I thought it might be fun to highlight some of the patterns which I love and which will work well with the yarns going into tonight’s update (7pm GMt Friday 9th February).

The Callachy Hat and Mitts that Emily Williams designed for Black Isle Yarns were intended for Shetland DK *, and the patterns and yarn were available at Loch Ness Knit Fest and Nottingham Yarn Exp selling out before I could make them available online.  However, both Zwartbles BFL Blend and Zwartbles Cheviot Blend would work well for the hat and mitts.   I think the Zwartbles BFL is particularly suited to the hat and Zwartbles Cheviot to the mitts.  You can buy the patterns directly from Emily’s Ravelry shop here – Emily has a very good reduced price if you buy both together.
Callachy Mitts

Callachy Hat

Two skeins of Bluefaced Leicester Suri Alpaca Blend 4 ply would make a wonderful one-colour Eathie Shawl – the original shawl used just 180g, so with 200g you could add a few extra repeats and end up with a beautifully long drapey shawl.  Or a single skein would quickly knit up in Clare Devine’s Lode Shawl……my version, in one skein of last year’s Longwool Blend , is shown below (another yarn that I hope to bring back this autumn!). I find it is such an easy, comfortable shawl to wear and it is getting a lot of use at the moment.
Lode shawl

I do love knitting hats so have another three to suggest to you (all of which would be good in any of my DK weight yarns but I think, especially, Gotland DK).  All will work with less than one skein of yarn and are fun but relaxing knits.  The photo shows myself and my two daughters on a walk this winter, when I suddenly realised that we were all wearing hand knit hats – needless to say that made me very happy!

On the left I am wearing my Acai Hat by Clare Devine (knit for me as a very kind gift, in my Shetland DK, by the lovely Lorna). In the middle, Katie is wearing her Wildflowers Cap, a pattern by M J Mucklestone. I knit this in Silver Grey Gotland DK with naturally dyed Gotland DK for the flower and pompom.  And on the right, Islay is wearing her Chamomile Hat which is (another!) Clare Devine pattern. I knit it several years ago with West Yorkshire Spinners BFL DK and some leftover yarn scraps but, again, I think it would be lovely in Gotland DK.  I think you could have a lot of fun with these last two patterns (or indeed, many other hat patterns) using Gotland DK with one skein of Cream or Silver Grey as the main colour and a mini skein gradient set for accent colours.  **
Acai, Wildflowers and Chamomile Hats

And finally, if you are looking for a bigger project I can definitely recommend Renee Callahan’s Angelus Novus cardigan.  I have progressed quite a lot since I took the photo below and can’t wait to wear this stylish cardigan.  One of the fascinating things about this cardigan is the construction, you start off as if knitting a shawl and then, later, it morphs into a cardigan shape.  So clever!
Angelus Novus Cardi

* Another batch of Shetland DK (and 4ply this time too) is being spun by The Border Mill as we speak – I’m really looking forward to having this beautiful yarn back in stock, it was very popular last year.
** For info, amounts of yarn used per hat as follows (including pompoms): Acai 76g, Wildflowers 71g and Chamomile 69g.

The striking Eathie Shawl was designed by my friend Emily Williams. Designed especially for the limited supplies of yarn from Horse, Frankenstein and Monkey Face the pattern only needs 60g of each beautiful natural shade (Double Cream, Rugged Grey and Hazy Charcoal) – but because of the lace design it makes a generously sized shawl (around 170cm by 70cm).  The lace itself is simple and relaxing knitting requiring only increases, decreases and yarn overs.  The yarn has been spun beautifully by The Border Mill and is approximately 4ply/fingering weight at 300m/100g.  It has a lovely soft natural lustre and blooms beautifully with it’s first wash.

Yarn from Monkey Face, Frankenstein and Horse

Eathie Shawl - simple lace knitting

The limited supplies of Horse, Frankenstein and Monkey Face were sold as kits along with a copy of the shawl pattern –  and they were all snapped up within 24 hours!  However you can still knit your own in another yarn – visit Emily’s Ravelry page to buy a copy.

Keep an eye out too, as I have plans afoot for the pattern to be adapted for use with DK weight yarn and I will of course have more 4ply/fingering in the future.  While the design was created for this special limited edition yarn it will look stunning in other yarns, both dyed and undyed.

Lace chevrons in Eathie Shawl Eathie Shawl in Eathie Salmon Fishing Bothy Eathie Shawl in Black Isle Yarns

 

Hello and Happy Spring (although it’s rather cold here in the Highlands!)

Last post I introduced the yarns in my new batch, Spring 2017, and promised I’d be back to share information and photos of the farms and sheep that grew the wool.  It has taken a while to get round all three farms – they’re busy people – but I’m so pleased that I can now tell you more about where the wool comes from.

I’ve been working with my very talented friend Emily Williams to bring you a shawl pattern designed exclusively for three yarns from Orrinside Flock.  The release, of the yarns and pattern, is likely to be next Thursday 4th May.  I’ll be notifying the date and time of the yarn release by newsletter (sign up on my homepage) and then also on Instagram.  I’ll share a couple of sneak peeks below!


I loved working with the two women and flocks who produced the wool that went into my ‘scary fine’ Shetland yarn.
‘Meadows Flock’
Sally is the wonderful woman behind Meadows Flock.  From the first moment I contacted her (as the Highland Rep of the Shetland Sheep Society) she has been entirely enthusiastic, helpful and positive about my plans for Black Isle Yarns.  She has been keeping Shetlands for many years and I suspect has ‘enabled’ a great many other small flocks in the Highlands.  Sally rents a variety of small fields on the edge of the beautiful old town of Dornoch and her sheep are the friendliest I’ve ever come across.  On the day we’d arranged for me to visit and photograph the flock unfortunately Sally had to go to a funeral, but she left out a bucket of feed and instructed me to call ‘sheep’ as I arrived………..and lo and behold I had a very willing set of models (including Fudgie the pony!).

Meadows Flock
Meadows Flock

‘Helendale Shetlands’
Janet is a fairly new smallholder who Sally introduced me to.  She lives inland from Dornoch in the stunning Kyle of Sutherland, on the edge of some very wild land indeed.  Again Janet couldn’t have been more helpful (as well as making delicious coffee!) – I’m so enjoying meeting these lovely people with a passion for their sheep and an interest in what happens to their wool.  Her flock were a little more wary of me as a stranger but were clearly very comfortable with Janet……….Janet has adopted Sally’s ‘sheep’ call and they all came running at the sound of her voice, pausing and slowing down once they spotted me.

Helendale Shetlands
Helendale Shetlands

‘Highland Shetlands’

The fleeces I bought from the Meadows and Helendale sheep were nearly all coloured and I felt that the yarn options would be enhanced with some white wool.  I wasn’t able to source any white Shetland fleeces directly from breeders so decided to approach my local Wool Marketing Board at Evanton.  I went with an open mind, not sure whether I’d come home with any wool, but the visit was fascinating and I did pick out several beautiful, high quality white fleeces.

The Evanton depot’s collection range is entirely Highland so although I don’t know the individual farm(s) I do know they’re all local to me. I also know, because of the quality of the fleeces, that the sheep must have been well managed and cared for…………sheep in poor health develop a break in their fleece and will shed parts or all of their wool. The knowledge and skill of the people who work at the Wool Board was very impressive.  Rather than have them pick out fleeces for me I decided to try selecting by myself first and then get their feedback.  I was pleased that 5 of the 6 fleeces I selected passed muster as being the best quality – the fifth was pretty good too but we did find a better one with a bit more searching.

If anyone can point me in the direction of a breeder who has white Shetlands in the Highlands I’d be delighted – I’m still looking but have had no success so far.  Ideally I’d prefer to work directly with sheep owners so they get a good return for the fleeces and so I can build a relationship with them and tell the story behind their wool.


The remaining wool came from one, very eclectic, flock.
‘Orrinside Flock’
Jane is someone who is passionate about livestock and the land – not only does she work in a farm advisory role but she has a huge range of animals on her smallholding, including some very lovely sheep.  Her land is on the edge of the Black Isle, not far from Beauly, and has beautiful views inland to Glen Affric and Cannich – a very lovely area with hill after hill on the horizon.

Her core flock consists of North Country Cheviots which are the main sheep around here. They’re not generally thought to have particularly exciting wool and it is often written off as being fit for carpets only. This is most definitely not the case with the fleeces I chose from Jane’s flock!
Orrinside Flock grazing with views towards Cannich and Affric sm

Alongside her Cheviots Jane has some really special mixed breed ewes.  You can tell from their names how much she loves and enjoys them! The three ewes whose beautiful wool I picked out are Horse (Bluefaced Leicester-Cotswold cross), Monkey Face (possibly Gotland-Hebridean cross) and Frankenstein (Bluefaced Leicester-Cotswold-Cheviot cross) – shown left to right respectively (although Horse, as an old lady who wasn’t at all willing to cooperate, has a stand-in by way of her daughter aptly named ‘Horse’s Daughter’!).  The three yarns from these lovely ladies are the ones that will be released next week – see below for some first glimpses of Emily’s fabulous shawl design.

Orrinside Flock - Horse's Daughter, Monkey Face and Frankenstein
Orrinside Flock – Horse’s Daughter, Monkey Face and Frankenstein

Since I first met Jane last autumn she has bought a couple of Cotswold ewes and a Wensleydale tup – and sent me an excited text to tell me about them!  I’m very much looking forward to some more lovely cross breed fleeces in the years to come.


I hope you enjoyed that wee glimpse of where the yarn comes from.  Here’s a couple of Emily’s photos of the Eathie Shawl in progress. Yarns from, left to right in both photos, Monkey Face, Frankenstein and Horse.

Eathie Shawl
Eathie Shawl

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