Category Archives: Colour

Ooops!

KnittingI honestly hadn’t realised how long it had been since my last post – the longest gap ever, I think. But there’s been knitting, evidently.

I am all right, except for excessive ammounts of swearing – because I’ve been having one or two run-ins with WordPress. Write a lovely post, add a gallery, edit the gallery, try to write another line – and ZAP! The entire post vanishes. So I decided to give it a couple of weeks to see if the glitch got sorted, and before I knew it over a month has passed. And I’ve been to London, managed to visit a couple of yarn shops. More later.

But not much later, honest!

And in the meanwhile, here’s another look at that knitting, a sweater in Sublime’s lovely Luxurious Aran Tweed (now discontinued, hrrumph) and a neckwarmer on the needles in Malabrigo Merino Worsted. Love the colours… The bag? That’s what the striped thing is. Some handspun, dyed and felted in the washing machine a million years ago. Well, about six years ago.

Knitting

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Back to Wonderwool – wonderful – Wales, 2016

I have had a mixed relationship with Wonderwool Wales. It’s varied from wild excitement (the very first time I went) to slight irritation (the next time, when there seemed to be nothing but one indie dyer after another, which must have been annoying for them too) and to suffering from near frostbite (the Very Cold Year, when stallholders wore their stock and I thought my feet were going to fall off despite wearing walking boots with thick socks). Last year I decided I couldn’t be bothered and, apart from a slight pang, I didn’t miss it. I didn’t miss the huge crowds, the not being able to get on a stand, the half-hour queue for coffee and the lack of a seat once you’d got it, the inability to get anywhere near a food outlet for lunch…

This year I went. And I went on the Sunday, though I feel I should be keeping quiet about this as too much attention may kill the thing, rather as tourists destroy what they come to see if they come in enough numbers (my old Paris, I’m talking to you).

It was fab.

Heeeeeeeeee heeeeee:

Wonderwool haul 2016

We have: undyed DK for natural dyeing and some dye material (old man’s beard lichen for pink, barberry bark for green, dyers’ broom for a yellow – I’ll probably get khaki for all three), some Rowan cocoon at a stonking price which I couldn’t ignore, a single skein which I said I wasn’t going to buy but somehow did (‘that would be the fairies’), and some fluff. It’s all fab. So are/were the scotch eggs. And the meringues.

We started the sensible way, which is possible on the Sunday: with coffee and cakes and the show schedule:

planning

and worked out where we wanted to go, where we had to go and where we’d better avoid (temptation cannot be easily resisted before lunch), and then we set off. We bumped into friends, visited a particular stallholder, separated, bumped into more friends, took the scotch eggs back to the car, bumped into each other, bumped into someone else, bumped into a stall or two, bumped into a sheep or two,

sheepy

(this splendidly Roman-nosed job from Home Farm Wensleydales is wearing a rather pretty collar, which could easily have been missed – well, it’s the old daisy/sheep connection, Father Ted), bumped into another friend, separated again, did a quick whip-round all the halls, including Hall 3 with its amazing exhibit/artwork,

lovely!

bumped into more friends, managed to miss out completely on greeting some others because their stall was wonderfully far too busy, looked up and saw the decorations,

bunting

bumped into more friends but managed to miss the part of the sleepwalk in which someone else we knew was modelling (a human, purrrlease, not a sheep), bought stuff, went back to the car to change out of a heavy sweater into something less hot, bumped into more people…

What a fabulous day. I am so glad I went back. And now I need to track down that skein of yarn which I didn’t buy (because I wasn’t buying single skeins, ok, and, yes, I am aware of the fact that I did actually buy one) but which was the most glorious, incandescent, emerald green. If I could sum up the day in one word it would be ‘colour’. Yes, that’s about right. Colour, scotch eggs and meringues. And friends. Colour, scotch eggs, meringues and friends – in no particular order. And yarn: colour, scotch eggs, meringues, friends and yarn. Lots of yarn. One word? How could that be possible?

Here’s a gallery of delights; just click on an image for a slideshow, with captions. How on earth did I manage to choose?

And, amazingly, I stayed in budget, even allowing for the scotch eggs, meringues and delicious pirog I grabbed for lunch. In fact, I was under budget by £20. Wonder if I can track down the sellers of the emerald green skein?

Oh Rowan, Rowan, wherefore art thou Rowan?

I help in a wool shop on Saturday afternoons, and when I turned up a couple of weeks ago I found my friend, the owner, in a state of shock. She’d just had an email from her Rowan rep with some devastating news: about 70% of the range was going. Either entire yarn ranges were being discontinued, or great swathes of colours were disappearing in many of those that were staying.

Rowan mill offices

This is not, perhaps, unexpected when you know that they’ve recently been taken over and perhaps it’s also not unexpected because there’s a certain feeling that they’ve taken their foot off the pedal a bit in recent years (perhaps rather like Colinette). But I’ve got one thing in Rowan yarn on the needles at the mo, and it made me think.

I’ve a bit of a love-hate relationship with Rowan. I’ve been to workshops Rowan have organised both at retailers and at the mill (above), and they’ve varied between extremely good and somewhat disappointing. Mind you, they were always interesting, if not always for the tutor, then for the other participants among whom I recognised some people who could only be described as Rowan groupies (I once heretically mentioned Noro, hsssssss…).

The same applies to the yarns, in my opinion. When they’re good, they’re very very good,

Cotton glace

like Cotton Glace (staying, but with colours reduced as far as I can recall), but when they are a bit gimmicky they can be horrid (and I’m not naming names, because this is just my opinion and just because X sheds or Y knits up like shite for me doesn’t mean they’ll misbehave for everyone). And they’re not cheap, either, though – generally – you do get good yardage for your money. But some are just exquisite: Lima, for instance, that delicious blend of baby alpaca and merino with a bit of nylon for strength. That’s going. So I bought three balls and am currently knitting it up into a shawl.

I think I know what’s happening. Of course I may be completely wrong or partly right, but with my business-management-before-being-a-full-time-freelance-hack head on – and I still write in the business area now – I think it’s a case of newbroomitis. New owner, complete overhaul.

Rowan mags

(The Rowan mag is changing, too. From this summer’s issue – the one already out – it’s going down to two stories, not three. Just as well I’ve got a stash of old ones, and am quite happy substituting yarns.)

As I said, Rowan had, I feel, lost its way a bit, with loads of novelty or seasonal yarns, however lovely – Panama, Cotton Lustre, both going. I had a slight feeling that they’d taken their corporate eyes off the ball somewhat. Oh, sorry about the creeping metaphors. I did say I’ve been working on business books, didn’t I?

Ahem. Back to Rowan, though I could run a few ideas up the pole and see who salutes them. Or, to borrow from the winner of Fast Company‘s most objectionable use of jargon in 2015 competition, ‘open the kimono’. Stop it. Now.

Anyway, I suspect that this meant heavy stockholding, and that where economic – i.e. wherever the stock was high but not so high that it absolutely must be kept on and pushed – there just had to be some culling. And I also think that some yarns, while worth keeping, had probably reached such a low stockholding that the expensive option of spinning more meant that, economically, they weren’t worth keeping on the list (possibly British Sheep Breeds – which seems counter-intuitive, given the rise in yarns with distinct provenance). And I also suspect that a lot of this has more to do with the American market than anything else.

But I’ll mourn some which will be no more (the Felted range, Pure Linen), and be relieved that others (Felted Tweed, Kid Classic – below) are staying. Above all, though, I’ll mourn the colour changes. It looks – and I’ve been through the catalogues, looking at the colours which are vanishing – as though the choices are becoming somewhat predictable. Not what Rowan is known for, at all.

Kid classic

And my friend with the wool shop? Well, she’s already expanding her range of British yarns. She’s seeing this as a splendid opportunity to get some lovely new things in (hello, West Yorkshire Spinners, Baa Ram Ewe, Jamiesons)…

 

The continuing story of a sweater…

Way, way back in the early days of this blog (it’s nearly five), I wrote a post about a much-beloved sweater. Days are getting gradually colder – and so is my neck – and  thoughts turn to big, cuddly, and above all warm, knitwear. Actually, I don’t think mine ever really turn away. I like big sweaters. What am I saying? I love big sweaters.

The sweater in question has long since joined the big woolly cloud in the sky – or rather been transformed into the stuffing for a draught excluder. It developed holes. Some holes can be mended, and this one had already been reknitted from the wrists up,

sweater repair

but other repairs are impossible. One friend suggested patches, but withdrew the suggestion after I pointed out that if I added tassels to the patches I’d be able to pass as a somewhat unusual form of exotic dancer. One in a big sweater. With patches as well as tassels. Myself, I couldn’t see the sweater working with towering platform soles, big hair and a g-string, but I guess there are all sorts of – um, points of view – out there.

That perfect sweater had been knitted in wool from – sob – the defunct Hunters mill in Brora, bought in 1998 but not knitted up until 2005. It was incredibly warm (there’d been a lot of lanolin in the wool when I washed it out in the croft kitchen, which caused a bit of an, er, argument, and I think some of it remained, though given the state of the sink I cannot think how). It was a great substitute for a coat. The colours in the tweedy yarn allowed me to accessorise it with almost anything, though generally that meant walking boots – when it didn’t mean wellies.

I knew I wanted to replace it, so my first attempt was in wool from New Lanark, bought at Wonderwool Wales. Lovely colour – red – but made me look like a corpse. I guess the red had too much blue in it, really. And I wasn’t that impressed by the wool either; it tended to go a bit thick and thin and I actually felted it slightly to correct that. So it’s been sold.

Still needed a replacement.

Life moved on, and I found myself standing in Jamieson’s Lerwick shop on my trip to Shetland four years ago. Wool was calling to me, delicious wool, green wool. Bought it, knitted it up into a replacement for the Sweater.

green

And it’s lovely. But it’s not for me. Not quite sure why, mind: it’s warm, the colour suits me, it reminds me of Shetland. But it may be the design; there’s just something about it that doesn’t really suit me any more, and I’ve not changed that much. Or maybe it’s the combination of colour and design, or maybe it’s just the fact that it means I’d be wearing a whole garment in – shhhh – colour.

Still needed a replacement.

I turned to some more Jamieson’s wool, this time bought at Jamieson’s Mill in Sandness from a giant cardboard box with ‘£2 a ball’ written on it (well, you just HAVE to). Chunky, though, and in black. Well, in Mirrie Dancers:

Mirrie Dancers

But I was radical – I chose another design. By now I was messing with designs instead of following patterns obediently, and I messed with Erika Knight’s Felted Sweater, adjusting the sleeves so they had at least some shaping, and reworking it so I could use my wool at the best tension.

I love it. I live in it, and it’s just come out again – it’s like seeing an old friend. Again, it’s so warm, it’s so wonderful, and I wear it constantly. But this time I’m doing some scenario planning (sorry; I’m writing a business book at the moment). Or maybe – shudder – that should be succession planning?

In yet another move charting my changing history with wool, I’ve seen the sheep. I’ve chosen the fleece. I’ve washed the fleece:

gotland

and it’s ready to spin (Gotland x Black Welsh Mountain – great colour, great lustre, quite a short staple, for all you spinners out there). I’m not quite ready to spin it, mind – I’ve got the the end of a Manx Loaghtan and a Teeswater (spinning up beautifully) to get through. But I think my big sweater will do another couple of winters. Fingers crossed!

I find the whole thing fascinating – how one garment can chart seventeen years. From skeins drying outside a croft in Sutherland, to my very first visit to Wonderwool Wales, to Shetland, to a farm in North Wales with Gotland sheep running around the place being pointed at by a couple of spinners – ‘Can I have that one? And that one? How about that one? When are you shearing?’. And it charts skills too: from following a pattern (and having to borrow my first ever circular needle from a neighbour so I could pick up the neck bands) to adapting patterns and then spinning the wool. And I’d not realised, either, that all the wool was British, or – to come over all Nicola Sturgeon – largely Scottish. Oh, I know that the New Lanark red was probably from the Falklands, but at lest it was New Lanark.

If I wanted to come over all anthropological, I could talk about signifiers and objects carrying meaning, but let’s not go there. It’s bad enough that I talked about succession planning…

 

The Woolwinding Eyelet Shawl is born…

Actually, it’s something of a toddler now, as it was ‘born’ in 2012, but I’ve only just got round to putting the pattern on Ravelry. I know, I know, I’ve been saying for ages ‘I must put this on Ravelry’, and doling out photocopies and printouts all over the place, but I have finally done it.

It’s up (or will be very shortly, as soon as approved – yup, it’s here). And it’s a free download if you’re on Rav. All you need are one skein of sock wool, or something similar, and 3.75 needles. Or needle, rather: it needs a circular after the start.

And it’s called the Woolwinding Eyelet Shawl.

woolwinding shawl 1

Sorry it’s not called something more exciting, imaginative or creative, but it’s what it is. It’s an eyelet shawl and it comes from Woolwinding. I did think about finding another name for it, but my mind went completely blank and – apart from silly suggestions, including almost anything you could think of in Welsh including ‘ffwlbart’ (polecat – gee, thanks) – I couldn’t come up with anything reasonable.

That’s not to say that it hasn’t been called names, mind. This year in Shetland two of us were knitting it and, boy, did it get called names. Basically you need to concentrate at the very start for the pattern set up, not chat / order tea and cakes in the Peerie Cafe / get distracted by what your neighbour is knitting / watch an exciting DVD.

woolwinding 2

But once you’re off, you’re off. You knit on until you either run out of yarn or lose the will to live (something common to almost all shawls, I have found). Then you block it – and there are instructions on the pattern, which is written so that novices to lace / shawl knitting can follow it, as well as more experienced knitters. I tend to block it so that the two end points of the triangle curve upwards, as I find that makes it more wearable – and the lace pattern is designed to allow for this.

And then  you wear it. Or rather Doris wears it:

woolwinding 3

and, more sensibly from the back,

woolwinding 4

These two are in Noro Kureyon Sock, and the top one is a skein of hand-dyed loveliness from Mam a Mi; I’ve often knitted it in Araucania’s Ranco Sock (the last image is another hand-dyed yarn).

I’m getting quite used to seeing it around now, as it’s been available through Knit One in Dolgellau for some time. A couple of weeks ago I sat behind one at the garden club, and another won the knitting section in the village show last year. Copies have been used by members of the the Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers I go to, and this next one is by one of them. It uses all the bits and pieces from the Guild’s dyeing picnic:

Mary's woolwinding

The cast off has been a little unfamiliar to some people, but It’s worth persisting as it’s very elastic and also gives a lovely finish, especially with a variegated yarn:

Woolwinding 5

It’s really simple, honest: right side facing and with a slightly larger size needle, knit two together. Slip the resulting stitch from the right needle back onto the left needle and repeat.

Anyway, there you go: tah dah, the Woolwinding Eyelet Shawl. And if you’re not on Ravelry, then do join – it’s fantastic. What a resource. Even if you don’t use the forums, and many people don’t, it’s so useful for pattern ideas, yarn information, storing a record of your stash or your patterns – and of course finding lots and lots and lots of patterns. Like this one…

The Fair Isle, finalised.

(I originally entitled this post ‘the final Fair Isle’, and then I realised that made it sound as though I was never, ever going to knit another; who knows, that may well be the case, but let’s not make any rash assumptions.)

So, having been through all my Shetland shots and all the wool I bought in Jamieson’s wonderfully refurbished shop in Lerwick,

Colour matching

that’s this lot, I have made some decisions. At last… I know, I know, that doesn’t look much like wool but bear with me.

It’s been fiddly. For one thing, I  could have chose to approximate the colours in the original pattern (Orkney, by Rowan), but I didn’t because I didn’t particularly like them, and I wanted to echo Shetland colours anyway.

I sorted my colours into earthy, leafy, land-based tones:

earthy, woody tones

and the sometimes astonishing colours of the coast:

coastal colours

and, finally, the monochromes:

monochromes

And I have managed to use all the colours I bought (happily the pattern uses 13 different ones, though I was prepared to rework that), and I’m pleased with what I’ve got. And I could have chosen a more trad pattern, one which used the same colour repeat on arms and body. But I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to play with tradition instead.

So the first step was to work out from the original pattern charts which colours were placed together in Rowan’s colour way (no image here, but boring lists do not an interesting photo make). Then I began sketching to see how my colours worked with each other – and that’s the chart at the start of the post. Then I got the actual wool out to check that they worked in reality in much the same way as they had on paper, and they did.

My work on listing all the colours had thrown up one break with tradition that I wasn’t happy with, however. It’s an accepted convention that there are only two colours to a row in Fair Isle knitting, and I think that’s ‘accepted’ for a reason: more colours mean much more bulk. There was one band of pattern which used three, and which also carried the colours across a large number of stitches (another complication I felt I could live with out – yes, I’d be weaving them in, but that would just add even more bulk to something already bulkier than the rest). So I decided to find an alternative pattern.

The pencil sketch on the left-hand page is the original, the others are possibilities:

notebook 2

I went into my stitch library – various old books on Fair Isles – and found several compatible and comparable patterns which also ran across 9 rows and 16 stitches. The middle one on the right-hand page above was quite like the one I was replacing, and because it runs over the same number of rows and stitches, it will be quite straightforward to substitute. I won’t need to mess with the shaping provided I start it in the same position.

Then came the really fun bit – working out the colours for the new panel:

colours

That’s them, done. Due to the rather funky variation in colour between sleeves and body I had to do this twice, but I am happy with what I’ve finally got. The sleeve pattern, in the original, is brighter and so will mine be; plus, I love the Jamieson’s colour ‘ruby’, and my new pattern will give it extra prominence on the body. And I won’t have that extra bulk just where I don’t need it – I forgot to add that this thicker panel would have come right across the boobage.

Now I can knit my tension square – and I’m going to do it using the new pattern. Just to see if I’ve got it right…

(You’re probably thinking that I’ve lost my mind, and wondering why I can’t just knit a pattern as given. I don’t know, but I’m not good at doing that; it’s part of the reason why I knit. And I know that this will be truly original – there’ll never be another. Possibly because no-one else would be so daft. Which reminds me, one of my fellow attendees at a Fibre and Fabric Fair this weekend just posted a comment – that adding ‘and shit’ to a phrase like ‘I do crochet’ makes it sound so much more, er, street. So I do Fair Isle and shit, right?)

Shetland inspirations: a flash of another colour

I can be quite boring when it comes to colour choices – as I’ve often said, once a Goth, always a Goth. Bring me everything in black, and I’m quite happy. I’ll add colour flashes, and quite often can be seen in (shhh) a coloured cardigan but, basically and for myself, I like black and white.

When I was thinking about doing a Fair Isle after a billion years of no stranded knitting, I first of all thought monochrome. I was supported in this by the latest exhibition at the Bonhoga Gallery in Weisdale, Fraser Taylor’s Shadowed Valley, a response to the Clearances there.

Bonhoga

Two things stood out, though. First, when you turned and looked at the panels from the other direction they were all in bright colours; and second, how much emphasis there is with the monochrome on the brown of the wooden floor. Hmm.

Then I went back to looking at the landscape. I knew in my heart that I wanted to reflect that more than I wanted to wear black and white, at least this time. But I didn’t want to be too traditional – I did a lot of traditional Fair Isles once upon a time, and I’m all out – though any FI needs a spark, a zing. I went through my photographs, and then I started deliberately looking at neutrals (I don’t want to frighten too many horses) and sharp contrasts. And there are many, many, many. Here are a few.

window, Burra Isle

A window on Burra Isle. My goodness, it was searingly cold that day.

sea pinks

Sea pinks and lichen and greenery against rock.

lichen

More lichen, on a quern stone at Jarlshof (and the shadow of a fence, natch).

boat hullThe colours of boat hulls, a lifebuoy and a door on a grey day in Lerwick.

another boatAnother boat, on a considerably brighter day in Eshaness.

Red, I wonder? Wow…

beach stuff

Or orange, or blue or turquoise. Rust?

And then I came back to monochrome. But I haven’t really; I’m still wedded to the muted landscape with highlights, though – which ones? But I couldn’t resist adding this shot, which just seems to sum up Shetland. Seabirds, cliffs, sea and a foureen. At least I think the boat is a foureen: I’m sure someone will correct me if it’s a yoal.

St Ninian's Isle

It was taken one evening, at St Ninian’s Isle, turning away from the famous sand tombolo that appears in anything about Shetland. Low sun, so I had to turn in the other direction, and I’m glad I did because I’d have missed this otherwise. Maybe I am tending towards monochrome (though there’s a hintette of turquoise in that hull). May need to do two…