Karie Bookish Dot Net

Tag Archives: Yarn

All the Things; All the Feels

Today I’m really tired. I spent the weekend in London for the lovely, lovely Yarnporium and while I took yesterday off, I am feeling a bit rough around the edges today.

I spent Friday at the Victoria & Albert museum in London which is dedicated to arts & crafts and design. I took in the Opus Anglicanum: Masterpieces of English Medieval Embroidery with a friend and also lingered with the sections on medieval European art. Saturday I taught two classes at Yarnporium (and managed to get lost on my way to teaching the Knitting the Landscape class which I thought was very on-message and method of me). I caught up with vendors and friends before heading to an evening do thrown by LoveCrafts in Bloomsbury. Sunday I spent the morning at Yarnporium again meeting awesome folks before spending my last hours in London at the near-by National Gallery.

I had been quite nervous about teaching Knitting the Landscape as the class had been commissioned by Yarnporium and thus was brand-new. The class went really well, actually, and I was blown away by people’s willingness to reassess their approach to knitting. I found it so inspirational to hear people’s stories and I loved how individual all the finished pieces looked. Though there are some limitations to the workshop (such as it can only really work with a large number of participants), I will be adding it to my repertoire going forward and I cannot wait to see how people interpret their world through knitting.

I have only just unpacked my bags from Yarnporium and now I’m off to Northern Ireland. I’m teaching Shetland Lace at Glen Gallery – this will be my third year of teaching their November workshops and I always look forward to my visit. So, laundry to do, samples to air and then it is off again..

.. but before that happens, I just want to tell you something that happened yesterday. I learned that I have been nominated as Designer of the Year in the British Craft Awards. This nomination really floored me – particularly because I am nominated along some serious heavyweights like Martin Storey and Marie Wallin. Having begun designing on a whim whilst working for a yarn company to making designing my full-time career just two years ago and now being mentioned alongside people I really admire .. well,  I cannot begin to tell you how much this means to me. I am not quite sure what to make of it all, but I am so pleased to see woolly chums like Tom of Holland, Knit British, and BritYarn nominated in various categories. It feels like we are slowly changing the conversations we are having about knitting. Hooray.

I’m off to continue work on the book and answer questions from my inbox. Please be patient: I won’t have access to internet or mobile data whilst in Northern Ireland!

Looking Forward To… Yarnporium 2016

download

I’m currently packing my bags for London. This weekend, November 5 & 6, I’ll be teaching at Yarnporium which is taking place at King’s College on the Strand.

(Let’s just stay with that mental image for a while. If you had told me 20 years ago that one day I’d be teaching at King’s College, London, I would have swooned. It is so exciting for this bookish girl from Nowheresville, Denmark)

I’m teaching two workshops: my popular Introduction to Shetland Haps class and a new workshop called Knitting the Landscape which I have developed by request. Obviously I’m really excited (and a little bit nervous) about these classes and I cannot wait to meet the people taking my classes.

Teaching is really rewarding: I feel I always leave a workshop feeling I’ve learned something – this can be anything from a cast-on someone’s grandma taught them to a better understanding of why one specific thing can feel daunting for a knitter. I take these things and I pour them into the other parts of my working life – I’m particularly focused on demystifying knitting and helping people the best I can.

You cannot talk about an event like Yarnporium without talking vendors. I have several earmarked already: my friends at Blacker Yarns (we are currently collaborating on my book!), Ginger Twist Studio, Midwinter Yarns, Kettle Yarn Co, Travelknitter (also a book collaborator!), The Wool Kitchen, Woollenflower, Triskelion yarns and the awesome ladies of The Crochet Project .. and that is just to start! Also excited to finally catch up with Knit With Attitude and A Yarn Story! There’s also an Indie Focus section which I’m really pleased to see.

And to cap it all off: I have a thing at the V&A on Friday which relates to my book research. It’s going to be a glorious weekend and I really hope to see a lot of friendly & lovely faces there.

knittinglandscape1

Review: Blacker Yarns Tamar

Knitting has undergone a quiet revolution in recent years. When I first got back into knitting, we had all sorts of fibres available to us: silk, cotton, bamboo, pineapple, banana, milk and .. well, wool. Some yarns stated they were merino wool but most yarns just said wool. If you are a keen knitter, you may have noticed that has changed.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of people like Clara Parkes and Deb Robson, us ordinary knitters now understand that wool is not just wool. There are many different sheep breeds – each offering their own particular type of fleece which has its own properties. Some breeds have a lot of lustre, other breeds have very strong fibres etc. We also talk about knitting local (Ms Knit British is exceptionally vocal about this!) and we are beginning to understand that what different wools have to offer. Here in the UK we are lucky enough to have companies like Blacker Yarns that are truly passionate about all the different sheep breeds around us and what they have to offer a hand-knitter.

This blog post has been a long time in the making: I am passionate about making people think about what yarns they are using and how different yarns act differently; I am also passionate about making sure my yarn has not travelled more times around the globe than I have; I also worry about animal welfare and the provenance of fibres. These things matter to me as a knitter.

So, I was sent a small sample of Blacker Yarns’ new yarn, Tamar – a mix of Teeswater, Leicester Longwool and Wensleydale. I wound it by hand because I wanted to feel its handle before I started working with it. It has a certain stickiness to it which I found interesting given its description of having drape and lustre. I am not a spinner and words like drape and lustre made me think of silk. Tamar was definitely not silky as I wound it.

Then I began knitting with it. I started out using the stitch pattern I also used for Frances Herself – a small motif with a stocking stitch centre encircled by decreases. Tamar responded beautifully with a touch of halo. Then I switched to stocking stitch and I saw why the yarn was described by having drape and lustre. It flowed off the needles with a cheery little kick. I liked the fabric. Finally I did some rows in garter stitch. This was probably my favourite knitting experience. The yarn produced a light fabric with a lot of bounce, but crucially the drape was still there.

IMG_20160303_111714-horz

Let me explain.

If you are working with garter stitch, you usually end up with quite a dense, bouncy fabric which stays put. You have to compensate for the density by switching up needle sizes (e.g. if you are working a shawl in garter stitch and you want to introduce some drape – this is where designers’ yarn suggestions are crucial). I was so pleased when I realised that Tamar retained its drape despite the bouncy garter stitch. As a designer, that is really rather cool. I sat thinking how I’d respond to the yarn during the design process. I wouldn’t need to make as many compromises on my needle size which meant I could be slightly more particular about design features. It’s always joyful when a yarn provokes such responses in you.

The palette of the yarn is beautiful. The grey tone of the Leicester Longwool gives the dyed shades a really lovely muted look. I also like the range of colours. It feels wonderfully well worked out with dark, mid-, and light tones all represented. This is perfect for colourwork purposes and I really appreciate when a yarn company takes that into account.

IMG_20160303_111643-horz1

Verdict?

Tamar is a beautiful, beautiful yarn. It is fantastic to see Blacker Yarns continuing to develop yarns that are breed-specific and take the knit local ethos seriously. It is also fantastic to see a yarn that feels so very, very thoughtful. As a knitter I feel very fortunate; as a designer, I find it incredibly exciting.

And just because I sometimes get the urge to say it: I don’t do sponsored content. I carry a strict policy on what I review and write about. I need to fall in love with something before I decide to write about it. I was sent a small sample of Tamar by Blacker Yarns, but that is not why I wrote this blog post. I wrote it because I fell in love. It’s that straightforward.

PS. If you are neither in the States nor in the UK, I am very sure you also have local sheep breeds. I urge you to do your own research and see what your local yarn companies are doing. Some places have very ancient sheep breeds – like Iceland, the Faroes, and Norway – but I would love to know more about other parts of the world. Please leave a comment telling me about your local sheep and yarns!

Joeli’s Kitchen Retreat 2016

This past weekend I made my way south to Manchester. I was invited by Joeli to teach at her first ever knitting retreat. Usually my experience of knitting retreats is restricted to pyjamas, an open fire, 1980s films on DVD & a very small group of friends, so this was very different. The JKRetreat was basically a mini-knitting festival with a handful of teachers (*coughs*), Q&As with awesome folk, around 248919304 knitters making new friends or meeting old ones, and a totally fantastic vendor market.

IMG_20160227_085131

I lived briefly in Manchester in the 1990s, so I was excited about heading there again. I didn’t recognise a thing! It took me forever to find my way out of the train station and make my way to the hotel where we were all gathered. Granted, I could get lost in a phone booth (remember those?) but I used to live there! On the first night there, it was a joy to meet up with the other teachers and the speakers: Kate Heppell, Kate Atherley, Jules Billings, Louise Scollay, Isla Davison, Allison of Yarn in the City (launching the London Craft Guide in the north!), and Joeli herself. Usually we only meet in crowded halls at festivals, so it was nice to have an evening to chat and catch up.

The sociable evening turned out to be an omen for how the retreat itself went. I was so happy to recognise many familiar faces and I especially loved seeing all the splendid knitwear on display. I live vicariously through other knitters and the knitwear was just astounding. I started the first morning by recognising CountrySinger by her Byatt shawl (it is even more beautiful up close) and that set the standard for the rest of the weekend. So many creative, warm, funny people. I am not going to mention you all because I’d invariably forget someone – but everyone was so lovely.

IMG_20160227_124731-horz

I taught two classes (colourwork & lace), the indomitable Scollay waxed lyrically about British sheep breeds, Joeli taught tech editing & drop spindling, Kate Atherley spoke about her knitting journey as well as taught classes on designing and garment fit; Kate H. talked about how a magazine is put together and Jules ran a finishing class and a class on knitting technique. I soaked up the atmosphere and I learned so much just from being around brilliant knitters.

Yarn. There was a lot.

IMG_20160228_142040-horz

I was mysteriously restrained, but I think I was overwhelmed! Three rooms were opened to vendors and there were some really stunning yarns. The naturally dyed classy shades from Sylvan Tiger Yarn in Yorkshire (I love her gradient packs), BritYarn showcased some fantastic local yarns (I was especially smitten by her Dodgson Wood Castlemilk Moorit/BFL DK), the rich jewel colours of Travelknitter, and then I fell head over heels in love with Countess Ablaze. I have never met a saturated colour I didn’t love and thankfully the Countess shares my predicament. I’m not a sock knitter, otherwise the damage to my bank account would have been much worse. I left with just one skein.

IMG_20160301_130915

But that colour, right? This is a glorious 50% Masham/50% BFL blend in a DK weight and the moment I laid eyes on it, I knew it was going to be my preciousssss. I had such a fantastic time at the retreat recharging my creative juices and I left with my head spinning. See you next year (I hope?).

Back at work today and it is going to be a manic fortnight leading up to Edinburgh Yarn Festival. I’ve designed a hat called Burnet for WOOL TRIBE, the Edinburgh Yarn Festival exclusive magazine. Inspired by tenement tiles, the hat is knitted in two shades of Shilasdair Luxury 4ply – a stunning yarn dyed on the Isle of Skye here in Scotland. I’m just one of a handful of designers featured – the others are Ysolda Teague, Gudrun Johnston, Lucy Hague and EYF’s own Jo & Mica.

Pre-orders for WOOL TRIBE can be found here. The magazine will not be available as a digital download, but you can have it sent to your home or collect it at the festival.

I’ll be back soon with more, more news.

Knitting Mahy – Yarn Choices

Mahy1 The weather gods were in our favour. We finally have proper photos of the Mahy shawl. I’ll write about the inspiration behind the shawl in the next blog post, but first I wanted to talk yarn.

Mahy was knitted using roughly 770 yards of Shetland Organics 1ply.

Gulp, doesn’t 1ply mean that this is cobweb, sewing-thread thin and ethereal? Oh, Karie!

No.

In this context it simply means that the yarn consists of a single strand rather than several thinner plies twisted together. The yarn is registered on Ravelry as a cobweb and I find that grossly misleading.

Shetland Organics 1ply is a heavy laceweight. I used the light grey shade which runs 700 yrds per 100 g. The shawl is knitted on 5mm needles which results in a lightweight, yet substantial fabric.

This is not an ethereal, dainty shawl. Mahy is delightfully light on my shoulders, but it is also warm and practical.

The yarn was given to me by Louise Scollay who understands my taste in yarns.  In many ways, this yarn is reminiscent of Garthenor 1ply  (which I used for my Ronaes) and also of my beloved Snældan 1ply (which I used for Hoxne and Storegga): it is a heavy laceweight which has a lot of body despite appearances, blooms beautifully after blocking, and has a great deal of character whilst you work with it. I recommend both the Garthenor and the Snældan as good substitutes. Any excuse to use Snældan, really..

But what if you don’t share my passion for crunchy, rustic and woolly laceweights? Well, here’s another photo of Mahy and then we’ll talk yarn subs.

June 2015 252

Susan Crawford’s Fenella 2ply would make a really lovely shawl. The yarn is a smidgen heavier, but it looks beautiful worked up in garter stitch. The colours are all subtle and beautiful – and the yarn is very well-sourced (if you care about such things – I find I increasingly do).

Mahy is a true hap shawl using traditional Shetland techniques – and if you want a traditional feel and also want colour, Jamieson’s Ultra is a natural choice. Note that the balls are 25g balls, so you’ll need to order accordingly. I find the Ultra slightly more frail during blocking than other similar yarns, so take care.

As for handdyed yarns, why not think outside the box and go for slightly heavier yarns? Dublin Dye Co. Plush Lace runs 600 yrds/100g (you’d need two hanks). MoonlightYarns does an amazing gradient set which would look stunning with Mahy. You can use finer yarns, but make sure to swatch (i.e. simply work up enough of the central triangle!) to check you like the fabric you are getting. You may also want to consider using handdyed sock/4ply/fingering yarn – it would make for a bigger shawl and you’d definitely need to watch your yardage – but I love that idea. Due to the stitch patterns used, Mahy can take a fair amount of colour shifts, actually.

Recap:

  • I used roughly 770 yards of a heavy laceweight (700yrds/100g)
  • 1ply does not automatically mean cobweb etherealness!
  • Think about yardage/weight if substituting yarn.
  • Choose a yarn that looks lovely in garter stitch on 5mm needles.

(One day I shall convert you all to squishy, crunchy, oatmealy, rustic, woolly goodness.)

Mahy will become available as soon as my technical editor gives me the thumbs up. As for now, it’s wrapped around my shoulders.

June 2015 201

So, a Few Words About Ball Bands

I have had a couple of conversations lately about gauge and yarn subs, so I thought I’d write briefly about how to read ball band labels.

First, though, two things.

1) The Seaforth hat is now free to download from Ravelry. Go on! One skein of kettle-dyed loveliness will net you a fabulous hat for Spring (or Autumn if you’re on the other side of the world to me). This one’s on me.

2) I’ve updated the workshop page with the last few workshops of Spring 2015. I’m currently developing new classes, so this will be your last chance for some of these. I think that’s a fair warning!

Now about those ball bands.

April 2015 078

A snapshot of what’s on my table this afternoon! I also liked the array of languages. from L to R: Danish sock yarn (or at least a Danish ball-band), British Black Yarns Classic DK, Faroese Sirri Art Yarn, and Malabrigo Rios from Uruguay. Knitting is a global language.

Firstly, you need to understand that the ball band gauge is more a guideline than anything.

Suggested gauge on the ball band works to categorise yarns: this is double-knitting, this is a worsted-weight yarn and so forth. It is helpful for yarn companies as it’s easier to sell a line of yarn if it falls into a category than if it’s an outlier (many LYSs have sections based on yarn weights: “this is the lace section and here are the 4ply/fingering-weight yarns”). This way of categorising yarns makes sense for LYSs – quite simply, categories helps if you stock more than 10 different yarns. Not only can LYS employees confidently recommend yarn substitutions (“Oh, this hat is knitted in Unicorn Yarn DK? We don’t stock that yarn, but you could try this DK from Glitter Kitten Yarns”) but it makes life easier for everybody to agree on what a DK is and how it’s different from a lace-weight yarn.

So there is a definite interest in having standard weights with standard gauges.

However, one thing is what we can all agree upon and another thing is reality. I am not saying this happens but yarn companies may sometimes “force” a yarn into a category even it is actually just a smidgen too fine or heavy to fall into a category. When I worked with LYSs here in the UK, I recommended they always swatched their yarns to learn the handle of the yarn and also (coughs) if a yarn actually worked up nicely at a certain gauge. I am not naming actual examples but there is one UK DK yarn with a recommended gauge of 23-22 sts that I always felt belonged to the sport category with a gauge of 25-24sts.

So, you have a ball band gauge that is a ballpark figure and occasionally a marketing tool. Keep that in mind. The stated ballband gauge does not always spell the truth and should be considered a guideline more than anything else.

Secondly, in a pattern you should always pay attention to a designer’s gauge

Every designer has different gauge and the knitter should try to get gauge (esp. something like clothing, oh my). I often liken knitting to handwriting: we can all agree on what a handwritten R looks like, but it’ll always look slightly different from person to person. Designers are individuals too and as such their knitting gauge is also slightly different from designer to designer.

My favourite example is a Rowan magazine. I knitted two fair isle cardigans out of Rowan Felted Tweed. One cardigan used 3.25mm to get a gauge of 25 sts over 4” – the other cardigan used 4mm to get a gauge of 25 sts over 4”. Same company, same magazine, same yarn, two different designers. The ball band says a third thing, by the way.

Sometimes a designer may also deliberately play around with a yarn to get a completely different fabric than a ‘standard’ stocking stitch (whatever the agreed standard is, of course!). These days I think the most common deviation from recommended gauge is 4ply/fingering weight which many people are now happy to knit on 4mm needles at a gauge miles away from 28-30 sts over 4″. On the flipside of the coin I had a pattern where I used a yarn I’d normally knit at 16-15 sts over 4” where I took it down to something ridiculous like 28 sts – it was dense. I explained in the notes that I wanted a very firm fabric and people were generally really happy. For me, it was about communicating why I had chosen such a dense fabric and not followed the ball band gauge.

April 2015 094

 

So, how to decode a ball band – in brief

Another yarn from the pile on the table is the Rowan Creative Focus Worsted. I thought it made a good little intro to ball bands (especially if you are not a confident knitter).

  • product code: this one always baffles people. When you work with masses of yarn (say, as a buyer or as a LYS owner), you need product codes so you can keep track of stock, do orders, and track best-sellers. Most shade cards also have corresponding product codes.
  • recommended gauge: CFW comes in at 20 sts and 24 rows over 4″/10 cm. That’s pretty much standard for a worsted-weight yarn which is slightly heavier than a DK (which is 22 sts) and an Aran (which is typically 18 sts). Interestingly I get 21sts across 4″ when I knit with CFW. One stitch out over 4″ doesn’t sound like much but it does actually matter when you are working with hundreds of stitches – then that one stitch can mean the difference between a well-fitting cardigan and a sad-looking thing at the back of the wardrobe.
  • recommended needles: guideline, folks, guideline. If you are a loose knitter, you go down a needle size and if you are a tight knitter, you go up a needle size .. after you have looked at the designer’s chosen needle size and swatched.
  • product name: sometimes the actual name of the yarn gives you a clue as to the weight of the beastie. Creative Focus Worsted. Classic DK. Snowflake Chunky. Sometimes you have to look closer, though: Baby Cashmerino? Cocoon? Cascade 220?

If you are unsure about the various weights, the Craft Council of America has a great page about the North American system. The UK system is different (as is the Australian method, the Scandinavian system etc). The best person to ask about the yarn you are contemplating buying will always be your LYS employee (because they should know their stock better than anyone!) and I also recommend asking at your knitting group and, obviously, the designer!

Ah, my few words about ball bands turned out to be 1000+ words. So it goes.

Have a great weekend, folks!

Let It Go, Let It Go – On Stash Accumulation & Destashing

Disclaimer: I’ve not seen Disney’s Frozen but my local coffee pusher wears a necklace saying “Let It Go”, so I am sure that counts as pop-cultural immersion.

I opened the door to my stash cupboard this morning and my stomach clenched. I was looking at boxes upon boxes of yarn – and then various plastic bags stacked on top of the boxes or squished between them. I watched a loose ball from goodness-know-where slip down and head towards my feet. I was looking for a particular yarn but I did not know where to start – and I also realised that if I pulled out a box, the whole system* would collapse on top of my head.

(* I use this word loosely)

Yarn is all about beauty and story-telling for me. One of the many pleasure of my life in knitting is that I get to work with yarn that feels alive in my hands and connects me to its place of origin. But when I look at all the boxes, I don’t see stories waiting to be written or items waiting to get worn – I see fragments of who I used to be as a knitter.

Most of my yarn stash stems from when I rediscovered knitting. I would hit the sales with friends, score bargains on the internet, and pick up random balls of yarn whenever I visited a new LYS. Then I began working for a yarn company and I accumulated so much yarn – far more than I could actually managed to knit. I was lucky to have access to yarn – but I also ended up with a lot of summer yarns that don’t lend themselves to my lifestyle. I live in Scotland and, crucially, I am always cold. Even though that cotton/silk yarn looks and feels amazing, I think it’s time I admitted to myself that I’m probably never going to make that casual summer cardigan.

Nowadays I work as an independent knitting designer. This change in environment means that I no longer think of yarn as something to be stashed: I have work yarn and work yarn makes me happy. I am lucky enough to work with yarns that I feel truly passionate about and I do not put those yarns into my yarn stash. Work yarn goes into the box next to my favourite arm chair and each yarn is assigned to a specific project. When I work on future projects, I derive great pleasure from researching yarns and finding the right one for the specific job. Occasionally I will have the right yarn in the stash – but I will know exactly where to find it because it was always destined for one specific design.

I’ve changed the way I think about yarn, in other words. It is time for a destash and luckily this urge coincides with my knitting group’s annual destash evening. I think I am about to shock my friends. Let it go, let it goooo…

Spring Yarns & Colours, Oh My

Jamiesons at Queen of Purls

Earlier today I was having a long conversation with Jo of the Shinybees podcast, and I know you’ll be shocked to hear that we lapsed into a long conversation about yarn. It wasn’t a big, clever discussion about the economics of the yarn industry or an in-depth analysis of current hand-dyeing trends. We just had a full-on yarn love discussion. This is what I love about my life in knitting: people understand you when you lapse into a long, rapturous monologue about Yarns That You Love. I don’t do small-talk very well, but I can talk about yarn at great length. And sometimes you just need pictures to go along with the full-on yarn love. Look at the WALL of Jamieson’s – I took the photo at The Queen of Purls this past weekend when I ran a class there. I could just bury myself in that WALL OF COLOUR.

This is very much the Week After the Week After Edinburgh Yarn Festival. I have finally caught up on sleep and I feel back in sync once more. The organisers of EYF have announced they will be back next year – I am simultaneously excited and ‘but I have only just recovered from the last one’. As you may remember, I was too busy to do any shopping during EYF so I allowed myself a small post-EYF treat. Ms Knit British alerted me to a new yarn base/colour combo from Skein QueenGotland Rustic in Emerald City. In SQ’s own words:

This rustic Gotland Wool comes from Swedish Gotland sheep and is spun in Denmark. This traditional Scandinavian wool is somewhat hairy yet has the typical silky lustre of the Gotland sheep, and drapes very well. It’s warm and hard-wearing. Gotland sheep are naturally grey, so hand-dyed colourways obtain an extra depth and richness. Emerald green on the grey base.

In other words, that yarn had my name all over it and I know exactly what I will be doing with it (an Authors & Artists design).

Skein Queen Gotland loveliness

 

But first I need to finish a commissioned design that I am knitting out of a GLORIOUS shade of Malabrigo Rios. I cannot say much beyond that (because, you know, commissions) so I’m just going to talk briefly about Japanese short rows that I’ve been using a lot recently and which look amazing in garter stitch.

malabrigo rios & short rows

I often find standard wrap-and-turn short rows really cumbersome and annoying to work. Standard w&t became especially annoying when I worked short row “set-in” sleeves for my recent Hetty cardigan, so I knew I wanted to explore other techniques with this new design. Japanese short rows turned out to be exactly what I needed – they were quick to work, super-intuitive and worked a treat both worked flat and in the round (if you are unfamiliar with this method, Carol Feller has a great tutorial).

Ah, soul feasting on colours and textures and all the beautiful sunshine here in Glasgow. Spring is here. What are you knitting?

 

Revisited & Loved: Florence & Fyberspates Cumulus

There are a few things I cannot resist: lemon meringue pie, puppies, red lipstick, and fine alpaca yarns. If you put either of those in front of me, I am helpless. So, when I was asked if I wanted to have a look at Cumulus, a new alpaca/silk lace yarn from Fyberspates, I jumped at the chance. And Cumulus is indeed the yarn equivalent of a lemon meringue pie; it’s impossible to just have a tiny bit.

Then I was asked if I would mind of a few knitters had the chance to play with Cumulus using my Florence pattern – and I got terribly nostalgic. I’ll tell you why in just a second but first look at this photo I was sent yesterday.

Florence_by_Jan_Harvey__48__medium2

photo © Jan Harvey Cullen

Isn’t that just pretty? One of my favourite colour is red but it’s so gosh darn it difficult to photograph that I don’t use red yarn as often as I’d like. Thank you, Jan, for taking such a great photo!

Florence was one of the first patterns I ever wrote down.  I remember being asked for a sweet, pretty scarf pattern by a yarn shop and I came up with Florence. The yarn shop handed out more than 1,500 patterns over the next three months and I was floored.  Florence turned out to be one of those patterns that take on a life of its own: it has been downloaded more than 7,000 times on Ravelry and I know several yarn shops have used it for teaching classes. It’s one of my few freebies on Ravelry and I took the opportunity to revise/update the pattern now that people were using it to try out Cumulus. The revised version has a couple of changes. I’ve cleaned it up (I like to think I’m a better pattern writer these days than when I first designed it) and – much more importantly – I have added beading instructions.

(You know what? I  think Florence looks just perfect in Cumulus. Rawr. )

DSC01518_medium2

Photo © Amanda Anganes

A lot of people have used beads on Florence and I have had many emails over the years asking if I could add beading instructions to the pattern. I have made sure the beading is still optional, but I do love how beads add weight to the scarf. It’s really great to see that both Jan and Amanda chose to add beads. For my beading instructions, I wanted to emphasise the vertical lines in a pattern that has a lot of things going on horizontally – and also to keep the beading relatively simple and clean.

A big thank you to Team Fyberspates who brought the Florence love (you guys rock) and especially to Jeni who just knows colour.

(Fun fact: Jeni hosted the first ever luxury yarn trunk show I ever visited; I have never spent as much money on a simple skein of yarn as I did at that trunk show. Hey, it was green cashmere/alpaca/silk. It’s still in my stash six years on. I told you I was weak in the presence of fine alpaca yarn)

For the Love of Indie Dyers

ECY2014

A big thank you to Victoria of Eden Cottage Yarns for sending me this sneak peek of her new yarn, Milburn 4ply. It arrived last week and it brightened up the day. I am yet to wind any of the skeins and swatch, but I have played with colourwork patterns in my head. That oatmeal/grey colour is particularly speaking to me – I am going through a bit of a neutral phase – and I love how the other colours sing to each other. Designing a palette is always hard (every colour needs to be distinct but still play well with the others) but Vicki has pulled it off.

The UK has some of the most amazing indie dyers and I feel so fortunate that I have ready access to names like Vicki, Skein Queen (new website!), Juno Fibre Arts, Lioness Yarns, Kettle Yarn Co., Triskelion Yarns, and The Knitting Goddess. Yarn is shipped quickly and I get to see them ‘live’ at the various shows. Scotland is particularly strong on indie dyers: I’m a huge fan of  Old Maiden Aunt; RipplesCrafts‘ amazing colours are pulled from her Highland surroundings, and The Yarn Yard is well-established as a go-to dyer for sock lovers.

One of the many things I really appreciate about many UK dyers is their commitment to offering a variety of bases – many of which are UK-specific breeds. Sourcing the right bases is one of the hardest thing for an indie dyer (followed closely by being able to source enough for a sustainable business) but so many of them are now selling yarns that are so much more than just a merino or a wool/nylon mix. They are showing a real commitment to showcasing the best of British fibre – and I think this is something we should celebrate. They are small, local businesses, they are supporting other small, local businesses and knitters get to discover what makes Polwarth wool different from Corridale wool, say. Win-win for all concerned.

Louise Scollay of KnitBritish recently wrote about the Dos and Donts of Knitting Locally. It is a wonderful post which pokes holes in a lot of myths surrounding knitting locally. It does not have to be more expensive, nor is it more difficult to care for. Being thoughtful about your yarn choices is maybe something to requires a bit more mindfulness (especially next time you are in a yarn shop and are overcome with omg, all the yarn!) but it is doable and rewarding.

I’d love to see a big collaboration between indie dyers and local designers. I try to work with as many indie dyers as I can, but I am just one person. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see a plethora of the best UK indie designers collaborating with the best UK indie dyers? How do you as a knitter feel about this? What would you love to see happening within the UK indie community? And who are your favourite dyers? I know there are some dyers I am yet to discover!