Sunspun Fine Yarns


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New Yarns – September

Are there nicer words than ‘new’ and ‘yarns’ side by side? We have had quite a few lovelies come in lately and thought we’d share the love.

roadtochina2You only have to look at the beautiful jewel tones of Road to China Lace to know why we’ve stocked this luxurious yarn, which captures all the qualities of its fibres: alpaca, silk, camel and cashmere. Whisper-light and warm, Road to China Lace drapes like a dream, and has the subtlest of sheens from the silk. This is one yarn that is as much a pleasure to knit with as it is to wear.

echo4_medium2Laceweight yarn so gorgeous immediately suggests lace. This Echo Flower Shawl by Jenny Johnson Johnen is inspired by Eastonian lace and has a blossom stitch body and an utterly exquisite border. (It’s also free.)

img_9496_medium2Source: Mintyfresh

Weight: Lace
Composition: 65% baby alpaca, 15% silk, 10% camel, 10% cashmere
Size: 100 g
Meterage: 600 m
Gauge: 32–40 stitches to 10cm on 2–2.75 mm needles
Care: Gentle hand wash, dry flat

Fans of Jo Sharp’s Alpaca Silk Georgette may have noticed it’s being phased out and replaced by Mulberry Silk Georgette. If you like the Alpaca Silk Georgette, this new yarn knits to a very similar tension. With wool in place of the alpaca, you will have a lighter and softer fabric.

This yarn produces the most beautiful fabric (the drape, the drape) and it’s a pleasure in the hand. As with all Jo Sharp yarns there is very good pattern support. This yarn can be used for anything your heart desires, it’s that versatile. It blocks beautifully, so if you’ve always wanted to make a cardigan like Vitamin D, here’s your chance.

5601281826_d7467c6ca6_zWeight: Sportweight/5 ply
Composition: 75% wool, 25% mulberry silk
Size: 50 g
Meterage: 165 m
Gauge: 25 stitches to 10cm on 3.25 mm needles
Care: Gentle hand wash, dry flat

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Prima Fine Kid Merino and Silk by Rosabella yarns is silk twisted with fine kid and merino. The composition yields a lofty yarn that is soft and smooth to the hand, with the most delightful halo. This yarn is not too far away from Rowan’s Kidsilk Haze, with the merino giving it just a bit more body, so it has wide application, from cardigans to hats, scarves and gloves.

Isabell Kraemer’s Jih, a raglan sweater that is worked seamlessly from the top down, will get a beautiful heathered dimension in this yarn. One of those sweaters that’s made for when you’re in the mood for miles of stocking stitch, and will get copious amounts of wear.

img_8371_medium2Weight: Sportweight/5 ply
Composition: 60% fine kid, 25% silk, 15% merino
Size: 25 g
Meterage: 72 m
Gauge: 22-24 stitches to 10cm on 3.5-3.75 mm needles
Care: Gentle hand wash, dry flat

 

 

 


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Product of the Month – September

It’s that time of the month when we roll out our Product of the Month, and September’s star is White Gum Wool (4 ply). As with all products of the month, you can buy them at 10% off (20% for Sunspun members).

White Gum Wool comes from 1600 Saxon merinos raised by the inspiring Nan Bray just south of Oatlands in Tasmania. A woman determined to do things in a different way, in a better way, Nan – a former marine physicist and an ex-city slicker to boot – combines generations-old shepherding and wool-raising skills with ground-breaking research to produce yarn that is unsurpassed in quality.

Nan keeps the sheep family groups together for their lifetimes, which means the mothers teach their babies how to graze on a wide range of native and exotic plants. Both animal and landscape are ethically cared for – that means no mules and no fertilisers, pesticides and fungicides. As a result, Nan gets more wool per animal per year, greater fleece strength and fewer interventions are needed with the sheep.

DSCN7008-e1389852362519You can catch up with Nan and stories from her farm through her blog, and do watch her story on Landline – it’s a cracker.

It would be an understatement to say knitters love and are loyal to this stunning yarn. Designers such as Tikki Knits, Sally Oakley and Evie and Essie have built patterns around White Gum yarns, and dyers such as Augustbird, Nunnaba and Gradient use White Gum as a base.

This merino is strong and really one of the softest you’ll find, which means you can wear it next to the skin. And as with all things wool, it’s comfortable in all but the most extreme of weather. Each ball of the 100 gram yarn has a generous 472 metres. And did we mention it comes in sixteen well-matched natural colours? Pictured below is the sedge colourway.

IMG_1481 (1).jpgWhite Gum 4 ply is light, oh so soft and buttery to knit with, and slips off the needles smoothly. It has the most beautiful hand – see that slight halo? Because it has lots of loft and elasticity,  you may need to block quite vigorously to open up lace projects. In stocking stitch and with smaller needles, the fabric is dense and almost velvety. (The ball band gives the tension at 28 stitches by 36 rows on 3.25 mm needles for a 10 cm square.)

This is the go-to yarn for baby wear, and luxurious shawls and shawls that drape beautifully, so use the yarn with your favourite fingering-weight patterns. Here are a few that have caught our eye.

cowl1_medium2Evie & Essie’s Sparkles Snood is a deep and light textured cowl that intersperses lace with ribbing and slipped stitches. The yarns shows off the stitch details well, making this a piece to cherish for years to come.

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Daysfull made a stunning Enkei by Kirsten Johnstone in the everlasting colourway – it’s a pop of sunny happiness. The top-down cardigan is shaped with raglan increases, then knit back and forth, finishing with that peekaboo cutout at the back. (With yarn so soft, you can expect some pilling, so get yourself a good shaver while you’re at it …)

DSC_0477_medium2Rhiannon Owens’ Gwyn Minikins is a classic cropped child’s cardigan knit seamlessly from the top down with a lace yoke and a stockinette body. It will go beautifully over a favourite dress or jeans.image-16_copy_medium2.jpg

Françoise Danoy’s Tokerau shawl marries a subtle textured stockinette body with intricate lace, and just enough complexity to hold your interest as you’re knitting. The shawl would look as stunning in a single colour as it would in two contrasting colours.

And if you’re after a challenge, there is Jared Flood’s Girasole. Originally knit in worsted-weight yarn, knitter Pam Chiang has made hers using 450 g of White Gum, adding two repeats and a wide sawtooth border for the stunner pictured below. 20151208_094240_1__medium2.jpg

Source: Pam Chiang 


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Meet the Maker – Hannah Ginn from Circus Tonic Handmade

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Here’s another first for us – a yarn trunk show! If you hang out on Instagram you may have encountered Circus Tonic Handmade’s beautiful stream, which features Hannah Ginn’s soft, delicately coloured, hand-dyed, handpainted and speckled yarns.

Hannah lives in Sydney, but on 1 September, from 10am to 1pm, she will be at the store for some seriously engrossing squish and tell. Do drop by and say hello, and to pick up some goodies for yourself. In the meantime, here’s Hannah!

Tell us a little about yourself, Hannah, and the Circus Tonic Handmade story.

IMG_0115I live in Sydney with my husband, three kids and Hector the hound. I actually grew up in many parts of Australia and in Dubai before it was the mega-city it is today. My mum is English, so we would go to the UK for holidays. I didn’t return to Australia until uni, and haven’t left since!

I trained as a molecular biologist and worked for years in a genomics centre at UNSW. With daycare fees spiralling ever upwards it became counterproductive for me to work. I decided to take a break in mid-2015, take all the kids out of care and start over. Knitting and craft was a salve or tonic for our everyday crazy, loud, circus-like household life … so Circus Tonic Handmade it was. And now, the yarn has taken over!

I was home only a few weeks when I saw I needed another major goal to keep my spirits up after such a huge life shift. I had learnt to knit in 2013 when I was expecting my first winter baby, and often spent many hours wondering how I could turn my love of all things fibre and textiles into a business. I had been a huge quilter and knitting absolutely transfixed me once I began. Once I found hand-dyed yarn I was smitten!

What were your earliest influences and yarn dreams?

I always link back to certain times and places when I’m daydreaming about yarn. I recently found out my grandmother made kilts and then remembered looking through tartan and knitted yoke samples as a kid.

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I started collecting fabrics on my travels when I was fourteen. I made scrunchies for pocket money and sold them to the cool kids at school in my lunch break!

My biggest can-do role model in terms of making is my mum. She used hand-making to survive motherhood, and made lead-light windows, sewed our clothes, grew our food, made our quilts and curtains, stencilled our rooms (eeeepppp! Lol) and has recently started a little residential upholstery school in the Southern Highlands of NSW.

Nothing is beyond her – and she actually trained as an opera singer! I remember standing under her skirt as she sang at a wedding, so it’s in the genes.

Tell us how you choose your yarn bases, and where you source them from.

I’m obsessed and I love all kinds, so my yarns are a mix of Australian and internationally sourced bases. I’m trying new ones all the time, depending on availability and even requests.

We love the bird names for your colourways, they are so inspired! How did they come about?

I’m always thinking about yarn, and while I pay attention to what’s on trend I really try to keep on my own path.

IMG_0095I based my current collection on Australian native birds as I thought that would give me a theme with plenty of scope. Some colourways are immediately recognisable while others take more artistic licence.

You have a lovely knitterly understanding of yarn and colour. How much does knitting experience inform your dyeing?

I love semi-solid tonals for garments especially as they were the types of yarns I first found as a knitter that I couldn’t resist.

IMG_0203I’m newer to speckled yarns but I love how they bring single-stitch pops to accessories. There are so many dyeing techniques to introduce speckles so it’s an ongoing education. From my former life as a scientist I’m used to taking very strict notes, experimenting and delayed gratification, so my dyeing will keep evolving.

How do you come up with the colours for an update/release? Do you work thematically, with a plan, or do you follow your nose and let serendipity take the lead?

I have sets of colourways that I feel go really well together so I tend to decide which ones will be the core of an update and then build around them. I try to come up with a couple of new colourways each update as customers love new yarn.

IMG_0255How important is social media to your business?

Instagram is centrally important to any indie dyer as it’s a great way to communicate what’s going on at HQ. I know the sorts of posts I enjoy looking at so I try to give my followers some lovely eye candy each day.

I don’t get a lot of time to knit these days and so showing my yarn knit up by talented and adventurous customers is really exciting and informative – I appreciate the sharing of project pics very much.

IMG_0279What does a day in your life look like? Do you manage to keep the kids and the dyeing business in neat compartments or does it all meld together in an organic fashion?

As business is picking up, Greg my husband is taking more and more of the weekend household and kid duties as I smash out several sixteen-hour days! As he does 55-hour weeks himself that is a huge commitment.

IMG_0084Each day I dye yarn, plot and plan, sew bags, visit my saintly post office, and do all the office jobs like photos, labels and packaging etc. We have two kids still at home during the day so we paint, ride scooters inside and generally hum along. They do watch a few too many movies, but I figure as long as I’m in the vicinity it’s OK!

IMG_0083Do you still knit a lot? And do you use other dyers’ yarns?

I love so many indie dyers! They are too numerous to mention, but in particular I love Skein, Miss Click Clack, The Uncommon Thread, Hedgehog Fibres, Baerenwolle, Madeline Tosh, The Wool Kitchen, Voolenvine Yarns, Knitsch, Spun Right Round and Skein Queen.

I am in awe of the colours available in Jamieson & Smith’s Shetland wool. I’m also a huge fan of Patons Dreamtime merino yarns and Bendigo Woollen Mills. I love them all!

IMG_0192What and which other designers, artists or creative people inspire you?

I have always been a huge fan of Gustav Klimt, and I find it amusing that I see quilting and speckles and swirls all through his paintings and portraits.

Knitwear designers I constantly find myself drawn to are Melanie Berg, Ambah O’Brian, Kristen Finlay, Wei Siew Leong and The Lace Eater, and Françoise Danoy. There are so many others – Ravelry is my oyster!

What can we look forward to in your trunk show at Sunspun?

My trunk show at Sunspun will be a lot of fun. Retailing online misses so much of the personal interaction with knitters, and I’ve never met a knitter I didn’t like!

I will bring a lot of speckled, handpainted and semi-solid tonal sock yarns. My travelling limits what I can bring, but I hope to offer something everyone will like and want to take home. My mum and I are sewing a big stack of very covetable project bags too so there should be lots of delicious items to see.

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Product of the Month – July 2016

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It feels like we’re picking all our favourites for products of the month lately, and July is no exception. Please welcome Shilasdair Luxury, which can be purchased with a 10% discount (20% for Sunspun members) all month long. We are so pleased to be the only shop in Australia to carry these exquisite beauties and treasure our ongoing association with Shilasdair.

From the Isle of Skye off the west coast of Scotland, Shilasdair is one of those yarns that carries its provenance with every skein, with a yarn palette inspired by the colours of wild Scotland and the Scottish Highlands. Traditionally dyed by Eva Lambert from natural materials such as tansy, meadowsweet, madder and indigo, and with colours such as Wild Mushroom, Autumn Leaves, Hawthorn and Foxglove, is there a yarn with more romance?

The fingering-weight (4ply) Luxury is a blend of cashmere, baby camel, angora and lambswool. Each 50 g skein carries about 200 metres, and the fabric is at its best when knit on 3 to 3.5 mm needles. Swatch, wash and assess.

The yarn can shed a little when you knit with it, and some of the colour can rub off too. If you’re using it for colourwork, Karen, who loves Shilasdair, suggests adding a little vinegar to the blocking water to help set the colour. As with all hand-dyed yarns, buy enough for your project, because the colours are often totally different from dyelot to dyelot.

Given the cashmere and angora in the blend, you can imagine how warm the fabric is. This is a yarn that blooms and softens the more you wear it, with a slight halo, so use it for making items in timeless styles that will endure and can be passed on.

We have a much admired Carpino sample instore, a classic lace jumper in Tansy Gold.

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Karyn has also made a sweet Violet Bonnet by Melissa LaBarre in A Fleece Cloud colourway for Nicole’s baby.

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Frozen Silver Sweater by Suvi Simola is one of those timeless sweaters that you will reach for time and again, with a simple textured bodice front and back, and a choice of contrast ribbing for a bit of fun.

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The pine-cone lace in this Pomme de pin cardigan will bloom beautifully in Shilasdair, and the cardigan will be very warm too, because of the yarn blends.

IMG_8601_medium2Source: Amy Christoffers

The utterly complementary colours Shilasdair comes in make them a natural candidate for colour work, from their subtle heathers to gentle variegations. Kate Davies’ Ursula Cardigan calls for Jamieson & Smith yarns, but you can use Shilasdair in its place. This cardigan is knit in the round from the bottom up, and steeks are cut for the front and arm openings – perfect for those who are looking to extend their knitting chops.

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Source: Kate Davies Designs

Túngata Cowl by Stephen West is reversible and worked in the round using three colours. Both sides are geometric, graphic and the results can be as dramatic as you want, depending on how contrasting the colours you choose are.

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The original Soumak Scarf Wrap calls for Rowan Fine Tweed, but we can see this working with different colour stories using Shilasdair. The seamless scarf is large and versatile, and the slipped stitches and colours keep the knitting interesting. Extended, this would make a fabulous blanket too.

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Finally, we cannot let a Scottish yarn slip by without featuring a hap! Montbretia is a beauty knitted in short rows, bobbles and welts, and makes good use of dramatic colour. The pattern is from The Book of Haps, which features 13 patterns by Kate Davies, Jen Arnall-Culliford and other renowned designers, which has enough patterns in it for a few years’ worth of shawls and wraps.

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Do give Shilasdair a try in July and decide for yourself what the fuss has been about!


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Kirsten Johnstone – Kei Collection Launch

As you know, at Sunspun we have a very soft spot and a great deal of affection for designer, Kirsten Johnstone, and her beautiful designs. Earlier this year we showcased many of those designs in our very first trunk show.

Kirsten is a local Melbourne gal who has made a wonderful splash on the international knitting scene. She has designed for such influential companies as Brooklyn Tweed, Quince & Co, Woolfolk, Blue Sky Alpacas, amirisu and Shibui Knits.

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We are privileged to be able to share her new mini collection for Woolfolk with you. In Kirsten’s words, “the Kei Collection (Kei is Japanese for shape) comprises four designs in Woolfolk Tynd with a unifying Drawstring Element and named after a shape to help ‘tie’ the collection together (bad pun fully intended)”. How exciting! We will be one of the first to see them! There are both accessories and garments in the collection.

Have you been in the shop and felt the exquisite Woolfolk yarns? Truly a sensual experience! The softest 100% merino yarn we have ever had in our hands – with the additional desirable qualities of being ethically and sustainably produced. Tynd is a 4ply yarn with a tight twist that creates both an elegant and lightweight fabric. The colour palette is both sophisticated and understated. A perfectly lovely marriage for Kirsten’s designs that also embody both these qualities.

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And so to the nitty gritty details:

The Kei Collection will be in the shop for you to touch, feel and try on! Kirsten will also be present in the shop to answer all your questions. At the previous trunk show she soooo enjoyed meeting you all and being able to help you with pattern and yarn choices.

The Collection: in shop Friday 8th and Saturday 9th July
Kirsten: in the shop Saturday 9th July 11.30 – 3.30pm

Additionally, Kirsten’s patterns from the Kei Collection will be available for purchase with a 10% discount (Sunspun Members are entitled their usual discount as well) for the duration of the mini launch. Annnnd, Woolfolk Tynd will also be available for 10% off during the Friday and Saturday of the collection launch. Cleverly, two of the designs use only one skein of Tynd so it is the perfect time for you to try this truly superb yarn.

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So, we hope that you will come along and touch and feel and try on and chat and enjoy the wonderful creations in Kirsten Johnstone’s new Kei Collection!

Happy ‘yarning’,
Karen.


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Yarn in Focus: Zealana Tui

Yarn in Focus: Zealana Tui

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Vital statistics
70% merino, 15% cashmere, 15% brushtail possum
100 g/111 metres
Gauge: 16 stitches = 10 cm on 5.5 mm needles
$20

Meet Zealana Tui, one of the new yarns we took on last year, alongside Zealana Air and Heron.

Tui is June’s Product of the Month, so we’re offering a 10% discount (20% for Sunspun members) on this yarn all month.

All Zealana yarns have an interesting story. Since its introduction to New Zealand by fur traders in the late nineteenth century, the non-native brushtail possum has reached staggering proportions, with commensurate damage to NZ’s native flora and fauna. (There are 4.4 million NZ people to 70 million brushtails.) Zealana yarns use brushtail possum in their yarns, which are produced responsibly and sustainably.

Tui is a bulky yarn, and part of Zealana’s Artisan series. Soft and lofty, this merino and possum yarn with a touch of cashmere is hard-wearing, so it’s perfect for big cozy sweaters or superwarm hats, scarves and cowls. You can felt Tui too, allowing for about 10 per cent shrinkage, in 60°C water and tumble-drying. Otherwise, handwash only in cold water and dry flat.

IMG_1432The yarn is robust and individual strands feel already a little felted in the skein. It skims nicely over needles (I used wooden ones), with no catches or snags.

The fabric produced is stable: the swatch evened out ever so slightly after a wash and block, but didn’t grow at all. Oh, and there’s a delicious halo on the swatch that is so beautiful. Being a lofty yarn, you can make big garments that nevertheless do not feel bulky.

This Argo cardigan has it all: a garter yoke, half-moon pockets and is knit in one piece, so there’s minimal finishing.

argo2_034__911x1024__medium2Source: Tweedysheep

The Yarnista made a most handsome, swinging version of Michele Wang’s Cabled Swing Poncho out of Tui, which shows off the cables and ribs beautifully. If you are interested in making this, do read Yarnista’s project notes, which are full of valuable, hard-won information. Her pointers on twill tape have wide application too, and will prolong the shape and life of the garment.

IMG_2209_medium2Source: The Yarnista

For warm heads, this reversible, adaptable Man Hat by Haven Ashley is a must for any knitted hat collection. The yarn will seriously show off the stitches.

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Do drop in and have a look at Tui, and take advantage of the POM to buy some to take home.

Happy winter’s knitting to you!

 


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The Second Sunday in May …

… is Mother’s Day. And yes, that is next Sunday – at least in Australia, but check if you are reading this from elsewhere, because the day of celebration varies a little around the world, and it would not be a good look if you missed it.

Whether Mother’s Day is a happy or poignant one for you, and no matter if your mum is your best friend or favourite teacher, or if you’re the favourite child or black sheep, it’s a day to quietly acknowledge or shout from the rooftops that you care.

If your mum appreciates the handmade, there is still time, if you start now, to make her something in time for next week. Here are some ideas we’ve come across.

Slippers don’t come cosier than a pair made with your fair hands. These Stippers are knit in one piece with a braid along the top, and we know that few things say ‘I love you’ better than warm feet.

stippers1_medium2Source: Ashley Knowlton

To save mum from chilly hands, take a leaf from Karen’s book and make a pair of these Qwist Mitts in one of the loveliest yarns we stock, Shilasdair Luxury. The diagonal weave pattern is interesting enough to keep you engaged, and quick enough to make the deadline. Karen changed one aspect of this well-written pattern: ‘I tried the bind-off method detailed in the pattern but it was too loose. I pulled it out and just used the ordinary, normal bind off and found this to be a much nicer edge. It is stretchy enough without being to loose and fluting.’

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Our favourite Shetland trader Gudrun Johnston has a seamless slouchy hat that is light and airy but also warm – and just in time for the southern-hemisphere winter.

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Source: Gudrun Johnston/Jared Flood

If you have a present all ready, you can have your pick of these next few projects started (it’s the thought that counts, after all) and give them to mum when ready. For a simple scarf with fluted details and the squishiness of garter, try Shellie Anderson’s M.1. We have a lovely sample instore made in Shibui’s Maai (mah-ah-ee), a DK-weight alpaca and merino mix that is utterly luxurious to wear.

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Another lovely idea is Joji Locatelli’s Three-colour Cashmere Cowl, which we also have as a sample, knit in Zealana Air. The interplay of lace, stripes and colours makes the cowl fun to make and a versatile piece, since it changes depending on whether you wear it in loose folds or slightly scrunched up under a jacket.

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For jetsetting mums, Veera Välimäki’s Study Stripe Shawl is well nigh indispensable. This was the single most useful item I packed when I went travelling last autumn; the shawl worked well at the markets in the morning, and was smart enough to go out for dinner in the evening. We have a sample in Kidsilk Haze, which is ethereally light and beautiful. Mine was in Malabrigo sock (pictured), but any fingering or sock-weight yarn would work for this.

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Consider Michyo’s Flying Squirrel a woolly hug for mum every time she wears it. This top is a doddle to make in worsted weight yarn, rather like a blanket with cuffs. If you want something that works up faster, how about this Purl Soho Sideways Garter Vest?

Source: Brooklyn Tweed (left), Purl Soho (right)

Finally, for lace lovers or shawl lovers alike, meet the Countess of Landsfeld, named in honour of Eliza Gilbert, better known as Lola Montez. This free pattern is, according to its creator Mary Ann Cunningham-Kim, ‘a celebration of shameless knitting shortcuts. The pattern is full of shortcuts . . . eight different options for making left and right slanted multiple decreases, and a simple picot cast-off that provides stretchiness and visual interest without overwhelming the rest of the lace (or the knitter)’.

countess_of_landsfeld_detail_of_back_medium2Source: Mary Ann Cunningham-Kim

So, very happy making and celebrating to you and your mum and/or the mother figures in your life.

And know that the best present you can give mum is to tell her she was right.

About everything.