A very special bespoke and woolly wrap……

 

 

inside-wrap-fro-claire

Over the Summer I was able to combine my new found love of knitting alongside my older love of sewing….previously when I’d attempted to do any knitting it had been on 12 inch or even 14 inch straight knitting needles, but since trying out the wonders that are interchangable circular needles my heart has been rather taken with them however it did seem that tips and cables were soon scattered about in almost everyroom…. over the Summer I started making needle wraps where I could store all my interchangeable needles together ..I’m rather a fabric horder so I had plenty of materials with which to tinker …..I made a couple and sold some to very kind friends and found I really enjoyed working to their specifications….I also made some wraps for double pointed knitting needles too as  I had a rather large collection of those as well (many thank yous to lovely Isla at Brit Yarn who sent me no end of beautiful wooden ones she wasn’t using)…..

Something I’d not initially thought about was the different tip length for needles, mostly I like a short needle tip but other friends have said they like longer ones or more often…half and half….. but none of the cases or wraps I’d seen were made where you could store both types of tips so a bit more tinkering was in order…..what I had wanted to sew though was a wrap that you could store all your needle tips, cables and a couple of other pieces like a needle guage and some short stubby needles for when you’re knitting softly flowing cables……

embroidered-wool-coat-wrap

Most of the fabric I have in my stash is more often than not special in someway to me…perhaps it’s the same floral print I had in my bedroom curtains when I was little, a cushion or chair cover from an elderly friend or relative or it’s a fabric I’ve found in the bottom of a box at a car boot or flea market, one that makes my heart all skippy ….and while these all make me happy I’m aware other people have equally special fabrics themselves……while I’m happy to hoard fabric or notions, I really love being able to make it into something that I will use, so I see that cloth and get all those memories every day with every touch…..

Last year my lovely friend Anne gave me an old wool coat that had been her mums, sadly it had a really bad tear so would have been a bit difficult to repair however she thought the fabric might be useful for me…..so I used it to make her a series of needle wraps and a big knitting bag to keep them all in…….the fabric was nice but not very interesting so I embroidered small wild flowers over it in vintage crewel yarn……when she opened her gift she straight away recgonized the fabric, and said “it’s mum’s old coat”, pressed it to her face and sighed “ooh, it still smells of her”….to which we then had to blow our noses because we got a bit teary.

So while not really a comission that was such a meaningful make because that fabric meant such a lot to one of my friends……she’s pretty sure it would have been her mum taught her to knit so seeing and using that wrap everyday holds a whole lot of memories…..

wraps-for-eva

A more recent commission has been for my friend eva, one wrap very sensibly is for her (fixed circulars this time so it was made with deeper pockets) and then 2 long wraps were made for a couple of her friends which were designed for interchangables…eva didn’t want the space made for a needle gauge but instead wanted them filled with spaces for lots of tips and while similar in construction ended up looking quite different because of the fabric used…..

Last year when I started knitting I began listening to a couple of podcasts (KnitSonik and Knit British) and started reading all the wonderfully woolly and sheepy articles on Wovember…..both podcasts and woolly articles really lit such a fire in my heart, on days when my knitting was mis-behaving I was able to put it aside for a little while I’d listen or read…and then return back to my yarn and pointy sticks a little bit more relaxed……

Anyway, I’m very grateful to Felicity (Felix) Ford  and Louise Scollay who both do so much hard work preparing for all that is Wovember and I wanted to show my  appreciation in some way so I emailed Louise and offered a bespoke wool wrap as a prize for one of their competitions…..so I’m very excited to say I will be making a special, custom made, all wool fabric, needle wrap for the winner of the Wovember Instagram competion…..the winner will be announced today over on the Wovember site….(if you look for #wovember or #wovember2016 you’ll see some beautiful knits, wonderful sheep, and some amazing woolly goodness going on…a real celebration of such an incredible fibre) ….

I’ve bought some beautiful hand woven donegal tweed especially for this and have some very fine weight wool cloth for the lining…..over the holidays I’ll be working on this special bespoke wrap to suit the winners needle specifications and will be posting progress here and on Instagram (yes, I’ve finallly bought a phone that has a camera)…..thank you so much Team wovember for your wonderful enthusiasm for wool and for all the interesting essays and features on the Wovember site….if you’d like to help support Wovember there is a little donate button at the bottom of the Wovember site page.

 

 

Naked knitting and those sheepy aromas…..

washed and blocked castlemilk moorit

As I mentioned at the start of November (or Wovember as this month it’s all about celebrating wool) I’ve spent the last year knitting up swatches of undyed single breed yarn to help me learn about all the different and special qualities that the many breeds of British sheep have…. I always want to start singing “Getting to know you” from The King and I as soon as I start to hand squish a new yarn and cast on… and that’s what the swatching is all about really, saying “how do” and learning as much as you can about that yarn…..I started knitting the swatches from an idea by Louise of Knit British (there is a Ravelry group where you can read about how other people have found a particular yarn and compare notes)… and it’s been really interesting seeing how the yarn knits up, how tickly it is, how kitteny buttery soft or not it might be, how does it wear…

Now I’ll be quite honest and say before last year I’m not sure if I could actually name more than a couple of breeds of sheep apart from Shetland and Wensleydale (and that one I knew because I love Wensleydale cheese), and I’m now trying to learn as many as I can (ooohhh just thought to myself, what a great game could be made where you guess the name/identify the sheep breed, does it have horns, does it have black legs, face…. someone invent it please…Wovember ladies…perhaps one for next year?)….and the names of some of these lesser known breeds are wonderful sounding…. who wouldn’t want to knit with a Badger faced Welsh Mountain, or a Swaledale (I love the sound of saying that…. swaledale,swaledale,swaledale … feels like I’ve been at the wine) a Baldwen or a Teeswater….. one name that I heard mentioned a few times and which sounded lovely was the Castlemilk Moorit……

Velvety and chocolatey are two words that are used to describe it with good reason, it’s plump and mossy, smells divine, is a gorgeous chocolatey moussey pudding brown and has fair captured my heart like you wouldn’t believe…..this is definitely a yarn I’d like to use for a cardigan but I suspect I’d never want to take it off…. it is soft but not like a merino or Bluefaced Leicester, more like the softness underfoot as you step out walking on marashes or meadowland, there’s an ease to the yarn, which after a soak in warm waer becomes even more apparent…..unblocked the stitch definition is good but afterwards the yarn seems to want to felt slightly so the stitches snuggle up to each other, something with a very heavy or defined patttern would be great but as much as anything else, I think just plain stocking stitch for this “I can’t stop touching it” yarn suits it very nicely….this was a woollen spun blend by Blacker Yarns.

working the pattern

Llanwenog I knew pretty much nothing about, it’s very dry and crisp, not quite so soft as a Norfolk Horn and much more clean coloured, the stitches were really easy to see and so any stitch pattern was very clear, I think it would be a good yarn for anything with lots of twisting cables….. personally, I found it quite tickley, it’s a fat yarn and although I sort of became used to it pinned under my thermals I didn’t find it as comfortable as the Norfolk Horn, however worn on top of clothes it was warm and toasty and even after rubbing it furiously against itself and wearing it pinned against my side for a week there was no sign of pilling or haziness over the stitches….. so it’s certainly one to consider using for jumpers and cardigans.  I don’t know if anyone is using this in a blend for dye work but it’s such a bright creamy white that I thnk it would be really good, a nice clean base to show off subtle shifts in hue especially with some of those softer plant dyes.

seaweed pattern in North Ronaldsay

Probably one of the most interesting little sheep I’ve learnt about this year have been the North Ronaldsay sheep…they live on the island of Ronaldsay and eat seaweed….. they sound like something from a Joan Aiken story.  I first read about them in “In the Footsteps of Sheep” by Debbie Zawinski and have been quite enchanted with them ever since….

The yarn I’ve been knitting with is a rather robust woollen spun blend by Blacker Yarns but a couple of knitters on Ravelry have said I should try  this blend of North Ronaldsay  from A Yarn from North Ronaldsay… because that seems a lot softer….it’s all to do with how the yarn is prepared, so I’ve got that on my list of yarns I’d like to try next year.

At the moment though my swatch is all ripped back as I’d thought knitting a seaweed stitch pattern would be fun but the yarn seems happier when the stitch pattern is bolder and better defined….however I thought that my stitches made were lovely and plump, very squishy and the fabric knitted was nice and sturdy, basically whatever you knit with this is going to keep you super toasty and snug….I can imagine it would be great for an outdoors jumper or cardigan if you want to wear something warm when you’re gardening but don’t want to wear a million layers, and actually this reminded me so much of my dad’s potting sheds, all those balls of twine slowly uncurling amongst seed potatoes and well oiled trowels and forks…..those fine almost wiry strands of kempy hair lifting and teasing upwards.

dark brown black Jacob

Another favourite I’ve discovered this year has been the Jacob.  I’ve used this in my Nature’s shades shawl and the more times I wear it the softer it feels, also I’ve noticed after wearing it for half an hour or so, there is a soft and sheepy aroma around me which I like very much and it seems to encourage Bernard to jump up on my lap for a cuddle.

One of the lovely things about the Jacob sheep is that their fleece is made up of more than one colour so they are quite distinct looking, from a porridgey cream through a silver grey, a deeper slate grey and then the most chocolately dark brown/grey…..the lighter greys can look a bit cold indoors under artificial lighting, but outside they show up warm and beautiful.

I found the darkest shade a bit difficult to knit with as I found the stitches hard to see (I was trying to be a bit fancy with my choice in stitch pattern so totally my fault not the yarns) and there were a fair few kempy fibres lifting up through the stitches, but I loved how this felt after blocking and it’s definitely a favourite….the Jacob blend I’ve been using is by West Yorkshire Spinners.

detail of light grey Jacob swatch

Actually I noticed the lighter yarn had less kempiness about it, and suspect the porridgey one will have even less……the light grey certainly felt plumper and the knitted swatch seemed a bit more substantial, although this seemed to balance itself out a good deal with washing and blocking.  This is such a nice feeling, warm to the touch yarn to use and the West Yorkshire Spinner’s range of this is really nicely priced if you need to watch what you spend but don’t want to use squeeky acrylic.

Like the Llanwenog I found this yarn has worn really well, (goodness knows what my postman thinks when I open the door and stand there with knitted swatches pinned all over….) no pilling and the knititng fabric just gets softer and nicer to wear…..a cardigan or jumper knitted from this would last for ages and be a first choice in comfort.

I used a lot of Jacob in my Nature’s shades shawl and it was a littel “hello, I’m woolly” when I first started wearing it, over s few weeks of wear it’s become a lot softer and is a pleasure to wrap around myself.

Shetland dk from Naked Wool

Another yarn I’ve bought but have yet to knit with is this wee ball of Shetland yarn from The Shetland Sheep Wool Company….. it smells nice and being yarn from Shetland fleece there is a nice little range of undyed all natural shades.  The company is sort of local as it’s based over the Suffolk/Norfolk border in Bury St Edmunds, however and I only found this out after I’d bought the yarn and started playing about with it, the yarn itself comes from Shetland flocks that live all over the UK ….so the yarn itself is not actually local which is a shame as that is what I felt the packing/branding had implied….. anyway, not the end of the world by anymeans and it will be interesting to see how this Shetland yarn compares to yarn from Shetland based sheep.

It’s been quite a journey of discovery this year, slowly increasing my knitting skills but also gradually becoming aware of the different yarn qualities, which yarn blooms up nice, which wears well, which is tickly and lively, which yarn is quite and soft…. slow step by slow step I’m becoming more considerate in my yarn choices and even in which items I chose to knit.

Coming into knitting from this slightly different view point has really made me fall in love with what I’m able to create with a ball of yarn and a pair (or 3 or 4) pointy sticks, and has given me so many ways of feeling very connected with what it is I’m knitting and what I’m knitting it with.

As always, many many thanks go out to the wonderful team behind Wovember, for their inspiration and enthusiasm for all things truly sheepy and woolly…..and if you can also see what wovember means to other people just here…..

Needle wraps and remembered fabric stories…….

wool-coat-knitting-needle-wrap

One of the things I like so much about using re-purposed pieces of fabric left over from old clothes, family stashes when people used to dress make or odd/old curtains and cushion covers when an elderly relative moves house is all the memories and stories that are woven up and remembered each time you touch or see that cloth….having pieces of fabric all folded away means they can often get a bit neglected or just forgotten about…I love having a rummage through some of my scrap bags, pulling fabric down off shelves, and when I use them in my work I’m always reminded of the people who gifted me so much of my fabric hoard….remembering funny stories and loved ones whose faces I’m not going to see again are part and parcel of all the thoughts and time that go in to my patchworks and quilts and that is really special for me….those sentiments are something that I try to put into other pieces I make, whether it’s hot water bottles that are lined with soft and warm brushed cotton (like our nighties used to be made from when I was small) or tiny Christmas Stockings that are all full of dreams and anticipation even when they look empty……

This year while I’ve been knitting, I’ve been listening to a lot of knitting podcasts, time and time again when people talk about learning how they’ve knitted, more often than not it’s been their mum, grandma or nanny or an elderly aunt that has been there for those first wobbly steps…listening to a lot of knitting interviews made me think about my own knitting journey and my bag of scraps and handed down fabrics…..

I’d already been making wraps and cases for my own sewing clutter and knitting needles and thought this was a nice way to use fabric that owns our hearts with it’s memories, remembering the people that teach/taught us our craft who aren’t always still with us to thank… ( I hope that makes sense…soemtimes what is so clear in my head and heart comes out as a very rum jumble)

wool-coat-embroidery-detail

I’ve mentioned my friend Anne on here a few times before, she’s an awesome knitter and a wonderful friend, for the past some years now she’s been gifting me with beautiful hand knitted socks and from time to time she turns up with a bundle of fabric and goodness knows what else for me to re-purpose and sew with…. last year she bought over a lovely wool coat though sadly rather badly torn, it had been her mum’s and she wondered if it would be of any use to me…. the fabric was nice and sturdy but it wasn’t very soft so I didn’t think it would be suitable for hot water bottles …but I tucked it away until this Summer when I made her a series of needle wraps to keep all her knitting needles in and  a big project bag to store everything together….

I used some vintage crewel wool to embroider a series of flowers over the fabric to add a little interest to what was otherwise a rather sobre coloured cloth…

Anne is a wee bit older than me and has been knititng for all her life, she can’t really remember learning to knit but is pretty sure it must have been her mum who taught her….. anyway when she un-wrapped the present she knew straight away what the fabric was, and held the wraps to her face, breathing in the scent of mum which still lingered on the wool cloth….  it can get me quite throat lumpy and chest achey when I use fabric that holds all those memories and happy thoughts…..

inside-wrap-fro-claire

I’ve also had a couple of commissions for wraps this Summer, working with two awesome knitters so the wraps would cover everything they required…..this one went up to Scotland to lovely Claire who is an awesome knitter of beautiful shawls and cardigans….along the front row are spaces for needle tips and some are sewn short so she can store both short and long tips.  The fabric was mine and is some that my friend Sasha the toy maker gave me…..

blue-tweed-wrap

And this wrap was made for Eva in Italy, (she lives near Trieste so hope that it’s not too cold there already)……Eva likes her dpns and said she had a rather large collection of them in all sorts of sizes, so the wrap is made up of 3 layers of pockets…..the front row can hold the shortest little old Brittany dpns and cable needles and the back pocket can fit anything up to ones 20 cm long….the tweed fabric wasn’t vintage but was a beautiful pale and watery blue.

Yarny temptress Isla at Brit Yarn is currently running a British Yarn sock kal on Ravelry and she’s got one of my wraps to gift as one of the prizes, I hope whoever gets that one likes it…..I’m really enjoying this kal, first up as it’s organized by Isla it’s all about using British yarn, it doesn’t have to be sheep woolly (it can be alpaca alpac-ery or rabbity angora) but the yarn does have to be British, personally I think it’s great seeing all the different woolly yarns that people are using, quite a few I’m already now familiar with (like Blacker Classic and WYS Signature) and there are ones I’ve heard of but not yet tried out (like The Knitting Goddess’s  Brit Sock or her Wensleydale/Shetland blend*) … all these are available from Brit Yarn where Isla has sourced a wide range of British yarns for everyone’s budget….but I’m also scribbling down new names that I’d not heard of before that are all woolly and sheepy…. and then the patterns….so many I’d not seen before though I think Claire’s Gotland socks using Blacker Yarns Tamar have been my favourite, closely followed by these…….best of all though is the incredible support knitters offer each other, and the advice and suggestions given to help each out.

I’ve also got wraps and rolls for sale in my Folksy shop….if you’d like to commission your own wrap or needle roll I’m more than happy to discuss your needle requirements, whether you’re a dpn lover or prefer a circular needle……

*a very exciting review will be shared soon thanks to the lovely Knitting Goddess Joy.

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….

 

time softened and sun faded roly poly needle wraps

wool for autumn scarf

I love old fabric, all time softened and a bit sun faded, it always conjures up memories and stories when it’s hand me downed or even found in a dusty box in a charity shop or car boot when I then get to wondering who did this belong to, what did they do…..some of the most treasured fabric I own is pieces of a pink and white sheet that belonged to our Nanny C, and some fantastic red and white fabric that originally was a chair cover belonging to my dear Joyce’s mum……I’ve bought familiar looking curtains not quite being able to place them, to be told later by my mum they are the same as the ones that hung in my bedroom when I was little…..everytime I look at these fabrics I can’t but help remember moments and times spent with people I’ve loved…

Other special fabric has been gifted by friends old and new, and while I could keep this all stored away and kept for best or fancy, I much prefer to use it, to be able to see and handle it day to day when I’m sewing or knitting….looking up from a sewing a tricksy hem or sighing when I’m having to un-knit a row (or two or three) when I’ve not followed  a pattern properly, my eyes can rest on these familar fabrics and a little wave of reassurance and comfort helps to make me feel calm again.

A few years ago I made some knitting needle rolls for some beautiful wooden Brittany needles from my boyfriend’s mum and dad, the needles are really special and every time I use them I think of Kathy and Phil, and wanted the fabric in the roll to be equally dear to my heart.

inside floral needle wrap

Now I’m knitting with different styles of needle, double pointed ones which look like you could have someone’s eye out with if you’re not careful and ones where you can change the tip size to the length of cable,  I thought it was about time I made some rolls and wraps to keep all these new types of needle safe and in one place.

While I was making the rolls and wraps for myself I was thinking about some of the podcasts I’ve been listening to this year, namely the Shiny bees one…often when Jo aks the people that she interviews who it was taught them to knit they reply it was a granny, nanny, elderly relative or their mum and I began thinking how I love seeing the fabric that is special to me when I’m working….. while Nanny C could knit (she’d knit brightly coloured little squares that a neighbour would sew together into blankets for the local old people’s home….Nanny C was still doing this in her early eighties) I don’t remember her ever showing me how to, or if she did I was pretty bad at it….a great aunt did try to teach me but my hands were always hot and sticky, and the stitches would get tighter and tighter, painfully squeeking as they pulled over the needles and dear Joyce was always out in her garden to bother about knitting or sewing …..so while when I knit and am quiet I’m not quite remembering them teaching me to knit and purl and pass one over, the fabric wraps are familar prints and textures and helps recall the laughter and chat, cups of tea and tins of biscuuits I associate with them.

textured floral needle roll

As well as making wraps for my own ever increasing collection of needles, I’ve also made a few for my Folksy shop….at the moment there are two styles….the first one is designed for those pointy and pokey double tipped needles….they have two rows of pockets inside and are long enough so they’ll fit needles up to 20 cm.  They also have a wide space in front where you can tuck in a needle gauge and the pockets at the other end are sewn shallower so you can store your cable needles in them and they won’t slip all the way down.  These will also fit skinny types of crochet hook such as the Brittany ones.

When you want to store your needle roll away, it rolls up like a jam roly poly and is kept secure with either a length of velvet ribbon or a piece of vintage leather thonging.

long needlewrap b inside detail

The other design is a longer needle wrap and these are made with a front pocket that has been divided into lots of sections where there is room to store your different needle tips as well as a needle gauge. The three far right spaces are a bit shallower and are designed to store your cable needles.  The wrap is deep enough that there is also room for short needles (for lace shawl edgings) or the odd crochet hook.

The two pocket lengths behind are divided into three so there is plenty of room to store loose cables.

long needle wrap b closed

The wraps fold over on themselves and keep all tucked up and secure with either a length of velvet ribbon or a piece of vintage leather thonging.

Both designs of wrap have long flaps inside that cover all the needles so stop anything from flying out or getting lost in your bag.

I’ve really enjoyed making the needle wraps as sewing is very much my first love and it’s been nice to incorporate my interest in knitting with fabric and thread.

long needle wrap a detail

As well as the ones listed in my Folksy shop I’m more than happy to work on bespoke wraps and rolls to fit your own particular needle requirements and with your own fabric if you have some that holds a special place in your heart.

In the past I’ve made memory quilts which were pretty special to sew and I guess these are a bit like that…..

I’m currently working on a few more styles which I hope will be ready to appear in the shop over the next week or so along with a couple of designs for project/workshop bags and pockets.

knitted memories of Dunwich and pebbly beaches…

nearly finished the Ramona body

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve shown any more photos of my Ramona cardigan,  but it’s coming along fine and dandy…I’m currently puzzling out the button bands at the sides, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed it will be all cast off over the weekend.

(my working notes can all be found just here)

This has really been such a pleasure to knit, it’s a nicely written pattern which apart from me being a bit of a numpty and not reading the pattern right (forgetting to count some stitches in the raglan shaping)) it’s been pretty relaxing to knit….there’s been a lot of ripping back and re-knitting because I worked some decreases/increases on one side wrong…the wonky stitches looked too noticable to leave, and I also had to re-knit an arm…and a lot of the ribbing……so yes, a whole lot of re-knitting when I thnk about it, but next time (and I know there’ll be a next time) it’ll be a faster knit…..

sleeve stitches on dpns

My favourite part has been working the sleeves, I love the feel of dpns (after years of feeling like I was trying to grab hold of a tumbling, wriggling hedgehog, they now feel so comfy in my fingers)….these are some by Brittany (my favourite needles and crochet hooks are made by them)…..I’m a bit grippy with my needles so the skinnier wooden dpns aren’t my first choice but these 5mm ones are nice and sturdy and look so beautiful…..also I found the yarn really seemed to knit up so happy on them…..I’ve got a few smaller sized dpns and it’s interesting how different yarns like different needles.

I’m also very pleased with how this yarn looks knitted in stocking stitch….it’s not a particularly pretty yarn and probably doesn’t shout “day trip to the sea side” to most people…however I’m originally from a little village in Suffolk a few miles away from Southwold and Dunwich, and much of the coast line around there is pebbly…..on even the most sunshiney day the sea is grey, murky…the colours of the yarn really do seem to reflect those always teeth chatteringly cold waves…….

second sleeve on my Ramona cardigan

The ribbing around the bottom of the cardigan is really pretty and while my first attempt looked okay, I decided to rip it out and re-knit it up on slightly smaller needles, the cuffs in the pattern are made with 1 x 1 ribbing and I tried one cuff out like that and then one with the same pattern as the bottom…..I prefered how the cuffs looked when they matched the bottom .  The cuff rib was also worked on a smaller dpn.

I’ve left a bit of tapestry yarn thought the stitches of both cuffs as I thought I’d wait until the rest of the cardigan was finished before casting them off…I’ve got quite long arms and often find cardigan sleeves far too short, especially if I’m riding a bicycle so I’ve made the sleeves some bit longer than the pattern said to do….I’m not sure if I’ve made them a bit too long but thought it would be easier to tell once the rest of it is all done and then I can try it on properly…the sleeves may well hoof up a bit though I think I may need to un-knit one or two rows.

At the moment I’m having fun and games with the button band, and am now on my third attempt…I’m making the band that has the buttons on it first before knitting the one with button holes… the pattern called for a ribbed button band but I loved how moss stitch looked on my swatch, echoes of those pebbly Dunwich beaches I suppose, so I’ve used that and it looks fine….

It’s been very exciting for me to watch this slowly grow on my needles, and I’ve been able to keep trying it on, even when it was more of a a capelet than a cardigan…..and hopefully the next pictures of it I can share it’ll be all washed and blocked and set for a sea side day trip.

(I’ve mentioned my friend Joyce who passed away a little time ago ago a few times, when I was around 12 and right up to me being 15 or 16 we regularly used to cycle over to Dunwich in the Summer, we’d spread out a blanket and sit on the pebbles with a flask of tea, and then have freshly caught fish with golden chips for lunch…after we’d traipse over the heathlands and wood for a walk while she took a Rennie, and then have tea and a big piece of cake before the up-hill cycle home……looking at my knitted stitches and memories of Joyce have come flooding right back).

sulky greys and thunderclouds, dusty cobwebs and chocolatey browns…..

beautiful and natural coloured wool from Brit Yarn

Back in November I started knitting some single breed wool swatches for the British Breed Swatch-a-long over in the Knit British group on Ravelry, at the time I hadn’t really had a lot of experience with using real wool, which I’ve found to be full of sheepy scents with a real spring when you squish it…and I know it will be no surprise to read I’ve well and truly lost my heart to British wool….

At the start of the year I ordered some more Britsh breed wool, this time from Isla at Brit Yarn (I’ve now ordered a couple of times from her and the service has been excellent, nice and fast delivery but also when I had some enquiries about sock yarn recently she answered all my questions and then went on to answer questions I hadn’t even asked but which explained the wool better.  Like Meadowyarn in Bramfield, Brit Yarn is an online shop so no bricks and mortar visits to sniff their stock sadly but both are really excellent)…anyway the wool I ordered was all dk weight as I figured I’d be able to compare the swatches a bit better that way, and any wool left would be able to be used together.

The first wool I choose was the Castlemilk Moorit, this is a really velvety wool and very chocolatey in colour…it reminds me of rich puddings or mousses, chocolate tortes of which one little slice is never enough (and nor is one skein/ball…my ambition for this year is to knit myself a cardigan using this wool)….. I also chose a Llanwenog (which is quite similar to the Norfolk Horn wool) and some Lincoln Longwool….this is a bit of a skinny dk whch I haven’t tried knitting with yet but it feels very silky and is very floppy.

Something I’ve noticed I’m doing is cuddling these skeins and balls, stroking and coasing them like they are little animals and there’s definitely very much of the “this has come from an animal” that I’m noticing even more with these un-dyed wool(s), particularly so with the brown and grey wool….

single breed Jacob wool

I really wanted to have a try knitting with some Jacob wool and luckily for me Isla stocks this in four natural un-dyed shades, I couldn’t decide which of the darker natural shades to choose  so ended up buying one of each, the wool is very nice to knit with…the fat skeins were so bouncy and smelt so good.  I’ve mentioned my love of colour so many times on here, often my wardrobe choices influence colours I use in my embroidery or crochet and vice versa…..I’m not now suddenly dressing all in grey or brown but I keep doodling little jumpers and cardigans with fat curved yokes and coloured using browns and soft greys…..totally beyond my knitting abilities at the moment but if you don’t dream (or doodle) there is nothing to inspire you to learn new things, improve your skills…make those dreams a reality.

There’s something about these soft greys, all dusty cobwebs and rabbity, chocolately browns, mushrooms and woodsy that I like very much indeed, and these lovely wool(s) are certainly helping to fuel my woolly fantasies of a wardrobe full of natural shaded cardigans and jumpers (and I’m not even a jumper lover).

nature shades second tester

I’m not sure if it’s a carry over from the swatch-a-long (it makes sense if it is after people have explored a few different breeds they’d not used before) but at the start of the year Louise from Knit British and Isla from Brit Yarn started up a knit-a-long called Nature’s Shades…..no dyed fibres, just colour as nature intended.  Mostly I’ve just been watching what other people are posting, and there are some truly gorgoeus pieces appearing on there, when the kal started I’d just started knittng socks with Anne and wanted to give that my attention but I’m feeling a bit more comfortable now knitting them, it feels a lot less like trying to keep hold of a very tickly hedgehog that won’t stop wriggling about in my hands….

So I thought about what I could make and emptied out the un-dyed Britsh wool and just played, seeing which colours looked best together.  Before I began knitting I had a flick though the big Harmony guide I’ve got and looked at stitches that worked well for colour or texture but which weren’t stranded or Fairisle (I’m not able to do those yet) and found a pattern where you change colour every couple of rows but you slip stitches along and then pull them up on the following row (it’s a bit like hoofin’ up saggy tights when they get all baggy)

nature shades tester

I’m not so sure about the combination here of grey and brown together, it’s reminding me somewhat of the hand knit jumpers I remember two little boys wearing when I was at Primary schoolin the seventies, I think they were cousins so perhaps it was a shared Grandma who was knitting them. (This is a mix of the Jacob, Norfolk Horn and the Castlemilk Moorit)

nature shades

I’m not a huge fan of strongly defined stripes (whenever I wear them myself I feel rather like a seaside deckchair) and much prefer the subtleties of the grey swatch…I’ve used the same pattern (it’s a slipped stitch herringbone) but I like how the little patches of ombre shading blend together more slower rather than the combination of dark and light together with no in-between.

The grey swatch uses the Jacob but the mid grey, some Blue Faced Leicester and the Llanwenog …I’ve also used some Suffolk wool in there too but that looks a bit lumpy as it’s aran weight rather than dk….the grey swatch is my favourite and reminds me very much of the shades in Bernard’s fur when he’s all stretched out and reveals his white tummy, all sulky greys and thunderclouds.

I’m still a bit undecided what I’m actually going to knit, I can’t decide between socks and a hat….it’s not often cold enough here for hats but when it is… I’ve just looked out the window and we’ve had a good frost last night, which explains why I woke up to find Bernard half buried under the covers wedged up right under my chin….anyway a walk out in the frost and fog is planned in the next wee while ….when I’m gone Bernard can keep  guard of the house (he’s now all sprawled out along a windowsill near a radiator….there’s snoring so he probably won’t even know I’ve been out)….anyway it’s definitely hat weather today so perhaps something in the style of a tam or beret.

Warm toes, wriggling hedgehogs and the awesomeness of Anne…..

WYS socks on Brittany dpns

In case you think you’re dreaming and are starting to rub your eyes…..no you’re not still half asleep…. I’m actually knitting socks……I need Bernard to give me a fragrant trumpety trump introduction……toot toot…….I can’t quite believe it myself, especially as I’ve got a little basket with four socks on the go at the moment……I’ve had very half hearted attempts at trying to use double pointed needles before, and they’ve all ended in tears and knitting that looks like something the cat has dragged in, but that hasn’t stopped me dreaming, being all wistful and sighing “if only” or “I wish”…….

I’ve mentioned my marvellous friend Anne on here many times before, she’s been knitting since she was knee high and is also a very skilled dressmaker and needlewoman (she’s currently making someone a wedding dress, not a frou frou meringue but something very beautiful, elegant  and that can be worn again for posh do’s….), over the years I’ve known her she’s kindly and patiently given me knitting lessons, only to have me completely forget everything she’d shown me within minutes of her leaving….when I told her about the shawl and showed her what I’d been doing she laughed and couldn’t believe it (I think she’d thought like me that  I was only ever going to be a knitter of dish cloths)….

WYS socks on Hiya hiya dpns

Anyway knitting the shawl (sorry to keep on about it) really helped me understand how a stitch is constructed, and how I go about fixing my knitty mistakes whether it’s picking up a slipped stitch or correcting yarn overs and such like…..and the last time I saw Anne before Christmas I’d said that this year I’d really like to learn how to knit socks (and where pre-shawl this would have been as daft sounding as wanting to learn how to fly…it now seemed something achievable)…due to various coughs and colds  I didn’t get to swop presents with Anne until a couple of weeks ago and along with a pair of her knitted socks (she knits me these for birthdays and Christmas so my toes are kept very happy and warm) she’d put together a sock knitting kit….a set of Brittany needles, a little sock pattern and a ball of self striping yarn……so as soon as we’d had lunch and a pot of tea was made, I got my first sock knitting lesson…….

I love Brittany needles, the wood feels lovely and warm in my hands, they help me feel such a conection to my  knitting, and while the tiny dpns do look a bit like I’m knitting with cocktail sticks they worked their magic, and within stitches it felt a lot less like I was holding a wriggling hedgehog and my fingers were knitting…..somewhat too tightly at first and I had to keep thinking flopsy drunk fingers to loosen up my stitches,…..also Anne is an excellent teacher, she’s very patient and shared with me some of her own little tips to make for nicer looking socks…..

A few years ago I did a PTLLS course and realised that I find reading handouts and someone else’s instructions very hard, if I’m just told something without being allowed the time to jot it down then it goes in one ear and right out the other…when I’ve had to learn how to do computery things I always need to write down my own little notes, often with pictures of my fingers pressing buttons.  It seems like a pfaff but it’s how I’m able to learn, in the past I’ve been made to feel that I “fared so sorft” if I didn’t just immediately get it or understand what I was being taught……

And I’m finding knitting the same…as long as I can write out an instruction or pattern line, draw out where my needles need to be, the direction of my knitting etc then I’m quite happy……and because Anne is such a love she’d knit a bit, explain what she was doing, un-ravel, pause while I wrote out what to do, sometimes with a little scribbly thumbnail and then she’d knit again…..

Jamiesons of Shetland socks

I’ve had 3 lessons so far and I’m really enjoying seeing the socks grow… I’ve also bought a couple of other double pointed needles (dpns) by different brnads to see how they compare and which suits me best…..

The Brittany ones are lovely, but they are quite delicate (and I’ve already snapped a couple, but their replacement service is really good)…I’ve got some in bigger sizes and don’t think they’ll be breaking in a hurry.  They feel really lovely to use and the wood means my stitches don’t go flying off the ends.

The super shiny needles are Hiya Hiya (bought from Ginger Twist Studio in Edinburgh along with Clare Devines Sock Anatomy book)…..they are so sleek and slippery, my stitches really glide along with no trouble, and I’m fast losing my heart to them.  I was a bit worried that they’d be too cold as I suffer from Raynauds but the metal doesn’t feel chilly in the slightest.

Finally I’m trying out some Karbonz by Knit Pro (bought from the excellent Meadow Yarn, their customer service is top rate and they have a wonderful choice of everything a knitter could wish for)….the metal tips mean they slip through a stitch like a knife through butter and then the karbon stem holds the stitch, they’re lovely and smooth but I am finding a slight catch where the tips join the stem….this may be because I’m so tight in making my stitches…..

close up of the stocking stitch Jamisons socks

The yarn in the first two pictures is by West Yorkshire Spinners, it’s their sock yarn and is self striping, this colourway is called Goldfinch.  Isla at Brit Yarn has a lovely selection of their sock wool and is incredibly helpful and has answered all my knitting enquiries.

I’d got to where I needed to be for my next lesson a bit ahead of myself, and then had restless fingers and wanted to practise, so had a bit of a root around in my wool and found a couple of balls of Jamieson’s of Shetland Shetland Spindrift….I’ve used the same amount of cast on stitches as for the WYS sock yarn but I’ve made the height of the sock a bit shorter….the wool knits up a dream and I’ve been wriggling my fingers through the ribbed end pretending it’s a cardigan cuff…..(the colourway is Damson and it’s all full of tiny flecks of other colours).

back view of sock in Lavenham Blue wool

My last sock is using a wool I’d half forgotten I had…..my friend Debbie (who modelled my dottie angel frocks in the Summer and kindly took photos of me and my shawl last Saturday) bought me this a few years ago from Cafe Knit in Lavenham in Suffolk….I really do have lovely friends as Debbie herself is vegan but knew I’d like this wool.  It’s called Lavenham Blue and it’s spun from a local flock of Leicester Longwool and is dyed using woad grown in East Anglia….perfect for channeling your inner Boudica as you knit.  It’s 3 plys spun together and I’m pretty sure it’s a dk weight wool (I’ve lost the information tag that came on the skeins.)

Originally I’d used some of it for a pair of wrist warmers but I’d knitted them up a bit too loose and the wool was sommewhat ticklesome and scratchy so they weren’t being worn as much as they deserved, so I un-ravelled them, spit spliced the wool together where necessary and then started knitting these socks up on 3.25 mm needles……I’ve probably made this one a bit big but for now I’m just trying to practise the basic construction of a sock…..

detail of Lavenham Blue sock heel

I do like the heel construciton though, Anne said she prefers this way which gives for a stronger heel (it won’t wear out so quickly) and it almost looks like it’s ribbed…..the back of the stitch is purled, then the front is slip 1 stitch, knit 1, then slip 1 all the way across.

The colour of the woad wool is really pretty, and reminds me of a jam jar of water that you clean your brush in if you’ve painting with blue….all watery and mottled.

view of inner heel on the Lavenham Blue socks

The wool that is used to knit the stitch forms tiny loops across the back of where the preceeding stitch has been slipped so it’s nice and easy to count your rows and see how many of them you’ve knitted….I’ve knitted less rows than for the socks using the sock weight wool, and then I’ve shaped the heel at the bottom….I just need to recaluclate now how to do the de-creases at the side as I’ll have less stitches to work with (you have to pick up the slipped stitches at the ends of the heels once the heel has been knitted) as I knit the foot section of my sock.

Anyway I’m really pleased with my socking progress and would like to say a huge thank you to Anne for all her patience and kindness….I can’t wait to get these on my feet and am looking forwar to the day when I get to knit a pair of socks for her.

A warm and woolly how do you do……

blue faced leicester swatch

Over the past few months I’ve been trying to practise up my knitting skills, and where in the run up to the holidays my days were spent sewing and embroidering for Christmas craft fairs, early mornings and barely lit evenings would find me with a wrinkled forehead and my knitting needles in hand….I started setting the alarm an hour or so ahead so I was able to magic up a few minutes for me where I’d be able to play, trying out new stitches and getting a bit more familiar with what should be happening on my needles as I knit….slowly slowly slowly and my confidence began to grow…Bernard, the cat that is all curiosity, soon began to squidge himself up next to me before the heating came on, a quick pat of the wool before curling up and taking forty winks…..

I’ve mentioned before about serendipitous moments and last Autumn felt full of them…..first up was reading Felicity Ford’s piece about wool and knitting, this resonated within me so much, and then from reading that I found the wonderful Knit British site….this was then at the end of October/start of November or I should say Wovember which is a month long celebration of Wool……..

 

Norfolk Horn from Kentwell Hall

Part of the way Knit British celebrated was by starting a British Breed swatch knit a long over on Ravelry (I was a bit late joining it as it had started in October)…..there are over 60 different breeds of British sheep and they all have fleece so they all have wool for knitting….I think it would be fair to say a lot of knitters are only familiar with a few and tend to pick up a ball and squish it, rub it, sigh if it’s all soft and marshmallowy (I do this each and every time I walk into my local yarn shop)……wools that are a bit more characterful with coarser fibres can all too often get over looked…and that’s where the swatch knit a long is so interesting  becasue it’s encouraging you to try out a breed you’ve not used before…..

blocked Norfolk Horn

I’m just a beginner and to be quite honest hadn’t really given a whole lot of thought to my wool or yarn buying, well most of the yarn I use for crochet is second hand tapestry wool t when I’ve bought wool for scarves I’ve not thought about where it comes from, the sheep it was shorn from, the farmers who’ve looked after those sheep or whether those sheep were rare or endangered breeds….anyway the swatchy kal is really making me think a whole lot more about the wool and the people behind it.

I made some enquiries about buying some locally produced wool and while I was waiting to hear back about those I bought a ball of Blue Faced Leicester wool…I’d not actually used this wool before, but had read that lots of knitters liked it……it knitted up so soft and dreamy…after the swatch was all knitted you need to test it so after I’d washed and blocked it, I had it pinned under my thermals to see how if felt against my skin….it was like being kissed by sheep, so gentle and warm… When I was just turned 20 I had to have a pretty serious operation on my back and it left me with a huge scar, this is very sensitive and I have to be careful what I wear as a lot of things make it feel all nettle stingy and take my very life away….the Blue faced Leicester however was lovely, and I’d happily wear winter vests knitted from it.

I heard back from Kentwell Hall which is just over the border into Suffolk, they  sell Norfolk Horn and I bought 3 balls of dk weight for a tenner….it felt very different from the Blue Faced Leceister, had a warm sheepy scent (I love my wool to smell all Baa Ram Ewey) and was a beautiful porrdigey colour….it felt lovely to knit with and really slipped along my wooden needles…..

 

flecks of darker grey and wispy fibres

Finding some wool from a Seely Suffolk breed was a bit more difficult, and NellieAnneJane was kind enough to reply to a request on Ravelry on where I could source some……one of the places/people she suggested I contcted was June Ongibanjo and she came up trumps with this lovely Aran weight Suffolk wool, while the breed is Suffolk it’s not from sheep with an actual Suffolk postcode, I’m still looking for those……(she didn’t have the Suffolk on her site but I contacted her and she had some in stock so I bought a huge skein along with a lovely fat skein of Blue Faced Leceister which was also in an Aran weight)…..

blocked Suffolk swatch

The Suffolk was completely different to the other two wools, the ply making up the body of the wool was much looser, seperating as it pulled through my fingers then coming back together again as the stitch was formed on my needles….stroking the stocking stitches felt like that short hair on an animals muzzle, all donkey nose soft and warm……but having it tucked into my thermals was a whole different matter….the wool was full of tiny coarser fibres which while making a wool that looked really interesting, felt like a hedgehog scurrying around under my clothes…..I then pinned the swatch onto my outer layers (just a layer of very fine thermals was enough to protect my skin from those tickly and scratchy fibres) and this is where the wool really came into it’s own…no pilling or piling or whatever, no tiny bits rolling all up and looking dreadful, instead those coarser fibres slowly lifted in the warmth and gave the swatch a beautiful haze, like early morning mists over the marshes…..this is my favourite wool I’ve knitted with so far.  It would be ideal for using in a cardigan, the sort you slip on as soon as the weather turns nippy and the evenings become right cold, and which you keep on til April or May.  A real old friend of a wool.

wensleydale wool

The other local wool I was able to source came from Serena Plenderleith who has a flock of Wensleydales out at one of the Saint villages around Bungay in Suffolk (which is pretty much just down the road from Norwich)…..this feels so lush and lustrious, all silky and is more like a lock of Rapunzels hair than wool…..I haven’t knitted this one yet though I’ve stroked it plenty……it’s so golden and shimmery and I think I’m going to feel more than a little like Tom Tit Tot spinning his flax into gold when I have this on my needles.

I’m really enjoying knitting these swatches, it’s a bit like having a hello and how do you do with the wool, getting to know them and find out their secrets……I don’t expect to knit all the breeds in one go, but slowly and surely, steadily…just buying a ball or skein when and where and with what the purse allows.

I’ve also bought some single breed wool from Brit Yarn, their service was excellent and Isla was very kind and answered all the 101 questions that I had about the different qualities of the wool I had ordered.

And as I’m sure you can imagine, Bernard is loving having lots of wool around, he’s not been too naughty, he’s just cuddle up to what ever is on the sofa with me, generally laying on it, there’s been a little licking, a little snuffling and paw patting but he’s been much better than when I’ve used brightly coloured balls of acrylic or tapestry wool.