british breeds

Dovestone: a review

Even as the UK is basking in a bit of long-overdue summer, I have been taking a sneaky peek into Autumn and the new shades for Autumn/Winter 2016 available from Baa Ram Ewe.

 

I was lucky enough to be sent a sample or two of their lovely new additions to the Dovestone range and of course I couldn't resist getting it on the needles - heatwave or no heatwave.

The Dovestone DK yarn has been a firm favourite for some time and now there is an aran weight yarn in the range too. Dovestone Natural Aran is the same blend of Bluefaced Leicester with Wensleydale and Masham. Careful blending has been used to create 5 natural shades which work well either together in a gradient palette or singly.

I couldn't resist casting on the No. 2 Shade BREDNA02 and to me, it was begging to be something warm and squishy in my beloved garter stitch.

Dovestone Natural Aran Shade 02

Dovestone Natural Aran Shade 02

On 5mm needles, the yarn produced a very pleasing, soft squishy fabric which would work brilliantly for hats, gloves, cowls or sweaters. Beautifully soft, with no hint of a tickle this is just perfect for all sorts of winter accessories.

If natural shades aren't your 'thing', the colour palette in the DK range has also been expanded, with the addition of 3 new shades. The vibrant orange 'Viking' is my particular favourite but the really rich purple shade 'Bishopthorpe' is also really striking.

Dovestone DK: new shades for A/W 2016

Dovestone DK: new shades for A/W 2016

I can really see me using some of these yarns for some cosy winter accessories - just as soon as the temperatures cool down a little.

Gotland Socks - In Progress



Last week I talked about the start of my adventure into knitting with 100% British wool and the #breedsswatchalong project. On a recent visit to my LYS - the wonderful and charming Sheep Shop, Cambridge - a selection of 4ply Blacker Yarns caught my eye.


Gotland 4ply from Blacker Yarns


The Gotland 4ply from Blacker Yarns came in a wonderful range of muted greys, from pale to dark and I knew immediately that 2 balls were destined to come home with me to make a pair of 100% British wool socks.

Here I departed slightly from the KnitBritish recommendation to knit an 8" swatch. Sorry Louise, but an 8" square on a yarn worked at 32st per inch is not going to happen in my lifetime :)

I decided to do the next best thing and knit a sock toe. Let's face it, I'm sure a lot of sock knitters work out their gauge by doing this. I for one, very rarely try to convert a gauge knit flat into one knit in the round and the various methods for working around this have never really struck a cord with me. If I'm going to see what gauge I get with a sock yarn I find it a lot easier and more relevant to just start knitting a sock. It could explain why I have so many abandoned sock toes on needles strewn around my house but anyway, I digress.

I knit a sock toe (on 2.25mm needles) and was very taken with the resulting fabric. Firm and dense yet with a great halo and a definite warmth - this yarn would make totally fabulous warm socks. I can't speak to their durability, although I'm sure the firm gauge will help with that, but I'm going to carry on and see what I come up with.

In this fabulous article on using breed specific yarns for socks, Sue Blacker suggests that there may be some felting on the inside of 100% Gotland socks due to the nature of the wool, but I'm game to give it a go. I will report back...

How to wear a swatch..



...or British Breeds swatchalong Part 2.

For the past few days I have been gamely participating with the 'wash and wear' section of the British breeds swatchalong and I am pleased to report that there have no been wardrobe malfunctions related to random knitted items dropping from my person.

In total now I have worn and then re-soaked the swatch 3 times and I have to say that I have been pleasantly surprised. My 8" former 'carpet tile', whilst still undeniably rustic is now something more approaching a wearable piece of fabric. It is still retains a great crispness and texture though and I'm thinking that it would be great for an outer-wear cardigan. Maybe something with cables or texture.

Possibilities that spring to mind are :




Now that my report is complete I will be updating my Ravelry project page and my entry in the Knit British thread as requested. I was thrilled to discover that Felicity Ford aka KnitSonic has combined my two passions - knitting and stationery - into a great downloadable feedback template for this project. I have linked to her blog post on the subject and if you are at all interested in taking part I can highly recommend that you pop over and download the template (she has it in either Word or pdf format).

It leads you through all the steps and observations you need to capture during the project and is certainly more comprehensible and readable than my half-hearted bullet journal scrawls.

Working with the North Ronaldsay aran, and more importantly for me, reading up on the breed has really sparked an interest in finding out more about our native sheep breeds. This was compounded when my DH picked this book up on a recent Lake District trip. 
 
Counting Sheep by Philip Walling
It is truly fascinating and includes such snippets as why Shepherds Bush in London is so named. The answer is that this was once an area of extensive grazing where shepherds would bring their flocks en route to market in the city. A large bush would be specially trimmed and cut over the years to have a hollow centre and a sleeping platform within it. This provided shelter for grateful shepherds and a comfortable nights sleep. Who knew?

So, what's next in my British Breeds adventure?

I managed to pick up 2 x 50g balls of Blacker Yarns Gotland 4ply on a recent trip to my LYS so my next adventure will be a pair of 100% British wool socks - watch this space!



British Breeds Swatchalong



As many of you will no doubt be aware, Wovember is well underway and knitters far and wide are enjoying a range of 100% British wool related activities. If you aren't already following the Wovember blog please do have a quick read through. Some of the articles are truly fascinating and I love the woolly 'word of the day' - a constant source of fascination.

Closer to home I have been participating in the #breedsswatchalong. Speared headed by the wonderfully enthusiastic Louise Scollay (host of the Knit British podcast) the aim is to set aside our 100% merino or merino/cashmere blends in favour of something more locally produced, more locally sourced and let's face...more woolly.

All the rules and instructions for the event can be found here and so with these in mind I went for a Blacker Yarns North Ronaldsay aran weight yarn in a lovely soft mid-brown shade. I found the yarn on my recent 4ply-cooperative yarn crawl at Prick Your Finger in London and knew as soon as I saw it that it would be perfect for my first British wool project.

Louise recommends knitting an 8" gauge swatch which, as a predominantly sock knitter,  I can honestly say I have never done before. Still, with aran weight yarn on 5mm needles it was no great hardship and I was able to knit up the swatch in a little over an evening. Louise encourages you to make notes on the yarn as you go along - the feel of the yarn in the ball and whether you notice any changes as you start to work with it. The first word that spring to mind was rough (see- I am being honest). Closely followed by words such as rustic, crisp and springy. It did start to feel softer as I worked with it and I was intrigued on looking down to see that my lap was covered in tiny particles of sand.

This did cause some bewilderment until I googled the sheep breed and discovered that they are the only breed of sheep known to live on an almost exclusive seaweed diet. 
 
North Ronaldsay sheep


They generally inhabit the shoreline areas of the Orkney Islands and so as well as their fleece acquiring a healthy dose of vegetable matter, it also tends to be a little sandy. This caused much amusement when I explained it to my boys and just goes to show that there is always something new to learn in this wonderul, woolly craft of ours.

So, here we have it - one 8" square swatch done in garter stitch (of course).


I have blocked it without any discernable change in size or handle and now my next challenge is the wash and wear test. Louise encourages the wearing of the swatch inside your normal garments and then washing again to see how the fabric might withstand normal wear.

This has perplexed me slightly I must admit. The thought of wearing something which vaguely reminds me of a carpet tile is a little off putting and I'm certain that 5 minutes of wearing it next to my skin will have me scratching like a mad thing - not a good thing on an already fraught school run morning. After some experimentation I have settled on tucking it into the waistband of my jeans, with a light T shirt underneath and my normal jumper over the top.

I will let you know how I get on. I am just praying that the darned thing doesn't fall out at the school gates. I have a sneaking suspicion that the other mums already think I am a bit weird, without becoming known as the lady who sheds small knitted objects as she walks.