Kingfishers have arrived on the river by my little mill house. You hear them first, with their noisy chatter, then, if you are lucky, there is a flash of wonderful blue green wings. I keep trying to get a photograph but they are really speedy and I’ve not been lucky yet. But they are such a treat, and their gorgeous colouring has inspired me to dye this sock kit.
The kit contains a main colour and a contrast colour for heels, toes and cuffs. The wool is Blue Faced Leicester and is soft but strong and the high twist on this skein makes them excellent for socks.
Then I realised that sock kits are a joy in themselves, so I dyed up another in gorgeous yellow and grey, to reflect the weather I’m currently experiencing (and if you have visions of me dashing back and forth to the washing line to get my drying yarn in, every time it comes over dark and stormy, then you aren’t too far off the mark ⛈)
And the last colourway is inspired by the metals in Megan and Harry’s wedding rings, gold and platinum. I often look at my own wedding ring and am reminded of the promises I made to my husband, and those he made to me, and as we watched Megan and Harry exchanging their vows on the TV last Saturday, he reached over and gave my hand a little squeeze, and I knew he remembered our promises too.
My first purchase was a gorgeous giant skein of Corriedale chunky from Hedgeknits. My stand was next to Rita’s stand and I’d spotted this giant heap of woolly gorgeousness pretty early on, but was trying to restrain myself. But it’s naturally dyed, and I kept seeing other people pick it up and I couldn’t bear the thought of it going home with someone else AND it goes really well with the purple skein I bought when I last visited Flock on the Plain, so I caved and it has come home with me.
I also bought some funky vintage purple buttons from the lovely display by Hailstone Heritage which will go brilliantly as decoration on the garment I intend to make from the Hedgeknits yarn.
My next purchase was from Mahoodly and I just love the depth of Becca’s colours. I bought a gorgeous deep dark blue 4 ply and a brighter blue mini Skein which will become rib socks with contrasting heel and toe.
I spent a long time mesmerised by Girl’s Own Store’s sock knitting machine. It was a wonder to beyond and I would really love one. But alas, the budget won’t stretch that far and so, instead, I bought a pair of her super cosy socks dyed with onion skins.
From Woolaroo, I bought some lovely balls of Shetland wool which are from a flock near her home and hand spun by a lady living in the village. Such precious wool. I don’t have a project in mind but I think Knit British is going to have a Natural Shades KAL later this year so I’ll save these balls up for that.
I also swopped a skein of my Radical 4ply for this lovely Bonnie Prince Charlie yarn from Somerset Soda. Just look at those colours! I don’t have a project for this yet. I might pair it up with other skeins in my stash and make one of Boyland Knitworks gorgeous sweaters.
So, quite a modest haul by my standards. Did you make any purchases on Yarn Shop Day?
So, it’s Yarn Shop Day tomorrow (Saturday 12th May) and I’m exhibiting, along with lots of other dyers and purveyors of buttons etc, at Flockfest at Flock on the Plain in Woodbury in Wiltshire. To say I’m excited, is to significantly understate how I’m feeling.
I thought I’d give you all a preview of some of the hand dye British wool I’m taking with me.
I have totally fallen I love with these Blue Faced Leicester sock weight mini skeins. They are such a lovely pop of colour. They are 80 meters/20g each and are sold in sets of five. They are spun with a high twist so are perfect for socks.
I’m also taking a Blue Faced Leicester/Nylon Sock weight mix with me. Basically this is for the Nervous Nellies who don’t believe a yarn is strong enough for socks without nylon (although I do love it too and am making socks from it at the moment). This is also spun with a high twist and is sold in 100g hanks.
I’m also taking my Audacious base in DK and 4ply weights. This Wensleydale yarn has such a lovely lustre and I particularly love the ply on the 4ply weight. It will be lovely made into shawls. Both the DK and the 4ply are sold in 100g hanks.
Lastly, this is my Saucy DK base. This yarn come from Dorset Horn sheep, a breed listed as threatened on the Livestock Conservancy watchlist, so I’m particularly excited to be showing this. I just can’t describe how well this yarn takes a dye. Look at the pics to see what I mean. I’ve just dyed up a few skeins of this yarn currently but I plan to dye up a some sweater quantities as I think it will make lovely garments.
So, if you are local to Woodborough in Wiltshire do come and squish the yarn. It will be lovely to see you.
Next Saturday is Yarn Shop Day and I would urge you to visit your local yarn shop and show them some love.
I live in the countryside and, it really does have moments of pure perfection; the annual village fair on a beautiful sunny bank holiday; stopping stock still on a quiet lane while swifts dart all around you; watching the bats swooping over the mill pond on a warm summer evening; seeing the mayflies dancing above the water of the river, and seeing the trout jumping to catch them; children running free across the fields and through the woods.
But, before I make this sound too idyllic, there are, inevitably, downsides including over flowing septic tanks; freezing temperatures but no heating because the oil ran out and it’s going to be a week until the next delivery; squirrels chewing though the pipes to the calor gas tanks at 4pm on Christmas Eve, meaning you can’t cook a Christmas dinner; mud, lots and lots of mud, so your boots, the dog, the kids, your floors and the car are disgustingly dirty for at least 9 months every year; and, a lack of local shops.
It was this lack of shopping alternatives which was the biggest shock when we moved out from London, 8 years ago. For years, I’d worked a stones throw from Selfridges, with Marylebone High Street only a few minutes walk away. And suddenly we couldn’t even pick up milk on the way home from work; our local (community run) shop isn’t open in the evening or on weekend afternoons and popping to the supermarket now involves a 15 mile round trip.
In the past, every village would have had its own shop. I actually live in the building that used to fulfil this role – it was originally a bread and beer shop, then a general store and cafe, for at least a century until it finally closed in 1984. At one time the village also had a pub, a tannery, a mill, a blacksmith and a school. Now, that’s all gone. Even the church is closed. I’m not able to say with absolute certainty, but it not too much to suggest that each and everyone of these enterprises closed because they didn’t make enough money to provide an income (even the weekly church collection didn’t cover the cost of the heating oil for the Sunday service through the winter). Trade dwindled for village and local shops, countrywide, because rather than shopping frequently for the things they needed, in the 1980s, people started doing a big weekly shop in the new and shiny supermarkets. So village and local shops closed, and once closed, the properties were sold and almost, invariably, the amenity was lost for ever.
So, use it or loose it. Which is why I shop small and local as much as I can. And this applies to yarn shops as much as it applies to grocery shops and bakeries. It might be cheaper to buy your yarn online, and the online store might have a better range, but nothing beats going into a store, breathing in the yarn fumes and having a squish, talking to the wise and learned staff, seeing the inspiring samples, and even honing your skills by taking a class or two. And if your local yarn store doesn’t stock the sort of yarn you want to buy, tell the staff what you’d like to buy, and then if they start to stock it, make sure you buy lots of it. Do it next Saturday!
And if you are near Woodborough in Wiltshire, you can come and see me, because I’ll be showing my hand dyed British wool for the first time ever at Flockfest at Flock on the Plain. To say I am totally excited is an understatement! Details can be found here.
So, come and say hi, breath some yarn fumes and squish some delicious wooliness. It’s going to be super fun.
I’ve opened an etsy shop selling my hand dyed wool, and as you can probably tell, I’m a little bit thrilled about it.
It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but it’s a big leap from wanting to do something to summoning the courage and actually taking the plunge.
But I’ve done it.
I’ve been a big supporter of British food for a very long time, shopping small and local, at farmers’ markets, and at the farm gate, as much as I can. And I made a decision at the end of last year, to further support British farmers, by only buying British wool in 2018. I had a passing thought that this might have the added benefit of curbing the growth of my stash. I assumed there would be limited choice. I now realise just how naive I was. Buying British has opened my eyes to the enormous choice and variety in British wool. And its all just so wonderful, and I’ve been having so much fun dyeing all the different breed yarns, seeing how it responds to the dye, trying out different techniques, that I wanted to share.
I’ve started with two bases, Brazen DK which is 100% Jacob, and Audacious DK which is 100% Wensleydale. Both grown and spun in the UK and all hand dyed in my kitchen in rural West Berkshire. In addition to the 100g skeins, I’ve also dyed some 20g mini skeins in these two bases. These are just about the cutest thing ever. I adore them.
I’ll be introducing new bases and weights over the next few weeks; the ever popular Blue Faced Leicester, and after that, I have plans for Dorset Horn, British Falkland Island’s Merino, then Cheviot, Corriedale and ….. the list goes on and on. I think we are going to have a lot of fun exploring all the different breeds.
So pop over to the shop and have a browse, and let me know what you think. Are there any colours you’d especially like to see? Or any breeds you like me to stock? Please do let me know.
I thought I’d share a few pictures of my Edinburgh Yarn Festival experience. I had the most amazing time, bought way more yarn than I should have done and then thought I’d lost it all when it didn’t come off the carousel at Heathrow (it did turn up eventually after someone was sent to hunt in the bowels of the plane 😅). I’ll write about the things I bought in a day or too, but in the meantime, feast your eyes….
Mine was, as they always are, grey, cold and strewn with coughs and colds. But, on the knitting front, I have been on fire! I have six finished objects to show off. Admittedly two were very well under way at the start of the month but I’m finishing the month with two well under way so I’m including them in January’s count. I also had a lovely meet up at Flock on The Plain with a group of ladies who are my woolly tribe. We call ourselves the Possiwools, after one of our members put a “possible wool meet up” in her family diary and her teenage son shortened it, and they really are the best sort of people. I want to gush on about them and tell them all how much I love them but I’m not sure I could do them justice. Maybe I’ll save that for another day.
So…. my finished wips.
First off the needles was my Whitehorse Sweater by Caitlin Hunter of Boyland Knitworks. This is the second sweater of Caitlin’s I have made and I was as pleased with this one as I was with the first. The yarn was a lovely soft blue faced leicester double knit from The Uncommon Thread. I adore the finished piece and have worn it several times already this month.
The next item finished was a pair of socks in Regia yarn in the pattern A Nice Ribbed Sock. I don’t usually buy commercially produced yarn, preferring small independent hand dyers, but this, and a couple of other balls, fell into my basket after a lecture by Arne and Carlos about their life and home in Norway and their design inspirations. The pattern is my go to pattern for socks. I always worry that a plain sock will go baggy with wear, so the little bit of rib in this pattern provides a bit more ping back, and its not such a in your face pattern that it disturbs the colour of the yarn.
Next to be finished were these socks for my mum. The pattern is the Diagonal Lace Sock from the book Socks from the Toe Up, and was my first toe up sock. I learned, as most people do, to knit stocks cuff down but always worried about knitting the leg too long and not having enough yarn to complete the toe, but with toe up, you just knit until you’ve used up your wool, or reach the leg length you desire. The yarn is a Merino/Nylon mix hand dyed by Norah George Yarns and the combination of yarn and pattern is so pretty, I stopped knitting often to admire them. They would have been finished a lot soon had they been less pretty!
Also knitted this month was this cute hat for my little boy. Obviously my little boy already had a lovely hand knitted hat but this was “lost” at some point over the Christmas holidays, so he needed another. I won’t dwell on the fact that, a few days, ago, I found the missing hat, at the bottom of the hat basket, presumably where it had been all the time. This hat was a super quick knit in an aran weight yarn that I dyed myself. The yarn is a Merino/Donegal Nep mix (I just love all this little woolly neps) and the pattern was my own Curlew pattern, although I did a modified brim and crown decrease.
The next finished item took a lot of knitting. It’s a wrap made using a Thirty Shades pack I bought as a 6 month club yarn from Jo Knit Sew last year. I’d been on the look out for a pretty knitted pattern, that would do justice to the yarn, for a while and knew I’d found the one in Melanie Berg’s True Colours. However, I had 30 colours to work through and so the shape of Melanie’s shawl wouldn’t have worked, so I took the repeated pattern from her chart and used that to create a rectangular wrap. It really is one of the most beautiful things I have ever made. Light and airy with the lace work but, at the same time, warm and cosy as its made in a light double knit weight merino yarn, and all the colours of the rainbow. I’ve yet to get a decent photograph (good natural light in my cottage is non existent in January) so here is a picture of it on the blocking mats. I’ll post more pictures when light levels improve!
Last to be finished were my Polgooth Socks in Blacker Yarns Classic Double Knit. These socks are incredibly special to me as they represent the first item I have made in wool grown, spun and dyed in the UK. The wool is a mix of white fleece to which Hebridean, Black Welsh Mountain and Blue Faced Leicester are added, and after all the super soft merino I’m used to, the texture of this yarn was challenging. I knitted the first sock and it was so stiff I was really worried so, before I knitted the second, I washed and blocked the first, and, what a difference that made. The knitted sock became soft and squishy and a pleasure to wear. The socks fit really well too and the gusset decreases are so lovely to look at, its a pity they are hidden in my shoes.
So, that was my January. I can’t promise to keep up this blistering pace throughout February but I have plenty of patterns and yarn already lined up for future projects so you can be sure my needles wont be idle.
And before I leave you I wanted to wish you a good Imbolc. This is, according to Wikipedia, an Irish Gaelic traditional feasting festival, celebrated at the beginning February, marking the beginning of spring. I’ve been noticing some signs of the start of a change in the season; the snowdrops are out in perfusion in our valley and I realised, with thud of joy in my heart, when I closed the curtains at 5pm last week, that it wasn’t yet completely dark. The long light nights of summer are returning. I imagine our ancestors noticed these things too and it gave them good cheer. Happy Imbolc!
It’s 12 years since Loop first opened so a visit was long overdue. I really can’t believe I hade’t made the trip before but a combination of work and babies had kept me too busy to make the pilgrimage. But all that changed when, a couple of weeks ago, on a bit of a whim, I decided to fill in some time before meeting a friend in London, with a trip to Loop.
Loop sits in a quiet street full of quirky and interesting shops, in Camden Passage just off the busy A1 in London, a short walk from Angel tube station. The shop front is gloriously colourful and yet oozes sophistication. You enter through a door so narrow that you wonder for a moment if this is actually the way in. Then you see a note telling you to “push door hard”, and it crosses your mind you may have fallen down a rabbit hole but, you do as you are told, the door flies open, and you are in.
Now, I’d long known from conversations with other knitters that Loop is a very special yarn store. But I hadn’t realised quite how special. It is, quite simply, the best yarn store I have ever been inside, and by quite a big margin. The moment you enter, you are aware you are in a place apart from the rest. In most yarn stores you will find lots of commercial yarn and when you visit yarn stores as often as I do, that can all start to feel a bit samey. But Loop has a huge amount of hand dyed yarn on display and only a very little commercial yarn (and only then at the luxury end of the market). Well, you know what a sucker I am for handdyed, and there was just so much fabulous yarn, I lost myself for some time just squishing and stroking it all before finally gathering some focus.
The store is laid out on two floors with a stock room above (and maybe below but i forgot to ask). On the ground floor is lace and sock weight yarn, and on the first floor is dk, aran and heavier weights. The store will have only one or two skeins of each yarn in each colour way on display, but don’t let that worry you as they have “sweater quantities” in the stock room. I really really wanted to see inside the stock room.
So, I’d gone to Loop with the half formed idea of buying yarn for a new sweater for myself – Whitehorse by Caitlin Hunter of @boylandknitworks. I’d been on the look out for a special yarn for a while but nothing had quite hit the spot. I needed a dk weight for the sweater so after a bit more drifting about squeezing the sock and lace weight, I headed upstairs.
Upstairs, there is a lovely Ercol day bed (I don’t think I’ve mentioned I have a minor obsession with 1960s Ercol furniture) just begging to be sat on and a similarly special Ercol table, on which sat lovely knitting books. And lots more yarn. Also upstairs was a fabulously knowledgeable lady called Jane who, I realised when I got home, is @probablyjane, someone I’ve long admired over on Instagram. I was really sad that I didnt get to tell her how much I loved her fun feed so I’m going to mention it here in the hope she might one day see it.
So, Jane helped me focus my search. It was really helpful to have someone so knowledgeable about each dyer and base. I did eventually settle on some yarn for my sweater and Jane scooted off upstairs to the store room to look for 4 more skeins in the same dyelot. This left me a few more minutes to squeeze and stroke all the luciousness and flick through a few books before I realised the time, and had to pay and depart. I bought 5 gorgeous skeins of Blue Faced Leicester light DK in the Lila colourway from The Uncommon Thread (@theuncommonthread), a dyer from Brighton who I hadn’t come across before and the most gentle book called Making Winter by Emma Mitchell (check out her beautiful instagram feed @silverpebble2) which has been my bedtime reading every evening since.
So, Loop, I love you. I can’t wait to visit again.
I wanted to tell you all about my trip to Yarndale last weekend.
I’ve wanted to go to Yarndale ever since it started up in 2013 but it’s a big journey from where I live so would always involve over night stays and my children are still quite small so it was never really a possibility. But when Daisy from Devon Sun Yarns suggested I might like to join her there to launch my book of knitted hat patterns “Wool and Woods”, I jumped at the chance.
Well, it was everything I’d ever dreamed it would be and much more. I travelled up with my lovely friend Sara from Hailstone Heritage on Friday, arriving in good time to pop along to Cooper’s Cafe, above which sits the studio of Lucy from Attic 24. Attic 24 has a special place in my heart as when I first started to crochet I bought a Stylecraft Special blanket pack from Wool Warehouse and made Lucy’s Coast Ripple blanket, which still sits proudly on my son’s bed. As you will know, I’ve moved on a long way since then but, nevertheless, it was interesting to see Lucy’s studio and to see all the many things I’ve read about on her blog over the years, for myself.
So, after a cup of tea and a scone, we struck out along the wonderful Yarn Walk through the park to the Auction Mart where Yarndale is held. When we arrived, everywhere was activity with exhibitors unloading their wares and setting up their stands, and the organisers busy setting out wooly sheep and hanging socks and bunting. We met up with Daisy and soon joined in the bustle, unloading her displays and yarn. And I also got the thrill of seeing my printed pattern book for the first time (you can buy it as part of a kit wth Daisy’s yarn here). Then 9pm came and the Mart went quiet as it closed until the morning. So, after a trip to the supermarket we drove to the sweet house Daisy had hired for the weekend, ate a quick supper and retired, eager for the next day.
Sara and I walked to the show again the next day (Daisy having left early to finish setting up her stand), this time along the canal and, again, along the Yarn Walk. We arrived at the show only about an hour after it had started, but were surprised to find it already very busy, and, to our further surprise, it remained so for the rest of the show, only really quietening down for the final hour or so of Sunday.
It was fabulous to have two days available to look over the show. It’s a big show but I had time to visit almost every stand, squished untold quantities of yarn, marvelled at the very large size of some of the socks on the Sock Line (some of you are incrediby dedicated sock knitters!), tried my hand at extreme knitting and crochet courtesy of Woolly Mahoosive, perused patterns, snuggled in garment samples, tried on shawls, had a lesson from XXX in the action required to turn a spinning wheel (it’s all in the ankle – not lifting your foot up is key), petted the sheep, alpacas and the most gorgeously soft angora bunny (like stroking a cloud), and generally got untold inspiration from all the kind and patient stall holders I chatted with. It was wonderful to be so immersed in yarn for so long.
I also purchased! Although I was very restrained for me; two pattern books by Marie Wallin full of beautiful designs that involve both knitting and crochet, two gorgeous grey skeins of Gleam, a Merino Silk sock mix which Daisy dyed at my request, 8 mini skeins from The Knitting Goddess, who I had never met before but, I’m already sure she will become a favourite of mine, and a tea towel from Tilly Flop, because I have orange highlights in my kitchen and am always on the look out for orange tea towel, but this one is doubly special as it is knitting related.
Why so restrained? Well it was nothing to do with all the glories at the show. In different circumstances, I would have bought masses. I think something in me has shifted over the summer because I’ve been dyeing so much of my own yarn. I have an enormous stash now and so, rather than just buying with impunity like I’ve always done (I’m not really one for budgeting), I searched for the things that really spoke to me.
Sadly, it will probably be some years before I attend Yarndale again. The journey times are just too great whilst my children are so young and I do miss them terribly when I’m away from them. When they are older I’ll go again, travelling up on the Friday, going to the show on Saturday, before driving home on Sunday. But for now, I’ll just have to be content with those two glorious days. Yarndale 2016, you were just amazing!
We had such a great summer holiday this year. Two lovely long weeks of sun, fun on the beach, playing in the park, cousins, scooting, chips, ice cream, sea glass, ammonites and dinosaurs (well, actually icthosaurs and plesiosaurs but my children are a bit to young to know the difference) with the bonuses of a big dollop of knitting and a unexpected trip to Bridport Yarn.
I’m always on the look out for a yarn shop. I rarely go anywhere without checking out the surrounding area (and if it’s a long way, the route too) for yarn. We’ve been known to detour for miles, with the kids bleating “are we nearly there yet?” on a 10 second loop all the way interspersed with “I’m bored”, screaming in frustration and beating each other, in search of an elusive yarn shop. There is a direct correlation between the length of time since I was last in a yarn shop and the time and distance over which I am prepared to endure this torment (and the amount of £££ I spend but let’s not dwell on that).
But in the chaos of term ending and packing for the holiday, I never quite got around to it. And it must have been the blissful feeling of finally being back in my beloved Lyme Regis that soothed by yarnoscope, because it took me a few days to come around to musing that the one tiny imperfection with the town was a lack of a yarn shop. And then I remembered in a light bulb type scrabbling for phone and wifi signal moment that I hadn’t done my research. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when I discovered that Bridport Yarn was just up the road. So a trip was hastily arranged. My sister in law came along for the ride. She not a yarnie – I think she came for amateur anthropological research reasons aka why is my brother’s wife so nuts about yarn?, that and the fact that it was a chance to get a quick coffee and a couple of hours off from the children, who went with my husband to the park.
So, Bridport Yarn! The website (here) looked encouraging. I like any shop that has ethical principles and their ethos of trying to offer yarn which is “British, local and fairly traded – sometimes all three!” speaks to my soul. And, the shop itself did not disappoint. It was nestled amongst a nice assortment of independent stops in the way you only find in places where you are far enough from big urban centres to make rents reasonable, or where the majority of the town is owned by some large landowning estate who doesn’t necessarily need to squeeze every penny from the property to pay interest on his over leveraged assets. Already soothed by the lack of thrusting chain stores (there are some on around the corner on the main road but only a scattering) we gazed at the splendid window display and entered.
And, joy of joys, we had stumbled upon a knit and natter session. It was so nice to hear the relaxed conversation of the ladies while they knitted, had my sister in law not been with me (and had I not been conscious of the fact my husband was left entertaining 4 children aged under 6), I may have drawn up a chair and joined them. However, I settled for a quick chat with the lovely ladies and together we all cooed over their current projects including a very special first ever project of a hot water bottle cover, in a gorgeous pale blue yarn, which was particularly charming as the newbie knitter had make some mistakes but rather than frog several rows of hard fought stitches, she had merely deliberately repeated the mistake at intervals such that it looked like it was intentional. Genius! Here are the lovely ladies.
The shop stocked a nice mix of hand dyed and commercial yarns in a variety of fibres and an array of pretty colours, all prettily displayed, as well as the most gorgeous buttons (which I didn’t buy but I have been itching for them ever since). Alas the owner wasn’t there but the shop assistant was friendly and helpful. They say a picture is worth a thousand words so I’ve included several of the shop and it’s goodies here.
I bought two balls of lovely Juniper Moon Farm lace weight yarn, even though lace is just not my thing at all, because, that colour! It just needed to be in my stash. I also bought a couple of long circular needles which were a totally legitimate necessary purchase as I needed them for the hat project – see more on this here.
Bridport Yarn is situated on South Street in Bridport, Dorset, a few minutes drive from the A35. If you are passing on the A35 on your way further east or west or if you are holidaying near by, I would heartily recommend it as a great place to get a yarnie fix. I wish I lived closer. I’m already looking forward to my next visit.