Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Last Minute Christmas Projects

It’s definitely beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Don’t worry if you’ve not had time to start your Christmas knitting though: we’ve compiled a selection of quick knits (and crochet projects) for everyone on your list.

For fashionable friends and family members:

Pompom hats seem to be everywhere this year. They’re cosy, stylish, and - importantly - very quick and easy to knit. 

Budget Version
The Wendy Duo Hat & Scarf Set has an easy-to-follow pattern inside the band, and contains enough wool to make a wintry hat and scarf. This would also be a great gift for novice knitters. (£8.50 per ball)

Luxury Version
The Rowan Mohair Beanie Kit features two pairs of knitting needles and two balls of Kidsilk Haze (a beautifully soft blend of mohair and silk); enough to make the stylish, quick-knit beanie found in the Quail Studio: Mohair pattern booklet which is also included in the kit. (£25.00 per kit)

Rowan Mohair Beanie Kit

Rowan Mohair Beanie Kit

For Outdoorsy Friends and Family

You can never go wrong with the gift of handknitted socks. For a personal touch, choose a colourway that matches the recipient's favourite outfit or football team colours.

Budget Version 
Norwegian knit and crochet designers Arne & Carlos have a fantastic range of colours available in their sock yarn (£10.00 per ball). For identical socks, choose a shade from their ‘Pairfect’ range or for cosier (and quick to knit!) socks, choose a 6 ply yarn from the same range. (£12.95 per ball)


Luxury Version
We absolutely love the smooth texture and vivid colours of Rowan’s hand-painted Fine Art sock yarn. The yarn is blended from 45% wool, 25% polyamide (for strength), 20% mohair and 10% silk, making it a truly luxury sock yarn. (£15.95 per skein)

For Little Ones:

Knitted toys are a lovely, personal gift. We have plenty of different toy and animal patterns to choose from on our website.

Budget Version

Sirdar Ophelia is a wonderfully fluffy yarn that’s perfect for making teddy bears and other creatures. It’s also chunky and knits and crochets up quickly, so is perfect for last-minute gift-making! (patterns £2.80 each, yarn £3.00 per ball)

 Ophelia Patterns left to right: 2470, 2457, 2452
Luxury Version
Wendy Eider is a luxuriously tactile faux fur yarn. Soft and fluffy to the touch, toys made from Eider are beautifully warm and comforting and also knit and crochet up very quickly. (patterns £2.80 each, yarn £5.30 per ball)

Eider Patterns left to right: 6012, 5970, 5969

Post by Emily in our Edinburgh shop

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Yarns We Love: Rowan

We have some exciting news! This Friday (November 10th), we are going to be joined in our Edinburgh shop by Rowan’s own Addy Osborne.  Addy is bringing all sorts of garments, goodies, books, and yarn with her and will be doing a trunk show here in the shop to allow all of our Edinburgh customers to try out yarns from Rowan’s stunning Autumn Winter 2017/18 range.  To celebrate, we’ve got some lovely Rowan yarn and booklets to give away!

Our top prize is a pack of 10 balls of beautiful Rowan Brushed Fleece shade 260 Nook and a copy of Brushed Fleece Knits.  Two runners up will also receive a copy of the booklet.  All you need to do to take part is to get in touch and tell us what you like best about Rowan.  Send us your entry to before midnight on Friday 17th November, 2017.  Winners will be selected by Rowan.

In anticipation of the event, we chatted to staff at our Edinburgh shop and office about what they like best about Rowan.  Here’s what they said...

The quality of Rowan’s yarns is what stands out for me. As a Design Consultant, I spend a lot of my day advising people on their knitting and crochet projects. I know that the high content of natural fibres in Rowan's yarns will always give a beautiful finish to a project.

What's good about Rowan? They make me want to live in a lighthouse with a sheepdog and wear cable knit jumpers all the time.

Cookie by Sarah Hatton, Rowan Magazine 60

I like the huge range of shades and textures available in Rowan yarns, and the timeless nature of the beautiful, cosy patterns in the Rowan Magazines.

Drop in to our Edinburgh shop (19 Howe Street, Edinburgh) between 2.30pm and 3.30pm on Friday 10th November to sample some beautiful winter yarns and be inspired for your next knit or crochet project.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

McAree Knit Night Competition

To celebrate our McAree Festival Knit Night we're teaming up with Rowan Yarns to hold another Instagram photo competition!  Our prize is 12 balls of the luxurious Alpaca Soft DK, a copy of the Timeless DK Collection, and a copy of the Timeless Worsted Collection, a prize worth almost £100.

In order to take part, you will need to come and join us in our Edinburgh shop for our Knit Night on the evening of Thursday 17th August 2017.  Take a picture in the shop and upload it to Instagram with the hashtag #McAreeKnitNight. Hopefully you'll find lots of things to inspire your creativity. The winning photo will be chosen by the staff at McAree Brothers and Rowan Yarns. Don't forget to follow us (@mcadirect) so that we can notify you if you win!

Our competition will run from 5pm on Thursday 17th August 2017, when the Knit Night starts. You will have until midnight on Sunday 20th August to post your images on Instagram.

By entering our competition, you are agreeing to a complete release of Instagram and acknowledging that this promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Instagram, or any other social media used throughout the contest.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Knitting at the Edinburgh Fringe

A trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival doesn’t have to mean abandoning your knitting and crochet for duration of stay.  There’s plenty of yarn-related sights and shows to take in this summer, and we’ve rounded up some of our favourites for you:

Street Performance: Tartan Heather

As you wander down The Royal Mile deciding which show to see next, keep an eye out for Tartan Heather.  Keen to keep the art of spinning and tartan-weaving alive in Scotland, Tartan Heather can be found beneath the statue of Adam Smith, giving demonstrations of traditional spinning techniques and occasionally allowing children and well-behaved adults to have a go at using a spinning wheel.  

Picture by Iain Muirhead for Humans of the Fringe  FREE/£1 to take photos

New Theatre, Comedy: Me, As A Penguin

Tom Wells’ critically acclaimed 2010 play, Me, As A Penguin, is being brought to the Fringe by the Exeter University Theatre Company and is the perfect show for knitters and comedy fans, with moments of tension surreally interrupted by voiceovers from a mysterious knitting tutorial.  The play follows the misadventures of Stitch, an avid young knitter, as he attempts to impress his new boyfriend, eventually culminating in the theft of a penguin from a local aquarium…

£8-10pp August 14th - 19th, 4.10pm, theSpace on the Mile (venue 39)

Classic Theatre: Shakespeare on the Sofa

Finally, a show you can bring your knitting to! Fresh from their Edinburgh production of avid knitter Virginia Woolf’s ‘Orlando’ earlier this year, Some Kind of Theatre are returning to Fringe venues, offices, care homes, and living rooms across the city with their Shakespeare on the Sofa project.  Their swashbuckling, pirate-themed production of ‘Julius Caesar’ can be brought into almost any venue, and so can be booked to perform in your home or at your regular knitting meet-up! (Directed by McAree Brothers staff member, Emily)

Prices start from £6pp. Throughout August.

Social: McAree Festival Knit Night

If you fancy an escape from the hubbub of the Royal Mile, bring your knitting and crochet works-in-progress along to our Festival Knit Night.  We’ll be teaming up with our neighbours, the cafe and art gallery Bon Papillon, to host a good old-fashioned ‘knit and natter’ for locals and performers alike (complete with a pin board for flyers for shows).  Refreshments will be provided, and we’ll be handing out ‘Fringe Survival Kit’ goody-bags, complete with a Fringe-inspired pattern, to the first 30 people to arrive!

KNIT NIGHT IMAGE with background.jpg
FREE entry

(Be sure to also check out our theatrical window display while you’re here: it’s inspired by McAree staff member and Cat-Like Tread director Sarah’s production of Gilbert & Sullivan’s ‘The Sorcerer’. £10-12pp, August 21st - 27th, Paradise in Augustine’s (venue 152),

Gallery: Dovecot Studio

Just a stone’s throw from the Royal Mile, Dovecot Studio features tapestries and crafts from international artists and is home to a fascinating exhibition on the history of weaving as well as a tapestry studio in which Dovecot apprentices learn this ancient, woolly, and beautiful art form.  A visit to this fascinating gallery is a must for anyone with an interest in traditional craft forms.  Dovecot’s ‘Daughters of Penelope’ exhibition, which explores the story of women’s work in both the textile industry and in textile art, runs from July 20th 2017 to January 20th 2018.

Photo by Shannon Tofts, Tripadvisor. FREE entry

Gallery & Shop open Monday-Saturday, 10.30am-5.30pm. Tapestry Studio Viewing Balcony open Saturdays, 10.30am - 5.30pm, or by appointment only.

If you have any tips on other knitting and crochet related events at the Fringe, we’d love to hear from you - please tweet us (@McAdirect) or get in touch via our Facebook page. Finally, if you’re travelling by plane to Edinburgh this August, be sure to check out Leah’s blog post on travel knitting and Heather's blog post on knitting on planes for some great advice about knitting on-the-go.

Post by Emily in our Edinburgh shop

Friday, 7 July 2017

Yarn Art

Dave Cole, Fiberglass Teddy Bear (2003). Photo by David Cole

I admit it: I'm a complete art geek.  When I first started working at McAree Brothers last September, I was ridiculously excited when I first discovered Adriafil's art-inspired KnitCol yarn, and even more so when I learnt from Heather's Arne & Carlos blog post that each of the colourways in Arne and Carlos’ Regia 4 Ply Design Line sock yarn is inspired by different Edvard Munch paintings.  In short, I think the idea of combining knitting and art is just wonderful, and so I’ve been so happy to find that there’s a large number of modern artists across the world who are using yarn within their work. Here’s a little bit about just three of them:

Dave Cole
New York-based artist Dave Cole often knits with unusual materials.  His portfolio includes a 30’ x 20’ American flag (The Knitting Machine, 2005), knitted by giant needles mounted on cranes and industrial equipment; enormous teddy bears knit from lead ribbon and fibreglass; and a blanket made from electrical cables (Electric Blanket, 1998).  Cole's work “crosses conceptual craft and political assemblage” (Karen Kurczynski, ‘Art Papers’, Nov/Dec 2008 [1]), and his eerie, larger-than-life reimagining of everyday objects and concepts is often interpreted as a “criticism of industry, patriotism” and the increasing mechanism of daily life (Sarah Claypole, ‘Dave Cole: Political Fine Art Crafting’, 2011 [2])

Photo by Mass MoCA from

Robere Mertens
Sound designer and artist Robere Mertens creates huge wooly, post-apocalyptic sculpture pieces in response to sound and movement: for his installation, Going Green which was created inside a train carriage for the Art on Track exhibition (2008), Mertens crocheted vast nets and swathes of fabric, crocheting “in different directions based on different audio cues”. The nature-inspired, organic shapes Mertens created provided striking contrast to the industrial interior of the train carriage and the work proved incredibly popular and has subsequently been widely exhibited at gallery and public buildings including The Flat Iron Building, ArtWorks, and the Winnipeg Folk Festival.

Around 3am on Christmas Eve of 2010, Polish-born artist Olek (Agata Oleksia) crept up to the iconic Charging Bull (1989) statue on Wall Street, sewing needles and crochet hooks in hand, and covered the cast iron statue in a neon purple and pink crocheted suit.  Her addition to the statue drew praise and amusement along with fierce criticism, and certainly got people talking about graffiti, knitting, and crochet and their place within fine art.  The installation, Projet B was removed later that day but still continues to draw commentary even now: Olek has stated that her intention was to pay homage to Wall Street Bull’s creator, Arturo di Modica, who originally installed Charging Bull without permission from the local authories, however her covering of di Modica’s statue has also been interpreted as criticism of the perceived hyper-masculine culture in Wall Street or an attack on western capitalist ideology.

Photo from

Inspired to find out more about artists who use yarn and textiles as their medium?  Textile Artist is a great resource for interviews, reviews, and articles from the textile art community.  If you’re an artist who uses yarn in their work, we’d love to hear from you about what inspires you.  Give us a shout on Facebook or Twitter or get in touch using the comments section below.

Post  by Emily in our Edinburgh shop

Friday, 9 June 2017

Yarns We Love: Wendy Merino Chunky

Yesterday in our Edinburgh store we had not one, not two, but three different customers coming in to get yarn to start their Christmas knitting!  I admire their organisation, but I have to confess that I often find myself leaving a lot of my Christmas knitting to the last minute, which is why I've become a huge fan of Wendy Merino Chunky for knitting gloves, scarves and other quick gifts and accessories.  With a gauge of 14 sts to 19 rows, it knits up really quickly compared to its Double Knit and 4 Ply cousins, Wendy Merino DK and Wendy Merino 4 Ply: it takes just a few hours to knit up a pair of these simple, cabled handwarmers which make a great stocking filler or last-minute gift. 

My mum's hardwarmers, left, pictured in shade 2477 Soot. My pair, right, pictured in 2481 Ivy.  Photographing your own hands is one of the stranger aspects of working in a knitting shop

Meanwhile the yarn's 100% merino content makes it soft to the touch and gentle on most people's skin so there's no risk of knitting something that's going to irritate the wearer's skin.  It's even machine washable at 30 degrees so is great for baby patterns like these.  Plus, its fibres are fairly loosely spun, allowing it to trap plenty of air and keep the wearer warm and cosy all winter (or all summer if the cold, rainy weather continues...).

Perhaps most importantly of all, Wendy Merino Chunky also comes in a fantastic range of bright and more subtle colours, so is a real crowd-pleaser.  This beautiful Nordic neckwarmer would make a lovely gift knit up in the recipient's favourite colours.

So there you have it: a cosy, colourful yarn that knits up in no time at all.  Perhaps this year, if I'm feeling organised, I'll knit my nephew one of these sheep hats in Wendy Merino Chunky and Eider so I can start getting him interested in all things wool-related.

PS:  Prefer crochet to knitting?  Never fear! These fun crocheted slippers should crochet up in no time at all. 

Post by Emily in our Edinburgh shop

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Knitting & Stitching Show Competition

Our latest competition will take place at the Knitting and Stitching Show in Edinburgh! We’ve teamed up with Rowan Yarns to run an Instagram photo contest and have 20 balls of the fabulous Softyak DK and a copy of the Softyak Collection, a prize worth £160, up for grabs.

In order to take part you will need to visit our McAree Brothers stand at the event. You can find us at D20/D29. Take a picture there and upload it to Instagram with the hashtag #McAreeRowanKnitnStitch. Be creative! We will be exhibiting lots of beautiful yarns and samples including work by Martin Storey and Kaffe Fassett so you should have lots of inspiration. The winning photo will be chosen by the staff at McAree Brothers and Rowan Yarns. Don’t forget to follow us (@mcadirect) so that we can notify you if you win!

Our competition will run from 10am on Thursday 27th April 2017, when the Knitting and Stitching Show Edinburgh opens its doors. In order to qualify, the photos must be taken at the McAree Brothers stand (D20/D29). The Knitting and Stitching Show closes its doors at 5pm on Sunday 30th April 2017, but you have until midnight that night to post your images on Instagram.

By entering our competition, you are agreeing to a complete release of Instagram and acknowledging that this promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Instagram, or any other social media used throughout the contest.

Monday, 3 April 2017

What's on the Sock Needles?


Socks in Progress

Here at McA, there’s always at least one pair of socks on the go. Portable projects that require less than 100g of yarn, they’re the perfect side gig to a ‘main’ knitting project.


The purrfect sock patten for using up partial balls of sock yarn

Susan H is currently making a pair of Yin Yang Kitty Ankle Socks (free pattern via Ravelry: using Regia 4 Ply in shades 2066 Black and 2143 Linen Marl. She’s using KnitPro Symphonie double pointed needles, and would never be without her trusty row counter. According to Susan, “The Symphonie needles are beautiful to work with - they’re very smooth and the yarn slips along!”


Sock number two: under way

My (Heather’s) socks are a pair knitted from my go-to sock pattern: Regia leaflet 504 (free on our website: The yarn is Regia 4 Ply Design Line by Arne & Carlos, and the shade is 3657 Summer Night. This pair has been on the go for quite a while, as they have been living in the shop as my emergency knitting project in case I forget to bring something from home to knit on my lunch break. I’m in no real hurry to finish them but, when I do, I’ll have a lovely new pair of socks to wear!


I’m knitting with KnitPro Zing DPNs in 2.5mm. At 15cm, they’re shorter than my usual sock needles, so I’ve been using a DPN tube to keep the stitches safe whenever I’m not knitting them. These tubes have a slot up the side for the sock to come out, and a cap for the end, to ensure that the stitches don’t trip off either end of the short needles.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Easy Thrummed Mittens

My favourite new technique of the last year has been learning how to knit with thrums. At the minute, I’m just finishing off a pair of thrummed mittens and they are hands down (!) the cosiest things I have ever knitted.

The inside of the mitten feels soft and fluffy like a sheep!

Thrummed mittens are traditionally knitted in the colder parts of Canada, but they are certainly handy during the chilly half of the Scottish calendar. They are also really straightforward to make. I used a free pattern by Debi Wilbur, called Easy Mittens with Thrums (available through Ravelry) and knitted the pair from one ball of Rowan Pure Wool Superwash Worsted shade 121 Morello. For the thrums, I used some unspun merino tops from my stash, but you could totally get enough thrums for a pair of mittens out of one packet of Clover Felting Wool. One of the most fun parts of this project was deciding which colours to put together - I decided to go for two plain shades, but I’ve seen thrummed projects using multi coloured thrums and they look incredible!

A nice big pile of pre-made thrums

To make a thrum, you will need to pull a length of your felting wool (approximately 15 to 20cm in length), and then pull thin pieces off the side, up to about 5mm wide. Fold this length into a loop. Pinch it together in the middle, then roll your fingers together, so that it stays in an 8 shape.

Pull the thrum through the stitch, along with the working yarn

When it comes to knitting a ‘thrum stitch’, simply lay a thrum across your right-hand needle, just next to the working yarn, and draw it through the stitch, along with the working yarn.

The thrum and the stitch are knitted together as one

On the next round, you will knit the thrum and the stitch together as one (effectively a k2tog).

All the thrum guides I’ve read have pointed out that it is absolutely worth making a lot of thrums at the beginning, so that you don’t have to keep pausing your knitting to make them. This seems like good advice to me - I think I used around 180 thrums per mitten!

Completed Mittens :)

Thrummed mittens were a quick and satisfying project to make - and they're sure to keep my friend's hands warm and toasty whenever she wears them.