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Wednesday, 30 January 2013

COLOUR CODED - help choose our front cover

We need your help!

The second of our adult collections is due for publication at the end of February and we'd love your help to choose our front cover. Called 'Colour Coded', this latest collection of 6 garments for adults is bold and vibrant, taking full advantage of the strong shades in the Naturally Soft Merino yarn palette.

See the pictures below and leave a comment to cast your vote! Option 1 is the Erika Cardigan Cover and Option 2 is the Bella Cardigan cover. You can also vote on Facebook or Ravelry.

Many thanks!

1 - Erika Cardigan Cover

2 - Bella Cardigan Cover

Friday, 25 January 2013


I'm Yumiko Isa, a design intern working at MillaMia. At Christmas I went back home to Japan to spend the holiday with my family and whilst I was there I visited some of the most popular yarn and haberdashery shops in Kyoto and Tokyo. I thought it would be fun to show you an insight into what people in Japan are knitting, the current trends and inside some of these amazing yarn shops.

Avril in Kyoto and Tokyo is one of the most popular yarn shops. They produce and sell many decorative and fun yarns for felting, creative weaving and knitting of course. They sell more than 300 types of Avril's own brand yarns in more than 1,200 colours in each shop! These are some pictures of inside the shop but you can see what is inspiring them now, on their pinterest page.

Another favourite shop is Keito in Tokyo. They sell thousands of yarns imported from all over the world, particularly from Europe. Some of the brands that they stock are Lana Gatto and Vimar from Italy, Plassard from France, Be Sweet from South Africa and Jamiesons from the UK as well as many others.

Okadaya in Tokyo is the biggest haberdashery shop situated in two buildings, each of which have 6 levels. There is also a haberdashery corner at Isetan, a big department store in Tokyo.

Haberdashery department in Isetan
While I was in Japan I picked up some knitting magazines and books. Scandinavian (Arne and Carlos are featured in one magazine) and British design (Rowan and Jamiesons) seems to be very popular and the book features many of the European knitting designers. In general fairisle and cable designs are much more popular than lace - as you can see in the pictures there are lots of accessories knitted in fairisle style. Also, individual knitting books costing from £6-£10 are more common than knitting magazines in Japan.

Cable too.

There is huge variety in the types of yarn you can buy in these shops, but as is the same in the rest of the world, knitting follows trends in Japan. Currently, fancy yarns - loopy, decorative, embellished and boucle are extremely popular, as are mixed colour or self striping yarns. There is a trend towards naturals - off-white and greys too which is often seen in the cable designs. The pattern trends are for something easy to knit and with a relaxed style - accessories, bags, capes, snoods and scarves.

(posted by Yumiko)

Wednesday, 23 January 2013


Lova Babygrow                                                        Fia Hat                                                        Jonas Comfy Bottoms

One of the nicest things about being a knitter is being able to make beautiful clothes for babies. Whether it's as an expectant mother, or knitting for a close friend or family member who is expecting, there is very little that satisfies the knitters urge to create something special, than crafting those tiny gifts.

Although I learned to knit as a child, and pursued it as a hobby on and off for many years, it wasn't until after my own children were 4 and 5 that I reached the level of obsessive knitter that I find myself today. And so, my babies were sadly deprived of any gorgeous knitted garments to wear until they were rather older. I think it's this that makes me so excited to knit for babies and small children now. Rather like knitting cute toys, the instant gratification is a sure hook, but knitting something in miniature also entices and enchants me like nothing else.

Oliver Sleeping Bag                                                  Max Babygrow                                                            Ludo Blanket

When Katarina told me that she was having a baby, my knitters mind went into thrilled overdrive! I was overjoyed for Katarina and her husband, of course, but I was also ecstatic at the thought of the endless knitting possibilities that lay before me. The ideas tumbled through my mind as I hurriedly tried to finish up my current projects, and I found myself trawling the Ravelry pattern database for hard-to-resist baby knits that Katarina may not have seen.

I knew that I wanted to use our Naturally Soft Merino, of course - I love to knit with it, I know Katarina loves the colours and in my opinion, there is nothing nicer to put next to a new baby's precious skin. I've knitted a good few of the MillaMia patterns for other babies, and they were lovely to knit and to gift. One of my favourites was the Lova Babygrow from Wonderland which I knitted it in petal and grass. An unusual combination you may think, except that I knew the expected baby was a girl and her mothers favourite colour is green. I changed the stripe pattern a little to put more focus on the pink rather than the green and also choose pink buttons - you can see my project on Ravelry here - lova yu.

You can probably imagine that I have a few tiny things on my needles for Katarina's new baby, and I can't reveal much, as these knitted gifts are always as much for the Mum-to-be as for the expected arrival. I thought I'd share just one small thing that I cast on recently as an in-between treat and because I just could resist! These are my version of the baby clog-n-socs by Bekah Knits on Ravelry.

I've used a neutral palette - storm, putty and snow as we currently have no idea if the baby is a boy or a girl, and these colours will pretty much tone with anything. The construction is tricky, but so clever with short row shaping providing the 'foot shape', a knitted-on i-cord around the top of the instep and the sock attached by picking up and knitting in the round - great for preventing the eternal problem of losing just one baby sock! You can see my project on Ravelry here - tiny shoes.

With this precious baby due to arrive sometime towards the end of February, I'm feverishly knitting. There are some truly lovely knits on my needles that I'm excited to give to Katarina . . . all in good time!
(posted by Max)

Monday, 14 January 2013


Helena and I were thrilled to receive a variety of hand knitted gifts for Christmas. One of our favourite presents because they are not only stylish but also so practical were these gorgeous pin cushions.

Max in our team had noticed what a mess our pins were as we prepared for our last photoshoot and therefore got inspired to knit these gifts. With her usual good taste she put together 2 sumptuous colour combinations and also got us some beautiful new pins to match! I think she chose the project as a good way to improve her fair isle technique but judging by the quality of these items we don’t feel she needs to do much in the way of improvement! The pattern is by Tammy Eigeman Thompson and was featured in Interweave Knits, Holiday Gifts 2010, you can find it on Ravelry, here.

Helena's flatmate
Another amazing surprise came from one of our test knitters Margaret. We were stunned to open two gorgeous cowls on Christmas day – modern and stylish in a reversible houndstooth pattern - we were thrilled!

You can see Helena’s gorgeous flat mate modelling Helena’s gift in the photo left. Mine was equally attractive with a strong turquoise contrast that will go with everything. The pattern is called the Brae Cowl by Ann-Marie Jackson.

Our lovely intern - Yumiko


Finally we loved seeing the knit inspired gift wrapping on these salted caramel hazelnuts we received. Seems like even mainstream supermarkets had gone knit crazy this Christmas!

(posted by Katarina)

Thursday, 10 January 2013


Louise Zass-Bangham, also known as 'inspiration' on Ravelry has long been a fan of MillaMia yarn. She designed her first published pieces with our Naturally Soft Merino, and has since created many more beautiful, wearable accessories as well as a fabulous blanket. Louise is now enjoying the prestige of being requested by well known UK knitting magazines such as Knit Now which featured her 'Winter Shadows Wrap' in November. You can see more of her stunning designs at recently met up with Louise and asked her about her first year as a knitwear designer, her love of MillaMia merino and what exactly provides her with 'inspiration.'

Max: Louise, can you give us a bit of background about yourself? 
Louise: I studied textile design at Manchester University, specialising in knit. Later I went to Central St. Martins as a postgraduate to learn pattern cutting (pattern making for US readers). The tutors there dropped me straight in at the deep end with London’s catwalk designers. It was highly creative, full of fun challenges but equally high pressure.

I’m also a trained garden designer and used to write about sustainable design. It’s a cliche but I got back into knitting when I was pregnant, making things for my son. He’s still my biggest fan and drags his baby blanket around like Linus, even though he’s nearly five! I like the “slow fashion” of hand knitting; it sits better with my environmentalist heart. It probably goes without saying that my favourite fibres are natural.

Max: What is it about MillaMia yarn that inspires you to design with it?
Louise: The MillaMia colour palette is really inspiring. I love that it’s possible to create both modern and vintage colourways with it. It’s very flexible, and the colours all go with each other so it’s possible to make lots of fresh combinations. The colours have a retro 50's feel that is totally modern. It’s also addictive to knit - bouncy, it doesn’t split and the stitch definition is unbeatable.

Max: Which is your favourite design in MillaMia yarn so far?
Louise: My favourite MillaMia design so far has to be my Ice Storm pieces. I can’t choose between the long cowl and the mitts since they’re so closely related - I tested my cowl swatch on the back of my hand to see if the idea would work as mitts and it looked perfect! I still have people asking me to do more things with the idea...maybe one day.

Ice Storm Long Cowl
Ice Storm Mitts

Helios Headband
Max: What was your first design in MillaMia yarn?
Louise: There are two answers to that question. The very first design I published on Ravelry was actually in MillaMia Naturally Soft Merino: my Helios Headband. I wanted to start really small, with an easy accessory. It had to be in a yarn that I knew was great to knit and excellent quality. So MillaMia it was.

Secondly, although it wasn’t the first thing I published, my first design in MillaMia yarn was actually the Inspiration Blanket. I designed it for our knitting group to make for our lovely fellow-knitter who was expecting her third baby. She already had two girls and didn’t know what she was having this time around. I devised a neutral colourway with a vintage feel in MidnightSeasideForget-me-notPlum and Fawn. It was deliberately more on the boyish side of things since their house was already awash with pink!

I also had a request from the knitting group to include garter stitch. I got a bit carried away, so the blanket became a garter stitch adventure. Some of the squares are really easy, because I had to cater for the beginners in the group, and some are interesting for intermediate knitters. It’s a good project with which to develop your skills.

Max: Have you got any exciting new designs in MillaMia yarn planned for 2013?
Louise: My sister-in-law, who teaches young children, has requested a particular style of scarf for chilly playground duty this year. It has sparked ideas for a group of designs for kids, young and old! They are wintery and fun pieces, intended for Christmas. There might even be a knitalong if I'm organised!

I'd absolutely love to do a sweater or cardi but will have to see if time allows in 2013 - I'm in the middle of planning what I think I can achieve this year.

Max: What are you working on at the moment?
Louise: The list is too long, as usual. I’m in the middle of an exciting group of accessories for a new yarn which is launching this month. I want to do far more with the yarn than time allows! I have an idea for an intriguing cowl (of course) buzzing around my head. I think it might even be a mystery knitalong. I’m in the middle of sampling for a spring shawl, sweater and cardigan. Oh, and I’m thinking about April 1st already, but I’m not giving anything away on that just yet! (for those of you who haven't seen Louise's Aprils Fools joke on Ravelry last year click here The Emporers New Mitts)
(posted by Max)

Friday, 4 January 2013


There are a good many knitting techniques that tripped me up when I was relatively new to my craft - m1r and m1l, joining to knit in the round, reading a chart correctly, purling through the back loop - to mention just a few. I can remember the utter frustration at my inability to master these seemingly simple instructions - and the resulting disastrous knits! I spent a good deal of time trawling YouTube, various online knitting tutorials and magazines for help with these techniques, and eventually found the solutions. It was a time consuming exercise, but well worth the effort, as these and many other techniques are now reliable tools in my knitting arsenal.

So, I thought it would be useful to share some of this accumulated knowledge as and when these tricky techniques crop up in my knitting projects. Some of these will be very familiar, and it may not be the actual technique that is truly helpful, but just a tip to help you remember how to execute these stitches.

My current project, the Tivoli cushion is a very simple pattern using a 2 row pattern repeat to create the undulating waves whilst making excellent use of a differing stripe pattern to provide the interest. The pattern uses knitting stitches together and making stitches to create this wave pattern and it is the 'm1' instruction that I'm going to explain further.

To execute the 'm1' as explained in the pattern - 'pick up the bar between the st just worked and next st on left hand needle and knit through the back.' This is technically correct although the detail that ensures making the stitch absolutely perfectly (and without a hole!) is not included. It is difficult to be concise and avoid long-winded explanations in writing knitting patterns - hence the need for so much abbreviation, but in this case there needs to be some addition. I would say - 'pick up the bar between the st just worked and the next st with your left hand needle from front to back and knit into the back of it.' The stitch just made is actually a 'm1l' which means that you have made a stitch leaning left, and I used this method to increase throughout my Tivoli.

m1l - first, pick up the bar front to back. Next knit into the back of the 'bar'. The completed stitch on the right hand needle.

There is often an instruction to m1l AND m1r, particularly in lace knitting so that the increases lie correctly and mirror each other. For 'm1r' the instruction is almost the same - 'pick up the bar between the st just worked with your left hand needle from back to front and knit into the front of it.' As you can see from the pictures, the trick to making sure your 'bar' is sitting correctly on the needle is to pick it up either front to back or back to front with your left needle. This may seem a little awkward to begin with, but it will prove invaluable once you've mastered it.

m1r - pick up the bar back to front. Next knit into the front of the 'bar'. The completed stitch on the right needle.

My final tip for this increase is how to remember which one you are doing! When you're immersed in 300+ stitches of lace knitting, the last thing you want to do is keep looking at your instruction to see which is the method for left or right leaning increases. I heard a mnemonic to help with remembering left and right make 1's on a podcast that I regularly listen to (Jane and Jen Knit Funny - episode 4), so I can't claim this as my own. BFF (pick up from the Back to Front and knit into the Front) is also an abbreviation for Best Friend Forever and my best friend was definitely the 'right' choice when we met back in school - therefore BFF=m1r. Corny, but it has embedded itself in my mind so I always know which the 'right' increase is now with just a quick mental reminder!
(posted by Max)