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Friday, 29 November 2013

EVENTS - Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show

Katarina and Helena have a deep fondness for the Knitting and Stitching Show in Harrogate, even though for us southerners it is a long drive up North with a car packed to the brim with yarn, books, display shelving and samples - and a seemingly even longer drive home on sunday night after an exhausting 4 days on your feet. Having never been myself, I was eager to see why the girls enjoy this particular Show so much and after a VERY interesting few days beset by more than our fair share of trials and tribulations, I am as enamored of Harrogate K&S as they are!

We drove up on Wednesday afternoon through an unending torrent of rain and arrived rather late as the traffic slowed almost to a standstill just outside of Harrogate. Although we didn't have enough time to set up the stand completely, we were confident that we'd be able to get everything ready in time for the Show opening the following morning. It very quickly became apparent that setting up the stand in time was going to be the least of our worries, as Katarina's voice became fainter and huskier until by the following morning, she had no voice at all! I joked that my endless stream of chatter during our four hour drive had 'broken' her voice (and I'm still not entirely certain that it didn't!), but the cause was unimportant compared to the impact that it would have. With just Kat and I manning the stand on Thursday (Helena joined us late on Thursday evening) which was also late night shopping, we had only one voice between us and a seriously busy day ahead.

Those of you who came along to the stand on Thursday will no doubt remember seeing Katarina doing a weird mix of gesticulating and mouthing her words, and me doing a LOT of talking (nothing new there, I know!). Thanks to all of you who were excellent lip-readers and so incredibly patient.

Helena wearing a Monica Jacket from High Society

Friday morning saw another trial as Katarina, now joined by Helena were making their way to the Show after staying overnight with family in Leeds when the car broke down 3 miles from Harrogate. I, having stayed in an hotel just across the road from the Conference Centre, was waiting for them outside Betty's where we had arranged to meet for a treat of a breakfast. Helena called and explained that they were waiting for the AA and I should go for breakfast without them. The pictures here tell the story of my solitary (but intensely delicious) breakfast at Betty's - my first experience of this incredible Tea House, but most decidedly NOT my last!

I'm happy to report that the girls did make it to Betty's on the following day.

Helena in her Monica Jacket and Katarina sporting the Erika Cardigan from Colour Coded

Aside from a whole raft of difficulties, the Show itself was a joy. We met so many loyal, returning customers who had finished projects, and were excitedly looking for something from our new collections. This lovely lady was proudly wearing her Charlie Cardigan from Country Escape knitted in scarlet (a project she purchased a last years K&S) - it looked absolutely stunning, and she had done a great job as you can see! Jane from New Jersey Wools in Bedale is a stockist of MillaMia - she came along sporting her very own knitted moustache in support of Movember!

It's always interesting to see which of our designs will be the best selling item at a Show, and this year the Vanessa Cable Cardigan from Flight of Fancy was the hands down winner. We had a sample in the original Storm and Lime colourway hanging up which literally stopped people in their tracks, but Katarina's own version in Storm and Forget-me-not was the ultimate Show stealer. There are lots of you out there who purchased yarn and pattern to make this lovely cardigan - we'd love to see the finished garments next year!

On the train home, I took out my knitting and pondered my Harrogate experience. I was delighted by the sheer regal beauty of Harrogate itself, completely bewitched by the taste sensations in Betty's and aside from the 'issues' that hindered us, I enjoyed every minute of the Show. Of course, it's hugely important for the success of a Show like Knitting and Stitching to have friendly vendors and a fabulous venue, but it would be nothing without the incredible knitters, crocheters, stitchers, weavers and crafters who come along every year and make our time so worthwhile. Thanks to you all!!
(posted by Max)

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

OUT AND ABOUT - The Knit Club, Caterham

Louise outside her lovely shop - The Knit Club
I might have mentioned this before, but us MillaMia girls love to get out and about among the knitting community and chat to our fabulous customers. We enjoy nothing more than to set up our stall at a crafty show or take a trip to one of our stockists with bags full of our lovely samples so that the real people who knit our patterns can see for themselves just how a garment looks knitted up, and try it on before they commit to a project purchase.

Katarina and I were delighted to visit The Knit Club in Caterham on Saturday to spend the afternoon sharing and showcasing some of our garment samples. Louise Dungate, owner of The Knit Club and all-round lovely lady made us feel incredibly welcome - even though we were a little late, having made a dash out of central London only to hit a wall of traffic all intent on doing the same thing!

It was such a thrill to arrive in a shop full of expectant knitters and we had soon unpacked the samples onto a big table in the centre of the shop so that eager hands could feel the lovely knitwear.

Katarina helped this customer to choose colours for a Vanessa Cowl. She choose Pitch Black and Forget-me-Not - great combination!

I was so excited to meet up with the gorgeous and super stylish Paulina Popiolek whom I met some years ago in a queue outside the KnitNation marketplace!! You may already know some of Paulina's designs - her gorgeous shawl Cameo has been enormously successful on Ravelry. The other lovely lady in the picture below bought some yarn for Bo Wristwarmers to knit for Christmas gifts.

A lovely customer with a Tivoli, Paulina and I
This talented knitter had created a beautiful pram blanket using lots of MillaMia yarn in a great array of colours, and bought yarn to make a very pretty Lillian Jacket in Fuchsia and Seaside.

We'd like to thank Louise for hosting the trunk show at her amazing shop, but most of all we'd like to thank of all the lovely Knit Club customers for welcoming us and being so super enthusiastic! See you all in 2014 . . . !
(posted by Max)

Thursday, 14 November 2013


Uno Cowl
As an uncharacteristically for the UK warm October fades to a colder November my heart sinks as a new battle with my 5 year old looms. Freddie is the type of child who hates layers with a passion, claims he does not feel the cold and is happiest in a t-shirt. He presents a unique dilemma in the more general question of how best to dress my kids for winter. At the back of my mind I think it must surely be possible to combine practical considerations with some form of style -  luckily for me there is plenty to choose from this season. Of course MillaMia knitwear is high on my list – but much as I would like it to be hand knits, they are sometimes not enough!

With a Scandinavian background I feel well trained on the general rules of warmth. Layers, layers and more layers with the most important factor being a water proof, insulated outer layer when it is really cold out. In Sweden despite the weather being far chillier than here and for much more of the year, children are used to being outside for hours of the day at their daycare centres – hence the popularity of the PolarnO.Pyret snow layers. I find the POP jackets last forever and really do keep the children warm for prolonged outdoor spells. Both my older kids have used POP jackets for skiing and they never once complained about the cold (they complained about lots of other things of course though!). POP also have a good range of overalls for younger kids and accessories such as gloves and hats.

POP outerwear
Another great Scandinavian brand who have fabulous outerwear layers is Mini A Ture. I particularly like their Baby Wen jackets for older babies as they are an easy slip on design with a fun playful edge to them.

In London however,  we are lucky enough that waterproofing our kids is not always absolutely necessary, and this for me is an opportunity to dress the children in slightly more elegant outerwear.

It is also hard to resist Caramel’s selection – this on trend Orwell Bomber is awesome.  And for us at MillaMia we know how key an elegant coat can be to girl’s winter wardrobe – for party days, church visits, Christmas or even for a family lunch. The Cecilia Coat is our MillaMia showstopper, combining warmth and style.

The trick to layering is to also make sure you have some warmth underneath the outerlayer. This means knitwear for me! Key pieces from MillaMia that I think work well are the Alexander Jacket for boys, Nils Stripey Top for the younger ones and for girls the Hannah Cardigan is super versatile while the Charlotte Cardigan is useful. For someone like my jumper averse boy however I sometimes need to focus on super soft sweatshirts rather than knitted garments, and a playful edge sometimes helps to convince him. Tootsa McGinty are a super cool kids brand that totally ticks those boxes for us. The fox or bear jumpers seem to speak Freddie’s language and help him overcome his layering phobia.

Finally, at the risk of sounding like Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous (a reference here for our UK readers! Magazine episode in 1992 “accessories darling, accessories”) don’t forget hats, scarves and mittens. You can’t beat ski gloves when it is properly snowy and cold, but for the rest of the time I tend to go for knitted woolen pieces. One of our cutest knits at MillaMia is the Uno Cowl which is such an easy piece to just throw on the kids when we leave the house (and one that they are much less likely to lose than a hat or scarf!). At the same time the high street brands like Gap and Zara do a good range of fun accessories – with low prices where it matters less when things are likely to get lost. I LOVE this on trend hat from Gap in this season's key shade of lime green. Clearly I would prefer it hand knitted in MillaMia Lime and Putty though – maybe I will make my own version of the FREE Clementin Hat using precisely that combination!

 (posted by Katarina)

Friday, 8 November 2013

INTERVIEW - Michele Wang

Michele Wang
It is always exciting to see another designers vision for our yarn. To find out what it is about a colour or texture that speaks to them and evolves into a beautifully finessed item that knitters across the globe decide they have to knit. Michele Wang, of Brooklyn Tweed fame very kindly agreed to talk to us about her love of knitting, fashion and her latest sweater design using MillaMia Limited Edition Lime.

1) Tell us a bit about yourself and how you came to be a knitwear designer.
Hello! I live in New York City with my husband and precious pug, Brigitte. I can't imagine living anywhere else even though as I'm answering these questions two people are screaming at each other on the sidewalk and there's been a jackhammer going since 7:00 this morning. I'm not sure I know what quiet is. I have found that the more chaotic my surroundings, the more settled I seem to be.You should see my desk - it's like a tornado moves over it every night.
I came to be a knitwear designer serendipitously. I started knitting a few years back to try to rest my body after some intense marathon training. I searched for a sedentary past time. Since I had always been interested in fashion and textiles, a friend suggested I take up knitting. Long story short, I ended up being referred to Shirley Paden by Mari Tobita (through Lisa Daehlin) to do some sample knitting. One thing lead to another, and I was fortunate to have my first published design in Vogue Knitting's Fall 2010 issue.

2) What are you currently working on?
I'm currently working on a few things. Most importantly, I've just finished working on a design for MillaMia. It was such a great opportunity to work with a different yarn, and in such a vibrant color. Belesama just launched on Ravelry yesterday, and has had lots of really positive feedback already - I'm so excited for this piece!


I'm also working on two special collections for Brooklyn Tweed. One I should definitely keep the lid on, and the other is a collection designed entirely by me. It's terrifying. You begin to really doubt whether or not you can handle such a large project. But, I'm just trying to take it one piece at a time.


3) Which designers inspire you?
Wow... which designers don't inspire me?! I love Yohji Yamamoto, because who doesn't? He's a genius, full stop. I know he hasn't been very popular these past few years, but his pieces are timeless. I love Alexander McQueen, or Sarah Burton for that matter. I would wear that all day and all night if I could, although grocery shopping with that diamond encrusted head cage would be impractical. And I really appreciate Prada - there's always something that sparks in her collections. It never fails - about two years after one of her collections comes out, I want it all. It's like she knows what the masses will love before they do. She plants the seed. And Jil Sander! I think I did a little dance when I heard she was coming back to design for her eponymous label and it's been glorious. I could go on and on - aren't you sorry you asked?!!


4) In relation to the last question – which up and coming new designers have you got on your radar?
Baja East is a label that just hit my radar. I've been seeing a lot on Instagram, and I love the cool effortlessness of it. I think culturally people are looking less to tailored clothing, but more people are concerned with their clothing and appearance. It's an interesting crossroads. I think historically we think to look nice, we need to "dress up", but that definition is so different now. To think about the impact that "Grunge" made more than 20 years ago, is mind-blowing. Why was that so shocking? Now, everything goes - it's how you wear it, how you dress it up, and of course, your attitude. Like I love seeing girls wear stilettos with sweatpants, an old t-shirt with a fur jacket. It's fun!

5) What trends in knitwear in the US are you seeing for A/W 13?
I feel like I've been seeing a lot of treated knitwear. Knits that have been felted with metallic pieces in spots, or plastic melted on it, or yarns that are neoprene. I think textile designers are having a lot of fun with knits these days, and the technology never stops. I can't say that I've seen a definitive trend in terms of silhouette this season, but looking forward to F/W 2014, it's all about oversized. Huge, mohair, mid-thigh bulky sweaters. It's looking like a nice interpretation of 80's knitwear... without the patched letters and puffy paint. I would love to make a super huge sweater in neoprene!


6) Can you give us an insight into your creative process – where does a design come from and how does it evolve?
Generally a design comes from the material and color I'm using. Since my work is primarily for Brooklyn Tweed, I have very specific visions for a tweedy, woolly yarn with those deep rich colors. So, my process usually begins with swatching. If I'm unfamiliar with a yarn, I'll just knit something simple like stockinette and block it to see how it behaves. Then I play with the swatch, feeling it, pinning it to my dress form to see if anything calls to me. Of course, I scour pinterest, tumblr, and the streets of NY to find inspiration for design elements. Then usually a design starts to form in my head and I start swatching ideas, and very rarely do I get something on the first go. Or I like a swatch, and my initial thoughts on the design are all wrong. So, the design is fairly amorphous in the beginning. From there, I'll start to sketch to try and get down proportion and the "feel" of the design. I always think of the evolution of a design as a sort of pinball going back and forth between yarn, color, pattern and silhouette. All of those things have to make sense, and changing one changes the other until they all come together.


7) Which of your own designs is your favourite, or the one you’re most proud of?
I really don't know. Designs are like memorabilia or keepsakes for me. I look at them and I see where I was, or how I was feeling at that particular moment and it's hard for me to see the actual piece. Or I obsess about what I could have done differently. If I had the time, I would work each piece like a illustrator, painter or photographer does as a study - 1/100, 2/100 -  and see how it evolved. Observe the differences in each piece even if I were to use the same pattern every time, or make very minor changes with each one. That would be so much fun, and so interesting!


8) What is it about MillaMia Naturally Soft Merino that has inspired you to work with it?
I came to know MillaMia through your beautiful pattern booklets. It's a shame, but most knitting publications tend to look somewhat similar. MillaMia really stood out. The styling and colors are so sophisticated. I fell in love with the Limited Edition Lime colorway as soon as I saw it! And then when I met you Max, and Helena at TNNA, I knew I had to work with you. I know it seems crazy to want to work with a yarn because of the people behind it, but it's the truth. Having had many careers and done so many random things in my life, I know the most important thing in any business or creative endeavor are its people. It's the bottom line.

Huge thanks to Michele for this indepth and incredibly accessible interview - meeting with her was truly one of the highlights of my summer. If you want to keep abreast of what Michele is doing you can find her on Pinterest, Ravelry and her Blog.
(posted by Max)

Friday, 1 November 2013

MILLAMIA IN CANADA - with Nordic Yarns

We count ourselves very fortunate to have found some incredible distributors to spread the Millamia love across the rest of the world. Working with Nordic Yarn Imports has introduced our yarn and patterns to a impressive selection of retailers across Canada - a country we know to have a true love of all the textile crafts, and a long history of knitting. The company is based in beautiful British Columbia, run and owned by the Sopiak family who specialise in distributing products from Norway, Sweden, New Zealand and Uruguay to all of their Canadian stores.

We thought an interview would be a great way to introduce Tina and the Nordic Yarns team to you, so read on for an informative insight into a long love of yarn and knitting and some completely gorgeous pictures of Tina's recent wedding in Whistler.

Firstly, what are you currently knitting?
Right now I’m working on a multi coloured cowl in a fingering weight. It will be a gift, but I haven’t decided for who yet.

When did your love of knitting start and why?
My mom was always knitting, so when I was little I wanted to do it too. I didn’t quite have the patience to see anything through however, so I really didn’t get into knitting until I was a bit older. It was during our craze of eyelash yarn that I really got into it, and it was the perfect yarn to  start getting hooked. It was fast, disguised bad tension, and I could still proudly wear my creations!

How did Nordic Yarns start out?
My mom started the business when I was little because she felt she couldn’t get the yarn she wanted. She’s from Denmark, and she was used to having many more options available, especially for little kids sweaters.  After a few meetings overseas, we became distributors of a Swedish brand, and we grew from there. My mom translated the patterns while my dad ran the office.

How do you find time to knit when you are running such a busy business?
I’ll always find time. There are quiet moments in the office, and I always knit in the evenings when I watch tv.

Who is your favourite knitwear designer and do you have a favourite garment of all time that you have knitted?
I’m a bit biased when it comes to designers, always favouring our suppliers’ pattern support. Also I usually don’t use a pattern properly, instead using it for inspiration and making my own adjustments. But if I must pick one outside our range, I really love Churchmouse Yarns & Teas patterns. They are well written and creative. And as for favourite garments, I must admit I don’t knit full garments very often. I love accessories, partly because of that lack of patience, but also because I’ve always got new yarns to knit with. My most loved items are my chunky Punta merino cowl, which is so cozy in the winter, and my Fritidsgarn felted slippers. I would wear those slippers at work if I could!

What are Canadians knitting with at the moment and are there any particular trends in pattern choices?
I get asked that a lot, and it’s hard to put all Canadians in the same box. From what I’ve seen overall, knitters are making less sweaters and more accessories. The popularity and accessibility of handpainted yarns has sort of caused that, with the bold colours suiting scarves, hats and cowls. The last 10 years have really been great for fibres too, with knitters more educated in the quality of alpaca, merino, silk, cashmere, and others.

Do you have a favourite MillaMia pattern and yarn colour?  And if you could add another colour to our palette, what would it be?
I don’t have a favourite yet, since it’s still so new to us. I want to knit more with it, but we’re sold out right now, so I’m stuck until our shipment arrives and everyone gets their yarn! I love blues and greys, so I’ve been eyeing Storm, and the new special edition Cobalt blue is gorgeous. You have already added Black to the palette, which would be my first choice. Otherwise, a charcoal grey or pale mint green.

Can you tell us something unusual about yourself or even share some of the plans for your upcoming wedding?
Well, the wedding has now come and gone, and it was wonderful. We only had 25 guests up in Whistler. Parts of it were fancy (like my dad in a tux), yet we had many DIY aspects. We did the flowers ourselves, mom made the cake, and my friend was the DJ. And something unusual about me... I have yet to knit my husband a sweater! He’s tall and broad, and there’s my patience thing... But his hands, feet, head and neck are always covered.

Tina with brand new husband Chris and with her Dad on her wedding day

What is your number one tip for knitters out there – the most important "purl" of wisdom you could share from your experience?
Make a tension swatch. Everyone says that, not many do it.

We would like to let our readers know which of your stores offer MillaMia yarn and patterns … can you help us with that?
Here’s the link to all our stores - it doesn’t specify who just carries MillaMia, but I hope the that list will grow.
(posted by Kirsten)