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Friday, 27 September 2013

WOOL AND BUTTONS - Knit & Natter

As we have mentioned before, we are incredibly lucky to have so many wonderful stockists across the world. Many of them are the centre of a thriving crafting community, running workshops, gathering together to knit for charity or just for a good old Knit & Natter. The Local Yarn Shop in any community, whether an online business or an actual bricks and mortar shop is also likely to be the best place to find out about local craft events and fibre fairs, can introduce you to fellow knitters as well as providing you with those all important supplies!

One of our online stockists, Wool & Buttons is the epitome of the LYS at the centre of a growing crafting community of knitters in the North Yorkshire town of Selby. Owner Joanne describes herself as 'passionate about all things woolly', selling her beautiful yarn and knitting accessories through her website, but also out in the real world. She says, 'I like to get out and about and meet my lovely customers at local craft fairs and large shows such as British Wool Weekend and Country Living Fairs.'

In April this year, Wool & Buttons also introduced a fabulous Knit & Natter get together too. Every fortnight the Knit & Natter members meet up in a rural cafĂ©, for a good old natter, a fabulous cup of coffee and homemade cake. The group has some incredibly talented knitters, passionate about yarn and their craft, sharing ideas and being each others inspiration for the next project!

Of course, Milliamia yarn often makes an appearance in the group. Jean is currently knitting the Tobias Hooded Top for her grandson and it’s looking fab.

At the last evening, a TV celebrity popped by for a natter. Stuart Hillard from BBC’s Great British Sewing Bee joined the ladies and showed them how he was getting on with a Rowan Tweed Aran cardigan, which was coming on very nicely indeed.

Go along to the Wool & Buttons website for a browse through the beautiful yarn and crafty accessories, and click here for a list of events that the very lovely Joanne will be exhibiting at during the rest of 2013. Thanks for giving us an insight into your amazing crafting community, Jo!
(posted by Max)

Friday, 20 September 2013

LIMITED EDITION - Helena on Design and Inspiration

Wow -  what an indulgence to spend days lost in colour research! I love colour and often struggle to limit how many I want to play with. Working on the Limited Edition colours was so freeing as I was able to look much more closely at colour trends and to suggest key shades which I felt would make a new statement for MillaMia.

It was refreshing also to design just for right now - for this moment in time and to not worry about the longevity of the colours. I have a tendency to fall in love with colours and then later to fall back out of love . . . however at the moment I am still quite smitten with Lime and Cobalt and how they renew the existing palette. 

For me Cobalt appeals as it's a lively intense colour with so much energy and life. It's been all over the catwalk for both Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter collections showing how other designers have also been seduced by its pure bright tone and sheer strength of colour. When I was working with the mill I tried to communicate the depth and magnitude the colour needed by showing them an Yves Klein painting where the purity of the pigment explains exactly what we wanted.

Lime by contrast is a more particular colour. We have seen all shades of yellow - from Lemon to Ochre in recent designers work which shows how the shades can be used as the most amazing accent colour - literally bringing other shades alive but also as the main body colour. My advise is be brave and play with the Lime - combine it with Putty, Berry (a new core colour available very soon), Forget-me-not and Storm - it's surprising easy to wear!

I remember being at art school and a tutor asking me '"What is design to you?" - a difficult question to answer and after a lot of thought I came to the conclusion that for me colour is the central element, it enriches life and brings out emotions in people. Currently Lime is adding a zing to my lifestyle and Cobalt is engulfing me in energy which is no bad thing as we transition to colder weather!

Flight of Fancy is the 6 pattern booklet to support our Limited Edition colours - filled with patterns for adults and kids it showcases these 2 new colours perfectly. These brand, bright new Limited Edition shades are currently available from and from our stockists across the UK, Australia and the USA (a full list of all of our current stockists can be found here) - BUT HURRY! Lime and Cobalt are flying off the shelves . . . going . . . going . . . almost gone!
(posted by Helena)

Friday, 13 September 2013

DESIGN - Yumiko for Chinti and Parker

Before coming to intern at MillaMia I spent 6 months at the beginning of last year as a Design Assistant interning at Chinti and Parker. I really enjoyed my time with them, and was thrilled to be involved in the AW13 collection.

About Chinti and Parker
Chinti and Parker are a British womenswear fashion brand launched in 2009 by cousins Anna Singh and Rachael Wood. In their own words, their mission is - 'to create beautiful, ethically made garments that value style on par with substance. Super-soft fabrics, flattering cuts and a palette that combines key neutrals with fashion-conscious colourways and prints has become the brand’s blueprint, providing the building blocks of the perfect capsule wardrobe.' They pride themselves on producing garments from ethically sourced fabric and with a keen eye on environmental concerns so that each piece has a tag stating it's provenance - whether produced within the EU, fairtrade or from organic materials.

As well as an online store - Chinti and Parker can be found in many high end stores across the UK and abroad. A list of these stockists can be found here, but excitingly their latest AW13 collection can also now be found in Selfridges. They have a beautiful and informative blog too - which can be found here.

My design process
As part of my work for Chinti and Parker I researched colour, silhouette, texture of knitwear and made a moodboard. Creating the moodboard was one of my main roles and from this I then designed some ideas for them based on it. I was given colour swatches for AW13 and played with silhouette and details with these colours such as oatmeal, moroccan blue and taupe. From my research and moodboard they chose the ideas of  flourescent colour, block colour, geometric motif and large square pockets.

I am interested in the idea of using details of menswear in womenswear and the elbow and shoulder patch design elements are the main inspiration for the circle sleeve jumper. I put circles on the front of  the sleeves instead of under the elbow to make it more unusual and added the shoulder patch to create balance with the elbow patches.

The end result of all of my design work, the Circle Sleeve Sweater (retail £295) is a simple, stylish sweater which is easy to wear yet retains a feeling of understated luxury. The colour block elements are a subtle way to add a small bolt of beautiful colour without excess.

I was so pleased when, as a thank you present, they let me choose one of the jumpers that I designed and sent it to me - so I now have my own Circle Sleeve Sweater!
(posted by Yumiko)

Friday, 6 September 2013

KNITTING - my selfish year

Last year I decided that I wanted to take a selfish knitting sabbatical - a 'holiday' from knitting for everybody else in order to knit exclusively for myself for a whole year. You may think that this sounds like a great idea - the opportunity to knit all of the patterns that you've been pouring over and putting in your Ravelry queue and tagging hopefully - 'one day'; using up vast quantities of stash yarn on garment-sized projects because you actually have the time to indulge in a 'big' knit; not feeling obliged to knit absolutely EVERYBODY you know something for each and every Christmas and birthday because you are the knitter in their life, and they have come to expect it.

Or you may think that selfish knitting is a contradictory term - the antithesis of what it means to be a knitter. That somewhere inside every knitter is a giver, so that the act of creating something is somehow intrinsically connected to the act of giving. It sounds a little deep, but this is the truth that I have discovered during my 'Selfish Year'. I knit because I love my craft, and I love to wear the things that I create. But, I also knit as an act of selflessness - to gift my knitting to the people I love as a physical demonstration of just how much they mean to me. I'm completely sure that you feel the same way.

During this year of indulgence, I have so far completed 4 cardigans for myself as well as shawls, socks and other accessories. Two of these cardigans are in CEY yarns - my Larch Cardigan in Fresco and my Featherweight Cardigan in Firefly - 2 very different yarns in terms of fibre content, but both equally beautiful in their own way.

Larch by Amy Christoffers is available as a download for purchase on Ravelry at a cost of $7 (around £4.60). I had long been in love with the classic styling and immense wearability of this cardigan and decided on using CEY Fresco in colour 'regatta' to make a versatile but still luxurious feeling garment. The yarn is a sportweight blend of wool, alpaca and angora (50grms has 164yrds) with a slight halo and a beautifully soft hand which knitted up very evenly with good stitch definition on the raised stitches section around the collar. Knitted in one piece to the armholes, I enjoyed the minimal seaming for the main part, although I actually find that set in sleeves are more flattering to my body shape (which this pattern has) and so this was the perfect combination.

My other cardigan success of the year is the Featherweight Cardigan by Hannah Fettig (available as a Ravelry download for $5.95/ £3.92). As any of you who are regular Ravelry users will know, this pattern has rarely been off the 'Hot Right Now' board and looks to remain there for some time to come. I guess that the true success of this pattern is that it is so adaptable - Hannah has written the pattern for either lace or fingering weight yarn but there have been many many substitutions of different weights and yarn types too. Knitted from the top down with raglan sleeves, this garment is so easy to adjust to fit your shape as you knit it - you are completely in control of choosing long or short sleeves, adding length or cropping it, making it more or less fitted - it is a pattern formula for the perfect cardigan!

My choice of yarn was CEY Firefly - a lovely light summer yarn in a blend of rayon and linen in colour 'linum'. I confess that I don't usually choose seasonal yarns but as we have actually had a summer here in the UK this year, I decided to give this a go. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that I enjoyed knitting with it - the hand is cool which makes knitting so much easier when the weather is warm, and the knitted fabric produces a lovely drape with a subtle sheen. I used just 7 skeins (a 50gm skein has 155yrds), which considering I lengthened the body by 3' and extended the collar by an inch I thought to be a great value.

I'm feeling very pleased with my haul of handknits this year - and I'm planning to knit a few more before my year of selfish knitting comes to an end. I have some more Fresco to knit a sweater in colour 'celadon' - this time a CEY pattern called Flurry from the 'Snow Angels' booklet, some Quince & Co 'Lark' to knit a 'Chickadee' by Ysolda Teague, a sweaters worth of Jamieson and Smith to knit Kate Davies Ursula Cardigan, a couple of the new MillaMia adult garments in some of our brand new colours,  5 skeins of John Arbon Viola to knit a . . . well, I haven't quite decided what I'll make with that. Yet.

As for how successful my year of 'selfish knitting' has been, well, if it can be measured in terms of quantities of garments then it would seem to be a success. On the other hand, I haven't managed to knit exclusively for myself at all. As you will have seen by my posts here and my Ravelry page, I have knitted for new babies and gifts for Easter, I've knitted socks and scarves and cushions and hats - none of which were for me! And, as the summer settles into Autumn, we all know what is just around the corner . . . yes, winter is coming and I have teenagers who have requested sweaters for Christmas :)

You can find all of the gorgeous yarn and patterns on Classic Elite Yarns website with a list of places to purchase their products here. Unfortunately there are no stockists of these lovely yarns here in the UK, although Loop do carry some of the pattern booklets. Webs ship internationally and stock a vast range of CEY yarn but do be aware that shipping costs can sometimes be expensive and you may also incur customs charges.
(posted by Max)

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

PHOTO SHOOT - Behind the Scenes

As the autumn/winter knitting season fast approaches here in the UK, we at MillaMia have been busy behind the scenes, preparing our fabulous new Limited Edition colours and patterns due to launch later this month. It always comes as a bit of a shock when Katarina sends out the critical path for our new products a few months in advance of the launch as I see the list of work and wonder how we will EVER have it all ready in time! But somehow we always do, and the culmination of much of this work is encapsulated in the photo shoot for the new patterns.

Don't get me wrong - the idea that everything is actually ready in time to be photographed is not strictly true! We often work to a really tight schedule and it isn't at all unusual to receive last minute parcels of knitted sample garments on the morning of the shoot, as well as props and clothes. For this particular collection, my Mum had test knitted a beautiful garment, but had literally only finished it on the morning of the shoot and was incredibly lucky that I could take it along with me.

When my daughter Haithe (a textile student on her first shoot!) and I arrived early on Wednesday morning, there were more samples that had arrived first thing - knitted so quickly for us at the last minute that there was a good deal of finishing left to do on a number of garments. Katarina had invited our former intern and superstar swiss darner, Louisa Crompton down to help out on the day, and with Yumiko Isa, our very talented current intern and I, we made up 'The Knitting Machine'!

It wasn't long before Haithe was pinning and blocking pieces, Louisa was embellishing garments, Yumiko was picking up and knitting a neckband and I was beginning to mattress stitch an entire garment together. We beavered away, fuelled by coffee and croissants whilst all around us, people were busy with their own organisation. Emma Noren, our amazing photographer and her assistant Callum, were setting up their equipment and taking test shots, the gorgeous models began to arrive and Carolina whisked them away to hair and make-up whilst Katarina and Helena were overseeing us all!

This shoot only required one adult model - and we were lucky to have secured Donna McPhail - a truly beautiful girl with the most stunning auburn hair and a natural way with children. For anybody who has ever thought that modelling is easy, I must dispel the myth - Donna worked tirelessly all day helping us to achieve the shots we needed, was incredibly patient with the children and stood for hugely long periods of time in shoes that couldn't have been at all comfortable!

The children were enormous fun too. We've said before that we count ourselves very lucky that Katarina has such a good stock of beautiful children to model the MillaMia clothes - and along with some friends' gorgeous children, we have some truly stunning pictures of them in our latest, stylish designs for autumn/winter 2013. Look out too for a very special appearance by the newest addition to the MillaMia family - Johan is set to make the cutest debut ever!

The initial shots from the day look amazing - we are so excited to finish the edit and finally share them with you! I am already straining at the bit to knit at least 3 of our new designs - naturally in some of the exciting new shades. Check back here for all the news on the new Limited Edition colours and brand new patterns as it happens - we have so much that we can't wait to show you . . .
(posted by Max)