A bit of everything: yarn, history, swatches

Today’s post is about many different things, though still business-as-usual we could say: yarn, history books, swatches.

The first news is that I received some beautiful yarn, that will join the enormous stock that I have by now. Yes, I’m considering sorting and destashing some of it at some point. Anyway, the yarn I received includes some wool (no label but it feels like good quality) in shades of browns, greys, beige and gold yellow, probably a 4 ply, in a cone of over 600 grams. Together with it, some British Wensleydale wool in cream and brown: a little ball is handspun – incredibly soft and with a natural shine; the rest is in 50g regular balls. I’m in love, with all of them. By coincidence, Kate Davies’ last design, Catkin, features a beautiful yarn, Titus, made with a blend of British wools (50% grey Wensleydale, 20% Blue-Faced Leicester, 30% UK alpaca), which thing made me smile, as I ordered the yarn before even reading about it. I must have a ‘good nose’ for good yarns, lol.

handspun British Wensleydale handspun British Wensleydale (not my work!)

wool in shades of browns, greys, beige and gold yellow wool in shades of browns, greys, beige and gold yellow

British Wensleydale British Wensleydale

Other recent deliveries contained some Jamieson and Smith Shetland yarn, some Shetland wool on cone that I mentioned in another post, and some circular 2mm needles in 20, 30 and 40 cm. Now I’d only need an app to keep track of my items, before my memory forgets what’s in my beloved stash.

Jamieson and Smith Jamieson and SmithJamieson and SmithJamieson and Smith

In today’s stroll I stopped at an Oxfam bookshop and availed myself of some history-related books: In Search of England – Journeys into the English Past by my favourite Michael Wood (if you have access to BBC iPlayer seek out for his history documentaries); The Wars of the Roses – a Royal History of England edited by Antonia Fraser (an introduction to the topic can be found  on the Wars of the Roses wikipedia page); Ancient Britain by James Dyer, about the prehistoric life of Britain from the first human occupation 450,000 years ago, until the Roman conquest in AD 43; Diamonds – a Jubilee Celebration by Caroline de Guitaut (I’m no royal fan but the book is interesting in that it presents the story behind the royal jewels). Maybe I ought to start a clear out in my book section, as well…

In Search of England- Journeys into the English Past   The Wars of the Roses   Ancient Britain by James Dyer Diamonds - a Jubilee Celebration

Lastly, I have done some progress on my swatch playground. The first one of this series is completed but ends are still to be sawn in and washing to be done. Here is a preview of the beginning, other pictures will follow once I have done more swatches. It looks nice but requires a loooong time – knitting a fine 2x2ply with a 2mm single-point needles, so it takes forever and especially colourwork knitting on the wrong side… I know, I could have used circular needles but I also wanted to learn colourwork in flat knitting (plus I was lazy at the idea of trying steeking). I was tired and kept having issues with silly colour pattern mistakes (had to unravel about 1/3 of it) and stitches cheekily sticking out their heads here and there without any reason (the stitch count seemed to be still fine?). Anyway, the first test is more or less done. I’m now trying another on an even finer yarn… wish me luck!

Swatch no. 1, 2x2ply on 2 mm flat knitting, Shetland yarn             Swatch no. 1, 2x2ply on 2 mm flat knitting, Shetland yarn

View from the kitchen window                 View from the kitchen window


15 thoughts on “A bit of everything: yarn, history, swatches

  1. ScrapAndSalvage says:

    wow! you did score a lot of yarn! your collection must be astonishing 🙂

  2. Martha says:

    What a great choice of yarns! All look lovely and the photos show they are a good quality especially the cream coloured wool ball in the 1st photo looks so soft and cosy.
    As for Jamieson & Smith Shetland wool – oh! I want to try this out too! I’ve got two knitting kits with the bits of Shetland wool included and when you touch it, it feels so… rough and rustic 🙂 Lovely. I should get my hands on them soon!

    How do you keep a track of your yarn brand names? I would have got lost ages ago if I weren’t using the colour cards for my Dalegarn yarns. They are so handy.

    Love your choice of books – it agrees largely with my reading taste, especially the books about the stones and the ancient Britain. I find myself buying this type of books too, the last one of this type being bought at Hadrian’s Wall museum when we visited it on our holidays

    Could you perhaps blog .more about your experiences in circular versus flat colourwork knitting. I’ve tried only double pointed needles for my colour work so far and you got me interested in the remaining techniques. Isn’t it that true that flat knitting for colourwork is more fiddly and confusing than circular? Something about swapping sides and reading the charts…

    • itwasjudith says:

      Hello Martha,

      Thanks for your kind comment 🙂

      I totally agree on the rustic feeling that it’s nice (although I believe it may be an acquired taste as the very first one I got some such a wool I wasn’t too impressed); also, usually this kind of wool “blooms” once washed and becomes cosier and fuzzier. I also got some Dalegarn (Dale of Norway) because it was suggested in a pattern I wanted to try (not got around yet), it’s really lovely! and it was also used in the Christmas balls of Arne and Carlos fame (see their book in my previous post).

      To remember about the yarns, I usually save a copy of the order on my computer, so I have a future reference, although sometimes with single balls and little quantities it may be difficult to keep track of their source. I also started keeping a (precious) file where I include info, pics and links related to yarns, supplies and patterns that are particularly interesting (a sort of wish list) – that way I can defer the purchase to a later time (unless it’s a special supply or auction). It works as an inspiration book too. Sometimes I just scroll through the pages and new ideas spring up.

      History books: I don’t know what it is, but each time I end up buying some… luckily with second hand copies it gets a little cheaper! Hadrian’s Wall, wow! it’s placed in the top positions of my British journey wish list.. how was it? did you get to see those Vindolanda tablets? I saw them in some documentaries and must be amazing… think of the stories we can read in them 2000 yeas later.

      Colourwork: I will try to write some post about it, thank you for asking 🙂 Mind you, I’m no big expert, but just love experimenting with it because it looks so beautiful. I had a try at the 3 different options. Flat knitting with single point needles: it saves to have to reinforce/steek, but it is fiddly – changing colours while purling and also keep changing side when reading the pattern (for this I made an electronic pattern in XLS and marked for each row where it should begin to avoid mixing things up); it gives you freedom in the size of the item, unlike with circular needles where you need to find a suitable circumference; it gets slightly less fiddly if you can at least arrange to have the row with the simplest pattern running on the WS. DPNs: it gives you freedom in the size of the garment, but it requires extra attention to avoid different marks and tension in the points of transition from one to the next needle (I think there are some workarounds but haven’t tried yet); avoiding tension problems should be feasible with certain size yarns (sock and upwards) but not sure it would be easy with finer yarns (i.e. 2ply like I’m using at the moment). Circular needles: they are perfect in that it’s all RS knitting, no headaches in reading the pattern and hardly any issues in tension/transitions; the only down sides are that you have to find a matching circumference, the steeking for flat garments, and you have to fiddle with the top end where there is a little bump due to the spiral knitting (workarounds exist but not tried myself yet); I read that some people had issues with the joint between needle and cable, that it didn’t allow for a smooth transition – though this may depend on wool type and needle brand.

      Sorry for the lengthy reply and please let me know if you’d like more details 🙂

      • Martha says:

        wow, you know a lot about knitting. definitely more than i do.

        ive only tried dpns with my julekuler – this is how ive been making them from the very beginning and i sort of manage to get quite a good grasp of it. i even managed to put the loose strands of yarn in a neat order inside the knitted ball. the transition from a needle to a needle or the tension werent a big problem for me. i just had to remember to stretch the knitting on the dpns every so often and keep the yarn tight enough to get a nice smooth transition from one “wall” to another.
        by contrast, i havent ever tried the colour work in flat knitting (ive always imagined the tensions problems and complicated chart reading) and the circular knitting is something id love to try too. ive even kept an eye on a “circular knitting workshop” book on amazon. perhaps ill try to get it soon. would love a good resource for myself.

      • itwasjudith says:

        if you got on well with DPNs the first time round, using circular needles won’t be difficult at all. The only thing is to use the right cable length (knitted work shouldn’t stretch over the cable so the cable length should be same or shorter than the item), unless one uses the magic loop method (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mqIqRdJc68) which I haven’t tried… so many things to try 🙂

    • itwasjudith says:

      Hello Martha,
      Thanks for the suggestion, I finally got around to publish the post on colourwork 🙂 Have a great weekend!

  3. MasonBentley says:

    Love swatch no. 2! x

  4. kiwiyarns says:

    2mm needles! Wow. The Shetland jumper weight 2ply knits up very nicely in colourwork on 3.25mm… in case you are wanting to lessen the pain. 😉 Looking forward to seeing more!

    Your books look fascinating. Just the sort of thing I like to read too.

    • itwasjudith says:

      thank you! after getting used, I’m actually quite enjoying using the 2mm ones (funny!). I’m just doing swatches anyway, not sure I could knit up a sweater with 2mm…
      Also, the 2-ply I’m using seems finer than the usual ones, i.e. I tried a 2-ply from Jamieson the other day and it was way thicker (that is, jumper weight). I’m still not fully clear whether all 2-ply yarns ought to be of the same thickness or whether the WPI is more an indicative measure than plies. Did you come across this thing too?
      Books: I just ordered a bunch more for a mini reference library I’d like to have, but it’s taking a toll on my budget 😉
      Lovely yarns you got from WoW… stunning, it made my day looking at them
      Have a great day!

  5. Flora Poste says:

    Great post and beautiful yarns. I am a big fan of Michael Woods a well. I can watch BBC here in Ohio and I like his documentaries on domestic history. Johanna

    • itwasjudith says:

      thank you 🙂 have you had a chance to see his documentary on the Beowulf manuscript? I’m lucky, he lives nearby, although I never talked to him in person

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