My talented friend Emily Williams has worked her magic again, this time with my Bluefaced Leicester 4ply (one of my small batch yarns spun by The Border Mill). As Emily says:

‘Fyrish’s rippling waves of colour flow as far as you let them. This unusual narrow shawl (or is it a wide scarf?) tucks neatly under your coat, but can be puffed up to make a beautiful statement just at the neck. Or you could knit a longer version for a dramatic wrap. This distinctive openwork ripple stitch makes the most of Black Isle Yarns’ deep hues and soft handle. And if you find those strong gaps and scalloped lines suggest gothic arches… well, you should come visit Fyrish some time.’

Fyrish Shawl by Emily K Williams

Fyrish itself, and the inspiration for the shawl, is a hill just to the north of the Black Isle. The monument on top of Cnoc Fyrish was built in 1792 as a means of providing work during the Highland Clearances. The local laird, Sir Hector Munro, organised the construction of the monument as a means of providing work – reportedly rolling stones back down the hill to extend the length of time it took to build.

Fyrish Monument on Cnoc Fyrish

The Fyrish Shawl is my current favourite to wear – in BFL 4ply it is wonderfully soft and has a slight squish and drape. The shawl is very economical, using just one full 100g skein plus two 25g mini skeins. I have been thoroughly enjoying dyeing sets for the shawl. BFL is a small batch yarn so may not always be in stock but Fyrish will work well in BFL Suri too and I will try to keep mini skein sets in the shop as much as possible.

Fyrish Shawl in BFL 4ply
Fyrish Shawl in naturally dyed Black Isle Yarns

I had a custom order before Christmas for a yarn set to knit the Indigo Sea Shawl by Carrie Bostick Hoge – it is a lovely shawl which uses 50g each of three shades of 4ply.  I dyed the set in heathery shades on Bluefaced Leicester Suri Alpaca 4 ply, over the Natural Silver shade (naturally dyed with logwood, lac and iron). While I was dyeing the order I created another 3 x 50g set (165m/50g x 3 =  495m/150m) and several 5 x 50g sets (165m/50g x 5 = 825m/250g) which fully exhausted the dye bath.

The three shade set would make a lovely Indigo Sea Shawl as per the original custom order, and there will be many other options I’m sure.  For the five shade sets I had a quick search on Ravelry and found some really stunning designs that I think would work well (this is just a tiny snippet, have a look here for more ideas) ……..

Designs, clockwise from top left – Winterlight by Meg Gadsbey, Miso by Ambah O’Brien, Indigo Sea Shawl by Carrie Bostick Hoge, Honey Honey Honey by Lisa Hannan, ADVENTurer Scarf & Wrap by Ambah O’Brien, Bark Lines by Joji Locatelli and Colourblind by Jana Huck (all design photos by designer)

Of course, it would also be possible to combine one of these sets with a full 100g skein or two of BFL Suri in Natural Cream or Silver for a beautiful light-weight drapey colourwork or striped cardigan or jumper.

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.

 

 

Rockpool – dyed with indigo and bramble leaves

I realise that I haven’t talked all that much about natural dyeing – I think that, as it is something I do on a regular basis (rather than new patterns and yarns which are more of an ‘event’), I don’t tend to share what I have been up to.  I thought I’d share part of an interview that I did for Clare Devine’s blog (thank you Clare!)…………..

Seaweed – dyed with indigo and bramble leaves

”Clare: Your yarns are naturally dyed. Could you tell me a little more about why you decided to use natural dyes and what inspires your colour choices.

Me: It was actually natural dyes which drew me into setting up Black Isle Yarns. I began with natural dyeing for my own use – collecting plant material while out on walks and experimenting with colour for fun. I very quickly began to feel that I wanted to know where the yarn I was dyeing came from and, having grown up on a smallholding and having a lifelong love of farming and land management, I knew there would be a lot of wool locally which was fetching little to no money for the farmer. I sounded out a couple of local flock owners who I already knew and began searching for a mill to use. I was incredibly lucky to start with The Border Mill, they are great to work with and always prepared to try new ideas.

Ginger dyed with annato, quebracho red, rhubarb, cutch and sorghum

I was originally drawn to dyeing with natural materials because of my love of plants and the outdoors – there is something incredibly satisfying in creating colour with material gathered while out walking. Perhaps because of my background, I tend to have a map in my head of the plants in my local area and when they are likely to be coming into leaf or flower. I love spotting something new on a familiar walking route and storing it’s location away for future reference. I think these same walks inspire my colour choices. I’m incredibly lucky to live in a very beautiful part of the world. The Black Isle is a unique part of the Scottish Highlands, a little peninsula surrounded by sea. From home I can walk down to the beach and along the shore to caves and cliffs, or inland through fields and up into the hills and woods that make up the top of the Black Isle. Colours here are often slightly muted with beautiful shades and tones, and I think these are definitely reflected in the colours I dye. Over time, and as I build expertise (natural dyeing is such an artform, I will always be learning), I would like to work towards a set of deeper more saturated shades which would reflect the more bold colours we have when it is cold and clear after a good fall of snow.

Culloden dyed with lac and hibiscus

Curiosity dyed with sorghum and Pearl dyed with gallnut

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)

I’m really pleased to be able to share the latest Black Isle Yarns design.  The Erradale Shawl is a beautiful design by my friend Emily Williams – which is rather appropriate since she found the flock who grew the wool for the lovely Coulmore yarn (see this post for more information)!

erradale shawl undyed coulmore 4 ply

To quote from the pattern:

”Brioche lace suggests the foamy sand patterns left behind when the tide goes out, as rhythmic and soothing as the receding waves. Erradale is a deceptively simple knit, equally eye-catching in one or two colours.

Black Isle Yarn’s first-clip Coulmore 4-ply is a natural part of the Inverness landscape, from sheep that live just round the corner from me. It’s the perfect choice for a warm shawl with body and bounce, and shows the brioche off beautifully.”

Erradale Shawl by Flutterbyknits in Black Isle Yarns Coulmore 4ply

Erradale uses two skeins of Coulmore 4ply and can be knit with two undyed skeins, as per Emily’s original, or one skein each of two different shades.  I think either version is stunning.  The shawl is a simple brioche design starting from the narrow tip and increasing to the brioche lace at the end.  It is a good introductory brioche pattern – if, like me, you’re new to brioche then Emily highly recommends Nancy Marchant’s turtorials.

erradale shawl by Emily Williams in natural coulmore black isle yarns

I’m really looking forward to seeing lots of Erradale Shawls out in the wild in the future!  I’ll have a shop update on Saturday 31st March focusing on Coulmore 4 ply, with individual skeins of undyed yarn and kits with two naturally dyed shades, one of each of the two used in the dyed version (beautifully sample knit for me by Clare Shaw.  Clare is another lovely knitting friend and a superb, and very fast, knitter!).  The photo below shows a close-up of the two shades, the top is dyed with indigo over heather flowers and the bottom is indigo alone.  I love the effect of the two together – I think of them as peacock colours but I have heard someone else suggest stormy seas.

cof

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

 

John and Juliet from The Border Mill, who once again spun the yarn, very kindly took a wee detour on their holiday to personally deliver the boxes containing this latest batch.

The yarns in this batch (Batch III) come from two local crofts, both of which I have talked about before and you can read more about them here (Fearniewell Croft and Orrinside Flock).  I am really enjoying entering my second year of Black Isle Yarns and building relationships with the people whose sheep grow such glorious wool – visiting the same flocks at different times of year, seeing lambs grow and anticipating their fleece being available at the next clip is very rewarding.

Once again Jane’s very eclectic Orrinside Flock has produced some special fleeces. Batch III includes two new yarns from this summer’s clip (and there’s more to come in Batch IV).  Jane has been really enthusiastic about seeing her flock’s wool turned into yarn and I think this is influencing her choices when she’s thinking about buying new stock.  Earlier this year I had an excited message telling me that she had bought a couple of Cotswold ewes and a Wensleydale tup………..and, now, here is their wool spun up as yarn!

The first yarn is a beautiful longwool blend of 2/3 Cotswold and 1/3 Wensleydale – it is drapey, lustrous and has a wonderful halo (and is approximately 4 ply). I have really been enjoying dyeing with it – the colours are stunning!

Cotswold Wensleydale Blend

The next yarn is a real mix and will have to be referred to as Cross-breed Blend for simplicity.  It is a blend of three cross-breed ewe fleeces – Bluefaced Leicester and Cheviot, Lincoln and Cheviot, and Lincoln and Hampshire. The fleeces were all lovely and I felt they would blend well together – the resulting yarn picks up drape and sheen from the longwool ancestry, softness from the Hampshire genes and a bounce and lightness from the Cheviot influence. It is approximately DK weight and is going to be so good to knit with.
Cross-breed Blend
Dan and Rachel of Fearniewell Croft were the first people I contacted about buying wool last year.   They have a lovely Gotland-ish flock (‘ish’ because have some Shetland genes and aren’t quite pure Gotland).  I have been eagerly anticipating this year’s clip and I am delighted that I was able to select a few more fleeces this year, so there’s a bit more Gotland-ish available this time round. I haven’t yet wound any of it off the cones as there will be a special colour-work pattern coming soon, developed especially for this yarn.  I don’t want to start winding skeins until I know how much of each shade will be required by the pattern, but it won’t all go into kits so there will also be the usual 100g skeins for your own projects.
Gotland Charcoal, Grey, Silver and White small Gotland Shades
I really want to make sure that a good amount of Batch III is available online for those that can’t make it to the shows I’ll be attending this autumn………I suspect they will be snapped up pretty quickly when seen in person.  I have naturally dyed a fair amount both the Longwool and Cross-breed Blends this week and am planning to have them ready in the shop by tomorrow evening at 7pm (Friday 29 September 7pm UK time).  There won’t be much chance for previewing this time I’m afraid – they’re still hanging out on the line drying at the moment so I won’t be be photographing and listing in the shop until tomorrow! I’m hoping for another shop update later in October.

I snaffled one of the Longwool Blend skeins to knit a Lode Shawl (pattern by Clare Devine).  I’m only in the early stages but am loving knitting with the wool and thoroughly enjoying the pattern.

Lode Shawl in Longwool Blend small

Thank you so much for your support for the naturally dyed Cheviot which went into the shop at the beginning of this month – it nearly all sold within 24 hours!  I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate your interest in Black Isle Yarns.

 

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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).

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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

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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!

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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