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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)

Friday, 9 January 2015

NEW YEAR - New Projects

Happy New Year from us all at MillaMia! We hope your holiday season was a delightful time spent with your family, friends, and your knitting. Adult Cardigan&sort=&type=
The Livia Cardigan is sized from kids to adults and is a FREE download

So with all the gift knitting delivered to grateful recipients and a strange sense of needing something new and exciting to start the year, what do us knitters typically turn to? Well, knitting of course!

And not just any knitting. January typically heralds the 'sweater cast on phenomenon', and is something I seem to fall prey to every year. I wonder if this sudden urge to cast on a large project is prompted by a rekindled sense of purpose and intent that the New Year always seems to bring, or if the colder weather triggers an inner need to knit cosy items to comfort ourselves with? Maybe, having knitted so much for other people, our selfish side decides it's time to pick up the needles and knit something just for 'me'.

Where before Christmas the urgency to complete lots of gifts drives me to heavier weight yarns and simple garter projects, the New Year sees me looking for a considerable challenge . . . in a lighter weight yarn that I can indulge in and spend time with. I find that I want cables, and complex stitch patterns - shaping, colourwork and charts, interesting construction and a canvas bag filled with lots of balls of yarn all eager to be knitted up into something extraordinary!

This poor sweater has quite a brief to meet. And in order to find the exact pattern to tick all of the boxes, I've been browsing the MillaMia adults women's patterns. These are my top picks - all cardigans!

First up is the Daniel Cardigan from our latest book Winter Knitting. A fairly simply shaped cardigan with a shawl collar and patch pockets, the real interest is in the fabulous fairisle section adorning the middle. Cardigan
The Daniel cardigan is warm, cosy and oversized - perfect for the chilly winter evenings

Next is more fairisle in the form of the Kia Kimono from High Society. This cardigan is all about the pretty fairisle yoke and the interesting symmetrical opening and although there is a fair amount of straight stocking stitch the other elements will provide just enough interest to keep it moving along. Fair Isle Kimono
The Kia Kimono has a beautiful stranded colourwork yoke which makes it interesting to for even the most experienced knitter

With some pretty cable on each panel, shaping and rib edging the Charlie Cardigan from Country Escape is not the most difficult garment to knit, BUT it is a wonderfully versatile transitional piece and one that I can see me wearing right through to early summer. Cardigan
The Charlie Cardigan in Claret from Country Escape

Last, but by no means least is my pick of the bunch - the Livia Cardigan. This lovely jacket meets the challenge element of my brief as it has some complex cabling all over the garment AND bobbles. It is knitted in pieces which gives it great fit and structure and best of all it's a FREE pattern (download it here). The sizing goes from child right up to adult so you could knit one for yourself and then another for a daughter or granddaughter once the selfish knitter has been appeased! Adult Cardigan&sort=&type=
The Livia Cardigan in Sable - cables and bobbles make it wonderfully textured and warm

With 20 balls of MillaMia Naturally Soft Merino in Berry just sitting quietly in my stash, it seems a shame not to cast on right away doesn't it?
(posted by Max)

Thursday, 25 December 2014

OUT AND ABOUT - MillaMia Team Christmas lunch

Working in a small team definitely has its benefits. For a start, it means that we all know each other really well and spending time together outside of the office is always a pleasure. Secondly, if like me, you are likely to be gifting some handknits for Christmas, then there aren't too many colleagues to knit for!

Katarina and Helena generously take the team out for a celebration Christmas lunch every year, and this year they had booked a table at Beaufort House in Chelsea. Situated on the Kings Road, Beaufort House is a stylish restaurant and club that manages to feel both welcoming and comfortable while maintaining a classic understated elegance.

We enjoyed delicious dishes, desserts and some fizz and talked about our plans for the coming holiday season. Some of us are travelling abroad to spend time with family and others of us are planning a quiet Christmas with plenty of time to relax (and knit!), which means that the office will be closed from Christmas Eve until 2nd January.

It's not often we get a picture of us altogether - many thanks to the lovely waiter

I can't ever turn down dessert

Tanya and I love a selfie!

I was excited to give the girls the gifts I had knitted for them - a hat each with a brightly coloured fluffy pompom!! The pattern is called 'Puck' by Dani Sunshine aka LionessKnits and is a nice easy knit, with a bit of colour changing and a zig zag pattern which keeps it interesting. Knitted in 2 contrasting colours means that the colour combinations are a joy to devise and I certainly had fun choosing shades that would compliment the Rico fake fur pom poms (bought from Deramores).


A yellow pom pom for Tanya and peacock blue for Katarina

The hats were a success!

I'm happy to report that they ALL loved them and wore them back to the office! Now I just need to find time to knit one for myself . . .

(posted by Max)

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 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.
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.
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 . . .
Kettle Yarn Co with their delectable wares at the pop up mini market
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!)
Amy and Lydia were delightful comperes for the raffle
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.
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)