This weekend I was lucky enough to attend the Unravel Fibre festival in the lovely but labyrinthine Farnham Maltings. This is quickly becoming one of my favourite fibre festivals as it brings together a number of exhibitors who are really doing a huge amount to produce yarns which really link the knitter to the whole process of creating yarn. Just as importantly they are producing yarns that are interesting and characterful which is a real breath of fresh air amongst the yards and yards of smooth, worsted spun merino which have dominated the market for the last few years.
One of the producers which for the last three years has proved the highlight of my visit is The Little Grey Sheep, who sell beautiful yarns from their own flock of Gotland and Shetland sheep. I have to say that they continue to go from strength to strength; a fact which the contents of my shopping bag will confirm.
Lots of independent dyers are currently producing ranges of mini skeins for colour work and for me these have to be some of the best. I think the fact that the base yarn includes coloured fibres in it means that the shades are complex and sophisticated but still really easy to combine as they share a common undertone.
This is a set of the Stein lace which is actually a light 4ply weight with 85m per 20g skein. Stein sheep are a cross breed of Shetland and Gotland.
This is a set of pure Gotland skeins. It is a very lustrous yarn with more pronounced grey tones and less 'bounce' than the Shetland.
I may only have come back from Unravel last night but I just couldn't help myself and needed to try out the Stein lace weight. I decided to knit a pair of mittens using my own Fairlee Mittens pattern as the thinking behind the pattern is for when you have fallen in love with a yarn of any weight. This pattern will work for any yarn from Chunky to sock weight and provides a simple framework within which the knitter can express his or her own creativity.
On this occasion I wanted to work some simple graduated colour blocks so I divided each skein into two balls and cast on. I noticed that there was more resistance when I came to break the yarn compared with a pure Shetland so am wondering if it will make the mittens more durable.
The yarn feels very light and airy to knit with but has enough of a halo to make a warm fabric despite its lightness. I wanted quite a close fitting mitten so I chose the small size sock weight version.
I had to show you the label as it really demonstrates how the whole process from sheep to yarn can now be done within the UK by small companies which I think is really encouraging.
Off to carry on knitting my mitten - I'm on the second colour now and am really excited to see how they turn out.