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Friday, 26 September 2014

MILLAMIA TEAM - Knitting the New Aran

Plenty of inspiration for a stylish winter wardrobe
As the sample knits for our new Naturally Soft Aran collections began to drift into the office, they were inevitably met with admiring oohs and aahs and a great deal of trying on! Well, at least we all tried on the accessories from Finishing Touch, and cooed appreciatively over Tiny Treasures imagining sweet babies and cute toddlers wrapped in our cosy new designs.

It is testament I think, to the love we all have for beautiful knitwear, simply but stylishly designed, that the arrival of these knits created such an excited buzz among the team. It's also testament to the truly awesome work that Helena and Tanya have put into these new designs. We ALL, without exception, began to think ahead to chillier days imagining several key pieces from Finishing Touch, gracing our winter wardrobes. And we began to make exciting plans for knitting these lovely items - if not all for ourselves, then for loved ones and new babies.

I am thrilled that the MillaMia team have all agreed to share their winter knitting plans here on the blog - so that you can find out a bit more about what they are all coveting, or generously planning to knit for their friends and families. First up is the Dream Design Team - Helena and Tanya:

Sorry but I am simply not able to limit myself to 2 . . . it's got to be 3 projects for me! I want to knit the Gullan Snood for my grandmother as that is her name and the item is dedicated to her! At 98 years old she is an inspiration to both Katarina and I. My Mormor (Swedish name for grandmother on your mothers side) once knitted me the best 80's jumper with a symmetric intarsia motif on the front - it was cream, peach, coral and beige - the height of fashion at the time . . . I would totally wear it now if I was hanging out in the eastend but don't think it would fit me anymore! Therefore it's only fair that I make her something in return. I am tempted to make the Gullan in Powder Blue as that's her favourite colour but I also think she looks so great in Marine Blue (as shot in the book) and then it would match a variety of coats. Snood&sort=&type=
Gullan Snood in Marine Blue
Secondly I would like to make the Freja Colour Block Blanket for my friend Suzy's little girl, Rose Grace. She is a true English Rose with a beautiful doll like complexion and so I think Powder Blue and Ivory would be a stunning combination for her. It's also good neutral colours if it gets passed down or across to some other friends.

Freja Blanket in Cinder and Ivory
 Powder Blue and Ivory Naturally Soft Aran

Finally for myself I think I will just have to have a Corrine Clutch or a Patrizia Pouch . . . maybe the pouch first which I can use to keep my receipts and keys and things in inside my bag. I can never find my keys or purse when I wear a big tote bag so this is now an urgent project! Luckily for me, Tanya has already started one of these and I'm hoping that it has my name on it! I was torn between Teal - it's got that jewel tone which I love, but in the end it had to be Magenta. I really like the vibrancy and punch of this colour and it's quite unlike any shade we have done up until now. For a nice bright surprise inside, I will line it with a strong contrast of Jade green cotton drill which I have left over from the photo shoot. Pouch&sort=&type= Pouch&sort=&type=
Teal and Magenta Naturally Soft Aran

Hello! I am going to knit some Elika Wristwarmers for myself because I love the texture, and the simple colour change, I feel, makes it very current. I favour wrist warmers over mittens and gloves because my fingers get too hot and I can't use my phone! I think they're a very versatile item and I know I will get a lot of use out of them but I'm not sure what colours to knit them in. I think either Cinder with an Emerald Green tip or Marine Blue with a Magenta contrast. Or maybe both! Wristwarmers Wristwarmers
(posted by Max - with a little help from my friends! Thanks Helena and Tanya)

Friday, 19 September 2014

DESIGN FEATURE - swatching

Swatching is a designers best friend
I know you will have seen the dreaded word 'swatch' in the title, so I want to reassure you that we are going to look at this essential part of the creative process from the side - a sort of  glimpse in the direction of, rather than head on, to make it all a little more palatable . . .

Instead of going into the many virtues and advantages of swatching for whatever knitting project you are ever likely to embark on, I thought it would be useful and interesting to take a look behind the scenes of the creative process - how and where the swatches begin to appear, and the function they provide.

For Helena, Creative Director at MillaMia designing a collection and realising the individual garments within that collection moves from the sketching stage to definite design decisions regarding knitted fabric, drape, texture and colour choices incredibly quickly. A garment will require specific attributes from the knitted fabric and at this early stage the best and quickest way to see if a particular stitch pattern, colour combination or gauge will work is to swatch it.

A garter slip stitch pattern and a swatch mixing fairisle and moss stitch

And so, we introduce Tanya, our Design Assistant who has the (some may say) unenviable job of producing stack upon stack of 4 inch squares in a myriad of different colours and patterns. Tanya and Helena are very often found with heads bent over a couple of swatches, discussing how a particular texture will look when replicated over a whole garment, whether another has the required amount of drape or if a specific combination of colours works for them.

Swatching the new Aran for gauge

A great example of this sometimes lengthy, but essential process is for one of our latest patterns, the Annette Scarf from Finishing Touch. After the initial design had been sketched out, they began to look at all sorts of cable patterns to see which they liked and which would work best for this oversized accessory.

As with all designs, the Annette underwent quite a journey before the final choices were made about the size and type of cable, and you can clearly see the evolution of this design through the swatches below:

Giant Ribbed Cable

Giant Braid Cable

20-stitch Twisted Candle

The end result is a simple arrangement of 2 different cables patterns running the length of the scarf to make the most of the new Naturally Soft Aran colours - particularly the melange (shown below in Stone) which adds subtle nuances in individual stitches while still highlighting the beauty of the cable motifs. Scarf
Annette Scarf in Stone

I'm told that designers actually come to love the swatching process and even utilise them in decorative displays once their technical function is long past. A pretty glass jar stuffed with all sorts of colour, texture and cataloguing a history of design development can be a object as beautiful and relevant as the finished garments themselves. And for me at least, the thought of these small scraps of knitting having some sort of purpose or function after their vocational work is done, gives me a sense of satisfaction. Maybe, just maybe I will embark on my next knitting project the way I know I should . . . with a swatch.
(posted by Max)

Friday, 12 September 2014

KNITTED ART and 'Yarn' in Nottingham

Alison and Sarah, owners of Yarn
Alison and Sarah are the knitter owners behind the fabulous ‘Yarn’ in Nottingham – a local yarn store that stocks an exciting and eclectic range of contemporary yarns (including MillaMia of course!), all sorts of patterns and books as well as a wonderful range of crafty notions, needles and accessories. They offer a great choice of Sunday workshops too and a Knit and Natter morning every Wednesday 10am – 12 and Thursday 5pm – 7pm which is always very well attended. If you’re in the area, the girls would love to see you too!

Alison and Sarah count themselves incredibly fortunate to have some extraordinarily talented knitters among their loyal customers, and one of these - Mariana Bowley has created a blanket that is nothing short of a work of art. Her blanket is knitted entirely in MillaMia Naturally Soft Merino using a very interesting technique to create some colours that have never been seen in our palette before!

Mariana's incredible blanket

Mariana very kindly agreed to share her wonderful blanket with the MillaMia blog and answered a few questions too.

1) Firstly, a huge ‘well done’ to you on making such an amazing blanket – it truly is a work of art. What initially inspired your design?
I have always been fascinated by the interaction of yarns of different colours. In 1988 I saw a picture in a museum that inspired me to knit a jumper with yarns the colours of the rainbow. I wanted to reproduce this effect for a blanket to brighten our all white bedding. But the way I worked the original jumper, short lengths of wool, did not seem appropriate for the blanket – too many ends at the back.
The original piece that inspired her 'rainbow' sweater

And the finished piece, front . . .

. . . and back

2) I’m intrigued with the technique you used to create more shades. Can you tell us a bit more about how you blended the colours?
I worked it out that the Millamia yarn was made of 5 strands. I separated 1 strand of a length of Peacock and knitted into a circle with 4 strands of Daisy; in the next circle I used 1 strand of Daisy with 4 strands of Peacock and so on.

3) Why did you choose to use MillaMia yarn for this project? And dare I ask how many balls of yarn you used?
Millamia was ideal with its wonderful range of colours and knitting with its yarns was a pleasure. I first bought seven colours of the rainbow, knitted the corner piece and with that I was off and knitting! I used 13 different colours in all and it took me about 5 months to complete using more than one ball of each colour. I am using the leftovers to make two cushion covers.

I thank the encouragement and advice of Alison and Sarah at ‘Yarn’ and my weaving friends.

Tel: 0115 9253606 Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday 9.30am - 5pm, (late night Thursdays till 7pm)

(posted by Max)