Kempy hairs, woolly pips and gentle waves of garter stitch…..

finished Natures shades Moonraker

As I mentioned the other day my Moonraker shawl is all finished, it’s been washed and blocked and has hardly been off my shoulders since I took the pins out….I’m really pleased with how this has knitted up.  The original pattern called for 4ply weight yarn which I didn’t have in the right colours and couldn’t afford to buy new yarn, so I’ve used what I had which was dk and just increased the needle size…

All the yarn is un-dyed British breed wool, mostly I’ve used a Blue Face Leicester by Woolyknit which I bought from my local yarn shop, it’s very soft and is all sheep kissy  against my skin…the yarn then changes to a dark Jacob made by West Yorkshire Spinners which I bought from Brit Yarn…..when I first changed colours I tried out a barber shop pole mix of Blue faced Leicester which combines the grey and a creamy white (actually this grey is called mid brown, it doesn’t look brown at all, until you take it out into the sunshine and then there’s a brown hue which sort of hovers, making the grey become brown….very similar to Bernard or the fur of wild rabbits)…I knitted up a couple of rows but felt it looked a bit wishy washy so changed to a very dark coffee bean Jacob but then I felt that was a bit too far in the other direction, so finally I settled on the mid grey (Isla at Brit Yarn sells 4 different shades of Jacob) which I thought looked the best.

darker shade is Jacob

In the original pattern the change in colour is worked about a third of the way through a big section of garter knit, however I decided to change my colour in the middle of some pips, at this point I could go on about design choices but in all honesty my Blue Face Leicester ran out, and I’d bought the last ball my local shop had… I really like how the rhythmic “wave” of the garter stitch around the pip becomes accented along that row

The “woolly pips” are worked along the rows, and each section of them combines different British breeds and colour….the original pattern works these more in blocks but I really wanted each row in a section to be different or a bit more jumbled up……

The “pips” are a great way to use up shorter lengths of yarn, and when it’s wool you can always spit splice the yarn to have an assortment of breeds in the same row.  A fair bit of the yarn used was from Brit Yarn like the WYS  Jacob (which I’ve used 3 different shades of) and a really white Lincoln Longwool but I’ve also used some of the Norfolk Horn I bought from Kentwell Hall, some luscious and golden Wensleydale from Serena Plenderleith at The Ilketshall Wensleydales,  leftover cream Blue Faced Leicester by Woolyknits from my local yarn shop (Norfolk Yarn) and because the pips are pretty forgiving I was also able to make some using the seely Suffolk wool I’d bought from June Onigbanjo.

Using some of the more characterful yarn as pips and having the very well behaved  Blue Faced Leicester for the main part of the shawl has meant this is very soft against my neck and face…even the Jacob (which felt a bit more robust when I was knitting it) is pretty comfortable to wear


The shawl is very light and I’m really surprised at just how warm this is to wear, I’ve worn it pretty flat in these pictures but it’s nice to squish up and drape around my shoulders and neck……I’m not really one for greys and prefer to wear lots of colour (different shades or colour on colour combinations) but I’ve been properly won over by the warm tones these natural shades have….I was hoping to fit in a Castlemilk Moorit and Shetland (both the colour of rich chocolate puddings) but I wasn’t really happy with the brown and grey together and instead will save those for something else.

The shawl was knit as part of the Nature’s Shades kal by Knit British and Brit Yarn, to really celebrate the beautiful shades nature gives us without the need for dyes.

If you’ve not had a look at some of the really stunning finished pieces then you should pop over and take a look…some of my favourites are this gorgeous shawl by Greenhousegirl, she also made a hat and pair of mittens which are pretty wonderful too, this drachenfels shawl by DaneAbroad (it’s by the same designer as my shawl), a beautiful Vormorgunn Jumper by Nishiknits, a lovely warm looking Swale shawl by Isla, a half Hansel hap by Irkea (I have this pattern and it’s on my list of want to knit soons) and this heart stoppingly beautiful Gwindra shawl by Blithespirit…….


kempy strands

When I was knitting the shawl, every so often I’d come across a coarse hair poking up through the wool, even in the Blue Faced Leicester (which I wasn’t aware of at all when I’d knitted the cream coloured BFL)..I think these are called kempy hairs and they seem to be part and parcel of a woolly yarn with character…the Jacob had quite a lot and where possible I tried to knit them down amongst the garter stitches….when the shawl was finished and I pushed it into warm water, all these tiny hairs lifted up and wriggled in the water, like very fine sea weed….while the shawl was blocking these pretty much flattened down but since I’ve been wearing it the kempy hairs have all lifted back out again, sprouting up out from the rows of stitches, maybe it’s the warmth from being worn…anyway it’s not a grumble as I really like the hazy mist it gives (besides I’ve got enough kempy white hairs on top to grouch about any in my knitting).

The pattern for the shawl is really nice to work, it’s not that hard and once you understand what you need to do to make the pips then it’s actually rather relaxing to knit, I’ve been able to knit this whilest watching a film or sitting on the bus.  I’d certainly recommend this for a happy beginner as it’s a bit more of a challenge than a straight up garter stitch scarf…even if you make a mistake the garter stitch isn’t too much trouble to un-ravel and it’s easy to pick the stitches up again.

Now I’ve knitted this one I’m thinking of one for Autumn using hedgerow shades, something green and tweedy flecked with scarlets and oranges, a little mustard and silver for rosehips, and haws, rowan berries and lichens……oh, and now I’d like to try one in a paler grey with pips of powdery chalk, rose and charcoal as a nod to my favourite visitors to the garden.



19 thoughts on “Kempy hairs, woolly pips and gentle waves of garter stitch…..

  1. Wow, what a fab looking shawl you’ve created. So worth going with your gut on the colour choices of natural wool. I too love colour, but have to say this shawl looks very warm and the pattern gives it a stylish look. I too find “kempy hairs” in my crochet (and now knitted socks) but the hairs aren’t from a sheep…no its the dog!
    After seeing your fab sock posts and reading many others online I’ve joined the knitted sockalong. I tried the DPN, but the hedgehog wasn’t to be tamed, so I’ve got 2 fixed circular needles by Addi and have to say they glide so smoothly they make it almost a pleasure to knit (Crochet is still my first yarny love).
    It’s been lovely to read your yarny posts and hear about Bernard 🙂 Looking forward to seeing your crochet WIP.

    1. Hi Sally, normally Bernard’s hair on everything is a bit of an issue but at least with this shawl it just blends in.
      I think sometimes dyed greys can be a bit cold looking but didn’t find that all with these ntural ones.
      My first try at socks wasn’t easy as I’m a bit of tight knitter, the needles were really short like cocktail sticks but becasue they were just wee I found them a bit easier to keep under control. I’ve got a pair of Addi needles and they are smooth and lovely, although I’ve just been trying out a pair of knitpro zing and they are really nice too though not so pointy. I think my favourites for socks so far have been hiyahiya dpns…really slinky and my tension seems to be better on them too.

  2. It’s truly beautiful Ericka! I love the colours, the drape and especially those pips, they really make it special! I had a look at the Ravelry thread and can honestly say that I like yours best with the drachenfels a close second!
    I’m just crocheting with some BFL, cashmere, silk and have noticed those kempy hairs occasionally too! I love the sound of the other colour possibilities too, autumn colours are very ‘me’ and ever since you posted about the long tailed tits those colours have been knocking around in my brain as a colourway either to dye or to use in a project. Talking of those beautiful birds, both of my sisters in law within a day off each other had a long tailed tit tapping with its beak on their window. One was a one off but the other has been doing it for days! They have sent videos and is so fascinating to watch! All we can think is that they are being territorial and attacking their reflection! Off now to work on my shawl 😃 take care x

    1. Hi Sharon, as always you are fair too kind with the compliments, but thank you. I’m really inspired now to try some stranded knititng and have pre-ordered Susan Crawford’s new knitting book (The Vintage Shetland Project) which will be my tempting woolly carrot.
      Regarding the Long tailed tits, we’ve had them tap at our windows and they aren’t normaly teritorial as they live for long parts of the year in colonies, however, they do gather cobwebs and “garden fluff” that often gathers around window frames and air vents from the kitchen….this now makes me sound like a slovenly trollop but I tend to leave cleaning the window frames too much as the tits fly up and take all the cobwebs and leaves, tiny feathers etc away for nests…not sure if this is what the ones at your hubbies sisters have been doing.

      1. Yes I’m really enjoying my knitting though sadly everything else is getting neglected…oh if only I could persuade the little birds outside to come in and clean indoors too!

  3. That’s beautiful! Lovely knit in the heavier yarn and I love the shade changes – almost like you planned it 😉 I’m tempted to knit up one of these in the new Blacker ‘Tamar’ yarn… I just need more knitting hands (and time!) Anj x

    1. Hi Anj, Thank you, I forgot to mention that I knitted this on KnitPro Rosewood Cubix bought from the wondeful Meadowyarn (they’re really gentle on my fingers)…oh yes Tamar looks amazing and it’s even got some un-dyed shades in the range too…you need to take some knitting up to my dad’s bench x

  4. What a beautiful shawl. I am amazed at how much depth the natural shades have, it’s surprising. And it goes so well with colour. I would never have considered undyed wool before this but I certainly will now. Seeing your shawl and the other makes has opened a whole new world of possibilities!

    1. Thank you, yes the natural shades aren’t flat at all. I also tried the shawl with a green dress which also looked nice but the dress is a bit fancy for traipsing over the marshes in.
      Just wait til I post pictures of the handspun un-dyed wool I bought the other month!

    1. HI Kristen, Thank you, I like wraping it around my shoulders in the evening while I’m reading and Bernard seems to like sitting on my lap or wedging himself in beside me as he enjys the sheepy scent of the yarn.

    1. Well a big thank you to you and Louise for doing the kal, it’s been great getting to knit/compare the different yarn and it’s made me want to knit with some of the browner shades form nature now.

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