Liquid moonlight and silk woollen stitches……

samite colours

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

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

swatching samite

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

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

swatching detail

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

catkins

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

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

blocked samite

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

blocked samite texture stitches

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

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

blocked samite lace stitches

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

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

samite skein

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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…..

 

Bubbling blackberries and a yarn to fare own my heart……

blackbery-jam-red-stitches

I’m so excited to finally be able to write about this shawl….as you may remember back in September, lovley Sonja from Blacker Yarns emailed me and asked if I would like to have a little play with their new Cornish Tin II and I was really bowled over with how beautifully it knitted…..plump and velvety, lots of bounce and seeming to hold on to all that heel kicking and joyfulness of a field full of baa lambs….between then and the day it went on sale I hummed and hah-ed about which colour to go for, I knew I could only afford one skein so the pressure was on….I finally chose Wheal Rose Red though if there had been a bright forest green I’d have chosen that as I’ve got a bit of a thing at the moment about green, but that’s beside the point, all the shades in the Tin II are gorgeous, combining rich and deep with a gentle subtleness…they aren’t brash, I think that’s what I’m trying to say……anyway I woke up crazily early on the day it went on sale and had ordered a skein from Isla at Brit Yarn before I think she’d even had a morning cup of tea and was out of her pyjamas……

a-deep-red-sea-of-yarn

The skein arrived the next day and the Autumn sunshine meant I was able to sit outside and slowly untwist the skein and allow the light to skip along those woolly twists……The Tin II is a wonderful blend and some of those darker natural fibres cause the shadows to really swallow down amongst those wraps of ply………it’s not as glossy as the Tamar but where as that was almost like knitting with sunlight and air, the Tin II is much more puddingy and substantial feeling…so much so that I had to keep checking the label as it doesn’t feel like a 4 ply at all, it’s certainly robust.

In the time leading up to the release day I went through my library of patterns and the one I wanted to cast on again was Ishbel by Ysolda Teague (I love how it’s nice and wide rathe rather than short and deep)…I’d only just cast my first one off and was really happy with how that looked and it also gave me some wriggle room with yarn…..or so I thought

a-deep-berry-red-yarn

I spent a few days just petting and stroking the new skein, I’m sure I’m not the only knitter that does this, I’d already said “how do and hello” earlier when I’d knitted the wee skeins Sonja had sent me, but there is something so wonderful to sit with a whole fat skein of such beautiful yarn, allowing your fingers to sink down and immerse themselves in colour and stroke those woolly fibres……after about a week of such nonsense I cast on and was treated with the most wonderous raspy shuffle as I wrapped the yarn around my needles…..from the notes I made while knitting the swatch I decided to cast on with a 4.5mm needle so I’d create a little more lightness and drape to the fabric….the  first part of the shawl almost knitted itself and because I just got far too excited knitting this I made one of those daft sort of mistakes that I didn’t notice and after spending a couple of hours trying to correct it I decided to just rip it all out and start again a bit more slowly……the yarn was fine about being ripped, the stitches popped apart so easily……

This yarn has such an amazing stitch definition, you really can see which stitch is which and so I decided not to use my beloved stitch markers, a bit scary at first but I was able to “read ” my knitting really clearly and progress was actually faster I think than if I’d have been shifting markers along all the time….there was no interuption to the flow of knitting and the stitches almost seemed to appear by magic…..

One of the lovely things about knitting this Ishbel was the back and forth messages I had with my friend Alida….she’d admired my first Ishbel and wasn’t sure she could knit one herself but I thought otherwise (she’s an amazing sock knitter so I knew she could do it) and even though she’s in Canada and I’m here in Norfolk we were having our very own little Ishbel kal…..

Even with having to re-knit the centre part twice (I was a row away from starting the lace work when I’d had to rip it) the shawl was finished in just under a fortnight which is pretty good going for me…however disaster almost struck….I didn’t have enough yarn……Ishbel is a fantastic pattern and this is a link to Ysolda’s chart for Ishbel if you want to keep an eye on your stitch count….a % of shawl made is given and I was keeping track of this and where when I started thought I had plenty of yarn, as I worked those last rows I realized my yarn was almost gone…so I put a call out in the Blacker Yarns group on Ravelry and the very very kind MontyMouse sent me enough yarn to finish my knitting (actually she sent me extra to what I’d asked for in case the yarn got gobbled up quicker than I’d anticipated…..) so hugest of huge thank yous to her…….this was a valuable lesson to me though in how much a 4ply can differ.

tin-ii-after-blocking

I know from the handful of shawls I’ve knitted this year that lace work can look a bit….hmmm, squishy and wet pasta like before blocking and while I really liked the look of those fat stitches above I truly was swept off my feet when I saw what happened after I’d soaked my shawl in a sink of warm water……you can really see those those undulating waves of knitting……and any rusticness and hedgehoggyness totally goes away on that wash….not that I thought this was hedgehoggy in the slightest, shuffley and full of sounds when you rub it or knit it yes but not unpleasant to sit against your skin……

I allowed the shawl plenty of time to fully dry before taking out the blocking pins and was so over the moon and happy with the results…..it looks much weightier than it actually is and oohh the colour…..if you’ve ever made blackberry jam, think back to when the sugar and berries begin to merge and the contents of the pan is transformed into that deep bubbling red….this is that shade exactly……..

tin-ii-shawl-finished

(just look how it flows over my shoulders…..that’s softness for you)…..While I was knitting this my boyfriend became rather ill and it’s taken him a while to feel up to taking any pictures for me so the shawl has been very patient and waited and waited…..but he’s feeling a bit better and well enough to be my “David Bailey”…. finally I am so so thrilled to share this with you…..

It’s really soft to hold, not Blue Faced Leicester kitten tummy soft, but soft like old velvet chairs, comforting softness that envelops and makes you feel safe……the texture of the stitches is incredible, tracing over the lacework and I can feel those knit two togethers and slipped over stitches…the spine down the centre is so clear and defined….tiny ridges are a tactile pleasure for my hands and fingers…..and my favourite part…look at those pointy tips along the shawl’s edge…so pokey sharp they could nearly take your eye out…..

weighty-lacework

I really am incredibly happy with how this project came out….it’s wonderfullly warm without feeling over heavy, and while I wish I’d have bought two skeins so I could have made it a little longer I’m not really fretting about it as this is still a nice wearable size…..because I used the 4.5mm there is a really lovely drapey feel to the shawl which I hope you can see from the above pictures…..

The fabric feels wonderful and fudgy, like when you see moss growing and you can press your fingers down into the green and it feels all bouncy…..

This is always how I imagined yarn to feel, warm and soft, light, a slight tickle, mossy and woolly…..thank you so much to everyone at Blacker Yarns who have worked so hard to create this stunning blend, it honestly has felt like a real privilage to knit with this yarn and certainly this knitter for one greatly appreciates all your hard work………

I’ve just checked and both Brit Yarn and Blacker Yarns still have some of this very special and limited yarn left, so if you’re still wondering what to tell people you’d like for Christmas…perhaps a skein or two of this….it’s available in 4 ply and dk weight and Blacker Yarns also have a section on their site with some really beautiful free patterns which use this yarn……

More notes on my bubbling blackberries Ishbel can be seen on my Ravelry page…..

 

 

 

 

 

Socks and shawls and the humbug from next door……

ishbel-lace-work

I really need Bernard here so I could give him a squeeze to do a trumpety trump trump fanfare as I’ve finally finished one of the shawls I’ve been knitting over the past few months (though my nose might well regret it)….no fancy pictures yet as it’s not blocked (it’s currently taking up half the living room all pinned out on mats) but hopefully there’ll be some to show next week.  The shawl is another Ishbel by Ysolda Teague and while I’ve been knitting mine, ButtercupandBee in Canada has been knitting hers.  It’s been lovely to encourage each other with our knitting in what has seemed like the world’s smallest kal….Alida has used the most gorgeous gothicky yarn for hers and I can’t wait to see it all blocked out.ishbel-ripples

I got a bit carried away while knitting, the yarn is some that has been re-used, I was encouraged to do this by lovely Louise Hunt from The Caithness Craft Collective.  She ran a un-knit a long in the Spring and un-ravelling the scarf this originally was, was so not the easiest thing in the world, in part because it had been washed a couple of times so the stitches had started to felt.  However I’m so glad I stuck with it because the yarn is really fudgy and nice to work with, and it knits up a dream.  (the original scarf was crocheted and wasn’t doing the yarn any favours)….. I knew I wanted to knit a nice big shawl, one that I could wrap myself up in but which wasn’t so heavy I’d be all afeared I was having a hot flush, and thought this would be perfect.

The yarn is by Shilasdair and was bought about 5 years ago on a day trip to London with my friend Debbie and since then the yarn base has changed a little, however I was lucky enough to see that Tangled Yarn still had some left of the original blend so I bought a skein from there and then used that in alternate rows along some of the lace work…… initally I thought to make a shawl and wrist warmers but after making the shawl several times larger than the first Ishbel I made, I’m left with about 20g so think I may need to buy some more and finally try out some colourwork knitting.  It’s not woolly but I’ve found this much nicer to use than the Artesano alpaca/silk blend, which I really loved last year but I think a year of knitting with some really sheepy yarns has made me properly reconsider what I use on my needles…..

karise-in-shadow-and-sunlight

My poor karise number 4…… so neglected……I’m trying to finish this at the moment and after knitting the Ishbel shawl pattern a few times, I’m now feeling confident enough to leave off all the stitch markers, and read my knitting instead.  I know this was something that Alida was doing and I thought “but what if you lose your place” but actually as long as I don’t try and go crazy fast it’s fine, and this is such a nice pattern that you can see what the stitches below want to become on the row above….I love this shawl pattern and I’m trying to love the yarn again but I’m afraid it really doesn’t make my heart feel so happy and skippy as the woolier yarns do.

a-deep-berry-red-yarn

And while I’m talking about woolly yarns that make my heart fair skip …… I bought a skein of the Cornish Tin II from Blacker Yarns…I reviewed this yarn a couple of weeks back and proper lost my heart to it…..choosing which colour to buy was so dificult as I only had the money for the one skein but after lots of hmmming and ahhing I choose the Wheal Rose Red which is such a gorgeous magenta hued red…if you’ve ever made blackberry jam, it’s very much like when the berries all start a bubbling and they turn from blue/black into red…just glorious. … the pattern is once again Ishbel and it’s knitted up really quickly. It’s already all blocked and the stitch definiton is so good…we’re just waiting to take some photos….actually I ran out of yarn before I finished casting off, luckily Ravelry is full of kind and generous people so when I explained my predicament lovely MontyMouse posted me some yarn so I could finish the shawl without tears or strops.

someone-has-been-at-the-butterbeerI know I’ve already mentioned these socks a couple of weeks ago but I’m so pleased with them…the bright and sunshiny yellow is very welcome now the weather is so rainy and dark……the pattern is called Hermione’s Everyday socks and it’s a free to download pattern on Ravelry by the awesome Erica Leuder…..if you are a fan of sock knititng you might like to read this little interview with her on Olann and.  And you might recognize one of the sock pictures listed in the project gallery at the bottom of the page.

This is such a nice sock pattern, I used a pair of mini circular needles for these as I find them nice for knitting patterned socks (thank you so much Claire for the suggestion, I really love them and no achy hands here)…the pretty pattern is nice and simple to remember so I was able to knit these on the bus…(and was asked by a lady at the bus stop when I was due as she thought I was knitting baby socks as my cuffs looked so tiny and wee….yeah, my face looked just like you’re imagining…)

Now I’m not sure what happened with my socks but as you can see one is more than a smidge larger than the other….hmmm oh, well, they fit fine and I tend to like my socks sort of scrunched down a bit so you can’t see they are different….I wasn’t at the butterbeer or anything, I guess I was just holding my needles tighter for the second sock.

toe-up-lunar-tides

I’m currently knitting another pair of socks, this time as part of the Brit Yarn sock kal on Ravelry… one of the things I like about this kal is seeing all the amazing  socks other people are knitting, it’s a great way to find new patterns..one of my favourites at the moment is called Longing for Gotland, and my friend Claire in Edinburgh has knitted a beautiful pair in Tamar  from Blacker Yarns and I properly “ooohed” when I saw these beautiful sheepy socks, the pattern is called Droving and I’m thinking I’d like to knit these in some natural undyed shades and that way I’d feel like I had my very own flock of baa-lambs…..as this sock kal has been organized by Isla from Brit Yarn the focus is all about using British Yarn so it’s really interesting to see some of the different yarns that people are using…

After knitting a few pairs now  in WYS sock yarn I’m knitting these ones in some John Arbon sock yarn that I bought in the Spring from Meadow Yarn…..the colour is a dusty rose pink and reminds me more than a little of the pink face powder that Nanny C used to wear…in fact I regularly keep sniffing the yarn as I expect it to smell of Yardley scent…..this sock yarn is lovely to knit with, it’s soft with a nice wispy halo….the pattern is called Lunar Tides and is by Louise Tilbrook….amazingly it’s not only free but is written both cuff down or  toe up.  I’m trying out the toe up version as I want to get better at toe up socks, also I plan on using as much of the skein as I can as I rather like nice long socks and that will be easier to do working the socks from the toe up.

 

So I’m trying to finish up some of my Summer knitting projects then my needles will be all clean and clear, ready to knit up a Winter cardigan and some small gifts for Christmas…..nothing big as I know that will only make me feel all stressed out and under pressure, but fun things that will use up little scraps of tapestry yarn that forever seem to appear from under cushions or in the bottom of work boxes…..  I really liked Amelia’s little circus nuggets she made for her daughter (the story behind them is so sweet and me me laugh)…she used the bunny nuggets pattern by Rebecca Danger and I believe we know several little people who might like to find a couple of these in their Christmas stockings.

ivy

Someone who shouldn’t hold out for toys or treats is the humbug from next door…… she’s generally waiting out on the back door step when Bernard goes out first thing, the pair of them are so sneaky that Bernard will pat at the cat flap until we open the back door, and then little miss tries to slip in besides Bernard and run on through into the other rooms … she’s not to be trusted around any knitting and is a kntting needle thief…goodbye nice new posh Knitpro dpn’s….. annoyingly when she’s been all naughty she lays on her back and wriggles and mews until she gets a tummy tickle which she seems to love second only to dancing around the garden with Bernard.

 

 

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

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.