Four Shades of Langsoond

Before I got Langsoond spun I had to decide what shades I wanted.  Shetland sheep come in a variety of natural colours, white (that makes up the majority of the flocks at the moment), Shetland black (a very dark brown), moorit (mid brown), and various shades of grey.  I started off with a mix of coloured and white fleeces and using the hand carders I mixed white with various quantities of coloured fleece to get the shades I was happy with.  There were a few little packages that went back and forth between myself at the Natural Fibre Company until we decided what would work.  We settled on four shades, the white being the only one that isn't blended with another colour.  Instead of being inspired by things to help create the shade, I chose the shades and then named them after things that reminded me of them.  All my shades are named with Shetland dialect words - if you have ever visited Shetland or have met a Shetlander, you will notice we have a strong accent or dialect.

The origin of the Shetland dialect, as any language is, is complicated and defined by the history of the place, its ownership, and the people living in and visiting the islands, amongst other things.  The Shetland dialect is largely a mixture of English, Lowland Scots and Norn, which is a variation of Scandinavian languages. Norn is now extinct but used to be spoken in Shetland from around the 9th Century until it eventually was largely superseded by the Scots language in the 18th century and became no longer a distinct language.

Kesksie

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The natural creamy white of this yarn reminded me of the flowers of hogweed (the Shetland dialect name for these plants is "keksie").- a plant that is commonly seen along roadsides during the the summer months in Shetland.  

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Daala Mist

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This pale grey yarn takes its name from the mist that lies in the valleys (dale or daala) and is often seen in the summer months  - known in Shetland dialect as daala mist

Lintie

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This name came to me when out running one day and I spotted little brown birds that reminded me of the yarn! The lintie is the Shetland dialect name for the twite, a small brown bird sometimes seen around crofts and stony walls. We have a saying in Shetland for someone someone who is going for it when singing, they are "singing lik a lintie!" You can see one in Richard Ashbee's photo here.

Haigrie

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This shade is a slightly darker grey than the Daala Mist and is named after the grey heron - known in Shetland as a haigrie which comes from the Old Norse name hegri. You can see David Gifford's fantastic photo of a haigire here. We often see a one sitting on the rocks at the bottom of the croft looking over Langsound and I always love seeing it (I need a bigger lense on my camera though to get a good photo!).

The four shades of Langsoond will go on sale on Saturday 30th September at the Maker's Market at Isleburgh Community Centre from 11AM-5PM priced at £18 for a 100g skein.

Addie's Scarf

I am really happy to be able to show you my contribution to the 2017 edition of the Shetland Wool Week Annual.  I designed and wrote the pattern earlier this year and to be honest I had forgotten about it until I saw these beautiful photos taken by Alec Mazurov.

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In January 2016 I visited Vogue Live Knitting in New York with the group promoting Shetland Wool Week.  While we there we met Amanda and her husband who owns a sheep farm, Prado de Lana in Chester County, Philadelphia, USA.  The fleece from each sheep is spun into yarn, and its name is marked on the label so it can be seen exactly where the yarn comes from. 

We were very impressed with the yarn and their business ethos and the ladies from Shetland Wool Week asked if I would like to use some of their the yarn for a pattern for the annual.  I contacted Amanda and chose yarn from the sheep “Addie”.  I love how we know exactly where the yarn has come from, we even know that Addie "is the daughter of Fia and Augustus"!

In fact it was actually speaking to Amanda and seeing the yarn that sparked my idea of getting my own yarn spun - you could say my yarn journey began in New York!  I love how I have met so many people and have been inspired by so many from all over the world through knitting.

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When I was pondering over what to design, my mind went back to New York City and the zig zag patterns created by the skyline.  That made me think of the traditional lozenge pattern I had seen on a jumper I bought from a charity shop, which I adapted for this design.

The yarn was lovely to knit with, Addie is a Romney and it has a silky smooth quality with a slight sheen.  The scarf could be very successfully made with Shetland lace weight such as Jamieson and Smith 2 ply lace weight or Jamieson’s of Shetland Ultra instead.

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It is an honour to see my name in very good company, among some of my favourite designers on such a lovely cover!

The Shetland Wool Week Annual can be pre-ordered from their website here.  You can opt to either have it delivered to you or if you are coming Wool Week you can choose to pick it up from the hub.

Speaking about Shetland Wool Week, I better get on, it will soon be here!

Have a good weekend x

Introducing Langsoond!

If you have been following me on Instagram or have seen my newsletter and last blogpost you will know that I have been working on my own yarn and now its time to let you see it (I am feeling very excited - it has been hard to keep this to myself for so long)!

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Langsoond is a double knit weight, woollen spun yarn in 4 different natural, undyed shades and is 100% wool from Shetland sheep.  Each skein of yarn is 100g, 220m/238yds.  All the fleece either came from my Dad's flock (from the croft that I live on) or from my neighbours' flocks.  This first batch came from the 2016 clip.

Skeins stacked up in the studio

Skeins stacked up in the studio

Langsoond DK yarn in four natural shades

Langsoond DK yarn in four natural shades

Waiting patiently in the cro (pen) to be clipped.

Waiting patiently in the cro (pen) to be clipped.

Once the sheep had been clipped, I sorted the fleeces by going over each one individually (on a make shift sorting table made from a piece of wire mesh held up by two workmates), removing any vegetation, soiled and felted areas and sorted them into different colours.

Fleeces waiting to be sorted (in an old quilt cover!)

Fleeces waiting to be sorted (in an old quilt cover!)

The fleeces were put into sacks and shipped away on a pallet to the Natural Fibre Company in Cornwall who have done an amazing job of spinning it and I must say they should be praised for their excellent customer service!

I have chosen the name "Langsoond" as the name for the yarn - "Langsound" is the stretch of water that runs along the East coast of Burra Isle, which the croft overlooks.  The land straight ahead (to the left of the photo) is the island of Trondra, with Quarff in the distance behind it.  In Shetland dialect we pronounce the "ou" in sound as "oo" so I have gone for the phonetic spelling.

Some of the Shetland sheep on the croft looking over Langsound

Some of the Shetland sheep on the croft looking over Langsound

There is so much to do when producing yarn, as well as getting shipped away from spinning I have been working with a designer on a new logo and labels, even choosing the right colours for the label has taken a lot of time!  I have been working on three designs to accompany the yarn, patterns that use one, two and three skeins of yarn, the patterns are being finalised and I will show you these very soon.  There will also be project bags and stitch markers to compliment it which I am also really excited about!

Working on patterns to accompany the yarn

Working on patterns to accompany the yarn

The yarn will go on sale at the Shetland Wool Week Makers Market in Isleburgh Community Centre on Saturday 30th September, and I will put what is left over in my online shop afternoon that date.  Please note there are limited supplies, but I have the fleece from this year's clip ready to be sorted for the next batch, so if you miss out this time, there will be more coming in a few months time. 

I will be back again soon to speak about the individual shades and what I have named each one (get ready for a lesson in Shetland dialect!).

Cheerio for now!

Summer Part 2

It's that time of year when you really don't know which clothes to wear in the morning: last week I had a dress, woolly cardigan and boots on in the morning and by the afternoon I was wearing my sandals and a t-shirt.  There are still some lovely spells of weather but we are also starting to experience the transition to Autumn, like today as it felt decidedly more autumnal.  I think this time of year when it starts to change is probably my favourite.  The summer jobs are done (or it's too dark and cold to do any more) and it's time to think about inside projects (which of course involves lots of knitting!).

We got the hay dried and in the byre (barn) a couple of weeks ago, although with the amount of rain we had the week before we wondered if it would ever dry.

Turning the hay over by hand to help it dry

Turning the hay over by hand to help it dry

 The hay will be used to feed the sheep on the croft over the winter - and speaking of sheep - if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook or got my newsletter (or if you figured it out from my last blogpost) you will know that I have my own yarn coming soon, spun from the fleeces from our own and our neighbours' sheep.  

Going over a fleece on the "sorting table"

Going over a fleece on the "sorting table"

I will give you more details very, very, soon but currently I am busy  working on the labelling, writing up patterns using the new yarn and things like that!  I am planning to launch it at the Maker's Market in Isleburgh during Shetland Wool Week on Saturday 30th September and anything leftover will be sold through my online shop.

It's a very exciting project for me as it's something I have been thinking about for a long time, and sometimes you just have to stop worrying about what might (or might not) happen and try it!

I had quite a varied summer, after I came back from Fair Isle I spent a week in Edinburgh and straight after that, at the beginning of August I went to teach at a Creativity Festival in Saunderton outside London.  The Festival was the brainchild of Natasha whom I only previously knew as Taking a Moment of Time on Instagram.  I have followed her for a while now and longed to go on her retreats and so was delighted when she asked me if I could come and teach classes on Fair Isle knitting.  Over 30 creative people gathered on Natasha's farm for a weekend of crafting, chatting and eating gorgeous food, most of which had been grown on the farm.

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The format was camping but we had lovely tents all beautifully decorated, marquees in case it rained (which it did a bit) and a large fire to gather around at night.

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Teaching Fair Isle knitting inside the marquee

Teaching Fair Isle knitting inside the marquee

I was just a tiny bit jealous of the vegetable garden (that's an understatement)

I was just a tiny bit jealous of the vegetable garden (that's an understatement)

It was wonderful to meet up with so many people I "knew" through Instagram like Melody (bmandarines), Janice (Janice Issitt Lifestyle), Renee (Eastlondonknits) and Linda (Kettleyarn).  There was such a range of people there with a similar interest in craft and it was lovely to relax and spend time together.  For a more photos of the retreat Janice wrote a really good blogpost on it here.  Look out for future retreats by following The Hill View Farm Moments website here.

As I mentioned earlier I am busy at the moment getting the yarn and all the related things ready - all the individual things, like the logo, labels, etc.. have taken a while to complete but now it's all finally coming together so I will let you know more within the next few days - Stay tuned!

Summer Part 1

The schools went back this week here in Shetland, I can't believe how fast the time went.  We did manage to squeeze a lot in, I had a few trips away as well as getting a little bit of work done. 

During the first week we went camping to Unst, the most Northerly island in Shetland and so the most northerly island in the United Kingdom which involves taking a short ferry journey from the mainland to Yell and then another short ferry journey to Unst.  We pitched or tent in the grounds of the youth hostel which is right next to the sea.

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Unst is very rich in history and archaeology and has many lovely white sandy beaches.  we spent our days walking, exploring and palying on the beach.

Heading home of the ferry....

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I must admit I am not the best camper in the world, I get SO cold (especially at night), despite the many, many layers of clothes, but it was good fun!

I was home for just over a week and then headed off to the island of  Fair Isle, this time just south of the Shetland mainland.

Fair Isle is really a wonderful place, the scenery is really stunning, the people are so friendly and kind and the Bird Observatory where we stayed is an extremely relaxing place.  I went there with three of my knitty pals and we spent our time walking and knitting.  I really did feel refreshed and inspired when I got back.

Fair Isle is a bird watchers paradise, and there were thousands of puffins, we only had to walk across the road from the observatory where we were staying and we could see them really close up.

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Of course, Fair Isle is famous for its knitting, we spent a lovely morning in the museum with Anne Sinclair, I didn't take any photos I was too busy looking!

There are a few people still making and selling Fair Isle knitwear on a small scale, we spent a really interesting hour beside Holly Shaw who runs Fair Isle Made In Fair Isle.  Holly gave a very in-depth talk on how they create and design their knitwear on hand frame knit machines.  You can see more of their work on their Facebook page here.

Holly Shaw in her workshop

Holly Shaw in her workshop

Scarves for sale at Fair Isle Made in Fair Isle

Scarves for sale at Fair Isle Made in Fair Isle

The mode of transport to and from Fair Isle is either by boat (a 2.5 hour journey on The Good Shepherd) or by small plane and being not very good sailors (read: terrible) we chose the plane which flies from to and from Tingwall airport which takes around 25 minutes.  Of course the other bonus are the views.

Flying over Minn Beach at the south end of Burra

Flying over Minn Beach at the south end of Burra

Of course, a yearly event on any croft and farm here is sheep clipping, here is our neighbour Liam clipping one of our ewes (many thanks to him for doing that!).  Earlier this year I decided to do something with last years clip - the project is nearly ready to show you so keep your eyes peeled, or better still you can sign up to my newsletter to get details straight to your inbox.

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I will be back again next week with more photos from the summer but until then I have a 6 year old's birthday party to organise.....

Speak soon

Donna x

New Beginnings

Hello!  Its a while since I blogged but I am still here working away on patterns and an exciting project that will be revealed very soon.  I have spent the past few months developing a new website which includes a new logo,  thanks to Diana Lukas-Nulle for developing it for me.

The logo is a simplified version of the "tree" or "fern" pattern that is often used in in both lace and Fair Isle knitting in Shetland, its one of my favourite motifs due to its simplicity.  I use the lace version  in the Houlland shawl pattern you can see here

I have been looking for a website for a while that is streamlined,  and contains a way to showcase my patterns, a blog and most importantly an integrated shop - details of what will be sold in the shop will be coming soon!

May was a busy month, I spent a week in the Netherlands at the Nederlandse Breidagen in Rijswijk, a knitting festival that ran over two and a half days.  It consisted of a marketplace combined with classes and lectures, I gave talks on Knitting and Living in Shetland and classes on Fair Isle knitting and Hap construction.

To celebrate my links with the Netherlands I released a pattern, the Papil Beret, it was inspired by a tin containing the traditional Dutch syrup wafers, Stroopwafels that was given to me by two Dutch friends when they visited Shetland wool week last year.

The hat features colourwork tulip and oval motifs inspired by the tin, and it is knitted in Jamiesons of Shetland Spindrift Shetland Jumperweight yarn.  You can hear me (and see me!) speaking about the inspiration behind the design in the New Releases section of the Fruity Knitting podcast, which is also filled with lots more information including a very interesting interview  with Carson Demers on ergonomics in knitting something which is very important and which I have been thinking about a lot lately.

Several of my days these past few weeks have been spent teaching classes to the new tours Shetland Wool Adventures organised by Misa Hay, it has been great to meet so many people from all over the world that are interested in textiles and Shetland as a whole.

The Baa-ble Mug Cosy is a project I use regularly when teaching Fair Isle knitting classes,  it covers knitting in the round, knitting with two colours at one time, corrugated rib, steeking, picking up stitches etc.  Originally I hadn't planned to release it is a pattern but so many people asked for it when I shared pictures of my classes on social media so it now can be downloaded from Ravelry here.  It's an excellent way to practice the knitting techniques mentioned above as its a quick knit, it uses small quantities of Shetland yarn and is a great way to use up scraps from your stash.

Thank you for reading the first blog post on my new website, you can keep in touch with what I am doing by subscribing to the blog by entering your email details below and/or subscribing to my newsletter on the homepage (if you subscribed to my old blog, you should still receive emails whenever there's a new blogpost).

Donna x