Friday, 16 September 2016

Blacker Cornish Tin 11th Birthday Blend

Many of you will remember this time last year we were all getting very excited about Blacker Yarns 10th Birthday and their very special limited edition 10th Birthday Blend.  It sold out so quickly, it wasn't long before both the shelves at BritYarn and Blacker were looking quite bare. 

Cornish Tin II in all its glory.
The wonderful people at Blacker have decided, as so many of you missed out last year, to create another unique limited edition blend to celebrate their 11th birthday - Cornish Tin II. 

BritYarn is delighted to be stocking this amazing yarn in both 4 ply and DK.  The yarn comes in 100g skeins (350m for 4 ply and 220m for DK).  This time there are seven rich dyed shades and one undyed natural grey all named after Cornish Tin Mines.  

The 11th Birthday Blend has been created by blending together Alpaca, Portland, Saxon Merino, Gotland, Jacob, Shetland, Black Welsh Mountain, Mohair, and English Merino.  All the sheep live in the UK and come from Blacker Yarns favourite small producers. 

I was very lucky to be sent a little sample to have a play with before the big boxes started arriving at BritYarn.   

To the squish the yarn feels very bouncy and has a silkiness to it but not a squishy soft silkiness (if that makes sense!).   As different fibres (and their natural shades) react differently to dye the seven dyed shades have lovely subtle variations and you can still see some of the amazing darker fibres.  The undyed Levant Grey is a stunning silver shade with lovely hints of lighter and darker fibres.

My little skein of Poldice Pink.
I wanted my swatch to test out as many things as I could. I picked out the Cascading Leaves pattern from 750 Knitting Stitches.  I decided to alter the background stitch for the bottom and top sections to stocking stitch rather than reverse stocking stitch.  Sadly I ran out of yarn so that last few rows and cast off was actually done in my leftover sample mini skein of Cornish Tin 10th Birthday Blend.

The yarn was a real pleasure to work with.  It flowed through my fingers really smoothly (the 10th Blend had more of a rustic and sticky feel to it).  While knitting the yarn felt substantial and strong and I am sure it would love being ripped out! 

The stitches in my unblocked swatch look wonderfully defined and sit nicely together making the yarn brilliant for colourwork projects. My unblocked swatch was noticeable softer then my precious blocked 10th Birthday Blend swatch. There was a slight halo to the swatch and it had a lovely drape.  I should add my yarn was DK and I used 4mm needles.
As we all know giving our projects a nice bath and a block does magical things.......
My blocked swatch

Now I loved the 10th Birthday Tin but I have to be very honest and say I love this even more!  The yarn has bloomed and my swatch just feels devine.  It has a substance to it that is really pleasing but a lovely softness to it (I don't mean buttery BFL soft but I can't think of the right word).  
Cornish Tin II would be amazing for pretty much everything.  It would be great for open work, colourwork and cables.  It would equally be just wonderful in relaxing garter or stocking stitch projects.  Accessories would be amazing such as hats, shawls, gloves.  It would also make a very special garment.  I am thinking jumpers and cardigans by Tin Can Knits especially.  The only thing I personally would not use it for is socks..... why you ask?  Because this yarn just needs to be shown off to the world and not hidden in shoes and boots! 

Cornish Tin II 11th Birthday Blend goes on sale Tuesday 20th September 2016.  Remember this yarn is limited edition and will only be made this once.

If you are thinking about using Cornish Tin II with perhaps Tamar or Classic 4 ply I highly recommend you check out the amazing blog by Erika Eccles.  


Tuesday, 13 September 2016

The Great British Socks Away KAL is returning

That's right everyone The Great British Socks Away KAL is coming back next Friday 23rd September.  Everyone who took part last year had a great time.  It has brilliant to hear how the KAL has inspired so many of you in your sock knitting adventures. 

Like last year it will take place over in the BritYarn Ravelry Group.  If anyone wants to share their photos on Twitter and Instagram you can use the hashtag #GBSocksAwayKAL16.  

The chatter has already started in the group with plans being made and stash being rummaged through.  The rules are straightforward:

  • We will all cast on our socks of choice on Friday 23rd September 2016.
  • The yarn must be grown in Britain OR be grown local to you if you do not live in Great Britain. Of course you are still welcome to use British grown yarn if you wish. The yarn can be from your stash, a BritYarn purchase or bought from elsewhere.
  • Blends (taken from BritYarn’s Woolly Principles) using other natural fibres can be used e.g. linen as long as they comprise a maximum of 50% of the total content. Synthetic material in a blend, e.g. nylon should only account for 25% of the total content.
  • Any sock pattern can be used.
  • To be eligible for a prizes you need to post a photo of your finished pair of socks in the FO thread in the BritYarn Ravelry group by midnight Monday 31st October 2016.
  • You are more than welcome to double dip as long as the above rules apply. 
If you are new to sock knitting and fancy taking part please don't be shy..... there are all skill levels taking part and everyone is really friendly.

Hope to see you over in the BritYarn group! 

Looking for inspiration.......

Lazy Sunday Knitted Socks by Jane Burns

Sock Anatomy by Clare Devine

Blacker Classic 4 Ply

West Yorkshire Spinners Cocktail Range 

Britsock - The Knitting Goddess

Monday, 4 July 2016

Monday 11th July and Tuesday 12th July 2016

Hello everyone.  

Just a little note to say no orders will be posted on Monday 11th July and Tuesday 12th July.  Any orders which are placed after the Friday 8th July post office run will not be posted until Wednesday 13th July.  

I will however try and post as many orders as I can over the weekend but I can't promise anything as I am also taking part in two art installations!

Have a good week everyone

p.s. we still have a few yarns reduced at the moment...... I will pop a little link here.  

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

A little meet up at Leeds Wool Festival 2016

It is Leeds Wool Festival this Saturday and Joeli Creates and myself are holding a little meet up at 1pm.  

I went last year and had a brilliant day.  You can read all about my day last here.

We will meet up outside on the grass area which is to the right of the main entrance (same place we sat last year).  If you follow the main building to the very end you come to a lovely sheltered garden area.  I will post a photo on Instagram and Twitter just before 1pm so you know roughly where we are.  If the weather is not kind to us I will pop a post on Instagram / Twitter to let you know of the alternative arrangements.  

Hope to see you there.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

A chat with Jane Burns - Lazy Sunday Socks

Hello Jane 

Many thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for BritYarn.  If you are sitting comfortably with a beverage to hand lets begin!

Could introduce yourself to BritYarn’s readers?  

I am Jane and I design knitting and occasionally crochet patterns whose magic lies in the simplicity.  Knitting time is precious and I help knitters make projects that have an easily achievable wow factor.  Until recently I worked full time designing for the UK knitting magazines, and now I have now started my self-publishing journey. 

What started your journey into designing knitting and crochet patterns?

Like many designers I had a ‘chance’ entry into the industry.  In 2009 I owned an online knitting shop  (specialising in sock yarns) and Let’s Knit Magazine approached me and asked if I designed sock knitting patterns.  I had designed a couple of patterns as yarn support for the yarn I stocked, so I jumped at the opportunity. 

What are your favourite woolly / fibre crafts?

I am a knitter, I would probably still be knitting night and day even if it were not my job.  A few years ago I taught myself to crochet as an alternative way to relax. Knitting had become my full time job, I thought crochet would help me unwind. But shortly after I was asked to design some crochet pieces…. 

You have just launched your new book ‘Lazy Sunday Knitted Socks’.  Could you tell us a little bit about it?

I wanted to design a collection of socks that were indulgent. Knitting time is precious and we rarely spend that time knitting projects to pamper ourselves. This is a collection of beautiful beaded socks to knit. The book teaches you how to apply beads using a crochet hook, which is by far my favourite method of applying beads to knitting.  . There is a range of patterns; whilst some of the designs look incredibly complex, if you can knit socks and follow a chart they really are quite simple.  For example, ‘No Room For Ravers’ may look a little daunting but in reality the chart has only an eight row repeat, coupled with some simple cables and eyelets you have some stunning socks, that are achievable for most sock knitters.  And if you are not a fan of reading charts, the book includes full written instructions for ‘No Room For Ravers’. 

Many people (including myself) may never have used beads in socks before…. can you share any hints or tips?

Find yourself a good video tutorial, there is one on my blog  seeing this technique demonstrated will leave you addicted to beading. Most people watch the technique and say, ‘that is so simple’.

All hooks and beads are not made equal, I highly recommend purchasing a Clover Soft Touch Steel tipped crochet hook, I have tried a lot of hooks and in my opinion these are the best.  Good quality beads such as Debbie Abrahams beads or Matsuno seed beads are also highly recommended. 

Is there one thing you couldn't live without when designing a pattern and why?

Stitchmastery!  Stitchmastery allows me to manipulate stitch patterns easily, it has saved me many hours of drawing charts on paper and rubbing them out! It also has a fantastic chart ‘checking’ facility that is a life saver.

It’s tea break time…. what is your favourite biscuit?

Oh Isla, I am a biscuit-o-holic, it is easier to tell you which biscuits I do not like…. Ginger Nuts! Ginger Nuts are pure evil, I think this may be a deep rooted psychological issue. I was the only red head in my primary school and it was harsh! I needed Catherine Tate and Tim Minchin when I was growing up, if I had heard the Tim Minchin song, ‘Only A Ginger can call another Ginger, Ginger’ life would have been so different.  

Are there any future plans / projects you can share with BritYarn?

Yes, throughout the year there will be more sock patterns, not all of them beaded. But even more exciting I am working on my second book.  I am sitting here resisting the urge to tell you all about it, but I must be strong…..

You can purchase Jane's book here.

Images used with kind permission from Jane Burns.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

British Wool Marketing Board - Part 3

Part 3 covers the tour of the Wool Grading Department at Bradford.  The same process happens across the BWMB eleven depots.

The sheets enter the depot, either from a sub depot or direct from a producer dropping off their packed sheets.  All the sheets are weighed as they enter the depot and are marked with the producers information.

Drop off area and Grading
The sheets are moved into position ready for the fleeces to be hand graded and sorted.  The fleeces are graded according to their type.  The grader takes around 5 - 6 seconds per fleece to access this is looking at among other things staple length, colour, breed and cleanliness.  That fleece is then placed in the appropriate blue tup (skep) depending on decision the grader makes.  The breed of the sheep is not always the main consideration when a grader sorts through the fleeces although breeds like Bluefaced Leicester are always sorted and kept together.

It is after this point that the fleeces are no longer farm specific (the weights and grades for each producer are recorded so that accurate payments can be made) but instead classified by their grade.  Every grade has a grade number which classifies it into one of the six categories (fine, medium, cross, lustre, hill and mountain) which are then broken down even further (hogs, ewes, breed, colour etc).  

Full Skeps (you can see the grade numbers above)

Once eight skeps of the same grade have been gathered they are then baled into large green bales using the machine below.  The machine compresses the fleeces and wraps them in plastic. 
Green bales
The green baler machine

The green bales are then placed in the warehouse area.  Once there are roughly 24 bales (around 8000kg) this can then go to auction as one lot.  Before the sale a core sample from each bale is taken which is scientifically analysed to provide additional information for potential buyers.  

Other things to note relating to grading and auctioning the wool

  • A producer has the option to drop off their sheets at a depot or one of the 14 sub depots.  If they choose not to do this then they are changed a fee depending on where the fleeces are collected from.
  • Here is a link to the different grades of fleece (scroll to the bottom of the page).
  • There are eighteen auctions a year.  They are all held at Bradford.
If you have any questions let me know! The next few blog posts will all be focused on answering the questions we had over in the BritYarn Ravelry group.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

British Wool Marketing Board - Part 2

In Part 1 I talked about a very informative presentation by Gareth Jones BWMB Producer Communications Manager.  In this second post about my visit to the British Wool Marketing Board (BWMB) I thought I would share some of the things I learnt during his talk.

I mentioned a few stats last time but another interesting and thought provoking one was in 2014 only 1.3% of the fibre produced globally was made from wool.  62.9% was synthetic, 29.1% was cotton with cellulosic, silk, flax and other animal fibres making up the other areas.  

When the board was established in 1950 there was 130,000 sheep farmers (producers) registered with the board.  The board was created to encourage farmers to keep sheep for wool after World War Two.  There was a price guarantee set by the government which dictated the price the farmers would receive for their fleeces.  

Currently there are approximately 45,000 sheep farmers registered with the board.  The demand for cheaper man made fibres certainly is a massive contributing factor to the decline in numbers of sheep farmers and the demand for wool globally has dropped in the last 15 years.  However, some of this decline in producers can be attributed to them not being registered with the board and instead using their fleeces for their own business ventures.   

An area which surprised me was just how much the BWMB try and help registered producers regardless of size of flock (58% producers produce less than 500kg fleece) or their location in the country.  

One thing we all need to remember is that sheep must be sheared for welfare reasons, and so those costs are part and parcel of keeping sheep.   The board provide an end to end service from providing the sheets (see part 1), collection of the fleeces from a farm (or a farmer can drop them off at a local depot), grading and auction.  

In theory 'all' the farmer has do once a sheep has been clipped is to ensure their fleeces are packed into the sheets ready for collection.  These sheets are huge and must be packed according to BWMB instructions.   Having seen them being manually moved on a recent BBC programme 'This Farming Life' and read how unpopular they are on social media I can understand why producers might not be happy.  Not just with the physicality of using them them but also in the time taken after a sheep has been sheared to correctly pack the fleece into the sheet.  However, I can now appreciate and better understand why the BWMB insist on them having seen the process in action (more in Part 3). 

The BWMB aims to achieve the best possible market price for British wool for the producers (don't forget the board is made up of farmers) and to make buying British wool as attractive prospect as possible to merchants.  It does this by assisting merchants with things like haulage services and storage.  

Also each and every green bale in an auction lot is scientifically tested to provide additional information to a buyer such yield, vegetable matter, micron count and colour.  This not only ensures quality control but also provides much needed information so a buyer can make an informed choice on auction day.   The services the BWMB provide make then unique.
A lorry being loaded with sold lots

Like I mentioned in part 1 British wool is such a tiny percentage of the global market. The BWMB are trying to go one step further and get British wool noticed on a global market by working together with producers.  For that they certainly get my respect and thanks.

Part three will all be about the grading side.