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Friday, 17 February 2012

Guest Blog Post by Martine from iMake: Toft Alpaca Yarn & Book Review

Today we're pleased to bring you a guest blog post by Martine from iMake. She was very keen to cast on in our yarn having already fallen for some of our more 'fluffy' products. Fans of her blog we were quick to send her off a Toft Pattern Book and 100g of our finest baby alpaca yarn. Barely a week later and she was done! Here's her review of knitting the Beginner Beret.

Ever since I discovered the Toft Alpaca Shop at Knit Nation last year, I have been a bit of a fan. They had a fantastic stall at the event and I loved everything about it… their beautiful alpaca yarns, the under-stated, natural colourways, their over-sized buttons, their pompoms and, well, their sheer Britishness!

So when the lovely ladies from Toft asked me to review some of their yarn, as well as their first ever pattern book (Toft Pattern Book 1) I was absolutely thrilled.

I decided to knit their Beginner Beret, featured on page 26 of the book, and for this I used 2 50g balls of Toft’s Baby Alpaca Double Knit yarn in a lovely warm shade of brown. The yarn did not disappoint. It was an absolute pleasure to knit with; it was beautifully soft, yet it had a reassuring strength to it. I used the yarn held double to create an aran weight yarn. Despite being a fairly experienced knitter, this is not something I’d ever done before, but it was remarkably easy and created a lovely texture and stitch definition. The yarn comes in a variety of natural colourways and I can honestly say that I’d wear every single one of them!

The beret is knitted flat in a simple rib, followed by double moss stitch and then stocking stitch with carefully placed decreases. I knitted the beret over just 2 evenings and I was delighted with the finished item. It’s the perfect size, it’s lovely and warm and it has a nice slouch to it. Normally I’d knit a hat in the round, but because the pattern is aimed at beginners, it’s knitted flat and seamed. This worried me a little as my seaming isn’t brilliant, however the pattern is very cleverly written and you really don’t notice the seam at all.

This is a hat that I am going to get a great deal of wear out of over the coming months, particularly if this chilly weather continues.

The pattern book is perfectly sized for slipping into your work-in-progress project bag. There is plenty of fascinating information about alpacas in the UK, shearing and spinning. I loved this element of the book, along with the cute alpaca photos. There are a few pages about knitting techniques, but this is not overdone (as it can be in some pattern books).

The pattern designs are simple but stylish and the finished items have been photographed
elegantly. There is a good mix of patterns in the book, I’d say more accessories than garments, which suits me very well as I am a knitter with a short attention span. The next pattern in my Ravelry queue will probably be the Bulb Bag; a lovely felted bag complete with over-sized, wooden Toft button or toggle. I am also rather keen on the Trinity Legwarmers and Moss Stitch Snood. Actually, I rather like the Bead Necklace too… I think I am going to be busy!

When I write a review, I am always completely honest (hmmmm… that is probably why I don’t get asked to write reviews very often!) I always try to find an ‘area for improvement’ (it’s the teacher in me) but I am struggling a little bit here. If I was being super-critical, I’d say that there were a few rows in the Beginner Beret pattern that could have benefited from the insertion of brackets, just to make the instructions perfectly clear to a beginner.
But this really is a minor point.

I loved the pattern book and I adored the yarn and I will definitely be back for more. It looks like my yarn diet is officially over!

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