Thursday, 11 December 2014

Socks and Blocks

I’ve almost finished these beautiful Artesano Definition socks and could not resist taking them out and modeling them on our new Knit Pro sock blockers!

One of the nice things about socks is that they are such versatile little projects. If you want simple knitting, a plain sock in a self-patterning yarn will provide you with (literally) hours of entertainment. If you want a project that’s a bit more of a challenge, socks have you covered there too. This has been one of my favourite ever ‘fancy sock’ knitting projects, and I would say that it’s basically all down to the cleverness of the pattern.


Firstly, look at the way the ribbing merges seamlessly into the stitch pattern! That’s the sort of thoughtful detail that really endears a pattern to me. Not to mention the way that it separates itself out again for the heel flap, and leaves the sole of the sock flat for walking on comfortably.

Extreme close-up! Woahh!

The pattern is called Azure and can be found in the Artesano Definition Sock Booklet. There are a couple of other really nice patterns in there too, so it’s worth having a look. The Definition Sock yarn was lovely to knit with, with a handle very similar to our much loved Regia 4 Ply.

definition sock.png
Artesano Sock Yarn

The socks look particularly impressive on the sock blockers - the lace pattern stretches to give a much better idea of how the socks will look when they are actually worn. The blockers are made of a very smooth plastic, so there's no risk of them catching on the knitting, and they have a hole in the top to hang them up for storage or for display.

Left: on a sock blocker, Centre: sock in progress, Right: future pair of socks?

I used Clover bamboo double pointed knitting needles (my current favourite sock needles as they have a less ‘grippy’ nature than the Brittany Birch and softer, more rounded tips than the Pony Bamboo) in a size 2.25mm. This is a size smaller than I would usually use for socks, and helps to avoid loose stitches in the lace pattern, as well is making the tight little stitches stand out.

As you can see, I'm very pleased with the results and cannot wait to wear these socks!

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Yarns We Love: Adriafil Cristallo


This yarn looks fairly unassuming in its ball: muted colours with just a hint of sparkle. Now that I’ve actually cast it on and knitted up a cosy cabled hat, however, I can say that Adriafil Cristallo is a yarn that you overlook at your peril!

It is very soft to knit with, and the little tinsel strands do not add any hint of scratchiness. The most fun part is definitely the subtle colour changes that this yarn undergoes as you knit with it. Every colour within the ball contains little flecky hints of other shades (this is captured really nicely in the above photo), and the colours fade gradually into one another to create a soft, ombre effect rather than strong stripes.


I’ve used my Cristallo to knit Sirdar pattern 7182 (below, bottom right), and it took about a ball and a half to make, including the pom pom. For the pom pom, I used the blue pom pom maker from Clover 3126.


The completed hat has a nice, loose fit without being too large, and it can stretch to fit most adult head sizes. The shade I used (51 Multicolour) is lovely: it’s colourful without being bright, and the sparkle adds a festive accent to the hat. Cristallo’s other colourways are equally understated, so this hat project would make a wonderful gift for anyone who is looking for a new winter hat that's extra soft with a touch of sparkle!


Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Latest Competition


We've got another excellent competition for you, with 3 festive prizes up for grabs!

1st Prize: A large Twilleys canvas knitting bag, a copy of Wendy Booklet 364, plus the yarn to make an adult-sized owl sweater (pictured above centre)
- Winner: Carol Christie (@caroljchristie)

2nd Prize: A copy of Wendy Booklet 364, plus the yarn to make a child-sized Santa sweater (pictured above right)
- Winner: Kim Parker (@kiparker2)

3rd Prize: A copy of Wendy Booklet 364, plus the yarn to make a child-sized icicle sweater (pictured above left)
- Winner: Catherine (@SpinstarC)

All you have to do to enter is follow us @mcadirect on Twitter and reTweet the competition Tweet with the hashtag #mcafestivecomp

The competition will close at midnight on Friday, 5th December, 2014.  All entries will be put into a prize draw and the winners will be the first 3 names selected.  We will notify our winners on Twitter. 


Thursday, 30 October 2014

Love Hats

Hats are great projects: they’re quick to knit, fun to wear, and rarely take more than one and a half balls of yarn.

Another nifty advantage to making hats is that they give you a very good excuse to try out a new or intriguing yarn that’s caught your eye, especially if you’re just not sure whether you want to commit to making a full garment. A hat gives you the opportunity to see if you actually like how the yarn looks when it’s been knitted or crocheted; you can get a better sense of how strong the colour is, and which sections are dominant in a self-patterning yarn. Best of all, they’re relatively inexpensive. Buying two balls of good yarn for a hat is much less of a commitment than investing straight away in twelve balls for a jumper!


This cute beanie hat is made from SMC Apiretto (a soft angora blend), and the pattern is from Sirdar 9884. It took exactly one ball to knit, though I knitted it in the round. To knit it following the pattern (flat with a seam) would probably take about one and a quarter balls, so 3 balls would easily give you two hats. I learned that this yarn would definitely be soft enough for a sweater, though the colour was brighter than I thought it would be.

On the left, one of our popular Hita Hats, Switch, has been crocheted in Adriafil Unico Chunky, a soft and dense chunky yarn. On the right, pattern 9906 knitted in Faroe Chunky. When viewed only in the ball, it is not obvious that Faroe Chunky actually has a pleasant and subtle striping effect, along with the mottled colouring, but this hat shows it off very well.


This cosy hat and scarf set was knitted from a single ball of Wendy Duo. This “one ball wonder” yarn comes with a free Wendy Bon Pom included, for finishing off the hat, and all the instructions are written on the ball band. The only thing you have to supply is the knitting needles!

.lova.jpg   scozia.jpg

These final two hats feature some of our less well known yarns - SMC Lova and Adriafil Scozia. Each shade of Lova is a neutral shade with flashes of neon at random intervals throughout the ball. Free patterns for a simple, slouchy hat like this one can be found on our website (there are 12 designs to choose from), and it can be topped off nicely with a matching Wendy Bon Pom. Scozia has an excellent tweedy look when crocheted, and a soft handle to work with.

For knitters and crocheters, it’s not surprising that hats have been a staple project for generations! 

If a full size hat seems like more than you want to work on at the minute, we are also collecting hats for Innocent Smoothies in our Stirling shop. Please drop off any hats you have completed and we will send them on to Innocent.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Hita Hat Competition


To celebrate the recent arrival of our Hita Hat patterns by Adriafil, we are running another competition.  We've got 3 Hita Hat Crochet Kits to give away, so don't miss out! Each kit contains everything you need to make a cool crochet hat including the yarn, hook, pattern, and a Hita Hat label to give it that professional finish.

All you have to do is fill in our simple Adriafil quiz below and send your answers to   All correct entries will go into a prize draw, and the first 3 names to be pick will win a Hita Hat Kit.

Our competition closes at midnight on Sunday 5th October 2014, so don't be late!

Here are the questions:

1.  What is Adriafil Sierra Andina DK made from?

2. What colour is shade 56 of Adriafil Globe Uni?

3. Which Adriafil yarn is named after a volcanic mountain?

4. How many metres are on a ball of Adriafil Duo?

5. In which country is  Adriafil based?

Good luck!

* might find some clues on our website...


Congratulations to our winners:
Grace Caldwell
Mandy Ridland
Miggy Mackey

Thursday, 11 September 2014

New From Artesano

In recent months, more and more Artesano yarns have been sneaking their way onto our shelves. We now have a nice big family of them, with more on their way! I thought I’d introduce you to some of our lovely newcomers, in case you didn’t notice them on their way in.

Artesano Alpaca Silk 4 Ply

Alpaca Silk 4 Ply in shade 4133 Signal Blue

Silk and alpaca: two luxurious fibres that have been spun into a yarn that is warm and cuddly, with a soft shine in its appearance. Artesano’s new Alpaca Silk 4 Ply has a slight fluffy halo- just enough to make it even softer while managing not to shed fuzz all over your clothes and furniture. There are 16 tempting colourways, and a collection of lovely, contemporary patterns to accompany the yarn.

Artesano Alpaca Silk Lace

Alpaca Silk Lace in shade 2083 Aubergine

This beautiful 2 ply lace weight yarn has a soft handle and a wonderful sheen to it. The silk fibres make it very strong, despite its delicate appearance, and the alpaca lends it its excellent insulating properties. This richly coloured yarn is also fantastic value with an impressive 400m per 50g skein.

Artesano Definition Sock Yarn

Definition Sock in shade 4908 Perky

A classic sock blend with 75% merino wool and 25% polyamide. Artesano seem to have a real knack for choosing gorgeous yarn shades, and Definition Sock is no exception- there are plenty of bright, vivid shades as well as a good range of more subtle and neutral colourways.

I’ve just cast on a pair of Azure socks (from the Definition Sock Yarn Booklet) in shade 6705 Azure and the yarn is thus far proving excellent to knit with: hard wearing and resistant to splitting, with a good bounce to it.

Manos del Uruguay Merino Tops

Manos del Uruguay Merino Tops in shade 7292 Stellar

Spinners and felters are also catered for with these beautiful hand dyed merino tops. These combed tops are hand painted by women’s cooperatives in Uruguay and are distributed in Europe by Artesano in accordance with WFTO (World Fair Trade Organisation) requirements. I love the idea of supporting these women by buying fibre, especially when it’s as soft and colourful as this!

Thursday, 7 August 2014

New Sirdar Divine

Sirdar Divine is a colourful brushed yarn which has a glittery thread through it.  The wool comes out in a stripey effect in varying thicknesses.   

I knitted the wrist warmers from Sirdar Booklet 466 in shade Francesca 62 using just one ball and 4mm needles.  It’s certainly a quick and easy project for a first time knitter.  There’s also no need for a row counter, as each row depends on the thickness of the wool.  As a complete addict to my row counter, I found this a little challenging but both wrist warmers have come out to the same length!   


I have to say that the wool looks much nicer knitted up than it does on the ball and is very effective.  I think Sirdar Divine will be a hit with young and old alike and there is an assortment of cardigans and jumpers in the Booklet for women and girls from 4 years to adult.

Post by Susan H in our Edinburgh shop

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Rowan Magazine 56

Rowan Magazine 56 arrived last week and, true to form, it is chock full of inspiring and beautiful designs. There are two main design stories, Wilderness and Craftwork, featuring cables, colourwork and interesting shapes, as well as a collection of more straightforward pieces in Essentials.


Wilderness has a strong Scottish vibe, with Celtic and Norwegian influences. The collection features beautiful patterns which emphasise bold colourwork and thick textures. All of these patterns have a high level of attention to detail, so they’ll keep accomplished knitters interested but are not be for the faint hearted! These designs are photographed against the dramatic backdrop of Glencoe in the Scottish Highlands and the rich colours of the landscape really bring out the rugged appeal of these designs. 

BirgitIsolde WrapFranziskaTanja
Craftwork is an elegant collection featuring luxurious fluffy fibres (such as Kidsilk Haze, Felted Tweed and the forthcoming Mohair Haze) and patterns for lightweight layers. These pieces will be perfect for giving warmth without bulk and many are knit using intriguing combinations of several different Rowan yarns.

Essentials focuses on easy-to-wear garments, and present an inviting contrast to the complexities of the other two collections. The focus here is on shape, with simple stitch patterns and plain colours (which also makes them a more economical option). There are many designs in Fine Lace and Pure Wool 4 Ply and it's nice to see these yarns receiving more pattern support. And don't worry- although they are lightweight, they will still keep you toasty warm this winter.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Arne & Carlos are coming...

In anticipation of Arne and Carlos’ upcoming visit and the Nordic Knit-athon, we’ve been looking through their current books. In related news, we’ve also got an exciting new Twitter competition to launch! The following just might be a wee hint at the prize (for the impatient amongst us, full details are at the end of this post)...

Knitted Dolls with a Designer Wardrobe gives you instructions for making a basic doll shape, and then you can let your imagination run wild with the dozens and dozens of miniature clothes patterns included. There are patterns for all sorts of garments, including some miniature versions of classic Norwegian sweaters.

The dolls on the cover are a surprisingly accurate rendering of the designers and give you a flavour of the sorts of customisations you can make in order to capture each doll’s personality.

55 Christmas Balls to Knit was Arne & Carlos’ first publication and is already an off-beat classics in the knitting world.

The Christmas balls in question are squishy little knitted ornaments, with beautiful designs based on traditional Nordic patterns and motifs. They are quick and fun to knit (though they do require some sewing up, so maybe not an ideal project if you hate seams) and will add some festive fun wherever you choose to hang them!

Want to knit up some cute little decorative balls but it’s too early to hang the Christmas decorations? No problem! Easter Knits contains patterns for more brightly patterned balls, as well as some FabergĂ© egg-style modifications and a pattern for a floppy Easter bunny with a wardrobe full of sweaters.

As with all of their books, every page is packed full of beautiful photography, with the projects set against a backdrop of colourful Scandinavian interiors.

The latest title from Arne and Carlos is the magnificent Knit-and-Crochet Garden. All of the photography is set in the garden of their own home (an old train station!), which they built from scratch when they moved in.

This book features a wider variety of crafts and techniques, branching out into crochet as well as a few small cross stitch and embroidery projects.

Arne and Carlos have a new book coming out this October, titled Norwegian Knits with a Twist. This new release sees them branching out further into new territory, with 33 sweater patterns based on traditional Setesdal designs. And, of course, it wouldn’t be Arne and Carlos without also including patterns for matching accessories and teddy bears!

If you’re in the Edinburgh area on the weekend of 19-20 June, why not drop by the National Museum, where we are running a drop-in Knit-athon workshop in collaboration with the Danish Cultural Institute. Everyone who comes along can knit a 15x15cm square to contribute to a “giant knitted masterpiece” and there will also be pompom makers and French knitting dollies to try out. It’s completely free and you don’t need to book in advance. What’s more, the museum is an incredible old building and the event’s yarn has been generously provided by Rowan (ooooh)! All you need to bring is a pair of knitting needles (size 4-5mm/ UK 7-8).

As mentioned above, we’re launching a Twitter competition as part of the celebrations. The spectacular prize is a copy of each of Arne & Carlos’ four current titles! To be entered into the prize draw, simply follow @mcadirect and retweet the competition Tweet any time between now and midnight 26 July 2014. The winner will be announced on Monday 28th July 2014 via Twitter.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Knitting on a Jetplane

It's pretty obvious that knitting and air travel were made to go together*. There's the arrival at the airport hours (literally hours) before your scheduled departure time. There's the time spent during the flight itself, where you're obliged to sit still and not make too much noise. And then there's the queues to wait for security, passport checks, customs... to a non-knitter, it must seem like time idly squandered but, for a knitter, this is the chance to focus for hours on a project that would be otherwise impossible with the distractions of every day life.

My favourite travel knitting projects are socks and lace shawls. Projects with a high meterage-to-gram ratio, and something that I can absorb myself in while confined to a seat or a holding bay departure lounge. I knitted Haruni during a trip to the Netherlands and last year made a Swallowtail shawl in Denmark. Each project took less than 50g of laceweight yarn and positively sprinted off the needles as I worked on them whenever I was sitting still!

A Swallowtail shawl can be knitted from less than one 25g ball of Sublime Lace

There is a thorny question that goes hand-in-hand with travel knitting, though: can I take my needles on the plane?

The general consensus here at McA seems to be that it depends entirely on the whims personal convictions of the individual security personnel. And since I've never encountered any objections to my own travel knitting, I'd like to share with you my top tips for getting away with knitting on planes:

1. Don't ask if you're allowed. That question forces the staff to cover their own back and there's a greater chance that they'll say no.

2. Take wooden, bamboo or plastic needles instead of metal. They shouldn't get flagged up on any x-ray machines scanning for metal.

3. Take short double pointed needles, circular needles or crochet hooks and store them in a pencil case along with pens and pencils.

4. If you have really precious needles, take a stamped, self-addressed envelope with you so that you can post your trusty tools back to yourself instead of having to surrender them to the amnesty tubs. You might also want to take some scrap yarn to slide your project onto so that it doesn't unravel.

5. Take as few needles as possible in your hand luggage and store the rest in any suitcases going in the hold.

While I can't promise that this advice will cover every eventuality, I can testify to the fact that I've knitted on flights to Europe and to America on various airlines and it's never been questioned or objected to. And since air travel provides such ideal knitting conditions, I'd recommend tucking a wee project into your holiday bags and making some good knitting progress as you fly off to lands afar.

*I'd just like to say that I've never flown with small children but I get the feeling it's a very different story.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Little Bo Cardigan

For weeks we have been seeing tantalising glimpses of Fair Isle knitting emerging from Susan’s bag.

A sleeve here, half a back there.

Today we arrived to the delightful sight of this little cardigan with all the ends weaved in and the buttons sewn on. And it is SO CUTE!

Little Bo: there are hearts, stripes, a seaside town and a sunshine!

The pattern is from Martin Storey’s Aran and Nordic Knits for Kids, and Susan knitted it on spec in Rowan Fine Tweed. In her words, “it’s quick, it’s lovely and the pattern’s very easy to follow (especially if you do a small size)”.

Rowan Fine Tweed has a rustic look, with little flecks throughout the yarn. It is a thick-and-thin single ply spun from 100% wool and knits up to a standard 4 ply tension. It’s maybe not a good choice if you want a totally even texture, because of the way the yarn goes from thick in one bit to very fine in the next bit, but it looks absolutely wonderful when it’s knit up.

2014-06-05 10.30.46.jpg
This tiny town even has a castle, complete with flag

A word of warning, however: for sewing up, it's an absolute pain in the neck. It keeps breaking. In order to avoid this, or at least to minimise the damage, it’s important not to tug too hard on the yarn when sewing it up.

The red (369 Bainbridge) and cream (376 Bell Busk) shades give Little Bo a traditional Nordic feel, but you could definitely get creative with your colour choices. I think it would also look really cute in yellow with navy contrast, or a dark grey with cream.

Friday, 13 June 2014

What's on the pins in Edinburgh...

First up is this lovely scarf that Kate is working on. This is her first ever knitting project and she was so excited to have just knit her way through her first ever full ball of yarn! Pictured here is ball number two of Rowan Lima - this alpaca scarf will do a fantastic job of keeping her daughter warm this autumn.

Next, we have Sophia's fantastic sweater dress. Sophia has a bit of a reputation for knitting Kim Hargreaves' sweater dresses and particularly admires her clever shaping and attention to detail. This striking pattern is from Indigo and is knitted in Rowan All Seasons Cotton.


Next is a hat that I (Heather) am making. The pattern is from Son of Stitch n Bitch and it's basically my favourite guys' hat pattern ever- I have made so many of these! It takes one ball of Felted Tweed and a tiny bit of scrap DK yarn for the contrast band at the bottom.

This next project is an adorable baby tank top which Susan is working on. The pattern is Sirdar 4443 and the yarn is Snuggly DK in shades 446, 428 and 188. These shades look great together and Susan is such a quick knitter that it'll be done in two shakes of a Bluefaced Leicester lamb's tail.

 Also featured: Susan's trusty row counter (see this post)!

Finally, we have a long-term project from Sarah, who has been crocheting this amazing ripple blanket in Snuggly DK alongside other projects for the past few months. This looks like it could take ages to complete, but it will make a fantastic blanket when it's done!

What are you working on at the minute?

Monday, 9 June 2014

Lost Sheep Competition Winner

We're delighted to bring you the results of our Lost Sheep Competition.  Our winner is Christine McClusky!

Did you find all the sheep and get the right answer?