Yarns of This Thing of Paper: Blacker Yarns, an Interview.

Yarn. The cornerstone of every knitting obsession. When I set out to make This Thing of Paper, I knew I had to get the yarns right. I spent a lot of time looking for yarns that had the right feel and the right colours. I knew I wanted yarns that carried stories and had significance beyond "this is a nice colour". Having Blacker Yarns lend yarn support felt like a major step in the right direction: their yarns lend an extra dimension to the project. 

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Hi. I have been waxing lyrically about your yarns for years, and it was a great joy collaborating on this project with you. Could you tell us a bit about your yarns and yourself?

At Blacker Yarns we specialise in natural, breed specific yarns and innovative, unusual blends. We buy all of our fleece from UK small producers and scour, card, spin and dye everything under one roof in Cornwall. 

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What can people expect from your yarns? You are a yarn company with a difference.

Yes, and people can expect each of our yarns to be different! Knitting with our yarns is about the unique characteristics of a diverse range of British breeds. Wool can be many things.

Yes, the two different cardigans above really showcases that. Vellum is knitted in Tamar DK whilst Incunabula is worked in British Classic DK. I chose the two yarns after swatching carefully, so I understood the difference between them. British Classic is a really fantastic workhorse yarn which will wear like iron, whilst Tamar has more drape and feels lighter despite reading as the same weight. 

Tamar is a semi-worsted lustre yarn spun from the fleeces of fine British rare breeds, including Teeswater, Wensleydale and Leicester Longwool. The natural grey of the Leicester Longwool makes two subtle base shades in silvery or mid grey.  To give some body and bulk, we base the lustre fibres on a grounding of 30% Cornish Mule, which also has lustre as well as additional softness.

The British Classic range is based on a blend of British breeds white wool from our selected supplier farms, combined with 30% Blue-faced Leicester from a group of farms in North Wales.  The added Blue-faced Leicester wool softens the yarn to make comfortable, light and warm garments. We start with the natural creamy white and then add heathered grey or fawn using mainly Hebridean or Black Welsh Mountain fleece for the grey or Manx fleece for the fawn. We then dye the three resulting natural shades in subtle colours, which will all tone with each other.

And that is just two of your yarns. As I said, I love how all your yarns have similar stories about sourcing materials and carefully blending various breeds to get the right result. I like to think I know a great deal about yarn (as a knitter) and yet every time I swatch another one of your yarns, I learn something new. Just like knitting is never "just knitting", wool is never "just wool". And you make that experience accessible to someone like me who doesn't spin. 

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Now, let's chat books. This Thing of Paper is a knitting book about knitting and books, so it feels pretty obvious to ask you about your favourite read? 

My personal favourite book is The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula LeGuin. It's a beautifully written fantasy epic, with wizards and dragons and all that good stuff. But there is also a strong environmental message that fits with our outlook here at Blacker Yarns. And if you read closely, there is yarn, and spinning too!

I actually quoted Ursula LeGuin in This Thing of Paper! She is an amazingly powerful writer and I read The Earthsea Quartet as a teenager - it is fantastic. 

Finally, where can people find your yarns? ? 

We sell our yarns online through our website, and we also have a selection of lovely stockists in the UK and around the world. We attend several shows around the UK every year, including Edinburgh Yarn FestivalYarndale, Woolfest and Wonderwool.

You also sponsor the Podcast Lounge at Edinburgh Yarn Festival — which is actually where I was first told by people to go make This Thing of Paper! I love that little fact. Thank you for taking time out of your very, very busy schedule to have a chat. I love your yarns and I am so happy you are a part of my book. 

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Yarns of This Thing of Paper: Travelknitter, an Interview.

Yarn. The cornerstone of every knitting obsession. When I set out to make This Thing of Paper, I knew I had to get the yarns right. I spent a lot of time looking for yarns that had the right feel and the right colours. The first pattern I designed and wrote was Rubrication. It is a shawl that explores the colour red and the practise of red-lettering in manuscripts/early printed books. It was so important to find the right red colour, but I knew my search was over when I saw Travelknitter's reds. 

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Hi Larissa. I have been a huge fan of your strong, bold colours for as long as I can remember. It is so exciting to finally collaborate with you. I've been waiting for years for the right project to come along. Could you tell us a bit about your yarns and yourself?.   

I’m Larissa, the dyer behind Travelknitter. Technically I am an Australian living in London, although I’ve actually lived in London longer than I’ve lived in any other city in the world. My itinerant life plays out in many of my colourways, which are inspired by places and travels. Some of the sources of inspiration are obvious, while some are more obscure. I enjoy having a story behind the colourways.

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How do you approach dyeing?

My signature style is towards rich, saturated colours, created through lots of layering. I dye semi-solids and tonally variegated colours, designed to look as good knit up as they do in the skein. I use a small range of base yarns, which I’ve chosen for the specific qualities needed in handknits. Hardwearing-but-soft Bluefaced Leicester for socks or jumpers, extra fine merino for supersoft cosiness, and of course the baby camel and silk Tanami for pure tactile luxury! They are all yarns that I would personally choose to knit with myself.

I chose to use the Tanami for the Rubrication shawl and it's really stunning to work with. That camel/silk blend feels almost sinfully good as it runs through my fingers!

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Now, let's chat books. This Thing of Paper is a knitting book about knitting and books, so it feels pretty obvious to ask you about your favourite read? 

Great question! Books were my greatest weakness before I discovered yarn, so linking the two makes for a pretty heady combination. Staying with the theme, I recommend Knitlandia: A Knitter Sees the World by Clara Parkes. Clara writes about her experiences travelling the world attending various knitting show and events. She has a great way of capturing all those special moments that are recognisable to anyone who has travelled to a yarn show. The book is full of warmth, wonderful stories, and hilarious anecdotes about what happens when knitters gather. I found it thoroughly enjoyable, and a wonderful way to capture those experiences we share as knitters in search of yarn and community.

Yarn and community. There is nothing better. And Clara is such a great storyteller that I whoop every time I see she has a new book coming out.

I think the first time I saw your yarns in person, it might have been a knitting retreat we were both attending. I knew of your yarns, but had never seen them up close before. They are stunning. Where can people catch up with you? Do you do a lot of shows?

There are a few different ways that people can get hold of Travelknitter yarns. One option is to visit my online Etsy shop where I update stock regularly. For the opportunity to squish-before-you-buy, Wild and Woolly in Clapton, East London is the only LYS stockist of Travelknitter. It’s my own LYS and has a very special place in my heart. The owner Anna stocks my BFL Supersock and Extra Fine Merino DK, including a Wild and Woolly exclusive colourway in both bases. I certainly wouldn’t be the Travelknitter though without travelling to yarn shows. My next confirmed yarn show is Festiwool in Hitchin on November 11th. I’m hoping to be invited back to Edinburgh Yarn Fest in March. Fingers crossed!

I'm also on Instagram and (very occasionally) on Twitter

Thank you! On a personal note, you are also one of the funniest people I know, although your wit is so dry it takes me a day to realise you've cracked jokes at my expense! Your colours are so extraordinary, Larissa, and I'm so pleased to say that the Rubrication shawl is on the cover of This Thing of Paper.  

Rubrication uses two hanks of Travelknitter Tanami 4ply in the Double Happiness colourway.

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