New Yarn Alert: Westcountry Tweed

My grapevine tells me that Blacker Yarns have a new yarn coming out next month, November 14th.

It’s a DK weight yarn, coming in 4 colours: natural grey, heathery-purple, denimy-blue and sagey-green. It’s a small palette, but I think all the colours are going to work well together. Definitely that green and purple would look great together, and I can easily imagine a fab cabled man’s jumper in the blue.

I haven’t had any in my hands (yet), so I looked up the sheep breed information to get an idea of how it will feel.

The yarn is a blend of

Teeswater (actually, a crossbreed thereof) – staple length: 20-30cm; fibre diameter: 32-36 microns

and Welsh Black Mountain – staple length: 8-10cm; fibre diameter: 48-56 microns

by comparison:

Merino – staple length:~10cm; fibre diameter: ~15-25 microns

Corriedale – staple length: ~9-15cm; fibre diameter: 24-31 microns

Shetland – staple length: ~8-9cm; fibre diameter: 25-35 microns (10-20 for neck wool)

Staple length will tell you how long the fibres are in the yarn, and how much twist the yarn needs to hold together (longer fibres mean less twist). Fibre length also contributes to the strength of the knitted garment. Larger diameter fibres are also stronger, though they don’t tend to feel as soft. The larger diameter fibres are also harder wearing, but fewer people can wear them next to the skin.

So my best guess is that Westcountry Tweed will make great hats and cowls, and winter jumpers. It’ll look and feel good for many years, and while I might not use it for baby gifts, I reckon it’s going to be perfect for keeping warm when it matters, for a gift that will keep on giving. I’m actually thinking house-warming and wedding blankets. I will let you know when I get a chance to try it!

What is really interesting about the yarn though is that both sheep are rare breeds, from farms that are less than 100 miles from the mill, and Blacker yarns are continuing to do what they do best, bringing us great British yarns that celebrate the qualities of native and lesser-known breeds.

Keep your eyes peeled on their website for more news: www.blackeryarns.co.uk

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Hat Design Workshop With WoollyWormhead

One Friday last month I got an E-mail to say a place had opened up on the Sunday’s Hat Design Course with WoollyWormhead at ThisIsKnit. Boy, I jumped on that sucker as soon as I could. And then I did a little happy dance.

Then my sister got engaged and cue two days of hard-core Family drinking. (How dare she? I blames the BIL2B!)

So Sunday didn’t open pretty. Managed to get myself into town and round the back/front of Powerscourt townhouse. Squee’d over some lush goodies in the shop, especially some Coolree, which is new to the shop since I was there last in May, and then went upstairs to meet Woolly and make lust on her enormous piles of beautiful hats. Which we got to try on and see which suited the old noggins better. I’m sure I can wear anything, darlings, but none of them went very well with my bloodshot eyes.

We finally set down to the business of choosing what to make. I decided to go beret and made up a complicated stitch pattern. I needed to CO 60 sts. At which point I realised I had the shakes.

Six attempts later, I had JUST about got the thing going. Complicated stitch pattern had gone the way of the faeries and thankfully it was time for lunch. We all got chatting at a local eaterie (Calzone cafe) and Woolly was just so amazingly interesting. We heard a bit about her life as a designer, her little boy and the story of his first hat, and life in a double decker bus in a caravan site/artists commune in Italy.

Good food, company and some fresh squeezed OJ had me nearly human again, and when we got back, I could participate properly. Woolly helped me with figuring out the decrease rate for the crown and she gave us guidelines for grading. Her notes a great – concise but with a lot of information – plenty of stuff she’s gleaned over the years from designing. You can just up and run with it and design your own hats quite fearlessly, thanks to the way she’s put it all together.

So I did get a hat by the next day (only one of us got it done in the class). And best of all we got to see lots of Woolly’s upcoming or barely released designs.

And I’m getting me some Coolree next time I’m in Dub.

Winnie’s Craft Cafe

I was in Winnie’s Craft Cafe this weekend. Address is 3 Woodbine Park  Booterstown, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland, call +353 1 260 3734.

Winnie's Craft Cafe
Winnie’s Craft Cafe

I was unfortunately accompanied by a tired but manic toddler, so there was no sitting down, having a hot chocolate and sampling cake for me, it was as much of an in-out job as I could make it!

It’s quite difficult to find unless you know it’s there – not really the kind of place you’ll just happen across as it’s in a small parade of shops in the middle of a housing estate. Sat-nav lady got me there safe and sound though, good girl.

Winnie’s stocks Sirdar, Patons, some Rowan and lots of lovely Drops. Drops is brill stuff cos it’s pretty good quality AND cheap. I don’t know how they do it, acually.

I came away with 3 balls of Fabel, 2 of metal-shiny cotton viscose and a single sirdar supersoft aran for a commission. And some pins so I could block some sample swatches I needed to wash. And the whole lot was 10-something. Euro!

I left hastily before my son could fall over again or rip anything else off the walls (and before they realised they’d undercharged, I mean, they must have)!

Definitely will go again next time I’m home. I’m determined to get that slice of cake!

Nesting Instinct

My kniteratti gang made a stash swoop on Nest in Crouch End today. Pretty shop and yummy cake! And it’s now open on a Sunday which just rocks. Handsome man took the kidlets round to Aunties’ and I got an afternoon off! Bliss! Got myself some pretties too.

Nest

I would love if Nest was closer to me. It’s in Crouch End, and it’s a pain in the neck to get to it from where I live. I’m not going to be able to dash there quickly if I run out of yarn the night before a deadline. Boo :(

It’s in a wee little row of shops round back of the high street. Quite an unassuming entrance, but when you go in, all the lovely yarn makes a gorgeous vista in front of you. In the window are some wispy, lacey garments that someone’s put a lot of effort into, and on the table in front of you is a rainbow jumble of singles for your squooshing pleasure.

Finer yarn is on the left and thicker on the right. They have it all listed on their site, so I won’t bore you with the details, but it’s quality stuff at a decent price. I’m particularly fond of the small skeins of JC Rennie 100% lambswool I picked up for £1.25 each. They also had stuff I’d never heard of, and most of them got a manhandling from me. I’m not a crocheter except for trimmings, but it did look like they were well-stocked for crochet enthusiasts too. I loved the little trinkets and bibelots that were dotted ’round the shop too. There were very cute earrings made to look like a ball of yarn with needles stuck through, and I also like the button set with the flower, stem and pot each on a different one.

Best two things though were the cake (lemon curd) and the knowledgeable service. Aplayfulday was there, who just happens to be a PRvangelist “for members of the fibre community”. Hmmm… can you smell the oil burning from the speed of the spinning of the cogs? There’s a card that’s gone straight into the contacts folder now!