I have somewhat belatedly decided to join in with the 2nd Annual Knitting and Crochet blog week, organised by Eskimimi, which started today so without further ado I shall crack on with day one.
Day one - "A tale of two yarns"
When I first started knitting, just over four years ago, I paid little or no attention to what my "wool" was made of; so far as I knew "wool" was "wool", be it acrylic, wool, whatever. There was very little range available in Durham, most of it originating from petroleum. It took the discovery of ravelry and the subsequent widening of my knitting horizons to introduce me to fibres which were more natural in origin. Since then a gradual transformation has taken place in the yarn I knit with, starting with wool or cotton blends and gradually getting further and further into what is sometimes called "the good stuff". My bank account has not enjoyed this process as much as I have.
However, with the help of people at knitting group I have discovered that sheepy goodness does not have to break the bank. Britain abounds in traditional companies making inexpensive super-wash wools, mostly in DK, that provide excellent value for money. A jumper's worth of these yarns, even for one who, like me, takes a somewhat larger size, can be bought for no more than the cost of a pure wool jumper in a high street store such as Marks and Spencer's. They are very versatile, so far I have made cardigans, baby clothes, a tea cosy, letters for knitted poems, hats, toys and fingerless gloves. Brands I like include Cygnet Superwash DK, King Cole Merino Blend DK and Drops Karisma Superwash and one of my plans for this year is to make a crocheted blanket big enough for my bed out of various greens and blues from this range of yarns.
The second yarn I will mention today is another inexpensive favourite of mine, which I believe deserves to be better known: Drops Alpaca. It is a light, lofty yarn, that works at a range of different gauges to produce fabrics with different characteristics. Knit with large needles it makes an elegantly draping shawl, knit more tightly it becomes a dense warm sock or glove. Although fuzzy, as you would expect from alpaca, it still has good enough stitch definition for lace and it comes in a dazzling array of colours. What is even better is its value for money - 50 grammes of yarn yields 200yards or 180metres for the princely sum of £3. Drops have recently introduced a "sister" yarn, Drops Baby Silk Alpaca which looks similarly lovely, although it comes in a more limited palette, and I am keen to try it. Another of my knitting ambitions is to make a jumper or cardigan in Drops alpaca.
The main stockist for Drops yarns in the UK is Scandinavian Knitting Design, a very reliable company, however, the yarns are becoming more widely stocked. My only gripe with Drops is that although they have many free patterns, the majority are simply translated straight from Norwegian, meaning that they can be extremely difficult to follow. They generally require completely re-writing into an intelligible English pattern since they follow little of the standard style in which English and American patterns are generally written. This is a tremendous pity because they are good designs and there are a lot of them, I suppose the phrase "don't look a gift horse in the mouth" comes to mind, since they are free. But it makes me sad that such a great company are not succeeding as well as they could - many people do not want even to try their patterns as they see them as too difficult to follow. In my more daring moments I have considered contacting Drops and offering to re-write some of their designs into the standard English pattern style. We shall see.
Anyhow, while I could write about yarn for a lot longer I shall leave it there for day one: tomorrow we tackle knitting skills.