“Islands of Gossamer Thread” – the Wonders of Shetland Lace

As we have a Shetland Lace Shawl workshop coming up soon (with a few spaces left!) on the 24th January, we thought it was high time we put together a blog post all about this very special tradition.

The official Shetland website shetland.org is an excellent source of information and describes the Shetland Isles up in the North Atlantic Ocean as ‘Islands of Gossamer Thread’, which is a wonderful way to describe them. Here’s a little bit of history:

By the time lace garments saw a resurgence of popularity in the early 19th century, Shetlanders had been knitting for several hundred years. We know knitting probably came to these shores around the year 1500, as knitting is documented in Faroe and Norway at that time. Knitting quickly caught on in Shetland: it was portable, required few tools, and garments could be readily sold to fishermen and merchants on passing ships. The craft was lucrative, helping to supplement the fragile local economy and the incomes of ordinary working people.

With the reign of Queen Victoria in 1837, it became fashionable for women to wear more dress accessories, especially lace mantles, stoles and shawls. Shetland knitters may have been introduced to the idea of knitting openwork patterns by prominent travellers to Shetland, who brought with them similar garments as gifts. Eliza Edmondston, wife of an Unst laird, is thought to have encouraged knitters on Shetland’s most northerly island to take up lace knitting following a slump in the trade for knitted stockings. Within a few months of Victoria’s coronation, Arthur Anderson, founder of P&O shipping and a native of Shetland, presented the Queen with examples of Shetland lace knitting. She immediately ordered 12 pairs of lace stockings, and within the decade, Shetland lace knitting could be bought in many London shops.

Recent years have seen a huge resurgence of interest in Shetland knitting. Bloggers and designers such as Kate Davies, Gudrun Johnston, and our friend and teacher Anniken Allis have been inspired by the tradition to create their own beautiful shawls.

Hansel by Gudrun Johnston

 

Somerled by Kate Davies

Jade by Anniken Allis

Whilst traditionally knitted in yarns so fine that the large finished shawl could be pulled through a wedding ring, recent designers have been able to take advantage of all the beautiful new fibre blends and dye effects available to today’s knitters to really take their shawls to the next level.

If you’d like to learn more about Shetland Lace knitting, and start your own lace shawl project, there’s still time to book onto Anniken’s Shetland Shawl workshop on Weds 24th January. Just call 01626 836203 to get your place.

New Workshop Schedule Coming – our Greatest Hits!

We’re doing something a little different for our next Workshop Schedule. It’ll be a slightly shorter schedule – running from January until the end of March.

We’re planning a selection of some of our most popular workshops from favourite teachers including Claire Crompton, Anniken Allis and Alison Crowther Smith.

This is your opportunity to suggest workshops you’ve always wanted to do but never had the chance! Just email us at customerservices@spinayarndevon.co.uk or let us know on Facebook. If you need some ideas then either grab your Autumn 2017 Programme or have a look through the calendar on the Workshops page of our website.

Do make sure you’re on our mailing list so that we can keep you updated with all the news about future plans for the summer and onwards…

 

 

 

September Workshops

Our Autumn 2017 workshop schedules have now landed with most customers and they’re booking up fast!

However here are some September workshops which still have space – to book just call 01626 836203.

Professional Finishing with Claire Crompton – 15th September.
Do you have half-finished garments languishing in your knitting bag, waiting to be sewn up? Have you attempted a few garments but been disappointed by the way they ended up looking because the finishing was so tricky? This is one of our all-time best selling workshops, and for very good reasons! Claire – author of The Knitter’s Bible and many other knitting technique books – draws on her huge wealth of knowledge and experience to help you overcome any fears about finishing and get a crisp, professional look to your garments. You will learn how easy it is to sew using mattress stitch, how to block and press your pieces, shaping to make sewing up easier, picking up stitches, buttonholes and more.
£50 including home-cooked lunch and tea-time treats.

Toe-Up Socks on Circular Needles using Magic Loop with Anniken Allis – 19th September.
Many knitters prefer to knit socks from the toe-up as this makes it easier to calculate yarn usage. You can also try your socks on as you go to ensure a perfect fit! This workshop will teach you how to work a closed cast on, knit the toe, increase for the gusset, turn the heel and work the heel flap, and how to do a stretchy cast off. In addition you’ll learn how to knit socks on circular needles using the magic loop technique – which in itself is a really useful technique to learn! You can also practice knitting two socks at a time – the perfect solution to the dreaded ‘second sock syndrome’…
£50 including home-cooked lunch and tea-time treats.

 

We also have spaces left on two crochet courses with Di Stewart:

Beginner’s Crochet – afternoons – 7th, 14th, 21st and 28th September
Crochet is a fantastic skill to have under your belt – not only is it perfect for beautiful colorwork blankets, modern garments and accessories, it can also be combined with knitting – for example for adding borders, joining pieces, or adding motifs. Di’s 4 week course will get you started with the techniques you need to know to tackle most crochet patterns.
£50 for the 4 week course.

 

There’s also set of more advanced crochet workshops with Di due to popular demand!
Beyond The Basics of Crochet – afternoons – 5th, 12, 26 October and 2nd November
In these Di will teach you more complex crochet stitches and how to create a crochet garment. You might have taken Di’s beginner workshop, but you don’t have to have – if you’ve learned basic crochet in the past and are ready to take your skills to the next level, this is for you.
£50 for the 4 week course.

Lastly we know there are many of our customers who work full time or look after family during the week and so we are thrilled to announce that up and coming local designer Heather Firby will be running Saturday workshops at Spin A Yarn this autumn.
We have spaces left on:

Learn to Knit in the Round / Magic Loop – morning – Saturday 12th August
Learn the magical Magic Loop technique and never sew up a seam again! We get so many requests from customers wanting to master the Magic Loop technique, it is SO useful. You will learn how to knit in the round to make a hat or cowl with no seams, plus how you would use the techniques to make a whole garment with no seams. You will also be shown how to translate straight knitting patterns to be knitted in the round.
£30 including tea-time treats

Basic Crochet Techniques – morning – 12th August
Here you will learn a variety of different crochet stitches and some of the many ways in which you can use them. You’ll learn how to read crochet patterns step by step, and there will be the opportunity to learn how to crochet amigurimi to create 3D shapes and work in the round.
£30 including tea-time treats

Garment Construction – afternoon – 9th September
You will learn all of the techniques needed to knit and construct a garment, including: shaping, picking up stitches and sewing up invisibly. You will also have the opportunity to learn how to edit parts of a pattern to change the fit or style.
£30 including tea-time treats

There are still places on other workshops – we’ve only listed the September ones here – don’t forget you can always check our website at www.spinayarndevon.co.uk/workshops to check availability and as ever, call 01626 836203 to book.

 

 

Tunisian Crochet – the best of both worlds!

We’re often asked…what exactly is Tunisian crochet?

Well, the short answer is that it is a craft that combines the best of knitting and crochet – you use a hook like crochet, but it’s as long as a knitting needle, and you keep a whole row of stitches on the hook, like knitting. You can achieve many different stitches and effects, and even combine it with regular crochet. It produces quite a dense and textured fabric, which is great for making warm and cozy cowls and mitts, or even fabric for bags, purses and cushions.

tunisian-hook

Why “Tunisian”? Well, the name is a bit misleading! It’s also been called over the years: Afghan Crochet, Shepherd’s Knitting, German Work, Railway Knitting (named after the girls on the trains going to work in English factories in the 1800s), Russian Work, Tricot Work, and many more. Some believe that the technique evolved from the ‘hook knitting’ of Egypt, Afghanistan, and Tunisia, which uses two long needles with hooked ends. We might guess from the terms ‘Afghan’ and ‘Tunisian’ that it originated in the Near East or northern Africa, but there’s not a lot of evidence to substantiate that. In fact, most believe that the term ‘Tunisian crochet’ was coined by the French. By the early 1800s directions for Tunisian stitches began appearing in publications for crocheters. It was used at the time primarily for blankets, as the dense stitches Tunisian lends itself so well to are ideal for creating warm layers. By the mid-19th century it was practiced in Western Europe and the British Isles (where, some claim, it was known as “Royal Princess Knitting” in honor of Victoria’s use of it). (Thanks to Crochetvolution blog for this fascinating info!).

If you fancy learning being part of the great resurgence of interest in this wonderful craft, our lovely crochet teacher Di Stewart is running a workshop on Tuesday 13th March. There are still some place available so get in touch to book! 01626 836203.

The workshop will teach you the basic stitches and techniques, working towards making a pair of unique Tunisian handwarmers (see below)

p18-tunisian-gloves

Once you’ve mastered the skills, the world is your oyster – here is just a small selection of the type of things you can make using Tunisian Crochet (images from Ravelry.com)

learntunisiancrochet

 

Learn a New Skill this Autumn

The leaves are turning colour, the days are getting shorter…what better way to prepare for winter than learning a few new skills with renowned designer and teacher Anniken Allis at one of our workshops?

anniken-workshop

Firstly on Tuesday 11th October we have Easy Lace Knitting.

A quick glance at the latest designs in the knitting magazines and online shows that Lace Knitting is more than just a skill – it’s an art form! Whilst it may look complicated, most lace patterns are made up of a handful of stitches which you probably already know. It’s not just for fancy shawls either – you can use lace to add a pretty border on some mitts, as a panel on a summery top, or even on socks and hats!

The workshop will teach you how to read the charts (which provide a visual aid to the written instructions), how to work the stitches and decreases required for lace knitting, how to add beads with a crochet hook, and how to shape within a lace pattern. It’s suitable for adventurous novice and intermediate knitters.

lace-knitting

Next up we have an exciting workshop teaching you how to knit Two Socks at a Time, on Tuesday 15th November.

Why would I want to do that, you might ask? Well, did you know that Second Sock Syndrome is rife among sock knitters? The joy of finishing the first sock is replaced by the weary feeling of having to repeat the whole process again. As a result, single socks linger sadly in the knitting bags of many a sock knitter! Beat it by learning how to knit two socks at a time, top-down, using circular needles. You can either use magic loop method or the two circulars method, whichever you are most comfortable with. We stock a dazzling array of sock yarns in the shop – from self striping, colour-shifting, to self-patterning!

Learn how to cast on and arrange your stitches onto the needles, how to work the heel flap, heel turn, and gusset, and all the other skills needed to knit a pair of socks in one go. (Please note, this workshop is suitable for adventurous and intermediate knitters who have knitted at least one pair of basic socks from the top down.)

socks

Both workshops cost £49 for the day, which includes Joyce’s delicious home-cooked lunch and teatime treats. For more information and to book please call 01626 836203, or email us at customerservices@spinayarndevon.co.uk

A little information about Anniken Allis…one of our most long standing teachers at Spin A Yarn, top knitwear designer Anniken specialises in lace knitting, which she loves to add beads to. Growing up in Norway, she learned to knit before she left primary school, knitting continental style. When she moved back to the UK, she resumed knitting, found a love for blogging (follow her adventures at Annis Knitting Blog), and started writing up her own patterns (we still have some of her earliest patterns here in the shop!).

Anniken taught herself lace knitting (and cables) by using online videos, books and magazines, and quickly realised that it was much easier to knit from charts. Her patterns are regularly published in national magazines such as Debbie Bliss, Knitscene, Interweave Knits, and she even achieved her goal of having a pattern published in Vogue Knitting!

vogue-knitting-anniken-cover

Teacher Focus – Alison Crowther Smith

Alison is well known and loved by many of our customers, but for those new to her designs and workshops, we thought we’d share some information about her inspirations, design process and some of her latest workshops.

Alison Crowther Smith

Having previously worked for Rowan Yarns as a Design Consultant, Joyce met Alison through the Rowan Rep at the time back in 2008. A passionate and committed knitting teacher, she has taught regular workshops at Spin A Yarn, with her wonderful moebius cowl workshops often selling out within days!

(What’s a moebius cowl you ask? It uses a specially adapted cast-on to knit a continuous loop cowl with one half twist – which sits beautifully and shows off both sides of the knitting.)

moebius-cowl

Her knitting focuses on detailed, often delicate designs with the emphasis on accessories and the occasional foray into home-ware knitting such as cushion covers and wonderfully snuggly throws.

_msc9726

She is perhaps best known for a career-long love affair with one of our favourite yarns, Rowan’s best selling Kidsilk Haze, along with beads – exploring texture, subtle colour-ways and elegant knits.

When asked about her design process she said

“I am a very literal designer. When I see pleasing images, especially shapes, my mind instantly begins to try and recreate something of that imagery, in a knitted design. Once I know what I want to knit, I work backwards and layer the design elements into it. My focus tends to be on detailed features, such as a tailored cuff or a decorative texture, which I hope add elegance and a sense of the ‘whole’, as well as being really pleasing to knit.

Because I break my design process down into these layers, often the overall impression may be of an intricate, even difficult knit; but in fact, if I have a trade-mark I think it would be that each element of my designs is not very difficult to knit, but added together, they look as if they were. One of my aims is to make you, the knitter, feel amazing. 

I also like fairly small or medium-sized projects, because I am a big fan of completing my knitting within a reasonable timescale, or at least within my tolerance for boredom, which is fairly generous – but not boundless.”

Alison lives and works in Somerset where she draws inspiration from the local landscapes, saying “this large and beautiful county is full of vivid contrasts and atmospheric landscapes”.

We are featuring several new workshops from Alison in our Autumn Programme this year. More Moebius Designs is already fully booked, but here are two which you still have time to secure a place on!

Rise Scarf – Thursday 3rd November 2016 – £49 including home-cooked lunch and teatime treats.

Rise Scarf

Rise is a mirror image scarf – almost. On one side, the silver thread dominates, whilst on the other side, soft green woolen yarn eclipses the frost. Each year I am amazed by the sturdiness of snow-drops as they push through the crusted snow or frosted earth, granular from the repeated freeze and thaw. That is what I saw when I designed this scarf.

spring-1166564_640

This slender tubular scarf is knitted in the round – on DPNs, by magic loop method, or on two short circulars – whichever method you are more comfortable with! You will need 2-3 balls of DK yarn, plus 1-2 balls of Kidsilk Haze, and 3.75mm plus 4mm needles suitable for knitting in the round – and one stitch marker. Don’t forget you get a 10% discount voucher (15% off for Loyalty Card holders) on the day if you prefer to choose when you get here.

Owl Mitts – Friday 11th November 2016 – £49 including home-cooked lunch and teatime treats.

Owl Mitts

Who can resist these sweet tiny owls adorning the wrist of these cute mitts? They are quick, economical, and a great Christmas gift too, particularly for any bird-lovers or teens (owls are still very trendy!). The owls are formed using cable techniques – you’ll be amazed to see them forming up before your eyes. The course is suitable for knitters who are reasonably experienced but if you cannot already knit in the round, Alison will teach you to do this on DPNs so please bring some.

You will need 2 balls of DK yarn with a high wool content, plus 3mm needles to knit in the round. Also 3 stitch markers, a cable needle, 20 beads (size 5 or 6), or 20 tiny buttons (we stock some!). If you are a very tight knitter please also consider bringing 3.25mm needles. Don’t forget you get a 10% discount voucher (15% off for Loyalty Card holders) on the day if you prefer to choose when you get here.

To book just call 01626 836203 or email us with your contact details and which workshop you’re interested in on customerservices@spinayarndevon.co.uk and we’ll call you back. You can view all our workshops at http://www.spinayarndevon.co.uk/workshops/

We also sell Alison’s latest and VERY gorgeous pattern book, Elements, in the shop. You can read more about it here.

Smith and Jones Elements Cover

 

The Autumn 2016 Newsletter and Workshop Schedule is here!

While we might still seem to be waiting for Summer to arrive, you’ll be pleased to hear that our Autumn Schedule has just been printed and it contains a treasure trove of workshops, plus a free pattern from Malabrigo.

Autumn Programme

New workshops this season include…

Knitting the Octavia Shawl with Anniken Allis – a stunning new lace shawl, which you can accessorise with matching fingerless mitts afterwards!

Octavia Shawl Workshop with Anniken Allis

Octavia Shawl and Fingerless Mitts

A NEW, advanced Moebius Cowl designs workshop from Alison Crowther Smith, plus a workshop learning her cute new owl themed mitts.

Owl Mitts

Owl Mitts

An exciting opportunity to learn all about Estonian lace knitting with a new teacher, Ethel Hiller. You’ll learn some of the history and the main techniques needed for this exquisitely delicate knitting style.

Estonian Lace Knitting

Estonian Lace Knitting

We also have new workshops from Claire Crompton, Di Stewart and another of our very popular Spinning Workshops coming.

We’re also thrilled to be featuring a free pattern from Malabrigo – the Willowdell Shawl

Here’s a sneak peek…

willowdell lace

Keep an eye on your post over the next week or so – if we don’t already have your current postal address, just drop us an email at customerservices@spinayarndevon.co.uk and we’ll make sure you get one. Many of our workshops sell out very fast, so don’t delay booking when your programme arrives!

Plus…If you pop in to the shop to collect your copy, you can even book your place there and then.

Looking forward to a busy and fun rest of 2016 x

 

 

 

Anniken’s Lace Workshops

We’re very lucky here at Spin A Yarn to count one of the current top lace designers of the knitting world, Anniken Allis, as a great friend and well established workshop teacher.

Anniken AllisAnniken at SaY Fashion Show

vogue knitting anniken cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hailing from Norway, knitting is in Anniken’s blood – having learnt Continental knitting from a young age, she started designing patterns in her early 30s and her love affair with designing beautiful lace accessories and garments began. Now a published author (of Beaded Lace Knitting) and having had her work featured on the front of the highly respected US Vogue Knitting, we are thrilled that she regularly travels up from her home in beautiful Cornwall to continue teaching workshops with us – on everything from how to knit Continental style, to Norwegian ‘Selbu’ style mittens.

Lang Vinter Votter 1

Selbu Mittens

Candace Pattern by Anniken Allis

Candace Shawl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anniken’s delicate and glamorous shawls feature novel stitch techniques, unusual cast-offs (and sometimes cast-ons!), and often beading… she teaches all of these techniques and more on her dedicated workshops for each pattern. In the morning you learn the techniques required, and in the afternoon you start your own project, choosing from the wide selection of beautiful yarns we stock here at Spin A Yarn (workshop attendees get an extra discount voucher on the day!).

Violetta Shawl

Violetta Shawl

We have a few spaces left on each of these workshops, so if you’d like to embark on making a gorgeous accessory with Anniken’s help and advice, do give us a call on 01626 836203 to secure your place. These workshops cost £49 each, run from 10am to 4pm, and include a copy of the pattern plus Joyce’s home-cooked lunch and tea-time treats. They are suitable for confident novice or intermediate knitters, or confident knitters who just want to enjoy knitting a new pattern in good company!

St Aubin’s Bay Shawl – Tuesday 26th April

St Aubin's Bay Shawl

St Aubin’s Bay Shawl

An elegant crescent shaped shawl worked from the top-down with an eyelet garter stitch pattern. Two short row wedges and a beaded picot cast-off add interest to a fun accessory. In the morning you’ll practice the techniques used to knit this shawl including short rows, adding beads using a crochet hook, picot cast-off, and how to shape the shawl. In the afternoon you will start your own St Aubin’s Bay shawl with the 4-ply/sock yarn and beads of your choice.

 

 

Knitting the Mar Menor and Daisy Shawl – Tuesday 24th May

Mar Menor Shawlette

Mar Menor Shawlette

Daisy Shawl

Daisy Shawl

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Daisy and Mar Menor shawls are both fun shawlettes featuring unusual stitch patterns and are some of the most popular in the shop! In this class you’ll learn the elongated and crossed stitch patterns used in these two shawls, as well as how to add beads using a crochet hook, how to work a beaded picot cast-off, and how to shape both shawls. In the afternoon you’ll be able to start your own Daisy or Mar Menor shawl with the 4-ply/sock yarn and beads of your choice.

Persephone Shawl – Tuesday 26th July

Persephone Shawl

Persephone Shawl

An eye-catching crescent shawl worked from the top down, with multiple yarn overs used in the edging to create a big impact. In the morning you’ll practice the techniques used to knit this shawl, including how to read a lace chart, how to work large yarn overs, and how to shape the shawl. In the afternoon you’ll start your own Persephone shawl, with the 4-ply/sock yarn of your choice – enjoy choosing two contrasting or gently complementary colours.