Interview with Petra Schwarczova from Black Elephant

We are really excited to bring a new range of hand dyed yarn to Knit With Attitude and these mini skeins from Black Elephant are no exception. Find the perfect little pops of colour to add to your projects, or looking for that one colour to bridge a gap in a fade. Then mini skeins are for you! Plus it allows you to sample a few different colours, like being in a sweet shop, you won’t be able to resit just one!

blackelephant01These little minis are 4ply weight, Superwash Merino Singles and dyed by Petra Schwarczova the brains behind Black Elephant. Hand Dyed in Sheffield, South Yorkshire
on 20g skeins we have introduced 20 colours. To get to know this great yarn and the dyer read our interview below.

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Petra Schwarczova – Photograph by Mariola Zoladz

What inspired you to start dyeing?

I came across hand dyed yarn when I went for the first time to a yarn show – Yarndale in Skipton. I fell in love instantly, so I bought a starter pack there and started experimenting at home just for fun.

How did the name Black Elephant come about?
Black Elephant is a combination of my surname Schwarcz – which means Black in German and elephant on the front page of the notebook I got from my mum for writing knitting patterns in. She also used to tell me off in my teenage years for walking like an elephant (loud) 🙂

How does your dyeing process start, do you choose a colour or go for more abstract ideas?

Sometimes I choose a colour to start with, but mostly I am experimenting and combining whatever colour combination catches my attention.

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Merino Singles Mini in Hummingbird

Where does your colour inspiration come from?

All sorts of things. Rock music, architecture, paintings, fashion, nature. I can watch a random film and find inspiration in a single shot. I didn’t use to pay much attention to colour combinations before I started dyeing yarn, but now I see it everywhere, all the time. I can’t turn myself off.

Do you have a favourite colour way?

My favourite colourway is always the latest one I have dyed. When I dye something too many times, it’s just becomes too ordinary. It’s like if I was having my favourite meal every single day. It would not be my favourite meal after a month for sure. 🙂

What appeals to you most fades or contrasts in knitting or yarn?

I like all sorts of colour combinations. It depends what kind of project it is. I love as much strong colour contrasts as subtle fading of more earthy, neutral colours.

How long have you been knitting?

Phew, hard to say, I think I was about 11 years old when my grandma taught me. It took me a long time to get better as I was and still am quite an impatient person, so there were needles flying around and lots of yarn cut off needles as I knitted so tight I couldn’t pull it off. 😀 I used to come back to knitting over years, usually just simple scarves as Christmas presents. But I got fully addicted in 2010 when I started making knitting videos for beginners in my native language as there was nothing to learn from in Slovak language on Youtube then so I thought it might be helpful for some Slovakians back home who do not speak any English. I hope I can get back to it once I have a little bit more time.

What are you currently knitting?

Currently nothing, as I have been in the studio non-stop dyeing lots of yarn. But, I have two WIP – Andrea Mowry’s Nurtured sweater and my own design of a hat from leftover yarns (I will be releasing free pattern on Ravelry for it), which I hope to finish over Christmas.

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photograph – instagram.com/blackelephant.uk

We hope you’ve enjoyed this little read as much as we enjoy finally having Black Elephant here at the shop! We are widening our selection to include 100g hanks in several fibre blends and weights come the new year – so keep your eyes peeled on our site!

What do you get the knitter that has everything… part 2 – that special skein.

Following on from my earlier blog post I have been thinking over what makes a good gift for a knitter. There are a lot of different choices for yarn so I have decided to focus on that special skein. These special skeins make the perfect knitters treat. They might not be something that a knitter would buy for themselves but they are always welcome presents.

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So here’s a little break down of some special skeins that would make a great gift, I have focused on our range of amazing hand dyed yarns from a selection of talented hand dyers,  just one or two of these would be enough to make something special.

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Miniskeins! I think have to be every knitters weakness. What better way to sample the delights of a hand dyer than with these little gorgeous bite size skeins. These mini’s from Black Elephant are 20g of a 4ply Superwash Merino Single. Try one or two to add little colour pops to projects or crocheting little granny squares to start a blanket. Try four or five for a little striped hat or fingerless gloves. You can also embrace the fading possibilities on a much smaller scale. Like this cute little combo I have picked out featuring: Cornfields, Pineapple Express, Nostalgia, Mudbound and Daryl.

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What about socks! Here are some special skeins that would give the sock knitter endless joy. Sock Yarn is not only for socks either and can be used for any project. Here we have the popular Hedgehog Fibres Twist Sock in Beach Bunny. This sturdy 4ply sock yarn of Bluefaced Leicester and Nylon is strong and gives good stitch definition. The Garnsurr Søkke Merino is a a hand dyed Merino Nylon blend, super soft and luxurious. Garnsurr is a Norwegian company that not only produces gorgeous yarn but also employs refugee women. They are giving a skill and are helped to settle and learn Norwegian. This is a great yarn to give as a gift as it introduces people to the great work that Garnsurr do. For more information on Garnsurr check out our interview with Ann Helen, Garnsurr’s founder. Looking for a hand dye that has an interesting dyeing background then try Hey Mama Wolf’s Sockyarn #04. These skeins are dyed completely with natural dye by the talented Jule. She uses a mixture of plant based dye stuffs that will have you amazed at the range of colours. For a pair of socks just one of these 100g skeins will have you sorted.

specialskein-02Want to amaze someone with a spectacular special skein that they are unlikely to find in many places try the Pan by Garnsurr. The great people at Garnsurr have applied their dyeing magic to this DK weight blend of Buck Mohair and Dalasheep. This is one for the knitter that gets geeky about their breeds. This slightly coarser hand dye takes the colour amazingly and they are all deep and rich. One of these would be perfect for a hat or a pair of gloves, or even a little snood. (I just released a design using this yarn, and you can find my Pan Snood on my Ravelry page).

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Looking for a two skein combo try Hedgehog Fibres Skinny Singles. HHF’s vibrant dyes are bound to get the knitter in your life excited! With a huge selection of semi-solids, speckled and poppy shades, finding a colour combo is easy peasy making you the most popular gift buyer this year!

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Another firm favourite for the knitters that prefer a heavier knit – or just need top get that last minute knitted gift sorted. With one of these Hedgehog Fibres Merino DKs you can whip up a hat or a pair of wrist warmers in no time! And again – we have plenty of colours to choose from.

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This one is for all the experimental knitters that love a good fibre combo. There is such a craze in the knitting world these days combining a single soft strand of fluffy yarn with a sturdier one, no surprise really, because this creates the most stunning and wearable of textures. As we see one designer after the other releasing gorgeous projects using HHF Kidsilk Lace in this way, you can’t go wrong gifting a hank or two to someone who really deserves it!

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Finally, we have to talk about Linda! Did you know that Kettle Yarn Co. is the handdyer that has been with Knit with attitude the longest? Not only is Linda our dear friend, she makes some amazing colours on equally amazing yarns! For discerning makers looking for the most precious materials, all yarns are extensively wear tested and only the highest quality, scrumptiously soft but rugged blends make the grade for the Kettle Yarn Co yarns. Pictured above is Islington DK – a high twist BFL and silk blend, and below is Beyul 4Ply that combines the best of 3 fibres – the gentle halo of high quality Yak down, a subtle shimmer from silk, and the bouncy goodness of the softest superwash Merino.

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The ideas I’ve gathered here are some of our most striking hand dyes which would be on every knitter’s wish list, however our shop is filled with woolly gems and special skeins from all over the world for you to fall in love with. Why not grab a cuppa and go for a proper browse through – there is still time before Christmas and you do deserve a colourful and inspirational break!

What do you get the knitter that has everything…

This time of year we are struggling to find that perfect gift for our knitting friends and maybe even that cheeky Christmas present for ourselves. Yarn, Tools and accessories can sometimes be tricky. Knowing what a knitter has already, what yarn they like, their favourite colour can be a mine field. So what about a book? A book as gift, is a gift of possibilities. It is inspiration, it might push you to try something new, they look gorgeous and hey, its fun to read something that’s not on a screen!

Below I have curated some inspiring gift ideas for Christmas, with a book as a starting point. With each book I have tried to match fun yarns that compliment the knits inside and even a few accessories that might be useful.
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The first book kicking off the book gift guides is Stephen West’s – West Knits Best Knits – Shawls. There is nothing more bright and fun than these crazy shawls. With a great eye for colour and clever construction Stephen West’s Shawls are guaranteed to keep a knitter amused. I’ve paired this book with, of course Hedgehog Fibres. These unique bright speckled hand dyed yarns lend themselves perfectly to these patterns. Seen here are Hedgehog Fibres Skinny Singles in Heyday, Coral, Oracle and Poppy. Complimented by a little Ditty Bag for the knitter to tote around all those WIP’s. I also thought these Flower Power Scissors capture the fun and whimsy seen in Stephen’s Designs and make the perfect yarn end snipper.

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Here is The Doodler by Stephen West from the book. A popular design that has endless ways of using those favourite hand dyed 4ply skeins.

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The second book I’ve looked at is a new one here at Knit With Attitude and we are bowled over by it, see our blog post book review. It’s Strange Brew by Tin Can Knits. Perfect for the knitter that is nerdy about their knitting and likes to tackle bigger projects. Yoked sweaters call out to Léttlopi. A few balls of this yarn will get them well on there way to planning a colourful yoke of their own. Big projects need big project bags and the Plystre Cross Body Bag can easily take a jumpers worth. Also key accessories, matching Putford Scissors, Cocoknits Stitch Markers and the very useful Hey Mama Wolf’s Wool Soap.

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Almanac from the book, knit in Léttlopi, shows you how much fun you can have with colour.

susanThe Vintage Shetland Project needs no introduction. A great work from designer Susan Crawford. A collection of historically informed traditional Shetland knitting patterns, researched and designed by Susan herself. Keeping the tradition of Shetland knitting alive. This book is great just to flick through and absorb the wonderful photography and amazing knitwear. Nothing else needs pairing with this book apart from Susan’s own yarn Fenella. A palette of vintage inspired colours on a British wool, bliss!

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Rose from the book shows you the stunning quality of the patterns inside. Knit in Fenella it also shows how perfect this yarn is for colour work.

crochetOne for the crocheters, Everyday Wearables by Joanne Scrace is a collection of well designed and imaginative crochet patterns. If you are looking to inspire a new craft or know an avid crocheter this is a great book. We also carry a wide range of bamboo crochet hooks. Bamboo is kind to your hands and has a little more give then their metal cousins. This book contains a lot of patterns in Socks Yeah Dk. This great yarn has many uses, it’s not just for socks! I’ve included some Storklette Scissors in this combo. Why? Just look at how cut they are!

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The Brenn Hat from the book is Crocheted from Socks Yeah Dk and made from two or three skeins makes the perfect little gift if you are looking to add yarn into the mix.

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Knitting Outside the Box by Bristol Ivy is a stunning book. Beautiful in design and photography. It’s more than a book of patterns, Bristol Ivy takes you through her techniques. It’s informative as well as useful. I’ve matched in some Fyberspates Vivacious DK seen here in Deep Aqua, Denim and Deep Forest. The Cocoknits Rustic Yarn Snips make a nice earthy but useful pairing. Along with these shawl pins, every good shawl needs a shawl pin and these Jul Ewe and Ram Pins in white brass are a stylish sheep nod to the source of your knitwear.

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Canady from the book is knit in a Merino Dk. A perfect choice would be Fyberspates Vivacious DK and wrap yourself in its luscious softness.

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Lastly is Vogue Knitting – The Ultimate Knitting Book. What more can a knitter need. Experienced and novice knitters alike will benefit from this book. It contains all a knitter needs ton know about construction, shaping, stitch techniques, it literally is the bible of knitting. The ultimate knitting book needs an ultimate yarn. Kettle Yarn’s Hand Dyed Islington DK is a sumptuous blend of Blue Faced Leicester and Silk, in such dreamy tones. One of these skeins would definitely put a smile on someone’s face. A classy Petrol Plystre Crossbody Project Bag completes the look with a sophisticated pair of Silver Putford Scissors.

I hope this has given you some inspiration at a tricky time of year. No matter how big or how small, if you are looking for a knitting gift we hopefully have something for you. If you find yourself stuck with what to get, spend a little time with our books and you might find something.

Book Review – Knit How From Pompom

We love the pompom quarterly magazine and editors Meghan Fernandes and Lydia Gluck have a great eye for a detail. But have you ever felt intimidated by some of the patterns you see, or stuck just knitting the same scarf over and over and wondering where to go next. Well this is the book for you. Knit How, Simple Knits, tools and tips is the perfect guide for the novice knitter.

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Taking you from the very beginning of knitting you will learn, casting on, the knit and purl stitch and casting off. You then learn through a series of projects, 10 in total, each taking you through a new skill. Starting with the simple, weaving in ends, swatching and blocking.

New stitches are introduced through other projects, like cowls with different stitch patterns. Hat’s cover knitting in the round, cables in a scarf project. Larger projects like jumpers are also included, as well as socks and a little bit of lace. Before you know it you will have the confidence to take on any project.

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Beautifully illustrated throughout with photographs and drawings, taking you step by step in a clear and simple way. You will be introduced to a variety of knitting terminology and charts. This will give you a knitting skill set that you can apply to any pattern you may come across and throughout the book.

Let’s take a look at some of the patterns inside, to whet your appetite at the knitting potential in your hands.

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Ce – Fingerless Mitts. A DK weight simple pair of fingerless mitts to test you newly learned skills. Worked flat and seemed, they are a classic way to keep your hands warm.

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The Mary, Bobby and Juju Cowl’s let you play with texture, learning different pattern repeats to create a different look over this simple accessory.

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The Alice scarf introduces you to cables in a manageably sized project.

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There are even these Chris and James jumpers. A perfect beginners jumper to hone your skills on sizing and shape.

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These Rachel socks are a great way of taking some knitters fears of knitting in the round by making these Simple DK weight bed socks.

So if there are any projects out there you wish you had the skills for, then this book could help you on your way. Also if you are new to knitting or want to inspire a friend to knit, then  this would be the perfect place to start. I predict it will become a go to guide on knitting for years to come.

 

 

New Yarn: John Arbon Textiles – Devonia DK and 4ply

We all know and love what John Arbon produce, so we are really excited to now be stocking Devonia. In DK and in 4ply! If you haven’t seen Devonia before then you are in for a treat and if you are in to your breed specific yarns this one is for you. Plus we have all 14 dreamy shades over both weights.

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John Arbon Textiles are a Devon based traditional woollen mill. Using machinery, some of which, is over 100 years old. They develop and make their yarns and tops at their specialist processing and spinning Mill called Fibre Harvest. For a little look into their mill, here is a short day in the life of John Arbon Textiles:

One of their latest offerings is Devonia. A 3-ply, Worsted Spun yarn in a DK and 4ply Weight, with 100% Devon grown fibre. Rightfully named, Devonia is Devon through and through. A blend of three local breeds – 50% Exmoor Blueface, 30% Devon Bluefaced Leicester and 20% Devon Wensleydale. These three breeds of sheep bring their own characteristics to the yarn.

The Exmoor Blueface is the local sheep to John Arbon, it gives a springing nature to the fibre. Softness and lustre is given by the Bluefaced Leicester and the wonderful fineness of fibre and sheen is provided by the Wensleydale. John Arbon have worked some magic here and brought all these fibres together in such harmony, giving a yarn that is soft, with sheen but also with body and interesting in the hand.

Not only is the yarn itself stunning but so is the colour. Each colour is made up of up to five blended pre-dyed fibre tops, creating a rich and beautifully deep mottled collection. The colour range was inspired by the work of French tapestry artist Jean Lurcat and his trademark use of jewel like tones offers up a sumptuous and decadent palette.

As always there has to be some exciting pattern inspirations, so here are some to get you started:

DevoniaCream003Devonia Cream by Francesca Hughes – With cabled details and a simple slouchy fit, it’s the perfect cosy jumper for autumn. Knit in John Arbon Textiles DK – Devonia Cream.

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Homeward Bound by Alice Sleight – These fingerless gloves show the yarns ability to hold a good cable. This pattern is knit in John Arbon Textiles DK – Dark Skies.

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Devon Mariner by Helena Timms – A perfect hat for walking along the Devonshire coast. Nice and warm knit up in John Arbon Textiles DK – Amber Blaze.

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Doppio Colosseum by Fay Dashper-Hughes. This is one for the crocheters out there. An elegant shawl crocheted in two skeins of John Arbon Devonia 4ply – Pollen Gold.

 

 

Time for a new Project – Inspiration for Plumpy By Andrea Mowry

Sometimes those patterns come along and I think wow, I would love to give that a go. This pattern is no exception, I have seen it popping up over instagram recently, as the buzz starts to spread. It’s Plumpy by Andrea Mowry. We all know Andrea as the Queen of Fades, with popular patterns like So Faded and Find Your Fade. But she is also a master of texture, as seen in Wool & Honey and Birds of a Feather. But I think Plumpy plays to all of these strengths.

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Knit in Garter Stitch and Brioche, you already know its is going to give you oodles of possibility to play with colour. In a practical asymmetrical triangle shape, its the perfect wrap to keep your neck warm this winter. What I really like about it, is it’s DK! I think there is a massive trend for 4ply shawls which leaves our beautiful DK yarns a little neglected. But don’t worry they won’t be neglected for much longer!

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You can play with three or four colours in this shawl, so I have put a little inspirational colour palette together using: Hedgehog Fibre Merino DK and Fyberspates Vivacious DK. These hand dyed merino yarns play together beautifully, allowing you the opportunity to contrast speckles and solids in interesting ways. I love pairing these two yarns together and find myself doing it over Fyberspates and Hedgehogs 4ply bases as well.

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From left to right – Hedgehog Fibres Merino Dk in Seed, Cereal, Fools Gold / Fyberspates Vivacious DK in Sunshine.

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From left to right – Hedgehog Fibres Merino Dk in Monarch, Hawk, / Fyberspates Vivacious DK in Copper Tones, Peach Bellini.

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From left to right – Hedgehog Fibres Merino Dk in Genie, Beach Bunny, / Fyberspates Vivacious DK in Sea Glass, Deep Aqua.

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From left to right – Hedgehog Fibres Merino Dk in Heyday, Pistachio / Fyberspates Vivacious DK in Heavenly, Mixed Magentas.

I hope that this has got you craving a cosy DK shawl to wrap up in. There is something so plump and inviting about Merino Yarn in a DK weight, I just want to dive straight into this project!

Book Review – Strange Brew by Alexa Ludeman and Emily Wessel of Tin Can Knits.

Alexa Ludeman and Emily Wessel, the Canadian duo behind Tin Can Knits, have been working together since 2011. One living in Canada and one living in Scotland, they work together producing knitting patterns, from the very simple, to the challenging. All with their trademark clarity, making them easily accessible for anyone from novice to expert. With a great database of knitting techniques and tutorials they help demystify that tricky knitting jargon, giving you the skills to tackle any project.

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They have done it again with this great book: Strange Brew. Inspired by a family trip to Iceland they have gone all out colour work yokes. But this is more than a collection of patterns, it’ is a tool for you to create yoke sweaters in any combinations. Yarn weight, colour, pattern, they have calculated it all. Also, what Tin Can Knits does well is there are 25 sizes! Thats right, 25 sizes over 3 different gauges, there is something here for the whole family, from newborn to 4XL.

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The idea for Strange Brew was to give you the tools to produce any yoked sweater. The instructions are simple: Choose a Size, Choose a Yarn, Choose Top Down or Bottom Up, Choose a Motif and get knitting! You are taken through every stage of construction from yoke shaping, pattern placement, increases and decreases, swatching, steeking with all the numbers worked out. I can’t tell you how clever it is.

There are also patterns worked out for you, with projects that are good to go, exploring various patterns over different yarn weights. From hats, cowls and plenty of jumpers. Here is a selection of what you can find inside.

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Marshland is a fun jumper with an exaggerated yoke pattern. A jumper like this gives you endless possibilities to play with colour and pattern.

strangebrew04Fleet is a great project for the first timer in colour work. It also acts as the perfect swatch or a test run for colour ideas.
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This is the Compass Cowl. Another great one for a colour work novice who is intimidated by a larger project. Use this one to test Ideas or swatch for the Compass Sweater which is also in the book.

With such a great selection of patterns you need some great yarn ideas. We have a great range of yarns that have a wide range of colours, making them perfect for colour work. Here are a few examples to get you started:

Hillesvåg Ullvarefabrikk in Sølje, Tinde and Blåne for an earthy 4ply, Dk and Aran weight.

John Arbon Knit by Numbers for a soft Dk weight Merino in lots of dreamy shades.

Lopi Lettlopi for the classic Icelandic feel. With a great range of colours that love colour work.

I hope that has given you the colour work bug. I can’t recommend this book enough, it’s an exciting combination of all the colour work possibilities you have ever imagined.