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Friday, 19 December 2014

TOP TIPS - for perfect Christmas Baubles

You will all know by now that we have a fabulous new free pattern for Christmas . . . won't you? If you don't then head over to www.millamia.com and download your free copy immediately!! These Christmas Ornaments are seriously quick to make (meaning you definitely still have time to knit a couple before the big day), only take small amounts of yarn and are a great way to add some Scandi style to your tree or special gifts.

The pattern includes mini trees, squares and baubles either in striped or fairisle versions so there is plenty of scope to use up small oddments in lots of different colour combinations. I particularly love the baubles as I think they make great teachers or hostess gifts as well as making a bold statement on the Christmas tree.

In the interests of 'test knitting' I set about knitting a few of these baubles and thought I'd include my top tips here for making these ornaments look perfectly finished and worthy of gifting or pride of place on your tree.


You can clearly see the large loop in the top 2 pictures, and the bauble separated onto 2 needles to make the knitting more comfortable to manage in the bottom pictures

Firstly and most importantly an instruction that I really should have adhered to myself - read the pattern thoroughly before starting. This may seem obvious but the pattern is written such that there are a few things going on at the same time and these are listed in a couple of places. So (unlike me!) you will need to read the colour striping instructions for each bauble AND the actual 'To Make' instructions. I didn't and so my first bauble ended up with the stripe sequence running from bottom to top instead of into the middle - in a mirrored way - this will make sense when you knit yours, but you can also see my mistake in the first picture below.
 
 
My first bauble with the stripe pattern running from bottom to top and the second which is mirrored to make the most of the central 4 fairisle rows

Next, I found it helpful to cast on the first stitch really loosely so you have a fairly large loop. The way that the first increases are made means it all takes place in this first stitch. Don't worry about this loop as you will be able to sew it in when you come to the finishing.

The 'm1' increases all take place on the purl rounds and so it's worth remembering that you will need to 'purl' into the bar between the stitches. I made my increase by lifting the bar from back to front with my left needle and then purling into the front of it. If you want to be a real perfectionist then you might want to work right and left leaning increases but I was happy with just using this one method.

The pattern does state that you will want to introduce a second DPN when the stitches become too many on a single needle - I found that around Row 11, my knitting was becoming too tight to manage easily and so I introduced my second needle here.

Take care that your gauge is correct so that the knitting actually has to stretch around the polystyrene inner - it looks much more professional if it actually fits!

Finally - you know that I'm going to absolutely stress the importance of good old mattress stitch here! If you are using a polystyrene ball to 'stuff' your baubles (and by the way they are 9"/23cms circumference, we sourced ours online very cheaply and completely recommend using them for the best results), then you will need to work your mattress stitch while the ball is inside. This can be a little tricky but it does give the most polished finish. You really don't want to be able to see an obvious seam as baubles have a tendency to swing and turn around!

The joy of mattress stitch to produce a seamless join AND matching stripes

Each bauble took me approximately 3 hours from start to finish, and used around 13grms of yarn. The pattern advises that 4 balls of yarn are enough to make all 7 ornaments (including the squares and trees) - but you may find that you can squeeze out one or two more!

My finished baubles taking pride of place on the Christmas Tree - I'll look forward to bringing these out every year

We'd like to wish all our readers a happy and peaceful holiday season and say a huge Thanks for your continued interest in MillaMia and the team. We have so many exciting plans for 2015 and we're looking forward to sharing it all with you too!

(posted by Max)
 

Friday, 12 December 2014

OUT AND ABOUT - Pom Pom Mag Christmas Party

There is a post that regularly shows up on Facebook which says 'Knitters love to party. And by party, I mean knit'. It always brings a rueful smile to my face because for most of us knitters, nothing is more enjoyable than some quality time spent alone with your knitting.

http://agnesesanvito.com/index.html
Helena and I were both rather taken with Adam's prize - Magpies, Homebodies and Nomads by Cirilia Rose

Which is only half true. Quality time with your knitting, at an actual party, with a cocktail or two and surrounded by fellow knitters who are all 'partying' as hard as you is truly the pinnacle of having a knitting good time.

Last Saturday evening saw the perfect alignment of all these elements come splendidly together at the annual Pom Pom Mag Christmas party. Helena, her friend Adam and I and the great and the good of the local knitting community all converged on The Last in central London for an evening of yarn related celebration.

http://agnesesanvito.com/index.html
Delightful musical entertainment provided by Theo Bard

As the live music from Theo Bard kicked off proceedings knitters were able to indulge in a little pre-Christmas yarn shopping at the mini indie market from Kettle Yarn Co, Yellow Bear Wares, Lioness Arts, Elizabeth Beverly and the Pom Pom merch stand. I confess that I got mildly carried away . . . I blame it on the rhubarb and raspberry martini . . .

http://agnesesanvito.com/index.html
Kettle Yarn Co with their delectable wares at the pop up mini market

http://agnesesanvito.com/index.html
Pom Pom merch including these quirky cards by Julie Asselin

The knitty raffle was good fun and there were some awesome prizes to be had. The lovely Helen of Curious Handmade won the MillaMia prize - 4 balls of our Naturally Soft Aran and the Winter Knitting book, and Adam was the lucky winner of Cirilia Rose's inspiring new book Magpies, Homebodies and Nomads. I'm ashamed to say that I would have been compelled to wrestle it from him were it not for the fact that I know I have one in my Christmas stocking this year (thanks Santa!)

http://agnesesanvito.com/index.html
Amy and Lydia were delightful comperes for the raffle


http://agnesesanvito.com/index.html
There's always time to squeeze in a few rows . . .
 
The bar was liberally scattered with knitting stars as the evening wore on - it was great to catch up over some gentle knitting and pretty drinks with Rachel Coopey, aplayfulday, Rachel Atkinson and the fabulous Lydia and Amy from Pom Pom.

http://agnesesanvito.com/index.html
Not a knitters party without making good progress on your latest WIP

Or it would have been, had I not walked out of the door last Saturday evening WITHOUT MY KNITTING. Two train journeys and a knitting specific party with no knitting . . . I didn't 'party' quite so hard as I was expecting . . .

With HUGE thanks to the girls from Pom Pom Quarterly Magazine and to Agnese Sanvito for all the images here - who captured the party so exquisitely. Looking forward to next year!

(posted by Max)

Friday, 5 December 2014

TUTORIAL - cabling without a cable needle

By very happy chance, our new accessory book Finishing Touch has proven to be a godsend for my Christmas gift knitting this year. Stuffed full of some exceedingly quick knits that are also beautiful and practical, I haven't had to look any further for my 'go to' pattern.

The Elika Wristwarmers tick all of those boxes and a few more for me! I love using the Naturally Soft Aran for speed, but also for the wonderful texture and warmth it creates in the knitted fabric. The colour palette too offers so much scope for personalising something as simple as these mitts so that even knitting them multiple times (and I have!), the choice of colour combination makes them unique and fresh every time.

I imagine that reading the pattern, some knitters might be daunted at the thought of cabling every other row to produce this lovely rich texture - it can make progress slow if you are having to manipulate a cable needle for every set of stitches and on every other row -  but have no fear, as help is at hand! I have recently embraced the revolutionary technique that is 'cabling - without a cable needle'!

For some of you, this will be old news and I confess I had heard about it a good long while ago, but never felt comfortable enough to put aside my trusty cable needle for an entire project. The Elika's are a great first pattern to try this technique and master it so that you will feel confident enough to try some more complex cabling.

The idea is merely knitting the second stitch on your left needle before knitting the first so that it effectively swaps the order of your stitches. And this is really all that any cable stitch is - a rearranging of the order of stitches to produce a twisted effect.

So much choice! You can see only one in Cherry Red and Cinder - I'm still working on the other one!

In the video below you can see the progress of my cabling across a short section of the row. I begin with demonstrating the 'C2F' cable which is knitting into the front of the second stitch without slipping it off the needle, then knitting into the front of the first stitch and finally slipping both stitches off the needle together. The second instruction used for the Elika Wristwarmers is 'C2B' - which is knitting into the back of the second stitch on the left needle without slipping it off and then knitting into the back of the first stitch before slipping them both off together.

video
 


I found it quick to pick up, and very easy to read my stitches so that I could see which type of cable I needed to create next (even after I had put down my knitting). This is of course the key to a great pattern you can knit multiple times - intuitive and easily memorised so that it becomes almost second nature.

My last tip is to divide your Main Colour into 2 equal balls (weight them - 25g each) before you cast on so that you can use every last scrap of yarn. Knitting exactly to pattern and hitting the specified gauge, I found that I had just about enough left to stitch them up! If you bought 2 balls of the main colour and only 1 of the contrast you would be able to get 2 pairs out easily.

I'm now knitting my fourth pair, with plans for a fifth, and possibly a sixth . . . and my cable needle is nowhere in sight!

(posted by Max)

Friday, 28 November 2014

STOCKIST PROFILE - Lemonade Yarns

Standing out from the crowd in todays online world takes something special, and Emma Blackie of Lemonade Yarns has done just that. With a passion for crochet, beautiful yarns and providing the most dedicated service to her very loyal customers, Emma has managed to create an online space that feels as friendly as a local bricks and mortar shop!

She kindly agreed to answer a few questions for the Blog, and if you'd like to find Emma once you've read all about her, then head to her website www.lemonadeyarns.co.uk or you can always find her on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.

1) Introduce yourself, and tell us a bit about how you came to open your online shop.
Hello! My name is Emma and I live and work in Cardiff. Lemonade Yarns is what I devote all my spare time to when I’m not at the day job. I took over the shop almost two years ago (I bought it from a friend of a friend who no longer had the time to run it) and have been working on it and growing it ever since!


2) I know you have a particular passion for crochet, so what do you have on your hook at the moment?
I have so many projects on the go at the moment! I’m the middle of hooking up a blanket, a shawl, some birthday and Christmas presents, and some scarves I’m making for charity.


Beautiful crocheted wristwarmers in Naturally Soft Aran - colour Ochre


3) Describe your ultimate craft project.
My ultimate craft project would be one I actually have time to finish! It’s my own fault really as I start things and then get distracted by an exciting new project – I get so inspired by the things I see other people making that I want to make them for myself!

Also I Iove “mystery” projects – ones where you get a snippet of pattern each week or month, and you don’t know what it’s going to look like until it’s finished. Brilliant!


4) What is your favourite MillaMia yarn and colour?
Oh goodness, I don’t know if I could pick out a favourite shade, but I’m definitely totally in love with the new aran-weight merino. It’s such a stunning colour palette, and I love the mix of brights and neutrals.
I'm interjecting here as I pressed Emma into making a decision! She choose Teal in the new aran - great choice!

Crochet works so well in a tightly twisted yarn like our Naturally Soft Merino shown here in Seaside, Petal, Storm, Forget-me-not, Snow and Berry


5) Do you have a ‘go to’ pattern that you’ve knitted multiple times that’s perfect for gifting?
Not really, to be honest. I prefer seeking out new patterns that suit what I want to make at the time, and I love the challenge of getting my head around a new pattern. If I make the same thing too many times it takes the fun out of it for me.


6) Tell us something unusual about yourself.
I am a classically trained musician and have a degree in Music! After I left university (I studied in Exeter) I could have made Music my career, but instead I went to work for Habitat and wanted to become an Interior Designer. Now I’m a manager for a high-end classic British women’s clothing brand. Isn’t it funny how life turns out sometimes?!

http://www.lemonadeyarns.co.uk/

(posted by Max)

Friday, 21 November 2014

OUT AND ABOUT - Berlin

Helena and I were so excited to be invited to Berlin by the wonderful team at Wolle Roedel who are one of our first stockists in Germany. They have about 100 stores across the country - including some new concept stores called Idee which are very modern and multicraft focused.

Our visit actually coincided with the publication of our book Wonderland/Kindermode Stricken in German by publishers OZ Verlag. This is huge milestone for us at MillaMia, and something that has made us so happy! We are able to now reach this passionate nation of knitters who have loved our designs and wanted to be able to access them more easily.

Saturday began with a 4 am start! Short, early flights on Easyjet are never exciting but we were relieved that our travelling went smoothly - bar one inadvertant adventure on the train from the airport! Nevertheless we still made it to the KaDeWe shopping centre, and Idee in Berlin on time for an 11am start.

I took the opportunity to knit on the Bosse Cardigan for my son Freddie and Helena was happy to be able to wear her lovely new Snow Storm Wristwarmers

Idee truly is a mecca for crafters - they stock everything from Liberty fabric to gorgeous pompoms, paper craft and stationary. Helena and I decided that we were in heaven and picked up lots of lovely stamps and fun Christmas decorations.

The Wonderland/Kindermode Stricken display looked great

The Idee staff made us so welcome and showed us to an area of the store where there was a whole section of wool set up for MillaMia. We had a good selection of our Wonderland samples with us but they had many there already, so we decorated a tree with our free Christmas decorations (watch this space and our Facebook page for exciting news of this new FREE pattern next week!). They had around 100 books in store for Helena and I to sign as we met customers, who were mainly German but one or two international customers too.


http://www.microsofttranslator.com/bv.aspx?from=de&to=en&a=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wolleroedel.de%2Fshop%2Fde%2FdieProdukte%2FAnleitungen%2FBuecherMagazine%2FStricken%2FquotKindermodestrickenquotJackenPulloverampCofuerkleineLeute.html
It's such a thrill for Helena and I to see Wonderland printed in German
 


As well as signing books and meeting lots of new customers, Helena and I ran a workshop using our Christmas Ornaments pattern with the staff from Idee and their customers. It was great fun as the ornaments are all quick and easy to make - perfect for a workshop as everyone feels as though they have achieved something in a relatively short space of time.



. . . and finished!

Ellen and Yvonne, our friends from Wolle Roedel / Idee came and took us out for a delicious lunch of currywurst sausage, chips and beer which I would heartily recommend as it was so delicious. Apparently this is a typical Berlin lunch and pretty much the equivalent of fish and chips!

Ellen, Katarina and Yvonne enjoying that traditional Berlin lunch

As is always the case when you're enjoying yourselves, time flew by and it was 4pm before we knew it. Helena and I we were off travelling home again all too soon but had decided before we even left the city that we would definitely going back again next summer (for the weekend this time . . .) to see more of beautiful Berlin!

A wintery kiss goodbye from Berlin!
(posted by Katarina)

Friday, 14 November 2014

SMALL PROJECT - Using oddments

Like most knitters, I have a guilty hoard of oddments from a host of finished projects. There is virtually every type of yarn, in every colour of the rainbow, often in a substantial enough quantity that the thought of throwing it away . . . well, it doesn't bear thinking about.

So when I discover a project that isn't a sock yarn blanket (I never finished those), or baby hats, bootees, wash cloths or dare I say it - hexipuffs, I get a rush of relief. The thought of liberating some unloved yarn ends and finding them a purpose always makes me feel so worthy!

The Bokstav Gift Tags from Winter Knitting are the perfect oddment-busting project. This lovely little project just ticks so many boxes for me - it's small and quick; uses up even the sparest of yarn ends; is Christmas related and will dress up parcels for my most special people with the added bonus that I can reuse them every year.

You might imagine that I have rather a lot of MillaMia oddments . . . and you'd be right! But the ones that came instantly to hand were the Midnight and Snow Naturally Soft Merino that I had left over from making the Snow Storm Wristwarmers. I did finish these in record time and immediately gifted them to Helena, who so ably demonstrates just how stylish they are teamed with a fake fur jacket.

Helena sporting her Snow Storm Wristwarmers in Midnight and Snow

The gift tags are super quick to knit and use between 7 and 10 grms of yarn in total. The pattern advises that the alphabet motifs are swiss darned (or duplicate stitched) on, but you could easily use the chart to knit them as you go. I swiss darned mine to achieve the slightly raised look which I'm really pleased with. The tags are incredibly tactile when they're finished - as they are made from 2 pieces stitched together to make them reversible it makes them plump and substantial. I used a whip stitch to seam them together which is almost invisible and then gently blocked and steamed them to even all the stitches out.

 

 
 
I have finished 2, and have another one on the needles for my daughter. They're really quite addictive - so quick and instantly gratifying that I fear I may decide that every gift I give this year has to have one . . .


Winter Knitting is available from www.millamia.com, selected MillaMia stockists and good craft title bookstores.
(posted by Max)

Friday, 7 November 2014

WINTER KNITTING - New Book

It's November, and that officially means we can start to think, and talk about Christmas without feeling the slightest bit guilty! I groan inwardly as huge tins of Quality Street, Christmas wrap, cards and baubles begin to appear in October, but November feels more like Winter, Christmas is only a matter of 6 weeks away at best and is the perfect opportunity for us knitters to get planning our gift knitting.

This year my gift knitting has all but been taken care of by the launch of our latest book - Winter Knitting. I confess it actually felt as though Christmas had come early when I received my own copy - it feels like the most wonderful gift, and although I knew all of the patterns that went into the book, I sat down with my hot coffee one afternoon and browsed at my leisure.

The outcome, of course, was that I immediately wanted to knit everything in the book! As I turned the last page I realised that I had subconsciously been choosing items and colourways for specific people, and wondering who, among my knitterly friends who also love a book like this. That too was easy, as I know that every one of them would cherish Winter Knitting and find myriad projects to keep them happily knitting through the dark days of Winter.

http://millamia.com/collection_patterns.php?id=12
Snow Storm Wristwarmers in Forget-me-not and Snow


Faced with so many things I urgently wanted to knit, I decided to start with something small and relatively quick for some instant gratification. The Snow Storm Wristwarmers are the perfect small project to begin with and the fairisle pattern is so typically Scandinavian which is always so evocative of crisp, snowy mornings for me! I choose a classic combination of midnight and snow (with my Mum in mind - hope she isn't reading this . . .) and set about my knitty business.



I knitted the rib in midnight and looked to the chart to begin the fairilse body of the mitt, realising almost at once that the chart didn't match the ones shown in the picture. My heart sank a little, as I could see that the chart was actually the one included in the cowl pattern which is opposite to the wristwarmers. No matter, I thought as the mitts will match the cowl which I'm almost certainly going to knit too. So, I continued faithfully knitting as per the pattern - the second picture below is my wristwarmer blocking - beautiful, if different to the one shown in the book.

http://millamia.com/collection_patterns.php?id=12
Snow Storm Wristwarmers and Snow Storm Cowl both in Forget-me-not and Snow


My first finished Wristwarmer in Midnight and Snow

Curiosity had me wondering how the midnight and snow would look in the same layout as the pair shown in the book, and so before I began the second wristwarmer I embarked on a mitten-sized swatch with the colours reversed. This is easily managed, just by logging in your brain which colour square represents which colour yarn and so I didn't have any difficulty in switching them around.

The swatch with the chart reversed nearest to the bottom of the picture


Keeping my place on the chart is an entirely different matter though, and as you can see in the pic below, my top tip for keeping your place (even when you put down your knitting, or a small person inadvertently picks up your beautiful new book) is to use Washi Tape which is easily removable but will restick too. Mine is Christmas themed - just to remind me that I'm knitting gifts!

Christmas themed Washi Tape keeping my place on the chart


It seems that Winter Knitting has inspired a flurry of gift knitting in the MillaMia team. Tanya cast on her own version of the Snow Storm Wristwarmers too, in a beautiful combination of storm and lilac blossom. As you can see, she has reversed the chart so that the main colour storm is transitioning from the rib into the main body and the lighter lilac blossom is the contrast colour.

Tanya's Snow Storm Wristwarmers in Storm and Lilac Blossom

I wonder if these will make their way to a friend or family member this Christmas, or whether Tanya, like me is going to find it too hard to gift them away . . . !

(posted by Max, with help from Tanya!)