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Thursday, 28 March 2013

YUMIKO visits Wool House

Last week I was thrilled to be able to visit the Wool House exhibition at Somerset House. It is a celebration of wool presented over 12 days by
The Campaign For Wool and curated by Arabella McNie who has over 20 years experience as a designer and stylist in the world of interiors. The event was presented 'a vision for wool as a modern, versatile, lifestyle fibre' and featured a showcase of interiors, fashion and textiles along with a hi-tech educational suite.

Situated in the west wing, which has recently been renovated, the exhibition was to transform it into a home made almost exclusively from wool. Featuring 7 rooms created by leading interior designers who aimed to showcase the incredible versatility and unique qualities of wool, Somerset House had a truly awe-inspiring makeover.

The featured designers were Donna WilsonAshley Hicks,
Josephine RyanAnne Kyyrö Quinn, Mary Fox Linton of Fox Linton Associates and Kit Kemp. As well as these super-talented interior designers, there were other artists who showcasing their unique work and incredible skill.

This beautiful 100ft runner is the work of Cristian Zuzunaga:

and this stunning, if slightly scary crochetdermy bear is by Shauna Richardson - life-sized and entirely crocheted!

Jason Collingwood, a rug weaver of enormous talent was the artist in residence.

One of the things that caught my eye was the special educational room. This room featured everything from sheep to manufacturing and there was even a piece of wool roving under the all tablets!

I love these details as it unified the atmosphere of the whole room whilst adding a unique quality and warmth to the high-tech products which are naturally opposite to the beautiful natural fibres.

Personally I also enjoyed the movie which contains lovely hand drawn sheep animation and an introduction to all types of woollen products. If there is a DVD, I would love to buy it!

Apparently school children from around the UK were invited to visit the event and I believe they would love this room, as I would definitely have loved this myself as a child. I'm already imagining what next year will be like . . .
(posted by Yumiko)

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

EASTER PROJECT - use up your scraps!

If you're anything like me, you will have bags or bowls or boxes filled with oddments of yarn from the various projects you've knitted over the years. If you're anything like me and you've been knitting for a very long time, the scraps that you've accumulated will be making up a substantial part of your stash of yarn AND be making you feel guilty every time you come across them!

I'm always on the lookout for clever, innovative ideas to use up these oddments of yarn, not only to ease my guilt but to make useful, pretty gifts. I can appreciate the practicality of knitting squares from leftover sock yarn for one of the many, many sock yarn blanket patterns available, and I even fell prey to the 'hexipuff' phenomenon that is The Beekeepers Quilt, but for me these leftover pieces of yarn are yearning to be made into something small and quick and giftable.

During a lengthy browse on the internet one evening, I came across the latest book from Arne and Carlos - Easter Knits (RRP £8.99). I was immediately enchanted by the idea of knitting Easter eggs and baubles as I had been eager to knit some Scandinavian baubles at Christmas, but had run out of time. I ordered the book and before it had actually arrived I was stockpiling all of my MillaMia odds and ends, confident that whatever yarnweight the patterns called for, I would be able to use it.

Luckily for me, Arne and Carlos suggest using a sportweight yarn for most of the baubles and eggs (which I had in abundance). There are other very cute patterns in the book including an Easter Bunny, Hens and Egg Cozy Sweaters (which are definitely going to be my next project), but as I had decided whilst waiting for the book that these were going to be a gift for my best friend in the US, I wanted to knit only eggs.

All of the eggs and baubles are knitted in the round on DPN's which can be a little tricky to start with, but as the increasing begins straight away, the knitting gets easier very quickly. Each colourwork pattern is charted and the techniques used are fairisle with a little Swiss Darning or duplicate stitch in places to complete small patches of coloured stitches. The increase used is a 'lifted or raised increase' which produces a very neat and almost invisible increase, although I knitted the stitch through the back loop to ensure that I had no holes.

Arne and Carlos advise to sew in the ends as you go which I too would recommend as the egg shape inhibits access the further up you get. I would also say use plenty of fibre fill or wool roving to stuff these out nice and firmly - the shaping provided by the pattern really does make a believable 'egg' shape, it will also help to even out your fairisle tension and show off the beautiful motifs to best effect.

The addition of a crocheted chain to hang these up is a great idea, but if you aren't so confident with crochet, you could always add some pretty ribbon instead. I decided to present mine in an egg box with some 'toast' sticky notes which I hope my friend finds as funny as I do!

Remember, if you'd rather knit a sheep (or indeed a whole flock!) for Easter, our lovely Milly The Sheep pattern is available to download for free.

Happy 'scrap-busting' and Happy Easter!
(posted by Max)

Monday, 18 March 2013

OLYMPIA - Knitting and Stitching Spring 2013

We were on the road once again this past week - making an appearance at the newly branded Spring Knitting and Stitching Show (formerly Stitch and Craft) at London's Olympia.

The Show took place from Thursday 14th through to Sunday 17th March in the newly renovated Olympia Two and West Hall and boasted 150 exhibitors from knitting brands and haberdashery suppliers to niche stores and bead stockists. The essence of the Show was 'Making' as described by the organisers, Twisted Thread and there really was a plethora of inspiring fabrics, textiles and yarn as well as 'how to' courses to help every visitor find the perfect craft project for them.

There was much more to do than merely shop - some of the most popular features were a Dressmaking factory where you could join a production line to help make a simple garment as well as a 'Home Sweet Home' making area that aimed to provide inspiration for pretty crafty interiors. Though if you were there with shopping in mind (and a carefully managed budget!) there was ample opportunity to purchase almost anything for a textile based project.

I saw, amongst many others - the very talented Sue Stratford of The Knitting Hut and Knitted Meercats fame, Erika Knight helping Lucy Bush of Woolaballoo on her stand, those incredibly helpful guys at Knitting4Fun, Kate Heppell, editor of Knit Now, Karen and Susan from the beautiful Mrs Moon and I drooled over (and purchased) the gorgeous fabric and haberdashery at Ray Stitch. I could have spent most of my weekend frequenting these and many other amazing stands, but luckily for my purse I really didn't have time!

We were a little under-staffed for the majority of the weekend due to Katarina being on maternity leave and Helena damaging her knee during a skiing trip. Apologies to anyone we kept waiting - it was SO busy that customers were standing 3 deep at our stand at some points!! Huge and grateful thanks to Yumiko and Maja who stepped in to help out at what was a first retail show for both of them - you did brilliantly! Thanks too to all of you who visited us with pictures of your projects, and for all the lovely, generous comments about our yarn and patterns - we NEVER get tired of hearing just how much you love to knit with our merino yarn.

The Show was another great experience for us with regards to how well recieved the adult collections have been. You all love the newest collection, Colour Coded, with many of you tempted to purchase yarn and patterns there and then for specific garments - I know of at least 2 ladies who were so excited that they were going to cast on as soon as they got home! I hope you are both making good progress, and please send any pics of your projects to or post them on our group page on Ravelry - we'd love to see them!
(posted by Max)

Thursday, 14 March 2013

An amazing gift

Since the birth of my son just over 2 weeks ago we have been overwhelmed by wonderful gifts. The hand knitted ones of course being among my favourites. There is never a lot of time with a newborn in the house so I apologise for the brevity of this post - but I wanted to share some of the pictures of these gorgeous items with you. 

Thank you to Margaret for knitting this wonderful babygrow and matching hat in our MillaMia Naturally Soft Merino yarn in one of my favourite colour combinations - Forget me not and Daisy Yellow!  This really knocked my socks off when it arrived - so stunning and such a treat to receive.

And not forgetting the sweet clogs knitted by Max before he was even born. He has very big feet so them might not fit him for long but here they are on warming him up in an unusually cold March here in the UK:

I think all the patterns are from Ravelry for these items but Max will no doubt post a link in the comments section if you would like more information - or see her previous blog post from when she was knitting the clogs!

Posted by Katarina

Friday, 8 March 2013

STOCKIST PROFILE: Nancy's Embroidery Shop in New Zealand

We are thrilled to share this stockist profile with you as Nancy's Embroidery Shop in Wellington were our first stockist in New Zealand, and as such, are very special to us!

Nancy’s Embroidery Shop started life 46 years and ago, and has added patchwork, knitting and Bernina sewing machines to the embroidery and tapestry supplies that they started with. They teach over 60 classes a year including City and Guilds. Mary Self is the fourth owner.

What are you currently knitting?
Lots of things and samples…. I like to have simple stocking stitch and garter stitch on the go so I can read at the same time. At the moment I am in love with stripes, inspired by Paul Smith (of the striped shirts fame) and am knitting striped scarves and handwarmers in our Strand Super fine yarn, that like the Millamia is in lots of great colours. I am looking forward to knitting the Bella Jacket from the new Colour Coded book, I played with bows on handwarmers last year.

When did your love of knitting start and why?
I have been knitting since I was about 6 or 7, mostly very oddly shaped dolls clothes. I was always inspired by the projects in the English Woman’s Weekly (and the romantic serials of course) and spent my childhood making things with felt and glue, but it was the knitting patterns that stayed with me. In my first year at secondary school (boarding) I started a blue and white twinset that I couldn’t put down and so got caught knitting under my desk in French.

How do you find time to knit when you are running such a busy store?
I knit in the car to and from the shop, I am not driving of course. I also love TV on demand so that I can watch what I like later in the evening. I need to do some form of handwork every day for my own wellbeing.

Who is your favorite knitwear designer and do you have a favorite garment of all time that you have knitted?
That is a hard one…. I have very catholic tastes, Kaffe Fassett colour work but I can’t see myself wearing a garment in the patterns but was very pleased with a cushion based on one of his patterns knitted with 2 balls of Noro yarn rather than the 100s he uses. I also love the clean lines of Scandinavian design which is why Nancys was first in New Zealand with the MillaMia pattern books. I am looking forward to trying some of spot patterns from “popknitting” by Britt-Marie Christofferson.

For garments for myself they have to be classic and simple and as a bigger person finer yarns that drape are much more flattering, so anything in a 3 ply to a 5 ply is best. My favorites would be the cardigan of the blue and white twin set, a lacy jersey knitted in a tweedy wool in the 1970s and a jersey from my hand spun wool with fair isle round the yoke knitted in the 1980s. I have worn out 2 cardigans knitted in Noro Silk Garden. I will be knitting the Bella Jacket for myself. My real problem is that as a textile designer I always have to adapt and change patterns and get the most pleasure from the design process. I get a real buzz when people enjoying using my patterns.

What are New Zealanders knitting with and are there any particular trends in pattern choices at the moment? Are they very patriotic in the yarns and designers they choose or do they like international offerings too?
The first priority here is knitting for babies…we do like to wrap our little ones in wool (cotton and bamboo blends have not really taken off.) I get a lot of very excited first time Grandmothers rushing in to start knitting.

While we have a lot of sheep, most of our fine merino wool is exported to China and Italy (MillaMia yarn is probably Australian or New Zealand merino), and runs of yarn produced here are small and more expensive and we have to then market overseas as we only have a small population of 4 million people. A large quantity of wool produced here is carpet wool nd we are having trouble selling that. New Zealanders have an attitude that good design can only come from overseas so do buy international brands of wool and  patterns. It is the available patterns and the quality of the yarn that determines what people buy. Of course, the internet and Ravelry mean that there is now a very international marketplace.

Do you have a favorite MillaMia pattern and yarn colour? And if you could add another colour to our palette, what would it be?
My favorite colour has to be the Fuchsia, and because I adore the pink and yellow combination I loved knitting the Niklas Cardigan in the FuchsiaPuttyDaisy colour way. I would like to see a lovely clear cobalt blue, but black would be useful to define some of the bright colours in colour blocking, think Mondrian.

Can you share something unusual about youself, your store or Wellington that we might not know?
While I have always loved making things my first career was as a Systems Engineer with IBM, before I went back and got my Textile Design Degree after I had children. Wellington has wonderful weather (the days the wind doesn’t blow are usually really lovely.)

What is your number one tip for knitters out there – the most important “purl of wisdom you could share from your experience?
When you are finishing off your ends, thread them through for about 3cm then go back for 1.5cm, this stops the ends bouncing out when the garment is stretched.

(posted by Max)

Tuesday, 5 March 2013


We are enormously excited and thrilled to announce that the second in our trilogy of patterns for adults, Colour Coded is finally here! This collection has a distinctly different feel to our first adult book Country Escape, with a focus on the bright shades in our Naturally Soft Merino colour palette and channeling a more edgy, urban vibe. The book contains 6 stylish and very wearable designs - 4 cardigans for the girls and 1 for the guys as well as a lovely cowl and is available from our website or your local stockist (full list of stockists can be found here) for £8.

As ever, our amazing designer Helena, had very specific ideas about how this collection should look, feel and come together. I took the opportunity to ask her about her vision and inspiration for this second collection, which, as she explains, is all to do with colour (not surprisingly!) and ultimately, wearability.

“With Colour Coded I wanted a distinctly different feel to Country Escape. The pallet is much brighter and it’s all about lively energetic combinations of colour. The mix still has to be easily wearable so I chose to ground our signature brights with core colours such as navy, storm and putty.”

From left: Kerstin Kimono, Erika Cardigan, Bella Cardigan, Ola Jacket, Annika Cardigan

This playful mix of colour is nowhere more evident than in the Erika Cardigan which is featured on the front cover. As with every single design MillaMia offers, there are alternative colourways to choose from (Erika Cardigan shown here on the left in Midnight, Lilac Blossom and Storm), and Helena is certain that these colour block designs will look equally stylish in a more muted palette, though her personal preference is for something bright!

“I hope it inspires our knitters to be bold and strong with colour! Wearing Grass or Fuschia always puts a smile on my face and makes me feel optimistic.”

There is also a modern jacket for the guys called Ola, and the Pippi Cowl - a good quick knit which will add a delightful splash of colour to any outfit. Helena is conscious of these pieces being an interesting knit as well as looking amazing -

“The look is fresh, urban and contemporary while still being easy and flattering to wear, and a pleasure to knit. We hope you all enjoy knitting the collection as much as we’ve enjoyed developing it!”
(Posted by Max)