Welcome to 2017! How’s it treating you so far? I am off to a flying start. I have made lists by the shed-load and the post-it notes have proliferated, but I am happy with that. This feeling is probably something to do with having had a good, lazy holiday break with lots of movie-watching and naps. I did have a tiny tantrum yesterday just before I accepted that Christmas was really over and Ben really was going to go back to work and I had to get up at 6am AGAIN!?>! but then I set the alarm and got on with it.
Which brings me to the first order of service for the new year: last year’s EastLondonKnit knit-along. It is officially over, but just in case you have knit an EastLondonKnit design and would like a chance to win one of the fabulous prize packages…
A post shared by Renee EastLondonKnit (@eastlondonknit) on
If you would like to win of these lovely packages, please post your finished EastLondonKnit project over on the thread in the ELK Ravelry group. I will choose 2 prize winners at the end of this week.
So, let’s talk about resolutions!
If you know me, you know that I love a New Year’s Resolution. Honestly, I am not restricted to New Years to make my resolutions–I make them regularly throughout the year with unnecessary zeal, but I have a real soft spot for the beginning of January. This year, in addition to the usual promises to self: more exercise, less sugar, no booze this January, I also wanted to add some different things: find somewhere to regularly volunteer, don’t be angry about the world, do things to make it better, and something completely unrelated: learn to play the guitar, because, well, why not?
I know that I should have started with the musical things a lifetime ago, but I’m one of those people who thinks it is never too late. If I start now, in 10 years I might be pretty good. If I don’t start now, in 10 years, I’ll just be 10 years older and still not playing any instruments.
And until I figure out where to volunteer (suggestions welcome!!), I am going to knit some hats and things for KnitAid. If you haven’t heard of KnitAid, please do have a look. They are making a big collection on 20th January if you would like to participate too!!
Today the Klee Collection knit along begins and I am really pleased to discuss the first of the sponsors, who, not coincidentally, were also the wonderful sources of yarn for my collection:
Blacker Yarns, WalkCollection and The Uncommon Thread have all generously contributed to the prize pots, as have I with some gorgeous yarn from the ‘give away’ stash and surprises to be announced. There will be prizes for finished garments and finished accessories, both randomly selected, as well as a social media participation prize and a prize for my favourite finished object.
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.
Decision making is really not my super skill. And with knitwear design, there are a lot of decisions to make. Stitch patterns, numbers of repeats, yarn choices; it can all get a bit overwhelming. One of the choices to make is about the type of accessories or garment that will be the finished object, and for the Klee Collection, I decided to cheat this decision and do both.
This was a particularly easy decision with the Angelus Novus design, as the cardigan begins life as a shawl and then continues on. The Blacker Swan used in the design is such a lovely soft and warm yarn that once I started knitting with it, I just carried on until I had half a small blanket. It is a simple but still quite luxurious. The shawl can be worked to any number of repeats and so made as large or as small as preferred.
I am pleased to announce that Blacker Yarn are one of the generous sponsors of the Klee Collection knit along, which begins on 1 December and will finish on 1 February 2016. You can join in the pre-KAL chat here and declare your intentions if you would like:)
And don’t forget to enter in the Instagram giveaway before Monday at 12 noon GMT to win a copy of the shawl and cardigan pattern!
Inspiration is a nebulous thing; sometime it is a single colour, as the shocking red of Angel in the Making, sometimes it is a more subtle thing, as the title of the painting which led to the idea of a lace in the making: a shape which begins as a small, simple motif and evolves with the knitting, growing into a complex lace pattern. Sometimes a metaphor morphs into another shape in the mind, as did the idea of graphic arm/wings in Angelus Novus.
Angelus Novus 1920 Oil-transfer drawing and watercolour on paper on cardboard by Paul Klee
Isn’t she a beauty? What gorgeous the curling scrolls of hair and geometric patterns in the body! I imagined the arms wrapping around the body and turned into a wing-like pattern that envelops the body. There is joy in the simplicity of the shapes, something both childlike and elegant.
The Angelus Novus cardigan knit itself in my mind long before I picked up the needles. It has turned out to be an easy-to-wear cardigan with an innovative construction begining with a garter-tab cast on at the lower back and growing up and around the body. It flatters many body types and can be worn with a casual comfort or as an elegant layer. Worn open, it has the effect of a waterfall front, or it can be secured with a beautiful shawl pin or single snap closure. The sample is worked in beautiful Blacker Swan Falkland Islands Wool, which is a thick DK weight, but a worsted- or even aran-weight yarn would also be great.
The technical details:
Sized: S, M, L, XL
Bust: 33.5 (39.25, 45.25, 51.25) inches/ 85 (100, 115, 130) cm
Note: The sweater has considerable ease built in. For example, the medium can accommodate bust sizes from 34 inches-40 inches comfortably. The sample sweater is size Medium. I have a 36” bust and the sweater has a lot of room. People with much larger busts have also been happy with the fit of the medium size.
Blacker Swan DK (100% Superwash Falkland Islands Wool; 119 yd/110 m per 50 g ball) in colorway Stone;
9 (11, 12, 14) balls.
Note: The Blacker Swan DK is a very thick DK. If substituting yarns, consider a heavy worsted or even aran-weight yarn for a similar density of fabric, or a DK for a looser fabric with more drape.
1015 (1195, 1375, 1550) yards/940 (1105, 1270, 1435) metres
US #9/5.5 mm or size needed to obtain gauge long circular and double-pointed needles or your choice of needle for sleeve knitting.