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.
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!
Kate, the Production Manager from The Border Mill, very kindly took some photos of this year’s Grey Heather Shetland DK being spun. I thought you might like to see some of the many skilled steps that go into processing such beautiful yarn.
Clockwise from top left, the photos show: 1. three different component colours ready to card, 2. dark grey going into the carder 3. three different component colours as slivers going into the draw frame, 4. two resulting slivers going through the draw frame again, 5. stripy sliver ready for spinning, 6. finished single on the bobbin, 7. singles being plied together, 8. finished plied yarn on the bobbin, and, centre. finished yarn in the skein!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org .
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.