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Friday, 17 October 2014

WOOL WEEK - Southwark Cathedral

Milly the Sheep had pride of place
We have long been supports of the Campaign For Wool - not surprisingly you might say, as wool is at the very core of our brand. Working and designing with wool on a daily basis is one of the great pleasures of being in the yarn industry - and we are conscious of the many wonderful properties that wool has, specifically for us in the handknitting arena.

It was such an enormous privilege therefore to be invited to exhibit at this years Campaign For Wool Installation at Southwark Cathedral. Milly the MillaMia Sheep was proud to be featured as one of only 2 handknitted items in the beautifully curated collection of just 50 pieces, the other a piece by Rowan so we counted ourselves in very good company!

Every one of the 50 pieces in the collection was created with enormous skill and imagination. From beautiful rugs, cushions and throws to tapestries and crochet all curated by Bridgette Kelly and Arabella McNie, there was truly an impressive array of woollen, artisan products.

And as if being included in such a highly regarded event wasn't enough, Helena and I were invited to the VIP evening to browse the stunning collection at our leisure. It was an entirely perfect setting - the soft wool in all its guises juxtaposed with the ancient stone walls of the cathedral brought its own magic and quiet beauty to the evening. We delighted, of course, in seeing our lovely Milly in pride of place at the very entrance, on the ipads and peering out from the first pages of the brochure, but we also thoroughly enjoyed seeing the variety of all the woollen objects - created with skill and an obvious love of the fibre.

The pictures don't at all do justice to this lovely evening. You can't hear the oohs and aahs as people wandered around touching, looking and delightedly smiling at our Milly. It's impossible to convey the atmosphere or the quiet awe we felt just being in the stunning surroundings of the cathedral but I hope you can see that we loved every moment.


(posted by Katarina)

Friday, 3 October 2014

MILLAMIA TEAM - Knitting Part 2

As soon as there is a tangible nip in the air, and the colours outside drift from lush greens into the golden hues of Autumn, I begin to feel a pressing need to cast on all manner of knits. A new wave of patterns and yarn herald the beginning of 'Knitting Season' and I am suddenly conscious that Christmas (sorry!) is just around the corner. So begins the exciting prospect of 'knitting all the things' as gifts for loved ones, and to cosset myself in the latest delectably warm and cosy knits.

Annette Scarf in Cinder

The arrival of our lovely new Aran in a myriad of tempting shades and 2 collections to choose from comes at an optimal time in my knitting calendar. I confess that I am a little sad there are no new babies or toddlers in my immediate life to make small, instantly gratifying knits for, BUT, only a little sad as it means that I can focus entirely on Finishing Touch. And I have a lengthy list of cool accessories that I am eager to knit from this particular collection.

My first choice is the fabulous Annette Scarf - an oversized accessory knitted with an amount of yarn that could easily make a substantial cardigan! Nothing shouts luxury for me like an accessory of this magnitude - warm and dramatic in Damson or Cherry Red in our Naturally Soft Aran for a bold statement against a neutral winter coat.
My second favourite is the Gullan Snood. This would definitely be a go-to accessory that is easy to wear while still looking stylish - I imagine pulling it on with a casual winter jacket to add an extra layer of warmth around my neck. I am stuck on choosing a colour for this one though! Unusually for me, I love it in the Marine Blue as shown in the book, but I'm tempted also by Slate, Cinder or Stone. Maybe there are multiple Gullan Snoods in my knitting future . . . !

Gullan Snood in Marine Blue

Naturally Soft Merino in Slate, Cinder and Stone
Our wonderful office manager Maja has been much less selfish than I, and is imagining knitting a special gift for a dear friend.

I would like to knit the Annette Scarf in Pink Glaze for my best friend, whose name shall remain private but whom I love to call "Koukla" which is Greek for "beautiful doll", the phrase we picked up while attending Greek language classes together many years ago and which suits her beautifully. Koukla has recently gone through a profound and unimaginable loss in her life, yet she has shown the most admirable dignity, strength and courage throughout the anguished and harrowing time. I would like Koukla to imagine me giving her a hug every time she wraps this beautiful scarf around her. I miss her so much.
The Annette Scarf is proving to be the most popular pattern from Finishing Touch and would look beautiful in Pink Glaze

The Elika Wristwarmers in Cinder and Emerald - I like that they are fun, happy and slightly quirky. I would like to knit them for myself and for anyone who wants a pair!

Elika Wristwarmers in Cinder and Emerald

(posted by Max - with help from Maja!)

Friday, 26 September 2014

MILLAMIA TEAM - Knitting the New Aran

Plenty of inspiration for a stylish winter wardrobe
As the sample knits for our new Naturally Soft Aran collections began to drift into the office, they were inevitably met with admiring oohs and aahs and a great deal of trying on! Well, at least we all tried on the accessories from Finishing Touch, and cooed appreciatively over Tiny Treasures imagining sweet babies and cute toddlers wrapped in our cosy new designs.

It is testament I think, to the love we all have for beautiful knitwear, simply but stylishly designed, that the arrival of these knits created such an excited buzz among the team. It's also testament to the truly awesome work that Helena and Tanya have put into these new designs. We ALL, without exception, began to think ahead to chillier days imagining several key pieces from Finishing Touch, gracing our winter wardrobes. And we began to make exciting plans for knitting these lovely items - if not all for ourselves, then for loved ones and new babies.

I am thrilled that the MillaMia team have all agreed to share their winter knitting plans here on the blog - so that you can find out a bit more about what they are all coveting, or generously planning to knit for their friends and families. First up is the Dream Design Team - Helena and Tanya:

Sorry but I am simply not able to limit myself to 2 . . . it's got to be 3 projects for me! I want to knit the Gullan Snood for my grandmother as that is her name and the item is dedicated to her! At 98 years old she is an inspiration to both Katarina and I. My Mormor (Swedish name for grandmother on your mothers side) once knitted me the best 80's jumper with a symmetric intarsia motif on the front - it was cream, peach, coral and beige - the height of fashion at the time . . . I would totally wear it now if I was hanging out in the eastend but don't think it would fit me anymore! Therefore it's only fair that I make her something in return. I am tempted to make the Gullan in Powder Blue as that's her favourite colour but I also think she looks so great in Marine Blue (as shot in the book) and then it would match a variety of coats. Snood&sort=&type=
Gullan Snood in Marine Blue
Secondly I would like to make the Freja Colour Block Blanket for my friend Suzy's little girl, Rose Grace. She is a true English Rose with a beautiful doll like complexion and so I think Powder Blue and Ivory would be a stunning combination for her. It's also good neutral colours if it gets passed down or across to some other friends.

Freja Blanket in Cinder and Ivory
 Powder Blue and Ivory Naturally Soft Aran

Finally for myself I think I will just have to have a Corrine Clutch or a Patrizia Pouch . . . maybe the pouch first which I can use to keep my receipts and keys and things in inside my bag. I can never find my keys or purse when I wear a big tote bag so this is now an urgent project! Luckily for me, Tanya has already started one of these and I'm hoping that it has my name on it! I was torn between Teal - it's got that jewel tone which I love, but in the end it had to be Magenta. I really like the vibrancy and punch of this colour and it's quite unlike any shade we have done up until now. For a nice bright surprise inside, I will line it with a strong contrast of Jade green cotton drill which I have left over from the photo shoot. Pouch&sort=&type= Pouch&sort=&type=
Teal and Magenta Naturally Soft Aran

Hello! I am going to knit some Elika Wristwarmers for myself because I love the texture, and the simple colour change, I feel, makes it very current. I favour wrist warmers over mittens and gloves because my fingers get too hot and I can't use my phone! I think they're a very versatile item and I know I will get a lot of use out of them but I'm not sure what colours to knit them in. I think either Cinder with an Emerald Green tip or Marine Blue with a Magenta contrast. Or maybe both! Wristwarmers Wristwarmers
(posted by Max - with a little help from my friends! Thanks Helena and Tanya)

Friday, 19 September 2014

DESIGN FEATURE - swatching

Swatching is a designers best friend
I know you will have seen the dreaded word 'swatch' in the title, so I want to reassure you that we are going to look at this essential part of the creative process from the side - a sort of  glimpse in the direction of, rather than head on, to make it all a little more palatable . . .

Instead of going into the many virtues and advantages of swatching for whatever knitting project you are ever likely to embark on, I thought it would be useful and interesting to take a look behind the scenes of the creative process - how and where the swatches begin to appear, and the function they provide.

For Helena, Creative Director at MillaMia designing a collection and realising the individual garments within that collection moves from the sketching stage to definite design decisions regarding knitted fabric, drape, texture and colour choices incredibly quickly. A garment will require specific attributes from the knitted fabric and at this early stage the best and quickest way to see if a particular stitch pattern, colour combination or gauge will work is to swatch it.

A garter slip stitch pattern and a swatch mixing fairisle and moss stitch

And so, we introduce Tanya, our Design Assistant who has the (some may say) unenviable job of producing stack upon stack of 4 inch squares in a myriad of different colours and patterns. Tanya and Helena are very often found with heads bent over a couple of swatches, discussing how a particular texture will look when replicated over a whole garment, whether another has the required amount of drape or if a specific combination of colours works for them.

Swatching the new Aran for gauge

A great example of this sometimes lengthy, but essential process is for one of our latest patterns, the Annette Scarf from Finishing Touch. After the initial design had been sketched out, they began to look at all sorts of cable patterns to see which they liked and which would work best for this oversized accessory.

As with all designs, the Annette underwent quite a journey before the final choices were made about the size and type of cable, and you can clearly see the evolution of this design through the swatches below:

Giant Ribbed Cable

Giant Braid Cable

20-stitch Twisted Candle

The end result is a simple arrangement of 2 different cables patterns running the length of the scarf to make the most of the new Naturally Soft Aran colours - particularly the melange (shown below in Stone) which adds subtle nuances in individual stitches while still highlighting the beauty of the cable motifs. Scarf
Annette Scarf in Stone

I'm told that designers actually come to love the swatching process and even utilise them in decorative displays once their technical function is long past. A pretty glass jar stuffed with all sorts of colour, texture and cataloguing a history of design development can be a object as beautiful and relevant as the finished garments themselves. And for me at least, the thought of these small scraps of knitting having some sort of purpose or function after their vocational work is done, gives me a sense of satisfaction. Maybe, just maybe I will embark on my next knitting project the way I know I should . . . with a swatch.
(posted by Max)

Friday, 12 September 2014

KNITTED ART and 'Yarn' in Nottingham

Alison and Sarah, owners of Yarn
Alison and Sarah are the knitter owners behind the fabulous ‘Yarn’ in Nottingham – a local yarn store that stocks an exciting and eclectic range of contemporary yarns (including MillaMia of course!), all sorts of patterns and books as well as a wonderful range of crafty notions, needles and accessories. They offer a great choice of Sunday workshops too and a Knit and Natter morning every Wednesday 10am – 12 and Thursday 5pm – 7pm which is always very well attended. If you’re in the area, the girls would love to see you too!

Alison and Sarah count themselves incredibly fortunate to have some extraordinarily talented knitters among their loyal customers, and one of these - Mariana Bowley has created a blanket that is nothing short of a work of art. Her blanket is knitted entirely in MillaMia Naturally Soft Merino using a very interesting technique to create some colours that have never been seen in our palette before!

Mariana's incredible blanket

Mariana very kindly agreed to share her wonderful blanket with the MillaMia blog and answered a few questions too.

1) Firstly, a huge ‘well done’ to you on making such an amazing blanket – it truly is a work of art. What initially inspired your design?
I have always been fascinated by the interaction of yarns of different colours. In 1988 I saw a picture in a museum that inspired me to knit a jumper with yarns the colours of the rainbow. I wanted to reproduce this effect for a blanket to brighten our all white bedding. But the way I worked the original jumper, short lengths of wool, did not seem appropriate for the blanket – too many ends at the back.
The original piece that inspired her 'rainbow' sweater

And the finished piece, front . . .

. . . and back

2) I’m intrigued with the technique you used to create more shades. Can you tell us a bit more about how you blended the colours?
I worked it out that the Millamia yarn was made of 5 strands. I separated 1 strand of a length of Peacock and knitted into a circle with 4 strands of Daisy; in the next circle I used 1 strand of Daisy with 4 strands of Peacock and so on.

3) Why did you choose to use MillaMia yarn for this project? And dare I ask how many balls of yarn you used?
Millamia was ideal with its wonderful range of colours and knitting with its yarns was a pleasure. I first bought seven colours of the rainbow, knitted the corner piece and with that I was off and knitting! I used 13 different colours in all and it took me about 5 months to complete using more than one ball of each colour. I am using the leftovers to make two cushion covers.

I thank the encouragement and advice of Alison and Sarah at ‘Yarn’ and my weaving friends.

Tel: 0115 9253606 Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday 9.30am - 5pm, (late night Thursdays till 7pm)

(posted by Max)

Friday, 22 August 2014

PREVIEW - brand new Naturally Soft Aran

The new Aran 'brights' (top clockwise) - Cherry Red, Magenta,
Teal, Cobalt, Emerald and Ochre
After exciting months in design and development, our Naturally Soft Aran is almost ready to hit the shelves in a yarn shop near you! By now, there will be plump bags filled with seriously soft merino in a myriad new shades sitting in our warehouse, eager to go out into the world and grow up into something scrumptious for Autumn/Winter.

It sometimes seems like it's been a long time coming - and maybe it has. But the MillaMia team have always been utterly committed to producing something uniquely desirable - yarn that is as pleasurable to knit with, as it is to see, wear, touch. This dedication to excellence takes time, but the results are tremendous! Our Naturally Soft Aran is a worthy big brother to Naturally Soft Merino, which was in itself a tough act to follow.

We took inspiration from the highly sought after qualities of our Naturally Soft Merino, and aimed to include the soft handle, fabulous stitch definition and washability that has become synonymous with our sportweight yarn. These qualities are all wrapped up in our new Aran along with a twist that is a little lighter to provide loft without too much weight, but the initial point of difference has to be a dramatic change in the colour palette. In the 16 new shades you will find 4 subtle melanges that add depth and tonal interest to the knitted fabric, more complex colours such as dusk and powder blue, not forgetting the key brights such as cobalt, emerald green and a saturated, richly toned ochre.

The new 'melanges' (top left to right) - Cinder, Slate, Stone and Latte

This exciting palette offers scope for sophisticated adult accessories as well as a new opportunity to cosset sweet babies and cute kids in stylish and fun colour combinations, which you'll see in 'Tiny Treasures'. There is nothing quite like seeing a newborn swaddled in a softly textured handknit, or a small child warm, comfortable and stylish, is there?

Naturally Soft Aran - 16 stunning new shades to knit up a warm and colourful winter wardrobe

We revelled too, in the opportunity to fully exploit the joys of knitting with a heavier weight yarn in oversized accessories and richly textured knits. In Finishing Touch, there are snoods, mitts, scarves, bags and pouches all showcasing the soft subtle beauty of the new yarn and the 16 brand new colours. The melanges have a particular appeal in these adult pieces with the delicate tonal differences in the yarn really working to add depth and interest to large cables and stitch patterns.

Our beautiful new Aran is almost here . . . what will you knit?
(posted by Max)