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Friday, 31 May 2013

TECHNIQUE - knitting single row stripes

Have you ever been tempted to knit a garment in single row stripes and then, with a sharp intake of breath, thought ahead to the mammoth task of sewing in a zillion ends, and hurriedly decided that carrying the yarn up the side in 2 row stripes was a much more practical option?

I have.

But help is at hand! And the solution to this problem is such a simple, genius technique that you'll wonder why you didn't think of it yourself.

To begin with, you need to knit with a circular needle but use it to knit your piece flat (or backwards and forwards in rows). I know that there are knitters out there who have yet to discover the practicality of knitting straight on a circular, but there are so many benefits that I rarely knit anything on straight needles longer than 10" now. It makes your knitting much more easily transportable (unless you're knitting an XL Gansey which wouldn't be easily transportable in any situation!) and if like me, you are a commuter knitter your knitting 'space' is much less likely to encroach on your fellow commuters space. It is of course, more secure as sliding your knitting down to the cable section when you're not knitting it, means you have less chance of stray end stitches dropping off the tips of your needles. But I digress. The main benefit, and the one applied to knitting single row stripes is that you can slide your knitting to either end of your needle and therefore you can begin to work at either end.

With a promise to Katarina to knit a garment for Johan, and my curiosity piqued I decided that the Kalle Tanktop from Little Rascals would be the ideal project to test this technique. It takes just 2 balls of yarn in each colour - Katarina chose seaside and putty grey for a gentle contrast, but the strong contrasts of midnight and storm or claret and fawn produce equally lovely knitted fabric.

The Kalle has a section of ribbing at the bottom and then the single row stripe sequence begins. To execute this you:
1) Knit the first RS row with the main colour
2) Do not turn, but slide your knitting back up the needle to return to the beginning of this row again.
3) Join on your contrast colour and knit this row.
4) Turn, and using the main colour purl this row.
5) Do not turn, but slide your knitting back up the needle to return to the beginning of this row again.
6) Using contrast colour purl this row.

This picture shows the WS. I have just pulled my knitting back up the needle to begin to purl the next row with my contrast colour (putty grey). You can see the yarns coming from both the right and the left sides, but on completion of this row, both colours of yarn will be on the same (RS) again.

That's it! A simple and incredibly effective way to produce single row stripes without any ends to sew in and that creates a standard stocking stitch pattern on the front and a really attractive dense purl pattern on the back. I'm rather taken with the lovely straight edged stripes on the purl side (see picture below) and already wondering how I can utilise this in a pattern too!

RS stocking stitch                                                     WS showing the straight edged stripe

My completed back piece and the final single piece blocking before seaming.

Happily for me, Katarina brought Johan into the office wearing his lovely Kalle Tanktop and I had the opportunity for a cuddle and a photo for my Ravelry project page.

(posted by Max)

Friday, 24 May 2013

MILLY THE SHEEP - a great pattern for beginners

As a beginner knitter mastering the basics of knit and purl can seem daunting enough, but pair this with reading a pattern, shaping and sewing up and the task at hand can seem almost impossible. There are many beginner patterns available to aid the new knitter in her quest to learn our craft, but she can only knit so many garter stitch scarves before ennui sets in, and the patterns with all the wow factor are inevitably, the ones likely to drown her in knitty jargon.

My friend Deborah is a keen knitter, who though she's been knitting for a number of years, would still call herself  beginner to intermediate. She doesn't like to take on big projects that she's unlikely to finish, which makes items such as toys and small accessories perfectly suited to her limited knitting time.

So, when Deborah saw our Milly the Sheep pattern, she decided that it looked easy and small enough to be a fun gift for her 3 nieces. Of course, 3 Milly's is almost a flock and Deborah found these delightful sheep such a quick fun project that before she knew it, she had knitted another 2 Milly's for each of her own daughters!

Deborah's daughter Ester with her Milly

The Milly pattern calls for 2 balls of our Naturally Soft Merino - 1 each of snow and storm, but this is enough yarn to make a creamy-white sheep with grey legs and a black (well, grey) sheep with cream legs. The scarf is made from just a few yards of leftover yarn in any of our bright colours (as shown) but you could use any similar yarn oddments up.



'It's a great pattern,' Deborah told me when I asked how she had found knitting her first Milly, 'well laid out, and very clear. There were instructions that I wasn't familiar with - I hadn't come across 'skpo' before but it was really well explained. It's a good beginner project for learning some basic skills like increasing and decreasing - I learnt a lot and I finished it easily as it wasn't too daunting!'

Three of Deborah's flock
After her success with Milly, Deborah moved on to knitting some other toys in our Naturally Soft Merino - a pig which she just needs to add the legs to and a penguin. She wasn't so happy with the end result of the pig however - 'the head and body are knitted in one piece - I don't know, it just doesn't look so much like a pig!'

This hasn't dissuaded her though, as she has booked herself a course to learn how to knit in the round with a lady called Georgia Adebella of Cast Away Kiki. Cast Away Kiki is based in London and has knitting kits, classes and patterns all aimed at beginners. With classes starting at £15 it seems to be very good value, and will add another skill to her arsenal of knitting techniques. In the meantime, I wanted to know what she currently has on the needles. 'I'm knitting some fun bunting, from a really cool pattern called 'Summer Bunting Tea Cosy and Bunting' which I got from The Knitting Hut - in cotton.' Another small, but easily achievable project - if only we knitters all took a leaf out of Deborah's book, there wouldn't be so many UFO's languishing in cupboards all over the country!

You can download your own FREE copy of Milly the Sheep at

(posted by Katarina)

Friday, 17 May 2013

STOCKIST PROFILE - This Is Knit, Dublin

In the second of our series featuring our MillaMia stockists, I caught up with Jacqui and Lisa Sisk - the mother and daughter owners of destination yarn shop, This Is Knit in Dublin. They are both incredibly talented knitters, passionate about yarn and their craft and have been 'seriously' obsessed with all things yarny since around 2004 when Lisa re-discovered knitting on a backpacking trip to New Zealand. She came home 4 months later a self-confessed yarn addict and immediately persuaded Jacqui to pick up her needles after a 15 year knitting hiatus.

They began This Is Knit with a small market stall at the Blackrock Market in 2006, and since then the business has morphed and evolved into the stupendously successful shop it is today, situated in a substantial premises in the Powerscourt Townhouse in central Dublin. The shop today is a haven for knitters, crocheters and crafters alike, and the place in Ireland to attend one of the many workshops or events that the girls run throughout the year. Their reputation is such that they attract many well-respected knitting 'celebrities' to teach and attend events at the shop - Carol Feller and Ysolda Teague to name but two.

I was thrilled to have the chance to find out a bit more about Jacqui and Lisa, but you can always keep up with everything 'This Is Knit' on their beautiful, award winning blog.

Jacqui and Lisa                                               Cute as One Button                                          Lisa's Cameo

1) Firstly, and most importantly - what have you got on the needles at the moment?
Lisa: Oh dear, I’ve lots of projects on the go, but not all of them are 'active' right now! Top of the list at the moment is Cameo by Paulina Popiolek in FyberspatesScrumptious. It’s a simple shawl with stripes, picots and a bit of lace that I want to wear to a friend’s wedding this weekend.
Jacqui: At the moment I have a small baby cardigan called 'Cute as One Button' in Malabrigo Rios. It's a simple top down raglan cardigan, a great pattern as an introduction for top down knitting and it is fantastic for showing off variegated yarns.

Pia Cardigan featured on This Is Knit blog
2) How do you choose new brands/yarns to stock in the shop? Are you influenced by trends, what's popular on Ravelry or do you indulge in yarn that you personally love?
Jacqui: One of the best things about owning your own yarn shop is that you get to stock the yarn that you love yourself.  If I pick up a yarn and I want to knit with it then I know I can offer this yarn to our customers too. Customer input is also very important to us. We all like to knit with different yarns, what one person my love another may not so the more people that give us input the better we can relate to customer needs.
3) My next question is linked to the last one – how tempting is it to knit every new yarn as it arrives, and does this result in lots of UFO’s?
Jacqui: Oh very! I have about four different WIPs at the moment all in different yarns. As for UFO's - yes indeedy and that's all I'm saying. Restraint is futile!
Lisa: I wouldn’t even want to count the UFOs that are stashed around my house! I’ll have to start getting a little more strategic in my project selection! We’re actually very lucky to have four excellent employees who volunteer to knit shop samples on a regular basis so we try to share around the new yarns amongst us all.  That can lead to trouble sometimes though, especially when a particularly lovely new yarn arrives!!

4) What's the best thing about owning a yarn shop?
Jacqui: Our wonderful staff and customers, talking yarn all day and being inspired by the FO's that people come to show and tell us about!
Lisa: The people! We have met so many wonderful friends through the shop, and so many talented designers and creative customers. It really is a wonderful privilege to know them all and to be part of such a great community. (The next best thing is definitely the yarn though!)

5) What is your favourite MillaMia yarn and pattern?
Lisa: I’m a big fan of the bright shades in the Millamia range. Daisy is one of our best sellers, I think Fuchsia is also a great shade, but my personal favourite is PeacockI love boatneck sweaters so the Emma Boatneck from Country Escape is a natural favourite.
Jacqui: Oh it is hard to choose between the Cecila coat and Erika and my favourite colour has to be Peacock. We have very similar tastes obviously...! 

Erika Cardigan from Colour Coded                                        Emma Boatneck Jumper

6) You run lots of interesting workshops, and attract lots of the most popular knitting celebrities too – what has been your favourite workshop/event?
Our favourite event definitely has to be our 5th Birthday bash as it was such a milestone for us. It was a wonderful evening that featured lots of those great people that we mentioned earlier! Debbie Bliss came over to celebrate with us (she also officially opened our first shop so there’s a nice symmetry there!) and we were also joined by our very talented friend Carol Feller.  Then of course there was plenty of yarn, gorgeous garment samples to try on, lots of bubbly and delicious cake!

7) Tell us something unusual about yourselves.
Jacqui: I was in a music video for the Irish band Something Happens.
Lisa: I once taught Ollie Murs how to knit!
(posted by Max)

Thursday, 9 May 2013

INTERVIEW WITH ANN ROWLEY - winner of The Great British Sewing Bee

Master craftswoman, Ann Rowley
It was with an enormous jolt of pleasure that I discovered the BBC were televising a new program called The Great British Sewing Bee - a competition to find the best amateur sewer in the country! A program completely dedicated to the joys of making and crafting, and one that our craft-crazed household could all sit down and watch together. Of course we were captivated from the first, not only by watching the incredible skill and talents of the participants, but also by the genuine warmth and honesty that radiated from all the personalities. It really wasn't very long before we all felt that we personally knew these delightful people and found ourselves discussing Ann and Lauren and Stuart - their trials at the cutting table and tribulations over seam allowance, as if they were old friends.

Whilst Ann's talent for sewing was abundantly apparent on the show, some canny knitters and crocheters amongst you may have, like me, noticed Ann wearing some very fine pieces of knitting and crochet. I was particularly taken with the beautiful striped cardigan Ann wore in the final and also with her delightful crocheted scarf.

You can really only imagine how thrilled I was to then discover that Ann was a member of the MillaMia group on Ravelry and that her current project was none other than our Erika Cardigan from Colour Coded. I contacted Ann through Ravelry, and she very kindly agreed to share some of her own pictures of these exquisite garments, as well as answering some of my questions about her life in craft for an exclusive MillaMia blog interview!

So without further ado, I'm thrilled and delighted to bring you an interview with not just any old participant from The Great British Sewing Bee, but the winner herself, Ann Rowley.

1) Firstly, congratulations on your thoroughly well-deserved win on The Great British Sewing Bee – it was great to see sewing made exciting! What was the best thing about being on the Show?
Thank you! The best thing about the show was having the opportunity to raise the profile of sewing. It has become a rather Cinderella craft and I really hope that the show has encouraged many people to give it a try. I also met a wonderful group of fellow sewers (or should that be stitchers?) who all felt the same way.

The man's shirt with its perfectly set-in sleeves, the all important trophy and the unforgettable lace dress Ann made in the final

2) Our designer Helena is an avid seamstress, but hates the feeling of time-pressured sewing – she likes to able to relax with it. How did you cope with the time restrictions on The Sewing Bee?
The time restrictions were tough! None of us normally sewed like this and were a bit disappointed that we didn’t really have time to showcase our skills. But it was necessary for there to be jeopardy to create a sense of tension for the cameras. This was TV, not real life...

Ann in her delightful 'Kelly Cardigan' with fellow contestants Lauren and Sandra

3) How do you feel about sewing verses knitting? Do you switch between them, or have projects from both crafts running along at the same time?
I always have both sewing and knitting on the go. Sewing is an upstairs, daytime activity; knitting is downstairs in front of evening TV. My sewing is “work”, knitting is relaxation.

Ann's 'Kelly Cardigan' in Rowan Kidsilk Haze

4) Do you find that your seamstress skills help you with knitting - particularly in construction or finishing techniques?
Yes! To me the construction is as important as the knitting. It's always a disappointment to see a beautifully knitted garment spoiled by poor finishing.

'Construction is as important as the knitting' - Ann's beautifully finished fastenings and seams

5) We are thrilled that your latest project is the Erika Cardigan from Colour Coded – what do you usually look for in a sewing or knitting pattern when choosing a project?
Style above all else. I have developed my own personal style over the years, simple, classic elegance, while still reflecting current fashion. I’m always on the look out for the latest patterns and rarely use one more than once. I like to be challenged so tend choose patterns that have interesting design details.  I was really taken by the style of Erika, simple lines, interesting pockets, strong colours and a new yarn for me...

The beginnings of Ann's Erika Cardigan in moss, fuchsia and grass

6) Could I ask one more slightly cheeky question? Is Patrick as gorgeous and immaculate in real life? I imagine that half the country of seamstresses will have a small crush on him!

Patrick is indeed as gorgeous and immaculate as he appears on screen! His tailoring was to die for...such a lovely and knowledgeable man. We all did our share of swooning – even though he’s ten years younger than my youngest son!

Claudia, Ann and the delectable Patrick

We'd like to extend our most grateful thanks to Ann for agreeing to doing this interview for MillaMia. I am in awe of this amazing craftswoman, and found talking to her an incredibly inspiring experience - I hope you all do too.
(posted by Max)

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

CLASSIC ELITE YARNS - blog feature on MillaMia are very fortunate to have found an incredibly well-respected company to distribute MillaMia in the US. Our partners, Classic Elite Yarns, have been long established in America as a provider of exquisite yarns and beautiful patterns, originating in the 1940's as the marketing division of a textile manufacturing mill based in Lowell, MA. The evolution from manufacturing business to a distributor of fine hand-knitting yarn and designs has seen Classic Elite Yarns develop into the world renowned brand that it is today - and we are very proud to be a part of it!

The range of yarns that CEY offer is extensive, covering some 42 different weights and blends with a vast array of colour and texture. With everything from alpaca fingering weight - Alpaca Sox, to a beautiful cotton and silk blend perfect for the coming summer months - Classic Silk, and one of my own favourites - Fresco, a lovely 3ply mix of wool, baby alpaca and angora - there is something luxurious for every project and every knitter.


The pattern support for all Classic Elite Yarn is exemplary too. Here are just a few pictures of some of their current designs, but there are also free patterns available when you sign up to their newsletter and plenty of opportunity to join the CEY family on Ravelry, FaceBook and you can also follow on Twitter.

The CEY blog has featured a very lovely piece on MillaMia this month - you can read all about Katarina, her love of knitting and inspiration over at the Classic Elite Yarns Blog. Many thanks to the team at Classic Elite for featuring us on your blog, and for all your continuing support and enthusiasm!

(posted by Max)

Thursday, 2 May 2013


Inside Mrs Moon
I have often said that I am a one-woman campaign set on teaching knitting to everyone I meet. The variety of pupils has been wide-ranging and only a very few of those have been unwilling, BUT there have been happy converts too! I like to think that were it not for my persistence (and endless patience) these knitters may never have come to our amazing craft and hence missed out on a lifetime of creativity.

So, I found myself instantly challenged when I discovered that our lovely office manager, Maja could not knit. How much it would help her, in her daily tasks of helping knitters and stockists, I thought; what a perfect pastime for those wasted minutes travelling to and from work, I thought; what a perfect opportunity for enriching her life, person and home with gorgeousness, I thought!

Maja was in my sights.
She WOULD be a knitter!

The first step to being a knitter, I told Maja, is choosing the perfect project. It has to be a 'something' that meets certain criteria:
1) the perfect balance of not too easy/not too hard to encourage yet simultaneously challenge the beginner knitter
2) not too cheap (to avoid it being discarded easily if the learning process gets tough)
3) not too expensive (in case of mishap)
4) preferably a garment that the beginner REALLY wants to own (carrot and stick . . .)

Whilst we at MillaMia have some really well written patterns for beginners, they are mostly for children or cushions (like the Stilla) and I knew that Maja would benefit from something simple to knit and to wear. I wanted to make sure that her first project was a 'something' so beautiful that she would be instantly hooked, and also purchase it in a place where her senses would be overwhelmed by yarny loveliness - where better, I thought, than a local yarn shop! It happens that Mrs Moon is just a short journey from us in our new office and so last Thursday, we ventured over to St Margarets on a yarn shopping mission.

You may have read the stockist profile that I posted on the blog about Karen and Susan, the sister owners of Mrs Moon. They were our very first stockist and as such, hold a special place in our hearts whilst also being a very beautiful and excitingly stocked yarn shop. The array of exquisite buttons and Liberty ribbon too is so delightful, but this was Maja's first trip to a LYS, and she was very soon intoxicated by the yarn fumes.

Karen was at hand to help us find the perfect beginner project, showing Maja a very pretty scarf knitted simply in garter stitch in Kidsilk Haze. Maja loved the look of the scarf but was instantly besotted when she touched the delicate item. We looked no further. Two balls of Rowan Kidsilk Haze in alhambra, some lovely thick KnitPro needles and a pattern book saw Maja furnished with the means to create a truly beautiful 'something'.

Maja and Karen browse for the perfect pattern, and Maja is suitably impressed with this lovely simple scarf

Maja's project
Mission accomplished.

As for my own purchases? Let's just say I would NEVER leave a yarn shop empty handed . . .
(posted by Max)