Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Changes to Pattern Sales on Ravelry 2015

You may be aware of changes to EU VAT tax legislation coming into effect in the New Year that affect digital sales in the EU. (If you want to know more, EU VAT Action is the best place to find up-to-date information at the moment.)

So what's going on?

I wrote about the new EU VAT laws for digital products and services in a previous post and, in short, this legislation is causing many issues for small businesses due to the added administrative burden, not to mention the inability to comply for technical reasons in many cases. Because the legislation did not take into account or even inform the many small businesses and sole traders that exist, it makes it impossible or, at the very least too cumbersome, for some to comply. Also, it affects everyone worldwide in one way or another since we all buy and sell globally across borders. 

How does this affect me as a buyer?

It depends on the seller, really. Some knitting pattern designers will stop selling, others will put their prices up to reflect the additional admin involved in complying with the new rules, and others will find ways to stay in business somehow. You may see price increases or products being available only to certain countries unless there is a change in legislation (which many of us are campaigning for).

I'm on Ravelry. How do I buy your patterns?

Having been surprised by the new legislation as much as many of us, Ravelry have worked incredibly hard to make it possible for designers to stay on the site to sell our patterns. (Because Ravelry are awesome like that.) If you are a member, read their announcement here about what will change when you buy your patterns from tomorrow onwards.

You will be able to buy my patterns on Ravelry as before. Nothing changes for you as a UK or non-EU customer. However, if you are a buyer from another EU country, you will be automatically directed to with whom Ravelry has partnered up and where you will need to open an account to make a purchase. Your purchased pattern will then appear in your Ravelry library. You can also buy my patterns directly on LoveKnitting as I have imported them all (just do a search for Abso-knitting-lutely on the site).

I want to help. What can I do?

If you would like to help designers (and a whole host of other sellers of digital products and services), here is a list of things you can do to make a difference.

Thank you and, despite all this sudden upheaval, have a happy and healthy New Year!


Monday, 29 December 2014

A Small Collection of Spindles

It's the end of a year full of knitting and spinning adventures. While I did most of my spinning during the Tour de Fleece, it was all done on the wheel that I use far more often than my spindles. That said, I do love my spindles, but more physical effort goes into them than when I spin on a wheel.

I now have five spindles, each of which has its own advantages. I bought my first two spindles in August 2011 at Fibre Fest. It was my first ever wool fair and I loved it! It is still my favourite even though it never took place again, which is a real shame. The spindle I chose first of all was a tiny one made from purpleheart, weighing only 10 g. I had seen a friend from knit club use it before and was fascinated by its dainty size. This spindle is made in the Netherlands by Spintollen and is also sold by MandaCrafts from whom I purchased it.

I still love it and if I had to choose, it might actually be my most favourite of all, even though it is a very difficult choice. I started spinning on it even before I left Fibre Fest that day! A short time later I even made a video of my early spinning attempts.

The second spindle, also made from purpleheart, is from the same maker and seller, bought at the same event. It is much larger than the first, however, which makes it difficult for me to use. It is apparently a good size for beginners, but I find it hard to use probably because I started out with the dainty spindle. Still, I love the look of it, which is the only reason I haven't sold it. While I cannot spin well on it because I prefer to make very fine yarn, I do use it for plying. It works great that way.

And with these two purchases I was hooked on spinning. It took a long time till I bought another spindle, but I knew that I wanted to try out supported spinning sometime. At around that time I became aware of IST Crafts who make a variety of different spindles in a choice of wood. They are worth every Penny. In the end I got lucky and came across someone selling their Russian spindle made from Mexican rosewood on Ravelry.

The price was reasonable and I still enjoy spinning with it. It is quite a lot bigger than I expected and unfortunately the top end is a little bent to one side so that the spindle wobbles a little when in use. That does bother me a bit, but since I bought it for a good price and second hand, I'm okay with it. In order to use the spindle, it is best to have a spinning bowl of some kind. At first I made do with a little dip bowl, but more recently I found a pretty handmade bowl from the Bath Artisan Market that works nicely.

After three spindles, I was sure I had enough of them and wasn't looking for any new ones anymore. So when I visited Wonderwool in in 2012 and headed straight to MandaCrafts again for some fibre, I really did not expect to be so tempted by her new African bead spindles. They were only £10 so, of course, I had to get one.

The clay bead isn't glued on, but simply pushed onto the shaft where it stays. It spins well, too, and it is quite fast, which I like. I rarely use it as it is quite small and, sadly, the bead did fall of last time I used it. I may well glue it on at some point so it doesn't happen again. For now I have simply pushed it back into place. It is a nice little thing to have and good if you want to try supported spinning for the first time because it is inexpensive, but spins well.

I made my final spindle purchase only recently this year. This one, too, is an IST Crafts spindle like my Russian spindle. This was a spindle I wanted specifically because it is a Turkish one, a kind I hadn't tried before. Also, at a length of only 14 cm it is very tiny and light, similar to my first spindle. I agonised over the choice of wood because I just couldn't decide, but I am extremely happy with the English bog oak I chose. It is old with a history and it looks beautiful.

Spinning with this Turkish spindle is a slow and calming process. You just can't rush it. I tend to wind a cop of spun singles onto the shaft and when I have enough I finally wind the yarn into the tortoise shape you see above. It is not only a beautiful way to do it, but it saves you winding your singles into a ball because you can simply detach the parts of the spindle and remove them without disturbing the yarn.

What I have found is that I enjoy spindle spinning only when I want to do something relaxing. I spin for pleasure when I use spindles rather than for the result. If I want to spin something because I am keen on the resulting yarn, I tend to use my spinning wheel instead, which is faster and less physically demanding.

So what will 2015 bring? I hope I will get to make a dent in my fibre stash again, whether with the help of the wheel or my spindles. I am sure I will discover new indie dyers who make wonderful hand-dyed spinning fibre and let's just hope I do not come across another tempting spindle!

Whatever your plans for 2015, I hope you have a great New Year and stay safe and healthy. Here's to another year of woolly goodness!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Yarn Stories Shade Card

Merry Christmas! I hope you are all too busy today to read my blog and are enjoying the festivities. If you do not celebrate Christmas, I wish you a good holiday season. Stay warm, everyone! Fittingly, today's post is related to this festive season, too.

Shortly before they opened, I became aware of Yarn Stories on Twitter. They offer fine merino and alpaca yarns in a range of colours and weights spun in a Yorkshire mill. They have been able to attract a number of known designers such as Amanda Crawford, Jane Crowfoot and Eline Oftedal, just to name a few.

Throughout December, Yarn Stories engaged its social media followers with an Advent calendar giveaway that I took part in as well. While I didn't win one of the coveted yarns, I did win a shade card that displays all the colours of their fine merino and baby alpaca DK.

While I find it difficult to judge the quality and feel of a yarn from a shade card, it is very useful to see the available colours. For me to want to knit with this yarn, there would need to be more colours, however. There is only one colour that I can see myself wearing if I made a garment in a single colourway. There is a fairisle jumper I want to knit one day, but one of the things that is stopping me is that there are never enough shades available in any one yarn. I have the same issue with Yarn Stories, although, when pushed, I might find substitutes among existing colours.

All in all, though, I think that Yarn Stories does have a decent variety for most things. I am just extremely picky! I am not a fan of alpaca, but the pure merino yarns would be interesting to try.

Have you used any of Yarn Stories' yarn? What is your impression?

Friday, 19 December 2014

Interested In Arm-Knitting? This Is How You Do It

Every month, one of the top viewed posts here on my blog is the one about my only arm-knitting project. It was something I tried on a whim and there was no real information available about it at the time in the form of instructional videos, so I couldn't add any. It bothered me ever since that I could not expand on the technique and provide some visual material for you.

Luckily, there is much more information out there now, including this video for arm-knitting by Simply Maggie. I love the idea of such a chunky blanket!

 If you prefer a smaller project, take a look at this video for a striped infinity scarf by Audra Kurz.

The technique is very intuitive (I figured it out for myself in the process when I made my own cowl this way) and the most difficult part was figuring out how to neatly sew the ends together. I like this video because it also shows you how to use more than just one colour.

Have you tried your hand at arm-knitting? If you haven't, are you intrigued by it?

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Countess Ablaze: Nerds Prefer Their Rainbows Darker

More yarn! I have been very good this year and bought hardly any yarn, so I am not feeling too guilty about splurging on this beautiful hand-dyed skein from Countess Ablaze. Nerds Prefer Their Rainbows Darker is a colourway I have been wanting for some time so I finally took the plunge and bought it during a free-postage weekend. That said, all prices, including postage, is reasonable and I recommend this indie dyer to those who love hand-dyed wool. I paid £15 for this, which is a great price.

I first came across Countess Ablaze on Etsy shortly before she closed her shop there. At the time, I fell in love with another colourway entirely: Frenzy in the Tia Merino base yarn. Next time I will definitely get myself some of that!

This Nerds Prefer Their Rainbows Darker is wonderfully soft and I love the colours. It also contains silver stellina for that extra sparkle, so it is no wonder I couldn't resist. The yarn base is called Viscount of Spark due to the sparkle, and it also contains 75% merino wool and 20% nylon. Excellent for socks, but the yarn is so wonderful that I am worried about knitting socks from it. I don't want to damage it! However, the yarn is machine washable, so I am probably worrying about nothing. The skein weighs 100 grams and gives you 400 metres of yarny goodness.

I am glad I bought it! I took a calculated risk and went for it after only hearing good things about Countess Ablaze yarns. I can tell it will be a pleasure to knit and can't wait.

Have you tried her yarns, too? What do you think? What other indie yarn dyers do you recommend?

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The Knitting Swede: Hocus Pocus Self-striping Sock Yarn

This is a Halloween treat if ever there was one! I know, I know. It is nearly Christmas and I am writing about Halloween. That's because I was late and discovered this yarn only shortly before it sold out on The Knitting Swede's Etsy shop around October 31. I fell in love with it as soon as I saw the photos and I wished I had bought it sooner. Hoping there would be more to come - and completely forgetting that this was a Halloween special - I contacted Tanja, the dyer, if she was making any more of her Hocus Pocus colourway. She was so kind as to dye me a skein especially and what can I say: I love it!
The colours are even more beautiful than on Tanja's pictures and I am so happy with them that I can't wait to knit myself a pair of socks. The yarn is dyed in such a way that it will knit up as 3 rows black, 7 rows green, 3 rows black and 7 rows purple. I am thinking about designing a pattern that will have lace in the green and purple sections only, but in the end I might simply knit plain socks because I love the colours so much. As soon as I get knitting, I'll post to let you know what I've decided. (This may take some time because of my current knitting project, Viajante. It is the largest piece of knitting I have ever worked on in one go so I have no idea how long it will take to finish.)
This is my first hank of self-striping yarn. Normally, I am not a fan of it unless the colours really appeal to me, and this is one of the very rare times I love it. The yarn consists of 75% superwash BFL and 25% nylon and comes to 425m per 100g. I recommend you have a look at The Knitting Swede's collection to drool over some lovely yarn, if you haven't already.

Have you discovered any beautiful yarns lately? I'd like to know what you've fallen in love with.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Secret Christmas Snood Revealed

I can finally reveal my super secret Christmas knitting project I posted about in early October. Turns out it is actually a birthday gift, but I had originally considered giving it to my mother at Christmas. However, her birthday is in early December so I changed my mind about the dates. By now she has received this lacy snood whose pattern I found on The Knitter's blog. It is not part of the Ravelry database for some reason, but you can directly get to the pattern PDF here. It's a design by Kirstie McLeod.
I love this snood! I would have kept it for myself if I hadn't started making it with a recipient in mind already. The lace consists of a repeated leaf pattern that is easily memorised after a few rows. The snood is knitted flat so you will have to do some sewing up when you're done. I made it easy on myself and crocheted the ends together, which worked very well and I like the look of the seam on the wrong side.
The yarn I used is ordinary sock yarn that I hand-dyed and it works really well for the snood. I had less yarn than the pattern called for, but it is easy to stop after any length, really, as long as it is after a pattern repeat. After blocking, the snood was just the right size, so don't worry if your ball of yarn is a bit smaller than called for.

Are you tempted?

Monday, 1 December 2014

Changes to EU VAT Law and What It Means For My Knitting Patterns

You may have noticed my regular tweets in recent days about my stopping to sell digital knitting patterns soon. This is due to upcoming changes to VAT law in the EU that greatly impact on sole traders selling digital goods and services. Instead of trying to explain exactly what is involved, I would like to direct you to Ysolda Teague's website where you will find an excellent summary of the changes and how they affect people like me who sell digital goods and services. If you are in the EU and sell digital downloads of any kind, I highly recommend you read the post because the new law affects us all. Of course you can also search for information from the EU itself and HMRC, if you are in the UK.

What's happening?

The new rules are complicated and sometimes unclear in crucial parts. HMRC are working on further clarification as we speak. Since the changes take effect on January 1, 2015, everyone affected by the new rules is currently scrambling to find a good solution quickly. Many micro businesses and sole traders like myself who are under the VAT registration threshold and sell too few digital downloads to make registration worthwhile are concerned we may have to stop selling patterns online altogether. If you have been following #VATMOSS and #VATmess on Twitter, you know how much activity there has been around the topic. It has helped greatly to make HMRC realise exactly how many small businesses are affected - they had no idea.

What about my knitting patterns?

I may have to stop selling my patterns as digital downloads for a short while as I get things set up. Ravelry announced on 26 November that they are partnering with Love Knitting so that those of us who can't or don't want to register for VAT can still sell their patterns. Love Knitting will remit VAT to the EU so unregistered designers don't have to worry about it. That is fantastic news! Ravelry has worked very hard to find a solution and the outcome is so much better than I expected. I just registered with Love Knitting the day before the announcement so as to move my patterns there instead. From 1 January 2015 (or shortly after, depending on what needs to be done to activate the changes) I will be able to continue offering my patterns to you on Ravelry where they've always been and they will also appear on Love Knitting.