I had the pleasure of chatting with knitwear designer and podcaster Melody Hoffmann aka mandarines this episode. Melody is a charming guest and I hope you enjoy hearing about her inspiration and work! We have some great give aways as well! With a special shoutouts for Martin’s Lab, Blacker Yarn, a new pattern, jet lag and bad hair…
Shownotes are in the EastLondonKnit Ravelry group, where you will also find a new call for test knitters, and other goodness among other things….
Well, I am back from Edinburgh Yarn Fest, and what an event it was!
I will talk about the festival in the pilot episode of the EastLondonKnit podcast when it is published this Friday (!).
EYF marked the deadline for the #blackerpodkal, in which I tried to participate… In a word, my progress could be described as ‘stunted’.
Some projects are just like this: two steps forward, one step back. I really enjoy KALs because I find the type of gentle peer pressure they apply really helpful to getting things done. But this sweater did not want to get done.
I think I am almost over the Edinburgh Yarn Festival hangover. If you managed to go, you know it was an awesome event and I don’t need to tell you. If you didn’t manage to go, you probably don’t want to hear about what an awesome event you missed. If you didn’t make it this year, definitely come next year!
I will say that I met some wonderful fibre folk and I came home with some gorgeous yarn.
I tried to be strategic and only bring yarn home with a project in mind. I introduced my current project previously, and it is very much in the works now. It may seem odd that I have mentioned a project revolving around the use of scraps and leftovers, and then come home with lots of beautiful new yarn, but my thinking was this: I want to create a collection that allows people to use up little odd bits of yarn and stash, but it’s also important to me that every design also works with available yarns in only one or 2 colours in larger quantities. I am still in the early stages of swatching and designing, but I am feeling optimistic about it!
Come learn with me!
I am pleased to announce some awesome upcoming classes in the next couple of months:
Tamar is Blacker’s latest offering and it’s a beauty! A woolly yarn with a beautiful lustre and pretty halo, Tamar is made from heritage British sheep. The yarn blends Wensleydale, Teeswater, Cotswold and Black Leicester Longwool into the mix, along with 30% Cornish Mule lambswool, giving the yarn its soft halo. I don’t know much about the folk history of Britain, but Cornwall is one of those places of legend and lore, and the Blacker Yarns blog relates the the legend of the Tamar River, for which the yarn is named which is well worth read. I am still a sucker for ye Olde England, even after all these years.
I had the chance to play around with the yarn recently and it was a pleasure to knit with. The stitch definition remains strong even with the soft fuzzies. I wet-blocked the swatch below and while the texture stitches at the top of the swatch have a gorgeous pronounced quality, the lace knitting on the bottom half of the swatch would have benefited from a good stretching while blocking.
As the yarn is not a superwash, it will hold the blocking beautifully, and would therefore make an excellent yarn for lace knitting, in spite of how my swatch is looking above.
The yarn comes in DK and 4-ply/fingering, and I was surprised how fine the DK was. I am a fan of Blacker and was lucky enough to use Blacker Swan DK for the Angelus Novus designs in the Klee Collection (Angelus Novus cardigan below), which is also a DK yarn but much closer to an aran weight, whereas Tamar felt closer to a fingering weight, and I am guessing has a good yardage per 100g skein.
As a test of the softness, I stuck my swatch into the front of my shirt and wore it around for a while next to the skin. Yes, I know, this was an extremely scientific process, but really effective! It was very warm and soft, but didn’t prickle at all, making it a great yarn for neck gear and garments.
Tamar officially launches 3 March will be available for fondling at the Edinburgh Yarn Fest this year. I will be there too, fondling away; it would be great to catch up with any of you who will be attending! For those of you further South in the UK, I will also be at Unravel this weekend. Hope to catch up with you at a fibre festival in the near future!
One of the best bits about designing a collection was deciding which yarns to use. I was incredibly privileged to have been able to use beautiful yarns from The Uncommon Thread and WalkCollection, two indie dyers who create amazing subtle colors and rightly have an almost cult-like following. The third yarn I used also has a devoted following, and in the course of working with the yarn for the Angelus Novus cardigan and shawl designs, it has become a fast favorite of mine. Blacker Swan is a gorgeous DK yarn from Blacker Yarns, and I was so enamored with the yarn that I asked the lovely Sonja from Blacker Yarns if she would share a little about the yarns and her work at Blacker with us.
Angelus Novus uses Blacker Swan DK. Please tell us a little about the origin story of Blacker Swan yarn?
Of course! Blacker Swan is a joint venture between Sue and Andrez and Ali Short who farm at Swan Inlet Farm on the Falkland Islands. Andrez and Ali shear their specialist Merino sheep, sort and grade the fleeces and then send them by ship to the UK, where we transform the fine white fleeces into luxurious yarn. As far as we know, this makes Swan the only 100% British farm assured Merino yarn in the world.
Blacker Swan is one of our most luxurious yarns. Swan is worsted spun, which enhances the natural drape and lustre of the Merino wool. This yarn is soft and sleek with beautiful stitch definition.
Cone Winder at NFC. Copyright Blacker Yarns.
Amusingly, despite their established partnership, Sue and Andrez have never met face to face. Swan was conceived (and continues) thanks to the miracle of Skype.
When designing, I chose the Stone colourway. Please tell us a little about this colourway:
The ‘Stone’ colourway is one of our natural shades. Merino is a matt white fibre, so we blend Andrez’s fibre with a small percentage of Black Blue-Face Leicester and Brown (Moorit) Shetland. This adds a richness and subtlety to the colours, which I find particularly exciting. ‘Stone’ is our darkest natural blend, the current batch uses Black BFL from Sue’s very own Cornish flock.
Carding at The Natural Fibre Company Mill. Copyright Blacker Yarns.
All the colours in our Swan range are named after the rich wildlife of the Falkland Islands and most are dyed over these heathered natural shades. Dyeing the pinks, golds and purples over a fawn helps to bring out the warmth whereas dyeing the blues and greens over a grey helps to increase their depth of tone.
What inspires the Blacker colourways?
We try to find a different inspiration for each yarn range whilst ensuring we select shades which work well with the specific fibres. The Blacker Swan shades are all very bright and playful. Merino yarn has very little lustre, so we thought it would be great to play with some brighter shades over this calmer base. The 50% linen content in our Lyonesse range creates very subtle, soft shades. So we decided to opt for a range of airy spring pastels. We are just about to re-design the colour pallet of our Classic range, to be a little more traditional with some lovely muted, more gender neutral tones.
I love creating palates, so we’re always tinkering around with new ideas to keep things fresh. The limitless possibilities when playing with colour is probably what first attracted me to knitting, so it is incredible having the opportunity to experiment working for Blacker.
Blacker Swan Yarns. Copyright Blacker Yarns.
What is your favourite hand knit?
I don’t think I could ever choose! I’ve been making a lot of sweaters recently, but my selection of thick woolly slipper socks are invaluable during the winter months. I love (almost) all the things I make, but generally I prefer the process over the finished objects. I’m knitting the Chainlink Tunic by Norah Gaughan at the moment and it is so exciting watching the unusual construction take shape, I don’t seem to be able to put it down! I’m knitting using our Cornish Tin 10th anniversary yarn and this may be part of the reason. The yarn is almost velvety – it has a wonderful soft halo but also a really rigidity and body at the same time. Swan has a similar quality, I think it is something which can only be achieved with non superwashed yarn.
Future plans for Blacker Yarns, any upcoming events/excitement?
Well we’ve got a new on the way! Tamar, will be a permanent addition to the collection and available in both a DK and a 4-ply. It will be a lustre blend yarn made using Wensleydale, Teeswater, Black Leicester Longwool and local Cornish Mule fibre – a gorgeously drapey and lustrous blend. The yarn will launch in January, so keep an eye on our social media for more information. It is being spun at the moment and I can’t wait to get my hands on it!
Thanks so much Sonja! I am really pleased that Blacker is a sponsor of the Klee KAL beginning 1 December and going through until 1 February 2016, and will be providing a few balls of Swan DK as a prize! Please join us on the EastLondonKnit Ravelry group to join in the fun.