Earlier this year, when I had just received the latest batch of Shetland DK and 4ply/Sport back from The Natural Fibre Company, I began looking for a sweater design that would suit Shetland DK. Around the same time Elizabeth Doherty released a new design, the Sian Sweater which immediately caught my eye. Knowing that I would struggle to knit one myself as quickly as I hoped I asked Clare Shaw if she would be able to sample knit for me and luckily she was able to.

Shetland DK Mocha and Toasted Coconut for Sian Sweater

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.

Toasted Coconut Shetland DK naturally dyed with alder cones and cutch

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.

Sian Sweater knit in Black Isle Yarns Shetland DK

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.

Shetland DK Sian Sweater

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.

Crossing Borders – Auchen dyed with madder and cutch

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.

Asahi Shawl in Auchen Sport
Asahi Shawl by Rie (@kouvive) in Auchen Sport

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.

Asahi Shawl knit in Auchen Sport Crossing Borders

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).

Wilkhaven Sweater knit in Shetland 4ply/Sport

My Wilkhaven is knit in Size One with around 5″ positive ease. The Ravelry project notes by Clare can be found here, and the Ravelry page for the design here – or alternatively you can buy the design directly from Emily’s PayHip store, or a paper copy from my online shop. Clare went down a needle size to get gauge and lengthened the body to suit my long torso but otherwise made no modifications.

Wilkhaven Sweater knit in Shetland 4ply/Sport

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.

Naturally Dyed Wilkhaven Sweater knit in Black Isle Yarns Shetland 4ply/Sport (photos by Clare Shaw)

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