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Friday, 16 October 2015

Knit, Play, Colour....

Knit Play Colour - with a title like that it is hard not to get sucked in! Especially at MillaMia where we love knitting, we love playing and we especially love colour (as anyone who has seen our yarn will know).  Knit Play Colour is the latest offering from talented Knit designer Louise Zass-Bangham.

Louise designs under the moniker of Inspiration Knits. Just released as a digital book it is also available in print and we are thrilled that two of the many gorgeous designs in the book feature MillaMia yarn.
Knit Play Colour Cover

But more of that later. We thought we'd start this blog by telling you a bit about our relationship with Louise. The fact that we have known her for quite a few years now makes profiling her brilliant new book on our blog all the more exciting. We first met Louise at a trunk show in Twickenham. It was one of the first trunk shows we had done as MillaMia and we did not quite know what to expect. We were therefore thrilled that knitters that loved our early MillaMia patterns actually bothered to turn up and spend half the morning chatting to us. Louise was one of those knitters. She had recently had children and had used many of the MillaMia patterns knitting for them. As you can see from Louise's designs today she clearly loves colour and I remember talking to her on that day about this already then. She was one of the rarer knitters we meet that dared to put together her own colour combinations for her MillaMia projects - and they always looked great. At that trunk show she mentioned that she was thinking of going into designing.
Ice Storm Cowl

Fast forward a few years and lo and behold that is exactly what she did. From the outset we were more than happy to support Louise with yarn - we were flattered that MillaMia Naturally Soft Merino was one of her favourites. Louise quickly took Ravelry by storm - first with her funny April Fools prank (ask her about it if you ever meet her!) and then with the beautiful Ice Storm patterns. (shown in the picture to the left in Naturally Soft Merino Putty Grey)

Now she has taken things one step further. With Knit, Play, Colour Louise has spent a year designing, knitting and playing with yarn. The book features 10 accessories patterns ranging from cowls and shawls to blankets and wraps. For each project, Louise includes the standard pattern, and then gently leads the knitter towards playful options to help them make their project truly unique and one of kind. Each pattern’s ‘Play’ section features swatches and suggestions for a variety of different yarns, as well as how to make changes to suit the comfort level of the knitter.

Our favourites of course are the two featuring MillaMia yarn - this time using our Naturally Soft Aran for the first time.

Shadow Lines
Warm hearted

Warm- hearted is one of those blankets that will clearly become an heirloom for any child (or adult) lucky enough to receive it. Shown here in Latte aran it will be a quicker knit thanks to the Aran weight and the subtle melange of the Latte colour will really enhance the finished result. I also think this would be beautiful in Stone or Dusk.

And Shadow Lines is a stunning oversized scarf that really shows our yarn to its best. It looks so soft - you just want to snuggle yourself up in it.

Shadow Lines
Plus plenty of other beautiful patterns like this Flight of Colour to the right -  shallow triangle scarf, striped in three colours.

Knit Play Colour is available in both print and digitally. The printed book is RRP £16.95, which will include a code to download a free digital copy. Digital only RRP £14.95.

Louise has kindly offered MillaMia Blog Readeres one free digital copy - to win simply tell us via a comment what inspires you to play with colour.

all photos (C) Louise Zass Bangham
posted by Katarina 

Saturday, 19 September 2015

STOCKIST PROFILE - Sew-In of Marple and Didsbury

I first met David, his wife Karen and knitter extraordinaire Penny at the Stitches trade show back in 2011, and by the end of this first meeting I can say I was thoroughly enthralled by them! Not only were they friendly and approachable, but they had a broad and extensive knowledge of the yarn industry
and a passion for bringing the very best of it to their customers.

With 3 shops in the Sew-In stable offering a wide range of knitting, haberdashery and sewing products, Sew-In of Marple, Didsbury and Buxton delivers the most comprehensive service for the textile crafter in South Manchester. I asked David to tell us more about the shops, what they offer and their plans for the future.

1) Please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about Sew-In of Marple and Didsbury.

Karen and I started in Marple 20 years ago this year by buying a branch of an existing yarn, haberdashery, needlecraft and fabric retail group Sew-In (Sew-In was a 6 branch business originally started in Buxton in the 1970s). We then acquired the Didsbury branch in 1997 from the Sew-In group, followed by Buxton in 2006 when the owners finally retired. It was a complete career change for me as I'd spent the previous 14 years in construction management. Buying the first store in Marple was a great opportunity to run our own business based around our cross-stitch hobby.

2) How do you go about choosing brands and products for your shops? There is a vast array of beautiful yarn available now, so what is it about a particular yarn that persuades you to carry it?
We effectively 'inherited’ core yarn brands such as Sirdar, Wendy and Stylecraft when we bought the business which was then and still is a leading regional Sirdar stockist. Gradually we introduced new brands in the middle market such as Rico and King Cole and at the premium level we took Rowan and Millamia which happily filled a gap in the market. The South Manchester Rowan stockist closed so we decided to carry Rowan to enhance our ranges, but we also wanted to include new cutting edge brands so we took on Millamia.

As for product choice, we aim to constantly carry the best from each of our brands. Some seasons this means more of one brand than another while in other seasons the decision might be different depending on the strength of each brand's new season offering. With the brands we've introduced we look for quality (both brand and product), range, design and service. In the case of small brands we want to see ‘personality' - I very much believe that the Supplier/Retailer relationship is and should be a partnership and therefore relationship with each brand's principals is very important.

The Buxton shop

3) What is your favourite MM product and yarn colour?
We've stocked MillaMia since March 2011 (after meeting the MillaMia team at Stitches) and MillaMia Aran since its launch last year. There really is no clear favourite colour as each lends itself to particular people and projects. Of course the high plus point with the brand is the intensity of colour, even the soft shades have strength and aren't wishy-washy!

4) Describe a typical Sew-In customer. What are they likely to be knitting?
Across our 3 branches I don’t think there is such a thing as a typical customer! We have everyone from early teens to ‘end of knitting’ people. As a ‘high street’ business we cater for most knitters needs which means we stock baby, sock, lacy and very thick yarn, from 100% man-made to 100% natural fibre. Knitters will be knitting to suit their needs/desires/the season but there is always baby knitting going on.

The first shop that David acquired in Marple

5) What is the strangest or funniest request you’ve ever had?
We regularly have ‘requests’ that could be called strange or funny. Maybe a case of customers not engaging their brains before asking . . .
‘My friend was wearing a pink cardigan last night, have you got the pattern for it?’
‘You had a pattern in the window when I was here on holiday last summer, can I have a copy?’
Customer approaches the counter with a pattern torn from magazine which clearly states that the yarn is only available as a knit kit from …….. and asks ‘Can I have the yarn to knit this please?’

Inside the old Didsbury shop - a veritable Aladdin's cave of yarny delight!

7) If one of our readers has never been to one of your shops, what is the one thing that you offer that means they should?
Service and technical knowledge, together with a passion for the craft – everyone we employ is an expert knitter, more than one is a designer, one has had a book published, all love to help customers achieve their individual knitting goals.

8) Lastly, what does the future hold for Sew-In?
Well, we have exciting times ahead. After 20 years of growing the business from branches that were already established not only in terms of brands, stock etc. but also position, layout, fixtures and fittings, we have embarked on an adventure with a ‘blank canvas’ - a new branch that have created from scratch. While still continuing to serve a loyal local customer base, we are also striving to create the South Manchester independent wool shop Destination of Choice for a much wider audience. Opened early in August 2015 - our brand new shop in Cheadle village is well worth a visit.

Inside the new Cheadle shop

You can find Sew-In online at, at the Marple, Buxton and Cheadle shops and on Facebook.

Friday, 11 September 2015

An amazing design in Naturally Soft Aran -Zenmon

I can't believe I have not seen this earlier - an amazing pattern from talented knit designer Kirsten Johnstone in Naturally Soft Merino. Max may have shared it last year but I wanted to revisit this. I love so many things about it - its versatility, how it shows off the yarn, how interesting the pattern shaping is - but above all its modernity. I think this is one of the things that really distinguishes Kirsten's designs - she has a really clean, modern, stylish aesthetic and it plays all the way through to her photography.
Zenmon wrap - picture courtesy of Kirsten Johnstone
Super-thrilled that a designer of Kirsten's calibre is using our yarn. Kirsten is an architect based in Melbourne, Australia who uses the mediums of built form and interior space to create refined designs. Luckily for use she also uses yarn, fabric and photography to satisfy her design needs on a smaller scale!
Picture courtesy of Kirsten Johnstone
 The Zenmon pattern can be downloaded from Kirsten's website. It is perfect for a the slightly cooler autumn months too. Take a look at the other patterns while you are there - plenty to get excited about.

Read more about the inspiration behind the pattern on Kirsten's own blog.

Posted by Katarina

Friday, 14 August 2015

Learning more about Tanya - our design assistant

Having been away it has been a while since we blogged. This month we thought it might be nice to get to know some of the creative team who help create the MillaMia designs. Here is an interview with Tanya - our talented design assistant.  
Happy reading! 

An interview with Tanya - MillaMia design assistant: 

1. What made you want to work in the hand knitting business? 

Hand knitting was never my plan - it just sort of happened after I met MillaMia's previous intern , Louisa at the Knitting & Stitching show.  I saw it as a new challenge and thought it would be great to try and master a new skill. I had a bit of prior hand knitting knowledge but I have always admired it as it takes so much more time and skill than machine knitting. 

The Arctic Cushion from winter knitting -
 one of Tanya's favourite MillaMia Knits
2. What have you learnt since you started with MillaMia? I have learnt how to chart fairisle which is a great skill to have as it means I can adapt and design patterns so much quicker now! I have also acquired a feel for what the MillaMia customer might want and how to incorporate knitwear trends from the catwalk into the designs without compromising on wearability. 

3. What bits of the job do you enjoy the most?

I really enjoy coming up with new fabrics and swatching. I also love the design process from sketching to coming up with new and interesting colour ways.

4. What are your long term career aspirations?
I would love to stay within design and definitely within knitwear. It would be great to maybe work for a supplier so that I can design for a variety of brands.

5. What are your favourite 5 knitting patterns to knit? 

Annette Scarf and Elika Wristwarmers
from Finishing Touch
Snow Storm wristwarmers from Winter Knitting

Well if I am choosing from the MillaMia collections for me it would have to be the Elika wrist warmers, Elk cushion, Annette scarf, Snow Storm wrist warmers and Arctic cushion

Sunday, 12 July 2015

INSPIRATION - Summer Knitting

Do the summer months see you putting down your knitting in favour of spending more time in the garden, entertaining the kids or picking up another craft that seems a little easier to manage in warm weather? Well, the summer months don't have to be a knitting black hole! Here are a few tips, and some suggested projects to keep you knitting all summer long.

1) Try knitting in the early morning or later in the day to avoid the warmest hours. It can be a real treat to wake earlier and sit with a cup of coffee before anyone else rises and add a few rows to your knitting.

2) Choose small, lightweight projects that won't be heavy and warm in your lap.

3) Choose finer yarn that is all natural fibres to avoid hot and sticky hands. Yarn made from acrylic or manmade fibre can make your hands sweat more and result in squeaky knitting!

4) Try knitting with metal needles in the warmer months - they stay cool to the touch and help the yarn to slide more easily.

5) It might seem like an obvious thing, but regularly washing your hands in cool water or even running the cold water over your wrists will help to reduce swollen fingers and keep your palms nice and dry.

6) The summer holidays may mean that you have small people to entertain - why not teach them to knit?

Top 10 Perfect Summer Projects

1) Need something small and delicate to wear over that pretty summer dress? The Carina Shrug for the ladies or the Karin Shrug for the girls is a simple, quick knit. Shrug

2) The ideal layering piece to keep babies warm without overheating is a tank top. Try the Bjorn or the FREE Milly Tank Top.  

3) How about a cute summer accessory for the girls? The Louise Headband is so quick to knit, you could make one to coordintate with every summer outfit!

4) A summer tote bag is a must have to throw in all those daytrip essentials. The Paola Tote will make a stylish and practical accessory for any outfit.

5) Be back to school ready by knitting the kids a Pontus Pencil Case. They always need a new pencil case to start the new school year don't they?

6) The Patrizia Pouch makes an ideal gift for teenagers. Knit a few in different colours and then fill with nail varnish, makeup or cute stationary.

7) Not worried by knitting in the warm weather but do want something stylish to wear? The ever popular Emma Boatneck will make a great addition to your summer wardrobe.

8) You've decided to teach to the kids to knit, so you can enjoy some guilt-free knitting time yourself! The August Scarf from The Close Knit Gang is a great beginner project.

9) A chic clutch in a bright summer shade will finish off that summer evening dress perfectly. Knit the Corrine Clutch from just 3 balls of Naturally Soft Aran.

10) Take a cardigan in case the summer evening is chilly. The Lilian Jacket is all knitted in garter making it easy and quick.

Whatever the weather - enjoy your knitting!
Written by Max - Posted by Katarina

Friday, 3 July 2015

Anyone for tennis?

Tennis cupcakes - very sweet but delicious
As England is gripped by Wimbledon fever, signs of tennis are emerging everywhere. Popping out for lunch near the MillaMia office today we were inspired to indulge in some tennis- themed cupcakes. So creative.

It made me think that no doubt there are lots of tennis-inspired knitting and craft projects too. And of course a quick surf around Ravelry never fails to deliver. Tennis booties for babies available in both crochet and knit patterns for instance.  Both of these patterns are for a DK yarn which means our Naturally Soft Merino would also substitute well.

Crochet version:
Knitting version:

And of course the tennis tank top is a classic. Our Bjorn tank top is perfect for any younger tennis players in your life.
Bjorn Tank Top from The Close Knit Gang

Snow 124 in Naturally Soft Merino
Putty Grey 121 in Naturally Soft Merino
It is beautiful in the original Seaside and Fawn, but I have always thought that it would also be lovely with Snow as the main colour and a cool stripe of Putty as a gentle contrast:
And as I googled I found some other interesting connections between Knitting and Tennis. For instance the fact that knitters suffer from 'Knitter's elbow' - which is in fact the same type of repetive strain type injury that tennis players suffer from when they have tennis elbow.

And the funniest story has to be this one from 2012 Wimbledon, where a lady was busy knitting on the sidelines of an Andy Murray match.

Other viewers were horrified - finding it an insult to the players that she would be knitting at the same time as watching tennis. They clearly have no idea of what it is to be a knitter- the fact that we can multi-task, and knit at the same time as we talk, watch TV, commute, interact with others. At TNNA and Stitches and the other shows we attend, it is more common to see people walking around, shopping, talking and doing business while they knit than it is not to. I find this a wonderful example of why you should never jump to conclusions without understanding enough about the actions you are making a judgement on. 

And on that note I am off to knit and work on a Bjorn tank top for my little one while watching Wimbledon on the TV! 

Posted by Katarina

Friday, 26 June 2015


Every so often we like to bring you an interview from one of our lovely stockists, as we firmly believe that the first step in keeping our local yarn shops alive and thriving is making sure you all know about them!

Ribbon Circus in Hebden Bridge is a crafters paradise that has recently expanded into bigger premises and is now filled with even more delightful fabric, delectable yarns and a dazzling array of ribbons and buttons. As dedicated (some might say obsessive!) crafters themselves, Helen and Caroline can almost always offer advice, pick up dropped stitches and help winkle out the meaning behind even the most difficult to read pattern!

1) Thanks so much for agreeing to feature on the stockist profile. Please introduce yourselves and your lovely shop!
Helen and Caroline bought Ribbon Circus in 2011 it was a really lovely small shop specialising in gift wrapping, ribbons and haberdashery. Amy, the previous owner, had just started to sell yarn. Helen had a ‘proper’ job in Bradford and was still earning from her DJ job too. She was trying to give up both when this opportunity came along. Running a small retail business proved to be immensely hard work but increasing the yarn and fabrics side of things increased the shop’s popularity. The move to bigger, more lovely and more central premises was a bit of a make or break move really. Happily it seems to be going well and the increased space means that Helen and Caroline can run more workshops and events in their amazing workshop/lounge.

2) How do you go about choosing brands and products for your shop? There is a vast array of beautiful yarn available now, so what is it about a particular yarn that persuades you to carry it?
Helen chooses most of the stock and is responsible for the day to day running of the business. “I choose yarn brands and products if I like them, I really only buy good quality yarns, things I would like to use, colours that I like, patterns that I would knit, I know that sounds a bit selfish but if a product is gorgeous or local or natural or beautiful or a combination of these things I know people will like it. Caroline often says the worst that can happen is that we have to use it up ourselves! Bummer!”
The new shop front is filled with fun bunting and some very tempting looking yarn!

3) What is your favourite MillaMia product and yarn colour?
The Aran in Cherry Red or Emerald Green - no red! . . . er or green. Too hard to decide!

Helens beautiful cable cardigan in Cherry Red Naturally Soft Aran - perhaps red really is her favourite!

4) Do you run any workshops or a knitnight?
Crafternoon Tea on the first and third Sunday of each month. 2-4pm. An elaborate afternoon tea and all the knitting, crochet and crafting you can fit in between feeding your face with delish locally made cakes and cheeses.

5) What is the strangest/funniest request you’ve ever had?
“I’m making these boots for my neigbours’ dog that’s allergic to grass…”
“Can we borrow your workshop table for our contortionist to perform on at the weekend, please?”

6) Tell us something unusual about yourself.
Every year my brother and I dj to 10,000 people in a large marquee on the opening night of the V Festival at Weston Park, Staffordshire. I once cleaned Princess Anne’s bathroom. I am a keen Lindy Hopper.

The annual lamb day ensures plenty of cuddles - although Popsy the cat doesn't look too impressed

7) Lastly, if one of our readers has never been to your shop, what is the one thing that you offer that means they should?
If you have never been to Ribbon Circus then you really should! There is a riot of colour going on, it is bright, light and we are cheerful, experienced knitters with an opinion on everything and usually the answer to anything. We love wool, we love creating beautiful things and we think you should too. We believe that the only thing that can improve an hour or two knitting something lovely from the finest quality yarns is a nice cup of tea and a slice of cake (gluten free).
You can find the shop at 18 Market Street, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, HX7 6AA and the phone number is - 01422 847803. You send the girls an email at or find them on Facebook and Twitter.
(posted by Max)

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Midsummer - a Scandinavian tradition

It was Midsummer on Friday 19 June this year.  We Swedes love Midsummer - to us it symbolises the start of summer.   Although when you are living abroad it sadly does not quite hold true as our schools seem to go on forever - way into July - before we can start relaxing. In Sweden school finishes already in June.

Midsummer represents the longest day - and in Sweden this means almost 24 hour daylight - it barely gets dark. For that reason it is fantastic to celebrate this nice event in Sweden every now and again.

This year we were all in England - however our design assistant Tanya is half Finnish and was lucky enough to visit Finland for Midsummer. We wanted to share some of her gorgeous pictures. We are half tempted to visit Finland rather than Sweden this year as a result!

Posted by Katarina, Photos from Tanya

Saturday, 13 June 2015

TUTORIAL - 3 Ways To Cast Off

The final few centimetres of knitting always seem to take longer than the rest of the project put together don't they? Like staggering over the line having run a marathon, or losing those last 2 stubborn pounds to reach your target weight - the end in sight but needing one last push to achieve ultimate satisfaction!

We knitters know, that finishing one project often means beginning another that is likely very similar to the one we've just completed - that familiar combination of knit and purl, rows or rounds, increasing and decreasing. Nevertheless, beginning and ending projects is always momentous and that final act of casting or binding off is another area that bears some careful consideration.

Like casting on, there are multiple ways of casting off - each with attributes suitable for particular garments, stitch types or decoration. If your pattern hasn't stipulated what type of cast off to use, it's worth having a few techniques in your Knitters Arsenal with which you are familiar enough to select and create the perfect edge.

The most common cast off is the Standard Knitted Cast Off which uses the knit 2 sts, pass the first st over the second method to securely fasten off all the live stitches. It's important to keep this final row fairly loose so that you don't end up with a tight, drawn-in edging that won't fit over a head, hand or ankle! It's difficult to say just how loose these stitches should be, but as you get more familiar with casting off you will get a 'feel' for it without casting off so loosely that you end up with a flared edge.

Standard Knitted Cast Off

1) Begin by knitting 2 stitches. Next lift the first stitch (this is the one nearest to your hand holding the needle) on your right needle over the second (this is the one nearest to the pointed end of your needle). Don't pull tightly! Knit another stitch from the left needle onto your right so that you again have 2 stitches on your right needle and repeat the lifting first stitch over the second. Continue to end. To secure the very last stitch after all other stitches have been cast off, cut your yarn leaving a tail of 10cms and pull this end through the loop.

2) The picture on the left shows the cast off completed with each stitch knitted. On a ribbed edge you may prefer to knit the knit stitches and purl the purl stitches as you come to them - the picture on the right shows how this looks.

Some knitters find that the Standard Cast Off really doesn't give enough elasticity to their finished edge and so the Decrease Cast Off is a great alternative - just as simple to execute but resulting in a much more stretchy edge. It's perfect for the top ribbed edge of socks, or roll neck sweaters, cuffs and ribbed welts. As an extra tip, if you know that you are a tight knitter and whatever type of cast off you use tends to be rather tight, then go up a couple of needle sizes - it will force more yarn into the stitches and so create a more elastic edge.

Decrease Cast Off

1) The Decrease Cast Off works by knitting 2 stitches together and then passing this stitch back to the left needle in order to knit it together with the next stitch and so on. When you come to the last stitch, cut the yarn and pull through the last loop.

2) You can choose to knit the 2 stitches together through the back of the loop or through the front - each gives a different look to the finished edge. The picture on the left shows the stitches knitted through the back and the right shows them knitted through the front.

One of my favourite cast off methods is Elizabeth Zimmerman's Sewn Bind Off which creates a beautifully neat and stretchy edge that is incredibly versatile and can be used to finish almost any garment or accessory. I've found it particularly useful on the top edge of fingerless mitts as it gives just enough stretch to get them on, but is also nice and stable so that the edge holds its shape. This method uses a tapestry needle - as the name suggests, it is a sewn edge - but remember that you will need to cut your yarn at least 3 times the length of the edge you want to cast off.

Elizabeth Zimmerman's Sewn Bind Off

1) Cut the yarn 3 times longer than the length of the edge you want to cast off and thread onto a darning needle. For the first step, put the needle purlwise through the first 2 stitches on the needle.

2) You can see the yarn holding these 2 stitches still on the knitting needle. Next put the darning needle knitwise back into the first stitch and lift this off the knitting needle.

3) In the left hand picture you can see the stitch just lifted off at the beginning of your cast off edge. Carry on in this way, putting the darning needle purlwise through the first 2 stitches on your knitting needle, and then the needle back knitwise into the first stitch and lifting it off until you come to the end.

4) You can see the cast off edge clearly and just how stretchy it is in the right hand picture!

As ever, there are many more cast off methods than I can mention here and it's worth doing some research to find some of the more obscure ones. Youtube will show you how to work a Tubular Bind Off to match your Tubular Cast On to create the ultimate, invisible professional edge, a Suspended Bind Off, various Picot Cast Offs to make the edge a little prettier or an Invisible Ribbed Bind Off as well as a plethora of others. Which one you choose, is up to you!
(written by Max, posted by Katarina)