Friday, 12 October 2018

Fibre Focus: Alpaca

Alpaca fibre comes from alpacas, which are closely related to, but distinct from, llamas. They are adorably fluffy creatures native to South America, and have also been known to thrive in the Scottish climate! The yarn produced from these fibres is well known for its softness and its excellent warmth.

Alpaca fibre naturally contains two types of hair: the softer, shorter undercoat hair, and the longer, scratchier guard hairs. Usually, the guard hairs are removed during the spinning process but sometimes a few can slip through and give the yarn a prickly feel. If you find any of these while you’re working with the yarn, you can just pull them out and carry on!

Most alpaca yarns have a lovely drape to them, but no natural stretch. This means that they will produce a beautifully floppy, slightly heavy fabric perfect for loose fitting garments, scarves, blankets etc. The flip side of this, however, is that these same yarns often lack the elasticity required for items which are mostly ribbed, or which need to stay upright e.g. socks, skirts or the dreaded 2x2 ribbed boob tube. To introduce a greater measure of elasticity, some alpaca yarns have a chainette construction, which makes them more stretchy. Similarly, Rowan Alpaca Soft is blended with wool, which gives the yarn more bounce and makes it suitable for a huge range of projects.

Here are some of our favourite alpaca and alpaca-blend yarns:

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Fibre Focus: Merino

Merino is one of the most popular fibres on the market right now, and it’s not hard to see why. Here’s the super fine lowdown on this soft wool:

Merino comes from merino sheep, like the little guy pictured above. The fibre is graded according to how fine its diameter is, using a measurement called micron (or micrometer). The finest fibres have the lowest micron value. Once the fibre has been spun into yarn, the micron value determines whether the yarn should be classed as fine, extra fine or super fine. Super fine merino contains the finest fibres and will usually feel the softest next to your skin. This can sometimes cause a bit of confusion, as ‘extra fine’ merino could be 4 ply, DK, aran or chunky - the name is no indication of the yarn weight!

Merino is an incredibly soft fibre, which does mean that it is not the most hard-wearing. For items that are going to see a lot of use, such as socks or bags, this fibre will start to show the wear, so it may be best to go for a merino blend, or perhaps a different fibre altogether.

On the other hand, merino has a light and bouncy quality to it, and can be great for people who find other types of wool too rough. Most of our merino yarns have also been treated so that they are machine washable, so they are also an easy-care wool option. This means they are great for baby items, or items worn next to the skin, like luxurious scarves and cuddly snoods.

Here are some of our favourite merino yarns:

Friday, 18 May 2018

Squill Stole by Heather Peterson

Squill Stole by Heather Peterson. Photo by Knit Now magazine

In January, I posted about a 1 ply lace project I was working on, and now I can finally reveal what it was: my first published design is appearing in print this month! My Squill Stole is featured in Issue 88 of Knit Now Magazine, so I thought I’d share the story behind this design.

St Ninian’s Isle, Shetland
Squill Stole photograph from Knit Now magazine

I’m getting married this summer, and I knew I wanted to wear something I’d knitted myself (and I thought, “well, if I’m going to knit it, I may as well design it myself… and if I’m going to design it, I could look into getting it published…”) and that really gave me the motivation to get cracking on the project.

Eshaness cliffs, Shetland
My dad is from Shetland, and our family has always had a lot of strong ties to the islands. We would spend summer holidays adventuring with our cousins, visiting our grandparents, aunties, uncles and listening to my dad’s stories of growing up helping on neighbouring crofts and experiencing snow in every month of the year (not all in the same year, mind you). My grandma was also an amazing Shetland knitter, so I knew I wanted a design with a Shetland connection.

Shetland ponies are found all over the islands. This little guy was near the Cake Fridge, an unstaffed fridge full of home baking with an honesty box
The motifs I picked, therefore, are fairly traditional patterns found in Shetland lace designs. I chose, however, to work them in stocking stitch rather than the more conventional garter stitch. Squill is knitted in 1 ply cobweb weight yarn, so Jamieson & Smith Shetland 1 Ply Cobweb weight was a natural choice. Despite being pure wool, the knitted fabric is ultra lightweight, so hopefully it will not be too hot for a July wedding!

Squill Flower
The name Squill comes from a wildflower of the same name, which is native to Shetland. Knit Now magazine is available in the UK from Sainsbury, Tesco, Asda and Morrison's. Issue 88 is on sale from 17 May 2018.