The Beauty of Blacker

Hello!

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.

Andrez's Swan Inlet Flock_Copyright Blacker Yarns

Andrez’s Swan Inlet Flock. Copyright Blacker Yarns.

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

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 (2)

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_copyright Blacker Yarns

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.

Happy knitting,

R.

Woolfest 2015

Hello!

A couple of weeks ago I joined Kettle Yarn Co.‘s Linda on the epic drive to The North for Woolfest 2015. Neither of us had been before, and we were excited to be going to a new show in such a beautiful part of the country.

Linda showcased her beautiful new Islington DK base with a collection of new patterns by designers including me! My contribution was the golden wrap called the Pavilion about which a blog post is immanent….

Knitting Patterns: Boardwalk Collection

As ever, Linda allowed me to take over a little corner of the stand to sell patterns and show off samples. She had some new beautiful shades of Westminster which I may have had to steal for a new design…

Woolfest 2015 Kettle Yarn Co. Stand

Shawls visible from the left: Naloa, Astrisks, and Antiprism, with a basket of gorgeous Westminster in the middle….

Woolfest, for those of you who haven’t been, is held in a cow shed, and staying true to the venue, the animals were the stars of the show.
Woolfest 2015--baby alpacas

The baby alpacas nearly killed me with cute.

Woolfest 2015--cashmere goat

I don’t think I have ever seen a cashmere goat in the flesh before. There were signs not to pet them, and I respected the request and absolutely didn’t stick my hands right into all that silky woolly goodness.

Woolfest 2015--Gotland sheep

Now, I live in the middle of a capital city and have no contact with livestock. I’m not sure whether this makes me more or less susceptible to the attribution of human characteristic to animals, but maybe it doesn’t matter. The Gotland goats seemed to me to be very inquisitive,Woolfest 2015--teeswater sheep

whereas the Teeswater sheep were entirely regal, proud sheep, who seemed to demand a certain about of admiration and got it.
Woolfest 2015--Teeswater Sheep

I thought this was kind of a sweet family portrait of Herdwick sheep, even if I think the lamb looks a little like the traditional depiction of the Devil….Woolfest 2015--Herdwick Sheep

After the show we had a few days to roam around Cumbria and there are some stunning views from the farm we stayed at.  Woolfest 2015-Cumbria Alpacas

Including a flowery field of llamas and a pasture of tiny ponies.  Woolfest 2015-Cumbria

 

Yes, TINY PONIES I say. That’s why you have to look closely to see them.

It was, all in all, a splendid weekend, even if the travelling took some of the immediate gratification away from the experience. My next adventure with the lovely Linda is Fibre East in Bedford. I hope to see you there!

Til then, happy knitting,

R.