Category Archives: review

My Knitted Doll Blog Hop

This post is part of the My Knitted Doll Blog Hop. For other other stops on the blog hop tour, please see the links below:
Monday 10th October – Sneak Peek at My Knitted Doll with SewandSo
Tuesday 11th October – Interview with Louise Crowther on SewandSo
Wednesday 12th October – Eskimimi Makes
Thursday 13th October – The Creations of Crazy Dazy
Friday 14th October – Planet Penny

My Knitted Doll, available from SewandSo for pre-order  is full of fresh, modern doll designs with a very contemporary twist. The simple body shapes and interchangeable clothes and accessory details allow the knitter to create a dolls that is truly personalised to the recipient.

I was very taken with My Knitted Doll from the outset. I love the ragdoll-style body shapes and simple, cheerful aesthetic of the patterns. Small details such as the intarsia hairstyles (making for a safer and more robust doll) give the included designs a simplified yet charming look.

Though the entire collection of dolls is based on the same basic body format, the dolls are far from dull, and opportunity for personalisation from the range of included accessories is great. Clever tricks to create everything from a knitted-in beaded bracelet to cute little mary-jane shoes allow for a wide wardrobe of clothes that can be mixed and matched to any of the girl dolls, which make up 11 of the 12 doll designs.

As the vast majority of the doll designs and accompanying accessories are for the creation of female dolls there is perhaps a bit of a lack of diversity in the included patterns. I adored this book, and this is the only reason that I decided, after a bit of deliberation, not to knit one of the designs for Baby Awesome.

Though I could very easily have made some adaptations to have styled a doll to have looked more like my son, and could have likewise devised a few more boys’ style clothing choices, with movements such as the wonderful Let Toys Be Toys campaign it would be nice to see more advancement in boys’ dolls. Though I would absolutely have no hesitation in giving Baby Awesome a female doll to play with, the charm of this book is, I believe, in creating a doll that looks like the recipient. With this in mind there is also a lack in ethnicity diversity within the doll set. Though there are a few skin tones pictured within the range of dolls, they are all relatively fair. Textured hair options would have been another relatively simple modification inclusion that would have further extended the appeal of the dolls to a wider audience of potential recipients of mini-mes.

I have hope that there may be further garment and hair options made available for download or in a future volume, giving a greater number of children a chance to love their very own knitted doll version of themselves.

Please take a moment to have a look through the charming doll styles that are included in the book preview below. My Knitted Doll is available to pre-order for November.

I am looking forward to seeing what I am sure will be a whole raft of innovative modifications from knitters who I believe will take the foundation designs included and let their imaginations run into all many of wild and wonderful unique characters. Anyone who does make their own creation from this charming book is encouraged to use the hashtag #MyKnittedDoll on social media to show off their work!

Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of Louise Crowther’s ‘My Knitted Doll’ to review. All opinions are entirely my own.

Bud To Bloom In Marshmallow Cloud: Kits Now Available

bud-to-bloom-kits

In an extraordinary show of generosity and support, It’s A Stitch Up have announced the availability of a limited number of kits in support of Refuge, a charity which does a great amount of work to support women and children escaping domestic abuse.

The kit includes both skeins of yarn needed to complete the two hats above: Bloomin’ Marvellous on the left and Little Bud on the right, as well as an eBook containing both patterns. The kit retails at £28, which represents great value for money when costing up the price of the yarns and patterns separately, but even more importantly, £5 from every kit sold will go to Refuge.

If you are a buyer who has already purchased a copy of the eBook and are interested in the kit, please let me know and I will refund you the original price of the standalone eBook back to you, so you can get yourself even more of a special treat of a deal.
The yarn included in the kit is It’s A Stitch Up’s hand-dyed Marshmallow Cloud. It is super-silky baby alpaca, dyed to be as rich and sumptuous to the eye as well as to handle. The yarn is a chunky-weight yarn, but incredibly light to handle. Each of the light and long fibres is incredibly smooth, dyed beautifully with no matting or felting of the delicate wisps of baby alpaca. There is a generous 100m (109 yards) to each 100g skein, and it is a perfect yarn for accessories such as hats, as it is so very warm without any itchiness at all. Baby Awesome and I wore our matching hats out to the supermarket yesterday, pompoms bobbling brightly in the cold, and we remained as snug as two little bugs.

Buying this kit will not only give you a wonderful sense of warmth on your head, but also inside, knowing that you are helping those in need. To make your halo extra shiny, you can also rest assured that your yarn is ethically sourced and spun. The fibre for this yarn is sourced from Peru, where it is hand-sorted through two rounds of grading to ensure that only the finest fibres from the first shearings of the baby alpaca make it through. The fibre sorters and farmers are fairly paid for their work by a mill based in the UK where the yarn is spun, which also provides and education program for the children of the workers and farmers that provide their skills and expertise to produce the fibre.

The Marshmallow Cloud yarn is available in a number of shades, from bright solids and semi solids, through variegated and pastel tones, and each skein can be purchased separately for £14.

Find out more about It’s A Stitch Up’s yarns and patterns by visiting the online store.

To read more about the eBook project and the two patterns within it, please do find a moment to read this post. Thank you once more for your support and care, and happy knitting!

Speckle Dyeing With It’s A Stitch Up Dye Kit

This weekend brought the most exciting post I have had in a long while, and for a change it was something destined for me rather than the Eskimini.

Inside the perfectly presented package were two skeins of Marshmallow Cloud yarn (a chunky weight baby alpaca yarn), soft and buttery to handle, and a Dye Kit. I’d been looking forward to this parcel from It’s A Stitch Up for only a couple of days, and I hadn’t even yet started to dream up what was in store for the yarn, so I decided to start the creative ball rolling by playing with the Dye Kit.

Sold alongside It’s A Stitch Up’s beautiful hand-dyed offerings, the recent expansion of this UK-based venture sees these dye kits which allow even a first-time dyer to create their very own unique yarn in a number of colour ways in their own kitchen, and using the same ethically-sourced yarn milled in the UK as is available beautifully dyed and ready to knit in the store. The dye kits are available in a couple of different bases, and as I unpacked the little box of goodies I found inside a lovely high-twist superwash merino.
Also included in the box were all of the bits and pieces needed to give speckle-dyeing a first go. Everything is thought of, from a miniature sieve (which immediately bought back pre-teabag era memories of my grandparents’ teapot and strainer) to high-quality protective gloves, plus all the materials needed to both create your own masterpiece of yarn dyeing and fix it firmly in place.


A close-up picture of the soaking yarn pre-dye shows the lovely smooth and high-twist texture which gives the yarn it’s bounce and strength.

Following the included instructions to prep the yarn for dyeing was really simple; however, deciding on how to dye the skein was most definitely not! The kit contains two shades of dye, and there are many possibilities on how to use these to create something truly unique. As well as the option to use one or both of the dyes, the dyer can decide on whether to combine the colours or to keep them separate, and whether to go for a dense cover of dye or a more sparsely speckled effect. Enough dye is included to give a good full coverage, but I decided to try to maintain some white areas in my skein.

In the end I decided to twist my yarn into a loose helix, spreading out the strands, and then to dye each side one of the two shades, keeping the two colours separate. I didn’t get a good picture of this step, but it looked something like the sketch below:
Once the dye had been applied this gave three areas of green speckled yarn, three blue, and with a couple of areas with little or no dye. Following the provided instructions I then set the dye using the microwave method, and then waited for the yarn to cool. Eventually the yarn was cool to handle and I had chance to wash and inspect my creation.

Bundled up like this it looks just like a mass of random colour, and to a certain extent that is exactly what it is. Professional indie dyers spend many hundreds and thousands of hours perfecting their craft to provide their customers with fine artisan products, and this was a speckle-dyeing first attempt, but  when I rinsed and hung the skein up to dry I was very excited with the results, and once the skein was fully dry, the re-skeining brought out something I think is really quite lovely.
The areas of colour are not too overwhelming, yet there is still a good balance and coverage of pigment.
Once re-skeined, the colours reminded me of distant photos of the earth, the greens of the land, blues of the oceans and white of the clouds. The speckle dyeing technique allows the dye pigments to spread as you agitate the yarn slightly, leading to variations in the saturation of the dye and strength of colour, and this added further to the depth and variety of the finished skein.
yarny speckled excellenceI am extremely pleased with this skein of yarn, and I am very much looking forward to seeing how it might knit up: I think I shall have to do some experimental swatching before settling on what it shall become.
However, plans for my own hand-dyed skein shall have to wait a while, as before then I have two beautiful skeins of the Marshmallow Cloud yarn to fondle, enjoy and dream up a project or two for; and that is most definitely what I shall enjoy my next few days doing.

Speckle Dyeing kits and It’s A Stitch Up’s ethically sourced and beautiful dyed yarns are available to buy from the online store, and are shipped worldwide for a low flat rate. Whilst visiting the store, do take a moment to read the ethos and philosophy of this wonderful venture for an insight into why ethically sourced yarn and the craftsmanship of our indie dyers should be of utmost important to us as knitters and craftspersons so that we can all better enjoy the things that we create.

I will be back soon with tales of what the two soft bundles of yarn at the top of the post might become, as long as I can tear myself away from enjoying my own speckly creation.


Disclaimer:
I received the above dye kit and yarn free with no obligation to review and I would not endorse a product that I did not think was of excellent quality and value. The above views are entirely my own and have not been suggested or prompted by the vendor. Baby is blogger’s own.

FO: Perfect Stripes Cardigan

As charming as it is simple, the Striped Cardigan pattern from Debbie Bliss’s book The Ultimate Book Of Baby Knits is sure to become a little wardrobe staple for as long as baby remains small enough to enjoy its warmth and comfort. Knit in smooth Drops Baby Merino, the finished piece feels and looks smart and yet comfortable.I deviated from the pattern slightly, not in design but in technique. One thing does strike me about a number of the patterns from Debbie Bliss’s book, and that’s where there is a possibility of a seam, you are likely to find one. In larger garments a well-placed seam can give a bit of added stability and structure to a piece of knitting and can help with shape retention, but on knits so small where even a seam of a single stitch can proportionally represent so much bulk, I have been eliminating them where I have been able.
In accordance with this I knit the cardigan in one piece up to the arm holes. If I had thought ahead I would have attempted to have incorporated the sleeves by setting them in with sleeve cap as I worked, but by then I would have had to have re-written the entirety of the pattern, which when I started this (quite a long time ago, knitting fact fans) was probably beyond my brain capacity. If I were to start it again now I would likely approach it differently; as you can see from the picture above, on such a delicate knit even the single stitch seam represents a fair amount of bulk (and this is on the 6-9 month size – this would appear to be even greater, proportionally, on a smaller, newborn or premature sized garment.
Another area where I eliminated the seaming as given in the pattern was at the shoulders. As there is no shoulder shaping involved these were simply grafted together, in keeping with the stripe sequence to give a completely smooth finish.

As it will likely be a while before the Eskimini ever gets to wear this (as I am trying to spread my baby knits over a range of sizes) I think I might make a pair of bottoms out of the remaining yarn, to keep cute little baby bums warm and snug, using the colours but eliminating the stripes, so that will be the next thing on the needles!

Pattern: Striped Cardigan by Debbie Bliss
Yarn: Drops Baby Merino in shades Navy and Ice Blue
Size made: 6-9 months

New Book: Great British Sewing Bee Fashion With Fabric

Great British Sewing Bee Fashion With Fabric BookThe third series of The Great British Sewing Bee is well under way, and the past few episodes have seen the participants pit their wits against different types of fabrics, from simple hard-wearing cottons, through structural costuming materials and onto the sometimes daunting world of feather-light sheer fabrics. As with previous series, this third outing for Patrick, May and Claudia as ringmaster is supported by an accompanying book.

I was a great fan of the book that accompanied the second series of the Great British Sewing Bee as it contained all the information I needed to really get started on the road to sewing my own clothes – from good, clear information on fabrics and tools, through fantastic information on how to read and use sewing patterns and guide to garment construction; seam treatments, invisible zippers, use of interfacings, etc, and importantly all of the pattern pieces to make the featured garments.

This book features many of those same qualities without being repetitive. Some information is expanded upon, some is given new, and the all new set of pattern pieces and accompanying garment instructions cover new skills and ideas. The pattern pieces are, as last time, clearly given on good quality pattern pages for tracing.
Great British Sewing bee Fashion With Fabric Sewing Pattern Sheets - contains five double-sided sheets in total to create 30 stylesThe pattern pieces for 30 garments are given over 5 double-sided pattern sheets. The pattern pieces overlap to save on paper, but are very clearly presented for tracing: easily identified by the different colours used for printing which makes copying the patterns very simple.

Womens garments are given in standard pattern sizes 8 through 20, with a similar range of sizes given for men, dependant on garments type, and measurements for children’s patterns vary on the style and age range the garment is intended for, but overall there is a good range of sizes on offer.

The book is divided into fabric types and qualities, as has the series this year. Chapter One focusses on cottons, the second on wool and other animal fibres, followed by stretch and luxury fabrics making up Chapters Three and Four respectively. Whilst much valuable information is given in the 40 pages leading up to the first chapter, each of the fabric-type specific chapters gives a wealth of information on both how to work with the materials covered, best practices, materials and tools, plus the skills needed to carry out any new pattern elements, such as working with boning in corsetry, in the luxury fabric chapter.
Corsetry and Boning in The Great British Sewing Bee Fashion With Fabric book
Whilst some patterns stand completely independently, others are given as variations on a theme, where modifications to a garment are given to show haw a pattern may be adapted to create a quite different style or look. The adaptations are given as extensions to pattern pieces, which is helpful in allowing the sewer to garner a little confidence in changing commercial patterns to suit their needs, or perhaps how to combine pattern pieces from different sources to create a different look (such as when I combined two patterns last year to create my Von Trapp dress, which I also made from curtaining fabric… I must have been ahead of the curve on that one…)

Eskimimi Makes Von Trapp Dress
These pattern adaptations/modifications are given as ‘hacks’ for some reason. I don’t like the term ‘hack’ – it sounds imprecise and brutal, and has a ring of onomatopoeia about it, as if a medium-sized dog is trying to choke up something stuck in its throat and make a mess of your carpet. Obviously a larger dog will make more of a ‘hrock!’ sound, so only medium-sized dogs will hack, that ugly sound. If I think to hack something that is not a computer (and that’s rather unlikely) I would expect to do so in a frenzy, and with an axe.

Patterns can adapted, modified, with vision and style to make them more suitable to the sewer, or give a new and unique twist to the style. These are planned, envisioned changes, and this book gives a small insight into how these modifications can start to be imagined and carried out, allowing the sewer not to hack at a design, but enhance it. I really don’t like the word ‘hack’ in this context, but let’s leave it there – the underlying concept is sound, and positive.
The Great British Sewing Bee Book Fashion With Fabric Leather JacketOverall, this book seems slightly less concerned with achieving the perfect fit in comparison to the first volume (and they make great companion volumes because of this) and some of the designs have a much more relaxed fit with simple details – though some, such as the semi-fitted Leather Jacket above, would push the skills of many amateur sewers.

One of the patterns that I most look forward to attempting is the Walkaway Dress. This is a version of a dress from the 1950s that was covered in the first episode, sized for modern western sewers.
The Great British Sewing bee Walkaway Dress Fashion With fabric BookIt was mentioned in the episode that this dress became a great blogging favourite some time ago, due to the challenge posed by the dress’ name and aim – that you could start cutting the pattern in the morning and walk away wearing it in the afternoon.

I’m not feeling up to tracing, cutting or sewing anything at the moment, so the idea shall have to be one that I sit on for a while, but whilst I do I have plenty of skills to read up on as I work my way through the ideas and tips in the book.

Note: The opinions expressed in this review are my own, I purchased this book with my own scrimped pennies.

Update: Here’s a fun little reply tweet from the publishers: