Monday, 21 December 2015

Christmas Stockings Knit in Hayfield Chunky

For the past few weeks I have been busily knitting all sorts of things for the holiday season. Socks, hats, cowls, you name it! One of my favourite things about being a knitter is that I get to give people special hand-knit gifts when Christmas rolls around. But in addition to all of my knitting for friends and family, I also took a little time to knit some festive Christmas stockings for my own home. 

To make these stockings I used Hayfield Chunky with Wool in Winterberry (red) and Cream for a traditional Christmas colour scheme. Hayfield Chunky was the perfect wool for this project, the stockings knit up so quickly and I only needed two balls of wool to make one stocking. I especially love how sturdy Hayfield Chunky is; I haven't stuffed the stockings quite yet, but I can tell the wool is going to be durable for many winters to come. Hayfield Chunky with Wool is also machine washable, so I'll be able to keep the stockings looking like new.

I didn't have a pattern for these stockings, so this project also marks the first time I've ever designed my own pattern. I got a lot of the inspiration for my design from the book 55 Christmas Balls to Knit by Arne and Carlos. I loved their Nordic design and traditional Christmas images. 

To any knitter interested in designing their own Fair Isle pattern, I say just go for it! Open up some knitting books or sift through your old patterns and let yourself be inspired.

Post by Leah in our Edinburgh branch

For more knitted stocking ideas, take a look at Scandinavian Christmas Stockings by Mette Handberg

Monday, 30 November 2015

Yarns We Love: Rowan Big Wool Silk

As a novice knitter, I was drawn to the lovely Rowan Big Wool Silk for my first ever project. Being 70% wool and 30% silk, this yarn has a beautiful sheen that gives it a delicate quality, despite being a super chunky weight.

 Big Wool Silk: Perfect for Beginners

My scarf knitted up in no time and it was very satisfying to see such progress as a beginner knitter. The super chunky weight also helped me to avoid and spot any mistakes. It also meant that my stitch movements were very pronounced, allowing me to see exactly what I was doing and understand the structure of the stitches.

I chose the rusty 'Book' shade - a beautiful colour that also looks cosy! I can't wait to show it off on the chilly Edinburgh streets.

 The full range of shades. Clockwise, from top: Journal, Song, Book, Note, Verse, Raffia

I would recommend this yarn to any knitter, but particularly beginners who want to start out with something that will knit fast and still look classy!

Post by Ila in our Edinburgh branch.

Monday, 23 November 2015

McAree Crochet Along: Making Up

It's the final week of our Crochet Along with Carol Meldrum, and today we're going to show you how to put together all the squares to make the final project!

How have you enjoyed our first Crochet Along?  We'd love to see the results if you've been taking part, so please do send us pictures of your finished projects!

If you've missed any of the patterns, they will still be available through our website, blog and Ravelry pages.

Monday, 16 November 2015

McAree Crochet Along: Week 8

The final pattern in our Crochet Along with Carol Meldrum, and this time we're working in the round to create this Nordic-style Snowflake Square.

Stay tuned for next week when we show you how to put all your squares together to create the final project!  All patterns will still be available to download, and you can still purchase yarn packs through our website if you want to have a go.  

Monday, 9 November 2015

McAree Crochet Along: Week 7

A trickier pattern for Week 7 of our Crochet Along with Carol Meldrum.  Challenge yourself with our point to point Triangles Square.

You can still pick up yarn packs through our website, even though we're nearly at the end of our Crochet Along!

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

New Knitting Workshops

Reading over the list of topics for our recently transformed McAree Craft Studio, I’m so excited about the new workshops we are now able to offer!

Brioche stitch (also known as tuck stitch) has really rocketed in popularity over the past couple of years and I’ve been itching for an excuse to learn. The squishy texture, the colour combinations, and the wavy, wandering stitch patterns look so warm and cosy, and it seems like brioche is the perfect stitch for knitting wintry scarves and cowls. Carol Meldrum’s Brioche Stitch workshop promises to be a colourful and creative day learning a great knitting technique.

Brioche Knitting or Tuck Stitch Nordic Traditions

One other really special workshop we have coming up is Karie Westermann’s class on Nordic Traditions. Karie is perfectly placed to teach a workshop about the knitting traditions of Scandinavia and the Nordic regions, as she is herself a full-time knitwear designer from Denmark.

This workshop is ideal for knitters who have some idea of how to follow a simple colourwork chart (if you’re not there yet, why not check out Carol Meldrum’s beginner class on Fair Isle Knitting in Stirling?) and will cover traditional knitting techniques from Norway, Denmark, Iceland and the Faroe Islands while you knit some beautiful wrist warmers. Karie will also be bringing her own inspiring samples of Nordic colourwork (oooooh!)!

If you’ve always wanted to know more about the history of colourwork knitting, or the traditional heritage of our beloved woolly craft, why not come along to this fun and informative class led by a colourwork expert? 

For a full list of our upcoming workshops, visit the Workshops page on our website.

Monday, 2 November 2015

McAree Crochet Along: Week 6

Week 6 of our Crochet Along with Carol Meldrum and today we're learning how to tackle tapestry crochet with the Tapestry Crochet Star Square.

Yarn packs are still available through our website if you'd like to join us!

Monday, 26 October 2015

McAree Crochet Along: Week 5

We're now on Week 5 of our Crochet Along with Carol Meldrum!  Today's pattern is the Contrast Spots Square.

Don't forget, Yarn packs are still available through our website if you'd like to join us!

Monday, 19 October 2015

McAree Crochet Along: Week 4

Here's our Week 4 pattern for our Crochet Along with Carol Meldrum!  Today we got the Stripe Square in the Round for you to try.

How are you enjoying the project?  Feel free to let us know how you're getting on, or send us pictures of your progress.  There are still plenty of squares to come, so feel free to get involved.  Yarn packs can be purchased through our website, or show your individual streak with five of your own shades of Rowan Wool Cotton DK.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Arne & Carlos Visit McAree Brothers

This weekend was full of excitement as we welcomed knitting and crochet superstars Arne & Carlos to our shops in Edinburgh and Stirling.
Friday night saw our Edinburgh shop packed out for a Meet Arne & Carlos book signing evening, with free drinks on hand, as well as delicious cakes provided by our favourite neighbours, Bon Papillon. The big hit of the evening was 55 Christmas Balls to Knit (by now, firmly established as a classic and stylish volume of knitted Christmas fun), and our guests’ hands must have been developing a cramp after so much signing of “Arne” and “& Carlos”.

Arne & Carlos with Sylvia from our Stirling shop. Photo by David Coleman

The next day, we caught the train to Stirling for our main event: an afternoon workshop on knitting Christmas balls! Set in the cosy, and very Scottish, Wallace Room at the Golden Lion Hotel, we learned all the tricks of the Christmas ball trade, including tips for stuffing the balls so they don’t end up “like apples!” and Arne & Carlos’ prefered technique of working with 5 double pointed needles.

Setting up for the workshop. Photo by David Coleman

We were also treated to a very entertaining presentation on their work and inspiration, much of which comes from their beautiful home and garden, set in a rural valley described by Arne as “the Twin Peaks of Norway”.

One of the most interesting points was the explanation behind the colourways designed for their Regia 4 Ply Design Line sock yarn. Interestingly, each of the shades was inspired by a different painting by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch:

Sorry - no image available
Arne & Carlos Regia 4 Ply shade 3658 Winter Night, and Munch’s ‘Winter Night’

And even though we didn't quite manage to finish our Christmas balls within the workshop, it was still a lot of fun and everyone left with smiling faces and plenty of yarn for a few more to complete at home.

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Christmas balls in progress… some homework required here!

We were sorry to have to say farewell on Saturday evening as Arne and Carlos headed back to Norway, but hopefully it won’t be too long before we see them again soon. And in the meantime, we’ve got 54 more Christmas balls, 30 pairs of felted slippers, a set of knitted dolls, a garden’s worth of knitting and crochet, and a dozen pairs of socks to be cracking on with…!

Monday, 12 October 2015

McAree Crochet Along: Week 3

Time for Week 3 of our Crochet Along with Carol Meldrum!  Today's free pattern is the Log Cabin Square.

We hope you're enjoying the project so far!  You can still join us if you'd like to do a bit of crochet.  Yarn packs can be purchased through our website, or be adventurous and choose five of your own shades of Rowan Wool Cotton DK.

Monday, 5 October 2015

McAree Crochet Along: Week 2

Week 2 of the McAree Crochet Along with Carol Meldrum and here is your second free pattern - the Triangle Fan Square.

It's not too late to join us - you can pick up a yarn pack through our website, or be adventurous and choose five of your own shades of Rowan Wool Cotton DK.

Happy Crocheting!

Monday, 28 September 2015

McAree Crochet Along: Week 1

Week 1 of the McAree Crochet Along with Carol Meldrum and here is your first free pattern - the Off-Set Zig-Zag Square.

There's still time to get involved if you want to join us for this project. You can purchase a yarn pack through our website.  

Happy Crocheting!

Friday, 25 September 2015

McAree Mystery Crochet Along

Very excited!  We've teamed up with McAree favourite Carol Meldrum to bring you our very first McAree Crochet Along!  Each week we will be releasing a new pattern for a crochet block inspired by patterns and shapes found in traditional Scandanavian textiles.  The designs are a mystery and can be worked in any combination of colours to give them your own individual touch.  At the end of the Crochet Along, we will show you how the blocks can sewn together to create a Nordic inspired bag, or you can use them to create your own project; cushion cover, table runner, bed throw - the possibilities are endless!

There are 8 patterns altogether ranging from easy to more advanced.  Photo instructions are given for the more complicated stitches.  The squares can be worked in any colour combinations, but we would recommend starting with the colours as given for your first square.

We have put together yarn packs, available through our website, for the Crochet Along in the palettes listed below (each comes with a free KnitPro crochet hook), or you can purchase the individual balls in colours of your choosing.  The patterns will be released every Monday starting on 28th September 2015.

Yarn: Rowan Wool Cotton DK 1 x 50g ball in five contrasting shades.

Palette 1 - Nordic
Colour A: 908 Inky
Colour B: 900 Antique
Colour C: 911 Rich
Colour D: 946 Elf
Colour E: 968 Cypress
Palette 2 - Brights
Colour A: 988 Larkspur
Colour B: 943 Flower
Colour C: 980 Brolly
Colour D: 909 French Navy
Colour E: 984 Wind Break
Palette 3 - Neutrals
Colour A: 992 Lichen
Colour B: 990 Moss Grey
Colour C: 900 Antique
Colour D: 903 Misty
Colour E: 908 Inky
You will also need:
1 x 4mm crochet hook (yarn packs include a free hook)
1 x scissors
Sewing up needle

Patterns are free and can be downloaded from our website, or you can find them here on the blog, or on our Facebook page.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Rowan Summerlite Mystery Crochet Along


For the past eight weeks, I’ve been crocheting along with Rowan’s mystery crochet along project. Mystery knit alongs and crochet alongs (or MKALs and MCALs) have been really popular in recent years, but they do rely on a strong degree of trust in the designer. The idea with these mystery projects is that you receive the pattern in weekly installments and make it gradually, without knowing what the finished piece is going to look like. Is there a risk that you won’t like it after putting in all those hours of work? Sure, but that’s all part of the fun!

Summerlite 4 ply was a great yarn to work with. As well as giving me a chance to play with this recently released yarn, it quickly became clear that the decision to use Summerlite was ideal for this project. The fine gauge of this yarn meant that it was possible to get more motifs per ball of yarn (appealing to my sometimes frugal nature) and that more motifs could be fitted into a single project, as each one was only 10-12 cm across. The yarn itself has a very smooth, even texture and is remarkably soft for a cotton yarn. It is also unmercerised, and I really like the matte finish on my crocheted motifs. 

I’ve finally reached the stage of assembling my crocheted motifs into a cushion cover. The project has been fun, and a good chance to practice some crochet techniques I hadn’t really tried out before. Unsurprisingly, I opted for the ‘bright’ palette of 422 Still Grey, 432 Aubergine, 428 High Tide and 426 Pinched Pink.

Motifs are crocheted together on the wrong side, so that these small stitches like zip teeth are visible from the right side.

To assemble my cushion cover, I started with the bottom row of motifs and pinned several together before crocheting, in order to minimise the chance of sewing things together in the wrong place. This was a pretty effective techniques and also allowed me to join several motifs with one continuous length of stitches.


Although initially unconvinced about these four colours together (I worried that the blue was too green next to the red pink or that they grey was too pale against the dark, dark aubergine), I definitely like them a lot better now that they are so thoroughly mixed by the pattern. There is not one colour that dominates the others and it was the right choice to make the small  joining stitches in the brightest of the four colours, i.e. Pinched Pink. Combined, they now have a bright, summery feel that I like very much :)

Crocheted together inside out; lots of ends to weave in

The hexagonal shape of the cushion cover might have been a problem if it had required a hexagonal cushion pad to stuff it. Those are pretty thin on the ground by the looks of things. Fortunately, it is also possible to buy a square cushion pad, sew across the four corners and trim them off to leave a (more or less) hexagonal shaped cushion pad. It is a bit taller than it is long, but it’s also pretty malleable so I don’t think this will be a problem. Another good solution would be to use a round cushion pad, but I didn’t have one of those to hand either, so this DIY effort it was!

The completed cushion

So, although the M part of this MCAL has now come to an end, the patterns are still available to download for free from our website here. One advantage to starting it now is that you can also see what a nice cushion cover you’ll be making before you even chain a single stitch. My project used one ball of Still Grey, one ball of Aubergine, one ball of High Tide and just over one ball of Pinched Pink, so to make one just like it would cost less than £20.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Meet the Designer: Karie Westermann

 Karie Westermann in a lovely Big Wool cowl

1. Can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started in crochet and knitwear design? Do you come from a crafty family?

I was taught to knit by my great-grandmother when I was five or six years old. I grew up in rural Denmark – mine was the local arty family. Everybody was creative in one way or another. We never had much money, but there was a steady supply of handmade garments, knitted jumpers and interesting paintings. Of course my family still obsessed over football results and pop music, but there was a definite sense of self-expression and creative exploration. I learned to knit, crochet and sew as a very young girl and I have never really stopped wanting to make stuff. 

I got into designing when I worked for a yarn company and they needed a quick project to sell some leftover beads. My pattern did really, really well for them. Then in 2011 an indie dyer friend was launching a new yarn line at a prestigious London event and pressured me into doing my first self-published design. And that pattern did really well too. I began thinking that maybe I should look at doing more design work and now I'm a full-time self-employed knitting designer. It's amazing.  

2. What is your favourite part of the designing process?

I am a process designer as much as I am a process knitter, so this is a tough question! I really love pattern writing. I have a background in technical writing and I think that has helped me a great deal. But you know what I love best of all? When I look at something that looks exactly like the idea I had in my head and somebody else is wearing it. It's an amazing feeling.

Karie's Picycle Shawl can be found in Rowan Bespoke

3. Do you have a favourite type of yarn or fibre to work with?

This may be the best question ever! I like working with all sorts of different fibres but I love wool above all else. I have been working a lot with rustic yarns recently - yarns where you can still sense that the wool's come from a sheep and it hasn't been processed beyond recognition.On the other hand, Rowan Kidsilk Haze is as far from rustic as you can get. It is such a versatile yarn that makes even the simplest design shine. I also love how many colours you can get with KSH – you can either knit it on its own or combine shades to get new combinations. I have been working a lot with Rowan Felted Tweed DK recently and it's amazingly versatile as well. So, in short, every yarn has its right time and place (apart from fun fur). As long as I'm working with natural fibres, I am happy.

Juniper hat from The Knit Generation
made with Kidsilk Haze and Felted Tweed DK

4. What’s the best thing you've ever knitted or crocheted? And the worst?

My latest design is always my favourite. I always say that! But there are designs that have huge personal significance for me because I remember where I were when I came up with the idea or when I knitted the sample. Right now I'm really proud of the Vedbaek Shawl which has resonated with knitters around the world since the moment I released it. As for worst.. my very first garment was a crochet jumper I made out of my mum's cotton scraps. It was yellow, orange, pink and lime green. A hideous thing, really, with granny squares stretching across my bosom and strips of colours down the bottom. I was 17 or thereabouts. I was really proud of it and wore it around town. I am very thankful that no photos exist.  

5. Where is your favourite place to knit or crochet?

Living in Scotland, I don't get to sit outside and knit all that often but I love when the weather cooperates. I live close to the Botanic Gardens in Glasgow, so I love sitting there during the summer. I also have a weird love for knitting on the train! I travel a lot for work, so maybe that's why I love knitting on long train journeys.  

6. What is the best knitting tip you’ve picked up over the years?

"Always keep a safety pin with you". It sounds strange but a safety pin is amazingly versatile. It can function as a stitch holder, secure drop stitches, stand in for a stitch marker or help you during the sewing up process. As a result I have tonnes of safety pins scattered around my home and in all my bags!

Safety pins: don't leave home without one

7. How many projects do you have on the go at the minute?

I try to keep to three things at any one time. If I have more than three things, I get really stressed. I try to have an easy project for knit nights and late night knitting; a project that'll keep my brain challenged; and a big project that'll keep me entertained for months. Right now I have a pair of socks on the needles, an accessory design, and a garment. It's a nice mix. 

8. Could you please teach us an important knitting-related phrase in Danish?

Strikkepind! That means "knitting pin" in Danish. "Strik" meaning knitting and "pind" means .. well, *pin*! So, strikkepind. Go ahead and use that one all the time.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Ready for the summer: Sirdar Beachcomber

Sirdar has brought out a new summer cotton for this season - Beachcomber.  This 100% cotton yarn is un-mercerised and has a very soft feel to it. The yarn has been spun with a purposeful irregularity reminiscent of the thick'n'thin wools, this slub texture allows for even simple stocking stitch garments to have a unique texture with no extra effort.

To try out the yarn I decided to go for the lacy cardigan (7283) in the accompanying Sirdar Booklet 482 for Beachcomber. Not a very experienced lace knitter, I found it a good starting project with a straightforward lace panel that was repeated over 18 rows. I used locking stitch markers to keep track of the lace panels on the pins and found them very useful in making sure I was not missing any stitches of the pattern. The yarn is quite forgiving though as the texture helps easily mask small mistakes :) To really bring out the lace pattern, I am using the KnitPro Lace Blocking Mats to block the pieces before sewing up.

For knitting I used the Pony bamboo needles in 4mm.  I found they worked well with the cotton, having enough grip to keep my stitches from falling off the needle by accident (important with lace and all those yarn overs!) but still very light and warm to the hand.

The pattern is very straightforward and easy to follow and the smallest size (to fit 32/34) takes just three balls to knit! I am using shade 257 Breeze, a very nice lilac.

Post by Linda K in our Edinburgh branch.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Spring Competition Gallery

Our Spring Competition has now closed and we've chosen our winner: Lydia K with her lovely crochet daffodil.  Congratulations!

We thought you might like to see a gallery of all the other entries as they're lovely, bright and cheerful!