Category Archives: Yarn

Dovestone Hills – The Interview

In case you missed it, January is Dovestone Hills month here in the land of Stolen Stitches. I’m very excited to get to share a wonderful interview with the founder of baa ram ewe LYS, Dovestone & Titus yarns; the lovely Verity Britton.  Carol asked her a few choice questions so that you could meet the person behind the yarn:

 

How did baa ram ewe get started? 

We opened baa ram ewe in North Leeds, Yorkshire, back in 2009 with the main aim of being a yarn store that people felt was part of their community and celebrated Yorkshire’s rich wool heritage, whether that was through local sheep breeds, spinners or the many hand knitting companies that are still based here like Sirdar, King Cole and Thomas Ramsden. It was mind-boggling to discover Leeds did not have a yarn shop that wasn’t selling mostly acrylics, or that had modern, wearable designs. So I left my career in radio production and opened baa ram ewe! I had no business experience and it was a bit of a gamble, but from day one we’ve had such incredible support and wonderful customers, many of whom have stayed with us over the years.

What prompted you to begin your own yarn line?

It was a natural progression really. We have always had a passion for beautiful Yorkshire sheep breeds like the Masham and the Wensleydale, and we always dreamt of being able to showcase these to their full potential in our own yarn. But it was a struggle at the start finding a mill that would spin a small enough amount for us, as we only imagined we would sell a little from our shop. The response we had to our Titus when we launched it was incredible, largely down to Clara Parkes’ Knitter’s Review, which meant we sold out within days! I always remember us being amazed at getting calls from Times Square in New York with people asking to buy our yarn! It was then that we took the decision to scale up production so that we could meet demand globally. The idea that our passion for showcasing luxurious Yorkshire wool along with the superb quality of local spinners and dyers now resonates across the world still gives me a massive thrill.

Titus Mini Skeins

Titus Mini Skeins

How many different yarns are you now producing?

We have two different ‘brands’ of yarn: Our original Titus which is a 4 ply/fingering weight and a blend of Wensleydale, Bluefaced Leicester and British Alpaca. Then there’s our Dovestone range which is a blend of Masham, Wensleydale and Bluefaced Leicester. We have a DK in a lovely shade range which matches the Titus, and our new 5 shades of Dovestone Natural Aran, which celebrates the stunning- and rare- black and brown fleeces of these breeds and makes use of them when traditionally farmers would find them harder to sell.

Your yarn lines are very inspired by Yorkshire, what inspires you about where you live?

The unique combination of landscape and industry is what historically made Yorkshire the centre of the universe when it came to wool production, and what continues to be our inspiration today. On the doorstep of our shop in the city of Leeds are buildings that were once the largest spinning mills in the world, with huge banks of windows and chimneys which still define the skyline. But drive half an hour or so up the road from us and you are in the Yorkshire Dales, a beautiful landscape still peppered with sheep and lush green fields, which provide the fleeces we use for our yarn. All of this inspires us for our signature shade palette, whether it’s the teal green of Eccup, named after the Reservoir up the road from us here or the treacle and ginger mixture of Parkin, a delicious Yorkshire cake which I recommend everyone tries at the earliest opportunity!

The New Yarn Shades

The new yarn shades in Dovestone DK and Titus

Any more in the pipeline that you can share?

Ooo well, we are just about to launch our new products for Spring Summer 2017, so this is good timing! We have three gorgeous new shades of Dovestone DK and Titus: a mustard called Brass Band, a gentle pale lavender called Heathcliff and a perfect Raspberry rose called Rose Window, named after the circular window at York Minster. We’ve used these shades in a brand new design collection from Alison Moreton called the Titus Vintage Collection! The collection is a reworking of vintage Sirdar patterns which we found when given exclusive access to their archive. It’s such a lovely book.

We are also VERY excited about a brand new product we are launching, called Titus pick n mix: a tube of six 12 gramme Titus mini balls in 4 different shade combinations, all inspired by traditional sweets including Liquorice Allsorts, Kali (a Yorkshire word for Sherbert!), Wine Gums and Gobstoppers. Each tube comes with a free fingerless mitt pattern to make too, and they’re a brilliant way of introducing people to our yarns, using just a small amount of each shade, rather than having to buy full 100g hanks.

 

Where can knitters find your yarn?

We always offer a warm welcome to visitors who can make it to our store in Leeds, but we also have an online shop on our website, and now have over 250 retailers around the world, making one big happy baa ram ewe community! We have a store locator page on our site too where you can put in your post or zip code and find your nearest retailer. We sell all over North America, Europe and as far as Japan and Israel, so hopefully, you’ll be able to find somewhere close to you!

Thank you, Verity, for finding the time to answer these questions.


Until the 14th of February if you use code HAPPYDOVES you’ll get 15% off any of the Dovestone individual patterns or off the digital book. As an extra special bonus from baa ram ewe you’ll also get a discount code for 10% off their Dovestone DK yarn for the same time period. That code will be available when you purchase the patterns or digital book.

Carol is also blogging about each of the techniques used in the seamless construction of the garments in the collection. In case you missed it the first up was Caelius and Carol talks in-depth about it here.

So which is your favourite? Let us know in the comments and to be one of the first to know about releases, KAL’s and discounts why not sign up to the newsletter. 

Nadia

New Year, plans!

happy-knitting-in-2017Well a new year appears to have started. The beginning of every year is equal parts relaxing and chaotic in our house. The lack of routines makes life much easier as the daily rush is gone. However having so many people around the house (with teens that won’t get up before noon) as well as guests floating in and out adds more than a little chaos!
I think now at this point my head is ready to start planning for the new year. I’ve downloaded all of my year end bank and paypal statements. I’ve added all receipts to the spreadsheet and  I’m ready to tidy up last year and put it away in it’s little box. Once that’s finished my head is ready to indulge in new year planning.

Last Year

KWR COVER

The last 12 months have been busy. I often don’t acknowledge quite how busy unless I go back and review. It looks like I released 37 pattern in total in 2016 (you can take a look at them easily on ravelry here). These included the Irish Yarn Club 2016, a new book (Knitting With Rainbows), 7 patterns with books and magazines, a kit with Craftsy and of course a yarn collaboration with Love Knitting!

ridgeback-hat-and-cowl-kit-1On top of that I had quite a few teaching trips in Ireland and abroad. So it was a busy year for my business but also on a personal level my oldest headed off to college this year as well. Fortunately he was very ready to go and Ireland is small enough that he can visit whenever he needs to!

2017

I don’ t think 2017 will be any quieter than 2016. I’ve already booked tickets for Birmingham, Edinburgh, Cologne and Columbus over the next 5 months so I’ll have lots of fun traveling for work to start the year out. I’ve got a stack of knitting that’s ready for photography that I can share with you in the next few months. Irish Yarn Club 2017 is underway with the patterns already started. I have a HUGE surprise that I can reveal by the end of February. I’m terrible at keeping surprises though so I might leave a few hints sneak out before then!  And of course no year is complete without some fun KALs along the way!

At the end of 2016 I did a series of cable tutorials and a blog post on the topic here. In the coming months I wanted to do a set of tutorials on seamless knitting. There are lots of tips and tricks that make seamless knitting much easier that you usually have to learn the hard way so hopefully I can make the learning process a little faster.

What would you like to see?

So I’ve told you as much as I can of 2017 plans. What would you like to see? Is there any special tutorials you’d like covered? Pattern type you’d just love to see? Leave me a comment and let me know what you’re thinking! Happy 2017 to you all!!

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Interview with S Twist

Back in 2010 (although it was released in 2011) I wrote the book, Contemporary Irish Knits, that looked at the Irish mills that spun yarn commercially for hand knitters in Ireland as well as the Irish hand-dyers that were operating here at that time. However no market stands still and the yarn industry in Ireland continues to change and develop. Over the coming months I wanted to do a few interviews with people in the Irish yarn industry to find out what’s going on right now.

A few weeks ago I asked Diarmuid from S Twist Wool if he’s answer some questions on the Irish sheep, spinning and yarn industry. I met Diarmuid at This Is Knit when he was doing a spinning demonstration and his knowledge of the Irish yarn industry from farmer up to the mill is very in-depth. As a spinner he’s got a very unique perspective on the industry that he’s shared with you all here.

Sheep have been with us humans for over 10,000 years. One of the earliest animals to be domesticated, they can now be found on terrains ranging from rocky, Irish mountainsides to Sudanese deserts. Valued for their meat, milk and wool, they have enabled civilisations to develop and cultures to flourish.

According to the ITWO, worldwide sheep population in 2014 totalled aprox. 1.157 billion sheep and clean wool production was around 1,163 million kg. For a long time, most wool went to the clothing industry. These would have been the finer fibres which would have fetched higher prices. However, a few years ago, the scales tipped and now most wool goes to the interior textiles industry, which would use more durable wools. Irish wool for the most part is collected up by the wool merchants and exported for further processing. While exact figures are not available, most of this wool would be Blackface mountain wool. This would mean that the wool would be used for more durable items and would go at a lower market price.

At the same time, Ireland had a sheep population of around 3.6 million spread over 35,000 flocks. The average flock size was 104 sheep, with 69% of flocks having less than this and 42% having less than 50 sheep. Less than 2% of flocks (661) belonged to the largest grouping, over 500 sheep. The following map shows the population density by county.

Know Your Neighbours

In case you’re wondering, that white bit at the top does not mean that they don’t like sheep.

From these figures we can see that, in general, the Irish flocks will be of a small size and only a very few farmers would dedicate themselves purely with sheep.

This year, farmers were being paid from 0.60 -1.30 per kilo. Shearing costs can be between 2 and 3 Euro per sheep, or even higher depending on flock size, and we would be looking at about 2 – 3 kilo per fleece. Add onto this, costs of transport and any additional labour involved. This means that in most cases, farmers barely break even on selling fleece.

Of course, shearing is just the first step in the process.

Sometimes more steps than this, sometimes less, and not necessarily in this order

Sometimes more steps than this, sometimes less, and not necessarily in this order

These are by far not the only steps, and they may not always be done in this order, but this would be generally how the process goes in large scale industries.

Shearing

The sheep are brought together and the shearer (or team of shearers) remove the fleece, preferably in one piece. If you ever get the chance to see shearing up close, you really should. Here’s a short clip from showing a tutor from the British Wool Board giving a class to the Irish Sheep Shearers Association in Camolin, Wicklow.

Skirting

As the sheep is shorn, the underbelly of the sheep becomes the outline of the fleece. This part of the fleece is usually the dirtiest part, with encrusted dirt, twigs and other VM (Vegetable material). It is usually the part with most kemp, long coarse hairs, if present.

Sorting

Wool from different parts of the sheep has particular characteristics. For example, wool at the shoulders will be finer than the rest. A skilled sorter will be able to divide a fleece up to 14 different grades.

Washing / Scouring

Sheep’s wool contains dirt and grease. The grease is secreted by the sheep to waterproof its fleece. It is called lanolin and is used in skin-care products. Getting the dirt out of the fleece is relatively easy. Getting the grease out, scouring, requires a large amount of hot water and chemicals to break down the grease. Anywhere from 15 to 35 litres is used to scour one kilo of wool. The sludge from the dirt and the grease from the lanolin can be recovered from the effluent, although only up to about 40% of the lanolin. From an Irish perspective, scouring is probably the most troublesome step of all and we will touch upon this later.

Carbonising

After the wool has been scoured, it is immersed in a Sulfuric acidic solution. This is to help dry ouy the vegetable matter. After the wool has been dried, the wool is baked at 95 – 120 degrees. This carbonises the the VM. The wool is the passed through heavy presses and all the carbnised matter crushed to a powder and shaken out from the wool.

Blending

In order to achieve the uniformity that is needed to help the following processes run smoothly, wool of the same characteristics from different batches are blended together.

Bleaching

To get a uniform, final colour, the wools need to have the same tone as a starting point. The wool is put in a bleach solution, ph balanced, rinsed then dried.

Dyeing

Great care is taken to ensure that batches are as uniform and repeatable as possible.

Carding

A small amount of lubricating oil is added to the wool and passed through a machine comprised of rotating drumes covered in fine, metal teeth. This serves to seperate, open up and align the fibres.

Spinning

The fibres are drawn out and spun. 2 or more of these threads may then be spun together to form plied yarns.

Packaging

After washing and drying to remove the oil added in the last step, the yarn is made into balls, skeins or wound onto cones and is ready to move on to the yarn user.

Currently what does the production process for Irish yarn look like?

At the moment, to the best of my knowledge, those who produce yarns with Irish wool can be loosely put into three categories. On one end of the scale, you have the handspinner who will scour and card by hand and produce small amounts, usually in conjunction with other related business activities such as classes or farm products.

At the other end of the scale, you have the larger scale industrial mills who will spin small amounts of Irish wool and import the rest from New Zealand, Australia or the UK. In the middle you have companies, like S Twist Wool, who work with Irish wool only. One of the things that we all have in common is the fact that we are all hobbled by the lack of scouring facilities in Ireland. When wool is sent abroad to be scoured, it will get mixed together with wool of other origins and when it comes back, it can no longer be sold as Irish wool. This is the case with one mill, who make the effort and care to use Irish wools, but simply cannot label it as Irish. Most Irish mills have the facility to scour small amounts for their own use.

S Twist Wool gets around this by doing its own scouring on-site in Tipperary using an alternative method called suint fermentation. This method uses no energy, no chemicals and a fraction of the water that other methods use. However, I need the wool to be sent abroad to be spun for me.

Is it possible, and how much would it cost approximately to operate that part of the production in Ireland? Would it be a stand-alone industry or something that was part of an existing mill?

By looking at recent trends, both here and abroad, I think that the future of Irish wool will resemble the development of the slow food industry. When a customer walks into a shop, they will have a choice of yarns from different parts of the country with different fleece options available. Of course, while I am focusing on yarn, there are also other products being developed in Ireland from wool. It is being used for a variety of products from Baavet  duvets with wool filling to insulation products for buildings.

The one factor which is essential to having a domestic wool industry that can stand on its own feet is a scouring facility. This is not a novel idea and many people have worked on it over the years. The main challenges are finding a plant of the right size that would serve the demands of the Irish market and the economics of having to compete with massive plants. There is not enough wool on the Island to warrant a large scale plant, but having smaller facilities would make it difficult to compete on an even footing. It will be interesting to see what solutions we will come up with to deal with this problem over the next years.

I know that the bureaucratic barriers in place for small scale scouring are considerable, which is understandable considering the effluent that is produced.

This, the future involves a lot of this

This, the future involves a lot of this

How do Irish farmers view and approach wool production currently?

There is an amazing amount of enthusiasm and willingness on the farmers side to have more done with their wool. I think the main reason for this is that for so long there has been a feeling that the wool is a byproduct of taking care of the sheep and not a product in its own right.

Surprisingly, there can be a massive difference between fleece quality and handling from one year to another in the same flock and this can be due to how the fleece are handled after shearing.

Farming is, of course, a business and while there is little to no financial recompense for better handling of fleece, it is difficult to place the blame on farmers for not treating wool with more respect. As the market changes and farmers can be offered a fair price, this will also change.

What types of wool is currently available and are they suitable for knitting uses?

This is a very interesting question. We have a large range of different fleeces available in this country. This year alone I have worked with Blackface, Galway, Shetland, Welsh and Jacob. I will have a small amount of Blue Faced Leicester which should be available in February.

My best selling yarns, by a long shot, are made from blackface mountain wool. For the Irish knitting market, this would be seen as unsuitable. However, they are popular in foreign markets. Looking at trends in other countries, as people get more interested in local yarns, we should see a move away from the softer, ‘luxury’ fibres and instead of Irish wool, people will be able to experience Irish BFL, Galway, Jacob, Shetland etc.

What needs to happen for farmers to prioritise wool production?

It’s difficult to know where to start with this, it’s an involved question. The short answer would be to make it worth their while.

The long answer involves building up an industry basically from scratch and changing people’s awareness of wool. In a concrete sense, the biggest barrier to developing the Irish wool market is a lack of scouring facilities here. Having these would open many possibilities of increasing the value of fleece instead of it being sent abroad for the lowest price going. This would provide the knock on effects needed to build up the wool industry again.

A big thank you to Diarmuid for sharing his knowledge with us!

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Bloomsbury DK

I’ve been hinting over the last few months about some secret projects I was working on. Well now at last the time has come to reveal one of those secrets to you – Bloomsbury DK!

A few months ago Love Knitting asked if I’d like to be involved with a new project with some other designers; the creation of a new yarn line, The Yarn Collective. This venture was completely new to me, I’ve been on the other end of the process, working on finished yarns only before now. This time I was able to be involved from the start, trying out the yarn and picking the colours. The Yarn Collective involves several designers, each getting their own yarn to design the colours for. The first to launch was Melanie Berg last week with the Portland Lace and her lovely SecretKeeper shawl.
It’s my turn this week and I want to introduce you to Bloomsbury DK and the 3 patterns I designed for the yarn. When I started designing the yarns I had a few different things in mind; first I wanted each colour to be one I loved that could stand alone but I also wanted the colours to work together in harmony. To do this I began with a visual inspiration for each set of colours that I worked around.

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Violet, Dango in Fuchsia and Soot

The first set was inspired by the Fuchsia flower. Fuchsias grow wild in west Cork and in fact are often uses as the west Cork symbol. I love the mix of pinks, purples and greys. In the photos you can see a version of the Dango hat in Fuschia that hasn’t been photographed yet. You can see the different colour tones much more easily in the knitted fabric than in the skein.

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Moss, Oz, Indigo and Surf

The next set was based on the deep blues and greens of the sea, especially the deep colours you get when it’s at full swell with huge surfing waves. These are the colours I’m always drawn to; greens and blues.

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Russet, Sand and Copper

The final set is probably knitters (and my!) favourite season, Autumn. Browns, golds and coppers with some subtle dusty beiges. I love how the tones in these three colours just lead into each other.

So that gives you an outline on how I started the colour design process. From there I also wanted to make sure that each individual set related to the others so the neutral tones from each form almost a bridge between them.

Do you have a colour favourite?

Indigo

Indigo

I didn’t expect to love this deep Indigo blue from Dango so much. Knitted up it feels like a gently faded denim jacket, just lovely subtle variations in the navy blue. It’s got so much depth.

Now we can take a look at the patterns I designed for the yarn. There’s no better way to see how  yarn colour behaves then by knitting so I’d suggest giving them a try!


Russler
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First we have Russler, an oversized, side-to-side shawl that is super warm and generously sized. The chevron stitch pattern is great for showing off the interaction between the three different colours – so it’s a bit like wearing Autumn wrapped around your shoulders!


Lignite
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Next we have Lignite.  This is a top-down raglan tunic, with a gentle v-neck. Designed to fit loosely the stripes of grey lace combine with a gentle a-line shape and an asymmetrical short row hem slope. This creates an easy-to-wear top that can be modified for different sizes.


Dango
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Dango is a great uni-sex hat that combines a very subtle spiral cable with a dramatic central focal cable. I can see one of the boys robbing the sample over Christmas!

Yarn for all these patterns is available exclusively through Love Knitting. Keep an eye on the Yarn Collective over the coming days for some more revelations!

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New pattern: Bespin

Last year I got some yarn. But it wasn’t just any yarn, it was a really, really huge single skein of Empire yarn from Jill Makes Stuff.

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My winder wasn’t big enough to hold it all so it was broken down into several smaller cakes.

Every autumn Jill releases several batches of this yarn. Each year I look at it longingly and resist. But last year I eventually went ahead and got myself one of the mighty skeins! The yarn has got a nice high twist and feels very firm when you knit it. As the yarn has such a dense feel to it I wanted to use a more open stitch pattern to lighten it up a little. After some experimenting this is what I settled on, a broken rib pattern with yarnover rows that was dense enough to be warm but still open enough to make the sweater a little lighter.

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If you’re thinking about yarn substitution, Kerry Woollen Mills Aran yarn has a similar weight although Empire is a softer yarn.

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Bespin is knit from the bottom up; it starts with both the front and back hem knit separately (you can see that the back hem is a little longer). These increases in the pattern are shown in both charted and written format so it makes the start easier. Once the hem is finished it’s joined in the round and worked straight to the armhole opening. In the sample shown I’ve got just over 1″ / 2.5 cm of positive ease however I think this is a sweater that would work really well with a generous amount of positive ease, going for 3-4″ / 7.5-10 cm bigger than you bust size should make a great oversized winter sweater.

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Once the body is finished the sleeves are knit in the round also. As they are in stockinette stitch they just fly off the needles!

Finally the body and sleeves are joined in the round. This is a tricky maneuver for the first few rounds as you’re squeezing small sleeves into a bigger yoke circumference. I usually use a much bigger circular needle than necessary and pull a ‘loop’ similar to magic loop out at the middle of the sleeve. I find that this gives enough extra movement to really ease the difficulty of joining the sleeves to the body.

The yoke of this sweater uses raglan shoulder shaping; you can see that the pattern stitch is ‘eaten away’ as you begin working the decreases. By now you will know the pattern stitch very well so it’s easy to see how to maintain the pattern, and for any extra stitches you’ve got you can just work them as knit or purl. The raglan shaping goes through a few different sections (with different decrease rates) so that the yoke is deep enough and each part of the neck fits just right. Each of these sections is detailed with a full stitch count chart for the entire yoke given so you can easily track your work and stitch counts.

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Finally the neck is bound off at the front with decreases worked to shape it. For a deeper neck it’s possible to start the decreases sooner. I opted to use bound-off stitches and decreases at the front rather than short rows as I found it easier to maintain the pattern stitch. If you want to experiment though you could try doing it with short rows also!

I hope you have fun knitting Bespin; do you have any Empire (or another heavy aran) yarn waiting for the perfect project?

Behind the Scenes with the Yarn Club

For the last 3 years I’ve been running the Irish Yarn Club with This Is Knit. I had always wanted to do a club and one that featured Irish hand dyers seemed perfect! A lot of my design work tends to be garments so a club with very focused, smaller pieces seemed like a fun project to work on.
When we are putting the clubs together I try to keep a mix at every level; with yarn type, colours dyed and project types. This keeps it interesting for me designing and makes it more likely for knitters to have a project they can fall in love with.
In last year’s club we decided on 3 different yarn weights; lace weight (Hedgehog Fibres ‘Merino Lace‘), fingering weight (Townhouse Yarns ‘Spire Singles‘) and worsted (Donegal Wool Spinning Company dyed by Dublin Dye Company).

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Each of these yarn had very different properties that would create very different dye effects. To start with Yvonne from Dublin Dye Company did some experimenting with the Donegal yarn. Hand dyers primarily use superwash yarn, which behaves very well with hand dyeing. When a colour is applied it stays pretty much where it is put which allows them to create semi-solid colours and even speckles. However the Donegal yarn was a woollen spun (very hairy!) yarn and obviously not superwash. This means that when dye is applied it immediately gets sucked up into the fibre and spreads quickly. Due to this a semi-solid to solid colour was the best option. The colour that Yvonne created was a wonderful rich green. The base yarn starts off as a darker colour, closer to a beige brown, and when it was dyed even a small amount created a rich, deep colour. In fact the amount of dye needed was closer to what she would generally use to create a pastel shade on a white yarn base!
As this yarn was a worsted weight with less than 200m I wanted a smaller project. I ended up settling on a cabled hat (Sheephaven) with a folded brim that used the complete skein and created a cosy hat that really showed off the colour. I did get caught with yarn amount though – the medium size used the single skein exactly but several knitters were running a little short. Even a slight difference in either the yardage of the skein or in knitting tension is enough to push it over the edge of a single skein.


The next yarn was the lace yarn with Hedgehog Fibres. Working with Beata I knew that she was creating some fantastic speckled yarn at the moment so that seemed like a great dyeing technique to have in the club. I used pinterest to throw out a few colour ideas to her and let her do her magic :-)
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When designing with the laceweight yarn there was a huge amount of yardage, 1200 m! This really opens up the possibilities for different project types. I started experimenting with stitch patterns that enhanced speckled yarn and eventually settled on a drop stitch pattern that showed off the colours and also broke it up a bit.

1 Not everyone likes doing garment type projects so Kompeito had both the option of a sleeveless vest or just a side-to-side shawl.


The final yarn for last years club was a fingering weight gradient yarn dyed by Townhouse Yarns. I was particularly excited about this yarn as I was also starting on my Knitting With Rainbows book! I put a pinterst board together with some colour ideas.
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As you can see we were talking about a big range of colours in the gradient. Because of this I decided to use a slip stitch pattern in the project. Slip stitches are a great way of combining different colours together and work best when there is an obvious difference between each colour. This project comes with 5 little skeins (20g each) of each colour. Before you start knitting you divide each of them in 2 again so you have enough yarn for each of your arm warmers. Proby’s Armwarmers were knit nice and long to take full advantage of the range of colours, I wanted to make sure that as much yarn as possible was used! This project actually ended up in Knitting With Rainbows as it fit right in :-)
So there you have a brief overview of the yarn colour and design process. It’s all about variety and creating the best match of yarn, colour and project.

What kind of projects and yarn will you be hoping for in the 2017 club?

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Anticipation

Take a deep breath, yip you smell that right? The air around here is ripe with the smell of anticipation. The Irish Yarn Club is soon to open memberships on October 24th and last year memberships went pretty fast!
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The Irish Yarn Club is now in it’s fourth year and each year brings with it something special. Carol designs 3 items that go with the unique colourway and yarn weight dyed by 3 talented Irish Hand Dyers. This year that will be Hedgehog Fibers, Townhouse Yarns and Dublin Dye Company. There is lots more of the technical information on the Yarn Club page over on ThisisKnit.ie and if you would like to hear about how it all started you can read Carol’s Blog Post from our archives here.
I thought I would showcase some of your fine talent and Carol’s patterns from previous years there are no spoilers in this post I’m afraid and each year Carol has mixed it up and kept even myself and those in This is Knit guessing!  First up from 2014’s yarn club is one of my favorites and I’m all about hats at the moment. Tempano is a cabled hat in Hedgehog Fiber’s twist sock.  The choice of cable and twist sock base allows the cables to really pop. The Image here is from a lovely knitter, Polli,  who joined the yarn club all the way from Finland. (Yes they do post worldwide for the club!)
Handknit hat in Hedgehog fibers twist sock Design by Carol Feller

polli’s Tempano in Hedgehog Fiber’s Twist Sock

It was hard to chose a pictures for 2014’s shawl Dunderry but rkavanagh’s Dunderry in  Coolree Silk/Baby Camel fingering snapped it for me. My eye’s just kept going back to it. The silk allows the lace pattern to really open up and it drapes beautifully. You lucky knitters, 2014 was a special year.

rkavanagh's Dunderry in Coolree Silk/Baby Camel fingering

rkavanagh’s Dunderry in Coolree Silk/Baby Camel fingering

The final pattern in 2014 was Talium in Dublin Dye Merino Sock and these are a real treat. The have short rows shaping the heel and toe with an elegant arrow pattern running the length of the sock.

Talium by Carol Feller

Talium by Carol Feller

2015 was a new year and brought new exclusive colourways and they do like to mix things up and Townhouse Yarns joined in. Carol designed the lovely Fortune Green Cowl for the Camden Tweed Base and this is to this day one of my favourite cowls and yarn bases. Cowls are a lovely gift knit but also very handy in have in your bag and pull out when the weather suddenly turns a bit nippy.  This cowl has a slightly wider base to allow you to really snuggle up in it and the lace and cable panels really add a celtic flair to the knit.

Jazzycath's Fortuen Green Cowl

Jazzycath’s Fortuen Green Cowl

The surprise of 2015 was the pattern Dalchini, it’s a fun lace knit in Dublin Dye Company Alpaca Sport. here kkkkate has made the Flapless version suggestion on the forums by Carol. There is a lot of action in the Irish Yarn Club forum and Carol and the staff from This is Knit will be there to help you out.

kkkkate's Dalchini in Dublin Dye Alpaca Sport

kkkkate’s Dalchini in Dublin Dye Alpaca Sport

The final pattern in 2015 was the Feamainn Shawl in Hedgehog Fibres Silk/Merino Lace. I love the stunning colourway and did I mention that these colourways are never to be repeated?

Feamainn Shawl by Carol Feller

Feamainn Shawl by Carol Feller

We are almost all caught up and last year the team behind the IYC shook things up a little. You can read Carol’s blog post for the full background but suffice to say the introduction of yarn from an Irish mill in Donegal was as added to the mix and then dyed by Dublin Dye Company. Carol designed the hat pattern Sheephaven to showcase the beautiful flecks in the Donegal yarn. Yvonne from Dublin Dye chose a lovely subtle colour to bring out these flecks too. That was really something special.  This is secretly (or not so secretly) a favourite of so many knitters. The yarn is lofty and just asks you to be cabled (You don’t talk to your yarn? You should, it’s very chatty)

Sheephaven by Carol Feller in Dublin Dye Company's Donegal WSC base.

Sheephaven by Carol Feller in Dublin Dye Company’s Donegal WSC base.

If that wasn’t enough of a shocker, everyone thought that the patterns would just be for accessories right? Oh no Carol designed Kompeito in Hedgehog Fibres Merino Lace  which has a very generous 1200M and allowed this beautiful shawl / vest to really shine. There was many an excited squeal when those packages where open, I don’t quite know how the serves of Twitter held up to the tweets and excitement!

Konpeito by Carol Feller in Hedgehog Fiber's Merino Lace

Konpeito by Carol Feller in Hedgehog Fiber’s Merino Lace

The final pattern is one that I can’t believe I missed out on (gasp! I know I missed last year sniffle) Probys is made with Townhouse Yarns gradient mini skeins. The pattern has also popped up later in Knitting with Rainbows because it was loved so much! The mitts below are by the wonderful filidhruadh on ravelry who joined in all the way from Switzerland!

filidhruadh's Probys mitts in Townhouse Yarns Mini Skeins

filidhruadh’s Probys mitts in Townhouse Yarns Mini Skeins

So what surprises are in store for you this year? Well your going to have to head on over to the Irish Yarn Club page to find out!

See you next week

Nadia

 

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Choosing Your Yarn

Yarn substitution can be a very tricky thing. On the surface it seems like just picking a yarn with the same gauge should do the job but that is just the starting point!

I’ve had a few requests for substitutions for the Luwan KAL so I thought I’d do a little swatching and put my thoughts and some general information together for knitters.

Yarn varies is several different ways but the three most significant are; weight, construction and fiber blend. If you want to substitute a yarn within a pattern ideally all 3 of these items should be as close as possible to the original yarn used for the sample. Now if that’s not possible you can pick the items that are most important to you and swatch in the stitch pattern used.

This swatch will tell you a few different things:

  • Do you get close to the original gauge?
  • How does the fabric feel and move?
  • Does the yarn do the stitch pattern justice/does it look good?

Lets break down these yarn characteristics and discuss each one separately.

YARN WEIGHT

It seems like this should be an easy one – pick a yarn that is either named the same or has the same weight, right?

However yarn names are very, very confusing! For Luwan we used a yarn that is technically a ‘dk’ weight yarn but if you look at dk (double knit) yarns they can range from 20 to 24 stitches per 4″ / 10 cm. Due to this I’d suggest watching the gauge rather than the name of the yarn, this will be the best indicator.

With this yarn you can see that using 4.5mm (US size 7) needles I get a gauge of 18 stitches per 4″ / 10 cm in pattern. This is obviously a bigger gauge than dk yarn but yet the stitches don’t appear to be loose? There are a couple of reasons for this; firstly the pattern stitch naturally creates a bigger gauge than stockinette stitch. But also this ‘dk’ yarn is both a heavy dk and a single ply yarn. When you hold the yarn it ‘fluffs out’ and takes up much more space than it seems like it should! This means that it looks great knit more loosely than it’s name would indicate. I’ll talk a bit more about the construction in the next section. So when looking at yarn weight look for either a heavy DK weight yarn or a light worsted yarn for best results.

YARN CONSTRUCTION

There are several different ways to make yarn. I’m definitely not a spinning expert but I’ve got enough working knowledge to get started and know how a yarn will behave.

The 2 main ways yarn is spun is either Woollen spun or Worsted spun.

With Woollen spun when the fibre is carded it’s allowed to remain scattered in different directions. This creates a yarn that will have loose hairs poking out but it makes a much lighter fluffier yarn. When you knit with Woollen spun yarn after blocking the yarn ‘blooms’, which means that it really fills in and softens the stitches.

Worsted spun has all the fibres lined up in the same direction. This creates a smoother but heavier yarn. You will have better stitch definition but you won’t get the ‘blooming’ effect after the yarn is blocked.

The yarn used in the Luwan KAL (Silky Single Targhee) is spun in a different way again. Both Woollen and Worsted spinning refer to yarns that are plied. This means that several strands of fibre are twisted together to form a strong stable yarn. This yarn however is a single yarn. This means that there is only a single strand of yarn twisting on itself. To give it a bit of stability and strength it is lightly felted which gives it a little firmness and durability. Often single yarns can be unbalanced, wanting to curl up on itself as you work. Fortunately the felting seems to help with this and this yarn didn’t have that issue. Due to the yarn being a single yarn it blooms very nicely when washed to create a nice full fabric.

YARN FIBRE

Silky Single Targhee is made from 70% Targhee wool and 30% silk. Wool is the dominant fibre in the yarn and you can feel that when you are working with it. Silk adds softness and a bit more weight as it is a heavy fibre.

For substituting you could comfortable use a yarn that is 100% wool. I think it would behave well enough to hold the stitch pattern. Silk does add a little bit extra though!

Lets take a look at a few swatches now to figure out how all the factors influence our final swatches.

The swatch below shows from top to bottom SHELTER, Dovestone DK, and the KAL yarn Silky Single Targhee. Both of the substituted swatches I did here are woollen spun which means that they have a hairier look. This creates a totally different looking stitch pattern! The Shelter ended up being too heavy and gave me much too big a gauge. The Dovestone DK however was spot on for both stitch and row gauge. It does look really different though! I suspect that woollen spun is a little too hairy to allow the stitch pattern to show through enough.

Below is another Blue Moon Fiber Arts yarn – Targhee Worsted in colour Gourdy. This is a plied yarn so the texture is a little different but I got both stitch and row gauge with it for Luwan so it could be a potential substitute if you didn’t want to use a singles yarn.

So now it’s in your court! What yarn will you use? Come chat with other knitters on the ravelry board here, it can be very helpful to get advice from other knitters!

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More Manos Pretties!

Well I’ve had a busy week adding new patterns! Until the end of September all of these 3 patterns (whether you purchase on my site or ravelry) have an automatic 15% discount.

Earlier this week I shared the first of my Manos Del Uruguay patterns, Clypea which is a striped hat using a slip stitch pattern between the stripes.
The next day I released a fun shawl, Mylio.


This shawl is knit from the top down and uses extra increases along the edges to create a wide wing effect. The central increases work along each side of the lace panel, stepping out a full repeat every time you’ve completed a lace repeat for an interesting stepped effect. Outside the lace panel this shawl is worked in garter stitch and has a delicate, fun ruffle at the bottom edge.

The final one of this pattern trio is Strombus.



This is a top down cardigan that uses short row set in sleeves and has a double-breasted front panel that buttons across itself. This cardigan is knit more loosely to allow it to flow and swing, the side panels are in garter stitch and widen as you go down the body to create a swinging a-line. I’ve show this cardigan with several inches of positive ease but it will also work well a little more closely fitted if that’s how you like to wear your cardigans!

Manos patterns

A few months ago Rooster Yarns (who distribute Manos Del Uruguay yarns) asked if I’d like to do a few patterns in their yarn. I really enjoy working with these yarns so I jumped at the chance!
I opted to work with Serena yarn which is a lightweight blend of alpaca and cotton. It’s an unusual yarn blend and can easily be worked in a wide range of gauges. The three patterns I designed give a pretty good idea of the different ways it can be knit up.

The first pattern I want to share with you is Clypea.

This is knit using smaller 3mm needles to keep the gauge of the yarn a bit tighter so it will hold the shape of the hat. It creates a super soft and fluffy fabric that is very stretchy. The hat is pictured here on my brother-in-law but due to the slouchy style and stretchy fit this hat also very comfortably fits my head also.
The colour range of this yarn is very subtle which really makes combining colours very easy – just pick your favourites and start knitting!
The hat starts with a folded brim, I used the brighter yellow colour for the inner layer so the edge just peaks through at the fold. Then each time you change the colour a simple slip stitch pattern worked for a few rows creates a very interesting colourwork pattern with no stranding! I love slip stitch patterns for colour blending, it’s simple to do and works really well.


The hat is knit nice and long as the light fabric makes it slouch really nicely. The crown decreases are all done in the brighter yellow colour again to tie the whole hat together. Overall I’m pretty fond of this one!