Born & Bred - Review & Giveaway

They say good things come in small packages and that's certainly true of this hot-off-the-press ebook from Ann Kingstone.  Produced in partnership with the Leeds yarn store, baa ram ewe, this is an intelligent collection of folksy knits made from Yorkshire yarn. I'm a great believer that small is beautiful and knit local is a philosophy I fully endorse, so I'm delighted to be participating in Ann's blog tour. Her love of her native Yorkshire and its traditions shines through on every page.
Front cover
Unusually for me, even before I looked at the woollies, I fell in love with the book design, which has a decidedly quirky and homespun look to it.  The patterns are written in an old typewriter font, on a rough linen background with additional hand-drawn graphics, all very easy on the eye. The charts are clear and the quality of the images is superb.
Wharfe - snuggly welly toppers
I always prefer books which have a narrative, so the interesting anecdotes introducing the patterns are a real bonus and, as I live in York, have an extra resonance for me.

But let's get down to the knitty gritty now...
The book has nine designs - 2 sweaters (both in a staggering 14 sizes), a baby jacket, a boy's vest, a hat, a teacosy, fingerless gloves, welly toppers and felted clogs. The patterns call for yarn from four different Yorkshire sheep breeds: Wensleydale Longwool, Masham, Whitefaced Woodland and Swaledale.

These designs are not for the beginner knitter - there are travelling stitches, cables, fairisle and steeks - but in my opinion, good for Ann for not taking the dumbing down route. However, that said, they're achievable by any tech-hungry knitter who doesn't mind taking a leap of faith.  Rest assured, this comes from the mouth of someone whose first ever sweater was an allover fairisle. But even if you never knit a stitch from this rich and thoughtful collection, you'll be inspired by the wealth of other stuff it offers - like real ale served straight from the cask, this book is served straight from its Yorkshire designer  - real Yorkshire!

Btw if you're not doing so already, you can heighten your Yorkshire experience as you read by clicking on to Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez (Orange Juice Concerto :D) in the sidebar, played by the Grimethorpe Colliery Band in Mark Herman's fab film, Brassed Off.  

Here are my favs...
Wetwang

How could I not love a sweater with a name like Wetwang?  We used to live in a farmhouse in the Yorkshire Wolds close to the village of Wetwang and I was always tickled pink by its name.  I'm specially taken by the design of the swans, reminding me of the work of MC Escher.
Betty
I'm an avid tea drinker, though I have to confess to being of the weak Earl Grey persuasion rather than the stand-up-your-spoon-in Yorkshire black tea. This teacosy is named after a tea shop I always head for when in York, Ilkley or the beautiful RHS garden at Harlow Carr - Bettys is a longtime favourite.
Ilkley Moor hat and Baht 'At fingerless mittens
I love travelling stitches and I'm a sucker for berets and fingerless mittens, so this combo is a must have.
Roseberry
With three little grand-daughters I'm always on the lookout for new and unusual patterns for little girls - this one is definitely bound for my needles.

OK, enough from me, Ann kindly agreed to be interviewed about the making of the book...

Let’s kick off with the obvious question: why Yorkshire?
Because it's the historical centre of the wool universe! As a born and bred Yorkshire lass, I'm immensely proud of Yorkshire's woolly heritage. I grew up in Huddersfield, which in common with most towns in the old West Riding of Yorkshire, was built around the woollen textile trade. Nearby we have Bradford, which is still home to the British Wool Marketing Board, and is the namesake of the 'Bradford Wool Count', once an internationally used system for measuring the fineness of wools. 
Yorkshire's dominance of the wool trade began with the monastic tradition. Our abbeys coordinated the wool industry here in medieval times, using vast areas of Yorkshire as grazing land for sheep. Much later the industrial revolution here centred on the production of wool cloth, and so in West Yorkshire our little villages grew together into large mill towns. Meanwhile handknitting became a major source of income for many rural communities in northern parts of Yorkshire, famously including the village of Dent (read more about the terrible knitters of Dent).
I feel very rooted in this heritage, and love to visit ancient sites and museums around Yorkshire that tell the story of our woolly past, such as Rievaulx Abbey, or the Dales Countryside Museum at Hawes. 
Rievaulx Abbey
I was interested to learn that Born & Bred is published in partnership with the Leeds, UK yarn store, baa ram ewe. Can you say something about how this came about and what the division of labour is? 
I did a talk for baa ram ewe at their new season launch last February, after which I stayed to chat with Verity and Jo (joint owners of baa ram ewe), seeking advice about my branding. The next day Verity rang me and suggested we did a book together using Yorkshire wools, emphasising my heritage. 
The book really is a joint effort. Baa ram ewe provided most of the yarns, I did the designs and wrote the patterns, Verity did the photography, and Verity and her husband did the book layout.

What are the qualities you look for in choosing a yarn for a specific project? Do you have particular yarn qualities you like to work with and if so what is it that makes them special for you?
Typically I prefer working with fine yarns - 2ply and 4ply. It was a huge challenge for me to work with the bulkier yarns Verity wanted to include in Born & Bred. Also, I usually work from a design idea for which I hunt down yarn with the desirable qualities required by the project, eg springy wools for colourwork, or drapey silks for summer shawls. For most of the projects in Born & Bred I was working the opposite way round though, designing to suit the yarn. It took a long time to come up with an appropriate project for the Swaledale Aran; it is such a rough, hardwearing hill wool, and initially I hated it. In desperation I felted a swatch, and when it came out of the washer I fell in love! So although I do have favourite yarns, especially those in wool, angora, or silk, I have proved to myself that I love any yarn that is eminently suited to it's purpose. 
Swaledale Clogs

One of the things that immediately caught my eye and that I love about your book is the graphic design, how much were you involved in this and how important do you think book design is in a pattern book?
I think it's incredibly important, which is why I would always prefer to have it done by a talented graphic designer, which isn't me! Verity was the creative force behind the layout, though it was her husband Chris, a graphic designer, who pulled her ideas together into the actual book.

If you were setting the mood for a catwalk show of your work, what would the story, music, food and colours be?
It would have to have a Yorkshire theme! Maybe Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band for the music? Cold mini Yorkshire puds stuffed with silverskin beef and spring onions, then Yorkshire parkin -we have a special family recipe handed down my Dad's family, (for those of you unfamiliar with Yorkshire parkin, here's a recipe) and fruit cake served with Wensleydale cheese. The main colour would be my beloved spring green, with duck egg blue, deep cherry, and lemony yellows making an appearance. 

Do you have a muse? If you could chose one famous person to model your designs, who would it be?      
I love the work of Kieran Foley and Nicky Epstein. Both of them are unafraid to experiment with unusual constructions and design features, so produce original designs of pure genius. 
I know I should choose somebody young to model for me, but I love the actress Maggie Smith (most recently of Downton) so much I'm going for her! 
Spoken like a true Yorkshire lass!
I’m a big fan of indie publishing, it must be so liberating to take your vision through from initial idea to end product.  Can you expand a little on the pros and cons and do you have any advice for designers who may be thinking of taking the leap?
Other than single patterns for a collection, I've never worked for a mainstream publisher, so have little experience to compare indie publishing with. I do think I would find the lack of control difficult though. For Born & Bred I was present at the photo shoot, and able to have input on the styling. I know from designer friends that this often isn't possible with mainstream publishers, and consequently styling gaffes occur. Also, I know with a mainstream publisher the technical editor may not be up to standard. Because I work independently I have one technical editor whom I work with on all my projects. We've built a great working relationship, and I trust her immensely. 
The biggest downside of independent publishing is that I have to fund everything, and project manage everything. Working collaboratively on Born & Bred was a treat because I was able to share these responsibilities with somebody else. 
For somebody starting out, I recommend investigating print on demand, such as Createspace (Amazon). This requires very little upfront investment for the printing, so is ideal for first books where there is uncertainty around the sales potential. I wish I'd done this for Novel Knits - my first book.

Your book is dedicated to Rosemary, Mabel and Violet - can you tell us a little about them?
I don't know much about Rosemary and Violet (Verity's Mum and Grandma) but can tell you a little about my Great Aunt Mabel. She was a music teacher in Bradford, where she trained student teachers at MacMillan College. My Mum was one of her students, and Aunty Mabel introduced her to my Dad, who at the time was a lonely young widower...
Aunty Mabel was a great British eccentric who inspired many young people with her passion for music. She was a brilliant pianist, then learned to play the violin in her 60s!  She died in January 2011 aged 98. Interestingly I do know that Verity's Mum was also a great pianist!

Many thanks to Ann for her fullsome and interesting comments.  She has generously offered an ebook for the giveaway.  So... if you'd like your own copy of her fabulous collection of Yorkshire knits, just leave a comment on this blog, telling me which yarn you would pick as your all-time favourite. The winner will be announced on Tues 19th February.  Good luck, you'll love the book!

Born & Bred Available on Ravelry £9.75 GBP 
Copyright © 2012 Ann Kingstone
Published by Ann Kingstone Designs
in partnership with baa ram ewe
ISBN 978-0-9569405-4-4 
Photography Verity Britton, copyright © 2012

More stops on the blog tour:
Friday 15th Feb Knitspincake   Aimee Nicholson
Tuesday 26th Feb Woolly Wormhead's Ripping Yarns Woolly Wormhead
Tuesday 5th March StolenStitches  Carol Feller
Friday 22nd March The Independent Stitch  Deb Robson
Tuesday 26 March Knitgrrl  Shannon Okey

Comments

  1. Although I live in (whisper it) Lancashire, I love Yorkshire and so Ann's book seems perfect to me! I think my all time favourite wool has to be Rowan Pure Wool as I love it's quality, softness and reliability but I am also a little bit obsessed with Malabrigo as I just love the colours!

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    Replies
    1. I have to come out, Cheryl, I'm originally from the other side of the Pennines too but have lived in Yorkshire for many years now.

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  2. I love Manos del Uruguay yarns. The company was founded as a cooperative to support economic opportunities for women in Uruguay. And, the yarn is deliciously wonderful!

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  3. does hand-spun count? Noro yarn in general, Taiyo sock yarn specifically

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  4. I love the Debbie Bliss yarns, but I think my favorite is the Shetland Spindrift, this yarn came to mind when I saw the tea pot, as I am an avid tea drinker even though I live in the US.

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  5. I loved Rowan Calmer which has sadly been discontinued.

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  6. I love the Lang Yarns Yak. It is really soft...

    Hanni

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  7. mY ALL TIME FAV YARN WOULD BE SHETLAND..i'M A HOPELESS STRANDED KNITTER. mary in cincinnati Ohio

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  8. I love Gloss yarn by Knitpicks. Lovely and soft.

    greyowl60(at)yahoo(dot)com

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  9. My favorite yarn is handspun. If I could learn how to spin it thinner I would use my own for some stranded knitting.

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  10. Hi

    As of today it is Rowan Cocoon, soft and shiny.


    Tracy C611 on Ravelry

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  11. NancyKnot on Ravelry

    It was a toss up between Whitefaced Woodland and Masham until I researched a bit...I'd have to say a new favourite could be Masham because it has qualities similar to Wensleydale's. The Masham's have been a crossbreed used for a little over a hundred yrs and their fleeces have luster and a long staple; whereas the W. Woodland's are more appropriate for serviceable, durable outerwear, blankets pillows etc.

    So I'd have to say, Masham wins handsdown.

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  12. I love yarn made from Gotland fleece. I once spun some grey Gotland, then dyed some of it with indigo. It was soft and lustrous and ever so nice to knit with.
    Inge

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  13. It all depends! I just completed a jumper for my husband I designed out of long-discontinued Rowan Donegal Lambswool Tweed. Not a snuggly yarn but it is a pure pleasure to knit with and the colors are sublime. More and more I am getting into locally-produced/small producer yarns (includes local yarns to any place I travel to).

    mendomyco on Ravelry

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  14. MacAusland's Woollen Mill yarns are my "go to" but it's so hard to narrow it down. I guess for the rugged outerwear pieces I usually make...MacAusland's is it, and for me, it's a local product.

    brighidgreen on Ravelry

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  15. I'd have to go with the Wensleydale Longwool Sheep Shops Worsted. The colors are so vibrant and a pleasure to knit.

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  16. I'm a big fan of Araucania Ranco sock yarn, despite its tendancy to felt in the wash. I just love it.

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  17. Malabrigo Worsted is my current favorite.

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  18. i love lineapiu yarn

    Anna

    ksurty@aol.com

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