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.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

A wildling green wooliness……

a-wee-wildling-of-a-skein

A while back the very lovely Joy of The Knitting Goddess sent me a wee sample of her Wensleydale Shetland yarn to have a little play with…I’d already seen and swatched some of the St Kilda yarn which Joy dyed for Blacker Yarns and so was more than a little curious about this blend….I know Wensleydale is a particularly lustrous wool and Shetland is more matt so I wasn’t really sure how the yarn would look and feel.

The colours for the St Kilda yarn were incredibly bright and vibrant, very different to the more muted shades I normally associate with Blacker Yarns and when I first saw the shade card I couldn’t help but laugh and think of the Can Can dancers in Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge film…all flashes of colour admist twirling skirts and petticoats…..

walking-home

The sample I was sent of the Wensleydale Shetland is the most wild apple green I can imagine, you think you know a colour and then you see what Joy can do….it’s not a particulaly dainty or green green but has a slightly brown hue, it’s very like something I would expect to find growing in the hedgerows, those leafy natural greens you imagine wood nymphs and dryads to be………the yarn seems full of shadows, softer hues slowly becoming deeper and more mysterious…..I love how even on a “solid” colour Joy is able to capture so much more, and creates a yarn where colour seems to dance and twist around the ply…..

As you can see in the top picture, the yarn is really glossy, the vibrancy and sheen of the the yarn is really something special, there’s some very very fine floaty up strands but these are more like thistle down than anything coarse or kempy….there’s also a nice bit of bounce to what is quite a fine yarn and it also smells….mmm, there’s a very (this smell always makes me want to breathe it in deep) soft and warm sheepy aroma to the skein….holding it up to my face it feels a little tickly, like when my cat wants treats and he tickles me with his whiskers when he brushes against me with his furry cheeks….

 

knitting-goddess-wensleydale-shetland-swatch

I decided to knit up a swatch on 3.25 needles and try my hand at a simple little lace pattern (this is a Diamond lace pattern which has a repeat worked over 20 rows) as I thought I’d probably look to use this yarn for a shawl as it’s so fine…..(compared to the Blacker Classic I’m currently knitting with it seems barely there on my needles)…..

I also chose to knit the swatch on these Brittany wood needles, they are my prefered needle of choice when knitting up a swatch…the Wensleydale Shetland loved being on wood…..and I had no trouble with knitting or slipping stitches together, no poking needle tips through the ply or anything……also I found the yarn very good for not tangling up out of a ball (I like to hand wind my yarn on a “nostepinne*” and sometimes a yarn seems to really catch itself and knit up, however this was so lovely and slippy , no tangles…no tantrums….)…as always with lace knititng it’s a bit hard to see quite what is going on with the stitches but while they were on the needle my knitting was surprisingly easy to read….the markers either end of the needle are for the border which isn’t worked in the lace pattern.

After knitting about a dozen rows, I left the knititng for a day and then  I ripped all the stitches back which sounds a bit foolish but I was curious how the yarn would rip…I’m still very much at the stage with my knitting where most projects need a little correcting…the yarn slipped apart beautifully, there’s enough sticky to keep a stitch relatively in place if you accidently drop one, but if you need to do extensive un-ravelling then this is pretty straightforward….and nor did the stitches crimp and curl up too much, there was a little kinky curl but not enough to distract when I re-knitted…..

blocked-wensleydale-shetland

Once I’d knitted my swatch I soaked it in a little bath of warm water and Eucalan Wrapture, there was no colour bleed, and then I blocked it out and allowed it to dry…the lace work opened up a treat….I was really surprised at how strong the knitted fabric feels, I’d initially dismissed this for anything other than shawls but I can imagine it looking amazing in a cardigan, perhaps not one you wear where the cat will pluck it, but something for if you’re going somewhere fancy but a bit on the nippy side…..Actually the way the colours in the yarn respond to light I can imagine every head turning if you wore this somewhere where there’s lots of candles…

I’ve had this swatch tucked under bra straps and pinned under thermals and I’ve not been aware of any yarny tickles, although it is a tiny bit wispy held around my neck, I quite like that feel but I know for some people it’s not so pleasant.

on way to mill

I tried taking a picture near a candle to show how dappled the colours look in that sort of flickering light but it didn’t come out very well…..but the above picture of the little lane up to the local water mill captures what I’m trying to explain…all those shadows and bursts of green n the sunlight…..negative spaces and patterns created by them rather than clearly defined stitches (or in this case, leaves)….

wesleydale-shetland-swatch-detail

While I don’t think the yarn has the most defined stitch, the wispery haze sort of blurs them a litle, the stitches that it makes are no less lovely, the yarn overs and knit 2 togethers are held perfectly in place, and I think it’s made my relatively beginnery stitches look pretty impressive…..perhaps it’s a yarn that benefits from going up a needle size so the wispy fibres have room to stretch out rather than hunch up.

There’s also a wonderful feel to the fabric, it feels very silky and is reminding me slightly of an alpacca/silk blend I used recently but it has way more character….it’s a nice springy fabric.

I can imagine a shawl or wrap knitted up in one of the coppery, bronzey shades Joy also creates would almost look like ethereal armour….and those blue, turquoisey ones are so liquidy….you can picture how a piece knitted from those colours would look spilt, flowing….

Regarding stitch count….on 3.25 needles I was getting 20 stitches to 4 inches in stocking stitch…I forgot to write down my row count and I don’t think they’ll be the same as in the lace pattern….

knitting-goddess-coral

I really enjoyed knitting with the yarn, I loved how what I thought was a very delicate fine yarn has surprised me with it’s strength….

I’ve actually ended up buying myself a couple of skein, and I chosed the coral colourway….I really do like single coloured super sized shawls so I thought if I order 2 skeins I can knit something really wow factor….as I mentioned on my instagram when the yarn arrived the skein keeps shifting from browny pinks to warm almost faded rose petals with hints of vintage rouge tins and old tea bags which I know doesn’t sound too complimentary but there’s something really time worn and faded, almost Miss Havershamy about this colour, which has me proper smitten.

I know I’ve said this before but Joy’s parents couldn’t have chosen a more apt name for her as her yarn colours make me so full heart singy and smiley-ness….skeins of beauty, skeins of Joy indeed.

The Wensleydale Shetland blend is currently priced at £18.50 for a 100g skein.. the skein is 4 ply weight with approx 400 metres per skein.

The wool is all sourced and processed in the UK and has been custom spun by The Natural Fibre Company in Cornwall before being hand dyed by The Knitting Goddess.

*it’s the rolled up cardboard insert from the kitchen paper….not pretty but it does the job.

 

 

Wovember’s woolly needlewrap…..

folded-wrap

I’m so pleased to finally be able to share this project…for me it’s very much been where a love of knititng and sewing and embroidery and of course wool has all come together….

You might remember, back in November I wrote a couple a couple of posts on here about my love for wool and for knitting, how during the past year I’d been on a bit of a knitting adventure and had been knitting with various different British Breed yarns, not really to do anything with them, more of a get to know you, how do you do sort of thing….all this really can be laid at the door of Knit British podcaster Louise Scollay…her podcast has really inspired me to look for local yarn and to find out a bit more about the yarn I use….this background and story to my knitting has really fed my story/need to know addiction….whether it’s patchwork (so and so’s auntie Flossie had this leftover from a pinnie, this was a pair of pyjamies, this scrap was from one of my dad’s shirts etc) or knitting (what’s the breed, the story of the shepherd/ess, who bought me my needles and what do I use as stitch markers….)

Waffling aside, November is also Wovember…a month long celebration of wool and how wonderful it is….most of the focus tends to be on yarn and fibre, knitting,spinning, felting and the sheep…Wovember 2015 was such a revelation for me, it really opened my eyes, and by the end of the month I was very much all about the wool.  So I was very excited thinking about Wovember 2016 and wondered how I could give the organisers a thank you.

embroidering-hand-woven-donegal-tweed

Earlier in the Autumn I’d been in touch and asked if they would like a prize for one of their competitons, and I’d be happy to make a bespoke made knitting needle-wrap made from and lined with all wool fabrics…..

Various Wovember competions take place including one on Instagram, all set up by Louise and Felicity (Felix Ford)…you needed to add #wovember2016 to your pictures…you can see the amazing photos just here ….

I’m really lucky becasue we have an amazing fabric shop in Norwich called Anglian Fashion Fabrics on Magdalen Street and they often have very limited runs on the most beautiful wool cloth….and I happened to pop in when they had some hand woven Donegal tweed…..

tweed-fabric-once-it-has-been-embroidered

I had to wait until the winner was announced and then got in touch with the lovely Sherrie @woollykindknits (this was her winning picture…) and asked her what sort of wrap she would like…Sherrie lives in the US so this was all done with text messages rather than being able to chat with her on the phone…in the end we decided to go for a wrap for her dpns…she has possibly one of the largest collections I’ve heard of though I think Evaowl could possibly come in very close….

Once I’d drafted a pattern for the wrap that would not only hold all the needles Sherrie has at the present, but which would also allow space in case she buys some more….I cut the fabric and embroidered particular areas of it using a selection of vintage wool threads, mostly crewel-work yarns for the fifties.

inside-embroidery

I tried to highlight the tiny flecks of colour that is worked throughout the Donegal tweed cloth….the sprigs of embroidery were worked in small areas on every side, as I felt that would be like little surprises whenever the wrap is opened……

lining-reveal

As well as choosing Donegal tweed for the wrap I also bought a very lightweight wool cloth for the lining….this is a slatey grey/blue colour which complimented the tweed.

The wrap was sewn so that there’s room for two rows of needles, the left hand front pocket is designed to fit both 6 and 7 inch needles….and then the pocket behind fits the 8 inch needles.

finished-wrap

The wrap is kept closed with a piece of vintage leather thonging, and folds over quite snug so it will fit nicely into a knitting basket.

I was starting to fret a little as it was a bit slow in arriving, and thought it might have got lost in the post so was all about to make a second one but I was worrying over nothing as I had a lovely message from Sherrie this morning saying it had arrived safely and was already full of needles….

Huge thank yous to the inspiring team at Wovember, for encouraging me to learn all about the woolly wonderfulness that is just on my doorstep, and big hugs and thank you to lovely Sherrie who was so patient while I sewed so slowly….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Woolly ripples and rose pink stitches…

nannys-face-powder-socks

Over the weekend I shared a wee peep of these beautiful socks I managed to finally cast off over the Winter holidays, they weren’t a fast knit for me by any means as they took just over 3 months to knit (though, as always, I was making other things at the same time) but I can say I am very proud to look down and see these pink poppets on my toes….

I’d bought the lovely rose pink sock yarn from Meadowyarn in the Spring last year, it’s the Exmoor sock yarn by John Arbon and the colourway is blossom.  I liked how it looked just the same rosy pink as my Nanny’s face powder (it’s actually her old compact in the above photo)….and like Mooch in the Mutts comic strip, I’m very much a fan of little pink socks

The pattern is called Lunar Tides and it’s by Louise Tilbrook..it blends a series of different stitches into a beautiful flowing and very natural feeling design… with lacework and cables and moss stitch, it really echoes the pattern left by waves along the shoreline …… incredibly the pattern is written both top down and cuff down (I still find it amazing that Louise writes most of her sock patterns this way, she’s definitely a knitting wizard in my eyes) and even more awesomely…this is one of her free patterns.

The advantage to starting a sock at the toes rather than the cuff, is that you have somewhat better control over how much of your yarn you’re then using for the leg…if you want to use up all your skein then you don’t have to worry that you might run out like when you knit cuff down socks….I really wanted these socks to be a fancy luxourious pair that used up as much of the skein as possible and I ended up working quite a lot of repeats to create that lovely leg length….(I’ve not actually washed and blocked these yet, I’m too busy enjoying having them on my feet for any of that)

toe-up-lunar-tides

The wonderfully kind Isla from Brit Yarn gifted me a sock shop amount of assorted dpns last year and I thought it would be a good opportunity to try out the Knit pro ones…as a rule I don’t really like their patterned wood needles, they make me feel a bit nauseous, like I’m on a rollercoaster…but actually these weren’t too swirly at all and were wonderfully sleek, the woolly stitches slid over them a treat, not so slippy as a metal needle, not quite so sticky as a regular wooden one…a real mummy bear of a needle….

I’ve not yet attempted magic loop or any proper two at a time knitting ( if you’re not a knitter I’ll try and explain magic loop a little….it’s when you knit something on a pair of needles that have a big loop of cable between the needle tips…some incredibly amazing kntters who I feel should all be in the Magic Circle with their “that’s magic” skills, can knit two socks at a time using this method…and I’ve even seen pictures of people …possibly wizards…knitting 2 pairs…that’s 4 socks at a time….however I know I can be a bit muddley with things like this so am happy to knit one sock at a time on little wooden pointy sticks)…..so instead I just did what made sense to me…..I had a set of Brittany wooden needles the same size as the Knit Pro ones so I mixed up both pairs so I’d have enough needles and worked a bit on one sock, and then a bit on the other…..just because the last pair of socks I’d made came out rather different in tension and I thought this would keep me on more of an even keel……actually I ended up liking the Knit Pro needles so much I bought a pair so I could knit both socks on those.

The only thing I would change about the pattern is that next time I knit these (and there will be a next time as I really liked the pattern) is to make the toe a little softer, just because I have very round toes and I find this suits my feet better….but that’s a very small change.

lunar-tides-detail

Working the increases around the heel and gusset of the sock was proably the hardest part of the sock for me, I’ve only knit one pair of toe up socks before and that pattern was very different in the heel construction, I’m more familiar with cuff downs and so everything here seems like it is being worked backwards….there was lots of ripping out and doing it again on both socks as I kept making silly mistakes but I got a real bee in my bonnet and kept on until that wonderful moment where the sun comes out and you understand exactly what you need to be doing…..it doesn’t matter what I’m doing, knitting socks, making creme brulee or baking bread, that moment where the cream starts thickening and resisting the spoon (it’s ready to cool and set for tonight’s pudding) the kneaded dough cools and becomes silky (it’s ready to leave it be so it can prove)…tiny happenings where understanding just dawns and a smile beams across your face.

I probably need to now knit another pair of toe up socks, no fancy pattern just basic plain vanilla socks, so I can go over this process again then I’ll have it fixed in my mind a little better….perhaps a pair of really tiny baby socks (no….not dropping cryptic hints about storks arriving, but I’ve seen other knitters do this to learn a technique)

lunar-tides

There were a couple of other little mishaps while knitting…not the patterns fault but knitting on the bus in fingerless gloves using dpns is possibly not the best idea when the driver of said bus is a lumpy and brake screechy driver…..at one point the needle caught n my gloves and before I knew it….a section of live stitches were all exposed….I had to just sit still and wait til I was off the bus and then was able to pick them all up…..but it was hairy scary for a minute though….

And the tah dah moment when I cast off the second sock to show my boyfriend and we both did a Cary Grant double take at the socks…..one was somewhat longer than the other…. I had some how managed to knit different lengths even though I was sort of knitting them at the same time together….anyway, we ended up laughing as there’s not much more you can do at times like this, and then after trying them both on I felt the shorter sock fitted better, so I just chopped off the very top edge of the longer sock, ripped it back to where I needed the new rib cuff to start and picked up the stitches……

However….after many weeks of picking up and putting down my socks were finally finished….the yarn is lovely, there’s a soft gentle haze over the stitches, my toes feel warm and and the socks are wearing well…I’ve saved a little yarn back for darning (I’m quite heavy on my socks) just in case…..

If you’d like to know a bit more about Louise then there is a great interview with her just here on the Shiny Bees podcast, or you can pop over just here to her website.

If you’re on Ravelry then more sock notes and waffles are over on my project page.

And I totally appreciate this will sound like I’m showing off, I’m just so super chuffed and excited about it…..I had a little message from Louise asking if my picture of the finished socks could go on the pattern’s Ravelry page….

 

 

 

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…..

 

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…..

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