It’s a busy old time at the moment for Blacker Yarns, yesterday saw the release of Cornish Tin II which is their very limited editon 11th birthday yarn and this weekend at Yarndale sees the launch of a rather spectacular additon to their St Kilda laceweight yarn with a rainbow of hand dyed colours by The Knitting Goddess.
When I first saw the St Kilda shadecard I was rather taken back, these aren’t the soft and gentle hues that I associate with Blacker, those soporific blues, polleny yellows and foxglove pinks which sit so happily alongside their undyed yarns…. instead the shade card is an explosion of the brightest most intense colour you can imagine…I couldn’t help but be reminded of Baz Luhrmann’s Moulon Rouge, when the Can Can dancers are dancing and the screen becomes a riot of twirling flashes of scarlet, gold, jade,emerald, lime….. it’s almost too much to be able to take in at once.
A couple of weeks ago Sonja from Blacker Yarns had emailed me and had asked if I was interested in having a sample of the Tin II, she’d also mentioned the St Kilda laceweight and since then I’d been reading a little about the islands where the yarn takes it’s name from and had watched the Michael Powell film The Edge of The World… perhaps I’d gotten into a particular mindset about the island and the Soay and Boreray sheep* whose wool goes into the blend….anyway the colours did really rather take me by surprise.
The lovely people at Blacker Yarns then sent me an actual wee skein of St Kilda as I’d been hoping to be able to knit with it and to see what the yarn was like and I’d been expecting the natural colour which is a beautiful silvery grey… instead I opened the above skein and was pretty much speechless …..if you regularly read my blog then you know I’ll happily waffle on and on, and am quite a chatty person, however all I could say was “wow…oh wow….wow…..oh…..wow”……and then I had a bit of a cry as it’s just such an intense and beautiful green. Annoyingly I then had to go into town rather than stay at home and play with the little woolly skein but for the rest of the day it was all I could think about. So much colour in one wee little skein.
The next day I sat outside and really studied the skein of yarn, what I’d at first thought was crazy and bright colour is in fact a careful and subtle blend of what looks similar to those familiar gentle Blacker colours, but also with a little of Joy’s magic thrown in the pot too…..there’s foresty and grassy greens but also golden greens like young corn or the first spikey shoots in a Spring garden.
The yarn itself feels wonderful, there’s a soft bounce and silky gloss, unknitted it’s smooth with just a whisper of fine fibres lifting upwards.
I’d not had any previous experience of knitting with a laceweigh yarn so I wasn’t really sure what to expect, I used a 3.75mm needle and cast on 21 stitches and tested out a selection of stitches in my swatch.
The yarn handled beautifully, (sorry I do say beautiful a lot in this post but the yarn is just so so lovely)….I’d wound the skein into a tiny central pull ball and it didn’t drag or catch, the yarn flowed like wine and knitted up a treat. Like most lace stitches the unblocked stitches do look a bit squished and sat on, at this point it resembles seaweed or frothy sea algae……
After blocking though…the knitted fabric is transformed. The stitches are sharp, clean and defined. The garter stitches are bouncy and like Blacker’s Tamar, light really does seem to twist and dance along the plied yarn.
The colourway I was sent is called Mullach Mor and somehow Joy has managed to capture the way sunlight falls through Summer leaves, all dappled shadows and flickers of movement, the yarn is so drenched in colour and green hue I can’t stop smiling at it….and patting it…it feel so wonderful.
The garter stitches ripple along the fabric, all those tiny up and down stitches hold and reflect back colour, they really do seem to be dancing.
For my swatch I knitted a combination of horse shoe print, feather and fan, parasol stitch and then some rows of garter stitch to use up the skein…the garter stitches really do lift up so beautifully, unblocked they are so squidgy, almost like a fudge though the fabric is so whispery light.
I bet the yarn would look incredible knitted for something like Anna Maltz’s Diagonapples pattern, especially if the coloured yarn was mixed in with the silvery undyed yarn (which is really lustrous and shimmery)…. or a pattern that uses a traditional Shetland lace stitch like cockleshells (not quite got my head around how to knit those yet or else I’d have tried a few rows so my swatch would have looked like contary Mary’s garden).
As Blacker Yarns are such a great company and not only put all that care and time into choosing the most appropriate British Breeds for their yarn blends, they then also release really beautiful free patterns that have been designed with that particular yarn in mind, which really focus on and highlight the qualities of that yarn….Sonja at Blacker Yarns has designed a beautiful shawl that will also be released (I think) at Yarndale but you can see some early tantalizing peeks just here….. oh and here too……
I forgot to measure how wide my unblocked swatch was, my excuse is that I was just too excited to go and get it blocked, however I did pop it in and under my bra for a bit of a skin test…..it was a little bit more tickly than a blue faced Leicester yarn I swatched at the end of last year but there wasn’t much in it, I certainly found it a very comfortable next to the skin yarn and for such light weight yarn it was so warm….however once blocked the swatch varies slightly between 3 3/4 and 4 inches (a couple of patterns were worked over 20 stitches rather than 21)…. and it can take a lot of blocking, those stitches really do open up a huge amount.
Since the swatch was blocked I’ve almost lost myself in the shade card and stitches…those gorgeous pools of colour and the almost mossy deep texture of the fabric……it’s a yarn that really does seem to like garter stitches, those wriggles and ripples of squidge.
Along with this gorgeous green Mullach Mor, the range also includes Ruival (possibly my favourite) which is the most incredible red, a blend of a blueish tinged vintage lipstick technicolour red along with rosey pink and coral highlights, and Stach an Armin and Loch Hirta which are two very different purples, one full of mauve and buddleja tints and the other a breathtaking blend of damson and plum, really velvety and rich.
Blocking this yarn is like seeing the sunshine coming out from behind a cloud…. stitches and hidden patterns are revealed and they seem to stretch out like a slowly waking cat…..the fabric is light and airy, a shawl in this will be like wearing a waterfall of colour. The colour doesn’t detract from the qualities of the yarn, instead it allows the stitches to really glow from within. The knitted fabric has a really good stretch to it, the stitches are full of spring so must look wonderful draped around your shoulders.
There’s also a very delicate and fine haze of cobweb like fibres lifting up from the stitches which just adds another layer of softness and oooh to the yarn.
As I’ve already said, the colours are just incredible and if you’re thinking to have a bit of a treat but need a little inspiration for colour combinations then it’s worth having a look at the boxes for Penhalgon’s scent…Vaara (orange, pink and turquoise blue) and Malabah (bright pink,purple and gold) are two of my favourites.
I really think Joy’s parents chose the best name for her as she’s certainly spreading some joy and happiness with those gorgeous colours…. a friend was round when I uncurled the skein and we both sat on the sofa laughing at the amazing colour and the varied hues. My swatch isn’t very wide so the shifts of colour seem a bit more intense and highlighted, however if you’re knitting something with a lot more stiches on your needle then those changes will be even more subtle and beautiful.
Joy is a proper marvel with the dye pan and after seeing how incredible the St Kilda looks I can only imagine how her Wensleydale/Shetland blend must be.
Over past months (nearly a year) I’ve been knitting, I’ve really appreciated the care and thought that Blacker Yarns puts into creating all of their yarn blends, and that thoughtfulness and care is wholly reflected in their collaboration with The Knitting Goddess with her sympathetic choosing of colour and hue.
The hand dyed St Kilda first goes on sale this weekend at Yarndale and will then be available to purchase from the 29th of September on-line via both Blacker Yarns and The Knitting Goddess as 50g (350 metres) skeins or sets of mini skeins.
And no yarn review from me seems to be complete without letting you know Bernard’s opinion……while he wasn’t around while I was doing the actual knitting he decided to have a little nap on the swatch while I was trying to take this morning’s pictures…he’s currently asleep in the jam pan but that’s another story…but I think the St Kilder gets top marks from him too.
And if you haven’t already heard it, there is a smashing interview with Joy over on the KnitBritish podcast…..
*The yarn also has some Shetland in there too which come from sheep that live in the Mendips..also interesting, Boreray sheep moult and Soay sheep aren’t shorn but instead they can be hand plucked which is called rooing….need I tell you that now I really really want to have a go at this, I’m very good at teasling out tangles from Bernard’s fur so think I’d be quite good at fleece plucking……
If you’ve not watched The Edge of The World then it’s worth tracking down, I was able to hire it out from my local libary…there’s a beautiful hap worn in one scene and another scene has a baby all swaddled up in the softest looking shawl looking so warm and happy…and you also see people rooing the sheep fleece which I could happily watch all day….the film also stars John Laurie who was such a treat to watch in anything.
ETA…..I thought you might be interested in a wonderful little bit of back story to this fantastic yarn, with a huge huge thank you to Jane from Woolsack.org for setting the wheels in motion that then created this very very special yarn……