No cold sheep today


I first wrote this blog post in January 2017 but as I read of another independent yarn store closing down it makes for more pertinent reading than ever.


Apologies in advance for the slight mini rant today but I have heard and seen so much online these past few days about 'Cold Sheeping' that I feel duty bound to try to redress the balance a little.

For those that don't know, the practice of Cold Sheeping refers to going on a yarn diet or a restricted yarn buying policy - akin to going 'cold turkey'. It is certainly a common feeling at this time of year to feel slightly overwhelmed by your stash, or to feel as though your house in general has way too much clutter in it to even contemplate buying anything more stuff. Heaven knows, I am certainly guilty of feeling a slight sense of panic as my formerly well-contained stash spills out of its neat wooden drawers and starts to set up home in other areas of my house (is it just me or does the stuff breed when you aren't looking?).

However, whatever the answer is I'm almost certain that it doesn't involve going on a yarn diet. For the simple reason that diets never work. If they did the diet industry would go out of business. Anything that advocates extreme restriction or denial will inevitably involve a backlash at some point and freed from constraint you will be gleefully hoarding pretty sock yarn again before you can say 'Blue faced Leicester'.

So, I am proud to say that there will be no Cold Sheep or yarn dieting here. This is a Cold Sheep Free Zone.

My stash is a thing of joy - it brings warm and woolly solace to dark days - and it means that at the drop of a hat (or the news of an imminent baby arrival) I can rummage in the stash, grab some needles and whip out something cute and giftable in less time than it takes to traipse into town to buy a congratulations card.

It must be especially hard at this time of year for our beloved LYS's and independent yarnies who have to endure all talk of 'cold sheep' with a fixed grin and a firm hand on their budgets. January can be bleak enough for any business but small, independent businesses feel the pinch more than most and a little support at this time of year could make all the difference. I know that budgets can be tight right now and appreciate that not everyone may have the funds to spend, but even if you can't take advantage of your favourite indie dyers latest update you can help spread the word by telling your friends or sharing it on social media. And if you are visiting your LYS but really don't want to buy more yarn you could always take the opportunity to stock up stitch markers or needles - you can never have too many of either.

So, this January I am encouraging you to give the Cold Sheep the Cold Shoulder. Embrace your stash in all its woolly glory and show some love to our fab independent business.

Chronic Indecision

Eden Cottage Yarns Starting Point MKAL Pack 12

Eden Cottage Yarns Starting Point MKAL Pack 12

My knitting time today should be devoted to sleeve knitting and swatching for a new design submission. This little yarn delivery is calling my name however and I'm trying to resist.

This is Pack 12 from Eden Cottage Yarns and is destined for a Starting Point shawl.

This was originally released as a Mystery KAL and obviously now I know what it looks like it isn't exactly a mystery, but how it is put together intrigues me so I'm still planning on knitting it clue by clue, without reading ahead.

I absolutely couldn't decide on colours and yarns for this. In fact if you added up all the time I've spent rootling in my stash and surfing web sites I could have probably knitted the darned thing already.

So in the end I let the lovely Laura at Eden Cottage Yarns take care of it and send me one of their brilliant KAL packs. It's absolutely perfect and I'm so pleased with the colours. I love some of the really vibrant ones I've seen on Instagram and Ravelry but I asked for more subtle colours for my own pack - just because I know they will go with more of the colours I already have in my wardrobe.

After all, if I'm going to spend an eternity knitting this thing (and my, it is quite an undertaking) I want to be able to wear it at every opportunity.

Summer of speckles

I defy you to look at this beautiful speckly yarn and not want to cast it on immediately. Isn't it just wondrous? I treated myself to the summer yarn club from Vykky at West Green Loft Yarns and I was the lucky recipient of this sunset-inspired skein. It also came with a beautiful semi solid purple which matches it really well - but I'm totally blindsided by the speckles to be honest.

Between this and the Rusty Ferret yarn I am using for my second BOB socks (see previous post) I am declaring this my summer of speckles. I am mostly going to be knitting with speckled yarn. 

Now I can't deny that the odd bit of grey or semi-solid might creep in there. I'm only human after all and I do have a couple of commissions on the go where others yarns will be needed but for now, I'm happy to get the ball winder out, cake up this beauty and bask in enjoyment of fresh, speckled yarn cast on.

If you fancy joining me in some speckled yarn love - please use the hashtag #summerofspeckles. Always happy to be enabled into some new speckly yarn purchases.

The power of 3


The power of 3 is a strange and mystical thing - beloved of marketers and writers alike. It is a well known fact that the human brain is wired to group things naturally into 3's. We talk about levels of achievement being gold, silver and bronze (or 1st, 2nd and 3rd places). The Golden Ratio which forms the basis of so many elements of design and composition essentially breaks an image down into thirds to create something which the human eye is naturally drawn to.

As a knitter I'm pleased to see that this theory also holds true when it comes to yarn. A quick glance at the Ravelry 'Hot Right Now' page will usually yield a fair number of wildly popular 3 colour shawls. When browsing in a yarn store it feels entirely natural to pick up a skein of yarn, admire it and then start browsing for complimentary colours and shades. Sometimes you have a specific project in mind but other times you find yourself doing it for the sheer joy of playing with colour. Holding colours against each other and marvelling as each new pairing somehow manages to bring something else to the party.

Sure, one skein by itself is pretty but look how a complimentary skein next to it makes those little pops of blue really stand out. Doesn't it really make the whole thing sing?

And so it was on a recent trip to Loop, London. A skein of very pretty Madelaine Tosh jumped out at me from the shelves and before I knew it I was merrily selecting a few more to keep it company on the way home.

As to what they will become I have no idea yet. Knowing my track record I think it's a safe bet that stripes and garter stitch might feature heavily but other than that I have no idea. For now I'm quite happy to welcome them onto my 'yarn pet' shelf and let them rest for a while.


Yarn with a mind of it's own

Don't you just love it when yarn has a mind of it's own? By which I mean that it virtually shouts at you what it wants to be. It saves so much time spent dithering around, trying out and rejecting ideas, endless Ravelry surfing and general indecisiveness.

As soon as I got my mitts on this delicious alpaca yarn from We Are Knitters it practically shouted at me "Make me into a cowl - now". Then it added "Please", because of course it is a polite and well behaved yarn.

So, who am I to argue? This 100% alpaca yarn is listed as a worsted weight but part of its appeal is that it can be worked on a range of needle sizes depending on the effect you are aiming for. I am thinking of a relaxed, drapey cowl - ideally one which can be wrapped once or twice around the neck. 

For this reason, and also because I am planning a little cable action too I'm thinking of starting off with a 5mm needle and will see how I go from there.

First things first, coffee and a quick scout around for my needle case, then I can crack on and let the yarn do it's thing.

Progress...and a quandry

I'm sure it can't just be me who always seems to reach a sticking point partway through their project. All is going swimmingly, the yarn is fabulous, you love the way it works with the pattern and then, all of a sudden, nothing. All motivation dries up, disappears and the project descends into the the WIP basket never to be seen again.

For me, the crucial point is about 75% of the way through something. Even though my logical brain tells me that just a bit more effort and I'll be casting off, my less than rational brain is yearning to go and do something else. This is often compounded, as in the case of this shawl, when a crucial design decision is needed.

This is warm and squishy DK weight yarn and I'm keen to use as much of the yarn I had as possible - Cumbria DK from The Fibre Co. I'm now at the stage to do the border and the plan I had in my head doesn't look quite right. I find myself in a quandry and so of course I do what I normally do in this situation - cast on for something else.

But, today I am being good. It's coffee at the ready and thinking caps on. Today this shawl will have a border and I will be a happy designer - probably.

When swatching is a pleasure

There are times when swatching is a genuine pleasure rather than a chore and never more so then when you are getting your mitts on some brand new yarn to road test.

Samite is a new and permanent addition to the Blacker Yarns range and is an exciting blend of Blue-faced Leicester, Shetland, Gotland and 20% silk. It is a fabulous 3ply yarn which is woollen spun to keep its bounce and add strength that you don't normally find in silk blended yarns. Because there is a blend of dark and light fibres this adds great depth of colour and little nupps of silk add texture and interest to the finished fabric.

I knit my swatch in plain stocking stitch to see what the smooth fabric would look like and I was so impressed by how it knit up and how it blocked. The yarn has a beautifully light hand but yet has a little bit of woolly toothiness which makes it a real delight to work with. On 3mm needles I got a gauge of 21st and 28 rows to 4" and the resulting light and airy fabric would work well for a light summer cardigan maybe.

I knit a Peasy cardigan a few years ago using Rowan Felted Tweed and it strikes me that this would make a most excellent subsitute, maybe with just a little bit of adjustment for maths gauge. A colourwork yolked cardigan or sweater would also work really well with this yarn - the only difficulty might be in choosing your colours.

The 15 shades are beautiful - as you would expect from Blacker Yarns - and they all work wonderfully well together. And the names! Who wouldn't want to work with yarns named Aspen's Shiver or Tide of Dreams.

The yarn is having its debut at Edinburgh Yarn Festival and there is sure to be a lot of interest in it. But the lovely folk at Blacker yarns are keen to reassure people that this is a permanent addition to the range and will be available for general purchase in the very near future.