After several years of spinning my original Killen Sock in 2020 I felt that it was due for a revision. The two main reasons were to increase the twist, which should add to hardiness, and to be able to spin at a lighter weight. After some searching I settled on one of the Yorkshire mills who, after receiving some samples of my Bluefaced Leicester raw wool, were happy that they could spin the yarn well to my specification of 400m/100g. They were able to supply the Mohair element at 20% of the total fibre weight. As I explained in this post, I have tried in the past to source British mohair but haven’t been successful. The 80% BFL comes from one farm, The Arr farm where Muriel and Stuart are specialist pedigree breeders. The Arr is around 1 hours drive south of my base in Fortrose on the Black Isle. The mohair used in the revised Killen comes from South Africa.
I excitedly awaited delivery of the new yarn in summer 2021 – and was delighted with its lustre and drape. The twist was much higher than my previous version and it looked promising as a sock yarn, given that the original had stood well if knit at a tight gauge. I quickly began knitting a pair of vanilla socks, which actually became my first completed pair (which I am slightly ashamed to admit!). Since then I have been wearing them almost continuously to test how they will wear. After 40 days, not all full days (some were too hot!) and quite a lot of walking they are holding up well. From the outside there isn’t too much of a difference, a little shininess under the heel in particular and some roughening and felting of the fabric. I have removed a little pilling over time. Inside they have felted, especially under the ball of the foot. Some fine fibres have worn off but the felting seems to be a positive in terms of strength. I hadn’t actually sewn in the end where I finished the toes, and it has now blended into the felting under the ball of the foot! I knit fairly tightly on 2.25mm – I think ideally I would have used 2mm needles but I didn’t have any with a small circumference cables, which is my preference for this type of project. My gauge was about 40 stitches per 4 inches, which is probably a little higher than is usual for a sock yarn but the revised Killen Sock is dense rather than plump so is quite a fine yarn in diameter compared to other yarns at 400m/100g.
I’ll carry on wearing these socks to see how they continue to hold up. I hope the collage below helps give a good feel for how they have worn. Please excuse the fact that the are not the most perfectly knit socks!
Several lovely women conducted Wool Exploration reviews for me. These are based on the format used by Louise Scollay of WoolWork, and I have Louise’ kind permission to use her spreadsheet. The reviews were conducted over a short space of time and the testers didn’t have the chance to knit a pair of socks and wear them. The link below will take you to the reviews, there are 7 tabs in total which can be scrolled through at the bottom of the page. I hope you find them useful. In addition to my early sock wearing results there seems to be a general consensus that Killen Sock will prove to be a good lace knitting yarn. It holds the pattern well, drapes beautifully and develops a lovely halo on washing and blocking.
I decided to use natural undyed Mocha for the main body of the sweater but wasn’t sure what to use for the contrast slip stitches on the yoke. The undyed natural White seemed like the obvious option but I felt it might be a little more stark than I was aiming for. I did a little experimenting with alder cones and cutch, and tried both alum mordant and not and modifying with iron afterwards or not. I loved all the results but felt that alder cones and cutch modified with iron (and not mordanted) gave the effect I was looking for. Clare came up with the name Toasted Coconut for this new colourway which I think is perfect.
As usual Clare knit quickly and checked any queries as she went along. I went for the straight version of the design but lengthened the body a little to suit my long torso. Clare felt the sleeves looked quite tight at the point of picking up stitches so she picked up the number required for a Size Four (the body is knit to Size Three). The whole sweater used 395 grams, most of four skeins of Mocha plus part of a skein of Toasted Coconut. I absolutely love the finished sweater. It is easy to wear, comfortable and flattering.
I don’t think Elizabeth has the design available to buy on her website at the moment but copies are available from Ravelry here, or if you would like a copy but can’t use Ravelry let me know and I will help out. Clare’s Ravelry project notes are here.
Rie and I first made contact with each other through a US based yarn shop, and were paired up for a project which was due to launch late 2020. Sadly that particular three-way collaboration fell foul of coronavirus but Rie and I decided to continue working together.
We agreed that Rie would use Auchen, my sport weight woollen spun yarn, which at the time was newly released. We had some to and fro discussions to decide what sort of colour I should dye and settled on a soft madder shade. We also considered what the theme of our work should be and felt that Crossing Borders seemed to sum it up. Originally we were working as three women in three different countries each with their own strengths and challenges, and Crossing Borders felt like the way we wanted to approach the world. I did some trial dyeing on Auchen and Rie and I picked a beautiful shade dyed with madder and cutch which I have named Crossing Borders. I then sent two skeins off to Rie to work her design magic.
Rie is a wonderfully talented designer with quite a distinct quiet but beautiful aesthetic and I was excited to see her design in Auchen develop. The design is everything I could have hoped for, a delicate but cosy shawl designed to drape and keep you warm. The main body of the shawl is a pretty shell lace and the deep border is a simple ribbon eyelet. The shawl can be folded where the triangular lace section changes to the eyelet border and doing so helps the design sit well across your shoulders. Bothe sides of the design are wearable.
Once Rie had almost finished the design we considered what the shawl should be named and Rie suggested ‘Asahi’ which is the Japanese name for the Crossing Borders colour. Rie’s shawl pattern is available on Ravelry here, I don’t think it is available anywhere else but if you can’t access Ravelry please let me know and I will help out. I knit my version of Asahi in Harvest Gold which is dyed with fustic, quebracho red and rhubarb root. The Ravelry notes for the project are here.
During what we now know was sadly the last Loch Ness Knit Fest in October 2019, Emily and I plotted knitting a version of her stunning, newly released, Wilkhaven Sweater in my Shetland 4ply/Sport. Knowing that it would take me a very long time to knit one myself I asked my lovely friend Clare Shaw to sample knit a Wilkhaven for me – Clare is a very speedy and accurate knitter, and found that Shetland 4ply/Sport worked well for the design (unusually for a colourwork sweater Emily designed it with a worsted spun yarn, rather than woollen spun – which exactly suited my Shetland yarns, both DK and 4ply/Sport are worsted spun by The Natural Fibre Company and are plump and smooth – there is a blog post about the yarn here).
I couldn’t be happier with my Wilkhaven which is knit with two skeins of natural undyed Grey, one skein of natural undyed White, two skeins of Indigo and one skein of Gold. If you are interested in knitting your own Wilkhaven I am very happy to put together a custom order for you. I can dye just the right amount of yarn for the size you need using mini skeins as well as full skeins to help make the knit as affordable as possible. If you’d like to consider a custom order please do get in touch.
I have now been wearing my Timely Cardigan for over a year and I still love it. With the beginning of June Scotland has suddenly decided to warm up at last and I’ll be wearing my Timely even more over the summer months – I find it is perfect over summer skirts and shorts, paired with a tshirt or vest top.
I knit my Timely in BFL Suri 4ply, which is a lovely soft drapey yarn which has worked very well for this little cardigan. I used just over two skeins of the natural undyed Silver as the main colour. For the contrast stripe I chose Culloden (which is a lovely tonal pink-red shade, dyed with Lac and Hibiscus, and works really well with Timely’s stripes) and needed just over one skein. I knit Size Three which has a finished bust of 32.5″ giving me around 2″ negative ease. I lengthened the body slightly to better fit my long torso but otherwise made no modifications.
I’m currently knitting a second Timely, with undyed Cream as the main colour and Dragon as the contrast (dyed with fustic and indigo, a dark tonal indigo with flashes of green and orange). I don’t plan to make any changes to the pattern other than lengthening the body again.
I would thoroughly recommend this design by Libby Jonson of Truly Myrtle. You can find my Ravelry notes here, and the pattern can be found on Ravelry or Libby’s website.
Woolwork Reviews Since Auchen arrived back here earlier this year I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know it – knitting and dyeing with a yarn I have dreamed of producing for quite some time was pretty scary at first, but I am finding it a pleasure to work with. Rather than just believe me though, since my perspective is undoubtedly biased, I had a lovely group test and review the yarn for me. I hope it will be useful information for you in deciding whether you might want to knit with Auchen and what to expect from it.
The review group was recruited through Louise Scollay’sWoolWork (formerly Knit British) Ravlery group. I think the initial idea to do this came from Louise herself, which I’m really grateful for. I really appreciate her letting me set up a thread in her Ravelry group and especially for allowing me to adopt her Wool Exploration report format. Louise’ website, Podcast and Ravelry group are a mine of information about sheep breeds and their wool properties. Very many thanks to the six lovely women who reviewed Auchen so thoroughly for me. Link to Auchen reviews below:
The yarn facts and figures I hope that all this information has been useful. As always I want to be as transparent and traceable in my yarn production as possible.
The final piece of the jigsaw is the yarn specifications. Auchen has been woollen spun giving an airy, lofty, lightweight and adaptable yarn. It is two plied (i.e. two singles plied together) and is Sport Weight at approximately 375m/100g. The individual skeins are generous with 410m each and approximately 110g per skein.
Auchen –‘field’ in lowland Scots, thought to originate from
Gaelic ‘achadh’ meaning ‘field of the’
Auchen Auchen has been developed with support, for some aspects of the project, from the Highland and Islands Small Innovation Grant Scheme and is the first larger scale yarn I have produced. It has taken over 18 months to get to the stage of having an awful lot of yarn taking up a lot of shed space!
Auchen is a blend of Bluefaced Leicester hogg*, Cheviot hogg and Shetland – in proportion approximately 40, 30 and 30% respectively. All the fleeces were white apart from a small number of dark Shetland, selected to give the yarn its natural pale grey Haar colour and occasional dark fleck. As usual I hand picked every fleece and then skirted each of them to ensure only the finest fleece went into the yarn. Most of the fleece comes from the Black Isle itself and the furthest was less than an hour drive away.
*Hogg = ewe lambs at the end of their first year, first clip
Auchen Yarn Journey After a lot of consideration I settled on New Lanark to spin the yarn, for their skilled and experienced woollen spinning. New Lanark is a historic mill which has been spinning since 1786. They offer a custom spinning service on their 19th century machinery (which uses renewably sourced energy from their water-powered turbine). I particularly liked that I was asked to send samples of the fleeces I was planning to use in the yarn – before agreeing to take on the commission New Lanark wanted to be sure they’d be able to spin a quality yarn for me.
Sadly, there is no capacity to scour fleece in Scotland (which is the first step before spinning), so I took a transit van full of the beautiful raw (and quite smelly on a hot August day!) fleece to Thomas Chadwick and Sons in Yorkshire last summer. The cleaned fleece then waited until there was a full load before travelling back north to New Lanark (to minimise carbon miles). Following spinning, at the very end of 2019, the yarn made a trip back to Yorkshire, to Harrison and Gardiner to remove the spinning oil. Again, the yarn bales waited to join a load before coming north, back to their starting point on the Black Isle.
I had the crazy idea of knitting myself a new sweater in the run-up to last autumn’s busy show season (Perth Festival of Yarn, Yarndale and Loch Ness Knit Fest all came in quick succession). Unsurprisingly I didn’t manage to finish my Newleaf Sweater quite in time but it was actually a pretty quick knit and I thoroughly enjoyed the odd moment of knitting between lots of dyeing.
Newleaf Sweater is a design by Jennifer Steingass. Jenn has published a lot of patterns recently but this is the first I have knit – I really enjoyed it and found it a well written pattern. Initially I had some difficulty with the colour-work as my floats were a bit tight. I commented on instagram and had a lot of very helpful comments. I tried knitting the colour-work inside out as a first step and, since that worked well for me, I didn’t try any of the other suggestions…….but it is good to know there are other options if I have problems in the future.
I knit my sweater in Coulmore 4ply, I knew it would be one I’d wear a lot and the hard wearing, and light, properties of Coulmore 4ply would be perfect. The main colour is the undyed grey from my latest batch and the contrast is a dark grey-blue (naturally dyed of course). I think it would also work well with a dyed shade as the main colour and undyed for the colour-work contrast.
I debated whether to go for the long sleeve or short sleeve version. Eventually I decided on short sleeves, which was definitely the right option for the way I’m wearing it – over long sleeve tops, all day most days! It is great for working in, I can dye without having sleeves in the way. I’m keen to knit more sweaters with short sleeves (though I’m not sure it would work so well in heavier weight yarns).
I knit the second size and used 3 skeins of the main colour and 1 of the contrast.
Annie Rowden’sWinter Hoodie is one of my favourite children’s knits. My mum has knit 5 or 6 of these over the years, all sized a little big so that they can be worn for several years. She recently knit one for her youngest grandchild (and my littlest nephew) in BIY Shetland DK. And I’m very happy to report that he seems to be enjoying wearing it – though catching him still enough to photgraph is quite a challenge!
The hoodie is knit with Natural Fawn as the main colour and Natural White as the contrast.
I’m so pleased that Shetland DK is soft enough to be used as yarn for baby and child knits and that it works so well for colourwork. I’d really quite like one of these for myself.