Nettle tingling fingers and blackberry junkets….

It’s been really hot and sticky feeling here the last few days, a bit too hot for me really and I’ve not wanted to do much of anything….however as I’d started noticing some fat and shiny blackberries about when I’d headed down to the shops we decided it was time to start gathering something to put down for the pantry.  The wild mirabelle plums which I’ve picked every year since I moved here didn’t even come to fruit this year and the wild cherries were a rather poor show, I managed to pick a small handful to eat on the way home but there wasn’t enough to cook with.  I’ve been a bit worried about the blackberries as they seem to have been a bit slow making an appearance but this last week or so I’ve been seeing the odd glimpse of shiny jet black berries when I’ve walked down to the shops.

the sock thief

We’ve not actually been home all that long as we had to stay in this morning looking after a fledgling wood pigeon our neighbour’s cat had knocked out of our tree…Bernard’s a bit old and creaky to be springing up trees however little miss from next door isn’t very old and she’s also pretty fearless… wood pigeons are beautiful if a bit…hmph’ty…they always remind me of Georgian politicians or fat old country squires with the gout.  We get a few come visit in the garden and thy make me laugh how they strut about. Their colouring though is so pretty but the fledgling …well it was definitely a face only a mother was going to love…sadly the poor little creature died and I’m afraid to say kitty got short shift from me when she poked her head around the door to ask if Bernard was coming out to play….she’s already in my bad books as she  sneaked in a pulled a sock out that I was knitting…she’s also eaten soup I was planning to eat myself and she also has a taste for lemon yoghurt…do not let that cute face mislead…this is one bad cat.

black berries in dappled sunshine

But as it was sunny and nice we decided we’d still go out as planned but just set a very gentle and slow pace as we ambled over the marshes ….there’s one spot in particular where we think the blackberries are best but it’s got so overgrown and tangled that it was really hard to just get on in there and pick.  We’d taken small secateurs as we knew it was going to be a bit of a jungle but didn’t realize just how overgrown and wild it had become…. my poor fingers are so sore and tingling from the nettle stings and brambles.  It feels like there’s more than a couple of tiny bramble splinters too but at least I didn’t stand in any fox poo today or get covered in cobwebs which I’m quite apt to do so am looking at the silver lining….generally when I’m foraging by myself I end up half in the hedgerow and when I clamber out look more than a little like Catweazle but when I’m with my sweetie he seems to make sure I don’t bring home half the hedge with me.  A couple of years ago I bought a walking stick from a charity shop and it’s brilliant to take with me to gently pull down any laden stems that seem a bit far out of reach, and I also take an old pair of garden clippers that were a car booty 50 p purchase to lop down any nettles that tend to spring up right in my face, however, I completely forgot to take the walking stick and missed it pretty much as soon as I got there.

river side

However we still picked just over a couple of pounds before deciding it was just too scorchy and wouldn’t it be nice to get home for a cold drink so we packed up and walked back home a slightly different way…normally it’s too boggy and wet underfoot to walk across this piece of the meadows but today it was just perfect.  Up to quite recently they’ve had cows grazing on here so all the meadow grass and wild flowers have been nibbled down, but I could see lots of vetch shoots appearing however I’m not sure if they’ll have time to blososm before the Autumn weather creeps in.

As the weather is due to be hot and sticky  tomorrow as well I’ve decided to make some little blackberry junkets…they need to be kept in the fridge once they’re set as they don’t have any preservatives in them but they’re so delicious that to be honest I generally can eat them til they come out of my ears.  Like possets they’re a wonderfully old fashioned recipe and are ridiculously easy to make.  This is the best weather to make them but really we should have gone out this morning to pick the berries so they had time to set while the sun was at it’s strongest, but I’ll pop them in the fridge overnight and then sit them out for a few hours in the sunshine tomorrow (and if all else fails I’ll add a little sugar, bring to the boil and get a set that way)…..when the early blackberries are picked they’re really super full of pectin and set naturally in sunshine, because they don’t contain any preservatives they do need to be eaten up quite quickly.  They are so eye closingly good on a just out of the oven scone with a smear of clotted cream on top but I think they’re also nice with yoghut or creme fraiche.

time softened and sun faded roly poly needle wraps

wool for autumn scarf

I love old fabric, all time softened and a bit sun faded, it always conjures up memories and stories when it’s hand me downed or even found in a dusty box in a charity shop or car boot when I then get to wondering who did this belong to, what did they do…..some of the most treasured fabric I own is pieces of a pink and white sheet that belonged to our Nanny C, and some fantastic red and white fabric that originally was a chair cover belonging to my dear Joyce’s mum……I’ve bought familiar looking curtains not quite being able to place them, to be told later by my mum they are the same as the ones that hung in my bedroom when I was little…..everytime I look at these fabrics I can’t but help remember moments and times spent with people I’ve loved…

Other special fabric has been gifted by friends old and new, and while I could keep this all stored away and kept for best or fancy, I much prefer to use it, to be able to see and handle it day to day when I’m sewing or knitting….looking up from a sewing a tricksy hem or sighing when I’m having to un-knit a row (or two or three) when I’ve not followed  a pattern properly, my eyes can rest on these familar fabrics and a little wave of reassurance and comfort helps to make me feel calm again.

A few years ago I made some knitting needle rolls for some beautiful wooden Brittany needles from my boyfriend’s mum and dad, the needles are really special and every time I use them I think of Kathy and Phil, and wanted the fabric in the roll to be equally dear to my heart.

inside floral needle wrap

Now I’m knitting with different styles of needle, double pointed ones which look like you could have someone’s eye out with if you’re not careful and ones where you can change the tip size to the length of cable,  I thought it was about time I made some rolls and wraps to keep all these new types of needle safe and in one place.

While I was making the rolls and wraps for myself I was thinking about some of the podcasts I’ve been listening to this year, namely the Shiny bees one…often when Jo aks the people that she interviews who it was taught them to knit they reply it was a granny, nanny, elderly relative or their mum and I began thinking how I love seeing the fabric that is special to me when I’m working….. while Nanny C could knit (she’d knit brightly coloured little squares that a neighbour would sew together into blankets for the local old people’s home….Nanny C was still doing this in her early eighties) I don’t remember her ever showing me how to, or if she did I was pretty bad at it….a great aunt did try to teach me but my hands were always hot and sticky, and the stitches would get tighter and tighter, painfully squeeking as they pulled over the needles and dear Joyce was always out in her garden to bother about knitting or sewing … while when I knit and am quiet I’m not quite remembering them teaching me to knit and purl and pass one over, the fabric wraps are familar prints and textures and helps recall the laughter and chat, cups of tea and tins of biscuuits I associate with them.

textured floral needle roll

As well as making wraps for my own ever increasing collection of needles, I’ve also made a few for my Folksy shop….at the moment there are two styles….the first one is designed for those pointy and pokey double tipped needles….they have two rows of pockets inside and are long enough so they’ll fit needles up to 20 cm.  They also have a wide space in front where you can tuck in a needle gauge and the pockets at the other end are sewn shallower so you can store your cable needles in them and they won’t slip all the way down.  These will also fit skinny types of crochet hook such as the Brittany ones.

When you want to store your needle roll away, it rolls up like a jam roly poly and is kept secure with either a length of velvet ribbon or a piece of vintage leather thonging.

long needlewrap b inside detail

The other design is a longer needle wrap and these are made with a front pocket that has been divided into lots of sections where there is room to store your different needle tips as well as a needle gauge. The three far right spaces are a bit shallower and are designed to store your cable needles.  The wrap is deep enough that there is also room for short needles (for lace shawl edgings) or the odd crochet hook.

The two pocket lengths behind are divided into three so there is plenty of room to store loose cables.

long needle wrap b closed

The wraps fold over on themselves and keep all tucked up and secure with either a length of velvet ribbon or a piece of vintage leather thonging.

Both designs of wrap have long flaps inside that cover all the needles so stop anything from flying out or getting lost in your bag.

I’ve really enjoyed making the needle wraps as sewing is very much my first love and it’s been nice to incorporate my interest in knitting with fabric and thread.

long needle wrap a detail

As well as the ones listed in my Folksy shop I’m more than happy to work on bespoke wraps and rolls to fit your own particular needle requirements and with your own fabric if you have some that holds a special place in your heart.

In the past I’ve made memory quilts which were pretty special to sew and I guess these are a bit like that…..

I’m currently working on a few more styles which I hope will be ready to appear in the shop over the next week or so along with a couple of designs for project/workshop bags and pockets.

Waking my sleeping beauty skein…..

casting on the Ishbel

What can I say….I think I’m becoming a bit addicted to this knitting malarky……along with casting on another  Karise for myself I’ve finally felt confident to knit another shawl, one that has owned more than just a little piece of my heart for some 5 years or so…as a right beginner knitter who could only just mange garter stitch if no-one was talking to her this was one of those heart stoppingly beautiful pieces that I looked at, lost my head over, sighed and thought I’d just never be able to knit it…..however over the almost a whole year now, I’ve been improving, stitch by stitch…..slowly and surely….and while following the charted lace knitting of the Karise I began to think about what had up to now been a fantasy dream shawl….Ishbel by Ysolda Teague.

section B worked for Ishbel

I bought the skein not long after I first saw Ishbel, and had it wrapped in tissue and lavender, ferreted away where it lay rather like sleeping beauty…just waiting to be kissed/knitted awake…’s a blend of alpacca and silk with some cashmere….it feels a lot softer and luxurious than the Artesano yarn I used for Rachel’s Karise….I’m not sure if it’s my tension becoming more even but my stitches look nice and “all peas in a pod” similar…..I’ve not used any hand dyed yarn before and love the watery qualities of this colourway….I really do like to wear lots of colour but at the same time I prefer smears and smudges to speckles, one colour rather than gradients of many, however the dappled qualities of this yarn have completley bowled me over.

On the whole I have had to concentrate rather while knitting this, the increases are worked on both sides however on one of Ysolda’s technique pages it explains how different yarn over’s change size depending which stitch is in front and in back……it just took me a few goes to understand what it was I having to do with the yarn….the lace repeat is worked over 8 stitches and I knew I was going to need my stitch markers as I still find reading knitting rather hard and wouldn’t really know where to begin with this…’s been lovely using the stitch markers I made with some of my beads from Joyce’s necklace, memories of her come flooding back with each touch and glass tingle….the topazy amber colour looks great with the green and it’s making me think about which colours I could wear with this shawl…I’ve got some old vintage velvet (it was probably a church hall curtain) which is a very similar shade ……..

ishbel lace with life line

I really wanted to be able to use up as much of this yarn as I possibly could, in part because it’s no longer available so I’d rather use as much of it as the pattern would allow  in one fantastic piece….. the 100 gram skein has a length of 400 metres, and the Ishbel pattern notes said the shawl used 302 metres, there is also a larger size where part of the pattern is repeated (although this is for lace weight) so I put in a lifeline just before the repeat to create a larger shawl….. (I haven’t used a lifeline before but I really really do not want to try and pick up any stitches if I’d need to rip the knitting back)….the lace pattern is broken down into 5 charts and each time I’ve worked a chart I weigh the remaining yarn…so I’ve been pretty confident I had enough to work the repeat to make the shawl a bit bigger…….rather than thread the lifeline yarn (vintage crochet thread) through the hole in the base of my needle, I just threaded it through the stitches once the row had been knitted (making sure not to thread the yarn though the stitch markers)……..I hope that all makes sense.

cute pandas knttng socks

I decided to use HiyaHiya needles for this project, along with the regular tips you can also buy ones that are called “sharps”…and I love their pokey prickiness ….I think it’s because I’m a hand patchworker/quilter and so am used to pointy, pricky old needles.  I know they aren’t for everyone and if you’ve not tried them then I’d certainly suggest giving them a go…..though my friend Anne said they’d be far too pointy for her.  I’m also still a bit of a tight knitter (though am gradually getting looser) and find these great for when you have to knit or purl 2 together….however I’m not so head over heels for the cable, I find it a bit skinny and lightweight.  But the needles are great (they also come in two lengths, personally I prefer the shorter length because of how I hold my needles)…….

The HiyaHiya range also have these way too cute cable stoppers…yep, they’re pandas knitting teensy wee socks….I’m not normally one for super cutesy coo but I do really like these.

(The yarn is by Juno Fibre Arts and is called Alice sock…it’s a blend of alpaca/silk and cashmere…the colourway is canopy.  I bought this from Loop in London about 5 years ago and as far as I’m aware the lady that dyed it no longer does dye-ing…..if I’m wrong please please please get in touch and tell me otherwise)

Twit ta woo….it’s birthday socks for Anne….

wys owl colourway

About 6 years ago I was lucky enough to meet a really amazing lady called Anne, we met by chance, pretty much hit it off straight away and have kept friends ever since…..she doesn’t live that far away, just up the road and when she comes over we’re straight into the kitchen to pop on the kettle while Bernard gets swept up into her arms and has little kitty melodies sung to him….as well as being an amazing knitter, dressmaker, home DIY-er Anne is also a fantastic singer and musician and has the best laugh ever…..she’s also incredibly kind and over the years she’s been gifting me the loveliest hand knits.  The first knitted gift was a pair of green socks which I’ve worn half to death and have happily spent many hours darning them when needed.

A few years back not long after we met Anne gave me a couple of knitting lessons but I couldn’t really take on board a lot of what she was telling me and found I’d remember something for a couple of days and then would fair right sorft and not know what to do again the following week so the lessons sort of tailed off…….

When I fell in love with the Open Sky Shawl last year I seriously considered asking Anne if she’d be able to knit it but then decided that no, I was going to try it myself….and I haven’t looked back since.

ready to knit the toes

When I told Anne I was knitting she was so encouraging, and loved seeing what I doing, where she’d happily rip out a couple of rows if a mistake got made I’d have to un-knit stitch by stitch but it was nice to knit together…..our Christmas gifts got exchanged after rather than before the 25th, and along with a pair of hand knitted socks (she’d even knitted them in WYS British wool because she knows I’m trying to only knit British) she had bought me a ball of sock yarn (WYS), a wee set of wooden sock needles (because she knows I like Brittany wooden needles) and a vanilla sock pattern.  So the kettle went on, a pot of tea was made and then we sat down on the sofa and she showed me how to cast on and divide the stitches on the tiniest of needles to knit a pair of socks…..

She did look rather alarmed when she saw what a tight grip I had on both needle and yarn (not sure she’s ever seen quite such a tight knitter!) and at the end of that first afternoon I’d knitted my first ribbed cuff….over the following week I cast on another sock cuff to surprise her and then she showed me how to knit and turn a heel……seeing the heel bottom form and cup together is magic, and even now it makes me laugh…it’s so brilliant…..and then the week after we worked toe decreases and she let me kitchener stitch the toe of one of her socks together (I’m a lot slower knitting than Billy Whizz Anne)….actually even before that first pair were finished I’d cast on another couple of socks to practise the construction.

rounded toe detail

And as soon as that first pair were cast off I knew exactly what I was going to do for Anne’s birthday…..she’s not really one for bright colours prefering black and monochrome (though she’s knitted up some gorgeous Patrica Roberts pieces in the past and they were rather colourful)…anyway I decided black socks might be a bit beyond what my eyes could currently cope with) so after seeing the lovely socks that sock wizard Mazknitter had knitted on Ravelry I decided to knit her a pair in the WYS country bird colourway Owl.

I really wanted these to be a right surprise so sort of had to guess on Anne’s foot size, I knew she’s about the same as me, maybe half a size bigger so I decided to knit A nice ribbed sock (which was a free pattern on Ravelry)….the rib means there is plenty of stretch so nobody’s toes will get all squished up.  I was pretty pleased with how they came out  although I wasn’t over the moon happy with how the toe looked, it was a bit wedgey for me as my feet are really rounded and found it a bit hard to judge how they would fit Anne, so when I got about 2 inches from the toe on the second sock I just chopped the toe off the first sock (ouch) and then un-ravelled back a couple of inches and then knit them both using a formula to make a rounder toe…..

WYS Owl socks for Anne

Anne’s birthday isn’t actually for another week or so but when she came round this week I was too excited to make her have to wait so she got one present a little bit early…I was a bit worried what she’d think of them as my knitting is no way near as neat as hers but when she un-wrapped them I’m sure people must have heard her laugh across the border over in Suffolk, and then she looked at me with rather teary eyes and said in a shakey little voice, “….but no-one’s ever knitted me socks before….” she tried them on, it’s her toes in the above picture and they look like they fit a treat…. stupidly I didn’t start the self stripey yarn in the same place so the socks don’t quite match up (I only actually noticed once I looked at the top photo) but I sort of like that.

I love that I’m finally able to gift Anne something knitted beyond a dishcloth, and to be able to repay her umpteen hours of sitting down and showing me how to work a short row, decrease toes, manage those multiple needles so it doesn’t feel like I’m juggling the tickliest of prickly hedgehogs….so many Happy Returns my dear, kind and wonderful friend and here’s to many more pairs of warm socks and wriggling toes.






A karise for Rachie in Robin egg blue…..

karise detail

I must confess I’ve well and truly lost my heart to the Karise shawl pattern by Karie Westermann…. I’ve yet to knit one that doesn’t have to have a row un-knitted, in my eagerness to knit I sometimes forget to pass a stitch over or knit 2 together…. but I’m very much of an opinion that I only ever seem to learn anything by mistakes so while I sigh when I’ve needed to un-knit the couple or so rows I’d knitted the night before, I accept that it’s all part of learning to knit and reading a pattern better…..

karise bandana style

This is another gift shawl and will be making it’s way in a day or two across the county border to Suffolk to my sister Rachie….(I’m a bit like one of those Austen Bennet’s as I have a big family of sisters, and nieces too, no nephews, just all girls)…..

alpaca and silk lace knitting

The yarn used was an alpaca/silk blend by Artesano which I’d bought at the end of Summer last year from one of my local knitting shops….I really fell in love with the colour (which is called robin egg) and didn’t really think too much about what the yarn was made from when I bought it, it just felt soft and dreamy….and while it’s made for a very light, silky and soft fabric I think I’m discovering I prefer to use something a little more robust and woolly.

As I’d already had a little experience of using this yarn, I decided to knit it on some Chiaogoo needles I’d bought from Meadow Yarn, I like the red Chiaogoo cable as it’s nice and weighty and feels rather like a bicycle brake cable, as this is such a light weight yarn I found it seemed to benefit more from being supported on something a little heavier than my other cables.

And as with my other Karise shawls, I also found using plenty of stitch markers helped me to keep track of where I was with my lace knitting, they made counting my stitches a lot easier.

kinki skein of alpaca and silk

I’d initially used the yarn in a shawl I made for Louise’s unkal on Ravelry but while the shawl I imagined in my head was a thing of beauty, I wasn’t so smitten with the finished result so rather than just let it sit and not be adored, I took heed of Louise’s other divisions of the un-kal and ripped out the shawl, skeined, washed and balled the yarn (thank you podcast award winning ShinyBees Jo for your alpaca yarn advice) and used it to knit this dainty number for my sister.

robin egg karise

The shawl used just under 2 skeins of the artesano yarn, and I kept to Karie’s pattern, I didn’t tinker and work any of the repeats extra, I just knit it as is, however I’ve still got enough of this yarn left to make a matching one for myself (with yarn enough for at least one extra repeat) as robin egg blue is a favourite and there are smudges and speckles of it in several of my dresses.

I think I possibly overblocked the shawl, just a smidge as the stocking stitch seems to have opened out a bit after pinning it….. I didn’t really take on board that the alpaca/silk doesn’t bloom or swell slightly like wool yarn, so I’ll now to watch my blocking with the next one. However, I’m pleased with how the lacy points came out

karise for rachie

As the fabric is so cobwebby light, it scrunches up a real treat so doesn’t feel in the slightest bit bulky worn scrunched around the neck like a bandit’s bandana, and worn like this you can’t see how open my stocking stiches now look.  But I think it also looks rather nice worn around the shoulders so it’s just enough to keep a chill off if you’re havng an evening drink in a pub garden.

This is now my third Karise I’ve knit and really have no hesitations in recommending this pattern….the stocking stitch section is small enough to fit inside a small project bag and tuck into a handbag for any travel/commuting knitting and if you need to concentrate more for the lace section, then you can knit that in quieter moments.  It’s definitely a pattern I’ve got plans to knit again (cough cough, I cast on another one in the alpaca/silk yarn just last night and then I’d like to knit another one in the Tamar  from Blacker Yarns because that yarn was such a pleasure to have on my needles).  I think this pattern is great for “a starting to get confident beginner”, if you’ve not done any lace chart knitting before then this is a smashing place to start, the pattern is so nice and clear and it really feels like Karie is there holding your hand as you knit….

(in case you’re interested, my ravelry notes can be found just here.)

Sunday strolls and dappled shade lanes…..

meadow july 2016

Yesterday mornning while it was all sunshine and warm, we went out for a slow Sunday stroll across the meadows and marshes just down the lane behind our house….it was one of those perfect not too hot, not too bright Summer Sundays, ideal for lazy walking and meandering along, not being in a rush, just walking at a leisurely pace and enjoying being out of doors……

grassy and green

As we cross the main meadow there’s an almost constant chiruping and trilling of crickets and grasshoppers in the grass, and mixed in with the bird calls, it’s like nature’s very own orchestra playing… one point though I was pretty sure I heard a snake so decided to keep to the more well worn path rather than veer off to the sides to inspect how the blackberries were doing….the meadows are still incredibly lush, with swaithes of shoulder high meadowsweet and tufted vetch growing in huge patches…..water mint and apple mint grow in abundance and I like to pick  little sprigs to rub between my fingers for wafts of refreshing minty scent, then saving the rest for when we get home where I crush it with strawberries and pomona and have with lemonade in the Sumerriest of cocktails……..

tufted vetch and meadowsweet july 2016

As we walk along by the riverside or marshy pools we’re forever turning our heads, looking up and over as we try to follow the flittering, ever changing flights of damsel-flies and dragon-flies, jewel like, irresdescent colours flicker and dart around us……some are the most intense shade of peacock tail feather blue, others are green and then there are ones that are almost conker brown.

on way to mill

As well as ambling around over the marshes we also walked up to Keswick Mill and peered over the smaller humpbacked bridge just before the weir to see the fishies in the water, we didn’t see such impressively sized monsters as earlier in the year, but instead we watched several dozen smaller fish of assorted sizes swimming about, almost dancing , seeming to enjoy the sunlight on the water before they’d move back to the shaded sides amongst the river reeds…..the water is really shallow here and to be honest is much more of a gentle flowing stream than the deeper, wilder weir just up the way, the water is incredibly clear and on a hot and bothersome day, watching the fishies and the dappled shadows over the water always cool me down.

Looking up into trees and searching the verges and hedgerows has made me think this Autumn may be a quieter year for foraging…certainly the wild mirabelle plums that I’ve gathered for the past 5 or 6 years will be missing from my wild pantry…the blossoms didn’t really come to much which is hardly surprising as the weather was so bad, so no plum crumbles or jams, no plums in brandy to keep Winter chills at bay…and along with the poor show of plums the wild cherries don’t seem to have fared much better…there’s been the occasional nibble when I’ve passed by underneath, but not enough to turn anything into something good to put down for the colder months, or simmer and spoon over ice-cream.

honey bees and bramble blossom

However the apples seem to have done better, I’ve been seeing a lot more trees laden with fruit , even more so than last year, and fingers crossed it will be a good year too for the blackberries, we’ve eaten a couple of fat early berries which have been really juicy, though very tart.  I’m hoping to be able to make a couple of junkets as that is one of my favourite blackberry recipes and which can be eaten with just out of the oven scones under heaped teaspoonfuls of clotted cream or stirred through yoghurt.


And I’ve noticed the hawthorns, rowan and rose all seem to be coming along nicely as well so I’m planning to make more hedgerow syrups as I honestly don’t know how I’d have got by this year without them…..while not having quite such painful laryngitis as in recent years, this year I’ve still been prone to numerous coughs and colds and sore throat, and a spoonful of amber coloured syrup in a cup of hot water has been really soothing to sip at……the syrup is also nice over yoghurt and ice-cream but my favourite way to have it has been to make it into a tea.

I loved this dappled spot alongside the train track where the sunbeams came streamng down and made all the bracken and mare’s tail gleam all golden light, earlier in the year I walked here when there’d been a frost so the bracken looked quite different then.

And while we just walk slowly, taking our time to smell things, stand and listen to birds overhead, I’m always quite happy to return home, key out to open the door and the kettle goes on to make tea before almost anything else.


Twilight shadows and woolly birthday wishes……

finsihed karise

Happy Birthday to you

Happy Birthday to you

Happy Birthday dear Kathy

Happy Birthday to you….

We wish you good health

And a pocketful of wealth

And the whole world of happiness

Happy Birthday to you *

I’m terrible at keeping secrets and this shawl has been wanting to make an appearance for the past few weeks, however I wasn’t able to show it until today as I was knitting it as a birthday present for my boyfriend’s mum and I know she often pops by and has a read of my blog so it all had to be kept hush hush and top secret……

Tamar for Kathy

As I’ve mentioned before, the Tamar was an absolute joy to knit with, it’s really soft and has a lovely luscious sheen to it.  It’s a blend of British breeds including Wensleydale, Teeswater and Leicester Longwool.

Blacker Yarns is based in Cornwall and while my sweetie’s parents don’t live there, they are towards that end of the country rather than living in East Anglia so I though the Tamar was a good choice of yarn to use in a project for her.

I bought the Tamar yarn from Isla at Brit Yarn, the shawl just dipped into a second skein so there’s enough yarn left over for perhaps a jaunty little hat or pair of gloves.

lace stitches and glass bead markers

The yarn isn’t just lustrous and glossy to look at, it’s also very pleasurable to squeeze and so buttery soft to stroke…..the colour is wonderful, it’s like looking at lavender plants or hydrangeas in dusk…all subtle shadows…the twists in the yarn’s ply capture flickers of light and smudgey shades and this creates a beautiful depth of hue….

The woolly yarn knitted up such a treat…I had to keep stopping so I could pat the knitted fabric against my face, it’s so soft and gentle…it really did feel like I was knitting with a cloud of sheep kisses….

meadow karise

Tamar is simply one of the nicest things I’ve ever touched or felt and while it felt like it was going to float away while I was knitting, the stitches sat nicely and were very well behaved on my needles….this is a gorgeous twilighty shade, the twists in the ply means that the stitches seem filled with shadows…it glows in the sunshine and constantly takes my breath away.

At one point I thought there were going to be tears as Bernard decided to give the ball of yarn a bit of a cuddle while I was making a pot of tea, the yarn got rolled under the table but luckily no stitches slipped off the needle.  The yarn looked a bit tangled but these actually just shock out so he only got told off a little bit.

karise lace close up

I’d happily give this yarn 10 stars…each time I bring it up to my face to touch I find myself closing my eyes and “mmming”…….

This was the first time I’ve properly knitted any lace work and I was really pleased with the result, the pattern (Karise by Karie Westermann) is written out nice and simply and I didn’t really run into any problems knitting it at all…..though I must confess to a bit of a “oh no” when I realized that the lace section was all written in chart form, but actually when I started looking at the chart it became a lot easier than trying to keep place in a written pattern…..

centre tip of shawl

I certainly found using plenty of stitch markers very helpful in keeping track of the lace pattern, I used the ones that I made from some vintage glass beads at Christmas (which was nice as they’d been part of a gift from my sweetie). I still had to un-knit a little bit whenever I made a silly mistake but we’re only talking a few rows.

I used 2 pairs of fixed circular Addi lace needles (a short pair and then a longer pair) to knit the shawl but I think next time I’d look at using a brand with slightly pointier tips, just because I find I seem to get on better with something sharp and pointy when working lace.

The shawl really came into it’s own after it’s washed and blocked, a little soak in a bath of warm water and Eucalan helps the wool to bloom and any wobbly stitches disappeared into a haze of sheepy bliss.

scrunched karise

I’d definitely recommend the Karise pattern if you’d like to try a bit of lace knitting, it’s a nice introduction to it without being too daunting.  In fact I loved this shawl so much I’ve gone on to not only knit one for myself in the Tamar but have also knit one for my sister Rachie using the un-ravelled alpaca/silk……

So once again, Happy Birthday Kathy, and I hope you have a warm and woolly day xx

*some years ago I met auntie Dolly who told me how all the old folks at the day centre where she’d go for a lunch, would sing this whenever it was anyone’s birthday….I’d not heard the last verse before and didn’t think to write it down so it might not be quite word perfect but this is sort of what I remember her singing.




A kinky curled karise……

kinki skein of alpaca and silk

A few weeks ago now I mentioned I’d been un-ravelling some projects that I’d either fallen out of love with or which weren’t quite how I’d wanted them…one of them was a very recent knit using some soft and silky alpacca/silk by Artesano…..I wasn’t too sure how this yarn would respond to being un-ravelled and washed but the kinks and curls pretty much came out and by the time it was wound into balls it looked fine…..

Pretty much as soon as my Cloud of sheep kisses Karise shawl was cast off another one appeared on the needles, this time using the alpacca/silk as I was curious as to how the lace would look in such a different yarn…….I do find this yarn quite slippy to work with and decided to use some ChiaoGoo Lace needles which I bought from Meadow Yarn in Suffolk (they’re actually based just a couple of miles from where I grew up), these needles aren’t quite so pointy as Hiya Hiya sharps but they still pick up any psso’s or k2tog’s in the pattern really well, also they have a lovely heavy cable  (it actually feels just like a bicycle brake cable) which I thought this yarn would benefit from.  Anj is always incredibly helpful and has put up with no end of my questions about different types of needle and I very much appreciate the advice she has given me.

first section of lace from chart A

I love the egg shell blue colour of the yarn and it’s glossy and shiny and all sorts of lovely but I must confess it doesn’t quite grab me the way that the Tamar did…’s also a bit “sticky” to work when it gets warm out in the garden….I didn’t find this with the Tamar even though a couple of the days I was knitting with that it was really “phew what a scorcher” weather…..however, the lace knitted in this yarn is looking nice, it’s opening out more unblocked than I think the Tamar did so it will be interesting to see how it looks after washing and blocking.

lace knitting and stitch markers

I’m still needing to use the stitch markers I made at Christmas , and in fact as I’ve now got another shawl on the go (think I’m becoming a bit of a shawl fiend) I’ve had to make some more of them so I have enough for both shawls……the stitch markers are really easy to make and make good use of old jewelry bits and bobs and vintage beads I’ve had ferreted away for goodness knows how long….

stitch markers and head pins

I do find using a pair of jewelry pliers very helpful. These ones are bent nose pliers (though the bend hasn’t really come out in the photo) and I think I got them from my local iron-mongers but you can pick up little sets pretty cheap at craft shops/ebay etc…..I’ve also got a small pair of wire cutters and a pair of rounded long nose pliers.

Rather than use a jump ring I like to use the little ring from a toggle clasp fitting, they don’t have anything to snag on your yarn and fit my needles fine.   The tiny eye/ring at the bottom is all part of the fixture and it’s through this that you thread your bead and head pin.  I’ve also made some with tiny lobster claw clasps but I find these a bit catchy when I’m knitting so don’t tend to use those so much.

While I was sorting out beads to use for more stitch markers I found a little tin full of smoky amber glass beads which had once been a necklace that my friend Joyce gave me years ago when I must’ve been about 15 or 16.  Joyce passsed away earlier this year so it’s very special to be able to make some stitch markers with her beads, she’ll never be far from my thoughts while I hear these tingling and tinkling as I knit

head pins

The head pins I use come from a local bead shop called Raphael Crafts, it’s owned by a lovely lady called Anne who is incredibly friendly and helpful…she also has a jewelry shop just up from her bead shop which has a really nice range of earings and necklaces.

Along with regular flat bottomed head pins, Anne also stocks these smaller ones which have a silver ball bottom.  Now some beads will too big for them and the smaller pins are going to just slip right through, but the old glass paste beads I’m using from my box of delights and the glass beads from Joyce seem to fit fine….the pins are also finer than regular ones so are easier to cut, bend and twist back down into the bead.  They’re pretty wee, only about an inch or so in length but I really like using them.

I also find that this non wool yarn doesn’t like snaggy hands so I’m regularly scrubbing my fingers and hands with a dribble of grapeseed oil and a teaspoon of sugar, I rub this over my fingers paying particular attention at the base where the skin gets drier and also around my nails and cuticles, then I just wash it off in warm water and pat dry……It’s nice and relaxing to do, and it’s good for your hands to give them a massage… you can always add a drop of essential oil to the grapeseed oil if you want to get posh and swanky…..



A cloud of sheep kisses….

morning sunlight on Tamar yarn

Back in the Spring I was lucky enough to win a beautiful shimmering skein of Blacker Yarns Tamar from Isla at Brit Yarn…..initially I’d though about using it in a hap but I couldn’t really afford to buy the amount of extra yarn I’d need for such a large project…. so after asking for some shawl pattern advice in one of the discussion groups in the Brit Yarn forum over at Ravelry I decided to knit a Karise by Karie Westermann…..and I’m really over the moon happy with how it’s come out.

tiddy brook and matching stitch marker

Tamar is a gorgeous yarn, it’s luscious and lustrous like you wouldn’t believe, soft and whisper fine though looks are deceiving and I’ve found it stronger than I’d expected……it’s not in the slightest bit kempy and instead has a delicate haze of fine woolly fibres .

The yarn is made from 2 strands twisted together and that double ply holds and captures shadow so light seems to dance across it’s surface…….although it’s a solid dyed yarn, I think one of the base fleeces must be a grey as the yellow hue seems to ripple and glow in the sunlight.  The colour is beautiful, all pollen hued and Spring hedgerow memories…….

pollen hued stitches

It was such a joy to knit with, the yarn felt lovely and the knitted fabric was really silky to the touch.  A couple of times I’ve been knitting this on the bus and people have thought it was silk, alpaca, angora, cashmere….when I said it was wool they’ve all look so startled……the clever people at Blacker Yarn have blended together some of the most lustrous British fleeces (Wensleydale, Teeswater and Leicester Longwool) and have created a really special and beautiful yarn.

This is actually the second time I’ve used this yarn and it’s simply wonderful to handle and touch…..the only downside in my book is that it didn’t really smell sheepy which is a quality I particularly love about woolly yarn, however, while I was preparing to knit this, I kept it alongside some Daughter of a Shepherd yarn and the sheepy aroma was absorbed so I still got my “baa ram ewe” hit.

lace detail on shawl

The pattern is by Karie Westermann and while I don’t have a lot of experience lace knitting I found it really easy to follow, I was a bit worried when I realised that the lace was all in chart rather than written out in full, but actually it made things a lot less complicated and I was able to see what I was doing and check where I was a lot easier than if I’d been using written instructions.

I found using the stitch markers I made at Christmas pretty much invaluable as I liked to count how many stitches each time I’d worked a lace repeat and having the markers in the work was a bit like someone holding my hand.

I did make a couple of mistakes and every so often I had to un-knit a row or two but this wasn’t the end of the world, the yarn behaved beautifully and didn’t split or stick… really was a delight to have on my needles and I feel quite sad it’ll be a little while before I can afford to knit with it again.

I used some Addi fixed needles although I think a slightly pointier needle would have helped me when I needed to pass a stitch over, I’m quite a tight knitter but found my tension getting looser and my knititng more even as I went along.

blocked lace detail

The Tamar yarn blocks really well, and the lace which looked a bit squidgy and nothing to write home about before being immersed in warm water, opened out like a flower responding to sunshine…..I knew I was going to need a bit more than the skein I won so I bought a second one and repeated the chart for the first section of lace as I quite like a larger shawl, also I’m quite tall so even if it’s just draped around my shoulders it won’t be dragging along on the floor.

Karise detail

So how does the finished shawl feel …..imagine being  wrapped up in a cloud of sheep kisses….soft, warm, woolly, gentle puffs and tickles… makes me close my eyes and sigh as I hold the knitted fabric up to my face.

Tiddy Brook Karise

The shawl is really light and floaty so it scrunches up beautifully if you want to wear it around your neck like a scarf or cowl which is probably how I’ll wear it rather than how I’m showing it in these pictures……I think I look like I’m waiting for Mister Darcy with the shawl like this though with the state of my hair I’m more likely to end up with Catweazle.

It’s definitely a yarn I’ll look to knit with again, and there are at least another 3 colours which have my heart racing.

Will I knit the pattern again…cough cough…I’ve already got a third Karise on my knitting needles and am thinking about the yarn I have in my stash and what would be suitable for a fourth and a fifth……I like how the pattern can be tinkered with so the lace work can be increased…..and I’ve seen a breathtakingly beautiful one on Ravelry by Maud Bailey which is knitted in laceweight yarn… looks like a cobweb and is so delicate.

Once again, many many thanks to Isla at Brit Yarn, when I found out I’d won the skein I burst out in tears as I was so happy, and some months later as I wrap this cloud of sheep kisses around my shoulders I can feel myself getting all silly and teary eyed again.