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

 

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.

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

romney-kerchief-triangular-shawl-small

stripy-zwartbles-alpace-dk-shawl-small

black-isle-yarns-zwartbles-alpaca-blend

black-isle-yarns-zwartbles-alpaca-blend-textured-shawl

I’ve recently finished this second sample in my Autumn 2016 Zwartbles~Alpaca Blend.  I wanted to knit a shawl that showed off the beauty of this yarn – it’s squishiness and texture – and settled on a simple triangular kerchief design (the Romney Kerchief by Jared Flood).

naturally-coloured-shawl-smaller

naturally-dyed-striped-shawl

The pattern itself is simple and straight-forward and I enjoyed adapting it slightly.  I used a garter tab cast-on rather than the pattern’s provisional cast-on and then played around with the bottom edge using some stunning Shilasdair scraps in vibrant pink and yellow.  As ever I do love Shilasdair (the colours achieved by natural dyeing are so stunning) and was very pleased to use almost every last bit of these two small scraps………my stripes weren’t quite to plan as I had so little to work with but I’m happy with the outcome and with having made best use of what I had to hand.  The Shilasdair is 4 Ply and was held double.  This was my first time using a sewn bind-off – it looks great but I did find it slightly tedious!

Yarn Details: Black Isle Yarns Zwartbles~Alpaca Blend

Colour: Toffee Fudge (undyed)

Metres/100g skein: 160m/100g approx.

Weight: DK

Pattern: Romney Kerchief by Jared Flood

Full project notes can be found here on Ravelry

zwartbles-alpaca-kerchief

reminisce-hat-in-black-isle-yarns-dk

I chose a favourite hat pattern for this sample using the Autumn 2016 Zwartbles~Alpaca Blend – the pattern is Reminisce by Libby Jonson of Truly Myrtle.  I’m not one for anything too fussy and this hats fits that bill perfectly, a little detail to stop it being boring but nothing over-the-top.

The Zwartbles~Alpaca is lovely to knit with and results in a very squishy and cosy hat.  I had intended it to be kept purely as a sample for shows and so on however I have been wearing it quite regularly this winter as it is so cosy!

black-isle-yarns-zwartbles-aplaca-blend-toffee-fudge
This photo best shows the warm Toffee Fudge colour of this yarn

reminisce-hat-in-zwartbles-alpaca-blend

Yarn Details: Black Isle Yarns Zwartbles~Alpaca Blend

Colour: Toffee Fudge (undyed)

Metres/100g skein: 160m/100g approx.

Weight: DK

Pattern: Reminisce Hat by Truly Myrtle

Full project notes can be found here on Ravelry

Knowing that I would be struggling for time to knit up samples before attending Loch Ness Knit Fest (30 Sept to 2 Oct 2016) I asked mum to knit a Granny’s Favourite Cardigan in my Autumn 2016 batch of Gotland yarn.  Grannie (to my children) has knit this lovely pattern several times for my girls and was happy to help by knitting another.

black-isle-yarns-dk-gotland-in-light-grey grannys-favourite-baby-cardigan-in-black-isle-yarns grannys-favourite-cardigan-gotland-light-grey grannys-favourite-cardigan-in-black-isle-yarns-gotland-dk

She reported that the Light Grey Gotland was lovely to knit with – it is soft and light, as you’d expect from Gotland, and would be so lovely for a baby……..but I’m keeping this one as a sample (sadly, no babies more planned around here!).  If you want to see one of the cutest ever knits come along to my next fair for a wee squish of this lovely little cardigan!

Yarn Details: Black Isle Yarns Gotland

Colour: Light Grey (undyed)

Metres/100g skein: 215m/100g approx.

Weight: DK

Pattern: Granny’s Favourite by Georgie Nicolson

Full project notes can be found here on Ravelry