Kitten soft with a silky lustre….

a rainbow skein

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be sent a little skein of a new yarn base from Joy who works under the name The Knitting Goddess (I’d just like to say that I think Joy has the most perfect name, seeing her brightly paired hues always makes me smile and feel proper heart happy)….it’s been custom spun for her by the wonderful folk at John Arbon Mill, the base is British Bluefaced Leicester, Wensleydale (which is a lovely lustrous and clotted cream, gold sheened wool), Alpaca and silk….and as you can imagine is wondrously soft…in fact all the wool and alpaca comes from UK flocks, then is processed in the UK and spun in Devon.

I wholly suspect Joy has been at Hogwarts as her colour combinations are so magic, and this colourway was no exception, it’s called Almost a Rainbow and definitely captures all the smiles and oohs of when you look up and there is a rainbow arc in the sky….

winding onto a nostepinne

After a few days of petting and stroking the yarn, and thinking about possible stitches to try out, I began by winding the yarn into a little ball…if you’ve been reading my blog a while you’ll know I used to use the cardboard tube insert from a roll of kitchen paper to do this, well no more…I’ve had an upgrade….(I commissioned local green woodsman Simon Lamb to make me a nostepinne, and as well as making me a regular sized one, he also made me this dear little one which fits into the palm of my hand and is the ideal size for making tiny balls for swatching, it’s made from local Norfolk Yew)…I much prefer to wind my yarn on a nostepinne as it helps me get a real feel for the yarn, it’s a bit like saying “how do” and allows me those few extra minutes of yarn play and feeling the yarn thread through my fingers is always blissful….I could really feel the Wensleydale and silk as I wound the yarn.

knitting swatch

One of the treats for me in learning to knit has been the “joy” in knitting little swatches like this, I don’t have the same knitting experience as I do with sewing or quilting so these are an excellent way to find how a yarn knits up, how different stitches suit it, but also and most importantly, how does it wear…I’m not a particularly speedy knitter so if I’m going to spend hours upon hours knitting a shawl or socks or a cardigan then I want to know that the yarn will suit the purpose…..at the moment I like knitting shawls so thought I’d knit this swatch using a 4mm needle which is quite a big needle for a 4ply yarn, but that helps create a nice drape which is what you want when you knit something to fling around your shoulders…..as you can see, even unblocked the stitches look nice and well defined….

I particularly love how clean and bright the colours are, no muddiness going on, and the fabric that the yarn makes is proper kitten tummy soft….there is a real lustre and lusciousness to the fabric, it’s the sort of knitting that you want to keep laying against your cheek to go “oooh”….

unblocked swatch

I tried to use a couple of texture stitches as well, and while I’m not particularly confident yet to try any brioche knitting I can imagine that this yarn would suit those sort of stitches extremely well, all those different colours layering on top of each other and peeping out from behind another yarn, just the thought reminds me of those wax crayon scratch pictures I used to make at Primary school….

I also tried ripping back every-so often to see how the yarn would behave, and even after the fifth rip back of the same piece of knitting, the stitches still looked fine (I can still count on one hand the amount of finished knits that haven’t had at least a few rows of re-knitting so I always like to know a yarn can cope with mistakes and errors…)

I must admit to squish squish squishing those rows of garter stitch more than was probably good for them, there’s a nice amount of depth to the stitches without the knitting feeling bulky.

blocked stitches

After the swatch was finished, I gave it a little bath and pinned it out to set, it dried really quickly and kept the shape very well….over the course of testing I washed and blocked the swatch 3 times and it still looked as good as new the third time….over the course of the week the swatch was pinned under clothes, tucked under a bra strap, and shoved into a pocket….there was no itchy or playful tickle just soft silky kisses.

The stitch definiton is excellent, it’s probably easier to see on the stocking stitch and garter stitch rather than the texture stitches, however, the areas where there is a lot of texture look incredible because you have all this colour going on and then there is a wonderful silky lustre overtop so the knitting almost glows… there’s a very very slight halo above the stitches, I wasn’t aware of it until the 3rd wash and then it’s still only barely there, a bit like ground mist on September mornings.

colourful stitches

As I mentioned earlier I really like knitting shawls so tend to think of a yarn as “how would it knit for those”, but as my knitting improves and I feel more confident, I’m starting to daydream a lot about knitted vests, not a what I call a tank top, but proper next to the skin vests….vintage knitting books often have patterns for them and whereas in the past I’ve laughed and thought “oh no”…after knitting with this I’m very much thinking “oh yes”….it feels very comfortable next to the skin and I think it would feel the other side of fanciness and luxury to wear a chamisole top or Spencer knitted in this….

pumice rubbing

Now I’ve heard some stories about Sonja from Blacker Yarns at The Edinburgh Yarn Festival, how she tested one of their yarns with a piece of pumice stone to show how it wears and I thought to try that out here…..I’m so sorry Joy and the fine folk at John Arbon, please don’t think I would normally treat my knitting in such a way, but I wanted to see just how mean I could be, (also I know some other people testing this were going to try it as socks….I did check with Joy and she said this wasn’t intended to be a sock yarn as there is a lack of wooliness but to go ahead and test how I like)…..

I broke some pumice so the edge was pretty rough and then swiped and rubbed for about a minute…I didn’t just do it in one direction but back and forth, left and right and diagonally…..to be honest I thought I was going to rub right through but the fibres (possibly the silk) lifted, fluffed up, and after wetting there was a little felting…Personally I’m not sure I would use this for socks as I prefer them to be woolier, but on the other hand, I’m not sure how well some of my ‘sock yarn’ yarns would behave if I treated them the same…..I know lovely Maylin is testing some, she’s been knitting herself some toe caps so please keep an eye on her most awesome blog for her full report……however if you wanted to knit a pair of fancy shmancy bed socks then I can’t think of anything more luxurious to slip your toes into than this.

rainbow hue

Overall I think this is a really wonderful feeling yarn, it’s gentle against the skin and has a lovely flopsadoodle drape which for me would mean it’s ideal for a shawl, the skeins are 100g with a length of approx 400 meters… so that is enough for quite a nice sized shawl….it’s retailing at £19.50 a skein so won’t break the bank either.

Britsilk was released this weekend at Fibre East and will be available from Thursday on The Knitting Goddess website (you might want to just check with her instagram to see what time it will go on sale) it’s been dyed in multi-colours like this swatch but also in semi solids (ohhh you should see the Coal and Black colourways…perfect for ohh lah lah lingerie) and then the next batch of yarn will be in December, which right now seems a long way away but I’m thinking, once you’ve done all your present shopping then a skein or two of this as a treat for yourself might be more than a little bit nice.

lace detail

Many many thank yous to Joy for the opportunity to have a little play with this gorgeous and breathtakingly beautiful yarn, it really has been a pleasure to knit with.

 

 

 

A high summer jam with a couple of variations……..

raspberry harvest

Apart from the odd overcast afternoon with an accompanying shower of rain, it’s been pretty dry here the past few weeks in Norfolk, and while it’s a bit too warm for me to want to spend too long outside in the garden, our raspberries are loving the early heat wave.  Many of the plants are already my height and more and we’ve been picking fruit everyday, in fact there is now so much all ripened together that today I’ll be making jam.

The variety of raspberry we grow is called Autumn Bliss, the plants produce two harvests, a small early crop around now and then they really go for it around August and will produce fruit, weather permitting, through October and even into November if there isn’t a frost.  Those first fruits are smaller in size but come August they are the size of small plums, but already we are seeing very impressive sized red velvety berries, hanging down from the bushes like Christmas tree baubles….Normally we don’t get jam quantity sized gluts until the second harvest, so this is a lovely surprise, especially as today seems a bit cooler and I won’t need to keep fanning myself while I’m leaning over the jam pan.

a handful of berries

The other Christmas my boyfriend bought me a huge French copper jam pan, and that’s really wonderful for making a kilo of fruit sized jam quantity, (the jam itself also seems to look brighter and more glossy) but I’ve also regularly used the big size Le Crueset or Chausseur pans if I’ve only had say 500 g of fruit (though if you have room in a freezer, you can always freeze small quantities of the berries until you have enough as raspberries freeze very well)

Raspberry Jam

Ingredients

1 kilo of freshly picked raspberries

800 g granulated sugar (I use golden as it has a lovely taste)

juice of a lemon

Some sterilized jam jars

(pop a couple of little saucers in the freezer as these will help checking the set of the jam easier)

Method

Don’t wash the raspberries, just check them over and cut off any bits that are a bit scabby.  Put them into the pan you’re using for jam. Cover with the sugar and the lemon juice.  Bring the fruit to a gradual boil, all the time just very gently stirring the fruit and the sugar together without over squashing the raspberries.

Keep stirring gently, and allow the fruit and sugar to bubble furiously….as well as watching the jam, you’ll need to keep an eye on the time.  The jam needs between 5-8 minutes (a bit longer if you are using more fruit), skim if it’s needed (though to be honest I don’t always bother), check for a set on a chilled saucer from the freezer, allow the jam to cool down for a minute (turn the jam pan off so it doesn’t keep cooking)…once the jam wrinkles when you push your finger into it, pour into the sterilized jars and cover with waxed discs.

Variations

Sometimes I add a splosh of cognac to the jam once it has reached setting point, it adds another note to the jam which is particularly nice if you’re using berries from the freezer….another little tip which I do more with the Autumn crop and which ekes out a smaller quantity of raspberries is to mix them with nectarines and peaches, this is especially good if you’ve bought some of those and they are a bit sort of ….woolly…. (I don’t like to say woolly as a non compliment as I love my sheepy yarns and a really woolly yarn is always lovely to knit with, but I can’t think of how else to describe peaches and nectarines when they become a bit spongy and fluffy tasting at the end of their season)…

I generally use around a 5 to 4 fruit:sugar ratio…… so 250 g of peaches will need 200 g of sugar…..Peel the peaches, remove the stones and weigh.  Put into a ceramic dish and add the calculated amount of sugar and a squirt of lemon juice, leave for a couple of hours and then mash slightly…if you are just using a couple of peaches then a tablespoon or so lemon juice will be enough as you’ll be adding more with the raspberries….put into a heavy based pan and bring to a simmer for a couple of minutes….once the fruit has softened, add to a jam pan before putting the raspberries and rest of the sugar and lemon juice……

That all  sounds a bit pfaffy but it’s actually very easy and it uses up fruit which otherwise isn’t quite so nice to eat.

Raspberry jam is such a taste of Summer jam and can’t be beat on scones mere seconds out of the oven, ones so warm they can just be pulled apart before being covered with jam and a smear or dollop of clotted cream, it’s also excellent for a Victoria sponge cake. But I’ve also used the raspberry jam before in making truffles, the sharp fruity taste mixes in perfectly with the chocolatey ganache.

 

 

 

Plum jam from the 50p box

jam and bread...

One of our favourite stalls on Norwich Market is Folland Organics owned by our lovely friend Robb, by the side of his counter he has a 50p box where he puts fruit and vegetables that need to be sold quickly and so sometimes supper can be decided because there’s a bag of wrinkley carrots needing a home, or a load of spinach that is starting to wilt….yesterday I had a text from my boyfriend “Robb has cheap plums, shall I buy some” and while it’s too warm for crumbles or a plum pie, it’s never too warm for jam, well sometimes it feels too warm to be standing over a bubbling jam pan making it but the end result always tastes nice….

I love making jams and jellies, marmalades and chutneys…there’s something very satisfying about preserving a couple of handfuls of fruit in sugar, and knowing our pantry/cupboard shelves has a few jars of homemade preserves on them means I’ve always got a quick last minute present or am at least part way to making an afternoon tea or pudding.

mirabelle plums

The  past couple of years I’ve been making more fruit jellies than jams, using ingredients from what I think of as my wild larder.. plums and cherrys, rose hips, haws, rowan berries, crab apples and wildlings, and as much as I like the slow cooking of the fruit and the steady drip drip drip of the jelly bag (I call it a jelly bag but I use an old pillowcase as that’s more sturdy than the jelly bags I’ve seen for sale in the shops, and then tie it under an open step ladder…not pretty but it’s sturdy) but the jams I like to make the most tend to be what I think of as French style, soft set jams, where the taste of the fruit is clean and sharp, not over sugared or bubbled away for ages…jams you can spread out on wisps of buttery puff pastry and top with chatilly cream for an instant pudding but which are just as nice smeared on  crisp hot toast or still warm from the oven scones.

As there is such an abundance in the hedgerows around where we live, I tend to make most of our jams and jellies with wild fruit rather than spending a lot of money on shop bought ones, I’d normally make this plum jam with the mirabelles that grow just up the road, but the 50p plums have worked really well…..I also tend to think of plum jam as a winter jam as I’d normally pop in some star anise, a couple of cloves and a piece of cinnamon….

macerate plums in lemon juice and sugar

Plum jam

ingredients

750g plums

560g granulated sugar

Juice of 1 1/2 lemons

1 star anise ‘star’ (force of habit and not really sure it was needed)

method

Quickly rinse the plums in cold water , wipe them over and pat dry clean.  Cut in half, place in a ceramic bowl, squeeze over the lemon juice and then tip over the sugar…..

Allow the fruit to macerate in the sugar and lemon for a couple of hours.

Tumble the fruit, juice and syrupy sugar into your jam pan and bring to a simmer. Remove the fruit and put into a ceramic bowl, pour the syrup on top, cover with a circle of baking parchment cut to fit the top of the bowl, allow to cool and then leave overnight in the fridge.

simmered plums in syrup

Next morning, place a sieve over a large ceramic bowl and carefully place in the fruit, pour over the syrup (a rubber spatula really helps at this stage)…cover everything with cheesecloth to keep any flies or wasps off and leave until the syrup has collected into the bowl below.

Pour the syrup into a jam pan, and slowly bring to a boil, once the syrup is boiling bring up the heat and continue cooking. You want the syrup to concentrate and by the time it’s reached 105c on a jam thermometer it will be ready.

making plum jam

Carefully add the plums, bring back to a boil and carefully cook for 5 minutes stirring gently.  At this point the plums become the deepest red, all vampirey and theatre seat velvet….Skim the surface to remove any fruit scum.  Check the set. (I pop a couple of little saucers in the freezer as this makes checking the set easier.) Pour the jam into sterilized jars and seal immediately with waxed papers and once it’s cooled right down, cover with cellophane discs and rubber bands.

I’m happy to leave the stones in (never too old to play tinker, tailor….) though when you label your jars you might want to mention to keep an eye out for them…you don’t want to forget and later crack a tooth…..

We had this today for breakfast (him with toast, me with yoghurt) it was so fresh and fruity, and without the extra spices isn’t a Winter tasting jam in the slightest…..

I’m really lucky as I have a big copper jam pan from France but I also use a stainless steel pan for smaller quantities which you can get from Lakeland plastic…I’ve also made very nice jam in Le Creuset/ Chasseur pans, the 30 cm or so size one is good as you need the height for the jam to bubble up and rise….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Broad beans, exotic blooms and the blackbird tapping……

white bottomed buzzy bee

For the past some years I’ve been an early riser, even on those dark cold mornings when it’s rainy and windy outside, I could happily snuggle back under the pile of quilts and blankets that we have on the bed, but once I’m awake, I’m awake….I need to be up, have the kettle on, make a pot of tea…  Even if it’s just nestling in my corner of the sofa with some knitting, my day has began and I want to start doing…..

Come Summer the early morning light creeps into our bedroom, I can hear the dawn chorus begin and feel Bernard shift around at the bottom of the bed, I make myself stay under the covers til five thirty so I don’t wake the whole house with my fidgetting but then I’m up and try to be mouse quiet as I dress and creep down the stairs…

The past week has seen the weather warm up, mornings have a soft cool breeze that tickles at the back of my neck and along my arms, but make being outside a pleasure in the early hours before it feels too hot and scorchy….

napping on the potting table

(the supervisor taking a little nap sometime last year……)

Our little back garden is quite open, it’s East facing so there’s plenty of sunlight for plants, without the full exposure of West facing, there’s shady spots and shadows shift across the vegetable beds….

The past couple of Summers gardening hasn’t been so easy, or so enjoyable, next doors cats seem to delight in playing amongst our raised beds and raspberries, last year we didn’t feel inclined to do anything after numerous plantings were squashed, dug up, and pooped on….but this year I can feel the pull of the soil in my heart, I need to get my hands in the compost and plant, smell green things growing…..

The last time I felt this deep longing was a year or so after my dad died, there were so many things I wanted to ask, some to do with how things were planted, what was the best time for beans to go in the ground, how much space should I give courgettes and squashes, how many tomatoes could I fit into a grow bag….but also other things too…conversations I didn’t know I wanted until it was too late…..being outside, potting things up, weeding and tickling with one of my dad’s hoes (there’s a spot his hands have worn right smooth and shiny) seeing what wanted to grow where and what liked the soil…..all the noise and jumble in my head seemed to soothe itself out while I dug, and planted, watched seeds I planted grow into sweet smelling blossoms, herbs and fruit I was able to make into pestos and jam…….

It’s not been all sunshine, we’re still getting quite heavy downpours so being out first thing in the morning, the soil feels damp and weeds are relatively easy to lift out before Summer makes everywhere rock hard….but it’s being outside while the morning wakes up alongside with me that is seeming to give me the most pleasure….

We’ve been buying live meals worms from Wiggly wigglers and the blackbirds and robin have been tucking in like you wouldn’t believe….the sound of the blackbird tap tap tapping as he fills up on worms accompanies me most mornings when I’m outside and if I’m weeding, the robin hops over and watches me, cocking his head from side to side then darting down if he thinks I’ve found something particularly interesting….

broad bean flowers

I’ve cheated a bit this year, rather than grow a lot of things from seed I’ve bought small plug plants from Thorns which is a local ironmongers, if you live in Norwich or Norfolk then you’ll be smiling when I say it’s a right old rabbit warren inside, and I’m sure people get lost in there all the time…..I’ve planted out two rows of peas and I’ve also got broad bean plants growing too….I love the stark contrast between the milk white and inky black blossoms, and look forward to seeing those tiny doll sized pods appear…we’re growing the broad beans a bit different this year, himself has read about growing them in a circle with a tripod support, the beans grow closer together and create a micro climate that retains the moisture in the soil…..I’m not sure what my dad would have thought, he grew his in rows but then he’d grow several hundred where as we have just 2 dozen.

newspaper pots

Apart from the plug plants, I’ve planted some french beans from bean rather than plantling, the first couple of weeks of May were really cold and damp so I don’t think it’s the end of the world planting these now, hopefully they’ll soon start to sprout and come on before I know it….

I’d wanted to try make these newspaper pots for ages and I found a couple of really nice little videos on youtube, (I think this chap in particular is really nice)….I actually got a bit carried away and made way more than I needed so I think I might plant up some of the wild/apline strawberries that have started to take over under our cherry tree and give those away to friends….

Other seeds I’ve planted included foxgloves and hollyhocks and some grannys bonnet that I found up in a seed box, I don’t know if the grannys bonnet seeds will grow as they are a few years old, they came from a plant that my dear friend Joyce gave me, she died last year so I must have had these for a good few years…oh well, we’ll see, if they grow they grow, if not…I’ll just have to buy one instead…the hollyhocks are from various neighbours gardens, I’m not sure if these are the deep purpley, as “black as Cromwells heart” (…thank you @paulbommer for that) ones or the apple blossom pink ones that are all faded brown around the edges…..for the most part we have lovely neighbours, and a compliment on gorgeous front garden blooms sees a handfull of seeds given away very generously……

courgette flower

One of the real delights in getting up nice and early is being greeted by a beauty like this when you step outside….it’s like a glorious exotic bloom in a glasshouse….seriously who needs Chelsea Flower show when this is in the back garden…The blossom is the most eggy colour yellow you could imagine, all sou’westery and brightness itself….

I love courgettes and I bought 3 plants from good old Thorns, Mister Green Fingers informed me last night that I’d planted them a bit too close together so first thing this morning I moved two of them, I’ve put them into large plastic pots and will try and remember to buy some plant food when I go into town on Friday (another visit to Thorns, I almost live there in the Summer….) I can happily eat courgettes til they come out of my ears, grilled, roast, lightly steamed and served on cauliflower rice or tossed into a salad…I used to use them in a poppy seed cake where they add lots of moisture, so the cake in theory would keep longer though it tasted so nice it wouldn’t ever last more than a couple of days.

wild strawberries

I mentioned the wild/alpine strawberries that have taken over the garden somewhat…..we’ve grown both wild and alpine varieties and over the years they’ve pollinated each other so the fruits that grow in the back garden are rather a jumble, they seem to do most well just growing where they will rather than in pots, often the sweetest fruit are the ones that appear in the middle of the patio or alongside our garden path…I guess it’s because their roots like to spread out, and for the most part we just let them do as they please….the little fruits are a mix of sweet and sharp, some taste like Opal fruits/starburst, others are tart and make you go “ooh!!”….I’ll often add them to jam (they are too tiny to pick enough to make a jam of them by themselves) or to breakfast yoghurt, we also like to mash them with water mint from over the marshes and make a Summery Orchard Mist cocktail….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A birthday blankie for Bernard with some bobbled corners…..

bobble pom poms

Over the past six weeks I’ve been taking part in Hanna’s #lentenwipdown…… something I find I do time and time and time again is to start something new when I already have a pile of half finished (or sometimes just barely started) projects that really deserve my attention a whole lot more….I don’t know why I do it, it’s not like I don’t love those half made pieces but I think it’s more a case of just wanting to try everything…..we don’t have a very large house although I’m lucky enough to have a room for all my sewing and fabric and yarn hoarding, but I’d much rather this room was free of all the half mades and just starteds, so the “wip-down” has been a good boot up the bottom to get me tackling some of those very slow wip’s…..

more nine square patches

After going through various half made items to assess how much really needed doing to each one before it was finished I decided to tackle this crochet blanket….and a couple of reasons were behind my thinking…..since using tapestry yarn for my crochet blankets I’ve tended to avoid using acrylic yarn, I don’t like the way it squeaks, it makes me feel all “stat-icky” with electricity (my hair always gets a bit bird nesty when I’ve been using it), and I’ve found it makes my hands ache more than when I crochet with wool yarn….in a corner of my work room I had a couple of big bags of brightly coloured acrylic yarn and a lady on the bus had told me that her grand-daughter used this to make blankets for various charities, so I thought if I finished joining in the little squares for the blanket then I could not only have a finished wip I’d also be able to get rid of those bags of yarn that I wasn’t really planning to use again…..

crocheting-along

Joining in the little squares actually didn’t seem to take that long to do at all, I love chosing the random colours and like to mix up rather odd colour combinations, it’s always been the main appeal of crochet for me, using up small pieces of brightly hued yarn to create multiple coloured squares……

Actually I’m trying to remember exactly when I started this blanket, orignally I made my two youngest nieces a couple of crochet blankets when baby Eliza was born (she was 4 in November so that’s a few years ago now) and I had lots of squares left over, I then used some of those to make a lap blanket for my friend Joyce and as is my way, made even more little squares for fear of not having enough so again I had some left over…….they ended up being shoved into the back of a cupboard where they were forgotten about……when I found them again at the start of 2015 I decided to rip out the third and fourth rounds, and join them together on the third round.  (The fourth round had been white and I’d wanted a more intense spread of colour rather than pops of colour in a sea of white)…..

making a new blanket

I stuck with it for a good while but somewhere along the way I got bored again and bundled it all back into the cupboard…..

layingtwo strips together

When I was making the blanket I’d found it easier to concentrate on crocheting lots of little squares then joining them into nines (rows of 3 x 3) and then joining those nines together (in rows of 7 by 7)…by the time I’d gotten bored there were a whole lot of big 7 x 7 square pieces which doubled up as small window blankets for Bernard to sprawl out on (he loves laying in the window and prefers to have something underneath him…for a cat that was originally found in a dustbin* he is very high maintenance)

sewing in the last dozen or so tails

But it’s always sewing in those yarny tails that are my downfall…..good intentions to sew them in as I go seem to fall by the wayside very rapidly, and while I know there is a technique where you crochet them in as you go, whenever I’ve tried to do that I ended up with fat old lumpy sides….

upside down

Anyway, a certain furry someone is always interested when a crochet blanket is being made, put it down for 5 minutes to go make a pot of tea and you’ll find it “just being kept warm” on your return…..

Because he loves blankets we decided that this would be a birthday present for him as he clambered up onto it every evening, and mewed if it was elsewhere, even needing to be carried upstairs on a royal cushion of crochet blanket come bedtime…(yes, he is one very spoilt cat).

rainbow tails

I really tried to keep on top of yarny tails while I was joining in the squares and as a nice incentive and way to keep track of tail sewing in progress I began saving all the tails in a bowl we normally have filled with Quality street at Christmas…and slowly the tails began to pile up……

I love seeing this mix of colours, combinations of colours that might seem a bit Hmmm in fact look great together, a bit bright and circussy perhaps, but this jumble of colour never fails to make me smile…..

crocheting over where two squares join

And finally…the day came when the last yarny tail was all sewn in…the blanket while an okay size wasn’t over huge or anything so I decided to add a few rows of single colour border, first white then pink and then red…….

I probably would have left it at that but then remembered the wonderful blanket I’d seen in the window of Norfolk Yarn the other week….. so I decided to make some of my own fat and squidgy pompom like baubles…..I didn’t make them as dangly as I thought they wouldn’t last 5 minutes if himself was feeling mischievous, so attached them right up to the edge of the blanket…and filled them with some red fleece I’d bought ages and ages ago….

I’m sure if you have a cat you know what happened next….he’s chosen to pretty much ignore it…that’s been a few hard whacks with a paw of the baubles but for the most part he’s walked past it, nose in the air……no doubt when the fuss of a new blanket has died down we’ll find him all curled up asleep on it……

If you want to make your own baubles this is how I made mine….

pom pom bobble detail

Baubles for a blanket (UK terminology)

dk weight yarn, 3.75 mm hook (I like my crochet quite tight)

Round 1….Make a magic loop and then work 6 double crochet stitches into it, you’ll end up with 6 stitches, carefully pull your magic loop closed and finish the row off with a slip stitch…

Round 2….Work 2 double crochet stitches into each of the previous stitches, finish with a slip stitch, you’ll have 12 stitches….

Round 3….Work 2 double crochet stitches into the next stitch, 1 double crochet stitch into the next one….repeat this pattern all the way around, so you have 18 stitches, finish with a slip stitch.

Round 4….Work a double crochet stitch into each of the previous stitches, you’ll still have 18 stitches…finish with a slip stitch.

Rounds 5 and 6….Repeat as for round 4.

Round 7….Work a double crochet decrease, then make 1 double crochet stitch, repeat around 6 times, finish with a slip stitch, this will reduce your stitch count down to 12.

At this point stuff the bauble firmly, try to use the same colour stuffing as the yarn you’ve used….

Round 8….Work a double crochet stitch decrease all the way around so you end with 6 stitches, finish with a slip stitch.

Fasten off leaving a long enough tail to attach the bauble to your blanket corner.

 

It feels really nice to have at least one less work in progress in the cupboard of doom, and the last few weeks while finishing this has made me think about other pieces in limbo that have been shoved away, what do I really want to finish, what can be charity shopped etc and what can be worked on next……..

*Bernard was a stray cat that was found eating food from a big catering bin at the back of a row of takeaway shops…he wasn’t skinny but his diet wasn’t really very good….nor did he have shawls that have taken me weeks to knit to sleep on…..

 

One a penny, two a penny…my best hot cross buns yet…….

sourdough hot cross buns

I love baking bread, tinkering with the recipe slightly to create different tasting loaves….and while I’m happy to make a fruity loaf any old time of the year, I only make Hot Cross buns for Easter or Ostara weekend…..

When I was small my mum seemed to spend all day baking them, there were lots of hungry little mouths wanting “just one more”, and then my dad could eat 2 or 3 with a cup of tea no worries…..we’d eat them from Friday through to Sunday then that would be that for another year…and when I got older and left home I just started baking my own, something that has seemed as natural to do as any other seasonal eating like making jam or marmalade or gingerbread….

Over the past couple of years I’ve tried to experiment a bit more with what I call our daily loaf, using natural starters and leavens to make the bread rise, the dough this makes is really good for pizzas and fruit topped breakfast breads (a bit like a German style Kuchen) and last year I wondered how an even longer time for the sponge to sit and the dough to prove would fit in with my daily routine so the buns would be ready for breakfast……..

It was a tiny bit pfaffy because you need to make a bread sponge (which is just some flour and water added to the starter) on Wednesday evening, but then you just cover it with a clean cloth til late afternoon the following day, add the rest of the ingredients and allow the dough to prove til you make a pre bedtime drink, shape the buns then put them on a tray into the fridge overnight, next day you’ll want to set the alarm early, take the buns out so they have about a couple of hours in the warm kitchen before you pop them in the oven and bake them……but the mmm’s and sighs of appreciation you’ll hear as your friends and family eat them are well worth any extra effort…

These really were the best buns I think I’ve ever made and while I like my other recipes for hot cross buns just fine, I certainly do think these are the most mmmm ones yet……

My best hot cross buns yet (as far as I’m concerned)…..

fourth-stage-of-the-starter

Wednesday Night

Sponge

200g Bread Flour

160g Starter

300ml Tepid Water

A handful of currants

2 desertspoons of dark brown sugar

Now normally I use milk to make hot cross buns but as I knew this was going to be sitting out overnight I used water…..

In a medium sized bowl mix together the above ingredients, then cover with a clean cloth and leave overnight until late afternoon the next day…..the sponge will be lovely and light and airy and all hubbley bubbley….

Thursday afternoon

Making the Dough

100g bread flour plus as much as the dough will need

30g melted butter

1 large egg beaten

Spice mix*

1 teaspoon Maldon sea salt

*1 tsp of cinnamon, some nutmeg, 1/2 tsp of ground clove and then 1/2 tsp of ground cumin

Add all the ingredients into the sponge and mix together with a silicon spatula (it’s going to be really sticky)…keep adding a small handful of bread flour at a time and once the dough stops being quite so sticky, empty it out onto a worktop and begin to knead it together…add more flour as and when the dough requires…once the dough becomes cool and silky, lightly oil a large bowl, place in the dough, turn it over so it’s lightly coated and again cover with a clean cloth….allow to prove for a few hours…..

sticky and still hot from the oven

Making the buns

Once the dough has been left to prove for a few hours, gently knock it back and then cut the dough in half, then half, then half and finally half again so you end up with 16 pieces of dough which you will want to roll in your hand to make a nice shape….

Place the buns onto a lined baking tray and then with a plastic spatula or fish slice, press down and then again at 90 degrees to make a cross in the top of the bun (I find dipping the spatula into flour every other time stops it from sticking in the dough)…then leave the buns in the fridge overnight.

The next morning

Egg Wash

1 egg

a splash of milk

Just whisk the two ingredients together….. Any left over can be put in the fridge and used for lunch in an omelette)

Flour Paste

3 or 4 heaped tablespoons of plain flour

2 teaspoons of castor sugar

2 or 3 tablespoons of water

Mix the paste well, you want it to be nice and thick, not runny or the cross will just slide right off

Sugar Syrup

A tablespoon of castor sugar

A tablespoon of just boiled water

Try to make this just before the buns come out of the oven, I tend to make it in a little cup and then as soon as the buns come out, I quickly smear them all with this……it makes them all glossy and completely irresistible to all and sundry…..

Method

Take the buns out of the fridge and depending on how warm the kitchen is you’ll need to give them between one and a half – two and a half hours to come up to room temp….

Before they go into the oven, give them a light egg wash and then dribble over the paste to highlight the cross…..

Bake in a gas mark 6 oven for approx 17- 20 minutes ….it depends how hot and tempermental your oven is……

As soon as they are out of the oven, quickly daub over the hot sugar syrup and then prepare to watch them disappear at an alarming rate……

The extra time for the sponge to do it’s hubble bubbling and for the dough to prove means these buns become incredibly light and airy, and yet they aren’t all pappy like a lot of shop bought ones, but still have a nice bit of chew and have lots of depth to the flavour…..

Same day Hot Cross buns….these won’t be ready for breakfast but are nice to have in the afternoon or to have toasted over the weekend….this recipe also uses a natural starter….

If you don’t have a starter in the bottom of the fridge then fear not, you can still make a very nice bun with dry yeast….This is my recipe for regular hot cross buns…….

 

 

 

 

My stay at home Norwich Yarn Festival…..

 

 

norfolk yarn windowA few weeks ago it was Edinburgh Yarn Festival and although I would have loved to have gone and join in all the fun and community and yarn squishing it wasn’t something I was able to do, so rather than sit at home and feel in the doldrums I decided to have my very own little celebration of yarn…a bit of a stay-cation crossed with a festival at home….it all coincided rather nicely with one of my local yarn shops (the very nice Norfolk Yarn) running a stranded colourwork/Fairisle knitting class on March 11th…ever since I was a little girl I’ve loved the look of this style of knitting, but never thought it would be something that I could actually do….however this past year or so has seen my knitting come on in leaps and bounds…. personally I’d still call myself a beginner, but an adventurous one and I’ll pretty much rush in where angels fear to tread….so when I saw the sign for the class I thought “yes please” and booked in…… then ,as it all tied in nicely with the dates for EYF I decided to have my own “festival at home”….really this was just a good excuse to buy a couple of books I’ve wanted for ages and perhaps order some new yarn and needles…….

This is the window of Norfolk Yarn at the moment, I love the blanket and those crocheted bobbles inspired me when I finished off my crochet blanket…..

my norwich yarn fest

A book I’ve really wanted even before I could properly knit was Yokes by Kate Davies, I love the patterns and am very much of the opinion that it does you the world of good to look at things to inspire you to get better at something, a bit like a woolly carrot dangling in front of you…..I think the hardest thing is going to be which to cast on first but there are a couple that I keep turning back to look at……

The purple knitting was some travel knitting, something to do on the bus and to have in my lap while drinking a coffee (more of this another day as it was some of my gift knitting which will be it’s own blog post) I’m finding that I like to start off most of my knitting on wooden needles, I love the way they feel and also I find small cables want to curl up under my chin which these long needles don’t do….

I’ve used West Yorkshire Spinners Aire Valley dk in the past to knit squishy socks for my boyfriend and I really feel it’s about time I made some for me…this yarn is slightly thicker as it’s aran weight but it was reduced and I like these bright colours….In case you’re at all interested you can find a nice simple pattern for aran/worstead weight socks just here…these make lovely comfy house socks and I think if you used a softer, fancier yarn then you could make some beautiful bed socks (I’m thinking to make some with eyelets around the cuff, then thread ribbon through them)….this yarn was purchased from The Crafty Ewe which is brimming full with a really wide selection of yarns, needles and books for every pocket…(they also sell KA needles which my friend Claire uses, (I totally trust her needle suggestions, so I’ve recently bought some of their dpns to try out and they are as smooth as William Powell in The Thin Man films… I can certainly see myself buying more in the future….)

Along with the yarn I also bought a packet of Hiya Hiya bamboo tips from The Crafty Ewe and a packet of Knit Pro wooden tips from Norfolk Yarn…..although I have plenty of metal tips I find I like the feel of wooden/good quality bamboo ones more…..

The Colman’s Mustard postcard is a nod and a wink to my lovely friend Eva in Italy, I noticed a Colman’s Mustard tin on her bookshelf in an instagram picture she shared, and Norwich is after all home to Colman’s…

Both yarn shops are located very centrally in Norwich and are just a few minutes walk of each other, Norfolk Yarn is on Pottergate near Head in The Clouds, and Crafty Ewe is just up past The Guildhall…..

stranded colourwork rowan tweed

The workshop on the Saturday was much easier than I was expecting it to be, I still need to work on my tension and not pull the strands too tight but on the whole I was pretty impressed with what I was able to do (I know I sound like a right old head swell saying this, but I really was pleased with these and to say otherwise would be silly)…..the yarn we used in the class was a Rowan one and while I know a lot of people do like this yarn it didn’t do a lot for me, I think I like those wilder yarns with a bit more baa ram ewe to them, all Gabriel Oak with a little Heathcliffe on the side….however the colours were very pretty even though I know the ones I chose are too similar in tone……

I managed to knit about a quarter to a third of one fingerless mitt in class and then finished it and it’s twin off at home during the week….they are lovely and warm to wear though I think now it’s all sunshiney I’ll be tucking them away until the Autumn…

The workshop was very well priced as it included materials including yarn, a pair of needles to keep and cups of tea and coffee….

 

my own yarn fest

I also made a few other “festival at home” purchases….I ordered some yarn from Isla at Brityarn,  because I knew I was doing the stranded knitting class and thought it would be nice to then have some sticky Shetland yarn to play with (and if I’d gone to EYF I would definitely have made a bee-line to the Jamieson and Smith stall )…..last year I bought this fabric and think it would be interesting to try and match the colours for a pair of mittens or wrist warmers to start with….I was really inspired by the Knitsonik Colourwork Sourcebook which I’ve mentioned here before, not just as a very inspiring resource book for knitting, but I’ve used some of Felix’s ideas and suggestions with my crochet, embroidery and patchwork…and as Isla is totally awesome she’s also ordered in some other colours of the Jamieson and Smith yarn so I’ve since been able to match the lighter pink in the above print….

knitting goddes yarn

The other book I’d really been wanting to buy was The Book of Haps, and I think my first cast on will be the Houlland Hap by Donna Smith, this book was just waiting to come back into stock when I did my workshop at Norfolk Yarn but I was able to pick it up the following week (which meant my yarny “festival at home” was able to last a bit longer….I’ve got some beautiful yarn my big sister bought me for Christmas and think that would suit the Houlland hap really well, but I’d also like to try knit it with yarn that I’ve hand spun…oh, but telling you all about that will need to wait for another day….

I’ve mentioned The Knitting Goddess several times before, I love the way she colours yarn and I was lucky enough to test swatch some of the St Kilda yarn she dyed for Blacker Yarns last year….when I saw she had released another limited palette which included this mid blue green I decided to buy two skeins as I want to knit a fancy shawl to take away with me on an equally special holiday in September….. Buying this yarn I was able to support my favourite yarn company and favourite dyer, and hopefully one day I’ll be able to thank them both personally for all their hard work in creating beautiful yarns and sumptous colours.

rob's handknit jumper

Another highpoint of EYF after seeing all the amaing pictures popping up on Instagram is wowing at all the wonderful handknits that people wear…..and I was even able to participate a little in this…..when I went to buy some vegetables on the market that Friday, lovely Rob from Folland Organics had his coat open and a peek of handknit was on show, so after kindly taking off his coat on what was quite a nippy morning, he let me take a picture of it….what is so nice (and not just becuase I really like the pattern and colours) is that this was knitted by his wife’s granny for her husband, and once he died the jumper was passed onto Rob….I love that there is a real sense of family and love in all those stitches, and how this didn’t just end up going to the charity shop…..I love the warm almost toasty and chocolate hue of the brown, and Rob said it’s super warm and cosy to wear.

devonia

And then, when I thought all the yarn excitement was over, this beautiful braid of John Arbon Devonia fibre arrived as a “sorry you didn’t get to come to EYF” present from the awesome Meg who writes a very interesting blog called Mrs M’s Curiosity Cabinet …. this is a real deep and eerie underwater green yet somehow makes me imagine those huge forests from the dawn of time in dinosaur films …It looks like a huge piece of green apatite quartz with those deep pine tree hues all swirled alongside silvery slate and gunsmoke……. Along with this stunning fibre Meg also sent me one of her beautiful handmade notebooks which is even fountain pen paper friendly inside… and while there is still a way for me to go with my handspinning before I dare spin this, tiny ideas at the back of my mind are thinking to try and find some knitting patterns inspired by Devonian fossils…thank you again so so much Meg, your kindness and thoughtfulness just blows my breath away.

I know this post was all about knitting, and that not everyone knits so hopefully it won’t have been too boring, but I think most people who read my blog craft in some way or another, and so will know about other festivals, and events, perhaps Quilting ones or The Knitting and Stitch show, which again might not be possible for everyone to travel to, having a “Festival at Home” is very easy to do and can be tailored to whatever your interest or hobby, and it means you can support local to you shops, especially if they are having a workshop that weekend where you can learn something new or perhaps support favourite vendors that you know would have been at the official do/show etc…. I know it’s not the same as going to the bigger shows, especially whre meeting up with friends is all part and parcel of the enjoyment, but at least it still feels like you’ve participated in a little way, especially when you can compare yarny or fabric purchases on Instagram.

 

 

A cosy spot, knitting socks for Ivo, sheep spotting at The Forum and baking bread…..

a quiet spot

Goodness, and where has the time gone…..it really doesn’t seem like 5 minutes ago I was thinking about what we were going to eat over the Winter holidays and now all of a sudden the front room windows are open, the apple trees in the garden are in blossom and I can hear fat bees buzzing about for pollen filled flowers to tumble around in….and if you’re wondering about Bernard, well he’s taken refuge today behind the sofa, while he seems to get on for the most part with the little cat from next door, he also knows when he’s had enough of her playful ways and then it’s tappety tap tap at the cat flap (yes, he can let himself in but he likes us to open the door to him…and now said little cat from next door does it too, not that we let her in but we often hear a tap tap noise only to see her face through the cat glass…)

So I hope you’ve put the kettle on and have a cup of tea as this is quite a bit of a catch up and round down of what I’ve been up to of late, and you know by now how I do go on…..I know my blog posts have been a bit sparse these past months and I’ve had a couple of worried emails asking if I had stopped writing it, so many thank yous for those..we’re all okay but I just needed a little time to me….so come on in,  sit down….the cushions have just been plumped, and I know there are some tunnock biscuits in the cupboard……

As a lot of you will know I finally got round to gettitng a new phone, one with a camera and so I’ve been able to share pictures over on Instagram, and back in February there was a daily photo challenge called “yarn love challenge”…and while it was centered more on knitting and crochet it really made me think a whole lot about my other crafting and making…from sewing and patchwork to cooking in the evening and baking bread….one of the prompts was “where I craft” and while for the most part I do all my sewing, embroidery, patchwork (anything where pins and needles might drop and lurk, waiting for the boyfriend to come home and stand on them) upstairs in my work room, I love tucking myself into this corner to do my knitting……there’s a little coffee table just out of shot where I can have a pot of tea, and most days Bernard jumps up alongside me, sprawls all out, has a wash then a little nap…..it’s a nice cosy spot nd it just feels good to have squishy hand made cushions all around me……(you’ll probably recognize these cushions from when I wrote about making them the other Summer)….the side lamp was a charity shop buy, it had a very boring wicker shade on it but I cut that all off and covered the wire frame with vintage Sanderson prints…..and on the wall are some of my tapestry pictures which have been picked up from all over……..

finished socks for Ivo

Quite a lot of my time this year has been spent trying to catch up with Christmas/ birthday presents (I know, I’m terrible but I just ran out of time in December)… I always forget how long a handmade gift takes to make, it’s never the cheap or fast option is it, and I probbaly take longer making things as a gift than I would if it was someting for me, I want it to look just right, be as perfect as I can get it….anyway, a whole lot of gift knitting went on because we got to see some friends who live in Norway, this was the first time we’ve seen them in just over 3 years so it was really exciting, we all met up in Cambridge and had a really lovely day out there (I definitely want to try and pop back for the day at some point this year)…sadly one of their children had to stay with granny for the day as she’d come down with chickenpox (the little girl, not granny) and I haven’t had it so ….. but we sent back lots of hugs and kisses for her…..one of the gifts I made was this little pair of socks for “baby” Ivo….he’s not a baby anymore and is actually 3 in about a weeks time….the yarn was some that I bought from Meadowyarn which is a really nice on-line shop which is based very close to the village where I grew up, so buying from them most certainly feels like I’m shopping local (for Christmas my boyfriend’s family bought me a beautiful swift to wind yarn on that was made by Mister Meadowyarn so that always feels very special to use)…the yarn for the socks was quite plump, it’s almost an Aran weight so these are lovely and squishy, a bounce with every step…..I used this pattern (it’s a free one) and my making notes are just here in case you are interested……it’s a very easy to follow pattern, and has a nice range of sock sizes from baby all the way through to 8 years old….

knit pro needles from meadowyarn

Along with the socks for Ivo I knitted his mum a big shawl (I used the Open Sky shawl pattern by Andrea Mowry as this was the shawl pattern that made me fall in love with knitting) the notes for Goska’s shawl are all here…and for the two girls I knitted each of them cowls which I pretty much designed myself….that sounds way more fancy than what I actually did….this was the cowl for Saski with the notes here..and this is the one for Hanja…..and the notes are here...

The yarn was Hjertegarn Lima and it’s a Danish all wool yarn, I wanted to use the same yarn for all the projects and then with what is left over I thought I would knit something for myself and then whenever I wear it they’d be in my thoughts in an instant……

There’s also been some other knitting going on for friends and family who live much closer but I’ll share that for another day…..

end-of-january-loaf

I’ve also been baking lots of bread again, our stove has been playing up for a long time and we’re just waiting to buy a new one, in the meantime we have a smaller one which isn’t really as good but with a bit of experimenting with dough and cooking times I feel reasonably happy with the loaves I’m able to bake in it…..mostly it’s just a very simple loaf made with a natural starter/leaven….and then a dribble of honey, good bread flour from Shipton Mill, some oats, sesame seeds, oil and salt……it’s best to take your time making it, not rushing the proving times, but there’s lots you can be getting on with while the bread is resting under a floury cloth…..

crocheting-along

I’ve also taken part in “Lentenwipdown” which Hanna from Patch Aesthetic writes about here …basically it’s all about finishing off those wips (works in progress) that are laying around, or are lurking in the back of cupboards before you start any new projects….gift knitting or making is still allowed though….I like not doing things for Lent even though I’m not Christian, it makes me really appreciate it when I start doing them again….and while I seem to have spent most of the “wipdown” gift knitting, I have managed to finish one of my crochet blankets which really does deserve it’s own blog post……I actuallly finished it last Sunday and was so pleased…..being made of acrylic the colour combinations are certainly on the gaudy side, and it’s already been plucked half to death by Bernard (I find acrylic yarn is a devil at plucking, whereas wool yarns seem able to resist his attentions much better)…

whiteface woodland

Other fun and exciting things, The Forum in Norwich was once again home to Maker’s Month in February, and one of the highlights for me was seeing these beautiful Whitefaced Woodland sheep…….it’s actually a breed I’d not heard of before and is on the “vulnerable” listing by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust , oh but aren’t they sweet…..Their colouring was lovely, a really creamy white fleece, with beautiful milky faces and legs with the pinkiest of rose petal noses…..Their horns are quite small and were the prettiest fawn colour….if you’re at all interested in their yarn then I believe you can buy it from www.blackbat.com…after seeing them it’s certainly made me want to knit with some.

The other really fun thing for me during Maker’s Month was getting to do an afternoon workshop with Jen Monahan (she’s Fibreworkshop on instagram and she also has a very interesting blog and sells beautiful hand spun yarn and fibre in her etsy shop)….I met Jen last year at the Maker’s Month, the fibre she’d spun was breathtaking and she kindly showed me how to use a drop spindle…so I felt I really needed a refresher and booked in for a workshop this year, and have come away feeling much more confident with my spindle using…..this has actually set some “wheels” in motion…more of which another time……if you get the chance I wholeheartedly recommend her classes, she’s very patient and is very good at demonstrating what it is you need your hands to do……

Phew…I think after all that we both need another cup of tea, now who’s going to put the kettle on…..

 

 

 

 

Liquid moonlight and silk woollen stitches……

samite colours

Last week I received the most exciting package from Blacker Yarns…a wee skein of their latest yarn blend which truly is, more than a little bit special.. The yarn is a luxurious blend of Blue Faced Leicester, Shetland, Gotland and 20% Ahimsa silk* and has been named Samite after the richly woven silk cloth produced in Medieval Europe…the colour palette has been inspired by the Arts and Craft and Pre-raphelite movements, rich tones that are a little brighter than some of Blackers other ranges, each one by themselves is a Pre Raphelite “stunner”..but seen together…they leave me breathless…

The range of colours is so appealing, I’m particularly drawn to the two green shades, especially the lighter one and there is also an almost egg shell grey that is making my heart ache….

swatching samite

The little skein was incredibly soft and I needed a few days to pet it before casting on (pet it is exactly the right way to describe all the pats and rubs against my face I gave it, it’s all muzzley and fur warm)…actually when I opened the package I straight away was all “ooohhh” and closed my eyes with pleasure as I held it against my cheek….it’s one of those yarns that just feels so …sigh… (I’m sorry, when you feel it you’ll understand why it’s made me go all weak kneed and wobbly) wonderful……it’s nice and silky, it’s soft but there’s a lovely woolly bounce and feel which gives it some body, some stability, a little fudgey-ness…it’s slightly finer than a 4ply/fingering weight yarn, however being from Blacker Yarns it’s still very generous in girth, certainly not a laceweight….

It was nice to keep stopping and really look close at the yarn, the surface of the knitted cloth becomes a soft haze of silky fine fibres, tiny shadows sit and hide amongst the twists, every so often cobweb strands of dark hair lift and poke up from the stitches…

swatching detail

If you’ve read any of my yarny reviews and ramblings before then you’ll know I like to swatch on wooden needles, generally the yarns I like to knit with love being on wooden needles and the Samite was no exception, the combination of silk and wool just flowed along my needles, it’s a very easy to knit yarn….the only thing, and this is more because I I’m still very much at the stage where I have to rip a lot with my knitting so I find it helps me to know what a yarn will do when I inevitably make mistakes, it didn’t like being ripped back too much…now I appreciate I might have gone a bit overboard with this but I knitted up about an inch of stocking stitch and ripped it back about half a dozen times, by the time I’d knitted and ripped, knitted and ripped the ply had definitely loosend up and didn’t feel quite so soft however once that section was washed and blocked, you’d never know it had been treated so horribly, so just in case you need to rip and rip and rip like I seem to do then worry not, it might feel a bit “oh dear” while you’re knitting the ripped yarn but it will wash and block perfectly.

catkins

The colour I was sent is called Aspen’s Shiver and it’s so like the velvety soft catkins that are starting to make an appearance, silvery and furlike to the touch..it’s a very warm stone colour and reminds me of medieval Italian palaces, time worn and fingertip smoothed edges or statues where peole touch them for luck….

As I write this it’s gone a bit overcast outside and my swatch isn’t quite so luminous, however the silk becomes alive when I hold a flame in front of it and the defined accents of the textured stitches becomes much more pronounced….

blocked samite

I really wanted to try out a range of different stitches, textured, combinations of knits and nubbly purls, lace work and fat rows of garter stitch..this yarn loves texture, smudges of shadow sit deep amongst the stitches…..it’s a very elegant feeling yarn and even though I’ve not knitted anything like this before so I’m only guessing, but I think it would be rather wonderful to use for a Shetland Spencer (there’s a pattern in the 2016 Wool Week Annual) or one of those beautiful and delicate looking ladies undergarments which are often featured in Vintage knitting books, the blend of silk and wool being like pearls and benefitting from being worn agaisnt the naked skin….

blocked samite texture stitches

The blocked fabric feels really special, it’s definitely woolly but that added silk just takes it to a whole other level, it’s so warm and velvetty to the touch and there’s a very gentle lustre to the knitted cloth, it’s not so lustrous as Blacker Yarns Tamar but the more I keep touching and stretching out the fabric, the more and more I find myself captivated by it….Samite just seems so made for touching, for stroking (and now I worry about sounding like one of those Marks and Spencers adverts where with a deep Marlene Dietrich voice I say… “Samite isn’t just any yarn”…but it’s so true…

I’ve had the swatch tucked under my clothes and there’s a few seconds tickle but it’s like the gentlest sheepy kiss more than anything else, it’s very warm and when I moved it around to try it against different areas I was very aware of the cold spot….I also tried rubbing it up against itself for 30 seconds at a time, I’ve done this about a dozen or so times and the swatch still looks good…

blocked samite lace stitches

The swatch did grow a little, I used a 3.75 mm needle as I wanted to knit a drapey piece of fabric, with ideas initially to consider the yarn for a shawl.  My cast on was 23 stitches and the unblocked swatch measured 8 3/4 high by 4 1/4 wide, blocked it then measured  9 3/4 high by 4 1/2 inches wide.

Using the 3.75 mm meedles, my gauge over 4 inches had a row count of 28 in stocking stitch with a stitch count of 21, the fabric this created was flowy and drapey, all liquid and moonlight, and yet it still felt substantial (seriously the vest isn’t such a daft idea, you would keep wonderfully warm wearing this as undies)….

samite skein

I believe Blacker Yarns will have some Samite over the next couple of days at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival and then it will be offically released on the 23rd of March on their website and also with their stockists, but you can order a shade card from them before hand if you like….

Now this isn’t the cheapest yarn in the world but it might well be one of the most beautiful, it’s going to be retailing for £24.60 for a 100 gramme skein, the 3ply thickness means there is around 460 metres/478 yards on a skein and I’m very happy to say this is going to be a permanent addition to their range, so you can save up or if you have a birthday etc you could ask for Blacker vouchers and then knit yourself something totally beautiful which you will treasure forever….but you really are going to be buying a very special and unique yarn.

Many many thank yous to Sonja at Blacker Yarns for asking if I would like to have a little play with this wonderful yarn…aaagghh Blacker, you’ve done it again with another incredible blend….this is definetly a #yarnthatsbetterthanchocolate.

 

*Ahimsa silk is the only method of silk production which allows the moths to reach maturity and emerge from their cocoons.