Subscribe via email


Click here to subscribe to the MILLAMIA blog by Email

To view previous blog posts scroll down to the bottom of the page

Friday, 28 February 2014


There is no such thing as a wasted moment when you're a knitter! Annoying delays at airports, time spent waiting for appointments, train and coach journeys and even those few minutes in the car waiting for kids to come out of school all present the perfect opportunity to add a couple of rows to your latest project.

Of course, the project needs to be portable and NOT a complicated lace shawl which requires focused attention or the need to finish the row. You have to be prepared to pick up and put down your knitting in a heartbeat, which generally means stuffing it hastily into a bag, hoping that your stitches will survive the manhandling!

 Happy to be on the train and wearing my Vanessa Cable Cardigan finished just in time to wear at CHSI, and my portable Nils project

You can create the perfect travel project with just a little bit of preparation. Circular needles are great because they take up less space in your bag and will prevent inadvertent elbowing of the person sat next to you on a train. A row counter can help to remind you of roughly which row you are on (or at least the last row you last completed), and a small project bag will keep it all together, and your yarn from rolling down the length of the carriage/footwell/surgery floor.

Tools for knitting on the go

Choosing the optimal project is also key to successful knitting on the go. I nearly always have a pair of 'vanilla' socks on my needles, just because I have knitted so many pairs now that I don't need to follow a pattern (less to force into my project bag) and are knitted entirely in stocking stitch. For the same reasons, a small, simple baby garment is also the perfect travel companion.

I cast on the Nils Stripey Top just before I set off to CHSI a couple of weeks ago, knowing that I had at least a couple of hours on a train to get to Birmingham on Sunday and another two to get back home on Tuesday evening. It may sound a little odd, but I was actually looking forward to those precious hours of enforced sitting and knitting. Interruption free, guilt free knitting with my earphones in listening to a knitting podcast (as it happens, aplayfulday) - what could be sweeter?

I didn't finish the pieces for my Nils on my trip to Birmingham, but I had completed the front and started the back almost entirely during my traveling time - such a satisfying result from what could have been hours of dull journeying. Another evening saw the sleeves finished and as soon as it was blocked I knitted on the bands and seamed it.

This lovely garment is the second part of my gift for the April baby - knit in cobalt and putty grey to match the Smilla Hat. I managed to get both items out of 2 balls of each colour and took such a short time to make that in knitting terms it provided instant gratification!

I'm looking forward to my next opportunity to indulge in some travel knitting, and planning another small and simple project to stow away in my bag. It's only just March so there is plenty of time to fit in another tiny gift before April . . .
(posted by Max)

Friday, 21 February 2014

KNITTING for an April baby

Ok, I admit that I'll use almost any excuse to knit for babies. I hear that a friend of a friend is having a baby and feel an urgent need to get out my needles and scour the books for something suitable. Of course, I love it most when someone I know well is expecting - there is nothing nicer than sharing the progress and birth of a new baby, but in truth, even an acquaintance is likely to receive something small, cute and knitted as soon as the baby is here.

Knitting for babies is a rather self satisfactory type of knitting for me - it's quick and provides almost instant gratification. When I cast on something for a baby I can rest assured that I won't be drowning in endless rows of stocking stitch, seaming mammoth pieces together or looking longingly at my next project whilst wishing that this one was over. Baby garments satisfy a good portion of my knitting urges - speedy, easily achievable, ridiculously cute and appealing even on the needles and importantly, they are always well received. There is nothing like the pleasure of gifting something handmade to a new mum and knowing, a little selfishly, that you enjoyed the making of it as much as the giving.

So, you may have guessed that my latest project is for a new baby boy expected in April. Astonishingly, I am well ahead of schedule with one completed item and one drying on the blocking mats, which probably means that I'll end up making something else as well!

The first item is the most perfect little hat. We launched the Smilla Hat last week as the latest free pattern available for download directly from the website, and I instantly knew that I would be making one for the April baby. It is simple in it's construction, but has the added interest of swiss darning (or duplicate stitch) motifs on the brim - and there are a choice of these fun motifs, charted in the pattern.

Knowing that this April baby is a boy has been great - no careful choosing of gender neutral colourways or styles - I've gone all out boyish, choosing putty grey and cobalt. The knitting of the hat is achievable in one evening, and the smallest size takes just 1 ball of yarn with a small amount for the contrasting motif. There is a stocking stitch border or rim and then the main body of the hat is garter stitch with decreasing crown shaping - all knitted flat to make swiss darning the motifs on easier. I thought that it might be useful to share the swiss darning technique in a series of pictures (below) so that you can feel confident to give it a go. The Smilla hats all have small, easy motifs on each hat - perfect for your first attempt at swiss darning!

Count in from both edges and place locking stitch markers to mark the area of the chart.
Thread a darning needle with your contrast colour and using the chart, count to the first stitch. Come through the knitted fabric from back to front in the hole below the stitch you want to 'duplicate'. Leave a long tail so that you can sew it in later.
Now put the needle through both legs of the stitch above and pull through - remember not to pull your stitches too tight as this can result in the underneath colour showing through and a puckered finish. Next, put the needle back through the hole you originally came up through to complete the stitch - you have completed one stitch.
Continue working in columns - travelling up the fabric until the required amount of stitches has been completed.
Once the first column has the right number of stitches duplicated, move over to the next column and work down in the same way. I am right handed and tend to work right to left, but left to right is also fine.
You will have noticed that the chart is upside down - this is because the rim will be turned back once the hat is finished. I have turned the rim around in the picture above just so you can see the cute finished elephant!
This shows both elephants completed and the rim turned back. There will be a few ends to sew in, which I did before stitching the back seam.
My finished hat will be even cuter when it's on a sweet baby!
The Smilla Hat pattern will available in hard copy format from all of our stockists in the next few weeks but if you fancy having a go at this adorable hat, then download your copy right HERE. Which one will you choose?
(posted by Max)

Friday, 14 February 2014

STOCKIST PROFILE - Spins and Needles

I know that I always say we are incredibly lucky to have such amazing yarn shops stocking MillaMia, and that the people who own and run them are some of the nicest people around - but it's true! So, at the risk of repeating myself, Sarah Freeman, owner of destination yarn and stitch boutique, Spins and Needles in Lincoln, really is the nicest lady and her yarn shop is pretty awesome too!

1) Tell us a bit about yourself and how Spins and Needles came to be.

I'm Sarah Freeman, owner of Spins and Needles yarn shop located in the centre of Lincoln. The shop came about when I was leaving my previous job and wasn’t quite sure what to do. Then one morning I thought, “hmmm, I think I’ll open a wool shop” and so I did! I’ve no technical training and like many am self taught and have picked up a lot from my friends, the internet and workshops held in other shops that I attended before I had my own.

2) The burning question that's on every kitters' lips - what have you got on the needles?

Currently on my needles is: Aoibhne Ni’s Pax shawlette in MillaMia, good for travelling with. A pair of Schoppel Wolle socks as my ‘shop project’ which is fairly easy so I can be busy in the quiet periods in the shop, and, I’m about to cast on Tea Jenny by Kate Davies in Rowan Felted Tweed – done my first steek on the tension square. I like to try the yarns in the shop so I can say what I think when discussing them with customers.
3) How do you go about selecting the yarn for your shop with the overwhelming array of yarn available right now?

When thinking about what to buy in for the shop I can be quite eclectic. I like yarns to have a high natural fibre content and good pattern support – this is what first led me to stock MillaMia.  I also have to consider what I already stock and how new lines will fit in. Just before Christmas I realised my penchant for 4ply meant there was loads of very similar yarn in the shop, so I had a big sale and slimmed this down. Boringly price has to factor as well, although I don’t focus too much on this as if it’s beautiful it’s amazing how price doesn’t factor.

Inside Spins and Needles

4) Do you have a 'go to' pattern that you've knitted multiple times that is perfect for gift knitting?

I don’t really have a go to pattern, I quite enjoy knitting hats, so I would say a chunky hat, or fingerless mitts. I do like the Birgitta Mitts from Country Escape especially as I love knitting cables.

Spins and Needles wall of yarn

5) Describe your ultimate fantasy craft project.

Mmmm . . . ultimate craft project . . . a huge Noro throw – I’m a sucker for their really bright colours.

6) What is your favourite MillaMia yarn colour and pattern?

I do really like bright colours, so I think that Scarlet and Fuchsia are my favourite MillaMia colours, and whilst I’m not a green person I do like Grass as well. I adore the Erika Cardigan, I really ought to knit it up as I know I’d wear it to death, and the brights used in it are fab.

Samples including an Emil Babygrow and Alexander Jacket

7) Tell us something unusual about yourself.
Something unusual? Last year I took part in Lipdub Lincoln, where I cycled my yarn-bombed bike up Lincoln High Street singing along to Take That’s ‘Shine’. This was as part of Lincoln Wheelers bike club and organised by BBC Look North (Yorkshire).
Sarah (left of pic) on her amazing technicoloured bicycle!

You can find Sarah and her lovely shop at 6, Clasketgate, Lincoln LN2 1JS, on Twitter, Facebook and Ravelry. You can even call her on 01522 522865 - she is always happy to help you choose some delectable yarn for your next project!
(posted by Max)

Thursday, 6 February 2014

LOANI PRIOR . . . talks tea cosies

The Queen of the Tea Cosies herself, Loani Prior has been kind enough to talk to MillaMia about her love of knitting, inspiration behind her incredible tea cosies and life in a never ending tea party! If you haven't yet come across Loani, go straight over to to experience these stupendous works of knitty art and then read on for an interview with this talented designer whose enormous sense of fun is always laced with a healthy dose of panache . . .
1) You have published 3 books so far – have you got plans for a fourth collection?
Loani:  Who’d a thunk!  THREE books on tea cosies!  And yes a fourth in the works, about to go to print, release date June this year. Pretty Funny Tea Cosies. But then it turns out everyone loves a tea cosy. It makes a perfect gift. No one has to wear it and it reminds us of our grandmothers. The tea cosy is very Australian. Oh orright, it is very English too.

2)  Why tea cosies?
Loani:  It’s The Bloke’s fault. He took me to meet his family en masse one Christmas and, well, what was one to do but make a big impression with a great display of talent and generosity. I presented 15 stupendous tea-cosies on their pots accompanied by matching eggcosies on their cups all packed the same way all delivered at the same time. How could they not love me after that? And so, the tea-cosy nonsense began.

3) What inspires your tea cosy designs?
Loani: Ideas come from everywhere, always with form and function right at the front of my brain. Yes, others’ knitting inspires, but mostly it is a whole bunch of other things: Lady Gaga, Art Deco lamps, tribal masks, a coral reef, Melbourne Cup Day….


4)  I love the interesting structure of pieces like Betty the Burlesque Dancer and Beatrice (above). How difficult is it to convert your ideas into these knits that so perfectly fit the teapots?
Loani: In the beginning, design ideas were few and far between. When it occurred to me that I might leave the shape of the teapot, a light bulb came on and there was a great leap forward in ideas. My knitting skills were pretty limited and each new sculptural shape that appeared in my imagination required a lesson – or three – and a great deal of trial and error.

I reckon a designer needs two qualities above all else and that is the gall to think you can do anything and a strong inner critic to recognise when you aren’t quite there yet.  I have a lot of duds hiding in a deep dark box in my house.  No you can’t see them.

5) Do you favour a particular yarn for your designs?
Loani:  Hmmm . . . I lust after colour mostly and for tea cosies, choose yarns that will hold up well.  Yarns that work beautifully on a garment aren’t necessarily the yarns that work best on a tea cosy, well not one of mine anyhow, though hang on, I did go all soft and fluffy with Beatrice and that gorgeous kid silk mohair.  But it has to be WOOL!  BEAUTIFUL wool.

Betty the Burlesque Dancer would look great in MillaMia merino in fuchsia and pitch black. The pattern calls for a 4ply to fit a 3 cup teapot, but if you knit it on 3.25mm needles as the pattern instructs it would knit up perfectly for a slightly larger teapot (full dimensions are given).

6) Your workshops look like lots of fun! Tell us a bit about what we could expect from spending the weekend with the Queen of the Tea Cosies.
Loani: My workshops ARE a lot of fun, even if I say so myself.  Women bring their inner ‘little girls’ with them.  They want to learn and play and they worry too and then at the end they are so proud of themselves. It is a bloody lovely job, teaching knitting.  I’m holding more and more “At Home” workshops at our Queenslander in the hills of Noosa.  Friends often come together and take a couple of extra days at the beach and in the restaurants. 

What can you expect?  You can expect to be jolted out of your knitting comfort zone.  At the “At Home” workshops you can expect to be fed very well three times each day.  You can expect the cat to prance around your feet at least once and the butcher birds to steal your lunch off the verandah if you don’t stand guard.  And you can expect to take a fabulous tea cosy home with you to wow your friends and family.

7) If you had to pick a favourite of your designs, which would it be?
Loani: They are the ones I wouldn’t change one bit – and that I still love to make – but like favourite children, I couldn’t possibly name them out loud.

8) What is happening for Loani Prior in 2014?
Loani: When that first book was published in 2008, I couldn’t have imagined the Knit Change in store for me. What a lucky life I say, what a lucky life. This year …

April:  Ballarat VIC - teaching at Fibre Arts (full)
May:  LordHowe Island NSW - 2 day workshop (places available)
May:  Noosa, QLD - 2 x 2 day “At Home” workshops (1 place only available)
June:  Australian release - Pretty Funny Tea Cosies, published by Murdoch Books.
June:  Melbourne Craft and Quilt Fair – showing off and signing books
July:  Sydney Craft and Quilt Fair – ditto
July:  Ballina, Northern Rivers Community Gallery – Portraits of a Tea CosyExhibition opening and book launch and 2 day workshop – its all happening in Ballina.
August:  UK release - Pretty Funny Tea Cosies, published by Murdoch Books.
August:  Noosa, QLD - 2 x 2 day “At Home” workshops (dates TBC)

And then there is the Portraits of a Tea Cosy exhibition, a joint project with photographer Mark Crocker.  It opened at the Warwick Arts Gallery mid 2013 and travels to regional galleries for two years. Be sure to go to for the Who What When Where and Why of it all.

9) What's on your needles just now?
Loani: A stylish jacket, found in last month’s Vogue Knitting magazine, is on the needles. One sleeve to go. I know. I know. Knitting a JACKET in summer. It's smart really. It’ll be ready to wear on the FIRST day of winter, not the last.

Before we go . . .

trumpet flowerWe'd like to thank her Royal TeaCosiness for granting us such an insightful, interesting and super funny interview!

And as if that were not enough, Loani has very kindly provided the link to one of her FREE patterns. These sweet and cheerful Trumpet Flowers are quick and easy to make (Loani's instructions are clear and precise) and are the perfect way to use up those odds and ends of beautiful yarn.

I made mine in MillaMia Naturally Soft Merino seaside, plum and berry.


Like every modern knitter you can find Loani on… Facebook, Ravelry and her blog
(posted by Max and Kirsten)