Fair Isle is the name given to the multicoloured knitting typical of the Shetland Islands (It is named after the Fair Isle, one of the islands in the Shetlands). I’ve tried knitting stranded colourwork for the first time this past year and I was surprised to find that I enjoy it a lot! I usually don’t like doing a lot of straight knitting since I get bored easily but having to change colours and do slightly different order of colours on each row is just enough change to keep me interested. Since Shetland Wool Week is upon us, I decided to knit the official pattern of the festival – Gudrun Johnston’s Bousta Beanie.
Last time I knit a stranded colourwork hat, I discovered my tension is much looser when doing that type of knitting. My first Julie and I knit the same hat, with the same yarn and this was the difference in our gauges:
The one on the left was actually done with needles one sizer LARGER than the one of the right.
I knit the hat about with 3mm needles. Since the Bousta Beanie is knit with the same yarn, starts with 10 more stitches, and calls for a 3.5mm needle, I decided that I needed to knit a gauge swatch. I also wanted to test the colours I had. The yellow and rust was clearly the best:
Two days later and I have made nice progress:
I was recently at Bristol, UK, attending a conference and of course I had to check out the local yarn scene. After some online searching, it seemed that the place to go was Bath, just a quick train ride away. So before the conference started, I hopped on the train and took off to Bath. Since I was a bit early, I combined my love of yarn with coffee and went to one of the prominent specialty coffee shops in Bath – Colonna & Small. It was definitely worth a visit – the space was beautiful, with lots of natural light streaming in through the skylights. The staff was knowledgeable and willing to talk at length about the properties and flavour profiles of the range of coffees they had available that day. I was very pleased.
After my coffee, I walked up the street to find the shop I was looking for: A Yarn Story. The place was small but cheerful and I could see that knit nights there must be very enjoyable. I chatted with the owner for a while, she had been at the recent Edinburgh Yarn Festival and we talked about that and some of the British yarn dyers and designers that I knew about and the podcasters I followed from Canada.
I was happy that the stock of La Bien Aimee yarn was a bit low.
From left to right: La Bien Aimée Merino Singles in Driftwood Graffiti, Walcot Yarns Opus in natural grey, and The Walk Collection Delicate Merino in Blush colourway
I’m hoping to use some of these for the Shawl Society this year!
I’m on a yard diet this year. I have no issues with having a stash – my main problem is that most of my stash is carefully curated and I do want to knit all the yarn I have. Unfortunately, I knit very slowly, which means the more yarn I buy, the more anxious I get that I’ll never get to what I want to knit. So I decided to de-stash a bit this year. The plan has been going well but I have discovered a new obsession: colour cards. I now own three and there are two more on the way. I have the full colour card for two of the best Shetland yarn companies: Jamieson’s and Jamieson and Smith. I also have the colour card for Blacker Yarns brand new yarn: Samite. I love looking at them and planning what I might do with that yarn when I finally get to order it.
MKAL stands for Mystery Knit ALong. A KAL is when a group of knitters decide to knit together a particular pattern, or a design from a particular designer, or with a certain yarn. A KAL usually has a starting date and some might have a closing date although most of the ones I have seen are fairly flexible in terms of deadlines since we all knit at different speeds and have various things going on in our lives and KALs are meant to be fun, not stressful. The idea if to build community around knitting something.
Now, a MKAL is different in the sense that you do not know what will the finished product look like. That’s the “mystery” part. An MKAL is usually organized by a pattern designer, who will announce it a few weeks in advance, give some information on the type of yarn required, how much is necessary, and what type of projects it is. There is an element of risk in it since you do not know if you will actually like the pattern. To minimize that risk, most of us do MKALs with designers we like. I haven’t knit any of Helen Stewart’s patterns yet but when she announced her Snowmelt MKAL, I had to join. I’ve seen enough of her patterns in person to know they were my style: feminine, easy to wear, and the patterns were extremely well written. [warning: if you are doing the MKAL and want the pattern to remain a mystery to you, do not scroll down to the bottom]
At first I chose these three skeins of Hedgehog Fibers:
The colours were perfect but when I started knitting it, I did not like the feel of the white yarn, which was a loosely-plied sock yarn. I was afraid there would be too much contrast with the feel of the other two skeins, which were one-ply. A quick trip to the yarn store and I came back with this beautiful skein of one of my favourite yarns: Lichen and Lace one ply fingering.
Lichen and Lace in Shroom colourway
I could not be happier with the results so far!