What’s new?

I was recently asked what are the new trends for this season?? Well ….that depends on who you speak to.. follow or are informed by.

I wandered off to investigate and my findings are —- if fashion is your thing and we are all effected by the Industry whether we like it or not. The catwalks say Cables, Stripes, Colourwork and Oversize are ‘IN’. Wear your Cardigans with pride. And along with all those black, grey, beige and taupe (with new names to old colour pallets) staples there will be red (surprise!!) gold (glittery and not) and a nice 1940’s powder blue (I don’t do blue but it is quite nice).

I rummaged through the stock and found these representatives.

If the highstreet is your guide then this year’s colour is a green Stylecraft’s cypress or meadow or Cambrian Mountains new Gwynnon. This Autumn’s colours are quite washed out seaglass(pale pale teal), flame (orange red) and hazelnut (light natural brown) are likely to be in clothes shops. From the WYSpinners stables:DSCF6118

For Knitters who follow knitters there are some interesting new oversize designs from The Fibre Co who support independent designers work. The new Marie Wallin collection Shetland has my favourite (I have to make that design) an interesting shaped construction FairIsle jacket (but when will that happen?).

As for the manufacturers of yarn??? They have to anticipate up to 6 months in advance what you will all want to work with……..

Stylecraft have gone with colour combos and stripes (knit as you go or patterns for) new tweedy, stronger Batik colours and a powder blue for the Special DK range (in later next week).

Kingcole went for vintage cardigans and Luxury Merino.

Wendy (in next month) superchunky oversize jumpers. Hey who said fashion trends weren’t predictable!!!!!!

Everybody knows………….

……was something I over heard on my morning walk to work today. I didn’t hear the rest of the conversation but it occurred to me that, and ‘it’s common sense’, are things we say to re-enforce a statement of something that is true to us.

‘Everybody knows wool is itchy’ is something I hear regularly and ………. if the customer wasn’t always right I would challenge more often.  Wool has many iterations and variants, from the source breed of sheep to the quality of the fleece it produces, the processing it receives, to the type of spin all influence the final product. There are probably as many wool types in the shop as the surprising number of meanings for the word ‘wool’ in common use (not including wool meaning a ball of yarn to knit with!). I can’t stock the number of real varieties of wool yarn to knit with that there are however much I tried. I think the spinners of wool often surprise themselves with the yarn they produce. Each one has its own characteristics and practical use.

‘ oh Everybody knows wool is itchy’ – which wool? what you make? where you wear it?  the weather conditions and how much you wear. The items you are making and why you are making it and of course the wool you use…..

Last week we had a jolly jaunt to Huddersfield, well Slaithwaite (or Slawit if you’re Yorkshire!) actually. To visit the mill home of Spectrum Yarns AKA Stylecraft, for their first Retailers Event – a good time was had and I hope they put the event on again. (No photos sorry, camera malfunction!). It included a preview launching of new winter yarns —- (watch this space and we have some new yarns in the shop see above)….

It is always interesting to visit other businesses see how they work and what they tell you is important to them. We have stocked a lot of Stylecraft since we opened. It has a quality feel and is good value for money. The yarns have durability and feel good to work with and a growing reputation. The visit confirmed my suspicions the owner is very interested in yarn spinning and quality. They are also knitwear manufacturers and test their new yarn choices with the same rigour they apply to yarns for knitwear. It shows.

They knit samples and some poor lady in the height of summer, test wears samples of winter yarn garments. Then they are washed more than once and scored on aspects of this. Knitting experience – comfort – piling – sagging – holding together – dye run. If the yarn fails at any point, however nice it looks it is OUT. This means that yarns getting to the design stage are of a good quality and I imagine cost-effective the make. They yarns are tested when they come in to ensure the quality is maintained even down to a very low tolerance on dye variation.  Quality assurance built-in …. know we know why we like Stylecraft yarns.

I learnt that the UK has not produced Acrylic yarns since the 1980’s everything is spun over seas, in Stylecraft’s case in Italy or Turkey. They do still spin merino yarns for knitwear and the Yarn Stories range (hence it’s inclusion in RedApple – merino sheep are sun lovers and do not live in the UK so the wool isn’t UK but I let it in cause it is lovely and soft, spun to the same rigorous quality standards and in the UK (this can not be said of some other brands).

But I also heard the “everybody knows …..UK wool won’t make knitting yarns” ……..I can’t say I challenged this – I had a mouthful of sandwich at the time and I wasn’t sure if it was another retailer (in which case … their loss) or an employee. It is something I have heard before from yarn manufacturers, particularly those who spin for commercial knitwear manufacturing and is an unfair generalisation in my view. Their criteria for yarn production is large-scale, economical high quality, very fine yarn for fine machine-made knitwear. Wool produced in the UK does not spin very very fine, but for handknitting is over looked in this assessment. But anything said too often can stick, so I will say UK wool produces some fantastic handknit yarns and if you hear/read a comment like this check what ‘knitting’ they are referring too!!!!

There are yarns I wouldn’t use for a vest (I’m not sensitive to wool) –  a Shetland wool vest in the height of summer (or a centrally heated winter) would be a torture item. Big Brit feels like sandpaper in the balls. But it makes a great Rabbit and the lace shawl is drapey and soft.

 

Wool has heat balancing properties that nylon and acrylic don’t, making it easier to wear for very small babies, but most people wouldn’t buy ‘wool’ because it isn’t washable and new Mum’s need easy care products. Bo Peep from WYSpinners is an example of a modern ‘wool’  Soft UK merino from the Falklands (52% wool 48% nylon) washable at 40C. It is soft not itchy, bouncy and nice to knit with and I might even knit myself a vest from this sometime?!

 

‘Everybody should know’ that some wool is itchy to wear but: you need to choose the right wool for your purpose, understand that raw wool is 100% natural, it has breathability and bounce and spring that give knitting added wear comfort; wool does require a little more care when washing in some cases you can by super washable wool and wool does not need to be washed after every wear; if you buy British you are supporting manufacture and processing in the UK and UK’s farmers (if only in a small way); modern wool is chosen and processed to limit the itch factor; Allergic reactions to wool are very rare (sensitivity to lanolin is much more common and that mostly gets washed out) ; if you knit with wool – blocking or washing after knitting will soften the item further;

Everybody knows ‘wool is expensive’ and ‘farmers get nothing for it’……….Oh boy ..Oh boy…… wool as a raw material is a commodity traded on the ‘world markets’ and that particular gambling den has a major influence on the price paid to farmers for their wool. The price paid for raw fleece is governed by the quality of the wool and that is affected by the sheep, the breed, the livestock husbandry and the cleanliness of the fleeces. There is a glut of Merino wool (the highest quality ) on the ‘world market’ due to over production is some parts of the world but merino sheep do not live happily in the Uk climate.

And I also know farmers who won’t buy wool because it is too expensive!

Everyone should know – Wool requires around 8 or 9 different processes (washing and combing, dying and spinning each adding to the cost of production) before knitters (or crochetters) can use it. There are cheaper yarn products.  Manmade fibres were invented to be cheaper alternatives to natural products largely because they need less processing. Wool costs more to make therefore is more expensive. There are cheaper wool products and there are more expensive wool products available. There are cheaper manmade yarns and more expensive ones available. They are always cheaper for  a combination of several reasons:  the origin or quality of the wool; its age and how it has been treated affect the wool price but it is the costs of production, designing and marketing which really effect the value

Merino produces a fine high quality wool. But “Merino isn’t wool” and I quote a customer!! it is. There is a glut of merino wool on the world markets economics says merino wool items should be cheaper as a result but the brand image would be damaged it would not be a premium product – the retail price of ready-made items made of merino wool stays high.

There are expensive branded items that do not deliver higher quality wool because they spend on marketing and branding.  There is really cheap yarn made to a low price which rarely lives long enough to have a second wash. Yarn products that look good and fail to deliver are common.

As a knitter (or crochet maker) your time is the most expensive element of what you are doing. What are you doing this for? I assume that you are making for pleasure (if you want cheap garments …… the fast fashion industry produces them in high volumes at low-cost) – so enjoy the yarn you work with.  always use the best quality yarn you can afford and knowing what you want to make will help.  A hand knitted jumper can take 70 hours of work to complete; which at minimum wage is more than £350. The 500g yarn is not the biggest cost input even at £6, £8 or  £12.50 per 100g (£30, £40, £62.50). What you want is for it to be worth that time investment don’t you??

Red Apple doesn’t stock cheap yarns we stock good quality yarns you can trust. When that also means we can put something back into our community however small we buy UK produced products.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

……..public aclaim

 

 

Vote For Us v2

 

You may or may not know we have been nominated for the above awards. Head for the Lets Knit website and cast your vote for various knitting products (and the best independent retailer in Wales). Casting the vote entitles you to a chance at winning prizes and us a chance to head to London for the award ceremony. (I promise to blog the whole ‘yokel in the big smoke’ experience).

We do stock a number of product winners from previous years like Stylecraft’s Special and West Yorkshire Spinners and we have done since we opened. So we like to think we keep good company anyway. It can’t hurt to do a little advertising can it?

Thunder and lightening

I don’t know if there were multiple storms last night but we had a corker………. the sheet flashes woke me and the rumbles were gigantic. And lashing rain – I could see the big plops landing in my head when the rain started (even though I stayed in bed). The sheet lightning was so bright I could see it through closed eyes (sleeping again not an option!). Not the sort of storm I remember from my childhood. When from home on the high side of a Yorkshire Dale, we watched the storm clouds cracks and zigzag forks driving down the Aire Valley passed us toward Bradford.

As I laid there counting the time between flash and rumble – I got to thinking knitting …..doesn’t everyone? My current projects are almost finished.  The Shenandoah jacket needs part of a sleeve. Peter’s jumper needs bands for the armhole. Rugby man, can wait!. I listed the yarn for new projects in my personal stash and realised there has been a bit of an obsession over the last year.

The yarn for ‘Breathing space’ Triskelion’s Cassiopeia, and Cambrian Mountains Slate; some Whislebare 4ply in Yeavering Bell in Mulberry Mead and Little Grey Sheep’s Laceweight (in a colour that I think was midnight but could have been twilight or even thundering) turns out was called Dark Clouds overhead!!. There’s Manos del Uruguay lace in Apalachian.  (The contrast shade in my Shenandoah jacket). All seemed to be thunder inspired shades of dark violet/purple/slate/plum/mulberry/lavender/rose/mud/ – the colour names issue again.

Not something I can sort by showing you as the photos don’t show the real colours. I also realise I’ve made several dresses, a coat, tops and trousers in shade of this colour which meld as a wardrobe but were all described as various shades or tones and of I’ll plump  for …. puce ( Just to cause more controversy). Some are, himself would call brown and I might call taupe. Some are definitely dyers violet. Some well, didn’t look anything like the colour they transpired to be when received, shall I say!

It has even crept into the shop from my favourite shade Slate from Cambrian Mountain’s Wool, Ramsdale’s mulberry, woolyknit’s BFL amathist, WYS’s exquisite , Wendy’s Air and a new linen mix from Erica Knight -lacy (there a new one) all have that about them. Oh I do hope you like that colour too.

 

It’s a happy colour I suppose, not regal purple more violet/red/pink when added to grey in a weave became that taupe. Not so fashionable maybe, in some guises a bit out there and flashy (when close to magenta). A bit hard to match to buttons and shoes but as ‘homemade’ wardrobe person that is part of the appeal.

What next ? —

I have been playing with the Little Grey Sheep’s mohair for a shawl or shrug to go with a dress but can’t decide on the garment. Then that new viscose linen looks like it will make a project I have been looking to do for a while a ‘Curl’ from Hunter Hammersen’s book Curls. Then there is always a Merit beret; that Fairisle waistcoat; Ydalir shawl or a Funyin hat ………………..

I did get back to sleep eventually .. what else does a woolshop owner dream of   ?????

Looking, seeing — come in and stay a while?

This is the season of tourists – lovely people with time to browse and money for a holiday projects.  I am happy to say we have return visitors – “oo we visited last year and just had to come again” – and those who find us on-line “please drop in and visit in person” and some who just pass through Lampeter and find us………DSCF6038

At the Old Post Office — since we moved in the address has been a blessing – it’s a land mark (ask google maps) and its a quite beautiful building.

It was built in the 1930’s, the foundation stone says 1933. There are I’m told, 83 such buildings in the UK built by the GPO as multipurpose buildings (PO, telephone exchange, sorting office, and PostMaster’s accommodation). Ours has many of the original features, high ceilings and an air of  authority – it looks like a Post Office should. That is why it is a Grade 2 Listed Building to protect its authentic originality.  Inside the original doors the moulding and panels are intact (some hidden by wool!), the majority of the counter is still here all be it turned round. On the outside we have a proper red letterbox and a red sign – we look like a Post Office should. Just like buildings built to house Banks, solid and dependable and familiar.

However, that is just what people (especially visitors) see is – a Post Office.  At least once a day someone asks “Are you the Post Office?” The PO services were moved to the Co-Operative supermarket in around 2008. After four years of living in this space, it has stopped surprising me that people only see the vestige of the previous life of this building. Afterall we see red as a colour before we see anything else. And well it looks like a Post Office! What does surprise me is how many people blame me when it isn’t a Post Office. Sorry, but it’s not my fault the PO moved nor can I take down the red sign that still hangs outside (it is part of the ‘Listed’ status). But you are welcome anyway………..

It is a lovely space to work, please excuse our red sign that misleads you in, thank you for visiting and please stay a while.

Oh, think of me as I wander off to the sorting office to collect our post every day. Thanks to the original purpose of the building we don’t have a letter box of our own!!

Galavanting

In March I escaped to Scotland for a holiday and spent time at Edinburgh Wool Fest. Busman’s holiday so speak. I don’t often get away but last weekend I have been off exploring again. Visiting very old friends (from University days many moons ago). They have a farm on the north end of the Isle of Man. I don’t go to easy to get to places. Before we set off they had told us they were thinking of taking on milking sheep!!

Well that surprised you didn’t it!?  Surprised me too largely ’cause, well we don’t do we? Even if you come from a farming background, milk comes from cows doesn’t it? When I thought about it I do know sheep can be milked. Feta comes from ewes milk and even good old Wensleydale Cheese was originally a ewes milk cheese ( I don’t know if the breed is a milking sheep). Deep in our history eating sheep’s milk was normal. Many of our tall UK sheep breeds were dual purpose milk and wool. Why eat your assets!!

The breed they are looking at is Zwartbles originally from The Netherlands where they are milked. We have had a little of the wool from a local herd but there is none in the shop at the moment. I was sure I’d seen some somewhere……..thats when I realised that the just cast on cardigan I was planning to take as the travel project was….. John Arbon Harvest Hues  which is a Merino Zwartbles blend.

 

It is a 4ply so I’m working on a 3.25mm ( with my sloppy knitting I needed to go down a size to work on stocking stitch). The pattern is a top down cardigan in garter stitch. I like the top down technique because:  one it lets me fit the neck first (the tricky bit if you are a big girl) and two if I have a fixed amount of stash yarn that bit get done first and the length isn’t such a panic. The sleeves get finished last so they can be shorter if I’m running short too. I like how you can cast of for a neck edge and provided you get the proportions of stitches right for the front, sleeves and back you just increase regularly for and get a Raglan sleeve top and the stripes match!!!

I’m working on circulars they are easy to travel with as you can scoop it all up with the needle points out and the cable holds all the stitches together. However I do get people trying to work out what on earth I’m making as the unconventional piece of knitting grows!!  The wool is a little fluffy at the moment but  it is knitting well and in the garter stitch it is making a thick light fabric and so far I have used about a quarter of the gold colour skein (100g) and almost 1 skein of the sycamore green. Plenty left of that purchase to get to the end …. a test run for some Manx wool maybe.

Hat again…..

JpegWell after the last little issue with hats, I had to get back on and have another go with vaasetter beret . This time with less expectation and more testing. The pattern is a very good one for  beginners to fairisle. Worked in the round colour the pattern is always facing you. The floats at the back are short because the pattern is made up of rows of peerie (small) flowers and geometric blocks. The decrease is easy too. Jamieson and Smith’s Heritage range is quite a soft 4 ply nice to work with. Natural fawn (stock due end March), indigo, and moss green.

The hat does come up big as the pattern suggests so for those with big heads or long tresses! For little noggins I suggest casting on 112 work the rib band then increasing in 2 rows (not 1 as pattern) after the band to get to the same number of stitches as the pattern to complete the repeats. Lovely and much admired.

That done …… I wandered off to find another project. I have searched ravelry for a cardigan jacket pattern in colour work and a boxy shape. I am not sure I am up to a 4ply  fairisle yet I came across a Melissa Lipman’s Shenandoah pattern. Worked in mosaic stitches the colour changes are slipped stitches. Oh what fun that is and quick too. Just have to decide which colour combinations I like…….. Oh on slip stitches you might like to check out Feastival (Triskelion Yarn & Fibre)

Now which one first.

Jpeg
mosaic stitch cushion a practice peice

Finally I want to show you this – Woods a crowd funded kntting book featuring breed specific wool from around Europe. One yarn design is done with Blacker Yarns wool incase you are interested.