Designer Q & A’s – Graeme Knowles-Miller

Posted by Amy | Posted in Designer Q&A's | Posted on 06-04-2018

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Earlier this year we were lucky enough to have knitwear designer and tutor Graeme Knowles-Miller in store teaching 2 mini workshops. He taught one crochet workshop and one knitting. Graeme was a huge hit with everyone, not only those he taught, but also the Black Sheep staff. It is always nice to meet someone new from the yarn industry and hear their story. We thought that it would be a good idea to interview Graeme, to share his yarn filled life with you too. Without realising it you may have already knitted one of Graeme’s incredible fair isle sweaters.
Graeme will be back at the Craft Barn on 14th July teaching two half day workshops – Learn to Crochet AM and Fair Isle Knitting PM.
Enjoy reading Graeme’s answers to our designer Q & A and taking a look at his fabulous designs below. Spot the man himself modelling for his MA collection.

Q&A with Graeme Knowles-Miller


When did you learn to knit?
During the 3rd year of my BA I wanted a set of jumpers in my final collection to compliment two tailored suits.

Graeme Knowles-Miller | Green Jumper

Can you remember the first ever item that you finished?
I can and looking back now the quality of work was terrible! It was a chunky raglan gansey in variegated yarn with a pattern designed to reflect Harrogate across the yoke. What was I thinking? Not very gansey at all.

What inspired you to choose knitting as a career? Where did your journey as a designer begin?
Knitting as an actual career is something I fell into, after my BA I went travelling for a bit and decided to do an MA centred on hand knitting when I got back. Bit of a snap decision but it worked out. As for my first proper design, that would be with Baa Ram Ewe who ran a limited edition set of their fantastic Titus that had been over-dyed by Joy The Knitting Goddess. It was a simple pair of fingerless mitts.

Graeme Knowles-Miller

Graeme Knowles-Miller

Graeme Knowles-Miller

Graeme Knowles-Miller

Graeme Knowles-Miller

Graeme Knowles-Miller

Where can we find your designs? Who have you worked with?
My designs are all over but mostly on my Ravelry page (GraemeKnowles). The page features many of the things I’ve done for BRE including the Yorkshire Shores book which you guys stock; also a lot of the free patterns for Debbie Bliss and Designer Yarns that were done when working for them. Luckily I’ve also been commissioned into quite a few magazines such as Knit Now and the American Knotions.

What would you say is your signature knitting design style?
Fair Isle definitely, it’s what I enjoy the most and always to have fresh ideas for.

What do you have on your needles at the moment?
That’s a good question; I have a set of Ecclefechan mitts by Kate Davies that really need finishing, a stash busting blanket and a Christmas present already. Other than that it’s just lots of sampling or future projects.

Do you have any new designs in the pipeline for 2018? Anything you can share?
I should be bringing out a set of mittens and a jumper from my MA collection that I’ve finally managed to get round to sorting. They’re delftware colours meets traditional Norway style which I’m really looking forward to seeing what people do with. There should also be a KAL but that’s still a bit secret.

Where do you begin when designing? With a sketch, yarn, colour etc?
For my own brief a motif will normally be my starting point, what is the story I want to tell and how can I get that across effectively? If it is for a client they will always have a starting point which can be very helpful. Then usually comes a bit of sketching on a random bit of paper (often an old envelope or newspaper on the train) before casting on a sample square. There are many things that work on paper that just don’t suit a knitted fabric, so often it is best to get sampling straight away.

Icelandic Yoke | Graeme Knowles-Miller

Fair Isle Idea | Graeme Knowles-Miller

What has been your highlight so far as a knitting designer?
Being a co-author along with Alison Moreton of the Yorkshire Shores book. We worked very closely with Baa Ram Ewe to create a set of modern Gansey/Guernsey inspired pieces which included a great day out in Staithes on the Yorkshire coast for the shoot.

Yorkshire Shores | Graeme Knowles-Miller

Do you manage to fit in time to make things to wear yourself?
I’m afraid not, most of my spare time is taken up on the allotment or with my bees in good weather, and designing or teaching when it’s bad.

Do you have a treasured handmade item that you cannot part with?
A Cashmerino Aran version of Donna Smith’s Baa-ble Hat as its super warm, fits me perfectly and I always get compliments on it.

You also crochet – have you been crocheting as long as you have knitting?
A little longer but there isn’t much in it, so 5 or 6 years now, I’ve been teaching it for longer than knitting though.

What sort of projects do you enjoy crocheting?
Little characters are a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine; last Halloween I made a ghost pattern classed George and had a great time taking him on all sorts of adventures for social media. Other than that it’s mainly granny squares for charity blankets as they’re a mindless project and use up spare yarn.

Do you have a preferred style of crochet hook that you use?
Soft-grip handles are quite good as they don’t seem to push into your palm too much. Mostly I’ll use what’s to hand but I really don’t like the feel of plastic ones as there is too much resistance to the yarn.

We can’t wait to have you back at the Craft Barn teaching workshops in July. What do you have planned?
It’s going to be great to come over and see you guys again, I’ll be doing two lessons that day; Learn to Crochet and Fair Isle 101. The first is pretty obvious, for those who don’t know anything about crochet or did it years ago and want to get back into the craft, I also teach left-handers their way so it’s great for anyone really. The Fair Isle class is a technical workshop showing all the tips and tricks for perfect colour work from how to hold the wool, yarn dominance and hiding those pesky tails.

What is your favourite yarn?
Without doubt it has to be Jamieson & Smith’s 2ply Jumper Weight! Such a fantastic texture, great colour palette and the 25g balls allow you to experiment with a huge range of shades without it breaking the bank.

4ply or chunky?
4ply as it lends itself so well to Fair Isle especially the J&S I just mentioned or the new Baa Ram Ewe Pip both of which as so well suited.

Circular or straight needles?
Circular, I knit almost everything on them even flat projects. This is most helpful on the train when other passengers don’t want poking with knitting needles.

Muted shades or bright?
Definitely muted as you can’t really go wrong with palettes of traditional heather tones or classic combinations.

Do you have a favourite place where you knit or crochet?
My quiet office at home, away from everything I can concentrate fully on the project.

Do you listen to music or watch TV whilst knitting?
I actually really enjoy knitting in silence but more often than not it is on the train. People-watching and making go hand-in-hand because anything you see might be the inspiration for a whole collection. Being around strangers in public spaces definitely helps fuel this.

Social Media

Nominations are open!

Posted by Amy | Posted in Company News | Posted on 05-04-2018



It’s that time of year again. Time to nominate all of your favourites (*cough…us) in the Let’s Knit British Knitting and Crochet Awards. In previous years we have been overwhelmed by all of you lovely lot, who have voted for us and made us winners and runner up in various categories, including Independent yarn store for the Craft Barn, crochet store and knitting blog. If you wouldn’t mind sparing a few minutes, we would really appreciate your nomination. Plus, you could win up to £300 of yarny goodies. That sounds like a pretty good prize to me!
Hop over to the Let’s Knit British Knitting & Crochet Awards page here. You have until the 12th April to nominate.

Sara’s yarn review – Rowan Alpaca Soft DK

Posted by Sara Mulvey | Posted in Yarn Reviews | Posted on 28-03-2018



I have been knitting a simple garter stitch scarf with Rowan Alpaca Soft DK. The scarf is just 36 stitches on a pair of 4mm needles. I’ve knitted every row until the end of the ball, using four different shades. This easy- knit idea came from a lady called Pat, who used to be a Rowan Consultant, she was wearing a scarf like this in store.

More shades of Rowan Alpaca Soft DK that would make another great colour combination.

Rowan Alpaca Soft Dk

Men’s Knitting Patterns

Posted by Amy | Posted in Knitting | Posted on 23-03-2018

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In amongst so many patterns for ladies and babies, men’s knitting patterns sometimes can be missed. We have plucked out a selection of men’s knitting patterns to share. If you are ever struggling though, we do have the option to narrow down the search depending on who / what you are knitting for. Hover over patterns on our home page and select in the ‘For’ category.

Before you even begin to be tempted to make any of the knitwear below, we must talk about the ‘Boyfriend Sweater Curse’ (unless you are a man knitting for yourself). You may have heard this pop up online or in a knitting magazine over the years. It is a theory that knitting a sweater for your significant other can lead to a break up! Eeeek! A knitted sweater isn’t just whipped up in a couple of hours, as we all know, a lot of time and effort goes into making it. With all the hours put in you are thinking about this person a lot (maybe whether or not they are the one for you) and you really want the person you are knitting for to appreciate it. This can be said for any knitted gift though and I guess this is where the theory came about.

We are obviously very sceptical of this theory and feel that the sweaters and cardigans below are too fabulous not to be knitted. We want knitting to bring you happiness! A good way to know the recipient will like the jumper is to involve them in choosing the pattern and shade. Pick a selection of designs that you would be happy to knit and let them choose from there. If you are going to knit for a new man in your life, maybe start small and go for a scarf or hat – still a lovely gift.

Choose from a v-neck or shawl collar cardigan in this pattern from Hayfield in Bonus Aran Tweed. A versatile knit for any season!

Men's Knitting Patterns | Cardigan in Hayfield Bonus Aran Tweed

Rowan Journeyman book has been designed by Martin Storey. An incredible collection of knitwear for men. Out of 12 patterns in the book these are four standout designs.
Clockwise from top left ‘Heston’, a cable design using Rowan Hemp Tweed. ‘Curtis’ is the next one along, a textured design using two shades of Rowan Felted Tweed Aran. ‘Brando’ is a hooded sweater with an all over cable design in Hemp Tweed. ‘Cooper’ is a snuggly sweater knitted in Felted Tweed Aran, a slip stitch design creates a rib like texture. There are many more tempting patterns from this book too.

Men's Knitting Patterns | Black Sheep Wools

If a double knit yarn is more your thing, how about this raglan sleeve sweater in Stylecraft Life Vintage Look DK and Life DK. The Life Vintage Look yarn is a tweedy sort of yarn that lends itself to men’s knitwear.

Men's Knitting Patterns | Black Sheep Wools

Knit a round neck sweater or cardigan in a textured diamond stitch in Stylecraft Alpaca Tweed DK.

Men's Knitting Patterns | Black Sheep Wools

If a chunky knit is called for, why not knit this super cosy cabled sweater in your favourite chunky yarn?

Men's Knitting Patterns | Black Sheep Wools

Take a look on our Men’s Knitting patterns page on the website to see more patterns.

British Craft Awards 2018

Posted by Amy | Posted in Company News | Posted on 22-03-2018


British Craft Awards 2018

We are a little delayed in sharing our very exciting news here on the blog, sorry about that. In February it was time for the winners of the British Knitting Awards 2018 to be announced. We are very pleased to say that we came away with two awards – 1st Runner up for Crochet Retailer of the year and 3rd place for Knitting Retailer of the year.
Thank you to everyone who voted. We are ever so grateful to all of our customers who have taken the time to vote for us. Let’s see if we can get to first place next year!

How to cast off knitting?

Posted by Amy | Posted in Knitting Essentials | Posted on 16-03-2018

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How to cast off knitting can be done in more ways than one. It can vary depending on your project and the stitches you are knitting (is it a purl, is it a knit stitch). Don’t feel bamboozled though, generally you will need a standard two needle cast off to finish off your project beautifully. It is so satisfying to cast off that final stitch, sealing in your stitches to see a neatly cast off piece of knitting. A much needed addition to our collection of Knitting Essentials blog posts, after all if we are going to share how to start knitting, you need to know how to finish it.

We have put together a series of ‘how to cast off knitting’ videos with the help of designer and workshop tutor, Carol Meldrum. Carol is a super tutor who teaches knitting finishing techniques, crochet and many more knitting workshops. It only made sense for her expert knitting hands to share a couple of demonstrations with you all. Carol will cover two needle cast off, how to sort out a baggy cast off stitch, rib cast off and three needle cast off – great for shoulder seams on garments.

How to Cast Off | Black Sheep Wools

Keep up to date with Carol on her Instagram page, she also teaches on knitting holidays around the world. Along with pics of knitting, you will also be treated to some breath-taking scenery.

How to cast off knitting – Standard two needles


1) With right side facing, knit the first 2 stitches.

2) Insert left hand needle purl wise in the first stitch on the right hand needle. (One at the bottom)

3) Lift the stitch over the second stitch on the second stitch on the right hand needle and drop off the needle. You will now have 1 stitch on the right hand needle.

4) Knit the next stitch on the left hand needle. You will now have 2 stitches on the right hand needle.

5) Repeat steps 2 to 4 until you have the last 2 stitches on the right hand needle.

6) Fasten off yarn, leaving a 15cm end. Insert the end through the last stitch and pull tight.

Fixing a baggy cast off stitch


Sometimes when you cast off the final stitch can look baggy. This is the first stitch from the previous row. Watch the video for this on Instagram.

1) To avoid getting a baggy end stitch, work the standard two needle cast off (steps 1 to 4) until you have 1 stitch on the right hand needle and 1 stitch on the left hand needle.

2) Slip stitch on right hand needle, back onto the left hand needle.

3) Insert right hand needle through the back (tbl) of the first stitch. Keep both stitches on the left hand needle.

4) Then insert right hand needle knit wise through the last stitch on the left hand needle.

5) Place the yarn around the right hand needle as normal and knit the 2 stitches together and slip both off the needle.

How to cast off knitting – Rib stitch


Depending on the pattern you are working you may have to cast off in rib. For this example we have used a 2×2 rib of 2 knit stitches, followed by 2 purl stitches.

Cast off using the two needle method in rib as follows:

1) With right side facing, knit the first two stitches.

2) Insert left hand needle purl wise in the first stitch on right hand needle.

3) Lift the first stitch over the second stitch on the right hand needle and drop off the needle. You will now have 1 stitch on the right hand needle.

4) Knit the next stitch on the left hand needle – you will now have 2 stitches on the right hand needle.

5) Repeat steps 2 and 3 once more.

6) Bring yarn forward between the needles and purl the next stitch. You should now have 2 stitched on the right hand needle. Repeat steps 2 and 3 once more – you will now have 1 stitch on the right hand needle.

7) Purl the next stitch on left needle, then repeat steps 2 and 3 again.

8) Continue to cast off in rib as set, following the knit and purl stitches from the row below. Remember to make sure your yarn is in the correct position for knit and purl stitches.

How to cast off knitting – Three needles / Two edges together


Three needle cast off is used to join to pieces of knitting together and will give a smooth firm seam. It is ideal for shoulder seams, why not give it a go next time you are finishing a garment?

1) Depending on the project, the cast off can be worked with either the wrong or right side facing. Here we have cast off with the right side facing.

2) You will need three needles for this cast off method.

3) With wrong side together, hold both needles facing in the same direction, in your left hand.

4) Insert the third needle knit wise through the first stitch on the front and back needles, and knit together. You will have 1 stitch on the right hand needle.

5) Repeat step 4 once more, now there should be 2 stitches on the right hand needle.

6) Insert left hand needle purl wise in the first stitch on the right hand needle.

7) Lift the stitch over the second stitch on the right hand needle and drop off the needle. You will now have 1 stitch on the right hand needle.

8) Repeat steps 4 to 7 until 1 stitch remains on right hand needle.

9) Fasten off yarn, leaving a 15cm end. Insert the end through the last stitch and pull tight.

Is there a technique that you would like to see covered on a how to video. Share you suggestions in the comments below.

Yarn used in examples is Scheepjes Softfun.

Sara’s Unfinished Project Update – Part 2

Posted by Sara Mulvey | Posted in Sara's Blog | Posted on 13-03-2018

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An update on my UFO’s. I have finished quite a few more things since the last video (and started a few!). Take a look at my video below and let me know what you think. I am so pleased with my crocheted blanket in Scheepjes Whirl, it used just one ball.

I have also found yet another bag of UFO’s. This was a fun video to film, as I genuinely didn’t know what was in there. I even found a necklace and a pair of head phones!

Craft Shows 2018

Posted by Amy | Posted in Shows & Exhibitions | Posted on 09-03-2018


It is all go at Black Sheep Wools. Only returning from the Spring Knitting & Stitching show at Olympia, London on Sunday, the show team have taken a van full of goodies up to Glasgow this week, for The Creative Craft Show at the SEC. Don’t stand still for long at HQ or you will be packed away with yarn for the show!

This year we are going to one or two new shows, along with the usual favourites. We will have a stand packed full of yarn at Wool @J13 in Staffordshire this May. As the name suggests the show is located just off J13 of the M6 motorway. A handy location to get to from many directions. Wool @J13 hasn’t been going for that many years and is a completely different setting to the shows you would usually find a Black Sheep Wools stand. It is on a farm! A show for ‘wool and fiber lovers everywhere’. We are quite excited to be trying something new and hope to see many of you there. Read more about the show on their website, it sounds like there is lots to do and street food for lunch, we are sold!

Here is a list of the craft shows that we will be retailing at over the next year. We do enjoy hitting the road and meeting customers face to face. Although we are lucky enough to be able to do that at the Craft Barn, not everyone of our customers is local to Warrington.

There are still more dates to be added to the diary, so keep and eye out on our Exhibitions page on our website for any new additions. We look forward to seeing you at a show soon.

P.S. Keep an eye out on our Instagram and Facebook for free tickets giveaways.


Scheepjes Peggy – Scarf Pattern

Posted by Amy | Posted in Free Patterns | Posted on 02-03-2018


Black Sheep Carol is back for a one-off video tutorial. Mum to Sara and Steve, Carol is the founder of Black Sheep Wools. She is always ready to do a spot of knitting or crochet. When she saw Scheepjes Peggy Carol couldn’t resist whipping up a scarf. As the yarn isn’t just one single piece, Carol wanted to share how she had knitted it. If you remember the hugely popular scarf yarn – Rico Can Can from a few years back, you may have stumbled across Carol’s how to video. It has now reached an incredible 1.5 million views! Let’s see if we can reach that many views for Carol’s latest video how to knit a scarf in Scheepjes Peggy.
Scheepjes Peggy | Black Sheep Wools

A customer came in the Craft Barn the other day purchasing the yarn to make a throw. It would also make a nice cushion cover or snood. This is a yarn to get creative with!

Scheepjes Peggy – Scarf Pattern

You will need
– 2 balls of Scheepjes Peggy
7mm knitting needles

Cast on 9 stitches and knit to desired length.

Scheepjes Peggy | Black Sheep Wools


Finished Spicier Life Blankets

Posted by Amy | Posted in Crochet | Posted on 23-02-2018

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In September 2017 we launched the Spicier Life Crochet Along. This spectacular blanket was designed by crochet sensation, Sandra Paul, aka Cherry Heart. A Spicier Life blanket was a follow on blanket to the original Spice of Life. Sandra used new stitches in a sampler style with the idea that the two blankets will look harmonious displayed together. India was the inspiration for her design and rich, evocative colour palettes – Jaipur, Bollywood and Taj Mahal.

Spicier Life CAL Blankets | Black Sheep Wools | Cherry Heart

Whilst the CAL was running we set up A Spicier Life Crochet Along Facebook group, which now has almost 9,000 members. Soooo if everyone who is in the group has made at least one Spicier Life blanket……. that’s A LOT of blankets. It is safe to say, it is a very popular crochet along project. All of the patterns are still available via our website should your crochet hook be twitching with inspiration after reading this post.

We have gathered together a selection of Spicier Life blankets from the group, ones sent in by customers and staff. It is interesting to see whether people chose one of Sandra’s packs to make the blanket, with yarn from their stash or a colourway of their own.

If you do make a blanket and share it on social media make sure you include #spicierlifecal. It is always a treat to see new blankets popping up.

Black Sheep Lucy enjoyed making the blanket using Debbie Bliss Rialto DKJaipur colour pack with a few shade adjustments to match her living room. The yarn gives lovely stitch definition and is so springy.

Spicier Life CAL Blanket | Black Sheep Wools | Cherry Heart

We found this blanket in the group. A crocheter called, Valerie has used left over yarn from her first 2 Spicier Life blankets. Soft, pretty shades with subtle transitions.

Spicier Life CAL Blanket | Black Sheep Wools | Cherry Heart

Shades of green and purple in this blanket work so well together, this one is by Alexis.

Spicier Life CAL Blanket | Black Sheep Wools | Cherry Heart

Spotted this one on the group for its vibrant colour combination, by Louise. Made with various yarns from her stash.

Spicier Life CAL Blanket | Black Sheep Wools | Cherry Heart

A customer called Hazel has opted for one colour, made in Scheepjes Stonewashed XL. Using just one shade allows the texture to really shine through.

Spicier Life CAL Blanket | Black Sheep Wools | Cherry Heart

Sharon shared a photo of her Taj Mahal blanket in Stylecraft Special DK.

Spicier Life CAL Blanket | Black Sheep Wools | Cherry Heart

Steph has used a variety of tonal autumnal shades.

Spicier Life CAL Blanket | Black Sheep Wools | Cherry Heart

Lisa’s choice of pastels is so striking. All of these shades are Stylecraft Special DK.

Spicier Life CAL Blanket | Black Sheep Wools | Cherry Heart

Bold blocks of blues in this blanket by Susan.

Spicier Life CAL Blanket | Black Sheep Wools | Cherry Heart

Carol took a nice outdoor photo of her Bollywood Spicier Life blanket in Stylecraft Special DK.

Spicier Life CAL Blanket | Black Sheep Wools | Cherry Heart