english girl at home

A Sewing & Knitting Blog, Made in Birmingham, England


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Cornish Tin II & St. Kilda

British yarn maestros Blacker Yarns have two new yarns going on sale today at 10am!

Blacker Yarns Cornish Tin II & St. Kilda Yarns

The first is a range of new colours for Blacker’s St. Kilda lace-weight yarn, hand dyed by Joy of The Knitting Goddess.

Blacker’s St. Kilda yarn contains wool from St Kilda’s (an archipelago which is the remotest part of the British Isles) native Boreray and Soay sheep – two of the oldest and rarest of all British breeds – blended together with Shetland wool.

The St. Kilda yarns aren’t a one-off, but there will be a limited supply annually due to the fact that there’s only a limited amount of Boreray and Soay fleece available. That, coupled with the fact that this range is dyed by hand in small batches, makes this a really unique yarn (and likely to sell out fast).

Blacker kindly sent me a small skein of St. Kilda in the Conachair colourway, and I can report that the dyeing process means the colour has loads of depth – in the photos you can see that there is variation in the colour of my swatch, as opposed to a solid colour. I found the yarn bouncy, easy to work with, and great for showcasing texture and detail.

The range includes ten dyed colours, plus two natural undyed shades, and can be purchased from Blacker Yarns and The Knitting Goddess.

If you’d like to hear more about the yarn, there’s a great interview on episode 66 of the KnitBritish Podcast.

Blacker Yarns Cornish Tin II & St. Kilda Yarns

The second new release is the final batch of Cornish Tin II. This is a one-off, limited edition yarn to celebrate Blacker’s 11th birthday (following the very popular Cornish Tin last year).

The yarn is blended from 100% British fibres from small producers, and contains Alpaca, Portland, Saxon Merino, Gotland, Jacob, Shetland, Black Welsh Mountain, Mohair, and English Merino. The yarn is available in a silver grey, plus seven dyed shades (shown on the left in the photos below) all named after Cornish Tin Mines, and in 4-ply and DK weights.

To accompany the yarn, Blacker have released a gorgeous (free) sock pattern (going straight in my Ravelry queue!), and hat pattern.

Blacker Yarns Cornish Tin II & St. Kilda Yarns

I got my hands on some of the original Cornish Tin yarn last year, which was lovely to knit with, and from what I’ve heard Tin II is even more popular.

Blacker Yarns Cornish Tin II & St. Kilda Yarns

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Spinning Your Own Yarn

Creating yarn

I have an article in the April issue of Seamwork, released today.

The article is a guide on creating your own yarn, and includes stages from buying and washing a fleece, carding and spinning fibre, plying spun singles, and washing your yarn.

That’s a lot of information to squeeze in. If anything is unclear in the article let me know. I’m only a beginner, but I’ll try to help.

Creating yarn

You can read the full article here, or download the magazine from the Seamwork website.

Oh, and I also pop up in another article in this month’s Seamwork! Nicki has written a great article about her #oneyearoneoutfit project, & I’m included as one of the participants.

Creating yarn

Creating yarn

Creating yarn

Creating yarn

Creating yarn

Creating yarn

Creating yarn


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Tamar

Blacker Yarns Tamar Yarn

As a British yarn addict, I’m always really excited by the prospect of a new yarn from Blacker Yarns. Not only do they produce lovely yarns, they do so using unusual wools, create unique blends, and support small producers in the UK.

The newest yarn from Blacker, Tamar, is released tomorrow, 03rd February.

Blacker Yarns Tamar Yarn

Tamar contains wool from four British sheep breeds listed as either ‘at risk’ or ‘vulnerable’ by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust: Wensleydale, Teeswater, Cotswold and Black Leicester Longwool. These are all historic breeds, with Cotswold and Leicester Longwool dating back to the 13th and 17th centuries. They are also lustre longwool breeds, meaning the sheep’s fleece has a distinctive appearance and characteristics. If you google any of sheep breeds included in the yarn you’ll get a sense of their fleece – it has a long silky appearance, as opposed to the shorter ‘bouncier’ fleece of a cartoon sheep.

Lustre yarns have the characteristics of being smooth and silky, but can be lean and lack ‘give’. To address this, Tamar also contains 30% Cornish Mule, giving the yarn the ‘bounce’ that we expect from wool.

If you’d like to hear more about the yarn and it’s development, Chapter 112 of the Curious Handmade podcast features a great interview with Sonja at Blacker Yarns.

Blacker Yarns Tamar Yarn

I was sent a sample of Tamar in advance of release in the Lerryn colourway and DK weight. I already had my eye on the Right Angle pattern by Georgia Farrell from the Spring issue of Pom Pom Quarterly, so decided to test knit a swatch of the pattern using Tamar to see if they were a good match.

Blacker Yarns Tamar Yarn

I’m really happy with the result. Tamar has great structure and stitch definition, which showcase the Right Angle design, and it also has a lot of drape, perfect for a short top.

The yarn – and resulting fabric – are silky and shiny, but also feel strong and hard wearing. It has a slight halo, which is just visible in the photos.

Blacker Yarns Tamar Yarn

Tamar comes in DK and 4-ply weights; 15 dyed shades plus two natural shades. Each colourway is named after a tributary of the river Tamar, which gives the yarn its name. The yarn is available direct from Blacker Yarns, and BritYarn will be stocking the 4-ply weight. Blacker have released a selection of free patterns to coincide with the launch of Tamar.

Blacker Yarns Tamar Yarn

I’m definitely going to knit Right Angle using Tamar, I just need to make a decision on which colourway – I’m thinking maybe the turquoise shade, Tresillian.


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Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Last Saturday was the annual Open Day of the Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers, where I am a member.

The open day includes an exhibition of items produced by Guild members which have been woven, spun or dyed. The Guild are a very talented group and I snapped a few photos of some of the items on display, in between helping out.

Dyeing

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Weaving

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Spinning

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

The open day also included a teacosy contest for guild members, with tea cosies needing to contain a woven, dyed or spun element. The first and second place winners are in the top two photos below. I didn’t enter anything this year, so will have to make up for it in next year’s competition.

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

As at all Guild meetings, there was plenty of homemade cake and tea available.

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

And, temptingly, there was a sale table where you could buy items made by Guild members, including dyed roving and yarn, knit and woven accessories, clay buttons and yarn bowls, and wooden looms. I was manning the stall in the afternoon which was pretty dangerous for my wallet, but was relatively restrained. I came home with some dyed DK yarn, and selected some lovely clay buttons and a yarn bowl which my Mom bought for my upcoming birthday.

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

Birmingham Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers Open Day 2015

If you live locally, the Birmingham Guild 2016 programme has been announced and is looking good, with upcoming spinning and weaving workshops, plus there are guilds across the UK.


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A Naturally Dyed Wardrobe: Biden

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

Last weekend I got the chance to try dyeing with one of the dye plants I grew from seed in  my garden. Of the plants I chose to grow, my biden and marigold plants have done really well. The teasel plants are looking very healthy (the leaves are huge), but don’t yet have any seed heads, which are the section required for dyeing. I’ve had no luck at all with my bee balm and woad plants (only one tiny woad plant survived) so I’ll try again next year and see if I get better results.

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

The biden flower heads are the section used for dyeing, so I harvested all the current flower heads, leaving the flower buds for future dyeing / pollinators. I followed the biden dyeing recipe from Harvesting Color by Rebecca Burgess. The recipe recommends a weight ration of 1:1, e.g. the same weight in flower heads as in fibre. I didn’t have enough flower heads to match the weight of the fibre I wanted to dye, so used approximately 25 grams of biden flowers for just over 100 grams of fibre. As a result, I didn’t achieve as deep an orange as I have seen other dyers achieve, but I was still pretty impressed by the results.

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

To create the dye, I placed the biden flowers in a large stainless steel pan with enough water to cover my fibre, and slowly brought the water to approximately 70-80ºC over a one hour period. While the pan was heating up, I placed the fibre I planned to dye in a bucket of cold water, so that it was suitably wet through before being added to the dye pan.

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

Because natural dyeing can be smelly and messy, I’ve been doing my dyeing outside using a small portable stove.

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

After an hour, the water in my pan had taken on a orange colour. At this point the plant matter can be strained out, but I left it in the pan, as I wasn’t too concerned about plant matter getting tangled in my fibre.

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

I then reduced the heat to 50-70ºC and added my pre-wetted fibre, maintaining the temperature for approximately an hour. After an hour my fibre had clearly taken on the dye so I removed it from the pan and hung it on the line for around thirty minutes before rinsing the yarn and washing the fabric.

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

You can see that the water in the pan was a much lighter shade once the fibre had been dyed and removed.

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

In addition to a selection of yarns, I used the biden to dye my Paprika Patterns’ Onyx Shirt; made in a cotton double gauze purchased online from Etsy shop Fabric Treasury. I previously dyed the Shirt with paprika, but hadn’t mordanted the fabric in advance of dyeing it, and after a few washes the colour had completely faded.

This time I mordanted the shirt in advance of dyeing using an alum and washing soda recipe from The Craft of Natural Dyeing by Jenny Dean. I dyed some cotton yarn at the same time (the two palest yarns shown on the right in the photos below). To mordant the cotton (which weighed approximately 100g) I dissolved 25g of alum into a large pan of hot water, and then slowly added 6g of washing soda dissolved in water. I added my (pre-wetted) cotton and slowly heated the pan to 82-88ºC over approximately one hour. I then removed the pan from the heat and left the cotton to soak overnight. I gave the cotton a good rinse in cold water before adding it to the dye pan.

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

I also dyed three wool yarns, shown from left to right:

♥ 100% wool DK (TOFT Alpaca, in Oatmeal)
♥ 100% merino wool chunky (Rowan Big Wool)
♥ 75% merino / 20% silk / 5% cashmere DK (Sublime)

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

I mordanted the wool yarns using a recipe shared by my guild. I prepared small skeins, tied with figure-of-eight ties in several places, and soaked these overnight. I dissolved 8g of alum and 7g cream of tartar (available in the baking section of supermarkets) for every 100g of fibre in a pan with a small amount of warm water. I topped up the pan with enough water to cover my fibre and added the yarn. I put the pan on a low heat so that it reached simmering (approximately 82-88ºC) over an hour, and then maintained this heat for a further hour. I then removed the pan from the heat and left the yarn to soak overnight. I rinsed the yarn in cold water before adding it to the dye pan.

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

Natural Dyeing with Bidens

Paprika Patterns Onyx Shirt, Double Gauze Dyed with Biden Flowers

Paprika Patterns Onyx Shirt, Double Gauze Dyed with Biden Flowers

Paprika Patterns Onyx Shirt, Double Gauze Dyed with Biden Flowers

Paprika Patterns Onyx Shirt, Double Gauze Dyed with Biden Flowers


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TOFT Profile in September Seamwork Magazine

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

Woo hoo, my first article for Seamwork is included in the September issue, which is released today.

The article is a profile of TOFT, a British knitting company who produce alpaca and wool yarns, and knitting and crochet patterns.

TOFT yarns are produced in the UK using British fibres, and the business is based on an alpaca farm in Warwickshire, not too far from where I live. Taking part in #1year1outfit has made me really conscious about trying to use locally produced fibres, so it’s great to have such a fantastic business close to home. I also had the best possible day when I visited the farm to interview owner Kerry for the article. In order to photograph the alpaca I was allowed into the pens for some close-ups, so I spent a blissful afternoon climbing into pens and being surrounded by young, curious alpaca.

You can read the full article here, or download the magazine from the Seamwork website.

A few photos that weren’t included in the Seamwork article are below.

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm

TOFT Luxury British Knitting Company Alpaca Farm


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British Fibres and Fabrics – a #1year1outfit Update

Brigantia Mittens by Victoria Magnus in Wendy Ramsdale

My productive knitting stretch continues. I’ve recently cast on the Brigantia mittens by Victoria Magnus, which feature colour work and cables. I’m new to colour work and these mittens are a fairly simple project to start learning, but I’ve still managed to make a few errors. I suspect mitten number two, may be a lot more polished than mitten number one!

Wendy Ramsdale Wool Yarn in Malham and Hawes

I’m knitting them in the new Wendy Ramsdale yarn, supplied by Little Lamb Wool, a family-run yarn shop in North Yorkshire. Ramsdale is a DK weight yarn in ten colours, each named after a Yorkshire market town. I’m using the Malham and Hawes shades, which I think are a great match for the Brigantia pattern.

Brigantia Mittens by Victoria Magnus in Wendy Ramsdale

Ramsdale is a single ply yarn and has a really ‘wooly’ feel, with a slight fuzzy halo. I’m really enjoying knitting with it.

It is spun from 100% pure British wool, which is grown, spun and dyed in Yorkshire, local to Little Lamb Wool, where my skeins came from.

Brigantia Mittens by Victoria Magnus in Wendy Ramsdale

I’ve become a bit obsessed with knitting with British wool, as a result of taking part in Nicki’s One Year One Outfit project, and listening to the KnitBritish podcast. I’ve completed three #1year1outfit projects so far, socks (which I later dyed), gloves and a scarf (as yet unblogged). These mittens will be my fourth project. So far I’ve focused on accessories, but I have plans to knit a cardigan and a jumper, and to sew some clothing soon too.

As a result of #1year1outfit, I’ve spent some time researching British fibres and fabrics and thought it would be useful to share my findings. If you’re aware of any interesting resources I’ve missed please do share.

British Wool

Britain has a long history of woolen fabric production, so the majority of British fabric I have been able to locate is wool.

A brilliant source of information on British wool products (fabric, yarn, and just about everything else) is Woolsack, which was created by Sue Blacker. Woolsack can also be found on Ravelry. The Woolsack list of British wool fabric stockists is located here. The British Wool Marketing Board website also provides a list of British companies producing wool fabrics.

Fabric

A number of the British companies producing fabric don’t sell direct to consumers and/or online. Some that do are listed below:

London Cloth Company – London-based micro-mill specialising in weaving to order, but with cloth also available via the meterage

Dashing Tweeds – London-based (menswear) company/store with a range of British wool fabrics

Harris Tweed and Knitwear – Family company producing a range of Harris Tweed cloth and products

Harris Tweed Hebrides – Wide selection of tweeds

Hebridean Wool House – Tweeds made with wool from hebridean sheep (listed under ‘tweed products’)

Robert Noble – Established in 1666, and now producing cloth at a Scottish mill

Ardalanish – A range of tweeds woven using 100% pure new Hebridean, Manx and Shetland wool

Shawbost Weavers – Harris Tweed – Catherine weaves single width (75cm) Harris Tweed by traditional methods on a Hattersley loom. She sells via her Facebook page. It’s approximately £17.50 per metre; payment is via paypal.

The following online fabric shops are also good sources of British wool fabrics. You may need to request further information about a specific product to confirm that it is 100% British (e.g. British wool and woven/dyed in the UK).

MacCullock & Wallis – A number of fabrics in the Wool Fabrics section are listed as made in the UK. You’ll need to select individual items to find out, although you’ll definitely be ok with the Harris Tweeds:)

Croft Mill – Croft Mill allow you to view products under a ‘British Fabric‘ heading – yay

Merchant & Mills – A number of fabrics in the Wool & Tweed section are listed as made in the UK. You’ll need to select individual items to find out.

Herts Specialist Fabrics stock a range of British wool fabric, including undyed wool suitable for home dyeing.

Wendy Ramsdale Wool Yarn in Malham and Hawes

Yarn

There are a wide range of UK companies producing British wool yarns. The online store BritYarn is a  great place to shop for them, since it only sells wool which is 100% British grown. I’d also particularly recommend Blacker YarnsJamieson & SmithJohn Arbon, and local-to-me TOFT. For an extensive list see Woolsack.

I’ve also learned loads about British wool from the KnitBritish blog and podcast.

British Silk

Organic Silks in London produce a range of peace silks. I was tipped off to this by Steely Seamstress, who has already dyed and made a top with some of their silk. To order, you need to email them to confirm a price, and can then pay by card over the phone.

British Linen

Herts Specialist Fabrics stock Irish linen fabric and threads, as well as British wool and damask fabrics.

Lace

Cluny Lace have been producing lace in Ilkeston for nine generations. They mainly sell direct to design houses, but you can purchase small quantities of their lace via a number of stockists, who mainly sell lace trims. Magic Round About Vintage clearly list which of their lace trims and fabrics are produced by Cluny in the UK. Little Trimmings and The Ribbon Girl are also stockists, but their website are less clear which laces are made in the UK. You can also buy direct from Blue Riband in Kent or Kleins in London. The lace is made with Egyptian cotton and is finished (washed / dyed) in France, but is woven in the UK on historical Leavers Lace machines.

Haberdashery Supplies

Irish linen thread is availble from Herts Specialist Fabrics.

Pewter Buttons stock a range of historical-inspired buttons made in the UK with English pewter.

John James stock a wide range of needles for sewing and weaving.

Ernest Wright and Son is a family company making scissors and shears in Sheffield since 1902.

Beyond Measure stock a range of British-made haberdashery items, including buttons, wooden items by Hugh Leishman, and leather goods by Awl Co.

Disclaimer: I was provided with two free skeins of yarn by Little Lamb Wool; all opinions expressed are my own.