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I have been having the most fun!

Since throwing myself head first into the idea of knitting British I have had nothing but fun and joy seeking out local grown, spun or dyed wool.

JEWELS

Have a look at just some of the utter jewels in the British Wool crown that I have stashed so far….

 

IMG_1527

“Seeking out” is perhaps a redundant term as there is just so much British fibre out there, just yearning to be used.

And it isn’t just our sheepy friends either, I can’t believe I have been buying alpaca wool imported from South America when there is an absolute wealth of yarn grown from flocks (packs?) all over the UK, even here in Shetland!
My wishlist is continuing to bust! I really hope Santa thinks I have been a good girl this year. Currently I have coveting this sumptuous green UK Alpaca sock from John Arbon! It just yearns to be squeeshed!

 

I will introduce more of the yarns in more detail as time goes on, but needless to say it is all wonderful stuff and I am really looking forward to working with it.

(I have just realised I have included all dyed in that picture. There is lots of natural too!)

HOW MUCH?

I know there will be some people out there who will simply disregard yarn because of the price. We all like a bargain, especially if you are a prolific knitter! But I am quickly beginning to realise that I would rather pay a little more for a quality item produced here in the UK.

Before I really began to knit with hand-dyed wools, I would baulk a bit at the prices, but look at this beautiful British BFL from The Yarn Yarn …no really, have a good look…

The Yarn Yard BBFL

It’s not a very good photo, but I am sure you can appreciate the different nuances and how each colour plays with the light. Can you imagine how lovely this will look knitted?  You will never buy a ball of wool from your LYS that has detail like this unless it is hand-dyed. I feel this is the epitome of an artisan craftsmanship.

The wool is was grown on the back of a happy British bred sheep and the wool was dyed by a wonderfully talented British based dyeing artist. There is no comparison really.

HAPPY COINCIDENCE?

And as luck would have it two wonderful British designers have just brought out beautiful pattern collection books all made in British fibre!

Ann Kingstone had been releasing patterns in what I can only describe as  salivatory manner;  drip feeding beautiful designs in Yorkshire wool on Ravelry, which lead up to the launch of her book Born and Bred in conjunction with BaaRamEwe (my new favourite online store). I certainly cannot wait to knit this!

Hild by Ann Kingstone

 Kate Davies has published her first collection of patterns Colours of Shetland, all Shetland inspired and using Jamieson & Smith wool. I am a sucker for a yoke and just look at this glorious example.

Puffins by Kate Davies

I am just giddily excited to be knitting with all this home-grown loveliness. If you are on Ravelry head on over to the Woolsack forum. JaneKAL has started a new forum where you can discuss your own ideas for projects knit in British wool.

I’d also (eventually) like to host giveaways, perhaps a blog tour or two and have a gallery of your own projects, if you care to share them.

New website going live soon  so all will be revealed in good time and due course, but needless to say, like Christmas, it will be here before we know it!

Ann Kingstone’s book, Born and Bred, is available from Baaramewe & is priced £12.99

The Colours of Shetland, by Kate Davies is available via her website priced £14.99

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Here is Etterscabs. The last item I will make in non-British wool for the next year.

back yoke

The design is Aftur, by Védís Jónsdóttir and I knit it out of two necessities. 1) I wanted a lopapeysa style yoke jumper and 2) I had a lot of Drops Alaska in my stash that, while a wonderful wool, it was taking up too much space in the stash. Stash space that is needed for British wool for 2013!

I am so delighted with this jumper, as you can see! I haven’t done a lot of colour-work, and I did struggle a little bit with working with only 2 colours (ye gods! should I knit a pattern that requires more!) but I am so pleased with how it turned out.

PD4A0579

I altered the yoke pattern from the original and I made the sleeves a little longer and added just a little waist shaping (as I always look boxy in jumpers) my only slight regret is that I didn’t allow for more…ahem…movement…in the bustular area. But one needs to feel snug in this cold weather.

I really don’t think I have been so happy with a creation in a long time. It had been blocking for over a week (I bent every single pin I had! But Dear Mother is going to lend me my Nannie’s jumper board for the future!)

I can’t think of a nicer project to close the chapter on one knitting year and embark on another.

More news of my 2013 adventures in British Wool soon…very soon. Meantime Lovely Fella – not content with dodging showers this morning to take my picture at Scalloway Castle –  is in the process of KnitBritishing up  a new web-space.

So exciting developments aside, I am about to go and marinade the lamb for dinner!

Catch up with you soon, and keep coming with your British wool suggestions. What breed of wool do you prefer to work with?

Ohh! Before I go, the name Etterscabs. Are you wondering? I don’t think it is an actual word. It was a word chosen  by a writing group I attended as a theme for the following meeting. It was chosen from this book. It was during the course of this meeting that I realised I am not someone who can write something on a time limit and procrastinating this was the most creative thing I had achieved in the allotted time. Hence, Etterscabs.

PD4A0591

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It’s been tugging at my knitting belt for some time, ever since I was waxing knitical about a new yarn I was swatching, which came from a flock almost over the back garden from me (as the crow flies)… wouldn’t it be a great idea to knit as local or as British as possible?

This year (belatedly, granted), I set myself the Great Cardi Knit of 2012 challenge and I have loved having a theme to knit to, so it has got me thinking about what I might challenge myself with in 2013…(ocht! I know it’s only September, but it’ll soon be upon us!)

Last Monday I was on a train from Aberdeen to Edinburgh, and while sipping my East Coast Trains, First Class coffee (which was a bit second rate, truth be told) I was looking out the window. We passed a fairly large field of sheep, resplendent in their growing winter fleeces…it got me to wondering what the price of wool was for this year and if farmers were coming off any better this year, than in the past. And it tugged at me again…

…Wouldn’t it be great to try and knit with as much British wool as possible?  I tweeted right away…

A deluge (for someone with 75 followers!) of suggestions came my way and it soon became clear that there are lots of  folk out there who are growing, spinning, dyeing British wool – from big producers to the smaller, indy chaps trying to carve out a career selling and promoting brilliant UK woolly products.

Quickly ideas started forming. If I wanted to try and knit UK, I should really try and do my bit to promote the British yarn growers, sellers and dyers I will be buying from, through blogging, yarn reviewing etc…and maybe it’ll turn more folk on to them too. Not only would it plug great local & independent businesses, it would promote British wool and fibre and our native breeds, as well as supporting and promoting local purchasing.

It’s all ideas yet, but it is something I am considering doing…a regular blog on Knitting British and highlighting really deserving chaps and reviewing their yarn…

…what do you think? Would you read it? Would you share it?  Would you be likely to visit the websites and shops that I blog about?

Would it make you think about buying British; for example, alpaca wool from Shetland Alpaca or Toft rather than imported? Or how about considering hand-dyed yarns from Ripplescrafts or The Yarn Yard?

I am really interested in knitting with and blogging about the smaller, independent chaps… … would you consider an Artisan (if that isn’t too quaint a description) UK Knitalong too in 2013?

…Who would you recommend me to try? Or if you are a British yarn producer or dyer, would you be interested in taking part?

I’d really love to hear from you and hear your suggestions and see what we can do in our own small way to plug our brilliant local products and our great yarnies! Maybe I can even arrange some sort of giveaway or discount to have at the end of the Knit British year!

You can leave a comment here, tweet me or email me at louisescollay (at) hotmail.co.uk And please do share with your knitterly/crocheting/craftsty friends! I am compiling a list and would love to know of other UK independent yarn businesses.

#knitbritish

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Not that my stash needs adding to at the moment (with 3 projects worth of wool currently taking up space in the bedroom cupboard!), but I can never resist a native wool!

A couple of weeks ago we were at the new Museum in Scalloway and we were just about to leave when I spotted a lovely kishie, full to the brim with beautiful cakes of yarn. The colours – broomy yellows – heathery purples = licheny greens…all reminiscent of the colours of the landscape.

On returning home I did a quick internet search and found the product not just local to Shetland, but it was wool from sheep that were in spitting distance. What more could you want!

Uradale Yarn are based in East Voe and their product is 100% local, native and organic – the triple whammy. Their certification means that the wool can be traced back to the sheep on the hill who grew it too. Amazing stuff!

The Uradale wool is spun at the mills in New Lanark  and then dyed at Organic accreddited Paint Box Textiles.  Sue, from Uradale Farm, was nice enough to drop round a shade card (What a service!) and I think you will agree that the colours are just lovely…

…and all named after the plants their flock feed on.

I purchased a ball, just to swatch it up and get a feel for it.

This is what I would call a lovely “Sheepy” wool. Not as rough to touch as a lot of Shetland wools (This occurs a lot in the dyeing process, with the use of harsh chemicals), in fact, I felt there was still a bit of the natural oil in there (which I prefer), but it could be the organic dyeing process.

The stitch definition is really good and it was a really compliant wool to work with.

In washing and blocking, there was a little dye which escaped into the water, but nothing which detracted from the overall colour (this is the Self-Heal colourway). I used Eucalan wool wash and I would give it two soaks, just to get that lovely softness and bloom it deserves.

I was using the DK weight (130m) and thought I might try a little woolly jacket for a baby friend, which just flew off the pins and the finished item is soft and lovely!

I cannot wait to purchase more Uradale Organic Yarn for my next project (after the 3 queued!) and will be keen to try the yarns in the Aran and Chunky weights, as well as some of those other delicious colours!

If you are interested in the wool and Uradale Farm, please do seek them out at http://uradalefarm.blogspot.co.uk

….and in other news….

The Humble Cardigan

It’s had a bad wrap (pardon the pun) over the years, with Soap Opera matriarchs standing on street corners, bemoaning life and pulling their badly shaped, acrylic, beige cardi’s around them.

But I have a huge love of the cardigan, I think it is a very under-rated piece of clothing, which goes from slobbing out comfort to high fashion.

Having been a knitter and trying to hone my skills for a few years now I have always shied away from big projects, but this year I thought that if I wanted to master my skills I really need to move on up from accessories. So I proclaimed that this year will be….(insert fanfare)…. THE GREAT CARDI KNIT OF 2012!

I have spent a long time salivating over the cardigan designs of Gudrun Johnston, Kate Davies and Ysolda Teague and decided that if I could knit one pattern from each designer this year I would be very happy.

So far I have knit two Ysolda and on my second Shetland Trader one!  – with 2 Kate Davies cardigans in my queue! (colourwork AND steeking involved!)

I’ll not say it has been easy…. you wouldn’t have thought something as simple as a button-hole would cause tears, but it did….I think I need a blood transfusion from all the blocking injuries I have sustained…and I think I have inhaled half an alpaca…. but I have to say I am really enjoying tackling larger projects. It feels good to be adding to my skills!

Moch Cardi by Gudrun Johnston
DO NOT use Drops Karisma Superwash, It pills after ONE use. Very upsetting, but a lesson to always follow the designers tips on wool!

This is Cria, designed by Ysolda Teague Made with Drops Alpaca…the one with the troublesome, tearful buttonholes

I have just finished another Cria for my pal Mavra, who is a tour guide at Rosslyn chapel. Don’t you think the buttons are very fitting?

And it’s not just the Great Cardi Knit for Morrolesssocks! Oh no! I have also managed two wee person sized ones too…so I am off and running! I don’t think I’ll manage one for every month of the year, but I’ll give it a damn good go and I can only hope that I will straighten out my buttonholes (and tension and other wee problems) along the way

I even managed a little poncho for Jeremy!

Check out the Threads!
(this was actually a pre-steeked practice…such regality though…Queen Jeremy)

So, off I go to unto the knitting breach once more, what new techniques shall I seek out with the next project?

…I will be sure to report back!

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Happiness is…

Here are the things that are just jingling my joy at the moment…

Fibre….

This year I discovered Drops range of wools and The Wool Shed. I am in love with the squidgy Andes and Nepal ranges (65% wool, 35% Alpaca!) and the ladies who run The Wool Shed in Aberdeenshire are so unbelievably helpful. Drops are having a discount running until 31st December too!

 

Sounds…

…The frozen grass crunching under Jeremy’s paws…

… Declan O’Rourke… such a lovely voice and a great guitarist

 

Food…

Lemon drizzle cake! One of the easiest things to bake ever and sooo mouth puckering good with a cup of coffee.

 

Watching…

 

 

…Just the best film ever to get you into the Christmas spirit! I recently watched the colour version, which I was highly dubious about, but it is even more magical, if that’s possible.

 

Laughing at…

…Jeremy’s propensity to sleep wherever she darn well pleases.

…and her “get out of my face” look…

 

Reading…

…currently revisiting The Tales of The City, by Armistead Maupin. I have read and re-read these books over the last 15 years and now enjoying them on my iPod!

 

Ah! Christmas is but around the corner. Not sure how Christnassy I feel yet…maybe I need to stick on George Bailey again. I hope happiness and joy is blooming all around.

🙂

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Camiaow blogger

“It’s been so long since I blogged, where on earth do I begin…” The female one exasperatedly sighed.
I happened to be watching from my basket…well I was pretending to sleep, but I often have one ear open as well as one eye…I don’t like to miss much,

The female one got up, deciding that it was more important to bake something (not for me Imight add, the male one gets the goodies) so I thought I’d stray over to the table and see if I might lend a paw.

I must say, the female one has been lax in her blog-writing! But where she doesn’t know where to pick up again, I can at least tell you what I know.

Until July I was happy living with The Male One. He was the one who named me Jeremy.  (That was rude of me, I should have introduced myself from the outset! ) The name, you may think, has a rather noble turn to it, but the fact that I am a young lady seems to have escaped The Male One – although he does, crudely, call me Jeremywithavagina sometimes, so he can’t be so clueless…

…anyway, I digress!

Yes, so it was The Male One and I, and my sister (she stepped out a while ago…August, I think it was…Not sure where she hangs these days) and then one day The Male One brought The Female One to say hello. I, being a bit of a madam, made a bit of a fuss of her and She I. On her very regular visits she began to bring some of her knitting for me to play with, which was very kind of her…here am I keenly watching the yarn, I made quite a mess of that when backs were turned.

Anyway, The Male One (TMO) obviously liked The Female One (TFO), and thought he’d keep her around. I’ve got the pair of them pretty domesticated now. It’s nice not to have troublesome pets. TFO has transitioned well into our lives and is ever so obedient – every morning, after parading myself outside of the “stick cupboard” she gives me my morning meaty treat.

Although it hasn’t all been fun and games! Currently I am a little…er…indisposed, I have an…infestation. TMO & TFO have been very obliging with the powders, potions and sprays, but when feeling under the weather there is only one place I want to be. Under the covers in their bed. Every time I open the door (who says cats *need* thumbs!) and creep in TFO comes rattling down the stairs to scold me. Something about warm environments and breeding fleas! Ach! if I’m scratching I don’t see why they shouldn’t be!

Mind you, I do like to grab a nap wherever is most inconvenient for others.

But then I just roll over, cross my little paws in front of my chest (like an old woman clutching a handbag)  and give a PurrMiaow and they’re like kibble in my paws!

…Miaoooww! TFO is coming back with a tray of scones for TMO! Well, I guess one day she’ll think of how to catch you up with all her news.

Until then, it was nice chatting…

Purr-Miaow

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I think I have been in a time warp peeps! I cannot believe how long it’s been since I last allowed myself the time, between lectures, essays, revision, exams and life to blog!

 Well, I suppose to catch you up, the last year has been a bit of a whirlwind, but I’ll try to keep to nutshell proportions.

 University: after having two years off, due to having as much motivation as a small, wet square of toilet tissue and a period of fragile mental health, I was absolutely chomping at the bit to get back to my course.

 My courses for my final year included Scotland and Heritage, Cultural Revivals and Traditional Drama and I was pretty fired up about all of them, until my old adversary Doubt came creeping in.

 ME (Gleefully): Revivals and Drama and Heritage, oh my! Revivals and Drama and Heritage, oh my!

DOUBT: Do you really think after two years you can do this?!

ME (positive): Aye! After what I’ve been through I can handle anything!

DOUBT: Are you sure? Really sure?

 ME: …er… yes!…I think so!

DOUBT: What about finding time to study in a shared house? What about working to pay the bills too? (in a creepy evil voice) What about your 10,000 word dissertation?????

 ME (frowning): Oh!

Doubt laughs evilly as I ran and hid in the corner for a little while.

Yes, whatever I seemed to undertake, Doubt was there, pointing and sniggering. But you know what? I did it. And I couldn’t be happier with the marks I’ve got this year and the progress I made. I think in first year I was thinking, “Right! Got to work for a first!” and to be completely honest I don’t care if I get third class honours. I did it, and I’m very proud of myself – if it’s a sin, I don’t care about that either! (unless God’s reading, in which case, Sorry!)

 My final marks are posted on the 3rd of June, so I am going in with my two pals Mojo and Mighty L for moral support!

Right…What else…Oh yes…

Knitterly: Truth be told, I thought I would do a lot of knitting to help me relax during revision, but I quickly found that I couldn’t focus on a pattern after staring at books and a computer screen. So in order to unwind I began to wind. Spinning was a completely brilliant way to still be creative, but also relax. I found a great website for combed wool at really good prices, I bought a few bags of merino in delicious colours from knitshop and that really kept me going.

As soon as my last exam was finished I started on my first lace project which was also my first shawl.

The Mezquita shawl  is a lovely, and very quick project.

I ordered some nice lace wool from Jamieson and Smith, but wanted to try it in a thicker wool first to practice. I had some Artesano 4ply. It is so soft and I have hardly been without it on these blustery spring days.

I like the practice one so much (with my own little mistakes…can you see?) that I am using my J&S wool for an Anniken Allis shawl, which is on the pins as I type.

 Lately I have been trying my hand at felting, just a couple of wee samples really, but I seem to have go Mojo interested in it (maybe she’s only humouring me to shut me up!). She had her new kitchen put in and is thinking about designing a wall hanging or several small pieces to frame.

I have a lot of odd wee samples of wool so we have decided first to dye and hand paint the combed tops. I am not sure how we got on the the subject of plant dyes, but last saturday we went for a walk along the old Rosewell railway and picked a wee selection.

I should add that we only picked or cut flowers that were either blown over (what a wind it has been recently!) or horse trampled, or on their way out, so that the vergesides were kept pretty and blooming for others to enjoy.

When we got back to the kitchen we laid them all out, and realising we didn’t know the first thing about producing dyes from plants we did a bit of googling. Obviously all yellow flowers will not produce a yellow dye (in fact dandelions produce pink!) but we decided to put all our lilac and blue flowers together to see what our experimentations would produce.

  

Most hits on google said that the microwave method was quickest, so we picked our petals and bruised them before covering them with water in a bowl with a teaspoon of vinegar.

The method we used was to cover the bowl with cling film and blast for 2 minutes on high, then take out and bruise again with a pestle, and repeat this until your water begins to colour and the petals seem drained of colour.

This is the end product on banana fibre!

We were quite please with that and set about with our yellow flowers, which produced a sort of new baby’s nappy green colour. But after testing the colour with yarn it produces a lovely lime colour! we were quite gobsmacked. We felt a bit witchy, or at least ancient domestic goddess-like!

The quantities that we made we will use for hand-painting the wool tops before felting.

Today I am trying my hand at kool aid dyeing on a 2 ounces of different natural shades of Shetland wool. What great fun it is!

I bought the drink mix (this stuff is actually called Mixade) on ebay ages ago and forgot about it. So today I thought I would give it a go.

For anyone who hasn’t tried it, I recommend it! You can dye hanks of wool as well as the combed tops and for each wee sachet of drink it will dye roughly and ounce of wool.

There are varying methods but I prefer the stove top method.

Firstly you soak the wool in some tepid, soapy water (I use handsoap) and you prepare your pot (soup pot, Tattie pot, anything that is large enough, but use an older pot, just in case any colour is left on afterwards).

Half fill the pot with tepid water and add your sachet/s. I used two sachets of Tropical Punch Mix-ade…oh! A tip! Don’t go by the colour of the drink on the sachet. The Tropical punch shows a bright pink drink, but I would say the water was more orangey.

Give a wee stir to let it dissolve and then give your soaking wool a squeeze and add it to the pot.

You will need rubber gloves, unless you want brightly coloured fingers…like me! 🙂

Turn the heat up and let it get to almost boiling and then switch off the heat and let the water cool.

Get your gloved hands in every now and again turn the wool so that it dyes evenly.

 In this case I am not too fussed if it doesn’t dye evenly as we will be hand-painting it at some point too.

Give it 30-60 minutes standing on the hob – with no heat under it – to absorb the dye. If after an hour the water is not clear (or almost clear) , you can turn the heat on again and bring it to almost boiling again and let it cool for another 30-60 minutes.

 I have just rinsed mine, which should be in water that is a similar temperature to that in the pot, so that you don’t felt the wool and this is the result!

The reason I wanted to use the different coloured natural Shetland was to see what colour variation would be like with the dye. It is unfortunate that my camera doesn’t pick these up so well, because the Shetland black has gone a dark aubergine colour, while the fawn and brown have gone almost heathery tones and just look at the white!

 

 

I have just rolled them in a towel to blot them dry and I’ll probably leave them there to dry for a while.

 I have to say that the pot was left with a pink tinge, but I used a bit of salt on cloth and it went away with a light rub.

So anyway, I think I have filled a yaking and maaking quota for one blog. I hope everyone is awful well, I have thought of you often, even though I haven’t been blogging!

Next time hopefully I’ll have wool hand-painting and felting news as well as results getting and boyfriend arrival…more soon! 😉

 

 

 

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