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.

 

 

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.  (mail@blackisleyarns.co.uk)

Last year’s Shetland DK was so well received that I was very keen to repeat it with last summer’s (2017) clip.  It arrived, hot from The Border Mill, just in time for Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March this year.  This time round it has been spun at a Sport Weight (275m/100g) as well as DK (170m/100g, as per last year).  Both are semi-worsted spun which gives a very buttery smooth yarn, quite different from a traditional woollen spun Shetland.

The Sport weight is a marl yarn with one ply each of two shades and we have three natural shades – Grey Marl, Fawn Marl and White.

The DK is a heathered yarn, repeating the beautiful heather of last year, also with three natural shades – Grey Heather, Fawn Heather and White.  The heathered effect is achieved with blending a variety of shades of wool along with white.

Once again I found The Border Mill fantastic to work with.  As well as their beautiful spinning, to make the most of this ‘scary fine’ wool, they put a great deal of effort into splitting up the various fleece colours to give the three finished shades in both of the yarn weights.  I had in mind the final shades I was hoping to achieve with the yarns when I was selecting the fleeces – so I kept a rough count the quantity of fleece of each shade, as well as quality of fleece of course, when I was selecting them.  I did approximately sort the fleeces into ‘Grey’, ‘Brown’ and ‘White’ before handing them over but I know that Kate (the Production Manager) then did a much more rigorous sort so that the heather and marl effects could be spun and so that there is approximately the same quantity of each shade in each yarn weight.  Thank you Kate! Kate took some great photos of the Grey Heather DK going through the mill – there’s a separate blog post here.

This year the fleeces came from four different crofts and smallholdings.  They are; Helendale Shetlands, Meadows Flock, Woodside Croft and Bogallan.  You can find more information about the first three flocks in ‘Meet the Sheep‘ but I haven’t added Bogallan as yet as I haven’t got any photos, I was having so much fun choosing beautiful fleeces, when I visited Kathy last summer, that I forgot all about photographing her sheep.  Suffice to say though that Kathy has a lovely flock – very eclectic, mostly Jacob and Shetland but she has quite a few other breeds thrown in too…….I don’t think Kathy can restist adding anything that seems a bit special!

If you’re looking for some inspiration my friend Emily Williams has designed some lovely patterns for the DK Shetland.  There’s the Eathie Shawl and also the Callachy Hat and Mitts (you’ll need less than 100g for a hat or pair of mitts).  I really enjoyed knitting the Leigh Tee with the DK weight held double – this was an easy and quick knit and the finished top is very wearable.  There’s lots more inspiration if you have a look on Ravelry!

   

 

 

I first heard of Coulmore about a year ago when I had an excited phone call from my friend Emily – she was just back from a bike ride, with a group of cycling friends from her son’s school.  While cycling along the shore near North Kessock they’d had to stop for a flock of Cheviots being moved along the road.  Emily started chatting to Maddie, the shepherdess, and discovered the sheep were part of an organic flock on a family run farm with land here on the Black Isle and also on the west coast near Ullapool.  Their land supports Maddie and her husband Neil, plus their daughters and families – Iona at Rhidorroch on the west and Bella at Coulmore here on the east.  They have been organic for many years (wth their barley going into Bruichladdich’s ‘The Organic’ whisky!) and the fleece from their Cheviots fetches even less from the Wool Board than normal, not organic, Cheviot.  Even allowing that the family do the clipping themselves, mostly Maddie in fact, they get very little return for their flock’s fleece.

Coulmore Organic Cheviots

All of this was established before Emily shot off to catch up with her bike ride!  I subsequently contacted Maddie and had a fantastic visit, meeting her and Bella, last spring.  They were keen for me to try having some of their fleece spun, not just because I would pay them a good rate for the wool, but because they really want to see all products from their land being well-used and, if possible, with added value.  I bought some of their hogg clip last summer – a ‘hogg’ being a ewe lamb which is being kept on the farm to be bred from the following year.  I wanted to keep the organic status of the wool and consequently had it spun at The Natural Fibre Company in Cornwall.

Coulmore Cheviot Ewes and Lambs

The wool was beautifully worsted spun by The Natural Fibre Company at two weights – DK (220m/100g) and 4ply (350m/100g).  I am incredibly happy with how this yarn has turned out, it definitely proves wrong the popular belief that Cheviot wool is only good for carpets.  It is a lovely strong wool but with a soft smooth handle and very good stitch definittion – ideal for lace designs and cables, and suited to anything from shawls to jumpers.

Coulmore Organic Cheviot First Clip 4ply sm

Coulmore Cheviot 4ply Organic First Clip sm

I am delighted to say that there is a full review coming, later in March, from Louise Scollay of Knit British, the wonderful champion of British wool – but some of the feedback I have had so far (from Louise herself, one of her testers Gem Davis {Gem has given me permission to use her swatch photo below} and Sarah Berry {who has designed the Comely Bank jumper in Coulmore DK, also see below} includes:

‘is really quite buttery and the stitch definition is lovely’
‘it was absolutely gorgeous, a yarn to be proud of and I think everyone will love it’
‘really enjoying knitting with your beautiful springy wool, it shows the stitch patterns off to perfection’

coulmore swatch by Gem Davis sm

There will be two designs to support Coulmore.  Emily Williams (very fittingly since she enabled the yarn in the first place!) has designed a striking shawl, with two skeins of the 4ply weight. The shawl can be knit as one colour or two.  Emily’s shawl will be released later this week and I’ll have patterns, and yarn of course, available at EYF.  The photo below shows a sneak peek of the two colour version which Clare Shaw beautifully knit up for me.  I have dyed up several more sets of yarn in these two shades – indigo and indigo over heather – for kits at EYF.

cof

Sarah Berry has designed a cropped jumper with fitted ribbed sleeves and a top-down circular yoke in the DK weight.  I can vouch for how pretty, comfortable and flattering it is to wear………..I’d be wearing it just now if I didn’t feel I ought to keep it pristine for at least a little longer!  Sarah has only recently finished her design and will have it test knit before releasing the pattern in the next few weeks (I’ll be sure to let you know once it is ready) but has kindly allowed me to share this selfie with you and an image of her original design notes and test swatch.

Comely Bank Selfie sm

comely bank swatch and design concept sm

 

CallachyMitts sm

I have just realised that I didn’t share these two fabulous patterns by my friend Emily (flutterbyknits).  Emily designed the Callachy Hat and Mitts in my Shetland DK, to make the most of just one or two skeins of this lovely yarn (they use less than 100g each).  While they do work especially well in my Shetland DK these simple and cosy accesories they will be great in most of my DK weight yarns.  If I don’t have any Shetland yarn, or other substitutes, in stock in my shop when you look please do contact me as I may be able to make you up a custom order (the stock isn’t always stocked between yarn dyeing sessions etc). My email address is mail@blackisleyarns.co.uk .

As Emily says ”Some things are best kept simple. When you have one skein of perfect yarn, you need a pattern that shows it off without too much fuss. The Callachy hat uses a classic cable combination and careful details to make a comforting slouchy hat that’s as soothing and beautiful as the beach on a grey day. Paired with the matching mitts, it’ll be your new favourite. The fingerless mitts are so rewarding: simple and quick to make, but very practical. Callachy Mitts have no unnecessary complications, just beautiful details to warm your hands and your spirit.”

Callachyhat sm

I’m really delighted to introduce you to ‘Shivelight’ a beautiful cowl designed by the talented and very kind Claire (Claieinstitches) .   I was completely bowled over when Claire sent me the finished knit – I couldn’t imagine a more perfect cowl.
black isle yarns cowl in gotland yarn
Claire was inspired by the woods on the Black Isle and the design perfectly captures ‘lances of sunlight piercing the woodland canopy and the shadows cast on the woodland floor’. I have prepared kits and they’ll feature at shows and occasional shop updates, the kits include lovely pattern cards prepared by Claire, joined by a stitch marker, which include an extract from a beautiful poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

‘……Down roughcast, down dazzling whitewash,
wherever an elm arches, Shivelights& shadowtackle
in long lashes lace, lance & pair……’

gotland mini skeins sm
Shivelight is a snuggly colour-work cowl knit with four shades of my Gotland DK (Cream, Silver, Grey and Charcoal) and has been designed to be a good stepping-stone into the world of colour-work, as well as being an enjoyable knit for the more experienced.  If you are keen to knit yourself a Shivelight Cowl and there isn’t any Gotland in my shop at the time, do please contact me as I may be able to put together a kit just for you (mail@blackisleyarns.co.uk).

gotland black isle yarns cowl

The beautiful, cosy and stylish Comfort Shawl was designed by Sarah Hazell. Sarah is a very talented (and lovely too) designer with a vast amount of experience. So when she suggested working with my yarn I was bowled over and followed up her offer pretty quickly!

Comfort Shawl Texture
After swatching with Batch Number 2’s Shetland, Shetland~Cheviot Blend and Cheviot, Sarah decided that she’d like to work with the Shetland~Cheviot Blend.  This blend brings out the best of the two different wool characteristics; it gains softness and a slight lustre from the Shetland plus strength and bounce from the Cheviot (the other yarns are lovely too, of course, each with their own special characteristics!).

Comfort Shawl Wrapped Comfort Shawl Tassels

I knew that Sarah had a textured shawl in mind and although I did see a couple of in-progress sneak peaks I wasn’t prepared for how lovely this shawl would be.  It is simple yet detailed, soft and cosy yet striking – I can’t believe how lucky I am to have had such magic worked in my yarn!

Comfort Shawl Textured Stitches - Reversible

The Comfort Shawl is completely reversible and is an easy meditative knit.  It is a long and shallow design which is cast on from the top edge and decreases each row……….very rewarding as the knitting speeds up the further you go on!

The Comfort Shawl is beautifully sized for wrapping cosily around your neck or can be worn in a more draped fashion for a bold and dramatic effect.  The shawl measures around 200cm (79 in) along the top edge and is approximately 55cm (22 in) deep excluding the tassels.
It uses 330g of Black Isle Yarns Shetland~Cheviot Blend, beautifully semi-worsted spun at DK weight by The Border Mill.  Each kit will include 360g of yarn plus a paper copy of the pattern.  Kits will go on sale tomorrow (Wednesday) night at 7pm UK time.

There’s only a few kits left, if you’d like to snap one up before they are all gone you can find them here.

Comfort Shawl - it's big!

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.

(Edited to add (22.5.18) The Eathie Shawl has been updated to include a DK weight version, knit in my beautiful Shetland DK)

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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