Jacob Wool and my Brazen base

Last week, I was talking to a very experienced knitter about different breeds of wool and I casually made a comment about the characteristics of a particular breed wool. She asked me what I meant, so I explained, but at the same time it occurred to me that I’ve done very little to record my knowledge on the different characteristics of each of the breed yarns I stock, and that this knowledge might actually be helpful to other knitters.

So I’ve resolved to do a little write up for each of the breed wools I stock. This is the first one.

History of Jacob Sheep

© Jacob Sheep Society

Jacob sheep have a very distinctive fleece with patches or spots of dark coloured wool on a white wool background. The breed is thought to be one (or at least related to one) of the oldest breeds, probably originating in The Middle East around 4,000 years ago. There are examples of spotted sheep in ancient Egyptian art and there is also a bible story which attempts to explain how the distinctive coloured fleece came into being.

The breed first came to Britain in the 17th century as an ornamental sheep to graze in the deer parks surrounding stately homes, and consequently they don’t form part of the U.K. stratified sheep farming system (more on this to come in a future post) but with the changes to society after the First World War, many flocks disappeared and by the 1960s, there were very few Jacob sheep left in the UK. However, a small number of dedicated breeders and enthusiasts formed the Jacob Sheep Society in 1969 and saved the breed from extinction.

Sheepy facts

Their fleece makes Jacob sheep one of the most easily recognisable breeds of sheep. They always have horns, either two on top of the head, or four as worn by this formidable fellow.

© Jacob Sheep Breeders Association

They make good mother’s, who have a high lambing rate (commonly having twins) and generally easy births. They are also hardy and long lived, so they easily over winter outside and attract few disease problems. Their good health means they can rear lambs for a long time; 7 years or more is not uncommon.

More information can be found at The Jacob Sheep Society.

Wool characteristics

As I’ve already mentioned, Jacob sheep have a variety of colours in their coat, from creamy white through to dark brown/black. The colours appear in well defined patches so it’s possible to sort the fleece into light and dark, and also to blend the yarn to give graduated shades of the natural yarn.

The individual fibres of the fleece are quite thick, with a good degree of springiness and a staple length of between 75mm to 180mm (3 inches to 7 inches) . The micron count varies from 25 to 27.5 for fine fleece to 30 -33 for regular fleece.

The thicker individual fibres mean the fleece isn’t generally suitable to be spun into lace weight yarn but it works particularly well spun into a double knit or aran weight yarn. It is these two weights which I stock in my shop.

© Jacob Sheep Society

Uses for the yarn

Jacob’s wool takes the dye beautifully with the potential for a nice tone and a good depth of colour. The wool is crisp, but not scratchy, and smooth rather than fluffy. These characteristics make the yarn very versatile and it can be knitted and crocheted into a wide variety of items, from blankets, to sweaters and hats. I have a sweater in Jacob wool and find it very comfortable and warm. I don’t tend to wear my sweaters next to my skin (preferring a layer underneath) but I don’t notice any discomfort around my neck or wrists where the wool touches bare skin.

I’ve heard it said that it probably isn’t suited to baby clothes and I’d tend to agree with this. However, I wouldn’t hesitate to use my Jacob base for my children’s clothes, especially if it’s not intended to be worn next to the skin, for example sweaters etc.

Fabric produced in Jacob’s wool is hardwearing with very little piling. Additionally the garments retain their shape when hand washed and dried flat (no stretching or shrinking). These qualities mean that any garment made from Jacob’s wool will be long lasting, which is a quality I’m especially keen on as larger garments generally take a lot of knitting, so I’d like them to last, more or less, forever.

It’s extremely difficult to felt Jacob’s wool, which is a commendable feature, should your hand knits inadvertently end up in the washing machine, as mine do from time to time. However this does mean the wool wouldn’t be useful for items that require a degree of felting such as slippers or bags.

I have also found that it holds its shape well whilst being knitted, so if your needle should accidentally slip out of a few stitches, they tend to stay in place awaiting the needle again, rather than running away down the fabric. The wool also takes frogging and reknitting well. This makes it a good learners wool.

My Jacob’s wool base is called Brazen and is available in both double knit and aran weight here.

Flockfest goodies

A quick share of my Flockfest goodies.

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?

Flockfest, here I come!

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.

Flockfest

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.

Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2018 Part 2

It’s taken me a while to write this post because I’ve found Edinburgh Yarn Festival a real challenge to describe. It stands apart in my mind from all other yarn shows and I wanted to explain exactly why that is.


For a start, it’s a big show. Much bigger than you would imagine from the size of the building that contains it. This year, I think for the first time, there was a marquee at the back of the venue which had space for 500 knitters and crocheters to sit and chat, drink tea, eat cake and knit, and crochet, and there wasn’t a single time when I ventured in there, where it wasn’t filled to that rafters with happy gossiping voices all cooing over each other’s yarn purchases and projects. It was a truly wonderful thing to behold. It was also nice to be able to get a seat whenever you needed one rather than having to squeeze your bum on the end of a sofa where there really isn’t a bum sized space.

This also has the added bonus of making the market place much less of a crush. There wasn’t a point where I couldn’t squeeze through the throngs or couldn’t get the see a stand. I had time to browse, time to read labels and time to squish, which made the whole experience rather relaxing.

There was also another smaller area for refreshment (my friends dubbed it the purple room) which contained the lovely podcast lounge where I wanted to linger but there was never a spot free – and I was, ridiculously, too shy to speak to Louise Scolley from Knit British, who hosts it – but no matter, there is always next year. Blacker Yarns and Garthenor were also here and I gathered lots of ideas for future online purchases.

So, to the market place. For me, this was a delight as there are so many vendors from the Scottish Highlands and Islands who so rarely get to shows further south. It was fabulous to be able to talk to so many passionate producers of yarn, who could tell you which farms their fleece comes from, describe the sorting process of the fleece and talk with love about their mill equipment and their product. It gave me a real buzz to know that my yarn purchases were supporting the employment of so many, often in quite rural locations where jobs are scarce..

Obviously, at this point, I was sticking to my 2018 resolution to only buy yarn that is grown spun and dyed in the UK, so my first purchase was from the Knockando Woolmill, who are based nearish to Inverness but not actually near to anywhere really. Their history stretches back to 1784 and they are still using some equipment dating from 1870. The mill is run by a charitable trust which was established in 2000 with the aim of “rescuing and restoring the mill to ensure its future survival and promoting and educating people about its unique heritage”. The restoration of the mill was completed in 2013 and they produce the most gorgeous textiles, but it was their yarn that interested me most.  I was particularly drawn to an undyed North Country Cheviot double knit yarn which was grown on Dalrachie Farm, located just 12 miles from the mill. This news, together with their story, pressed all my sustainability and supporting British farming and industry buttons, so I bought a sweater quantity. And I’m now on the search for the perfect project to do justice to the yarn, and to the mill.


Then on to The Knitting Goddess and her One Farm Yarn was on my list. I’d previously purchased a set of grey and black mini skeins together with an undyed skein and then decided, for the shawl project I had in mind, I need a further set of mini skeins, and another undyed skein just to be on the safe side. The ply on this yarn is really pretty and The Knitting Goddess’s colours are gorgeous, plus the fact the yarn is NOT well travelled speaks to my eco soul.

Next stop was Uist Wool. I have been stalking them on social media for a while. The idea for the mill, built in North Uist in 2013, “emerged from a collective will to find a fresh purpose for local fleece that would reconnect the community with their cultural heritage of wool-working”. They have restored machinery that has its origins in mainland mills from the middle of the 19th century and the wool they produce is very individual. I wanted some buttons for my striped cardigan and they stock porcelain buttons from Shoreline Stoneware. The buttons take their inspiration from the shoreline of Uist and are just a joy.

I also had to have yarn from Uist Wool but I was aware that my carry on bag was filling up so I decided to restrict myself to just one skein. This makes the skein I chose even more precious.

I also visited Jamiesons Of Shetland and bought these gorgeous 25g balls of their Spindrift yarn, without a project in mind but I’m thinking a fairisle cowl.

Then we stopped at The Crochet Project and coo-ed over all the shawls and I bought the lastest shawl pattern book on a complete whim. At this point we stopped for a cup of tea and a piece of cake and I observed my now bulging bags and announced to my friends that I might not be able to buy any more yarn, otherwise I might not be able to get it home.

So, I think there might have been something in that tea, because I went to the Iona Craft Shop stand next and bought a cone of their gorgeous single origin double knit wool in the sea greeen colourway. Yes, that’s right, a cone. Not a skein but a huge, incompressible, how am I ever going to get this in my carry on bag?, cone. Still it gave my friends a huge laugh when I sheepishly unveiled it and just look at those colours, and I did eventually manage to arrange the bag to squeeze it in, so it all worked out well in the end. I think I’m going to knit a Tin Can Knits Windswept sweater with it.


Well, after that, the gloves were well and truly off. I decided to buy presents for a couple of friends who weren’t able to come to the festival so purchased a gorgeous alpaca and rose fibre blend from The Border Mill. It will be interesting to see if the rose fibre helps to mitigate alpaca’s desire to stretch. I also bought another friend a present but haven’t given that to her yet so I’m not going to talk about that one, to maintain the surprise.

Then we went to visit Ginger Twist Studios and I must admit with all the gorgeous colours and squishiness and with Ginger being so lovely and friendly, I completely forgot about my resolution to buy British and, in what I can only describe as a buying frenzy, grabbed these three gorgeous superwash merino beauties.

What can I say? It was late, I was overcome with yarn fumes. I am weak. But do I regret it? Not on your life!

And then after having our photo taken with the 8 foot high Toft crochet highland cow, I bought the yarn to make myself one. I have no idea about the yarn’s provenance. I just wanted it. This has been carefully stored away in my cupboard along with all the other kits I’ve bought from Toft and not yet made. I really really must get around it one of these days.

Finally, we stopped off at the Stephen and Penelope stand where my friend bought an armful of mini skeins and I had a little chat to Stephen West, who despite being a total knitting celebrity, was fabulously down to earth and just as chatty and smiley at the end of 3 days of festival as he had been at the beginning. We discussed strategies for squeezing my bulging purchases in my carry on bag and we agreed that I might need to leave all my clothes behind in the hotel room (although not the precious hand knits – I would wear all those – no matter how warm the airport might be). Thankfully, it didn’t come to that and I did manage to get everything in, for yarn is surprisingly compressible. Well, except when it’s on a cone…

Sadly, it wasn’t all fabulous. I’d taken some finished projects to show some vendors what I’d made with their yarn and one or two did not utter the words “ooh, it’s so lovely” or anything similar which was a bit deflating. One of my friends thought one vendor was downright rude about one of my makes, but you can’t please all the folks and maybe the vendor was a bit jaded by it being the last day. I’m not into naming and shaming, but I doubt I’ll be buying their yarn again.

But, it was almost perfect. It was brilliant to hear so many soft friendly Scottish voices and if you have never heard a Shetland dialect before, it is a thing of wonder! There was so much gorgeous yarn for sale, I could easily have spent 3 times as much so I think I’ll be returning next year, with a bigger budget and a case that is going in the hold.


Links to all venders patterns etc are detailed below:

To read more about the Knockando Woolmill’s story including a rather fun timeline, click here

To see One farm Yarn on The Knitting Goddess Website click here

Click here for Uist Wool and here for Jamieson’s of Shetland

To go to the Iona Craft Shop, click here and to see the Windswept sweater by Tin Can Knits, click here

The Border Mill is here

For Ginger Twist Studio, click here and for Toft, click here

And lastly for Stephen and Penelope click here.

Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2018

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….




February 2018 Makes

Soooo was your February all hearts and flowers? 

As ever, mine was filled with yarn. I finished my Alocasia sweater and it is a delight, although rather to fine to be worn everyday. It’s a merino/silk mix so I can’t really see myself doing the housework or walking the dog in it (my two daily activities aside from knitting), so I haven’t worn it yet. I don’t really hold with saving clothes for best but, in this case, given the amount of work put into it, I’m willing to make an exception. This was also the first large garment I’ve made for myself from yarn that I dyed. So, I’m really not kidding when I say I’m saving it for best!


I also managed to finish my Dad’s team socks with self striping sock yarn from Devon Sun Yarns. They were a challenge as my Dad had polio when we was a child (in the days before vaccinations) and the disease as left him with rather odd shaped feet. So, consequently they aren’t my prettiest make ever but they were made with much love and my dad is delighted with them.


Last up was a hat made from Ryeland wool. Those of you who follow me on Instagram might know that I’m taking part in the Knit British Wool Exploration during 2018. Each month is a different breed yarn. March is Ryeland so I was getting a bit ahead of myself and I meant to cast on a swatch but by the time I’d cast on, I was making a hat. The yarn was so deliciously springy I knew it would be great for a hat. And being aran weight, it knitted up really quickly. The hat pattern is one that I wrote called Curlew. The hat, after being dipped in some blue dye, has been gifted to my brother and he was so pleased with it, he wore it home. Of course, this means I still need to knit a swatch and get trialing it’s wearability next to the skin (although I’ve a pretty good idea already as I’ve already worn the hat a bit).

 
I also have a confession to make. I got a serious attack of castonitis and actually had these three things plus another pair of socks on the needles at the same time. This was an interesting test to my usual monogamy and it’s not one I will be repeating for a while. I felt a disproportionate amount of anxiety about having extra wips hanging about. I also felt like it took ages to get things finished as I was splitting my knitting time between the various projects. 


So what do I have on my needles currently? The forth project mentioned above are some Tin Can Knits Lumberjack Socks I’m making in a gorgeous British Falkland Islands Merino/Silk double knit but I’ve hit a snag in that I’ve lost all but three of the needles and this isn’t enough to knit in the round. 

I’ve also cast on and knit a good part of a Siri cardigan. I’d like to finish this before I go to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival (squeeeee – I’m soooo excited) which is now in less than two weeks, so I need to get a wiggle on.

And on that note, I’m going to say goodbye and see you on the other side of Edinburgh Yarn Festival xxx

Links to the patterns etc are below:

Alocasia sweater pattern on Ravelry

Devon Sun Yarns

Curlew hat pattern on Ravelry

Lumberjack socks on Ravelry

Siri cardigan on Ravelry

Edinburgh Yarn Festival 

My Unravel 2018

Unravel is my local yarn festival as it’s only about 40 minutes from my house and I go almost every year, but I missed last year due to my husband’s big birthday celebrations occurring on the same weekend. So I was super excited to go this year, especially as I was going with my lovely friends, the Possiwools.


This was the first yarn festival I’d attended since I resolved to only buy yarn grown, spun and dyed in the UK, and I think, when I made this resolution, I was expecting this would be a big limiting factor on my purchasing and that I might actually reduce my stash over the course of 2018. How wrong I was.

We all met up over coffee and by 10.30am had hit the Great Hall, and the first vendor I saw was The Little Grey Sheep who are based about 20 minutes from my home, so are very local to me and consequently hit all my buying local buttons. I didn’t have a clear idea of what I would want to make in their yarn until I saw their samples of the Raven sweater by Marie Wallin and was smitten. Emma really knows her colours so I was happy to let her guide me and very quickly came away with a sweater quantity of yarn in my bag. And it felt really good knowing I was supporting a small local business. 


Then a good squish of yarns at John Arbon and New Forest Mohair, and a lot of admiration of Jon’s fabulous Dashounds Through The Snow Christmas Jumper at Easy Knits, and I purchased Alison Ellen’s great book, Knitting Colour, Structure and Design (expect to see entrelac in my future) and Rachel Coopey’s Socks Yeah! book because her gussets are just so gorgeous (not a sentiment you can generally express publicly without attracting strange looks, unless it’s within a group of knitters).

My next yarn purchase was from Daughter of a Shepherd. I just love her story and it was reading her blog, after listening to a Knit British podcast, about how little farmers are paid for their fleece and that it’s often not worth the transportation cost to market, so they bury it, use it as compost or burn it, that made up my mind to buy British. I’m so pleased she and her father took the decision to have their yarn spun because it is a beautiful product. I bought 400g of Brune,  a double knit weight yarn with the idea of making a Bavaria shawl by Isabell Kraemer.


Next up was a squeeze of the yarn at Baa Ram Ewe in the Cellar Bar before we left the festival and took a short walk to a cafe in the town for lunch. Returning to the festival, we proceeded upstairs. In the Barley Room I discovered the Cambrian Mountain  Wool CIC, who are a community interest company developing fine yarns from Welsh wool, and I was so impressed with their shearling yarn I bought a sweater quality with the idea I would dye it and make something gorgeous. Also in the Barley Room was Whistlebare whose mohair goats are just the cutest thing ever. They have a new no nylon sock yarn called Cuthbert’s Sock which I was keen to try and I managed to grab a skein in their Monk’s Journey colourway with a contrasting mini skein for toes and heels. A couple more skeins of 4ply may have also “fallen” into my bag, just because…


Into the Tindle Studio and I couldn’t miss the Garthenor stand. Even if you ignore the yarn, it’s a lovely display and it makes buying their yarn very easy. Each row corresponds to a yarn weigh from lace weight at the top through to chunky at the bottom. I bought 3 50g skeins of their 4ply yarn (although at 135 metres per 50g, it’s almost a sport weight), without a project in mind. Pattern suggestions gratefully received.

Just off the Tindle Studio is the Courtyard Kiln where I had a lovely chat with the ladies from the Wensleydale Longwool Sheep Shop and saw the difference in loftiness between the ecru and darker natural Wensleydale yarn. I purchased a couple of balls of the dark undyed double knit, again, without a project in mind but I do have some cream undyed Wensleydale DK in my stash so this might become a monochrome fairisle project in the fullness of time.


Next up was Bigwigs Angora (oh those bunnies are soooo soft) and Hill View Farm who are on my list to buy from just as soon as some equilibrium has been restored to my bank balance (they have a peach colourway that I MUST have). Then a quick scoot through the Tannery to say hi to the guys at A Yarn Story and admire the incredible needle felt sculptures of Jenny Barnett (maybe next year I will try my hand at needle felting) before it was time to say goodbye to my wool buddies and head back to the car, bags bulging, slightly foot sore but very, very happy.

Links to the exhibitors are below:

The Little Grey Sheep

Raven sweater by Marie Wallin

Daughter of a Shepherd

Bavaria shawl by Isabell Kraemer

Cambrian Moutain Wool CIC

Whistlebare

Garthenor

Wensleydale Longwool Sheep Shop

Bigwigs Angora

Hill View Farm

January 2018 Makes

So how was January for you?

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!

Resolutions 2018

Happy New Year my lovelies. I hope you all had a wonderfully woolly time over the holidays.

In my usual style I’m well behind all those organised people who published their blog posts about their New Year’s Resolutions (or lack of them) before the new year actually started, and here I am, over a week into the New Year and only just getting down to it. But after being so successful with keeping my resolutions for 2017 (see here), I wanted to continue with resolutions in 2018 that left me with an equally positive feeling.


Last summer, whilst on the beach, watching the children make their millionth sandcastle of the holiday, I idly wondered if there were any knitting podcasts I could listen too, so I did a quick search on my phone and, to my delight I found there were indeed plenty. So in I dived. And what an interesting experience it was. I was really surprised to see so many video podcasts – I hadn’t really realised such a thing existed; this is partly due to my technological incompetence but also partly to do with the fact that, living in the wilds of the countryside, we have such slow and ponderous internet service and lack of mobile phone signal that we can’t actually watch much downloadable content without a maddening amount of buffering and the “whoops something has gone wrong” notification of doom appearing at all too frequent intervals. This will hopefully change at some point in the next few months as a Gigaclear are currently digging up all the roads, installing high speed broadband across our little corner of West Berkshire, but in the meantime, I’ve basically had to content myself to audio podcasts, which are easier to download.

A particular favourite of mine is the KnitBritish podcast by Louise Scollay. Listening to her podcast has made me realise I’ve been very undiscerning in my yarn buying. I’m a sucker for colour. I’m also a sucker for silk and soft squishy Merino, and the bounce of Blue Faced Leicester, but it had never occurred to me before, I knew very little about the provenance of my yarn, save for the hand-dyer who dyed it. Through Louise’s podcast I’ve come to understand it is possible to buy wool and know not only the breed of sheep whose fleece comprise the wool but also where the sheep live and even, possibly, the name of the shepherdess. 


I’ve been a big supporter of locally grown food for many many years, shopping through veg box delivery schemes, at farmers markets and, since, moving to the country, at farm shops. We eat seasonally and try very hard not to buy products grown outside the UK. I do sometimes look wistfully at things like out of season asparagus in the supermarket but not buying it all year round makes the times we do have it extra special. I also shop locally as much as possible for other things; my garden is stocked almost exclusively with plants bought in local independent nurseries and my kitchen came from a small local company. I do primarily because of the money multiplier. Money spent in the local economy is spent many times over because independent locally-owned businesses recirculate a far greater percentage of revenue locally compared to national and multinational businesses. Going local creates more local wealth and jobs.

So, why wasn’t I doing this with my yarn buying? I don’t know. I don’t have any explanation for it. Possibly I’ve been high on yarn fumes. But no more. This year, when I buy yarn, I will only buy British Yarn. Yarn grown, or milled and dyed in Britain. I will be majoring on provenance. And if I can know the name of the Shepherdess, and the sheep, all the better. 

As Louise says #lovelocalwool