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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 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.

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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.

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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 . . .

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Kettle Yarn Co with their delectable wares at the pop up mini market

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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!)

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Amy and Lydia were delightful comperes for the raffle


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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.

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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.

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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)