Hi friends and happy Tuesday! Phew, I can’t believe it’s been two weeks since I last wrote! And where did January go? It was gone in a blink!
In fact, ever since the holidays, I’ve felt like I haven’t had a chance to catch my breath, get organized, and greet the new year. Mr. N and I have been here, there, and everywhere, mostly for work, but also seeing friends. So much so in fact, that we declared that for February, we’re hunkering down — no weekends away, no major travel if we can help it — just a month to pause, enjoy home (and get some projects done around the house that we’ve been putting off since we moved in) and each other, and do some more exploring around Lancaster. I think February is the perfect month for this — still cold and decidedly wintery, so a nice time for a bit of light hibernation. Mr. N jokingly said we needed a term for what we were doing this month (that wasn’t “we aren’t going anywhere in February”) and I, also in jest, came up with fireside February — but I’ve actually become very attached to the term!
So I’m very much looking forward to a quiet month, and as part of that, getting back to some more regular blogging (and reading of others’ blogs!) I’ve been missing this space and those of you I get to chat with here!
I’m also excited to get a bit more into the kitchen and do a bit of baking, which I’ve completely neglected since the move. I started February as I meant to go on and made a smaller version of this coffee and walnut cake on Sunday evening … I’m going to aim to make a cake each week for February (because #firesidefebruary needs cake). It didn’t rise as much as it should have, but mmm it was still delicious:
I’m also, of course, excited to get in lots of quality knitting time, especially given all the things I want to make this year. I’ve got a few projects I’m planning to cast on this month, but near the top of the list is what I’m thinking of as my Northern Birkin, which I’ll knit with Northern Yarn’s brand new Zwartbles 4-ply with Sylvan Tiger Yarn’s School of Flock, which I bought at Yarndale.
Kate just released this lovely, 100% Zwartbles, single flock wool on Saturday, but she was kind enough to give me a bit to play with ahead of the release — and I’m just in love with it!
First, I love, love, love that it’s come from a farm that’s just down the road from me, from a tiny flock of named sheep … knowing that with each stitch I’m knitting a bit with fleeces from ladies like Ethel, Cleopatra, and Ophelia, who are having a good life outside of Garstang, is just awesome. It’s a great feeling to be supporting a local farmer, a local business, and know that the wool has traveled so little from farm, to a spinning mill not to far off then back to Northern Yarn — what a small footprint it’s had!
So it’s yarn with a story, and a story that’s quite local to me, which I love! And the yarn itself … where to begin. Let’s start with the color. Zwartbles have beautiful dark fleeces that develop rust colored tones as they’re out in the sun. The yarn itself is a deep dark brown — like dark chocolate — but also has this amazing depth and warmth to it, with some of those rust tones coming through when you look closely, and little lovely silver bits as well. It’s a beautiful and complex color, and I love that all of that comes just from the natural fleece!
I love the feel of yarn in hand — it’s woollen spun and has a lovely wooolly and bouncy feel in hand. Obviously, I think it’s a good candidate for colorwork as I’m planning a colorwork yoke with it! The character of the woollen spun yarn means it plays really nicely with other wools for colorwork — you want a wool that’s sticky, if you know what I mean, and will meld nicely with others. I loved how it knit up with my School of Flock wool, and it would be equally happy alongside colorwork favorites like Jamieson’s Spindrift (which Kate stocks — she knit a lovely Bousta beanie combining the two, and Kim, a lovely member of our weekly knit group, knit these gorgeous mittens with Spindrift and the Zwartbles) or Jamieson and Smith 2ply Jumper.
But I also wondered how it’d be for no-nylon socks, so decided to do a bit of a road test. The yarn goes slightly thicker and thinner in places, which adds to it’s delightful, small-batch character, but Kate and I both wondered how it would do in socks. So I knit a little toe cap to wear around, wearing it sometimes inside another knit sock (so there would lots of wool on wool friction) or over a sock in my shoe while I was out and about. The yarn knit up beautifully and evenly in stockinette, with no noticeable thinner or thicker places. And it’s worn really well, showing no signs of pilling or wearing thin, despite the friction it’s been subjected to. And it feels aaaaahmazingly cozy on my foot — my lucky right foot was much warmer than the left whenever I was wearing it. The mini sock formed to my foot almost instantly, and the woollen spun fibers melded into a lovely sole — just what you want for a nice, warm sock. So I’m also looking forward to knitting up a simple pair of socks out of these — I can already imagine how cute they’ll be peeping out of my favorite leather boots.
I think this is a really special wool that will make garments and accessories that will wear beautifully. My mom’s already directed me to get her a cardigan’s worth, and I think it’d make a lovely cardigan that will last for years! So obviously great for garments, hats, mittens, and even socks — and I think it could also look dramatic in simple lace, knit on larger needles.
So of course, I had to help myself to a skein or two (or three … or, well who’s counting anyway) at the lovely launch of the wool on Saturday. Kate also had Lancashire made chocolates and wine, and I may have come with some of the most delicious chocolate with peanut butter I’ve ever had (and chocolate with ginger, and chocolate JALFREZI!) I’m looking forward to getting cast on, hopefully sooner rather than later if I want to knit this for EYF! If you’d like to get your hands on any of this lovely wool, I’d suggest doing it soon — even though Kate just released it Saturday, I have it on good authority that there’s only a few handful of skeins left (clearly, I’m not the only one that thinks the wool is pretty special!) It’s listed online in the Northern Yarn shop.
And if you’d like to read more about the yarn or Kate’s interview with Zwartbles farmer Lucy (who also took the beautiful picture of Ethel the Zwartbles sheep that graces the ball band), head on over to the Northern Yarn blog! And many thanks to Kate for letting me test out this lovely wool!
As I’m finishing this post, there’s a lovely light snow falling and a powdered sugar (icing sugar, I should say in the UK!) coating on the ground — perfect weather for cups of tea and knitting, and a little stroll later today.
Hope, wherever you are, your week is off to a good start!