We review lots of lovely ‘new to us’ yarns.
We wanted to do something a little different for our Winter Solstice issue yarn review. Producing Olann and means we’re lucky enough to hear about lots of different yarns, but often don’t have the time to try them. So for this issue we thought it would be good to use the opportunity to try some ‘new to us’ yarns and share them and our thoughts about them with you.
Shade Pictured Nightshade
Fibre Content 100% Superwash Merino
Ball Weight/Length 100g = 366m/400yds
Needle Size 2-3m
Tension None specified
2017 has been a fantastic year for indie dyers in Ireland (north and south); each have something different to bring to the fibre world and it’s great to see how the dyers’ personalities translate to their yarns. Based in Cork, Margarita is the lady behind the dye pots at Yurwool.
Margarita has a strong belief that creativity and working with wool, knitting or dyeing allows us to connect more with the present. Her love of wool first started as a child, surrounded by the handmade items created by her mother and her aunts, developed into an unconscious love of handcraft.
With a passion for all things colour, Margarita utilises her background in interior design and her love of photography to create the most beautiful colourways. Drawing inspiration from her surroundings and the way the seasons alter the colours, the dye is her paint and the yarn is her canvas. Mindful of her environment, Margarita dyes her yarn with care and sources them carefully from mulesing free and sustainable farms.
Margarita sent us a skein of her 4ply/fingering weight single ply yarn which, as you would expect, was beautifully soft and bouncy. When knitted up it retained these qualities, producing a lovely lightweight fabric that is warm and could be worn next to the most delicate baby skin. What is truly special about the Yurwool Single is Margarita’s ability to infuse so many colours into the one yarn, without them jarring. On close inspection, the Nightshade colourway appears to incorporate pinks of every hue, purples, oranges, rusts, reds, browns, grey and even a little blue. When you list the number of colours it sounds like it really shouldn’t work, but it does. The colours are further enhanced by the way in which singles absorb the yarn and reflect the light and combines to create a jewelled effect.
Far too delicate to be used for knitting socks, Yurwool 4ply/Fingering Singles would make the most beautiful shawls and accessories, or an extra special jumper.
Bless Your Cotton Socks
Shade Pictured Whitsunday
Fibre Content 50% Superwash Mulesing Free Wool, 25% Cotton, 25% Nylon
Ball Weight/Length 100g = 416m/455 yds
Needle Size 2 – 3mm
Tension None Specified
Many of you will already be familiar with Grace of Babbles Yarns because she is the host of the popular YouTube podcast, Babbles Travelling Yarns (find out more about that in our review here). Her love of yarn is contagious and you’d only need to watch five minutes of any of her podcast episodes to understand why dyeing yarn was the most natural progression.
Having attended the Limerick School of Art & Design, Grace graduated in 2009 right when the country was in the grips of the recession. Deciding that her dreams of being an artist might be better put on hold for a while, Grace changed direction completely, moving to Edinburgh to study Radiography. Travelling back and forth between her home in Ireland and college in Scotland, meant Grace spent a lot of time sitting on planes, trains and automobiles, so she began to knit and crochet, and the rest is history.
Grace’s venture into yarn dyeing developed from a desire to create beautiful skeins of yarn with potential. Every colourway has a lovely story behind it and Grace ensures she uses only ethically sourced bases that are wonderful to knit or crochet with.
Bless Your Cotton Socks is one of the newer bases Grace has released. The yarn has been sourced to meet the needs of those makers living in hotter climates because of Grace’s own experiences of knitting with similar blends when she was living in Australia. Bless Your Cotton Socks is also ideal for making garments and accessories for those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere to wear in the warmer months. The high wool content, coupled with the cotton and nylon, means it’s an ideal yarn for those sock makers that prefer a slightly cooler sock.
Grace sent us a skein in the colourway Whitsunday, for which she drew her inspiration from a stunning silica beach island off the coast of Queensland in Australia, where the sand is bright white, and the ocean blues are the most vivid she has ever seen. The cotton content of the yarn doesn’t draw as much of the dye in as the wool, which creates a lovely marled effect, giving the yarn many different depths of colour, with an almost translucent quality.
The cotton in the yarn creates a fabric with more drape than that a regular 75/25 sock yarn, but the high percentage of wool means the fabric still has that great spring and bounciness that you need in a pair of socks.
The Knitting Goddess
4Ply One Farm Wool
Shade Pictured Blackened Rainbow
Fibre Content 50% Bluefaced Leicester, 50% North Country Mule (2017 Clip)
Ball Weight/Length 100g = 400m/437 yds
Needle Size None Specified
Tension None Specified
Based in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, The Knitting Goddess produces and dyes yarns from British Wool. Joy has been dyeing and selling yarn since 2005 and with the assistance of her partner Bobbie, The Knitting Goddess has grown to be a well known British brand, with yarns that are loved by designers and makers alike.
One Farm Wool, a blend of 50% Bluefaced Leicester and 50% North Country Wool is a genuine Yorkshire yarn. Both flocks of sheep live at Fiddlers Green Farm, near Harrogate, the wool clip was spun by Laxtons in Shipley West Yorkshire, and then dyed by Joy. You can read the full story on the website here, but that’s a journey of 72 miles in Yorkshire from sheep to dye pot.
One Farm Yarn has the best of qualities from both breeds. The North Country fleece has a crisp, crunchiness to it, which gives the yarn a sturdiness and strength, which when combined with the softness of the BFL, results in a much more wearable yarn. The long-wool crimp and lustre of the BFL gives the yarn a delicate sheen, which highlights Joy’s wizardry with dye pots.
One Farm Wool is currently available in 34 different shades, including multi-coloured, semi-solids, lots of lovely neutrals and the beautiful un-dyed ecru.
When knitted, the finished fabric has a delicate halo that sits above it helping to trap the air and creating a lovely warm material. Perfect for garments and accessories, Joy doesn’t recommend you use this yarn for socks, but it would be an ideal choice for colourwork.
Shade Pictured Winter Sparkle
Fibre Content 71% Wool, 24% Nylon, 5% Polyester
Ball Weight/Length 100g = 420m/459 yds
Needle Size 2.5 – 3mm
Tension None Specified
Olivia, the lady behind Yarnatic, is an Irish lady living in Bavaria with her German husband. With her love of arts and crafts and her husband’s background in chemistry, the couple thought they’d try their hand at yarn dyeing.
Olivia told us “I’m the dyer and the knitter/crocheter, he’s the one who stands over me with the log book making me write down percentages and amounts. It has to be done, even if he’s a hard taskmaster!”
Sock yarn is Olivia’s favourite to dye because she loves the way the yarn takes colour and its robustness. She loves the excitement of experimenting with different techniques and colourway. Olivia is conscious of trying to dye with the environment in mind, by not wasting water or energy and exhausting dyes completely so as little dye as possible goes into the waste system. In the Summer months she uses Solar Dyeing and often has one-of-a-kind colourways, which are usually created to take up excess dye or use up water baths.
New bases are due in the shop soon and include a Merino Superwash and the Sparkly Sock base that we received. Knittted up, the yarn produces a lovely fabric, that if used for purpose, will stand up to being worn by even the most brutal feet. It’s a ‘proper’ sock yarn, that will soften slightly with washing, so could be used for garments and accessories, but sensitive skinned people might prefer to wear something underneath, next to their skin.
As a sock knitter myself and someone who has only put holes in 100% Merino socks, I love the texture of the yarn. It’s lovely to knit and easy to keep an even tension. The little bit of sparkle adds a different dimension, which in this particular colourway looks like stars in the night sky.
Shade Pictured R18
Fibre Content 60% NZ Merino, 40% Bleached Brushtail Possum
Ball Weight/Length 40g = 153m/167yds
Needle Size 3.25mm
Tension 27 stitches to 10cm/4”
Known for their work with high quality, natural fibres, specifically the New Zealand Brushtail Possum, Zealana is part of the Woolyarns Ltd Company in New Zealand.
Rimu yarn is sold under the Performa Series umbrella, which encompasses the more hardwearing fibre blends. Which, having knitted with it, must mean that their more luxurious yarns are akin to fluffy clouds.
Possum fibre is said to be 55% warmer than pure Merino and 35% warmer than pure Cashmere. It is also known to be more durable and less likely to pill in comparison to similar luxury fibres. Rimu is available in both 4ply/fingering and double knitting weight, in over 20 different shades.
Our little swatch is knitted up using the 4ply weight version and recommended tension. The lovely little stitches are covered by a delicate, fluffy halo, reminiscent of a Cashmere yarn. The fabric is supersoft and when worn next to my skin, I didn’t notice any ‘catch’. When pulled out of shape the stitches sprang back and you can tell just by holding the swatch, that a garment made in Rimu would be warm and cosy.
Zealana yarns aren’t currently available here in Ireland, but you can find them from several stockists in the UK and in other good yarn shops around the world.
Woolly Mammoth Fibre Co.
100% Falkland Islands Merino
Shade Pictured Rhubarb and Custard
Fibre Content 100% Merino
Ball Weight/Length 100g = 800m
Emma Robinson is the maker and creator behind Woolly Mammoth Fibre company. Emma uses single breed, high quality, non-superwash yarns for dyeing. A large majority of these wools are British or rare breeds and are all dyed with natural dyes. Many of Emma’s natural dyes are foraged from her local area, home grown in the garden, or kitchen waste. Emma’s colour inspiration comes mainly from walks in the quiet Irish landscape, stories of epic adventures or sometimes old books and poetry.
This lace weight Merino comes from the Falkland Islands. The fibre feels so light and airy, you could almost forget you’re holding it. When knitted it has a softness and denseness that I wasn’t quite expecting. It feels woolly, despite the super fine fibre and has a lovely halo to it.
Emma created the subtle shade, Rhubarb and Custard, using onion skins and cochineal. It conjures up memories of rhubarb tart smothered in custard and has a beautiful authentic sense to it, thanks to the natural dyeing. Spots of green punctuate the yellow/pink tones creating a lovely sense of colour depth.
There is a Woolly Mammoth online shop where you can pick up hanks of this naturally dyed goodness direct from Emma. You can also keep up with shop update news on the Woolly Mammoth Instagram profile.
West Yorkshire Spinners
The Croft – Shetland Tweed
Shade Pictured 754 Heylor
Fibre Content 100% Shetland Island Wool
Ball Weight/Length 100g = 162m/182yds
Needle Size 5mm
Tension 18 sts x 24 rows
Confession time, I am completely in love with this yarn, which given the colour may come as a bit of a surprise to some of you, as it did to my friends. Very rarely does a yarn come in for us to review at Olann and that I need to immediately cast on, but in the case of The Croft, this was exactly how I felt.
I really couldn’t believe that The Croft has been produced using 100% Shetland Island Wool because it is much softer than any Shetland wools I have knit with in the past. That said, I wasted no time and literally caked the yarn up straight away to begin knitting with it. However, I couldn’t bring myself to just knit a swatch, so I actually cast on a pair of fingerless mitts (more about those at a later date).
West Yorkshire Spinners have worked with Jamieson & Smith of Shetland to create a beautiful aran weight tweed yarn. The crimp and wave in the Shetland fleece make it an ideal yarn for hand knitting, which is why it’s traditionally used for colourwork. But The Croft has something more: it has a soft and silky handle but retains its durability.
Knitting with the yarn was a pure delight. The resulting fabric is soft, not as soft as a 100% Merino, but soft enough that I wasn’t able to feel any ‘catch’ when I wore my sample next to my neck. Knitted to tension it produces a dense, springy fabric that is extremely insulating and will keep you nice and warm. While it does have lovely stitch definition, it is somewhat lost because of the tweedy effect; however strong cables and repeating textured patterns would still work well and allow the beauty of the yarn to shine through.
Speckle dyed to give the illusion of tweedy nups, there are currently eight different shades available in The Croft. It’s a true aran weigh yarn, which you could confidently substitute in any standard aran weight patterns. Alternatively, West Yorkshire Spinners have enlisted the help of talented designer Sarah Hatton, to create a collection of garments and accessories to showcase the unique colour effect of the yarn.
Three Bears yarn
100% Bluefaced Leicester Wool
Shade Pictured Dusky Blue
Fibre Content 100% Bluefaced Leicester Wool
Ball Weight/Length 50g = 80m/87yds
Needle Size 7mm
Tension 13 stitches to 10cm/4 inches
I feel I should make a little disclaimer before writing my review of this yarn because as many of you will know, I love this particular breed and their yarn is one of my favourites to work with. Hand on heart, I promise to be truthful in my opinion.
Three Bears yarn was founded in 2015 out of Blackburn Yarn Dyers Ltd by Anthony Green (Managing Director of BYD). Producing high quality dyed yarns since 1915 for some of the world’s biggest fashion brands and upholsterers, Blackburn Yarns has a wealth of experience and knowledge that only comes from working with a product for years.
Three Bears strive to keep their products local and the company’s philosophy is that everything should be produced in the UK. By collaborating with other great textile manufacturers, Three Bears ensures that the skills they have developed over the generations are kept alive and built upon. They are also a proud member of ‘Make it British’
The Bluefaced Leicester Aran is, as I expected, rather lovely. In the ball, it has the squidgy softness you would expect. When knitted up to the suggested tension of 13sts to 10cm/4in the resulting fabric is light and drapey. Worsted spun by Laxtons to take full advantage of the longwool lustre to great effect. It has a supersoft handle that can be worn next to the skin, by all except those allergic to wool.
There are 11 shades currently available. Personally, I would probably prefer to knit the yarn to a slightly tighter tension than that recommended by Three Bears, however because it 100% Bluefaced Leicester, I would expect any finished garment to retain the drape and lustre the wool is known for.
Shade Pictured Wat
Fibre Content 100% Bluefaced Leicester Wool
Ball Weight/Length 100g = 166m/181yds
Needle Size 4.5 – 5.5mm
Tension none specified
Phileas Yarns Wanderer Aran, was a very last-minute addition to this issue yarn reviews (so excuse the unblocked swatch).
Phileas Yarns was born out a love for yarn and a passion for travel and nicely compares the two. Sylvie the owner, has been dyeing Phileas Yarns in her kitchen for two years, preferring to use yarn with a high wool content, that is sturdy enough to take backpacking.
Her colourways, inspired by her travels and some by her wanderlust list are beautiful and saturated. The shade we’ve swatched Wat, which means temple in Thailand, is inspired by warm ochre tiles that cover the temples and the golden Buddhas, that populate the country. Captured perfectly by Sylvie in the skein of Bluefaced Leicester, the semi solid yarn, almost glows, it’s that golden.
It was a dream to knit with, so much so I might have gotten a little carried away. The finished fabric is warm and bouncy, with little or no significant pooling of colour.
In case like me, your initial thought was Phileas as in the famous fictional globetrotter Phileas Fogg? You’re right of course. Sylvie hopes to be at several yarn shows in 2018, but n the meantime you can purchase her yarns from the Phileas Yarns Etsy Shop and stay up-to-date with news, via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.