Subscribe via email


Click here to subscribe to the MILLAMIA blog by Email

To view previous blog posts scroll down to the bottom of the page

Friday, 28 December 2012


Tivoli Cushion
My Christmas gift knitting reached epic proportions this year. I have a habit of setting myself an almost impossible gift knitting list - and then add to that impossible list with a fervour and willful abandon that only the slightly unhinged would even contemplate, right up until Christmas. As I write this, even I am amazed at the volume of woolly gifts I managed to complete - 10 crocheted snowflakes, 8 pairs of socks, 3 felted bags, 3 fairisle pin cushions, 3 pairs of fingerless mittens, 2 Christmas Stockings, 1 beret and 1 sweater.

As a consequence, I thought I might turn to something other than knitting as a post-Christmas 'cool down'. There are many many activities that don't involve textiles of any sort and are equally good fun, right? I have a jigsaw, a couple of board games, there is a jam-packed schedule of Christmas viewing on the TV, I could go for invigorating walks in our beautiful local countryside, read some non-knitting related books on my new Kindle, draw, paint, cook.

I could.


I can't settle to the jigsaw and you always need someone else to play a boardgame with. The TV seems strangely unsatisfying when I merely watch it without something occupying my hands and a walk in the countryside seems so unappealing when it's drenched in rain and oozing mud from every earthly pore. I am enjoying reading - I am . . . just it relaxes me so much that I find myself nodding off after 20 minutes or so. As for the drawing, painting and cooking, they all require a level of commitment and effort, that quite frankly I'd rather invest in, well, knitting.

I give in and choose a post Christmas knitting project. I'm going to appease the selfish knitter that lurks in each of us and knit for myself. It's something easy (so that I can watch some Christmas TV at the same time), something that I can put down without fear of losing my place (so that I can go and put in a few pieces of my jigsaw) and something that will grow quickly into a thing of beauty (which will become a bonus Christmas present to me!) A Tivoli Cushion is just the thing.

My first attempt in fuchsia, storm, putty and grass wasn't quite right

After a false start with a poor colour choice which I really wasn't happy with, I changed to daisy, peacock, fuchsia and putty. I love the vibrancy and energy that these colours produce alongside each other - and this colour combination goes perfectly with the multi-coloured Elk cushion I finished earlier this year.

This vibrant Tivoli will co-ordinate with my colourful Elk

I can knit this Tivoli and enjoy the process, the pleasure of making the fabric and seeing it grow. I can appreciate the colour play and find satisfaction in the thought of owning this thing that I'm crafting. I'll luxuriate in creating something without working to a deadline and find, in the midst of this gentle knitting that I'm ready to make a new list . . . a huge and impossible list of all the fabulous things I want to knit next year.

(posted by Max)

Friday, 21 December 2012


For me, there is little more satisfying than seeing a Christmas tree heavily laden with ornaments and family memories from past years, and with an abundance of beautifully wrapped gifts underneath. I love to give handmade gifts and take a good deal of time and care selecting and crafting the perfect gift for my friends and loved ones. So, it's no surprise that after all my effort I like to make sure the gifts themselves are dressed to impress!

This year I found the perfect decoration whilst browsing issue 51 of The Knitter. These delicate crocheted snowflakes by Valerie Bracegirdle (you can find her on Ravelry too) although shown as a garland, would make the perfect toppers for my presents if I used them singly. I decided to coordinate them to my wrapping, rather than making them in a traditional 'snow white' and chose scarlet and putty which I thought would compliment my scheme.

Firstly, let me say that I count myself a knitter who fairly regularly diverts off on a crocheting tangent, and as such my crochet skills are not that good. I would say that these snowflakes would be suitable for an 'improving' crocheter - they have a good range of stitches in them, but if you know how to make a basic double crochet, then the other stitches are easy enough to manage. Of course, to make the snowflake symmetrical requires a level of accuracy and this may be where a less experienced crocheter would come unstuck, and I certainly had to concentrate! Have a go, and remember to use the plethora of resources open to us all as crafters on YouTube and the internet - somebody out there will have asked the same question as you at some point!

If you are tempted to try these beautiful snowflakes, then here is all the information you need. I used just 3-4gms of MillaMia Naturally Soft Merino for each one, which makes them excellent for using up your odds and ends of yarn, and a 3.5mm hook. I found that this gave me a firm fabric and a nice even finish, but you may need to adjust your hook size to suit your own tension. The yarn really lends itself to this project, and crochet in general as the tight twist helps to prevent split stitches and produces a lovely smooth, even finish.

To finish, I didn't cut the yarn after the final slip stitch, but chained approx 25 and then again slip stitched to the bottom of the chain to make a loop. I would estimate that each snowflake took me less than a hour to complete - so have a go! -  you still have plenty of time to make some stunning snowflake toppers for those extra special gifts this Christmas.
(posted by Max)

Wednesday, 19 December 2012


Swedish Church in Marylebone (picture by Nick Weall)
Last weekend was a busy one for our family as we celebrated the Swedish Christmas tradition of Lucia. It is something that we enjoyed as Helena and I were growing up, and I'm now hoping to pass that on to my own two children. It really is one of my favourite celebrations - close enough to Christmas to link in with all that excitement but also just a beautiful ceremony with some wonderful songs.
St. Lucia is an Italian saint who has been "adopted" by the Swedes. Her tragic story goes thus - She gave her dowry to the poor but her fiancee denounced her for it and she was then blinded and burned. The flames however, didn't touch her so she was stabbed in the heart. It is said that she appeared during a famine in Sweden in the middle ages carrying food to the farmers across Lake Vännern. St. Lucia is associated with the idea of light. In the middle ages, December 13 fell on the shortest day of the year, and as you may know, in Sweden, the sun is not up very long in winter - in fact it doesn't come at all in some places. This holiday celebrates that the days will now get longer.
The girls in their traditional white dresses and candles

On the morning of December 13th, it is traditional in Swedish households for the oldest daughter to dress in a special long white dress with a red ribbon around the waist (the sash which represents her wound), white socks and no shoes. She puts a wreath made out of leaves on her head which has 6 - 8 candles on it (usually battery powered light bulbs instead of real candles these days). Her sisters also wear special long white dresses with shiny ribbons around their waists, tinsel around their heads and they carry a candle in their hands. Her brothers are called Star Boys and wear a special long white gown with a shiny sash, a pointed hat decorated with three stars and carry a baton with a star on it.

Saffron Bread
The custom is then for the children to serve coffee and special saffron bread to the rest of the family. They walk into the bedroom with the oldest daughter in the front, followed in size by the next tallest girl, down to the smallest and then the boys follow with the tallest in the front. As they bring in the Lucia bread and coffee the girls sing "Santa Lucia" (in Swedish, of course), and then the boys sing "Stefan was a Stable-boy." This procession is often replicated in schools and hospitals across the land also.
Each of the elements of the ceremony have special significance with the candles and yellow saffron bread representing light and the girls walking bare foot signifying charity. The saffron bread which you can see in the picture is traditionally eaten up until Christmas but not before Lucia. I would love to claim that I made the delicious saffron bread in the picture, but alas, I must confess to buying it at Totally Swedish!

Our weekend began by baking Swedish gingerbread on Saturday morning which was great fun for the kids - Helena, our Mother and I were on hand to help out, but as you can see Kristina and Freddie had everything under control!

Kristina helped by Mormor (Swedish for Grandma)
Kristina and Freddie have it all under control
Some traditional gingerbread stockings and some dinosaurs courtesy of Freddie!

Later, on Saturday afternoon we went along to the Swedish Church in Marylebone for the Lucia celebration. It was so atmospheric - beautiful singing and the girls dressed in their traditional white dresses looked truly serene - a wonderful experience for the whole family.

For a fun taste of Lucia in Sweden - take a look at this link too!
(posted by Katarina)

Monday, 17 December 2012


Katarina hiding her bump with bags in Maze

Last Thursday we enjoyed a real treat - the MillaMia Christmas lunch! There are now 5 members of the team here in the UK (we missed Kirsten who is our right hand in Australia) though we are mostly a 'virtual team' with some members working from home and others part time, so don't actually get the chance to meet face to face very often. This was a very special lunch as I had previously only met our latest MillaMia members - new Office Manager, Maja and Design Intern Yumiko Isa via Skype (and we ALL know how many years that can add on!)

Yumiko and Maja modelling their Christmas presents
We went toa fun restaurant, Maze in Grosvenor Square for a delectable lunch, and chatted over the delicious menu. I had taken the opportunity to be very well organised and gave them all some small Christmas gifts - Yumiko and Maja are each wearing a pair of Ice Storm Mitts by talented designer Louise Zass-Bangham - in Scarlet and Claret respectively. Luckily both pairs fitted well and were much appreciated! You can also see the snowflake decorations that I made using MillaMia in scarlet and putty to co-ordinate with the parcels in the pictures - more on how I made these later in the week!

(posted by Max)

Friday, 14 December 2012


You may not know this, but MillaMia are now stocked in some 90 local yarn shops in the UK, Ireland and Europe,over 100 in Canada and the US and 17 in Australia and New Zealand (find a current list of all our stockists here). In this feature we're going to interview some of our stockists to help celebrate them for the wonderful local yarn shops they are, but also to tell you a little about the amazing men and women behind the yarn!

As Mrs Moon were our very first stockist back in 2009, we thought we'd make them the focus of our first stockist feature! Situated in Twickenham and owned by sisters, Karen Miller and Susan Ritchie, the shop is an enticing cornucopia of colour and texture. As you would expect in a decidedly cool yarn shop, there are desirable brands and heavenly yarns ranging from Blue Sky Alpacas, Rowan and Erika Knight to Fyberspates and Noro. There are also beautiful trimmings and handmade buttons, inspiring garments and samples and a comprehensive selection of magazines, books and patterns. They have a vibrant and very friendly knitting group who meet on Thursday mornings and also sell their fabulous yarns online.

We thought that it would be interesting to find out a bit about Karen and Susan, so I asked them a few questions about their knitting, crochet and every knitters dream job - life as a yarn shop owner.

Susan and Karen

Max: What have you got on the needles at the moment? And – is it Christmas gift knitting?
Karen: At the moment I have two things on the go, both my own designs. One is a chunky snood and the other is a fur hat.  As always they are for the shop, but I will have to do some Christmas knitting soon as I have promised one of my sons a hat..... eek....!  Susan crochets and is creating a bolero....

Max: What’s the best thing about owning a knitting shop?
Karen and Susan: The best thing about owning a knitting shop is being surrounded by wonderful colours and textures to inspire you all day long. We have fabulous customers which make the days fun but love teaching people the most....  it is great to teach someone how to knit or crochet and see them coming back again and again to do more and more projects.

Max: What trends in knitting and/or crochet are you currently seeing?
Susan: Trend wise... lots of bright colours (perfect for Millamia!) and chunky knits too. We are going through a bit of a sparkle craze.... not sure if it's a seasonal thing... but we are putting sparkle in everything!

Max: What is your favourite MillaMia pattern and yarn colour?
Karen: My favourite Millamia pattern also happens to be our bestseller. It's the Lilian jacket. We have a sample in the shop and everyone loves it. Susan's is the Elk cushion... such a beautiful design. My favourite colours change all the time, but I love putty as it works with everything and also fuchsia and midnight.....   they have real depth. Susans is Daisy.

Max: Finally, tell us something unusual about yourselves.
Karen: Fascinating fact.... we are both classically trained musicians ... Susan plays the cello and I play the violin and viola .... we have our own trio and rehearse fortnightly.

If you're in Twickenham and want to while away a satisfying hour or two browsing their beautiful yarns and haberdashery, pop along to Mrs Moon - 41, Crown Road, St Margarets, London TW1 3EJ or visit to shop online.

(posted by Max)

Wednesday, 12 December 2012



We are thrilled that so many of you posted comments on the Blog. You've given us great feedback and plenty of suggestions on how to improve it - from small project ideas to use up scraps, to knitting tutorials and tips, and more about the design process behind MillaMia. We've taken stock of all your requests so keep an eye out for all sorts of new and inspiring posts in 2013.

And so . . . the moment you've all been waiting for! We've randomly selected a reader who submitted a post in response to our request . . . in order to win one of our cushion kits . . . 
. . . Tivoli or . . .

 . . . Stilla

 . . . yes yes, I know - get on with it!! The winner is . . . 


HUGE congratulations to you and thanks so much for posting. Please email with your details and we'll send you one of these fantastic cushion kits.

Don't forget that our Cushion Kits make the perfect gift for the knitter or craft enthusiast in your life and can be purchased directly from

(posted by Max)

Tuesday, 11 December 2012


Candy Cane Stocking
When I think of Christmas, I think of parties, family, seeing old friendsand presents! For the record I love receiving gifts and let's be honest -  whodoesn’t? But I also love giving them and I get a bit of a high from thinking of anoriginal and imaginative one.

I see it as a challenge to put lots of thought, imagination and effort into coming up with the perfect original gift. I've been handcrafting presents for my friends and family since I was around 7 years old, though no doubtmy family are very grateful that as I've grown older the standard of presents has grown too!

Disasters aside, I used to love coming back from university each Christmas with a new set of skills to use for my gifts project, which have ranged from beaded scarves, a colour mix dress, funky cushion covers and most recently, personalised tree decorations for my niece Kristina. I have to confess they were probably all more a present to myself because they were so much fun to make.

Handcrafting gifts for your loved ones does take some time and thought, andsmall cute projects can be very appealing and look amazing. Try knitting some of these Christmas tree decorations by Arne and Carlos to dress up your tree with a truly Scandinavian feel. One of our Australian stockists, Suzy Hausfrau has made some wonderful versions out of MillaMia yarn. See her blogpost here. Or tie them to your gifts as a fun alternative to a bow. I'd love to see these strung up on the mantlepiece alongside a Candy Cane Stocking stuffed with gorgeous gifts!

There is still time to fit in a quick project for someone special from Country Escape if you're feeling up to some cable work. Try the Birgitta Wristwarmers in claret (as shown) or how about knitting a pair for yourself in scarlet to really stand out in the Christmas crowds? I'm hoping there will be a pair under the tree for me. Hopefully my sister or Max are knitting already......

(posted by Helena)

Friday, 7 December 2012


The past two weeks have been a whirlwind of excitement and activity for us in the MillaMia office. As you can imagine, the launch of a new collection not only comes with the thrill of seeing a long-awaited project come to fruition, but also, rather like the opening night of a new West End Show, the anticipation (and trepidation!) of the following reviews. Will the critics love it, or loathe it?

We took a collective deep breath and waited to see whether Country Escape would be as well-received as we hoped . . . and were literally bowled over by the immediate and incredibly positive response from our customers and stockists alike! The designs were instantly desirable and appealing - so many of you have already bought the book and chosen yarn for your favourite garment - it makes the process and the design journey all worthwhile.

For me, seeing the first double page advert in The Knitter was the defining moment - I knew that we had something special and unique here - an advert for what is essentially a knitting pattern book, but that had the look of a high fashion advert in a glossy magazine. I took a picture to remind me of the thrill I felt at seeing our advert looking like I'd just flipped the page in my latest Vogue.

It wasn't just me either. When I spoke to our stockists, they overwhelmingly said that it looked more like an advert in a high end fashion magazine than your usual knitting ad. I wondered if Helena had had made a conscious decision to push the boundaries of knitting and high fashion and I also got to thinking about what her vision and inspiration had been when she first conceived this collection. I thought it was time that I found out! - Max

Max: Do you think MillaMia are being trail blazers or a little controversial in marketing Country Escape more like a fashion house?

Helena: I think at MillaMia we want style to come first. We want everything we do to be consistent and we feel that the imagery we produce is all important in communicating what our collection and our brand is about. As such, yes - we feel our ranges should look as contemporary and stylish as an ad in Vogue - or at least that's the aim!

Charlie Cardigan
Max: What was your inspiration and vision when creating this first collection for adults?

Helena: I wanted a real Autumn / Fall story all about fresh crisp days outdoors - where you get to luxuriate in the warmth of a handknit, like the Catrin but still enjoy being out in the cold. We set the shoot in a rural spot that's great for sports and wholesome, outdoorsy activities - I think that the photos convey that sense of enjoying the English countryside even when it's really chilly outside!
I love winter too - wearing something elegant and practical because it's warm is the perfect combination for me! Pieces like the Charlie - a truly transitional piece that is equally well suited to cool evenings in the summer and for layering in Autumn and late Spring.
Posted by Max

Thursday, 6 December 2012


I actually finished knitting my moss Cable Stocking about a week or so ago, but I must confess to giving in to displacement activity (yes, even the hoovering!) when faced with blocking it. I raced through the knitting, thoroughly enjoying the cabling and shaping and even felt a little sad when I realised I'd completed the 2 pieces (main 'foot' and cuff). I put it aside with every good intention of blocking it at the next opportunity and then promptly set about doing ANYTHING else but giving it the attention it deserved!

I don't have an abhorrence to blocking per se, but I nearly always find that I leave it until the eleventh hour even though I know that it is a necessary part of the creative process. As I mentioned in a previous post - it really can make all the difference between a beautiful hand-crafted item that you can be proud of and something shoddily put together that will be a constant reminder of a hastily completed project.

So, when the nagging voice at the back of mind became too persistent to ignore this weekend, I got out my blocking tools and set about transforming my wrinkly knitting into a fabulous stocking!

I use a set of foam playmats to block on - the type that you can easily find in a toyshop for around £10-15 which provide the best base for sticking your pins into and are completely adaptable to most sizes. I also have blocking pins - these just need to be long with sturdy 'heads' to make them visible against your knitting - and I have a set of blocking wires that are the very best way to tackle more difficult projects like lace shawls. For the Stocking I only needed one of the blocking mats and some pins.

As you can see from the pictures - the Stocking is not the easiest shape to block flat! I advise you stretch the top, straight section and the 'instep' of the foot to maximise the look of the cables, and then leave the 'heel' as I've done because this area doesn't need so much attention.

Once I had pinned the pieces out to the measurements and was happy that it all looked straight and even - I sprayed the pieces with a solution of Soak and water. Soak is a no-rinse wool wash that helps to condition your handknits and give them a lovely scent too! You could equally use a steam iron to lightly dampen the pieces or cover them with a damp cloth and leave to dry overnight. All of these methods help to even out the stitches and 'persuade' your pieces to retain the shape you desire.

Don't be tempted to take the pieces off the mat until they are completely dry. As long as you have enough space to leave them, I would recommend leaving them overnight. Remember that any little dent or dimple made by a pin will probably end up dried in, so it's vital to pin out as smoothly as you can.

All that was left was to seam together and add the cuff. I always use mattress stitch where I can as it provides the most 'seamless' and professional finish. Et voila! my splendid mossy Cable Stocking just begging to be stuffed full of gorgeous gifts!


As most of you knitters will know, it's incredibly difficult to keep any of your finished items for yourself - particularly at this time of year! So, much as I love this mossy stocking, I'm going to fill it with some fun gifts and send it to a friend who I know will truly appreciate it . . . and then try to knit another one for myself before Christmas!

(posted by Max)

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

A busy week - events evening at Peter Jones

Last week was a busy one. A combination of new people joining MillaMia (more of that soon), lots of orders from our stockists for our new book Country Escape, finalising arrangements for a move to a new, larger office for the team and a fun events evening at Peter Jones - the central London Sloane Square branch of John Lewis.

We popped along from 6-9pm with a selection of samples and free patterns, hoping to inspire the late night Christmas shoppers attending this John Lewis event. There were lots of people - attracted no doubt by a mix of suppliers in-store ranging from Decopatch demonstrations to famous chef Raymond Blanc in the cookery department.

We were delighted to be sharing the knitting space with Sue Stratford of "Knitted Meerkats" and "Mini Christmas Knits" fame, and also Natalie the lovely Rowan consultant. We know Sue already so it was great fun catching up with her, and Natalie was knitting a lovely inspiring fair isle pattern from a Rowan magazine from a few years ago. There were lots of customers (Helena said far more than last year when she was there on her own) and we actually ran out of our Christmas stocking pattern before the event was over. Some piccies below!

Helena admires Sue's handiwork

Natalie, Sue and Helena relax before the start

Natalie shares her delicious fair isle project

Posted by Katarina