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….
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.
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”….
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.
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.
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….
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.
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.
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.