Not really been “feeling the burn” this January but instead I’ve been baking bread and knitting, and flirting something terribly with the neighbour’s cat…..

karise-shawl-2

And all of a sudden it’s nearly the end of January, I’ve barely touched “things to do” lists and while I don’t really do New Year Resolutions , even good intentions to feel the burn with Jane Fonda or Mister Motivator have been a bit neglected (maybe I need to knit up some stripey legwarmers so I cna at least dress the part)….. however, I’ve had some good tidy ups of cupboards where fed up with wips go to die, or are shoved at the back of or ferreted away until I feel inspired with them again….

One such wip, though this wasn’t tucked away in a cupboard but was at the bottom of a knitting basket, has been this Karise shawl by Karie Westermann…this will no doubt look a bit like Deja Vu as not only have I knit this shawl before (this is now the fourth time I’ve knit this pattern) but I’ve also knit it in this very same yarn (but that one was a gift for my sister Rachie and this one is for me)………now I want to make this very clear, I love love love this pattern, it’s incredibly easy to follow and because it was the first lace knitting I ever did, the pattern will always own a huge chunk of my heart….however I fell so out of love with the yarn that it just put me off finishing it (I love the colour but the yarn is an alpaca/silk blend which now feels a bit on the scratchy and dry side)….perhaps I should have bought some bamboo needles as I was using metal ones and the yarn was just very slippy on my metal tips…..I don’t know why I thought one pair of needles would work for all the yarns, coming from a sewing background I have umpteen assorted needlecases each with different needle types in them and I suppose the variations in knitting needles works much the same way……

Anyway, other newer projects took over, and for the most part these were all using woolly and sheepy scented yarns, those are by far the yarns I love to touch and hold and to knit with….but I really wanted to start the New Year with clean knitting needles, no new cast on’s until the knitty wips were finished…..I haven’t got a finished picture to share yet, but the shawl is all blocked and I know come Summer when I want to sit outside right early in the morning or on the back door step in the evening, then this will feel lovely, but at the same time I know it’s not a yarn I’d make a special effort to purchase again….if you are at all interested then more notes are just here on my Ravelry project page.

 

ready-to-eat

Other things I’ve been doing have included baking bread again….for the past year our main oven has been playing up, the temperature has been rather erratic and fingers would be kept crossed while bread and cakes were baking….but finally we had to stop using it, we can still use the top stove or rings and we have a very small oven to use while we save up for a  new, sadly bread was one of the things that had to stop being made as I found the little back up oven a bit complicated and I was worried I’d break it….but then in October my boyfriend became rather poorly and where as normally I’d call him down to turn it all on for me, I really had to get to grips with it myself….and after a couple of months of getting a bit more used to it and a bit more confident I wasn’t going to burn the house down, I decided over the holidays to wake up the natural starter in the fridge and see how a loaf of bread would bake in it…

Well actually I was quite pleasantly surprised…I’ll be the first to say they aren’t quite as good as when they were baking in the gas oven, but the boyfriend is giving them thumbs up and that is what counts…..I’ve had to tinker a bit with cooking times, and to make the dough a little drier than normal….the sponge seems to like being left over night, and then the dough has some hours to gently prove in the morning before I need to bake it….but the loaf I baked early this week came out so well I was actually tempted to have a small taste myself….(I ended up with terrible stabby pains and felt like the wolf in Red Riding Hood with rocks sewn up in his tummy) but it was nice and crumby, with a gentle mellow flavour of sesame seeds and honey……

winter-blossom

I’ve not really been out over the marshes for the long walks I’ve been sharing over the past few years, it’s felt bitter cold and has been a bit wet…a local farmer grazes his cows on the comman land and marshes and I think they were on there a bit later than normal as the ground is all hoofed up, and huge areas are a right old mud bath…..when it’s like this it’s not very tempting to bundle up and head out like when it’s nice and sunny…..but the signs of Spring are coming up all around us….just down the road there are trees in blossom, I think some of these are winter flowering cherries but already I’m seeing sharp green shoots poking up out of the ground and most walks down to the shop involve stopping to notice what’s growing and coming up in all my neighbour’s gardens….

And it’s not just things growing…..one of our neighbours (not a next door one but a chap I say hello to because he has a lovely Newfoundland dog that is very friendly…a couple of months ago she ran off with my basket and we had to chase her…it was a bit like a Benny Hill sketch as we chased her around the green…..she’s completley gorgeous and I happily give her cuddles even though she’s a bit slobbery), anyway he mentioned he had a Maine Coon cat and ever since I’ve been keeping a look out for it…..well guess who I’ve now met…..oohh he’s so beautiful, and so so big, almost twice the size of our Bernard….I’m none too sure how Bernard would feel if we took on another cat…hmmm….yeah, maybe I do,  he’d be right pouty and those whiskers would go all forward and he’d put his parts on and play up so perhaps it’s best we’re a one cat family…..

lunar-tides

Another wip I’ve finally manged to finish were these socks…the pattern is called Lunar Tides and it’s by Louise Tilbrook…what I thought was so clever about them is that the pattern can be followed either top/cuff down…or toe up…..I’ll be writing more about these socks in the next day or so, but they really were a great knit…there were times I found them rather difficult, however once I got going and understood what I had to do aroud the heel I was fine….this was a great introduction to knitting cables and I would certainly look at not just knitting these again but also at knitting more of her patterns as a lot of them use softly flowing cables….

The yarn used is by John Arbon which I bought last Spring from Meadowyarn (they are an on-line shop but are actually based about a mile or two from where I grew up and are in the next village along to where my mum and one of my sisters still live), it’s a lovely and sticky woolly yarn  (which is handy if you manage to catch a needle on your fingerless mitts when you’re knitting on the bus and suddenly there’s no needle holding the stitches together……) and has a soft haze over the stitches….

And I think I’ve mentioned this before but I’m now on Instagram…I’m still at the oooh this is very exciting stage and tend to post 2 or 3 times a day on there with a fair bit of waffle but you know me….mostly it’s a little bit of everything, sort of like how I write my blog I suppose , though I know for some people my blog has been a bit too yarny, a bit too woolly this past year……I’m sorry those people feel that way, I’m certainly not sorry for writing about the incredible enjoyment I’ve got this past year from playing with pointy sticks….I love story, knowing about something’s history or background, whether it’s is bit of old cloth belonging to your great aunty Frieda, uncle George’s gardening tools etc…and I’m having a lot of fun finding out about different sheep breeds, and local to me yarns….I love all the different stories behind the yarns and  I’m enjouing discovering similarities between knitting and embroidery and patchwork…more of which I’ll write about soon..

a-lichen-miten

We did mange to get out of the house a couple of times over the Winter holidays on one of those glorious sunshiney but still bitterly cold days…..while we were down near the river this lichen caught my eye, I thought the colour was particularly splendid but also was fascinated by how it looked like a mass of tiny mustardy blossoms….I shared it on Instagram and had lots of people say how much they thought it looked like a woolly mitten….I’d totally not seen that but now…I just can’t not see it…so some little thumbnaily scribbles are being made as I’d like to knit a little pair of something woolly which reflects those colours…

bernard-shawl-testing

And it wouldn’t be a proper catch up if I didn’t share a Bernard up-date…he’s all fine, as I said back in September, the vet is very pleased with how he’s doing, and there seems to be no sign of the cancer returning …so hoorah….being told that was such a weight off our shoulders, we don’t have any children so all that love gets spent on our furry and rather windy bottomed boy…. he’s still pretty mischievious and is firmly of the belief that anything knitted is for him…he’s definitely king of the shawl thieves, and while there are a couple that are kept well out of his way, I don’t mind too much if he likes to nap on this one……

You may remember this was the first real bit of knitting I did,  I was waking up super early to work on it, and while the rest of the house was sleeping and it was all dark outside, Bernard would keep me company on the sofa while I purled or knitted…and more often than not, un-knitted to correct a mistake…so I very much feel it’s both our shawls, and a few bits of grey fluff aren’t the end of  the world by anymeans……

That mostly brings me up to date, and more posts are already being written, lots of things and ideas to share but I’ll save those now for another day…and in the meantime, hope you have a great weekend.

 

Advertisements

A year of cats and knitting, frosty mornings and Summer strolls, handbaked bread and foraged fruits part two…….

July was really glorious this year, early sunshine filled my work room and many was morning where I found myself  waking around 5 and with a pot of tea would settle down on the back door step or at a table on teh patio and have a few quiet moments knitting…..

We’ve got a big laurel tree at the bottom of the garden and I can always hear when the wood pidgeons are in there, shufling about and sounding all the world like someone fussing with their umbrella….even though the house and neighbourhood is still sound asleep the garden seems a hive of activity in those early hours…… the rosemary gets the first of the sunshine and by 8 the garden is filled with a nose tingle of fragrant herbs, the air almost shimmers with it’s oily aroma…..I like to pick the delicate blue blossoms to scatter over goats cheese and salad…….

July was also the month of the Karise shawl…..I’d asked on ravely if anyone could suggest a nice easy shawl pattern that I could knit for my boyfriend’s mum and lots of people suggested looking at Karie Westerman’s patterns….I ended up choosing Karise and even though the lace work was charted which made me have a bit of a panic at first, within stitches I found the chart much easier to keep track of what I was doing…… I’ve ended up knitting 4 of these shawls now, 2 were knitted in the Tamar yarn from Blacker Yarns (I’d won one of the skeins a month or so earlier) and this yarn loved lace work so much……I still can’t really believe I made these…almost as soon as I cast off the gift shawl I started knitting a Karise for me, all pollen hued and sheep kissy….and the others were knitted using the yarn I’d un-ravelled in June….I found I did need to use stitch markers as I was a bit nervous in case I made a mistake and wouldn’t be able to correct it….I’d already made stitch markers in the Winter from some vintage glass beads but this time I made some more using beads which I’d been given by my friend who’d died in the Spring……I use the markers a lot and can’t see or touch them without thinking of happier times with her…..

And I also picked up some rather excellent vintage sewing and knitting books along with vintage haberdashery notions….zips, binding s and threads…., none of them cost very much and the quality is superb….

 

 

I finishd my third Karise shawl in August, this was using the yarn I’d ripped out, washed and re-skeined earlier in the Summer…..this was a gift for my sister Rachie and I think it was a nice surprise for her to receive in the post as the last time I’d sent her a hand knit it had been a dish cloth……and I also knitted my first Ishbel shawl…this was a really big deal for me as I’d bought a skein to knit this with 5 years before, back then it was just a “one day when I can knit” dream so actually being able to wear the finished shawl was more than a little special……

On nice days we try head out for walks over the marshes and while there had been some wet days for the most part the marshes and surrounding pastures are dry enough to walk from what seem like meadows of wild flowers….the Rosebay Willowherb and Purple Loosestrife grow shoulder height and higher,there are  smudges of vetch and swaithes of meadowsweet wherever you look…..this time of  year the colours are now fading though. Look close at any blossom and you’re bound to see bees tumbling around and getting covered in dusty pollen……the blackberries seem a bit small again this year but we’re able to pick enough for some jam and junkets…..

Another rather special knit was knitting a pair of socks for my friend Anne and also making her a needle wrap from an old coat that had belonged to her mum… I embroidered on the fabric and used some vintage thonging to keep the wrap closed……and decided to make some wraps for my Folksy shop…..

We also got to experience the naughtiness that is the cat next door…we soon find out that she is a knitting needle thief and will happily rip out and play with any knitting that gets put down even for 5 minutes……

September was a real Indian Summer, the days were still hot and full of sunshine, the hedgerows fair teeming with fruits but the nights soon felt they were drawing on in and on more than one occasion a huge hairy spider is spied scuttling across the living room carpet (you should see me move, legs up off the floor and tucked underneath me on the sofa)…… the huge copper jam pan is un-packed once more and seems to live on the stove as I simmer hedgerow fruits into panty jams and jellies…..the joys of a pan of bubbling blackberries fills every sense with pleasure….

Towards the end of the month I realise it’s now been about a year that I’ve been knitting, at first it’s just been wobbly practise stitches, knitting up tiny swatches and then slowly gaining in confidence…..

I had a lovely email from Blacker Yarns asking if I’d be interested in having a play with a couple of new yarns they had coming out, the answer is “yes please” and I’m in for such a treat….firstly it’s Cornish Tin II which is all full of bounce and plumpness, so stuffed full of goodness like a Christmas pudding…..and then I’m sent a wee skein of St Kilda laceweight, hand-dyed by Joy of The Knitting Goddess…the swatch card is as bright and vibrant as the can can dancers in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulon Rouge…..

And finally himself gets a day out on the bus to the vets for annual vacinations but this is when he finally gets the all clear with his cancer….I’m so thankful that my vet was suspicious about the lump and advised getting it removed before any further tests and what not, without her I don’t think we’d have our boy today…. (currently sitting alongside me having a right good wash)…so huge huge thank yous to Chantelle at Chapelfield Vets….we think you’re awesome.

Right at the start of October my boyfriend felt rather unwell and when he went to the doctors was told it was shingles….as he doesn’t have the best of health this was a bit of a worry and so the month passed rather quietly….I went out for a few marshy meanders and did some foraging but a lot of days were spent at home where I was able to potter in the kitchen making more syrups and jellies and apple falvoured vodka when the cat wasn’t napping in the jam pan……

Even though this is the second year the blackberries here haven’t come to much, the other wild fruits have been amazing, the leaves seem really slow to turn and the lane is beautifully lit with sunlight glowing through vivid green leaves, illuminating acorns like tiny lamps….

I finished another needlewrap for Anne again using the fabric from her mum’s coat and made a project/workshop bag to go with it…..

The yellow socks were actually knit during August and Spetmeber but it’s been so mild I just tucked them away…the pattern is called Hermione’s everyday socks but I don’t know what happened but the tension is rather different between the two and so one is a bit bigger than the other….it looks like Hermione’s been at the butterbeer….

I also knit two more Ishbel shawls but as my boyfriend is poorly it’ll be a good few weeks yet before I can get them properly photographed…..one is knit using the Cornish TIn II I’d had a sample of…the yarn is a bit greedy soon gets all gobbled up and only the kindness of Montymouse on ravelry means I have enough for my shawl….the other is knit with yarn that I’d previously crocheted into a scarf but hadn’t worn for ages…..

November was for me all about the knitting, all the wonders of wool, local yarn and celebrating all the people who create beautiful yarns for me to knit with…..

Last year I’d not been knitting for all that long when I found out about Wovember, but reading all those woolly, sheep praising  posts was what made me really fall in love with what was on my needles…. Anyone who has been a reader of my blog knows I love using vintage haberdasheries, vintage fabrcs that friends and family have passed on to me, fabric that has a bt of a story to it, needles that came from a friend’s mum’s workbox…. over the years I’ve really struggled to find that same connection with my knitting but thinking about the different breeds the yarn comes from, who’s spun it, where the sheep live, how local to me they might be has fare captured my heart and swept me good and proper right off my feet…I love story, I love a good yarn (whether it’s a yarn on my needle or a right good chatty catch up) but hadn’t ever thought that that might be the way I would fall in love with what a pair of pointy sticks could do……

This past year I’ve knit with yarn that comes from sheep 15 or so miles away, I’ve bought beautiful handspun yarn from a sheep called Delilah…..I’ve been sent hand spun yarn from a complete stranger, I’ve knit with yarn from sheep that graze on seaweed, and fallen in love with yarn that feels like old worn velvet……most precious is the yarn I’ve bought because someone believed in her dad, and felt his sheeps fleece should be valued……

 

The best part of December was that my boyfriend was finally feeling a bit better, we took a couple of leisurely ambles across squishy meadows and marshes, and were even able to take some pictures of my two Ishbel shawls I’d finished back in October…(and yarn has already been tucked abway for Ishbel 4 but that will be a 2017 knit now)…..the shawls are rather chalk and cheese, one is small and rather plump and the other is like a waterfall of soft stitches…..both equally beautiful.

Another smiles and heart warming knit was knitting a pair of socks for my boyfriend’s dad’s birthday….wish so much I’d have been knittingn while my own dad was alive but Phil is lovely and very knitworthy so it was a pleasure to make these, and seeing him wiggle his toes as soon as he tried them on felt more than a bit special……

I’ve got a bit of chocolate and cheese head confusion as I clear forgot to mention that one of my wee little stockings was featured in the December issue of Country Living magazine and felt proud as punch at seeing my work in such a high quality publication….

The needle wraps I’ve made have been selling well, and I love that by knitting and finding out about interchangable needles that I’ve thought to make these wraps…..and I’m hoping to make some project bags that compliment them in the coming months….

It’s been lovely to look back and review my year….I hadn’t realized there’d been quite so much knitting, sadly not so much sewing this year which I hope to ammend rather in 2017 as I have bolts of fabric for new frocks, and a stack of resting patchworks that really need to get made up into quilts,many thank yous to people who’ve bought from my shop or requested commisions, and lastly thank you to you for reading my blog this past year…..but for now lets raise a toast, whether it’s a glass of something cheering, or a cup of tea, and wish each other health and happiness, peace and kindness for 2017…..

 

There’s a cat in the jam pan and some wild apple vodka……

 

autumn-raspberries

We’ve had some surprisingly sunny weather the past few days and while the raspberries in the garden are starting to show signs of slowing down there are still a fair few to come….mostly we’ve been eating them as they are but a request was put in for more Raspberry Cognac Jam so I made a batch of that last week while trying to keep the cat from next door out of the kitchen….I often have the back door open as it gets a bit hot and steamy in the kitchen as the fruit melts with the sugar and slowly becomes jam, and inevitably the little miss just keeps trotting in for fussing and attentions….she rubs round my feet and I seem to have one eye on the bubbling jam and the other on where she is and what’s she getting up to now…generally it involves trying to play with knitting I may have left on the side or trying to sneak a taste of what Bernard was having for his lunch…

The jam itself is very easy to make (especially if you don’t have the cat from next door trying to jump up to play and getting all underfoot…..)…you don’t even need that many berries to make a little batch and when I make a small amount I find it’s easier to cook the fruit in a heavy bottomed pan (like Le Crueset) rather than a big pan designed for jam making

jam-pan-kitty

And talking about jam pans…..hmmmm….it would seem that they make rather nice places to catch a crafty forty winks when we aren’t looking…… obviously it’s all my fault for not putting the pan away properly after I’d used it, but to be fair I hadn’t expected to find someone making themselves quite so cosy……

out-of-the-pan-and-into

That’s one very expensive cat bed…… at least the pan had been all washed so he won’t be all jam sticky…..

wildlingsSo while the jam pan is being used for other things (I can’t believe he’s really made himself a little bed in there…) at least I can make use of some of the crab apples and wildlings that I’ve picked from the hedgerows that seem to be really heaving this Autumn…..I made some apple vodka last year and wasn’t really sure how it was going to turn out taste wise, however it was a more than pleasant surprise…..I left the apples slowly drowning in a big Kilner jar of vodka for about 6 months…then had a taste and another taste…hic….. it was more than a little reminiscent of a warm apple brandy or a Calvados….and when I offered tastes to friends no-one guessed it was vodka.

bachelor jam style infused gin

I also made a bachelor jam style drink….different hedgerow fruit is layered with sugar and then the tipple of your choice is poured over…..just leave in a dark place for a few months……

It looked like it was going to rain an hour or so ago so I quickly nipped out to fill a basket with apples, beautiful yellow and orange apples the size of ping pong balls, all flushed and rosy with a real transulent glow about them…and then a selection of sharp green apples. Both work well in the flavoured vodka, and it’s really just a matter of giving them a clean, chopping them up and covering them in sugar and vodka and leaving them……. very welcome on a cold February evening when the wind is wild and it’s cold and dark outside…..

(I also got to see my little friend Bertie…he’s an adorable King Charles Spaniel with tufty russety orange eyebrows…he’s a real sweety and I was more than happy to sit on the grass and have a few minutes fussing with him while I chatted away with his owner about the joys of foraging and what I was going to be making)…..

apple-tree

Wild Apple Vodka….

ingredients

200g  wild apples

300 ml vodka (doesn’t have to be a flash pricey one)

50g granulated sugar

2 cloves, piece of cinamon, star anise*…….

decent sized Kilner jar

method

Sterilize the Kilner jar……..

Wash and pat dry the apples…..chop into quarters, discard any stalk but you can leave in the core.

Throw a handful of chopped apples into the jar and cover with some sugar, repeat and add a clove, repeat with more apples and sugar and another clove, repeat with more apples and sugar…… (I tuck the spices in the middle)……

Pour over the vodka and seal the jar.  Give everything a gentle shake.

Put in a dark cupboard and gently shake the jar every few days (this helps dissolve the sugar)….Leave for a few months before tasting….if you’d like a more developed flavour just leave well alone for another couple of months……  finally remove the apples and spices.

You can simmer the vodka drowned fruit and use them as a base for fruit fools (beware…they’ll be quite tipsy tasting) or apple tarts.

 

*as the apples and vodka are left for several months, the spice flavour slowly developes…you don’t need to add more than a couple of cloves to make a warm soothing flavoured vodka, however half a cinnamon quill or a star anise flower could be added if you’d like a stronger flavoured drink…. too many cloves though will make it taste more like a Winter cough sweet though than a nice WInter evening tipple……

 

 

A furry and windy assistant…and a giveaway winner…..

one-furry-assistant

Last week I ran a little giveaway on my blog to celebrate my first year of totally losing my heart to knitting …the prize was the pattern of your choice by Andrea Mowry because it was her beautiful Open Sky Shawl pattern that so captured my heart last year that I just had to cast on and hope I’d learn what to do as the stitches grew…..anyway the competion has now finished and I have a handsome furry (and a little bit windy) assistant to help me pick the winner……

(I just wrote everyone’s name on a piece of paper and popped them all into a  Hello Kitty cup and waited for Bernard to scoop out a name…..)

yep-he-really-likes-this-one

Well he soon scooped out a folded over piece of paper….

hes-chosing-a-name

And after patting it about for a few minutes decided to give it a little sniff…..

he-really-likes-the-taste-of-this-one

And then proceeded to give it a right good nibble…I think we can safely say this was definitely his favourite choice for winner…….so a little drum roll please for ……

congratulations-eva

Congratulations Eva.  If you check your email you’ll find a link to download your pattern…Eva had chosen Range which is a big fat, really snuggly looking shawl which combines a “range” of stitches with a lovely texture….it looks gorgeous and I think will be lovely for Eva to knit to keep her warm through those chilly Italian Winters.

Thank you so much to everyone who was kind enough to leave a comment,  your support and encouragement this year has been appreciated much more than I could ever say.

If you hadn’t been familiar with Andrea’s lovely knits then I hope this will help showcase some of her cosy toasty shawls and perhaps encourage some of you to cast on one of them for yourself.

A year of knitting and losing my heart to pointy sticks and yarn…..

 

row 7 of Open Sky Shawl with Jamieson's of Shetland wool

For the past week or so it’s slowly dawned on me that it must be coming up to a year ago that I cast on those first handful of stitches that become my Open Sky Shawl by Andrea Mowry….since making those rather hesitant and rather wobbly stitches I think I’ve knitted almost every day and can honestly say I’ve well and truly fell down the rabbit hole of knitting.

While I had had various dabbles with knitting growing up, I’d never really felt particulalry comfortable, I struggled to tell the difference between my stitches and as for reading my knitting….I’d have had more joy trying to translate a page of Latin.  Over the past some years I’d just about managed a couple of very simple garter stitch and rib scarves, some don’t look too closey at them wrist warmers and about half a dozen rather bright and gaudy coathanger cosies but doing anything more was a distant dream…..

my Kenny Everett leggings

I also knitted some dishcloths which I was rather pleased by, though these too took forever and I’d have to whisper knit,purl,knit,purl to keep up with what was on my needles…… Around about this time I met Anne, who is both an amazing friend and a wonderful knitter….she kindly gave me a few lessons but nothing seemed to stick and as soon as she’d go home I’d promptly forget what she had taught me though I did end up with the beginnings of a knitted tea cosy however I had a bit of a mishap with the gauge (which is putting it mildly) and so that’s still waiting in a cupboard upstairs to get finished…….but I hadn’t written knitting off….I’d pin beautiful knits on pinterest, I’d read knitting blogs, I’d hoarded a small libary of books which I’d flick through and sigh with wonder at the pictures more than anything else and I even purchased a fancy skein of yarn for ‘one day when’……

Then a couple of things happened….firstly I was nominated for a couple of blog awards which involved answering lots of questions and I even answered  one of the questions someone else had been asked …”what do you wish you could do/do better”…straight away I said “I wish I could knit”…and that got me thinking….this wasn’t something only a fairy godmother could bestow, it was something I could make happen if I really set my mind to it….. so I started practising…a little every day.  I started off with really simple stitches and made some swatches…and then I saw a shawl…..all soft blue stitches, ripples of squishy garter stitch which completely captivated me…..I couldn’t stop looking at it and while part of me thought “I wonder if Anne would knit that for me” another part of me said “just do it”…..

wrapped in golden sheepy blissSo I did it…. I bought the pattern and a pair of circular needles which I’d not used before, found up some Shetland woolly  yarn I’d had all tucked away and with the help of numerous youtube videos, slowly but surely began knitting the shawl….. and finally after all those years of false starts and forgetting what I was doing, the stitches began to make sense…I could actually tell the difference between knits and purls…. I was knitting 2 stitches together, slipping them and passing them over….. it all felt a bit like the first time I rode a bike down a hill without my dad holding the seat for me (though that ended up with me falling off at the bottom into a rather cow patty and muddy smelly crossing between two fields)…however the feeling of “whhhheeeee” was no less great.  I joined the Ravelry group for Andrea’s patterns and had loads of help and encouragement from other knitters and also from Andrea herself….no-one made me feel daft by some of the silly questions I asked and my confidence grew with each row.

WYS socks on Brittany dpns

My knitting wasn’t perfect, I had to un-knit rows and correct mistakes and slowly I began to see what needed to be corrected…there was a bit of an end of the world moment when I made a right bodge up about 2 rows before the end but then after a bit of a cry I managed to sort that out (watching this video by Stephen West made me laugh and that helped me to stop fetting) … then I cast off my wonderful wonderful first proper knitting attempt….and I half near strangled myself.  I’d made the shawl far too tight and ended up having to un-ravel the whole damn thing….but like falling off that bike when I got back on…. I began knitting it again after on a somewhat larger needle and this time when I cast it off…..such happy-ness (spelt like that for Eva)….

spindrift damson socks

Since then I feel like I’ve been on a real journey of discovery with my knitting…around the time I started knitting my shawl (the first attempt) I read a post by Felix Ford which led me to discover the amazing Knit British podcast (I defy anyone to listen to this awesome podcast and not want to pick up a pair of pointy sticks and go grab a ball or skein of British yarn) and spent a very happy month immersing myself in the wonderful celebration of wool that is Wovember…..

I also began taking part in the Knit British Breed swatch kal on Ravelry where I started exploring the beautiful and different types of yarn that are made by using British Breed sheep… to which I must say a huge thank you to Isla at Brit yarn for stocking such a wonderful variety of yarn and also to the incredible team at Blacker Yarns…..luckily yarn is calorie free or I would now be as fat a mole from all the testing and sampling of your fine delights……the feel of a really sheepy yarn, one with a bit of character and the whole world of charm has this year made me feel like my heart will burst.

socks for the beloved

Something I’ve noticed time and time again this year are the happy serendipitous chances and coincidences that turn up with my knitting…I wanted to buy some knitting needles and to test out a few from different brands…I found Meadow Yarn which is a nice on-line company which stocked all the ones I wanted to try..when my parcel arrived I just glanced at the return address before doing a proper Cary Grant double take…they are based in Bramfield which is just one village over from where I grew up…and in emails since with Anj she’s told me how she walks her dogs over Blackheath and will sit on a bench with a little plaque on it to do her knitting…she’s often wondered who “Brian” was…..well he was my dad and the bench was put there after he died.

working the fourth section of pips

Another knit a long I took part in was the Nature’s Shades kal (organized by the lovely Louise and Isla) …this meant knitting something using just undyed British yarn….and one of the creamy woolly pips in the shawl I knitted for it came from Wensleydale sheep just a few miles down the road at Ilketshall.

I really don’t think I’d be where I am with my knitting if not for the wonderful and warm community of knitters I’ve met on Ravelry….I’ve had unfamiliar techniques explained or have been sent links to videos which show what to do, been encouraged by so many people and get cheery messages from people all over…. I’ve had different needles and yarn reccomended, patterns suggested or gifted….seeing Julia‘s gorgeous socks (she must have the warmest toes in Scotland)and Claire‘s shawls and cardigans,  Mazzy‘s beautiful knits using Blacker Classic yarn, and receiving Gail’s chats all the way from Nebraska (she creates the most breathtaking ceramics…the colours are incredible) ….have been really special and have really inspired me.

tapestry wool pips

After I’d knitted my shawl, my lovely friend Anne showed over the course of a few weeks how to knit socks…on some little old double pointed needles, which sort of looked like cocktail sticks…at first it was a bit odd and felt more like trying to hold a very wrigglesome hedgehog…but then, something seemed to click and make sense….

I don’t think I’d ever thought I’d be able to knit using those pointy pointy, pokey at both ends needles, but thanks to Anne’s patience and a bit of practice….I now love using them.

WYS Owl socks for Anne

Along with knitting 4 pairs of socks for myself I’ve also knitted a pair of socks for my boyfriend…just seeing him sit on the sofa and wriggle his toes in his new socks made me feel so proud and happy…. and possibly even better… after years of receiving gifts of beautiufl hand knitted socks from Anne for my birthday and Christmas, I knitted this pair of socks for her…there were a few tears as we’re both a bit daft like that….

second sleeve on my Ramona cardigan

And I even knitted a cardigan…it’s probably not the prettiest looking knit in the world but ooh, it’s so warm….the yarn was some I’ve had for years and was something like 10 pence a ball from a charity shop….it’s all wool yarn and it feels a bit tickly but I like how those dappled colours remind me of the pebbly beaches and the cold North sea of the beaches of my childhood….what was really interesting though and nice as a beginner was recognizing the same techniques I’d used to increase the first shawl, and then knitting the sleeves on double pounted needles like I’d do for socks….

finsihed karise

In the Spring I won a gorgeous skein of Tamar from Isla at Brit Yarn, which is a rather fancy new yarn from Blacker Yarns, it’s a beautiful blend that is really luscious to the touch and lustrous to the eye….after lots of squishng and sighing, I decided to buy a couple of skeins of it to knit my boyfreinds’s mum a shawl, she used to knit herself but now has trouble with her hands so it’s not very easy for her to anything fiddly.  She’s wonderfully kind and I wanted to make something special for her…to be fair the yarn is so lovely and the pattern by Karie Westermann is so very well written and easy to follow that really the credit is all theirs….

morning sunlight on Tamar yarn

Because I liked the shawl I made Kathy so much I then wanted to make one for me, actually I wanted to make one for me within a few stitches of casting on Kathy’s shawl…again I used the Tamar blend by Blacker Yarns…. the stitches seem to glow and the yarn was a real treat to knit with.

strawberry pink Blacker Classic sock

I think using a good woolly yarn to learn to knit with really does help, stitches (even the most wobbly ones) will still look a lot nicer than using anything that is all cheap and nasty…and it doesn’t squeek or seem to pull so tight…..and one of the reasons that I like Blacker Yarns so much is not only is their yarn all British, often being made from some rare and endangered breeds but that they have yarn that is suitable for every budget…. their Blacker Classic is nice and affordable and knits up so brilliantly….I used it for my strawberry ice-cream pink socks and they are so warm and toasty.

karise detail

Along with using woolly yarns I’ve also tried knitting with some non woolly ones…I knitted this shawl (another Karise by Karies Westermann…I’m currently knitting my fourth one…the pattern is very easy to follow and the finished shawl is so pretty…I’d definitely reccommend it if you’d like to try your hand at lace knitting) ] for one of my sisters and the yarn is a blend of alpaca and silk…. I didn’t find it so easy to knit with as the Tamar, the yarn was a lot slippier on the needles and I found it a lot harder to see what my stitches were doing….however I loved the colour.

ishbel lace with life line

As I mentioned way back at the start of this post, I’d had tucked away a very special skein of yarn that I’d bought on a bit of a whim…it was so beautiful and proper charmed it’s way into my heart….for the past 5 years or so it’s been sleeping, just waiting to be woken up….. and this Summer I finally wound it up in to a ball (on the most un-glamourous looking old homemade nostepinne I think you’re likely to see) and cast on…. I first saw the pattern for Ishbel about the time I bought the skein and I don’t think I ever really thought I’d be able to knit it….. I don’t think I’ll ever quite get used to the amazing difference that a little soak in warm water and a couple of days being pinned out onto a board can do to any sort of knitting but especially to lace knitting…… I’m trying to keep the finished shawl for fancy, but I love it so much that I’m wearing it now almost every day.

heel-and-instep

My last finished knit from my first year of knitting are these bright and cheery Butterscotch socks…the pattern is called Hermione’s Everyday socks and is by Erica Leuder and it’s a free pattern on Ravelry (the generosity of knitters is just beyond words…. there are so many really nice patterns on there that people have taken the time to create and share for free which is really kind and just one example of knitters being lovely people.)…there is also an interview with Erica Leuder in the online magazine Olann and which should be published on or abouts the 27th of September.

Anyway, I wanted to say such a huge thank you to everyone who has either commented on my blog over the past year, either giving me encouragement with my knitting or just stopping by to say Hi to me and Bernard, to all the lovely people I’ve met on-line via Ravelry and also a huge thank you to Andrea Mowry for creating a shawl that made me pick up those pointy sticks and get knitting (I’m afraid my house doesn’t get hoovered now quite as often as it did before but I’m sitting here with a huge pile of brightly coloured knits so don’t mind a few dust bunnies)……

I wanted to send a little love Andrea’s way for being such an inspiration and also offer you the opportunity to try one of her beautiful patterns so, if you’d like the chance to win one of Andrea’s patterns then please pop over to her Ravelry store  and have a look at her beautiful knits, then leave a comment below telling me which of her patterns you’d like to cast on……  The draw will finish midnight Sunday October 2nd….if you aren’t on Ravelry then you can pop over to Andrea’s on-line store via the link and see the patterns there……

 

ETA  please feel free to still add a comment below if you like but the giveaway has now finished….

 

A rainbow of Joy from the Edge of the World……

st-kilda-shade-card-and-mini-skein

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.

st-kilda-mulloch-mor

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.

unblocked-st-kilda-swatch

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……

blocked-dyed-st-kilda-yarn

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.

autumn-sunshine-through-summer-leaves

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.

top-detail-of-unblocked-stitches

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……

blocked-top-stitches

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.

mossy

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.

unblocked-bottom-stitches

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.

blocked-bottom-stitches

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.

bracken

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.

subtle-hues-from-joys-dye-pot

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.

yarn-testing

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……

The Boreray Project part 1

The Boreray Project part 2

The Boreray Project part 3

The Boreray Project part 4

The Boreray Project part 5

Mister Podgy Paws grand day out…..

Guess who has pinched my shawl

I know there are a few ladies wondering how Bernard’s been of late (hello Beks, and also Daffodil Angel down there in Tasmania)… well we had a trip into town earlier in the week for coffee and to see the vet for a check up.  (and in case you’re wondering….yep, that’s my Shetland wool shawl I spent all that time a knitting he’s curled up on…..)

Bernard is really good about travelling into town, but he doesn’t like being in a carrier where he can’t see what’s going on…there’s lots of mewing and he gets all fretful so a few years ago I thought if I had him on a harness and lead I could take him out and have him sit on my lap and he much prefers that.  I still take him out of the house and on the bus in the carrier but once I’m sitting down, he comes out of that and sits on my lap where he’s happy as Larry.  He likes to have a look out of the window, he stares around at anyone else on the bus, glares at anyone getting on until they stop and coo over him, then he’ll blink and start being all silly (even laying on his back and wiggling those podgy paws for tummy rubs off total strangers)…..

podgy paws

It’s the same in town when we go for a coffee, we tend to visit the coffee stall on the market and then it’s out of the carrier and up on to my lap where he sprawls out and gently kneeds my lap with those velvety toes.  Sometimes he has a nap but mostly he just likes it when people stop and fuss him, coaxing and coasing while he revs up the purr motor to 11…and generally there is quite a lot of that.

Sadly he didn’t see his friend Celine (or Frenchy as I cheekily call her) but he met a new young lady who he took a proper shine to….. then my boyfriend met us and then he was happy to see “pappy” but was a bit miffed as he didn’t get fed any treats…..he’s quite safe when I take him out, he’s not going anywhere as he’s on the harness and we’re aware all the time of anyone with a dog as hes not over fond of them… I know my cat and he’s so chilled out, he’s a very relaxed chap and just likes to see what’s happening and to meet new people.

sun wriggling

Then to the vets where he sprawled out on my lap in the waiting room and half fell asleep while I did some knitting just like when we’re at home.  As soon as he’s in the case he mews and gets frightfully fretty but on my lap he’s so quiet, apart from some loud purring and the occasional snore when he’s particulary chilled out.

Our vet is called Chantelle and we love her, she’s nice and  friendly and you can tell she really loves animals.  Along with the check up we needed some booster jabs which Bernard did not care for at all and there may have been a few swears and air swipes with those paws when he had the first of the injections.  But before he’d gotten all grouchy Chantelle had checked his paws and gave me a real beam of a smile……she doesn’t expect the cancer to return so the Bernard has (fingers crossed, the all clear)….I’d sort of been holding my breath as we do paw check everyday, heart in mouth in case a little lump appears over night.  But he’s all looking good.  He’s lost a bit of weight but that might be the weather so we’re keeping an eye on that (weekly weigh ins at home to track what’s happening and we half suspect the cat next door may be sneaking in and sharing Bernard’s breakfast)…..

asleep in Autumn sunshine

By the time we got home we were both really tired and worn out (carrying the travelling case does really wear me out as it’s pretty heavy with him inside) and a handfull of snacks and a stretch out on the kitchen floor were required (that was for Bernard , I needed a nap on the sofa)…and of course as soon as the back door was opened, Ivy the cat from next door came trotting in, mewed at Bernard and then proceeded to give him lots of little kisses (she’s rather like Pepe le Pew in her attentions towards him) which made him look up at me and then with a loud sigh of resignation flop his head back down and just put up with her attentions.

Anyway, I wanted to share our good news and say how much everyone’s kind thoughts and Bernard love has meant to us.

 

 

 

 

 

A very special yarn full of bounce and boing……..

tin-ii-shade-card

About a month ago now I began reading on various Ravelry boards that Blacker Yarns were releasing a rather special and limited edition yarn….Cornish Tin II, and knitters who love British Wool were getting all rather excited…. I wasn’t knitting when the first Cornish Tin was released last year so I began to eagerly look forward to this new release (reading about last year’s Tin had really whetted my yarny appetite)…..then I got an email from lovely Sonja at Blacker Yarns, she’d seen my shawls knitted with the lustrous Tamar and asked if I’d like a little sample of Cornish Tin II to have a bit of a play with and perhaps write a review….I was more than a bit flabbergasted and was in fact quite over the moon and proper thoroughly thrilled…..

Anyway, at the start of last week a wee package arrived from Blacker Yarns with shade cards and 2 small balls of yarn……the colours are lovely and gentle. Soft, rich hues that if you’ve used their woolly yarn before you’ll be vaguely familiar with  (it’s a bit like seeing old friends you’ve not seen for ages, they look the same but there are new qualities, slight and subtle changes)…..I’m not sure if they are plant dyed but there is definitely a quietness about them that I tend to associate more with plant dyes than acid ones. Beautiful and saturated, strong, deep hues  that seem very landscape and nature based. Three in particular remind me of the state of my fingers when I’ve come back from blackberry picking, foxglove pinks and berry purples.

gorland-grey-tin-ii

I was rather surpised at how plump the yarn was and thought at first I had a dk, but checking against the weights on the shade card it was definitely the 4 ply….. this is a very Rubenesque yarn, soft, sensual and certainly a yarn that likes second helpings, or like a yarn that’s rather over indulged at Christmas….in fact it’s more than a bit like a Christmas pudding, being a blend of 11 carefully chosen British fibres.*

I decided to use a 3.45 needle as the yarn felt so podgy and I was quite happy with the gauge that gave me which was 19 stitches across over 4 inches, and 23 rows over 3 inches.

The yarn itself is so bouncy, somehow Blacker seems to have captured all the leaps and bounds that you see in the fields when they are all full of baa-lambs a kicking up their heels (or would that be hooves)…. it’s really springy and it’s quite a lively feeling yarn when it’s in a ball/skein…… however once it’s on the needles and I began knitting it was very well behaved….my stitches all looked nice, neat and even….and while my knititng slowly grew I was aware of little wafts of sheepiness coming up from the yarn……I even unravelled a couple of rows to see what the stitches did, and they all held in place perfectly and catching them back up on my needle was a doddle.

The stitch definition was great, nice and clear…perhaps I should have tried out some cables but to be honest, I’m not very confident yet knitting those, and I’m still a bit worried about “messing up my yarn” (I think this is because I’ve come to knitting from a background where I’ve spent years working with fabric and a wrong cut here can mean a flood of tears and a return trip to the fabric shop there)…anyway, I can imagine cables knitted in Copper Tin II being as soft and squishy as those twisted ropes of marshmallow you can get in sweet shops.

Now I want to be as honest as I possibly can, when I was knitting it I wasn’t quite as straight away taken as I’d been with Tamar, for me that really was love at first sight…… please don’t get me wrong, Tin II felt really nice to knit with but I wasn’t quite as smitten as I felt I should be……

blocked-cornish-tin-ii

but then…….. a little soak in warm water (the feel of pushing a knitted swatch down in to a sink of warm water is one of life’s small pleasures but it never fails to make a smile appear from ear to ear) and a little squirt of wool wash…..a little blocking in the sunshine and I’m in love.  What was already quite a plump 4 ply has bloomed up even more and I’ve got a velvety swatch full of softness and squish……those garter stitches are so full of boing-i-ness that pressing my fingers into them is like bouncing on a mattress or the sofa when your parents aren’t there to tell you off.

plump-stitches

There’s a real depth to the springyness of the stitches….a bit like really thick moss, your fingers can lose themselves in the green…..and with Cornish Tin II, you can lose yourself in the wool rich stitches.

Running my fingers along those stocking stitches is like stroking a donkey’s nose (a real compliment in my book as I love donkey’s)…this isn’t cashmere soft yarn but instead it’s a warm softness that possibly will have people hugging you just for another feel of your fabulous velvety jumper or cardigan.

The central stitch is moss stitch and it’s all nubbly, really delightful to run my fingertips over, it’s not coarse or rough, there’s texture there but it’s not of the rustic variety

squish

The yarn isn’t as glossy or lustrous as the Tamar (I think that’s in a class of it’s own where shiny is concerned) but it certainly does glow in the sunlight….taking both the shade card and swatches out into the garden and those colours really do seem to come alive.

Now I don’t have a whole lot of knitting experience but I think this is going to be lovely for cardigans and jumpers, the knitted fabric has such a nice stretch that I think it’s going to look incredible….actually it’s once the yarn is knitted and handled that it becomes something really special….it wants to be draped and stretched.  Even pulled tight and stretched out over curvy bits the stitches remain pretty plumped up, they don’t just disappear all into a nothing……the more times I keep handling the swatches, rubbing them, tucking them under bra straps the softer they become and so I suspect whatever you knit will become softer and softer over time.

I’ve had this little swatch pinned under my clothes next to my skin for the past few hours….at first there was a bit of a wool tickle, however that faded very quickly and while not quite forgetting it was there, it wasn’t scratchy or irritating… in fact when I removed it I rather missed it’s warmth and wooliness.  I’ve also sat rubbing it furiously against itself for about a minute to see what it does, and apart from a couple of very very small bobbles it coped with that disgraceful treatment fine.

swatch-with-three-blacker-yarns

I was curious though how the Cornish Tin II compared with a couple of Blacker’s other yarns that I had which were also 4 ply, Cornish II felt so podgy that at first I thought I must have imagined the other ones felt finer …..one is Blacker Classic which is at the lower end of their price range and the other was my beloved Tamar….I’ve used both in projects this Summer, two shawls in Tamar and a pair of socks in the Classic…both are very different feeling yarns, both are all wool and both are lovely to knit with.

So still on the 3.75 needles I cast on again and decided to knit up a striped swatch to compare the yarn in stitch thickness, general feel and stitch definiton.  And as the Cornish Tin II is a limited edition yarn, the sort you buy to make something a bit special, I thought to try out a little bit of lace knitting in case anyone is thinking of knititng a shawl……

So this was the unblocked swatch, you can see how glossy and lustrous the pollen hued Tamar is, but look at the deep dark warmth of the  Tin II…….(this shade is Polgooth Blue and it’s a really inky Prussian Blue)

blacker-trilogy-of-yarns

Post blocking and the differences in the yarn really do seem to be more apparent…..the Cornish Tin II looks considerably plumper than the Tamar yarn, it’s bloomed even more after it’s little bath.  Oddly though, it doesn’t feel as heavy as it looks, it’s not as fly away feeling as Tamar but for such full Rubenesque stitches, it’s remarkably light….I think knitted up on a larger needle it would have a magnificent drape for a large shawl.

blacker-yarns-swatching

It’s very similar in weight feel to the Classic yarn, although when you run your finger along the two yarns you can tell straight away where they change….there’s no soft wispy halo over the Classic yarn and while I love the way it feels, in comparrison to the Cornish Tin II I’m suddenly more aware of Classic’s more rustic qualities.

trilogy-detail

I’ve really tried to show the difference here between the yarns, I’d say the Cornish Tin II was about 1 1/2 times as thick as the Tamar so I’m not too sure it would look so good knitted side by side on the same project but I can imagine two different pieces, one in Cornish Tin II and one in Tamar or Blacker Classic would look stunning…..the colours of the Blacker Palette really do complement each other and subtle changes in  hue across the yarn ranges only add to their beauty.

bernard-likes-blacker-yarns

So, will I be buying any….yes, (heavens, can you imagine how grumpy Bernard would be if I told him otherwise….)  and I now totally understand why people loved Cornish Tin so much, but I’m still rather undecided about which colour.  If I could change anything about the Copper Tin II it would be that Blacker had made a gorgeous green like the Forest Green in the Blacker Classic range then it would have been a very easy choice as I love that colour, perhaps next year please Blacker Yarns?….

Cornish Tin II goes on sale on September 20th, and will retail for £16.20 per 100g.  It’s available in 7 colours along with a surprisinlgy warm silver grey which is undyed, and has been woollen spun in both 4ply and dk weight.

Copper Tin II is truly a very limited and special yarn, I’m so grateful to Sonja at Blacker Yarns for giving me the opportunity to have a little play with some.

*The highest quality British fibres that are blended together to make Cornish Tin II include Alpaca, Portland, Saxon Merino, Gotland, Jacob, Shetland, Black Welsh Mountain, Mohair and English Merino.

Fluffy plumes, other people’s cats and a fat velvety spider……

next doors cat

Don’t trust that cute little face….. as I mentioned the other day we’ve been getting a new little visitor in the garden of late…..this is Ivy and she lives next door.  She’s about 9 months or so I think and is one mischievious little minx.  We occasionally see her brother Neil but I don’t think him and Bernard get on so well however this young madam seems to becoming Bernards new partner in crime*.

Most mornings when I get breakfast things ready and pop toast under the grill I hear a high pitched mew and when I open the back door this is what I see sitting on the back door step….it’s like she’s asking “is Bernard coming out to play” …. inevitably he’ll appear, slowly stroll out into the garden and then there’ll be nose and face rubs, a bit of bottom sniffing and from time to time Bernard will give her a quick wash, the way she wriggles makes me think she feels it’s a bit like a mum licking a hanky and wiping it over a child’s face.  And then when Bernard is happy and thinks she’s all spick and span, they go running up the path together and then out into the playground that’s the other side of the fence (there’s actually a little hole in it which Bernard treats as his own personal door….)

not our cat but it's in our garden

Whereas Bob used to follow Bernard right through the house as they’d come bolting in from the garden, often all the way up the stairs and then back down again, Ivy tends to just come up to the kitchen door if she sees us about……however, if she thinks we’re not around it’s quite another matter and then she seems more than happy to come in and have a good explore and has made me jump as she suddenly appears from behind a chair or the side of the sofa…..when it’s been hot and we’ve had the door open she’s snuck in and pulled about in my work room (reels of sewing thread seems to delight every cat I’ve ever met) and I’m trying to forget what she did to my knitting…..

I quite like sitting out in the garden on the door step with a cup of tea or with my breakfast, enjoying the peace and tranquility while the day starts to wake or just to have a few minutes breather while waiting for the kettle to boil….however I’ve found that leaving things mid eat on the back step to answer the front door is fatal….I’ve come back to find her face in my yoghurt and have even caught her wolfing down carrot soup…..

And she’s so quite quiet…Bernard wears a collar which has a bell and a name tag and a magnet for the cat flap…he gets grumpy about a lot of things but is as good as gold with having the collar on and it doesn’t seem to bother him….we get lot of birds in the garden and I feel that a bell gives them at least a few seconds warning if he’s lurking around in the undergrowth…but Ivy doesn’t so will silently creep up and spring out, often grabbing poor old Bernard’s tail in the process.

in the nanny chair

I’m particularly fond of Bernard’s tail, it’s fat and fluffy and when he saunters off with it held up high it looks all the world like a peacock plume on a fancy hat and incredily stately and grand….(when I commissioned a picture by my friend Beth, she drew Bernard using it to do the housework with…) and it would appear to be an object of fascination with other cats….Bob and Izzy and the rest of the kittens who lived next door last year were all “worm tails” as are Ivy and Neil.  Bob used to spend ages staring at Bernard’s tail and feathery ruff, gently reaching out to pat them and gazing up with envy…Ivy is a bit more grabby grabby and a couple of times has almost fell off the potting table as she stretches out her paws to take a swipe at that enticing tail.

a monster amongst the raspberries

Otherwise in the garden it’s all been a bit quiet although the raspberries seem to now be coming into their stride….a handful of canes has slowly spread across the garden and we’ve now got quite a decent sized patch.  The variety we like is called Autumn Bliss and we’re often still picking them late October early November…in fact one year I was picking them after a snowfall.

They get really high and some of them out there are easily 7ft.  They first start to fruit around mid-Summer but this first crop is never much to write home about, a few scrabby berries to scatter on breakfast yoghurt or pop on top of an Eaton mess, however the second harvest begins around now and is worth the wait…fat, velvety, rich tasting and full of flavour, the berries also swell up and can become the size of small plums in the blink of an eye…..we generally get a good few kilos of fruit and have enough to make and put down several batches of a French style jam for the pantry and Christmas gifts, as well as stuffing ourselves silly on raspberries and cream for pudding.  Last year we made a raspberry liquor which was very nice and also a cognac jam inspired by Anna Karenina and Kitty’s jam.

If you’re a long time reader then you know there is one creature that can make me shoot across a room and up on to the sofa pretty damn quickly…spiders…. lifting up these berries to find this fat monster did give me a bit of a start, however maybe knitting with natural shades of yarn has rubbed off a bit as I found myself gazing at those soft nut browns and the patterns on it’s body and actually rather appreciating the beauty of this hairy beast.

* I used to think of Bernard and Bob as kitty versions of  Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid…..