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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.

A passion for British wool

If you have some spare time this weekend I can highly recommend this interview for a fun and informative read.

Karie Westerman (aka Karie Bookish) interviews the wonderful and highly knowledgable Louise Scolley of Knit British fame.

Louise is a passionate advocate of British wool and her interview is a fascinating insight into the modern day British wool industry and the work being done to champion our amazing heritage.

Wovember 2014

Following on from the excitement of Socktober we are plunging headlong into the sheepy fun which is Wovember - a month long celebration of all things British and woolly.

Wovember logo

Britain has a long standing love affair with wool of which we are rightly proud and this is a great opportunity to showcase our rich and varied wool history.

The Wovember organisation has a wonderful programe of events, competitions, writing and more throughout the month. Even if you are a dyed-in-the-wool enthusiast (sorry - I couldn't resist) you are sure to come across interesting facts and snippets to pique your interest. Join the Facebook group or follow on Twitter and you will receive lots of great information to brighten up your day.

Naturally, no good event worth it's salt can be without a KAL, but this of course is a WAL (wool-along) and any wool-related activity can be included whether it be spinning, weaving, crochet, knitting, felting, wool embroidery - you get the idea.

The only stipulation is that you must use 100% British wool for your project. Other than that you can let your imagination roam free. All the details are here  along with lots of fun chat and links.

Naturally, I can never resist an "along" so I will of course be diving into the stash for some suitable yarn. I am in desperate need of a winter hat and mittens so this project will be ideal. it will also give me the opportunity to "double dip" with the GAL (Gift-a-along) - more on this later in the week.

I was slightly shocked to realise how little 100% British wool I have in my stash - a situation which surely requires some attention. Although in my defence much of my stash is sock yarn with a little added nylon or something extra. 

West Yorkshire Spinners dk yarn - Photo from Ginger Twist Studios
I do have several skeins of wonderful West Yorkshire Spinners dk yarn though in the natural light brown colour which is just crying out to be made into a hat...for me..naturally.