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!

Hello and happy March – my goodness time does seem to be flying by!

I’m so pleased to let you know that the second batch of Black Isle Yarns is ready (I think it will be referred to as Spring 2017).  I picked it up from Juliet and John of The Border Mill in Edinburgh last Thursday when they very kindly took a break from setting up their Edinburgh Yarn Fest stand to handover and chat about this latest batch (and plans for the next).

I’ve been looking forward to seeing these yarns for what feels like such a long time now.  The first fleeces were bought, and carefully stashed in our gardening shed, at the end of last summer.  And gradually, over the autumn months, more and more fleeces were added until I delivered a load down to Juliet and John in early January.  We had a planning phone call in mid February, to work out the specific yarns weights and blends, and they worked at high speed to have the yarn ready so they could bring it all up to Edinburgh for me last week.

I’ll introduce the farms, and sheep, who kindly grew the fleeces in another newsletter and keep this as an introduction to the yarns themselves – otherwise this will turn into a not-so-small novel.

Very sadly the mill was unable to cope with the Ryeland fleeces which I talked about last autumn – their staple length is just too short for the particular set-up that The Border Mill has.  Perhaps at some future date I’ll be able to work with their beautiful fleece, but for now that plan is on hold.


cof

Shetland Cheviot Blend from Spring 2017 Batch heading to the dye pot this morning
I posted this photo on Instagram a few days ago – do you use Instagram?  I really enjoy it as a way to connect with lots of other like-minded people.  I post quite regularly so it is a good way to keep up with what I’m up to.  If you click the photo you’ll open up my account – have a wee look, there’s usually lots of lovely Black Isle and Highland scenery as well as my latest wool and craft snippets.


The first set of yarns is some absolutely gorgeous Shetland in a range of natural colours and white.  The coloured fleeces in particular were extremely soft – to the extent that they were dubbed as ‘scary fine’ by Juliet.  They posed a real challenge to the mill and weren’t able to go through the separator (which helps remove bits of vegetation and dirt) as it would have shredded the fine fibres, so they have been washed and tumbled multiple times instead.  All the extra effort and care has been very worthwhile as the yarn is beautiful.  I’m very grateful to the mill for adapting their process and treating each set of fleeces in the best way possible.

Three different yarns have been spun all at approx Light DK weight.   The first is a beautiful barberpole variegated with three plies one each of charcoal, fawn and white.  The second is a heathered grey and finally there is a simple natural white.  All three will work well together and all should take dye beautifully too.

Black Isle Yarns Shetland Wool natural coloured, undyed - white, heathered grey and barberpole


The next set of fleeces came from a lovely small farm with a very eclectic flock.  As well as some very high quality cheviot (which I’ll talk about below) I picked out some special, rather unique, fleeces.  Needles to say there’s only fairly small quantities of each of these yarns.  They have been spun at an approx 2-ply weight.

Monkeyface is rather uncertain of her origin, she looks somewhat Hebridean but her fleece doesn’t bear too much resemblance to that fairly hardy fleece type, instead it is soft and lustrous with a lot of character (and the occasional Hebridean-like guard hair).  Now that I have seen it spun I wonder if she may be a Heb-Gotland cross with a fleece that takes after her Gotland ancestry. The resulting yarn is a very dark charcoal black with just a hint of brown.

Frankenstein has a multi-coloured fleece which perhaps reflects her muli-breed background of Bluefaced Leicester-Cotswold-Cheviot.  The spun wool is a warm grey/brown and, though not quite so soft, has a gentle lustre.

The final ewe doesn’t have her own name, poor thing, but is a Blueface Leicester-Cotswold cross and her fleece has made a lovely soft, lustrous white yarn.

Again, all three yarns will work together and I think would make a superb shawl.

Black Isle Yarns, from top- bfl~cotswold, Frankenstein (bfl~cotswold~cheviot), Monkeyface (hebridean~gotland_)


The Cheviot fleeces have been spun as two different yarns, both at Light DK weight so that they can be combined with the Shetland yarns.

The only blend in this time is a 50:50% mix of Shetland~Cheviot.  I have some mordanting in the dye pot at the moment and I think it is going to dye beautifully.  The blend retains much of the softness of the Shetland but gains from the strength of the Cheviot.  It should be a very adaptable yarn.

And finally, the last yarn for Spring 2017 is pure Cheviot.  John and Juliet were very complimentary about the quality of the Cheviot fleeces which I think must reflect on excellent husbandry from Jane – who I’ll introduce next time!Black Isle Yarns cheviot (top) and cheviot shetland blend (bottom)


I’ve just had a lovely weekend at Dornoch Fibre Fest and thoroighly enjoyed meeting lots of fantastic woolly people!  Now that I’m back from the show I’ll settle down and work out my plans for releasing this batch.  I am hoping to work with a couple of designers to develop a pattern or two written specifically for these yarns, which may mean that not all are going to be available on-line straight-away.  They will get there eventually but there may be a slight delay while the designers work their magic……….but, of course, I’ll let you know what is happening and will ensure first notice will come out by newsletter (do join if you aren’t already, there’s a wee box on my homepage). I’ll be back before long to introduce the sheep and farms who grew this latest lot of wool.

I’ve been very remiss in not posting these mittens sooner.  My lovely Auntie Lorna knit a beautiful pair of Gingersnap Mittens (a free pattern by Prairiesque) as a sample for me.  She’s very kind!  Auntie Lorna adapted the pattern significantly, changing it to two 3×3 cables and reducing the size considerably.  Much as I’d love to wear them – they’re so cosy and should be very hard-wearing (not to mention pretty in the yarn’s marled Coal Grey colour)- I’m going to keep them aside as samples for taking along to shows etc.

cable mittens in zwartbles cheviot blend  gingersnap mittens in zwartbles cheviot blend marled grey british local wool mittens

This yarn, my Zwartbles~Cheviot Blend, is now out of stock but there will definitely be more spun for next autumn.  If you’d like to hear a very thorough review the lovely Louise of Knit British has one in episode 76 of her podcast.

black isle yarns local small batch wool mittens cable mittens in zwartbles cheviot blend

 

Yarn Details: Black Isle Yarns Zwartbles~Cheviot Blend

Colour: Coal Grey (undyed)

Metres/100g skein: 150m/100g approx.

Weight: DK

Pattern: Gingersnap Mittens by Prairiesque

Full project notes can be found here on Ravelry

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

Introducing our Autumn 2016 batch of Zwartbles and Zwartbles blend yarns:

Zwartbles sheep originate from the Netherlands where they’re an uncommon breed.  They were developed as a multipurpose breed and are valued here in Britain for their calm manner and as lovely mothers with good growing lambs.  Their fleece is dense and bouncy and a very deep dark brown colour, although with age and sun it bleaches rusty red at the tips.  The 2016 fleeces we sourced from Hedgefield Zwartbles (link) are from shearling fleeces, from lambs in their first winter, and consequently the wool is less rustic than is typical and retains the very dark, almost black, colour – we like to think of it as Bitter Chocolate!   As well as pure Zwartbles wool we have developed three blends.  The first is a lovely rustic heathery Coal Grey with the addition of 45% Cheviot wool (from Drumsmittal Farm (link)).  Secondly we have added 50% mohair (from a farm near our mill, The Border Mill (link), in the Scottish Borders) – this blend is a Steel Grey colour, has a real sheen and a soft yet strong handle. The final blend is with 50% alpaca (again sourced close to The Border Mill (link) in the Scottish Borders) – the alpaca fleece used was fawn coloured and the resulting fibre is a beautiful warm Toffee Fudge colour in a soft, squishy yarn.

pure-zwartbles
Pure Zwartbles – Bitter Chocolate
Zwartbles Cheviot Blend – Coal Grey
Zwartbles Mohair Blend – Steel Grey
zwartbles-alpaca-blend
Zwartbles Alpaca Blend – Toffee Fudge
zwartbles-blends-clockwise-from-top-left-cheviot-alpaca-mohai-pure-zwartbles
Zwartbles Cheviot, Zwartbles Alpaca, Zwartbles Mohair and Pure Zwartbles

Save

Save

Save

I have been keen to try both Shilasdair’s naturally dyed yarns and Chopped Ginger Wool Project single farm Gotland for a while now.  When Helen Stewart released her Hill Top Shawl in the spring I thought it would be the perfect pattern for combining these two quite different yarns.  The pattern was straightforward to knit and I liked Helen’s percentage system – at the end of each row you know how far through the whole project you are……I guess it could be demoralising but I liked it!

hilltop-shawl-undyed-gotland-and-naturally-dyed-tansy

tansy-hilltop-shawl  hilltop-shawl-on-monterey-pine hilltop-shawl-in-gotland hilltop-shawl-by-curious-handmade grellow-tansy-yellow-and-undyed-grey gotland-shawl-drape

The Shilasdair DK in naturally dyed Tansy Gold (dyed with tansy unsurprisingly!) is soft, plump and light (a luxurious mix of alpaca, camel, angora and lambswool) while the Chopped Ginger Gotland Fingering is a much more lean and heavy yarn (in a natural undyed dark grey).  Both yarns were lovely to knit with in different ways – the Gotland has lots of character but did require some concentration at times. I absolutely love my finished shawl and am sure I’ll have many happy years wearing it.

Full project notes can be found here on Ravelry

 

Save