I am excited, truly excited and cannot wait to get home. Yesterday, my latest yarn order from Kemp's Wool Shop arrived and I have to admit, I ordered a little too much... and, yes, I have a guilty conscience. This is partially offset by the warm, fuzzy feeling I get every time I look at the yarn though.
According to their homepage, E.Kemp have been selling wool, patterns and knitting yarns in the North-East of England since 1947 and they "aim to supply [their] customers with quality branded wool and knitting products at the most competetive prices."
The Website and the Range
The website itself is straightforward and there is nothing particularly stylish about its appearance. Kemp's stock most of the staple yarn brands well known to the British knitter. Amongst others, you will find Sirdar, Patons, Wendy, Twilley's, Debbie Bliss and Rowan. If you are looking for something more exotic, such as US brands or smaller producers, Kemp's selection will probably bore you. The same applies to the accessories on sale: no beads, a fair selection of needles (both bamboo and metal) and two pages full of the most uninspiring buttons you could imagine. Sounds all a bit disappointing, doesn't it?
Well, if you manage to look beyond the above - mentioned negatives, Kemp's is anything but a disappointment. Having trawled through quite a number of online yarn shops over the last few months, Kemp's come out on top as regards their pricing - every time, without fail. So, if you see a yarn you like the look of somewhere else, it makes sense to check out whether Kemp's have got it in stock, as it might be cheaper. This applies to all yarns and I have found that the majority of the yarns are priced quite considerably below the recommended retail price.
I tend to regularly visit the clearance wool section, which, in my humble opinion, constitutes the most impressive part of the shop. If a yarn is discounted here, we are talking big discounts. I managed to pick up Rowan Bamboo Soft for £1.79 (50g) and Rowan Kid Silk Aura for £3.19 (25g).
As with all online outlets you have to take shipping into consideration. Kemp's do not rely on Royal Mail, instead they use a courier. Postage depends on weight and the postal zone you have your order delivered to. Unfortunately, Kemp's do not offer free delivery on orders over a certain amount, but if you order between 1,5kg and 5kg of wool and happen to live in postal zone zero (most of the UK), your delivery will cost you just £5.00. Delivery is usually rather swift. I placed my last order on Thursday and received my yarns by Monday. The only downside is that you are unable to track your order online, and if you have a query regarding the delivery, you will have to phone Kemp's as the courier details are usually not divulged.
All in all, Kemp's is a hidden gem. It's a no - thrills online outlet, that delivers where it matters most : on price. And this is after all exactly what Kemp's promise their customers.
If you fancy having a look at the shop yourself, please find the link below. (Please note, I am not affiliated to Kemp's and just share my enthusiasm for the shop and its bargains with fellow knitters / crocheters.)
Kemps Wool Shop Web's best value quality knitting and crochet yarns & patterns.
I am not sure whether the photo does it justice, as this was taken last night in fairly bad light. So far, I am happy with the outcome. Knitted with quite a bulky, textured yarn (70% Acrylic / 30% Cotton), the shawl has acquired a somewhat interesting texture, which almost has the appearance of a cabled pattern. I wonder to which degree this will be altered after the blocking is finished.
This brings me to another subject, I don't have the right blocking equipment at home. In fact, I have no proper blocking equipment at home and this project definitely requires blocking. I will either have to buy blocking pins or look around for some home - made alternatives. We shall see...
I haven't nearly progressed as much as I wanted to in respect of the shawl. I can excuse this partly as I was occupied with another side project: unravelling my first sweater and recycling the yarn. I didn't realise how time-consuming this was going to be, but all good fun and a post on the matter will follow shortly.
...the Highs and Lows of my Weekend Lace Knitting Quest
Sitting on the bus late Friday evening after work, I thought about my weekend knitting. I have a habit of starting new projects during the weekend, as I am able to source patterns and I have enough time to engage in all the preparatory work (choosing yarn, knitting swatches etc.). During the week, I like to return to the project, pick up the needles and simply enjoy the process.
As of late and in my quest to find new challenges, I got increasingly attracted to lace knitting. Once I arrived home and after saying "hello" to the cats, I started to sift through my pattern library and dug out Susan Pierce Lawrence's scarf pattern for "BranchingOut", which was featured in Knitty's spring 2005 edition.
Susan's design, though relatively straightforward, incorporates the most common increases and decreases the lace knitter is likely to encounter. Once you have gotten to grips with these, you will have gained confidence and are likely to master more complex lace patterns.
To have a look at the scarf, please click on the the link to Knitty below:
That it looked like the ideal project for the beginner lace knitter, is exactly what I thought. I started a trial with some cheap acrylic yarn. Owing to the yarn, my swatch didn't look great, but I wasn't prepared to waste posh(er) yarn during the first stages of my lace experiment.
After an hour or so, it clicked and I really got going. Mastering the stitch sequence wasn't all too hard and I went to bed with a great sense of achievement. sl2-k1-p2sso isn't scaring me anymore! Result.
I continued my lace experiment on Saturday, sorting through my stash and trying to locate a yarn that was going to be suitable, but I was in the end unable to find anything...I am sure a lot of knitters must be familiar with this scenario. You want to knit a pattern, you have a huge stash and not a single resident yarn is up to the job or would do the pattern justice. Oh, it is so frustrating!!! Friday's euphoria was followed by complete and utter frustration on Saturday.
Adamant that at least one yarn in my stash might be suitable for lace knitting, I decided to go on another pattern search and finally I succeeded. By now it was Sunday morning and I was close to giving up, when I remembered a pattern by designer Susanna IC - http://artqualia.com/. The pattern is called "Meandering Vines" (http://artqualia.com/patterns%205.html) and Susanna states in her introduction to the pattern that it's possible to knit the stole with just about any yarn, provided suitable needles are chosen.
It has to be said that Susanna's "Meandering Vines" is far less intricate than "Branching Out", but by now I just wanted to knit and get a project onto my needles.
I decided to trust Susanna and started a trial swatch with some of my Paton's Vintage (30% cotton and 70% Acrylic). I originally bought it in bulk from Kemp's as it was an absolute steal at £0.59, but never quite succeeded in finding a suitable pattern for it.
I am pleased to report that after Saturday's ordeal, Sunday turned out to be a success. Meandering Vines (in Patons Vintage - Burnished) is now firmly installed on my needles and I can return to my new project over the next few evenings. It is easy to memorise the pattern and I am anticipating a relaxed and enjoyable knit. Once I have used my stash of Paton's Vintage, I will go on a hunt for yarns to be used when knitting Susan Pierce Lawrence's "Branching Out".
For all those who wish to have a little venture into lace knitting, I strongly recommend you have a look at Susanna IC's website: http://artqualia.com/. There you will find Meandering Vines, a pattern every beginner can knit with virtually any yarn, alongside various other (sometimes free) lace patterns. It will be worth a visit...or maybe two!
Amongst her free patterns are the (by now) famous "Urchin" beret, which was featured in Knitty's Fall 2007 issue and the garter stitch mittens (both are available here: http://ysolda.com/patterns/patterns/ ).
Even though I don't think that there are many knitters left, who haven't yet knitted one or the other, I urge anyone, who hasn't, to give Ysolda's patterns a try. If there is such a thing as "getting addicted to a pattern", then Urchin had that effect on me.
I am sure I speak for many others, who feel the same.
All in all, I have knitted 4 Urchins so far, and I am sure there will be more...