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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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    Today I was in the mood for a little bit of reminiscence. Sometimes the body and mind just crave a tender walk down memory lane. For some time I have wanted to revisit the family croft. Its not far away, just over the water in Bressay, and every time we drive into Lerwick I see it there  – not so picturesque – next to the fish meal factory – crumbly and grey and even at that distance it looks in need of a wrecking ball, but so many childhood memories are there.

I remember…. A white washed house, inside a tiny kitchen with one cold water tap….A hay loft that made me feel like Heidi….a kaleyard with tall walls….an old tin bath and Belfast sink in the garden…..lots of out buildings to play and hide in…feral chickens and even more feral factory cats…yelllow fields….sheep everywhere…family everywhere….dipping, clipping, lambing…jostling about in the back of the hay cart, being carted downhill in the tractor….

    As we walked along the road and got closer to the croft house the ground was still the same deep, spongy marsh that, as a child, you felt might swallow you up if you stood in certain places. Even though there is a brand new road that goes on past the house, my feet carried me instinctively along the well-walked track. The last time I was at Annfield was before dad died, probably about 8 years ago, and although I knew the place had fallen into disrepair it was sad to see it so run down in those few years and even further removed from my minds eye.


  Even if I screwed up my eyes out of focus I could still see that it was vastly different from how I remembered it, or how my mind wanted me to see it (those kaleyard walls don’t look particularly tall, could it have been that I was just too small to see over them once?

   The Belfast sink and bath are still there, but looked more sad and discarded than fun farm objects. I found the hay truck too…doesn’t look like it would be very safe to travel on these days!

   

Sadder still it was to see that someone had broken the door in and had a wee trash. I wouldn’t have gone inside anyway as the roof is rather unsafe, but seeing that was a little like having ones childhood memories stomped all over. So, there was no whitewash and no family and no feral animals (though still some sheep!)

But I couldn’t help feeling connected still. Even if my remembrances were fading into reality.

And then I laughed…because, as I told my lovely time travelling companion, We usually hated going to the croft when we were wee! It might have meant a 3 mile walk there (a lot for little legs), we might have been dragged there in our summer holidays when we had better things to be doing, we might have had to suffer spending time with older family members (one of whom, breathless and hopelessly rotund my 7-year old little sister pushed at least a couple of yards in a wheelbarrow once! Fact!), it might have meant eating spam sandwiches on the beach or at the peat hill and getting sand and peat mould in places that no-one wants to get sand or peat mould…

How fickle the mind! That it only lets us remember some things and sugarcoats other things. But I am sure we always enjoyed ourselves really! Since leaving Bressay today I had some vague words by Norman Maccaig floating around my head..

‘…The circle of this year.

the smaller of the last year.

the smaller one of the year before last –

They narrow down to a point

and balance on that crystal.

I see in it

with exact clarity

endless things

and endless meanings of things…’

I think that as the years go on and the memory adapts to retain new information only the honey of memories remain, so I’ll take that and remember it just as I do.

Walking away from the house, we went down the park towards the beach and the old fishing station. I do like a pebbly beach and this is a pebbly beach! Not very stunning (with the Lerwick Power Station in close view) but lots of treasures were found.

       

 I love nothing more than puddling around a pebbly beach and coming home with a carrier bag of treasure….and today’s was put to good use straight away!

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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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