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Sunday, 19 May 2019

No-nylon sock yarn review - New Leaf Yarns Alpaca blend 4ply

It's been a long time since I wrote a no-nylon sock yarn review and I am VERY late in reviewing this yarn from new leaf yarns (I bought and knitted it back in 2017 but fortunately it's still available!).  

I decided that I wanted to create my own pattern for this yarn, and these are my Calcite socks - I'll be sharing the pattern another day for these easily-knitted cabled socks.

Before I start the review, there are a couple of things that you need to know:
  • I used to be really tough on my no-nylon socks because I felt that they should be able to stand up to the rigours of being worn as well as socks containing nylon.  My view on this has changed now - my belief now is that no-nylon yarns have their own qualities which make them different from commercially-produced yarns and to try to compare them as the same thing doesn't work.  I have learnt that no-nylon socks just don't last as long as ones with nylon in (on my feet anyway - I have pokey toes, see below) but the pleasure of knitting and wearing them is different to other yarns and they should be appreciated for that.  
  • I still expect no-nylon sock yarns to be good value for money - after all, it's no good saying a yarn is suitable for socks if it wears through after one outing! 
  • Being tough with my socks means that they'll get worn for a few days at a time; there's less need to wash natural fibre socks anyway even though we're in the habit of wearing our socks once and then washing them - you don't see sheep showering all the time, do you? πŸ˜€It also means they'll be worn in boots on long dog walks whatever the weather and will probably go into the washing machine because that's how most people choose to wash their socks - although painful experience has taught me that the dial goes no higher than a 30 degree hand wash!  (No point in experimenting unless you learn something, eh? πŸ˜€ )
  • I've got pokey toes so unless I reinforce the toes of my socks, there's a good chance that I'm going to go through them faster than many other people - this isn't always helpful in a yarn trial but on the plus side, I can test that aspect out more quickly! πŸ˜€ 

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Monthly Musing - May 2019 - Words

“This is how I have heard what you’ve just said, did you mean it to sound like that?”

One of the conversations that we have had more than once with both our girls as they have been (and still are) negotiating teenage social conversations is to think about how their words are heard by someone else.  This might sound like an odd conversation to have with your teenage daughter, but it’s one that we’ve felt has been important over the years; a variation of “think before you speak”.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Looking back

Well hello to you!  It feels like an inordinately long time since I wrote a post about everyday stuff instead of about yarn or giveaways, so I thought that today I'd do a quick catch up post.

When I came to upload all the photos that I've been storing on my phone from the last couple of weeks, there were tons of them - but you'll be pleased to know that I'm not going to make you look at them all!   I was quite surprised by just how many there were, but it's been a nice reminder for me that there have been moments worth photographing instead of just having my head down and getting on with stuff!

πŸ’š In the garden

Marigolds (Calendula officinalis) have been in bud for a long time and they're all opening now that we've got a bit of sunshine.  Oh, I do love their sunny faces!  I usually have orange ones in the garden but for some reason these ones are yellow - quite probably a different variety as I will grow any marigold seeds I can get my hands on!

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Winwick Mum Sockalong 4th birthday giveaway results

Well, here I am with the results of another birthday giveaway!  Thank you so much for all your lovely comments and for letting me know how many pairs of socks you've knitted.  It's fantastic to see so many new sock knitters as well as those of you who are still using the Sockalong pattern for your socks.  I love that the pattern works so well for you!

So, onto the important part - who has won?  Firstly, let me remind you of this year's prizes.  There are two of them:

They both comprise of a signed copy of Super Socks, a large mug decorated with rabbits with tea, coffee and hot chocolate so that we can have a brew together whilst we're knitting, a bag of Cadbury's Nibbly Fingers (mmm, soooo good with a cup of tea!), a ball of your choice of the new Winwick Mum yarn colourways (I've shown Hidden Gem and Seascape here but it was up to you to choose) and a specially-made stitch marker by Indi of Front Pocket Studio to match the yarn that you chose.  Oh, and a Winwick Mum Sockalong badge too!  

Before I tell you the winners, though, I'm going to give you an update on the numbers of pairs of socks that have been knitted with the Sockalong basic sock pattern.  This is never going to be an accurate figure as not everybody who has used the pattern will be looking at the blog to add their numbers to the total, but it's a bit of fun for this birthday time of year.

Friday, 3 May 2019

Winwick Mum Sockalong 4th birthday

Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday dear Sockalong
Happy birthday to you!

If you're new to the blog, you might be wondering what all the fuss is about and the fact is that four years ago today, I published the first of the Winwick Mum Sockalong tutorials to help beginners knit their own pair of socks, never once imagining what pressing that "publish" button on my blog would start.  

Nope, never ever did I imagine that I would be writing this post and that the Sockalong would have taken on the life that it has.  I never expected that tens of thousands of people would be in the Winwick Mum Sockalong Facebook group, learning and helping each other on a daily basis, or that they would still be chatting in the Knit n Natter Facebook group I certainly never expected that I would have written and published two books (Super Socks is the paperback version of the online tutorials and More Super Socks builds on those skills) or winning awards or that four years later, I would be seeing the Winwick Mum name on the ball bands of my favourite West Yorkshire Spinners 4ply yarn.  

Most of all, I never imagined that those Sockalong tutorials would still be helping so many people in so many countries to knit their first pair of socks four years on.  But oh my life, am I glad that they are!  It's truly amazing to be part of the sock revolution that seems to be sweeping the world now, to be cheering sock-knitting beginners on from the sidelines and to know that the words that were written in my little corner of the world here in Winwick have played such a part.  I love knowing that people are knitting socks for themselves, for others, to support their own health and because it's just a lovely thing to do.  

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Monthly Musing - April 2019 - Date morning

It’s not always easy when you’re rushing around at breakneck speed, but I do try my best to remember that life isn’t always about being in the fast lane but is also about taking the side roads.  I’ve noticed – and perhaps you have too – that there’s a tendency to think “I’ll sit down when I’ve done this” or “I’ll go and see so and so when I’ve got more time” but there’s always one more job to do and never enough time.  Sometimes it takes something big to jolt us out of our complacency that there’s always tomorrow – in my case, I went back to playing the piano after my Mum died having spent years thinking “I’ll have lessons again when I’ve got more time and spare cash”; there was never any more time or spare cash but there’s nothing like a death in the family to remind you that life really is very short and it’s OK to do things just for you from time to time. 

Over this last year, my husband and I have been trying to make sure that we spend more time together.  Being self-employed is wonderful on the one hand but on the other, it can be very hard to switch off and take time out.  Our working days are long and although we loved the idea of going out for date nights to spend time just being us again, the reality was that for a variety of reasons - late meetings, terrible traffic, babysitting issues, general exhaustion at the end of the day, didn’t fancy a meal out, too wet and windy to walk the dog, nothing on at the pictures we wanted to see – none of them insurmountable but all of them sufficient to make it feel more of a chore than we wanted and we just didn’t manage it.  Time ticked by.

Friday, 26 April 2019

WYS Winwick Mum Collection yarn giveaway - results

Hello!  If you read the giveaway post last Friday then it will have felt like a long time to wait until tonight when the draw was made!  Thank you so much to everyone who entered - there were 560 entries which is quite amazing!  I loved reading all of your comments and your lovely words (more tears - there have been so many in this yarn adventure, I'm such a softy!) and which colourway you liked the best - and I always love to know who you're knitting for so thank you too for telling me all about that too!

I really wish that I could have sent you all a prize, but there are just four of them.  Each winner has won a ball of West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4ply in the Winwick Mum colourway of their choice, plus a pattern book.   

Friday, 19 April 2019

WYS Winwick Mum Collection yarn - giveaway!

Wow, what a week it's been!  

The Winwick Mum Collection yarn has been arriving in yarn shops all over the world (the world!!) and it's been truly amazing to see the wonderful reactions on social media this week.  πŸ’•THANK YOU SO MUCH πŸ’•to you if you're a yarn shop and you're stocking it, or if you're a sock knitter and you've bought it.  I can't wait to see your projects as you knit it up, so do keep tagging me into social media posts or sending me your pictures so that I can see!

Today, I have something super-exciting to share with you ... a giveaway!  Yes!  The lovely peeps at West Yorkshire Spinners have sent me yarn and pattern books for me to give away through the blog which is always a fun thing to be able to do.

Rather than have just one winner, there are going to be FOUR, and I've got a pattern book and a ball of brand new, hot from the mill, Winwick Mum yarn to go with each of them.

The pattern book is beautiful.  It's got the gorgeous photos from the photo shoot and the clever graphics team at WYS have matched up the photos with the inspiration for the yarns that I talked about in this post.  They've even found photos of where I used to go for my childhood holidays, the inspiration for the Seascape yarn!  This makes it feel like a very special book indeed, and one that I know that I would love to look through even if I wasn't a sock knitter.

The book has five patterns in it - one for each of the colours.  There's Wildflower ...

Brightside ...

Hidden Gem ...

and Seascape ...

and a basic sock pattern using each of the four heel flap types from the patterned socks so that you can mix and match the heels.  I love the idea of there being a basic sock pattern in here as well - it makes it a proper go-to book for a knitter's bookshelf, whatever your skill level.  

I've designed all of these patterns for "adventurous beginners".  What's an adventurous beginner?  It's someone who's ready to give it a go, to get their needles out and cast on even if they think that their skills are up to it just yet.  I'd say that you might surprise yourself!  I'm all for creating fearless knitters - after all, what's the worst that can happen?  It's just yarn and pointy sticks and the type of stitches that you may well have knitted many, many times before.  The prize is a pair of socks that you might never have believed you can knit ... well worth the effort, I'd say! 

So, enough of my ramblings, I'm sure you want to know how to get your hands on the book and the yarn!


Just leave me a comment telling me which colour you would like to win.  It's that easy!  If you'd like to tell me who you're going to knit your socks for as well, I'd love to know because I'm nosey, but it's not compulsory πŸ˜€.  Just one entry per person, please!  **Don't worry if you don't see your comment come up straight away as there's always a delay whilst comments get checked to make sure they're not spam.  Also, you should be able to post without logging in but don't forget to add your name so that I can contact you if you win!**

I'll make the draw on Friday 29 April 2019 at around 8pm BST so that there's plenty of time for people to see this post, even with the Easter weekend break, and I'll let you know who's won on the blog so the winners can get in touch with me for their prize.  The prize is one ball of yarn and one book per winner, and I'll make the draw using the wizard. 

I'll post anywhere in the world so everybody gets a chance to enter.

Good luck! xx

The giveaway is now closed, thank you so much to everyone who took part, and for your lovely comments!  You can find the results of the draw here.

Monday, 15 April 2019

WYS Winwick Mum Collection yarn - Matching stripes

Hello!  I've written a quick tutorial today on matching the stripes in the Winwick Mum Collection yarn for those of you who - like me - like the stripes on your socks to match.

You can see that the stripes are quite distinctive and also quite different from the other striped yarns that West Yorkshire Spinners have created in their Cocktail and Country Birds collections.  At first glance that might make it look as if this yarn is hard to match but you'll be pleased to know that it's not!

Sunday, 14 April 2019

WYS Winwick Mum Collection yarn - CHSI Stitches trade show

Well hello there!  What are you up to today?  Would you like to come to a trade show with me for a day of yarn giddiness?

It's Sunday 17 February 2019 and the start of the Stitches trade show at the NEC (National Exhibition Centre) in Birmingham ... and the official launch day of the West Yorkshire Spinners Signature 4ply Winwick Mum Collection!  Is my excitement off the scale?  Oh yes, I think we can safely say that it is! 

The WYS team had been at the NEC for a couple of days setting up and their stand shone like a rainbow amongst all the others ...

The colours hit you as you walked up to the stand, and you couldn't fail to smile when you saw all that rainbow yarniness!

The thing that I love about shows is the effort that exhibitors make to show off their products to the best advantage, and trade shows are no different as companies want to attract stockists and future stockists in to see what they have to offer.  Even if I hadn't been heading in this direction anyway, I'd have been a moth to this colourful flame and there's no way I would have resisted going to look at everything there was to see.

There was one particular section that stopped me in my tracks ...


This was the moment that it hit me that all of this was really real.  Everything that I've told you about before, from the choosing of the colours to knitting the socks to writing the patterns, that was all real too in a different kind of way but seeing my yarns and my socks on that wall - well, it properly took my breath away.  Now the yarn was out of the mill and off the blog page and we were waiting for the stockists to come and look at it in real life to see if they thought their customers would want to buy it.  It's quite a moment, I can tell you!

There were leaflets about the yarn ...

and mini-skeins of it wound up so that people could squish it (are there many other trade shows where it's compulsory to squish the products?) ...

and there it was in the yarn catalogue right alongside the Cocktail colours ...

It was at this point that I realised that folding my arms behind me like a jet plane and zooming round the stand making over-excited "Wheeeeee!" noises might be inappropriate so instead I stood there and tried to take it all in and not show myself up by bursting into tears in the middle of the stand.

Besides, a jet plane might have knocked over the display of socks!

The show doors opened and the hall began to fill up.  Because no products are physically bought and sold at trade shows, it's quite different to somewhere like, say, Yarndale or the Edinburgh Yarn Festival in that it's all much calmer.  There's no rushing to get to a particular stand in case they sell out of something that you want, no elbowing anybody out of the way and the stands are those of companies like WYS rather than smaller independent exhibitors who sell directly to their customers rather than through a stockist.

The WYS stand got busier as the day progressed, and all the sales team were kept occupied.  It was lovely to see so many people who were clearly regular customers of theirs come back to say hello and place new orders - and say hello to me too!  It didn't feel like people were doing business at all, although that was clearly the point of being there!

The trade shows are the places where new products are launched so along with my Signature 4ply yarns, there were other soon-to-be-launched yarns for people to see.  You'll have seen them out in the shops now, but in February at the show, this was the first time that they had been shown in public, and I think it's right that the stockists got to see them first.  WYS have a very good relationship with their stockists and so it's quite natural that they should get the first look - it's why my yarn blog posts have been posted as they have (and also so that I didn't write everything down in one long excited sentence with no breaths or punctuation!) although as my blog readers you've seen a more in-depth version of the story so I don't feel that you've missed out! πŸ˜€

There were the new Bo Peep colours and the gorgeous toys designed by my clever friend Emma Varnam with a matching child-sized outfit for every teddy outfit ...

Emma is so talented at giving toys lovely kind faces, I think.  I would have been (and still would be!) very happy to snuggle this bear in her cosy poncho and tell her my secrets.  Oh, and the pattern book that goes along with this collection is absolutely gorgeous ...

Look!  I would have wanted that poncho when I was little - and if only my girls weren't too big now!  

The pattern book is written a little like a story with beautiful illustrations which remind me of the Teddy Robinson story books from when I was little.  If you've never read Teddy Robinson, I highly recommend that you go and have a look (you can read a little of the stories on the Amazon page).  They're perfect for reading aloud to little ones and were favourites of my girls, along with the Milly-Molly-Mandy stories too.  The Teddy Robinson stories were originally written in the 1950s and Milly-Molly-Mandy even earlier in the 1920s so they might seem old-fashioned but the stories give the feel of a gentler age and there's something about them that - I think - appeals even to modern children.

As well as the Bo Peep yarn there was the brand new Colour Lab DK.  More mini skeins ...

Oh, those colours!  They're like sweeties!  I spent a lot of time stroking those mini skeins! πŸ˜€

This new yarn is 100% British wool and replaces the Aire Valley DK which contained nylon.  It's a good, sustainable alternative for those who want to knit with pure wool (and, whether consciously or not, reduce their plastic consumption) and I am sure it will be a very successful addition to the range.

I'm in the process of trying it out as a pair of no-nylon socks and I have to say that they've very comfortable to wear - I'll keep you posted with how they cope with my pokey toes!

Here's the Liquorice Rose blanket that I showed you in my last post about the photo shoot in the bottom right hand corner of this photo - but you might not have noticed that because I bet your eye was taken by the fabulous Summer's Dawn Corner to Corner blanket that's hanging up.  Isn't it fabulous?  I saw that at the photo shoot too and loved it the moment I laid eyes on it.

It uses 10 of the 18 new solid colours and is certainly very eye-catching!  It also feels lovely to touch (not itchy at all as you might expect with 100% wool) and - best of all - is very reasonably priced (the yarn for this blanket uses 12 balls of yarn and works out at about £78) so I think that WYS have a hit on their hands!

Now then, did I mention that there was a new range of Signature 4ply launching at the show as well?  I think I might have done ...

What I loved about the display of Winwick Mum Collection yarns is that each colourway sat with four contrast colours.  I hadn't seen them with contrasts before but I think they look great!

This is Brightside ...

with contrasts of Butterscotch, Cayenne Pepper, Juniper and Chocolate Lime.

Here's Seascape ...

with contrasts of Spearmint, Bubblegum, Blueberry Bon Bon and Blue Raspberry.

Wildflower ...

with contrasts of Sweet Pea, Candy Floss, Blackcurrant Bomb and Sarsaparilla.

and finally Hidden Gem ...

with contrasts of Violet, Dusty Miller, Poppy Seed and Milk Bottle.  

I wouldn't have thought of putting grey with the purple but it looks good, doesn't it?

The yarn is expected to be in the shops by Easter weekend (although do phone your LYS first to make sure if you've got a long journey) along with the pattern book containing the five new patterns to go with the yarn.  There is one patterned sock each for the four colours and one basic sock with mix 'n' match heels, and having been involved in the proofing process for the book, I couldn't be prouder of how it's turned out - and I hope you'll like it too!

And that's it - the story of how the Signature 4ply Winwick Mum Collection came about.  It's been enormous fun to do and it's been lovely to have you along for the adventure.  

I'll see you soon!  

Friday, 12 April 2019

WYS Winwick Mum Collection yarn - Photo shoot

Are you ready for another instalment of the Winwick Mum yarn adventure?  We're on countdown now to the yarn being in the shops so I'd better get on with telling you the story!

Are you sitting comfortably?

It was a remarkably Spring-like Thursday afternoon in January when I drove up to Clitheroe in Lancashire to meet up with the West Yorkshire Spinners team.  They were at Bashall Barn, a rather rural lovely venue for weddings with a farm shop and restaurant attached, for the second day of a photo shoot for the WYS upcoming new yarn releases including Colour Lab and ... Winwick Mum Collection Signature 4ply!  

Saturday, 6 April 2019

A socky kind of week

Last Sunday, I posted a picture on Instagram of three of socks that I'd just cast on.  Whilst not unheard of for me to have more than one (or two, or three) pairs of socks on the go, it is quite unusual for me to cast on for three socks all at the time same.

Monday, 1 April 2019

Little and often

Every year, there comes that point in the year when the garden starts to wake up and I think "uh-oh, I didn't get as much done in the winter as I intended to".  Our garden is very definitely a spring garden at the moment, with all of the bursts of colour happening as the garden comes back to life.  

It wasn't always like that - when we first moved here, I very carefully planned it so that there would be colour throughout the year, but plants have died and others have outgrown their space and not been moved and now the focus is in the early part of the year.  I've been intending to change that for quite a few years but somehow, each year has slipped past and I've not done as much as I thought it would.

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Mother's Day 2019

Nature's posy.  It's for you, whether it's a happy or a sad day.  It's OK for it to be both. 
Happy Mother's Day xx

Friday, 29 March 2019

Monthly Musing - March 2019 - Twenty minutes

It’s not quite 9am and I’m sitting on the bedroom floor in a patch of sunlight knitting a sock. There are probably half a dozen things I could be doing instead – sorting out laundry, walking the dog, re-stringing the washing line (a job I’ve been avoiding for months), vacuuming - but instead, I am feeling the sun warm on my face and the yarn sliding through my fingers as I make each stitch.  This - sitting down and taking a moment - is something that I promised myself that I was going to do more of this year, and so far, I am managing to keep my promise.  It’s not always easy, in the hustle and bustle of the day, to make myself stop and sit down (without or without a cup of tea) but it’s becoming less of a battle with myself the more that I do it.

Saturday, 23 March 2019


Hello!  How are you doing this weekend?  I hope the world is treating you and yours well ... come in, come in, get yourself a brew and let's catch up.

Well, after the excitement of last week and my trip to the West Yorkshire Spinners mill and also a busy busy day on Saturday at Black Sheep Wools with my lovely friends Lucy and Emma (thank you so much if you came over to see us!), this week has seen a return to normality (or as normal as it gets in our house).

Sadly, it appears that I have been afflicted with "startitis" and I've needed to knit All The Stripes.  I won't show you how many pairs of non-stripy socks are sulking in the corner because they didn't make it into the photo.

Monday, 18 March 2019

Knit Now Awards day out

An award day out?  What is this?!   Well read on, and I'll tell you ...

Back in January, I was delighted to hear that I'd been voted one of Knit Now magazine's Online Innovators in their annual awards - a very special award for me as it's the second time I've won one of the Knit Now awards and as the first one was my very first award EVER, you'll understand why this one feels particularly special - and it's thanks to you that I won.  I never forget that any of the awards I win are down to you voting for me, and I am grateful for your support - and also that I am able to write what you want to read!

Knit Now awards are different to others in that they give the winners a money-can't-buy prize of a visit to a yarn mill and to my absolute joy, they had teamed up with West Yorkshire Spinners for a day out at their mill.  Yes, I have been to the mill more often than most people in the last few months but you'll also know that I love looking behind the scenes at everything and it's been a few years since the last mill tour - there was no way I was going to miss this day!  (For the first award, the visit was to Sirdar and as you'd probably expect from me, there was a full review of the first award day in not one but two blog posts πŸ˜€)

Warning - this is a really long post full of facts, photos and more sheep than I think I've ever posted about before.  You might need a brew.  Or a sleeping bag!

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

WYS Winwick Mum Collection yarn - samples 'n' socks

Are you ready for the next instalment of the Winwick Mum Collection yarn adventure?  Yes?  It's been a-g-e-s since I showed you the yarn and now I can finally show you what it looks like knitted up!  Do be warned - there are a LOT of photos in this post!

You may have seen a few preview pictures of the socks from the Stitches trade show where - I am delighted to tell you - lots of WYS stockists very much liked the look of the yarn and are keen to have it in their shops, and I'll be able to show you the gorgeous pictures from the photo shoot very soon, but for now you get to see ... drum roll please ... new and exclusive photos taken in the exotic location of Winwick and modelled by big daughter and small daughter (both of whom now have bigger feet than me - how does that happen?!).  Yes!  Vogue has nothing on us!

But first, let's roll back just a little bit to my last posts on choosing the colours and what goes on at the West Yorkshire Spinners mill ...

It all started off with a conversation about colours.  I'd chosen the four sets of colours for particular reasons, as I talked about in my colour inspiration post.  By the time I left the mill that day, we had all the individual shades for each yarn picked out and it was all over to Sarah in the dye house to work her magic.  I drove home in a state of high excitement and not a little impatience to see what she was going to produce!

Friday, 8 March 2019

A week of days

What a strange title for a blog post, you might be thinking.  Doesn't every week contain days?  Yes it does, but this week has been a week of days that stand out from your everyday Monday to Friday.

Tuesday was Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent in the Christian calendar when the original idea of the day was to use up all of those ingredients in the store cupboards that would traditionally be given up for Lent.  Given that the main ingredients of pancakes are butter, eggs and milk, this doesn't suggest that Lent is going to be a time of culinary splendour and nowadays we tend to give up other things such as chocolate or alcohol, or perhaps to start doing something positive instead which is what I prefer to do.

However, we don't like to miss the tradition of Pancake Day which, in our house, is always an experience in eating as many pancakes as humanly possible until you feel that you're going to burst.  Our electric whisk whizzed it's last some time last year but luckily we've got the hand whisk from my Dad's house to see us through.  I originally brought it home through nostalgia but now I'm very glad we've got it in the drawer!  

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Monthly Musing - February 2019 - Weather warnings

I was watching the weather report on TV last night and apparently this February is the warmest on record for the UK – quite a difference from last year when the “Beast from the East” brought snow and the country to a standstill – and strangely unsettling in a country that expects the winter weather to go on for another few months yet.  

Meterological Spring starts tomorrow on 1 March and already the plants and trees are waking up; the daffodils are out in the garden; the catkins are showing their furry coats on the willow trees and leaves and buds are sprouting everywhere.  On the face of it, a week of warm weather timed just right for the school holidays is about as good as it gets at this time of year, but a whole month of unseasonably warm weather – or unseasonably cold or ridiculously hot depending on where you are in the world – isn’t necessarily good news at all.  Here in the UK we seem to have bypassed winter altogether (apart from a few cold weeks); elsewhere the winter has served a double dose of cold winds and snow, or the summer sun has turned the landscape into a tinder box ready to ignite at the slightest spark.  It appears that global warming is well and truly here.

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Exciting times!

It's half term here in our part of the world which means lazy mornings and small daughter attempting to eat biscuits for breakfast ... but it's also been a super-exciting few days!  

On Sunday, it was the first day of the CHSI Stitches trade show and I headed down to the NEC exhibition centre in Birmingham to join West Yorkshire Spinners on their stand for the launch of the Winwick Mum Collection yarn.  Oh my life!  It sounds crazy but even though I've chosen the colours, seen the the yarn being created, designed the patterns and knitted the socks, it wasn't until I saw them and the balls of yarn on display that it finally hit me that this is really happening!  It's really happening!!

The West Yorkshire Spinners stand looked amazing - a beacon of rainbow colours in the exhibition hall - and it was amazing to be part of the team for the day.  My yarns (my yarns!) and the sample socks were beautifully displayed and some of them even had pride of place in the centre of the stand.  It was an incredible moment to see them there!  I got to speak to lots of yarn shop owners which is always a lovely thing to do, I got to admire socks (lots of socks in progress in bags, something of which I heartily approve) and there were even a few trouser leg lifts which I think may becoming a Winwick Mum thing.  I got to say "yes, that's my yarn" more times than I had ever imagined - and it felt great! 

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Signs of Spring

There are still a few weeks until the Vernal (Spring) Equinox on 20 March (meterological Spring starts on 1 March) but already I'm noticing signs of Spring when I'm out with the dog.  I'm trying not to think that the Winter is over already because we all know that the weather ignores the seasons and does what it pleases, and it's entirely likely there'll be snow in March (it happened last year!), but it is lovely to see the flowers appearing.

At Culcheth Linear Park, there are crocuses in various shades of purple.  

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

WYS Winwick Mum Collection yarn - Back t'mill

Wow!  To say that I am bowled over by your reactions to the Winwick Mum yarn colours is an understatement!  Thank you so much for all your lovely comments, I am so thrilled that it looks like yarn you would like to knit!  

It's been wonderful to share this adventure with you and today, I'm going to tell you a bit more about what's been going on.  In my last post about the yarn, I talked about my colour inspiration and about how West Yorkshire Spinners' Colour Genius, Sarah, brought my ideas to fabulous woolly life.  We've actually done the blog post equivalent of fast-forwarding the adverts on a TV programme as I didn't get to see the yarn in balls until the end of the process and I was ready to start knitting, but I wanted to show you sooner than that - and now we need to rewind a little bit!  (Warning:  this post is picture heavy!)

Let's go back t'mill ....

West Yorkshire Spinners are a family-run business, first set up in 1997 and moving to their current premises in Keighley in 2011 as the business expanded.  They are one of the last remaining Worsted Spinning mills in the UK; yarns are generally either worsted or woollen spun (sometimes a combination of both) depending on the type of mill.  Worsted yarns have had the fibres within the fleece combed before spinning so that they all lie in the same direction which gives the yarn sheen, drape and durability and makes it less likely to pill with wearing.  These are some pictures from when I went to visit the mill a couple of years ago.  You can see the "tops" (they're the ropes of fleece that look a bit like candy floss) being pulled into one big thick strand together ...

This isn't my yarn, it's going to be grey sock yarn - you can see the white nylon added for strength and right at the back is a bale of black fleece which will be blended in with the cream to produce a pale grey.  Once the tops have been pulled together into one big thick strand, it goes through the square part of this machine which combs the fibres into the same direction and it "pours" out of the tap at the other end of the machine ready for spinning.  If you're interested in the process that the fleece goes through, you'll find it all in my mill visit blog post

It may come as a surprise to you if you've been using WYS yarns for a while that they only started producing yarn under their own name in 2012.  It feels as if they have been around for much longer than that!  Peter and Richard Longbottom, the father and son team who run the mill, made the decision that they wanted combine British raw materials with state of the art technology and using their combined skills and extensive knowledge of spinning and the yarn industry, they took the market by storm.  Nowadays, their range covers pretty much any weight of yarn you'd want to use from laceweight to chunky and comes in an amazing rainbow of colours.

The West Yorkshire Spinners dye house is where the Colour Magic happens.  It's all top secret as you'd expect, but Sarah has very kindly taken some photos for me so that we can see some of what happens.  It's probably just as well that they didn't let me in as I'd have no doubt got in the way hopping up and down with excitement!

Sarah's dye lab is right in the middle of the dye house so she can keep a close eye on what the dyeing machinery is doing.  She has detailed records of every recipe that makes up each colour in the new yarns and also how much of each colour is to be used in every dye run.  You'll have guessed from looking at the balls in my previous post that the Winwick Mum colours are going to knit up into stripes because I really love stripy socks (and especially matching stripy socks) and Sarah has created very special Winwick Mum stripes just for me which are quite different to the Country Birds and Cocktail colours you might have knitted before.  It's really quite incredible what can be done with dyeing technology!

Once the yarn is dyed, it's steamed to set the colours, then scoured and washed to remove any excess dye before being put into a huge spin dryer to remove the water.  This is the Wildflower colourway coming out of the spin dryer ...  

Each band of yarn is a huge hank which is put onto racks and the yarn is gently dried in a special drying machine ...

Eek!  Look at that!  I feel quite giddy with excitement looking at all that Wildflower squishiness!  

The last process before winding the yarn into balls is to fluff it up as the washing and drying leaves it rather flat.  I'm sure there's a more technical term than "fluffing it up" but that's essentially what's happening here as the yarn travels down this conveyor belt whilst air is puffed up gently from underneath.  It's quite mesmerising to see it all laid out like that, isn't it?  A sea of Wildflowers!

Seascape really does look like waves ...

and Hidden Gem is so very purple that it makes me sigh with pure delight!  Oh, how I adore these shades of purple!

Finally, here's Brightside ... 

Can you see the yarn next to it on the right in the picture below?  That's Mallard from the Country Birds range and it was this photo that really caught my breath.  Those are my colours next to a hugely popular Signature 4ply colourway!  When I visited the mill back in 2016, I never imagined that I would ever see this photo, although it's around that time that I wrote my daydream list after seeing how the yarn was made first-hand.  I feel that I should keep this photo on my desk forever to remind myself that daydreams and wish lists aren't something fanciful that we should dismiss as only ever happening to someone else, and that consistently working towards whatever it is that you dream about can only bring it closer.  As is happening to this yarn: the conveyor belt brings it closer and closer, and that yellow streak that you can see is the same yarn being wound onto the ball.

Getting closer - and still winding!

The yarn gets wound into balls by this machine and the ball bands are put on at the same time.  This is another picture from my mill visit; you can see dark grey balls of yarn at the bottom with the ball bands all ready to be slid over the yarn into place.  (There are more photos in my mill visit post)

Brightside is in the ball!  At least, it's in four of them.  There are more at the mill so don't worry if this was your favourite colourway πŸ˜€

Look!  There's Hidden Gem as well!

I would definitely have been a liability if I'd been in the dye house on the day this was done as my excitement levels would have been stratospheric by now - plus I'd probably have caused offence by trying to sneak all of it home under my coat πŸ˜€

It does look pretty amazing with the Winwick Mum logo on the ball band.  Big daughter's best friend designed my logo for me (she's a graphic designer) and it's been wonderful to be able to show her how her artwork has been reproduced on badges, on my patterns and now on yarn ball bands.  I love how it feels so much like a family effort: my Winwick Mum family with the West Yorkshire Spinners family - and I hope that these will make fabulous socks (yes, yes, or any other project, not just socks πŸ˜€) for your family too.  I love how yarn connects us all.  It's magic.

Next time ... samples, I promise! πŸ˜€