Friday, 26 February 2010

In The Press

Knitwits Yarns

Having your own wool brands is a constant marketing challenge - competing against the big boys isn't always easy but, when you have a message it's a whole lot easier. Getting designers to use your wool for magazine commissions is a great way to get your wool seen and, if you're lucky, the magazine may include some editorial as well. This month we've come up trumps! Two garments in two magazines! It's always amazing to see the wool you supplied months ago turn into fantastic garments, professionally modelled in magazines sold across the globe.

Tina Barrett lives in Cornwall and designs for Cornish Organic Wool as well as many other companies and for all the big magazines. When we introduced our Wool Britannia range we sent her a skein of each for sampling and when she was asked to design a girls' coat for Inside Crochet magazine she thought of Wool Britannia. And here it is:

Kerrie Allman is the Senior Editor on Inside Crochet magazine (and Yarn Forward - she's a busy girl) and we meet at all the shows around the country. This is her gorgeous daughter modelling Tina's gorgeous coat. I love the cheeky look on her face in this picture:

You can buy Inside Crochet on the site here. This coat is in Issue 6.

Our second garment is a fantastic man's sweater in Cornish Organic Wool which is in the latest Knit Today magazine, issue 44, which came out this week. Take a look at this:

I really like this sweater, designed by Rita Taylor, and it only takes 7-9 skeins. If you buy the magazine and want to knit the sweater there's a customer code for you to quote when you ring us and you get 20% off your wool until 30th April. Buy now to avoid disappointment! Here's the back:

The sleeves are knitted from the top down (in true Cornish Gansey style) so your man can try it on whilst it's being knitted and make sure the sleeves are the right length!

We've just sent some wool off to Sweden for a design for another Inside Crochet issue so - watch this space!

Here at home FB and I have been experimenting with a waistcoat I gave him for this birthday last year. Obviously it's Cornish Organic but I didn't knit it myself a) because I don't have time and b) because I wanted it to be a surprise. He loved it but didn't like the colour (cream) so, after much deliberation and faffing around he took courage in both hands and dyed it. The colour is fantastic but, for some reason we can't fathom, it stretched during the dyeing. He's now on a diet and losing weight so it's going to be enormous. We took a big gulp and put it in the washing machine!!!! Oh, yes we did!

This is the "before" photo:

26" across - that's a 52" chest - even FB's not that big! Although the colour's fab, I'm sure you'll agree.

29" from top to bottom.
After felting:

25" across. The photo doesn't really show it but the cabling has definitely started to felt but hardly any difference in width.

A noticeable difference in length though as it's now 25". In other words, it's felted/shrunk in the direction we didn't want it to! The M-in-L is now going to take control of it and sew up the sides a few cm's in (you can see that the sides are ribbing) and then, once she's made a seam, cut out the excess knitting. Could be interesting. Rather her than me!

Tomorrow G runs his inaugural cross country race for Cornwall - keep everything crossed!

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Think Global, Knit Local

Knitwits Yarns

Tinebeest's comment from yesterday has given me the chance to have a mini-rant about globalisation, our responsibilities to (and for) it, shopping habits etc, etc. Don't worry - I'm not going to have a huge, big fat rant - just a mini one. It just got me thinking a bit (and maybe some of you as well).

I am as guilty as the next person for doing the bulk of my shopping in a major supermarket beginning with T. But I do have some justification: FB and I run 3 companies, that's 3 lots of accounts to be kept up to date; I have 2 teenagers, that's 2 insatiable appetites to feed; said teenagers are at one sporting venue or another 3 nights a week and neither of them drive yet (perhaps fortunately); I work 6 days a week, that's only 1 day off a week; and the supermarket beginning with T delivers to my home. That means we can sit on the computer, day or night, order our basic essentials and they'll be delivered at a time that suits us. If you value your time at, say, £30.00 per hour and it takes 2 hours to complete the weekly shop (driving there and back, packing and unpacking etc), it makes far more sense, timewise (and moneywise), to have everything delivered to the door. It also means that one van is delivering to, up to, 10 houses rather than 10 cars making the return journey to the supermarket.

However (and this is a big HOWEVER), we get all our meat from local farmers - our pork comes from a friend and we usually get 2 half pigs a year from her (yes, we have a big freezer), our beef comes from the farm we live on and our lamb comes from "our" farmer's sister-in-law over the top on the north coast at Morvah. We produce our own eggs and, occasionally, we eat our own cockerels and pheasants and other game that the boys bring home from the local shoot! We only have one car and all of us, at some time or another, ride bikes to and from town (I ride mine every day as you know). Our local supermarket beginning with T does try to stock local fruit and veg when it can and we will always buy it when they do.

So, I do think - in a small way - we are doing what little bit we can. (Oh, yes, I buy most of my clothes from charity shops as well - picked up some lovely Jaeger trousers for £5.00 not so long ago!)

Now I know there are going to be some people reading this and shouting at the screen, "yes, but I don't know a local farmer and I can't afford locally produced meat and I don't have a good local yarn shop" and, of course, that's true but I think it's all about doing the little bits we can do. If you do have a local yarn shop then try to support it and if you want something they haven't got, then - by all means - turn to the wonders of the internet (good grief, I have a website and I love receiving your orders!) but don't order on the 'net and then go to your yarn shop to have a feel of what you've ordered!

And then we have the whole "bigger picture" to consider. It is absolutely unrealistic to expect all knitters to knit with locally produced fibres all the time but it is also and undeniable fact that most yarns have a pretty horrendous air-mileage. Most cheaper yarns are made from petro-chemicals and have been spun in China, so there are the ethical issues as well as the mileage to take into consideration. Cotton is the filthiest product produced for textiles, bar none and even agro-chemists won't argue on that point (and believe me, I've discussed it with them). But, we like to knit with cottons and some of them are are really beautiful. With my Cornish Organic hat on, we are currently sourcing organic, fair trade cotton for our next line and, believe me, it's and long and complex business and so, yes, the net product may be more expensive but the extra cost is saving the planet and the health of the workers who are producing the cotton for us.

It's a big and complex issue so, what do I think? I think we should all try and think about where everything comes from and try to buy things locally when we can. For knitters, that may (should?) include trying to knit at least one locally sourced item a year - whether that's wool from your local farmers' market (or Cornish Organic!!) or some other local source and, if it's cotton try and make it organic. I may yet do another whole big, fat rant about organic cotton and dubious certification bodies but I'm sure you've had enough for now!

And, as tinebeest said, Think Global, Buy Local!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Customer Comments of the Day

Knitwits Yarns

9.05am: customer has 4 x 5p buttons - "I've just put all my change in the car park - can you change a £20.00 note? .........................."

"Have you got a 50g ball of white DK acrylic"
"Yes, we've got Snuggly (£2.92 a ball)"
"Oooh, I'm not paying that much - I bought 5 100g balls from the pound shop and I just need a little bit to finish it off ........................"

"Have you got the new colours in Click Chunky"
"No, I'm afraid we haven't, but we could get some in if there's a colour you particularly want"
"No - that's OK - I've ordered some on-line, I just wanted to see what it looked like ...................."

Customers - we love you really but sometimes you couldn't make it up!

Monday, 22 February 2010

Knitwits Yarns

TCG is progressing apace - am now on the patterned section for the second sleeve. If it's not pouring or snowing tomorrow I'll try and take a picture.

I spent yesterday digging out the understairs cupboard. Every house has its glory (gory?) hole/general dumping ground and our understairs cupboard was ours. I actually took before and after photos but FB was so appalled at the thought of our revolting cupboard being available for public scrutiny that he refused to format the photos. The "after" photo looks great but there's not much point in publishing that (a washing machine and a few coats/shoes in a cupboard) if you haven't seen the full horror before.

In the midst of it I also discovered that our washing machine outlet pipe was leaking (and probably has been for some time) so fixed that as well - dry as a bone now - if you need a plumber's mate, I'm your girl.

The charity shops have gained a sackful of our old/small coats and jackets and two sacks went in the bin. Next week, G wants us to tackle their old bookcase on the landing - this sorting bug must be catching .............. and, no, I'm not free to come and sort out your gory holes next weekend - you'll feel really good when you've done them, believe me.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

TCG Picking Up Stitches

Knitwits Yarns

I managed to pick up the second sleeve last night, knitted 4 rows to the first increase and then fell asleep.

Lots of people hate picking up stitches and get in a real tizz about it, so - here is my foolproof plan/advice to picking up.

First of all remember the 7 P's - Prior Preparation and Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. So - prepare yourself first, don't just hurl yourself into picking up 320 stitches - it won't work, I guarantee you.

1. Remove all irritations from the room - specifically, husbands, children and cats. Goldfish can stay so long as they're well behaved and promise not to leave their tank whilst the picking up is in progress.

2. Throw that wine down the sink. Picking up and alcohol don't mix.

3. Prepare the area. Personally, I find the kitchen table is the ideal spot for picking up. Lay out your pins (yes, you'll need several of these), pattern, wool, needles etc.

4. Place your pins. OK - so, let's say you've got 132 stitches to pick (like I had last night), divide by 2 - 66 for each half, fold your edge in half and place a pin at the half way point. Then divide each half in half again and place pins. So - you've got 4 spaces which need 16.5 stitches each. 16, one on the pin itself and then another 16. Easy. If you go wrong you've only got to pull back 16 stitches.

5. Keep your pins in place until you've finished. You've done your first 16 sts plus the one where the pin was. Place the pin there. So you know that's 17 sts and you don't have to keep counting back to the beginning every time.

6. Spacing is always tricky because the number of stitches picked up is never the same as the number of rows. This is because knitting stitches aren't square. They are longer than they are wide. Oh, yes they are. If you pick up one stitch for each row the edge will be too loose and "bag". It's irritating but we have to learn to live with it.

7. Once you've picked up all the stitches and counted them a couple of times you can release the husband and children from the locked cupboard et voila - picked up stitches perfectly done each time.

8. NOW you can drink that wine.

Monday, 15 February 2010

My Weekend

Knitwits Yarns

We had friends to stay for the weekend which is simultaneously wonderful and great fun and totally exhausting. Our home is not exactly what you'd call a "show" home. We don't have one whole end, storey or even wing left empty for the arrival of guests. We fill every corner of our abode so when 4 friends descend there is a general mass panic and huge amount of organisation to be done.

G has to move out of his room and the (2) beds are changed and made ready. This, obviously, involves finding sheets that vaguely resemble each other and can pass off as a match and towels that aren't ex-rugby ones and aren't more hole than towel.

We then have to squeeze 3 boys (teenagers at that) into T's room which initially involves removing the entire contents of T's wardrobe from their normal resting place on the floor in to the drawers and wardrobe they were originally intended for when I washed them (why do I bother? - answers on a postcard, please). We then have to arrange the 3 beds in such a manner as the 3 boys can get into them without walking all over each other and, again, find sheets and duvets that vaguely match.

Needless to say, the light outside the airing cupboard has broken and, apparently, it's a bigger job than just changing the bulb so I could be found on Friday afternoon, grovelling in the cupboard with a head-torch on trying to find approximately matching linen.

We had a great time but not a single stitch was knitted. For obvious reasons I have decided against any "Knitting Olympics" this year - Ravelry and Yarn Harlot are organsing them for those who feel the need - even I acknowledge that I don't really need any more stress.

However - we do have a Gansey update:

That, my friends, is a Gansey with one whole sleeve completed - oh, yes.

On Saturday we took the GCSE students amongst us (that's 3 of them, George is now progressing towards A levels) to see some living, breathing geography:

That is Loe Bar on the Lizard Peninsula. The water on the left is a freshwater lake, on the right is the sea. Caused by longshore drift and all that kind of stuff .......... remember all that geography?

This is us.

Tonight I aim to cast on TCG second sleeve ................ but, I may just fall asleep.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

It's So Cold!

Knitwits Yarns

As you know by now, I come to work on my trusty bicyclette. Down hill on the way. Up hill on the way home. In the current arctic conditions I have 6 - yes, 6 - layers on for the ride down the hill:

1. Long sleeved thermal vest
2. Long sleeved t-shirt
3. Fine pure wool sweater (not hand made, sorry)
4. Thicker pure wool sweater (made by me)
5. Pure wool jacket
6. High viz jacket (pink)

Three pairs of gloves:

1. Thin plastic ones (usually used for emptying the cats' dirt box)
2. "Proper" cycling gloves
3. Peruk (75% Cornish Organic Wool/25% alpaca) fingerless mittens with flaps knitted by me.

One scarf (woven, mostly pure wool, by me).

Despite all of this, I am still cold. I arrive in town unable to operate the bike lock properly or operate the keys in the shop door. I am a knitter but even I am getting fed up with this - and we don't have more snow, yet - unlike some of you.

Next year I will have The Cornish Gansey to wear (update tomorrow) and it'll probably be unusually warm. For now - whoever the Weather God is - please, give us a break. I, for one (and I suspect I speak for many) have HAD ENOUGH.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Stash Busting

Knitwits Yarns

This afternoon I sorted my stash.

I wasn't planning to sort it - I was planning to work on end of year accounts but I needed last year's accounts and they're in the same cupboard/walk in wardrobe as the stash and, well, one thing led to another. As part of the new, tidier, more organised year, all balls of wool, odds and ends of wool, gifts of wool etc left around the house have been hurled into the stash cupboard over the past few weeks. They are all now in boxes.

I think it's fair to say that the stash is out of control. I had always prided myself in keeping the stash in one plastic tub. I can't even pretend that it'll fit in one tub now. There's an overflowing tub (which I can't shut even if I sit on it) and a whole (empty) wine box of Cornish Organic odds and ends. If I don't do something soon, it's going to take over the house. A stash busting jacket/sweater is called for and I think I have just the pattern. I am very, very excited.

But - I must remain monogamous to The Cornish Gansey (on the cuff of the first sleeve - oh, yeah). FB and the M-in-L have said I must remain monogamous to TCG. I know I must remain monogamous to it but, dear Lord, the stash busting jacket is crying to be knitted. It's going to be spectacular, it's going to have bits of all kinds of things in it and it'll bring back lots of lovely memories. I must be strong .........

........ I haven't yet worked out where G's navy sweater fits into all of this but I'm pretty sure that knitting for 2010 is now sorted.

I will now return to my Year End Accounts .......

Monday, 8 February 2010

Proud Mother and Other Miscellany

Knitwits Yarns

Obviously all mothers think their children are wonderful and - indeed - most of them are but, as a rule, most of us try not to show off about our little darlings too much - even though we might be dying to. The next paragraph is going to be unashamed crowing about eldest son - G - so if you loathe that kind of thing, scroll down to the knitting bit.

Apart from walking, G has always been a slow developer - didn't lose a tooth until he was 8 but walked at 10 months - you get the picture. He's always been incredibly enthusiastic but smaller than everyone else which is difficult when you're keen on rugby and all the other lads are at least 6" taller than you, ditto running and, indeed, most other sports. G entered his first cross country race at about the age of 8 and came 44th. He was happy and so were we. FB always used to say, "it'll come". And, indeed, it did. Two weeks ago he was put forward to run in a cross country race at Truro. He diddled and daddled as to whether to go and, in the end, got a lift up with a mate. He won the bronze medal and last Friday, he was selected for the Cornwall Cross Country Running Team. When his PE teachers told him he was so shocked he could hardly speak for the rest of the day. That's why we're so proud - G just quietly gets on with it - trains hard, works hard and very gradually it's all coming to him. His race is in three weeks, his PE teacher has given him a two week training schedule because he knows G will do it. He won't win, he more than likely won't get placed but he's been selected - and we are unbelievably proud.

To knitting:

Four new colours of Mirage on the site. Mirage is a fantastic yarn - really soft and an amazing yardage - one of those yarns you just can't have too many colours of so these are a great addition to the range. Check them out here.

Also a new colour in Azteca. I always rave about Azteca as it's so gorgeous but I'm yet to knit anything in it - I am remaining resolutely faithful to The Cornish Gansey - you can be very proud of me - almost down to the rib of the first sleeve - progress indeed. But I digress - Azteca here:

T went out shooting last night and I now have a dead rabbit in the understairs cupboard (doesn't everyone?) - anyone got a good rabbit recipe? If so, please email it to me - T is a very keen hunter/gatherer but I've yet to find a rabbit recipe he likes, which kind of defeats the object.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Knitwits Yarns

Tomorrow (Friday) is paperwork day. In a kind of sad, anal way I quite enjoy Fridays. I get myself settled in the office, if I'm lucky I have it to myself, if not and FB is there we argue over the computer all day - I know we should have one each but the logistics of the office space don't work when you consider that the office also doubles as a gym for part of each day and there's all sorts of evil weight training and rowing machine "stuff" in there which I don't even pretend to understand - in the same way that they don't understand my growing mountain of knitting magazines - and I then plough through the in-tray, the emails, the weekly shop accounts and tomorrow (great happiness) I start on the End of Year Accounts (note use of capitals) for Cornish Organic.

This has aerated FB somewhat as he has to give me a stock valuation - and he is suffering from high blood pressure so we all need to remain calm.

Oh, yes - I'm in for a really fun day tomorrow.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Knitting for Teenage Boys

Knitwits Yarns

Eldest son (G) is in the throes of the ghastly GCSE's and will be joining the VIth form in September. He has a trial day tomorrow when they're allowed to wear "smart casual" clothes as opposed to uniform. This, obviously, has led to a debate along the lines of "what the *@%$"* am I going to wear". His father has lent him a rather large sweater and a rather smart tie so he's all set but then the immortal line came up last night:

(This could do with a fanfare really):

"Mum, you'd better start knitting me a blue v-neck sweater for VIth form".

Can we all just put the kettle on, sit down quietly with a cup of tea (or coffee) and possibly a chockie bikkie and take a few quiet moments to enjoy that sentence. A 16 (nearly 17) year old young man has asked his Mother to knit him a sweater. I haven't knitted him a sweater since he was about 4 and it had Noddy on the front (T's had Big Ears, just for the record).

But now, of course, I'm in a sweat - it should, obviously, be Cornish Organic but the VIth form centre is quite hot and he might boil and take it off and lose it and I would cry a lot. On top of which, Cornish Organic is hand wash only - wise for a 17 year old? Possibly not. OK - so, possibly Life DK - good, hard wearing, 25% wool, machine wash and tumble dry - practical, a very good yarn but he might love something a bit softer? Stylecraft Luxury Pure Merino DK - gorgeous, soft, warm, machine wash but no tumble dry (that's OK, I have an Aga). Maybe I should knit all 3. Oh lord, what does the owner of a wool shop use to knit her son a sweater - which he's asked for?

Whilst we all ponder that one, I can tell you that we had a Katia delivery today so loads more lovely, fantastic, incredibly popular Azteca - trust me, you all have to try this wool - it's to die for!

One new colour has come in as well so I'll let you know when that's on the site.

Also more Surprise:

Tonight I will be mostly knitting my Gansey and dreaming of navy blue wool for a teenager.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Project Update (and Chickens)

Knitwits Yarns

I had a very good (and rather late) night out last night - I wore this:

which is the Colinette Tagliatelle I finished last week. I love it - although I must say that no-one commented about it last night - either they're so used to me wearing hand-knits now that they don't bother or, perhaps, it looked so gorgeous they couldn't believe I'd made it so didn't want to embarrass me - yes, that'll be it, won't it?

We do have some of this yarn left and some patterns books but they're not on the site so if you want to knit one please give us a ring on (01736) 367069 and we can sort you out.

Whilst modelling the chickens, and Deidre, came to see what was going on:

As you can see - the flock has grown and so have the little bundles of feathers. The big black one third from the left is Bernard - big Daddy! The little brown one at the front is the little one who had 7 chicks last summer and she is the fiercest little chicken you've every met - none of the big ones mess with her - she was an absolutely brilliant Mum and wouldn't leave her babies for weeks.

The guinea pig and chickens always have a chat. Note very beautiful cockerel on the back right - he was too beautiful (and, being merciless, too small) for the pot - saved by his size!

I also tried on TCG. TCG is progressing apace and I've now got the stitches on just 4 dpn's and it's becoming quite addictive knitting - round and round and round going nowhere. The joy of the Cornish Gansey design is that you can try it on as you're going. FB thinks this is barking but here you are - the front:

I will admit that the sleeve is slightly looser than I expected but I'm going to be putting ribbing on the end so it should be fine. Obviously that last little bit of arm is going to take a lot longer than it looks but I've definitely made progress from last week. I give you the back:

I think it's going to be OK and it's certainly going to be really, really warm. Guess what I'm doing tonight .................