I had embarked on the Honey Honey Cushion from Winter Knitting, I fell prey to the charms of the Big Love Cushion too and so began a period of interior love. Having yarn enough to knit a fraternal matching pair was the decider and the very moment after I had stuffed the cushion pad into the Honey Honey Cushion and buttoned it up, I cast on my Big Love.

I would like to say that I knitted monogamously on this cushion, but I confess that I had yet another MillaMia project on the needles and this one had a serious deadline too! More about this beautiful garment in a future Blog post, but suffice to say, some late night and very early morning knitting stints have seen ALL my projects finished - phew!

Heart topped pins and LOVE buttons from my local haberdasher

This pair look so at home on my sofa that I've had a few second thoughts about gifting them to their future owner. But then I remind myself that I am a knitter and my lovely friend is not. I can always knit myself some more.

Big Love and the other patterns in the Valentine's Collection are still FREE to download from our website and Ravelry until 23rd February. We'd love to see some of your finished cushions so do come and post on our FaceBook page or tag us @millamia_sweden on Instagram.

Finally we must announce the winner of the Valentine's Competition . . . drum roll, fanfare and all round excitement at the ready . . . Linda Rumsey - you are the lucky winner!!! Please get in touch via email - and let us know which 2 colours of our Naturally Soft Merino you'd like.

Thanks to all of you who took the time to enter - it was such fun to read your comments. Wishing you all a Love-ly Valentine's Day!
(posted by Max)

Thursday, 5 February 2015

COMPETITION - And how to avoid The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater

As all around people turn their thoughts to love, Valentine's themed gifts and romantic evenings, us knitters are torn between the overwhelming desire to knit up something impressive for a significant other and the threat of the curse of the Boyfriend Sweater. You may laugh, but the very idea of knitting something so monumentally time-consuming to express love and devotion to another, only to be unceremoniously 'dumped' is enough to put a vast majority of knitters off EVER knitting for their partners.

The Curse has gained credence through things such as knitting magazines, podcasts and blogs(!) as well as a 2005 poll that stated 15% of knitters say they have actually been the victim of the curse and a staggering 41% take it very seriously indeed. Of course knitters are generally a practical bunch of people, not much given to superstition and there have been many plausible ideas to explain the curse and it's devastating effects. Some explanations are as follows:

1) Knitting a sweater for a man is always a lengthy process and the relationship may come to its natural end during that time, or even before the sweater is finished!
2) The knitter makes the sweater as a last ditch attempt to express their complete devotion even as she knows the relationship is doomed to failure.
3) The knitter actually spends more time knitting than with the significant other and the many hours invested in the sweater is the last straw.
4) The significant other receives the sweater but fails to show enough gratitude (for the hours of dedicated knitting, colour/pattern selection and vast cost) and the resulting tension/arguing heralds the beginning of the end. Jacket Jacket
The Ola Jacket from Colour Coded and the Stefan Jacket from Country Escape

The MillaMia team like to think of themselves as modern knitters, not given to superstitions or fancy and have decided to launch a competition to offer an antidote to the curse . . . We're giving away 6 balls of Naturally Soft Merino in the 2 colours of your choice to knit one of our lovely new Valentine's Cushions . . . a cushion . . . not a sweater, you see? And you can knit this very-definitely-not-a-sweater gift for your Valentine in complete confidence that it won't result in a parting of the ways . . . or, you could show yourself some love and simply knit it for yourself - your choice! Heart Cushion&sort=&type=
Choose the yarn to knit your favourite of these Valentine's Cushions!

All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning, is tell us who you would knit a lovely cushion for in the comments box below. We'll announce the winner on Friday 13th February . . . which will be lucky for one!
(posted by Max)

Friday, 30 January 2015

TUTORIAL - Intarsia

You will remember that I embarked on the Honey Honey Cushion from Winter Knitting a few weeks ago, and this is now (pictorial evidence below!) off the needles and on to the blocking boards. All that this needs is some trusty mattress stitch to produce beautiful, professional seams and some buttons.

I enjoyed the interesting cable pattern which carried me weaving and meandering up the front of the cushion, but was happy enough to knit the much simpler back. The result is a wonderful texture that looks stylish and sophisticated in the rich berry yarn - a lovely interior accent that would look perfect in my living room . . . had I not already decided to gift it to a very precious friend.

I have discovered the thing about knitting cushions is that they are really rather addictive! Since finishing the Honey Honey Cushion, I've been enchanted by the new Valentine's Cushions and cast on 'Big Love' as soon as the patterns were ready.

The intarsia heart on the front of this cushion made me itch to try a little bit of colourwork and experiment with my colour combinations. I would 'heartily' recommend this as a great project for an improving knitter who wants to learn the intarsia technique in a simple and manageable way. Honey Cushion
My Honey Honey Cushion from Winter Knitting is almost done!

Intarsia is a very effective way of adding blocks and shapes of different colours to your knitting, and once you have mastered the 'wrapping' of the yarn at each colour change (which is imperative to avoid holes in your work), it's also a simple and enjoyable knit. The tutorial below demonstrates the method for wrapping the yarn on the knit or Right Side of your knitted fabric, and on the purl or Wrong Side

The important thing to remember is that each separate block of colour on your knitting will require a separate ball of yarn. For more complex designs with many colours across each row, you can use bobbins to wind on a small amount of yarn which will keep it tidy and less likely to get tangled. For the Big Love Cushion I need only 3 balls at the beginning - 2 of the background colour (1 on each side of the heart) and 1 of the heart colour. When I reach the top of the heart, I will then need 3 balls of the background colour (1 either side and one where the heart splits in the middle) and 2 for the heart itself.

Wrapping on the Knit/Right Side
1) Knit to the point that you need to change the colour

2) Insert the needle into the next stitch. Bring the new colour of yarn (shown here in teal) up under the old colour (berry) and knit it with your new colour.

3) The back of the knitted fabric should look like this with a 'seam' that looks almost as if it has been stitched

Wrapping on the Purl/Wrong Side

1) Purl to the point where you need to change the colour

2) Insert needle into the next stitch and bring the new colour (shown here in berry) up under the old yarn (teal) and purl the next stitch

3) Continue along the row using the 'new' colour (you can see the teal yarn is left here until it is needed at the same point in the next row)

Big Love is proving to be a very satisfying knit, and quick one too. I've almost finished the front and as the back is largely stocking stitch I'm aiming to have this on the blocking mats in a couple of days. You may have noticed that my 2 cushions are pleasingly coordinated in berry and teal which makes them a very handsome pair. I have a feeling that my lovely friend is going to be receiving a matching set for her birthday!

(posted by Max)

Friday, 23 January 2015

FREE PATTERNS - Spread the Love

The design studio at MillaMia HQ has been overwhelmed with heart-themed mood boards, knitted swatches and a plethora of sugar sweet yarn for weeks now, and with the first whispers of Valentine's Day in the air, it would seem that the MillaMia team are thinking about spreading a little love. Helena and Tanya have indulged their romantic sides and designed a beautiful cushion collection for inclusion in an interiors book due to be released later this year, but which we are offering FREE for a limited period to celebrate Valentine's Day.

The cushions, along with a matching candle warmer form a cohesive set, tied together with a truly modern palette of midnight, fuchsia, lilac blossom and daisy yellow - something that Helena was keen to create.

She says, 'I wanted to pick up on a couple of key colours and mix sugary tones like lilac blossom with more grounding tones such as the midnight. The daisy yellow accent sets everything off and the result is a very contemporary take on more traditional fairisle patterns. I'm always excited by the idea of re-imagining something classic in a new way, and for this collection a less conventional colour palette has produced some really appealing results. And hearts are such a timeless motif to work with - we think the cushions will be great for Valentine's Day, but equally lovely as an interior accessory all year round.'

 'Big Love' and 'Sweet Heart'
'Cross My Heart' Cushion and Candle Warmer

With hearts being so pertinent to the season, we thought it would be a shame to keep them all to ourselves until the Autumn. So, this sweet collection is going to be FREE to download for a limited time (from Monday 26th January - Monday 23rd February) on the MillaMia website, from your usual online retailers and as actual copies in your local MillaMia stockist. There has to be a pun around 'free' and 'love' in there somewhere!

(posted by Max) 

Friday, 16 January 2015

KNITTING - New Project

You may recall that last week, I was feeling a rush of New Year motivation and excitement to embark on a challenging garment project? That I was keen to cast on something for myself after the selfless months of Christmas gift knitting? That I wanted a large project that I could indulge myself in?

It's funny what a week can do to the best of intentions isn't it? I have to confess that I have cast on something - though sadly it isn't for me, nor is it a garment and although it has cables, it isn't really a true challenge either! I have been shockingly sidetracked and lured in by our Winter Knitting book again, and this time by one of the gorgeous cushions.

The story of my drastic change of mind is simple really. Feeling enthused and inspired after writing the blog post last week, I went in search of my 20 balls of Berry yarn (buried rather deep in my ever growing stash!). While searching through my yarn, I got to imagining that delectable berry colour knitted into some interesting textures and cables and found myself suddenly trying to remember where exactly I had seen some beautiful cable detail in that very same Berry yarn . . .

It came to me pretty quickly. The Honey Honey Cushion in Winter Knitting. I was soon sat knee deep in yarn (including the bags of Berry) and with Winter Knitting open in my lap. The rest is history - I had the yarn, I had the pattern and more compellingly - I remembered an imminent birthday which I would need to knit something for.

And so, I have cast on this beautiful cushion. It isn't the large, complex, time consuming pattern that I thought I wanted to immerse myself in, and it isn't even for me. But the gentle repetition of the cable pattern and the ever soothing glide of the Naturally Soft Merino on my needles is actually cathartic and satisfying enough. And as all knitters know, our greatest pleasure is often in the gifting of our time and talent, and not in the ownership of the things we make.

(posted by Max)