I’m currently using most of my knit design time to work hard on a collection of patterns I’m hoping to release imminently. Patterns were written and samples knitted and photographed some weeks back, but there’s a whole lot of other finessing that goes on behind the scenes of a pattern release to try and make sure the experience of knitting what you’ve purchased is a good one. It’s very necessary work but not quite so creatively satisfying as having needles in hand, so come the evening I try to have some time for swatching and trying out new ideas.
At the moment I’m trying out two new-to-me yarns. One is very much a part of knitting tradition, one very much of-the-moment.
“When Viking settlers first arrived in Iceland in AD 874, they brought with them two breeds of domestic livestock, the Iceland Horse and Iceland Sheep. In time, both would have almost as much impact on the history and development of the country as man himself.”
First up, the tradition represented by Icelandic Lopi. I first learned a little about this yarn from the associated chapter in Clara Parkes’ excellent and informative Knitlandia , but you can also read more about a wool that seems to be perfectly in tune with the needs created by the environment in which it is produced here.
Appropriately enough, my swatching and experiments with this Lopi yarn involve yoked sweaters- more than a nod to the traditional Lopapeysa. It’s easy to see why it is so good for sturdy winter sweaters. The chunky weight means it works up quickly, but at the same time it is airy and light without being too soft, thereby avoiding the sagging or bulkiness that might otherwise put you off making (or wearing) this type of garment.
I do find working this fairly robust, heavier weight yarn on 6mm needles is quite hard on my hands, but everyone has their comfort zone when it comes to yarn weights and needle sizes-mine is probably around the DK/4mm mark. What is amazing is the warmth you feel, even with a relatively small amount of knitting on your lap. Icelandic sheep clearly aren’t messing around when they produce wool to help them survive up there around the Arctic Circle. I can definitely see at least a couple of designs on the horizon inspired by and made in this fascinating fibre.
I mentioned that the other yarn I was working with was much more ‘of the moment’ than traditional. When I went to the superlative Edinburgh Yarn Festival earlier this year, there were several stands that were creating a bigger than average buzz. These included Kate Davies and her Buachaille yarn, Ysolda and her blend No. 1, Rachel Atkinson and her Daughter of a Shepherd (shall we pause just a second there and delight at that wonderful line up of new, beautiful, independently produced British wools ?!) and the magical rainbow that was the Wollmeise stand. Another must see/must buy was a skein of Hedgehog Fibres, particularly if said skein involved speckles and/or neon and was destined for a Westknits shawl. I considered, but didn’t actually buy any at the time, being on something of a ‘naturals’ kick that day, but I found myself regretting that decision recently as I realised that those neon splatters would be spot on for an idea I’ve been pondering.
I therefore invested in a handful of Sock Minis (in Graphite and Heyday colourways) so that when my hands need a break from the 6mm needles I can pick up the 3mm needles and this 4ply yarn. As should be expected, this 90% superwash Merino/ 10% nylon mix is smooth and neat to work with using the HiyaHiya SHARP circular needles I favour for this gauge. I did find it a little splitty when I was unpicking mistakes, but I think that was more because I wasn’t using the right tools for the job at that point (I was in a warm place and my miniature crochet hooks were somewhere cold so I couldn’t be bothered to get them…) As for the colours- yes they are just as vibrant and eyecatching and fun to knit with as they look. No wonder they are a stash-builder’s catnip. I’m really pleased with the way my colourwork idea using this yarn is coming together- even the back (pictured) looks pretty, so watch this space for a pattern that may just give you the excuse to indulge in a little neon, speckle yarn trendiness too!