Once again I am delighted to be joining in with Project Peace, Christina Campbell’s (aka The Healthy Knitter) annual worldwide Knit Along to promote peaceful mindful knitting during the hectic holiday season. Christina already has almost 1000 people joining in so far this year – from all around the world…..ready to knit the beautiful Project Peace cowl and ‘spread seeds of peace’ by knitting together. One or two skeins will knit either version of the cowl. I will donate 10% of all BFL Suri Blend, sold in December, to Unicef and I will pop a peaceful little ‘something extra’ into each package too. In addition, Christina will donate all pattern proceeds to charity.
The best place to find out more about this wonderful initiative is to visit Christina’s website. But, in summary, this is a way to join knitters around the world and to ‘promote peace for self, family, community, the people of our world and this beautiful planet’. Christina posts a blog daily with little ‘seeds’ helping us to think and reflect – last year I found them lovely calm little points in each day, just perfect to quietly absorb for a few moments during this very busy time of year.
I will add a special new dye shade ‘Sea Breeze’ , just for Project Peace, in BFL Suri to the shop over the weekend of 1/2 December – hopefully Saturday 1st December in the evening. It will be a tonal indigo blue, similar to the shade I am knitting my version in……but completely unique just for Project Peace! In the meantime there are lots of lovely dyed and undyed (natural cream and silver) skeins in the shop at the moment.
*As of 29 November, I haven’t yet finished my version of the cowl (which Christina kindly released early for me to begin testing yarn suitability) so I can’t be certain I’ll complete the whole cowl with one skein – it may be a little close, but the pattern is very forgiving and easy to adapt – the final repeat can easily be missed out if yarn looks to be running low. Or you could choose two skeins to knit the larger version of the cowl. All the pattern details are available when you buy the pattern and the full knitting instructions are released on 1 December.
I realise that I haven’t talked all that much about natural dyeing – I think that, as it is something I do on a regular basis (rather than new patterns and yarns which are more of an ‘event’), I don’t tend to share what I have been up to. I thought I’d share part of an interview that I did for Clare Devine’s blog (thank you Clare!)…………..
”Clare: Your yarns are naturally dyed. Could you tell me a little more about why you decided to use natural dyes and what inspires your colour choices.
Me: It was actually natural dyes which drew me into setting up Black Isle Yarns. I began with natural dyeing for my own use – collecting plant material while out on walks and experimenting with colour for fun. I very quickly began to feel that I wanted to know where the yarn I was dyeing came from and, having grown up on a smallholding and having a lifelong love of farming and land management, I knew there would be a lot of wool locally which was fetching little to no money for the farmer. I sounded out a couple of local flock owners who I already knew and began searching for a mill to use. I was incredibly lucky to start with The Border Mill, they are great to work with and always prepared to try new ideas.
I was originally drawn to dyeing with natural materials because of my love of plants and the outdoors – there is something incredibly satisfying in creating colour with material gathered while out walking. Perhaps because of my background, I tend to have a map in my head of the plants in my local area and when they are likely to be coming into leaf or flower. I love spotting something new on a familiar walking route and storing it’s location away for future reference. I think these same walks inspire my colour choices. I’m incredibly lucky to live in a very beautiful part of the world. The Black Isle is a unique part of the Scottish Highlands, a little peninsula surrounded by sea. From home I can walk down to the beach and along the shore to caves and cliffs, or inland through fields and up into the hills and woods that make up the top of the Black Isle. Colours here are often slightly muted with beautiful shades and tones, and I think these are definitely reflected in the colours I dye. Over time, and as I build expertise (natural dyeing is such an artform, I will always be learning), I would like to work towards a set of deeper more saturated shades which would reflect the more bold colours we have when it is cold and clear after a good fall of snow.
I’m so very pleased to share with you the Munlochy Socks, designed for Killen Sock (you can read more about Killen Sock, my all-natural sock yarn, here) by the very talented Clare Devine. When I first started planning Killen Sock , over 18 months ago now, I knew that I’d ideally like a pattern designed by Clare. She is a very experienced sock designer with a beautiful, subtle aesthetic which I love – and she champions the use of no-nylon, all-natural sock yarn. There’s some great information, about knitting with and wearing no-nylon sock yarn, on her website: here and here. I was quite nervous about asking Clare and so delighted when she said yes!
Clare has designed ‘cosy socks which are perfect winter warmers – they are warm and will wear beautifully. The simple cable wave undulates over the garter stitch panels creating a gorgeous texture.’
If you design a pair of Munlochy Socks in Killen I’d love to see the finished socks – and would be very grateful for any feedback on my new yarn.
I’m incredibly pleased to be able to tell you about Killen my brand new all-natural sock yarn. Killen is designed as a strong but soft yarn suitable for knitting socks, with Mohair used alongside Bluefaced Leicester for strength. This yarn is a soft, strong 4 ply (fingering weight) which takes dye beautifully.
I first began thinking of making an all-natural sock yarn around 18 months ago and had a small test batch of Killen spun with summer 2017’s fleeces. The Bluefaced Leicester came from a small show flock called Eilean Dubh (gaelic for Black Isle) owned by a school friend of my eldest. Unfortunately later that summer the Eilean Dubh flock had to be disbanded as the Laughton family were struggling to secure rental grazing. For 2018’s larger batch I worked with two new-to-me local flocks, Wester Raddery and Craigallan – I aim to build a long-term relationship with both farms and to continue selecting and buying high quality fleece from their beautiful flocks. Killen is a small rural hamlet in the centre of the Black Isle and lies more-or-less centrally between these three flocks, hence the name of the yarn.
Sourcing Mohair hasn’t been straightforward. I started, in 2017, with fleece from a flock local to The Border Mill (who spins Killen so skilfully) but unfortunately the fleeces had skin flakes and couldn’t be processed. Luckily TBM had some British Mohair leftover from a previous project and that was used in the test batch. I worked hard to track down traceable Mohair for summer 2018 and was delighted to find a flock in the Lake District from which I bought the fleeces needed for the second batch………..but unfortunately it transpired that these fleeces were contaminated with a resin which couldn’t be washed off! Having searched pretty thoroughly earlier in the year I knew I was very unlikely to find any other British Mohair fleece so I decided to use South African Mohair in order to be sure of the quality of the yarn.
Resolis Mittens are just what you need for a winter walk by the beach. Using just three mini-skeins of Shetland DK and a simple 4 stitch colour work motif, these striking mittens are quick to knit and will keep your fingers toasty warm whatever the weather.
They’re a great introduction to stranded colourwork……..I think I must knit my own pair so that I’m not tempted to get the sample pair mucky! Thank you Emily, once again, for designing something so beautiful for my yarns.
I was delighted when Love Patchwork and Quilting Magazine asked me if I could come up with another design along the lines of my Bunny Comforter (which was published by LPQ in 2015 in Issue 20). I came up with a sweet little mouse – like the Bunny Comforter, Little Mouse is designed in Liberty Tana Lawn (I think the small prints work very well for this kind of project and the soft texture is perfect) and cotton flannel.
Little Mouse is a little fiddly but well worth the while, and I can vouch for her making small people very happy! Original Bunny Comforter below.
Here’s my Starburst Quilt for Love Patchwork and Quilting Mag Issue 60 – a happy burst of colour! Starburst uses big, bold half-square triangles around an improv-pieced central star. It is quilted in radiating lines from the top left corner to mimic rays of sunshine.
I used Blueberry Park by Karen Lewis Textiles (Robert Kaufman) for this quilt – I love Karen’s graphic designs and bold colours and the quality of the fabric is superb. The quilt takes a little planning but comes together really quickly – it is a satisfying make!
Apologies for the lack of whole quilt photo – I gifted it before remembering to take one!
The Rhidorroch Hat is a beautiful new pattern designed in my Coulmore yarn (Organic First Clip Cheviot) by Emily K Williams. The hat is named after Rhidorroch which is the west coast farm that partners Coulmore, here on the Black Isle. Rhidorroch is where their flock of North Country Cheviots spend the summer before coming over to the more gentle east coast for the winter.
The hat is gently slouchy, with a generous pom pom on top, and uses slipped stitches to add definition and texture to the stripes.
I dyed 30g mini skeins of Coulmore for the sample hat in indigo, indigo and annatto and, indigo and heather (the pattern uses one mini skein of natural white of too). From time to time I’ll have kits (with just the right amount of yarn in four shades -30g x 4) available in my shop and when I attend shows. I’m always happy to put together a custom kit so please do contact me if you are interested but don’t see a set available in the shop at present. (email@example.com)