north ronaldsay

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.