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Episode 103 – twisted together in a strong ply

This episode is going to be split into two parts. If you listen on iTunes or podcatchers then you will see that there are two episodes. I don’t really like doing things in parts, but all of the raw audio was almost 3 hours and – even edited down – that is not practical as a single download.

Both parts are in this post. As a result of longer episode, with a yarn review and explorartion I am going to try and keep the rest of shownotes brief. (It’s only usually pre & post EYF that this happens. I know they look long, but its the photos adding to that!)

| Side A – Edinburgh Yarn Festival and Black Isle Yarns review

You can also listen on iTunes, the podcast app, or search your favourite podcatcher, if you prefer!

I give you a run-down of my experience of Edinburgh Yarn Fest (15-17 March). As ever, all of the levels were HIGH! Big on wool, big on people and community, big on everything. I probably don’t get across how great it was to see so many listeners and followers from social media. Apologies if I don’t mention you, there was a lot of overwhelming-ness!

Something that is apparent is that EYF enables the coming together of special woolly people and some of us even deeply connected through wool. There were some great conversations and some wonderful future plans being made. For these special connections wool has twisted us together in a really strong ply.

Here is a slideshow of some of my photos from the event.

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Thanks to Jo and Mica for everything they do, and to all of the volunteers, vendors and teachers who were incredible.  Thanks to all the people there and special thanks to Lacey to my Cagney!

| Coulmore Organic Cheviot from Black Isle Yarns

Thank you so much to Julie, from Black Isle Yarns, for sending us her new organic, first clip, cheviot yarn to try! This is available in worsted spun smooth, plump DK and a delicate 4ply. Its not secret that I love Cheviot and this is like nothing I’ve ever seen! I sent some over to some listeners to review, thanks to Gem Davis, Caitlin aka Iosaturnalia, Aja aka Paleaopath and Ellena, aka Woollyelly (who I call Ellie throughout! Sorry!). Their reviews were so comprehensive that I cannot fit it all in these shownotes. What I will do is give you an collated nutshell here, and link to the full reviews here. Remember that they reviewers did not know what the wool was, or the breed at the time of reviewing.

Preparation: Worsted Spun. Organically spun.


Gem: – Squishy, bouncy soft, with a slight prickle. (DK)

Aja: Very subtly crunchy, but soft, with a springiness and liveliness. (DK)

Caitlin: Felt very soft in the skein and slightly toothy. (4ply)

Ellena: Crisp and a bit silky. Gently pulling a strand, some elasticity and bounce back. Pretty soft to the hand. (DK)

Observances whilst swatching:

Gem: Feels very squishy and bouncy, fairly soft but with a slight itch, and has a faint sheepy smell. I would be quite happy to wear against skin however perhaps not the delicate skin of your neck and face. (DK)

Aja: I found the yarn to develop a slight halo. Very textural and bouncy, holding its shape without being overly plump (DK)

Caitlin: Oh, my goodness, this yarn was made for lace! The stitches have opened up so much that it hardly looks like it needs any blocking! (4ply)

Ellena: . Pretty soft to the hand, a little rougher to the face and neck,. Slick through the fingers when knitting. But no visible lustre or particular halo (DK)

Wash, block and wear:

Gem: . After blocking the shine stood out on the cables, which were also nicely defined. I placed the swatch under my waistband next to my skin, and soon forgot it was there.

Aja: The stitches of both swatches were soft but not too soft. The texture of the fabric was still dry, with a slightly greater halo than before

Caitlin:  The fabric itself is quite dense. Barely felt the swatch when I first tucked it into my leggings.

Ellena: No real difference in feel to pre-washing. Zero prickle. More of halo on second wash.

Overall Impressions:

Gem: It looks light and delicate with a beautiful shine but has a strength that would make it suitable to something that is used or worn often, like cardigans, jumpers, gloves or hats.

Aja: This yarn is a workhorse, I think, and could easily fulfil anything you ask of it

Caitlin: It produced a good, woolly and old-fashioned feeling fabric. By that I mean that while it was not at all prickly, it doesn’t feel like super modern fibres, e.g. merino or BFL blends, it retains its essential sheepy-ness.

Ellena: I like the sturdiness of this wool. I think you could wear a cowl necked jumper or similar in it, near the neck, so long as it was loose. It’d be perfect for a gansey.

I found Coulmore to be a delight. The DK was plump and sturdy and the 4ply was lovely and fine and blocked like an utter dream for me, from a cast off 4 x 5 inches to 6 x 7.5 inches.


The beauty of these reviews is that we all experience the same yarn differently and it gives a broader view of what the yarn is like!

Thanks so much to Julie for letting us try out this really special yarn. Julie has been utterly generous and has given us a prize of the Erradale Kit. This is a shawl by Emily K Williams in her new collection To The Shore. One winner will win two skeins of naturally dyed yarn and the pattern for the shawl. This is SO very kind. To be able to be in with a chance of winning this prize, please go over to the Ravelry group and follow the instructions given. And thanks again to Julie and our lovely reviewers.

Coulmore is £19 for the undyed and £22 for the dyed yarn. You will be able to find this and other incredible British wools at blackisleyarns.co.uk.

Time to turn over and play side B!

| Side B – News and Wool Exploration: Ryeland


This month the British issue of Knit Now is out! Editor Kate Heppell asked me to curate the issue and I was delighted to do so and also write and article.

 Listen in to this episode for a few of my highlights and head on over to the Rav group where you can win a copy! (Kate offered after I recorded, so hence why its not in the show!)

Also news, I will be at Fine Fettle Fibres, in Felton, Northumberland on 28th April. I’ve been asked to give a talk and be at the launch of Fine Fettle Fibres new wool blend yarn!

The Good Intentions Quarter 3 kicks off on Sunday, 1st April. The chat thread is now open in the Ravelry group. Thanks for making good on your intentions in Quarter 2 and looking forward to what you make in the next few months!

Wool Exploration: Ryeland

This month we are looking at the Ryeland breed’ a down-like breed, which is the modernised breed of a sheep whose fleece once rivalled that of Merino in terms of softness and fetched 28 marks per sack in 1300 (£3k in today’s money!). Lemster Ore was the name given to this fleece – after the area in Herefordshire and ore presumably for gold, given the price and fine-ness.

Ryeland facts from The Fleece & Fiber Source Book, by Deb Robeson & Carol Ekarius (Do get it – its worth every penny. And no, I’m not paid to say this, I just personally endorse this book!). Ryelands are small sheep, woolly allover from their head to their toes. They weight  64-84 kg depending on sex and the fleece weight is 2-3 kg. Staple is 2-5 cm and can range from 25-28 microns, but can peak over 30 in some breeds. Is that softer than you thought? Sheep can be “white” or coloured, which ranges from deep chocolate to light browns and grey.

Our reviewers this month (on the google from) are thinkandknitgreen, drygardening, Beckip, mazknitter,LizNCK, socherry, ElfinPetronella, Suuf, abigbee, MaDashper, Knittynarna, Rebecca72jones, Mariette694, finefettlefibres, Tiggerbee, cynspins, onlydreaming, Claudiajano, seaweedsarah, lisamargreet, Irkea. You can hear the full review in the show, below is an encapsulation of the findings.

Hand-squish-Grab (how the yarn feels in the skein/ball):
-Bounces back when squeezed in the hand.
-The skein and yarn feel smooth and almost sleek to the touch.
– Yarn has a very round profile. The colour is a deep brown with perhaps the slightest hints of grey within it.
– The ball itself is compact and soft yet firm to the touch. Utilitarian was my first impression. Smelt pleasant.
– Dense, firm, creamy. Even spin. Feels warm and outdoorsy.
– It has a bit of a lustre, and the colour is a beautiful creamy white.

Knitting experience:
– Rustic looking and feeling, but there’s no prickle or itch from the ball or from the finished unblocked swatch.
– The ply and spin of this yarn resulted in a round yarn that was elastic, strong, and easily manipulated in both crochet and knit methods.
– Beautiful stitch definition.
– Not too itchy but has a coarse feel, firm but cushy.
–  It would be great for colourwork, because it is quite sticky.
– Wool does soften a lot while swatching, feel of lanolin, good stitch definition, no splicing of threads, light halo and sheen.

Wash, block, wear test 1: 
– lot of lanolin in water – has a stiff drape, the stitch definition is good.
– No change in size, but softened, losing some of the initial firmness.
–  I wore it in my waistband for a day without any irritation, but could not wear at neck.
– Blocked beautifully, slight bloom. Softened a bit. Surprisingly soft to wear.
–  The swatch is not exactly soft, but not prickly either. I wore it without any discomfort.
– The swatch was very warming.

Wash, block, wear test 2:
– Fabric has softened somewhat more. No pil. Still spongy. Stitch definition is excellent.
–  Worn by hip for a day. Held it’s shape and pattern well, didn’t need another block.
–  Warm, smooth hairband with no sense of prickle against the skin of my forehead.
– The swatch retained its stitch definition and there was no pilling.
– Absolutely fine to wear.

Final assessment and best uses:
– Remarkable insulating properties for winter jumpers, hats, mitts. Versatile for any project requiring warmth and soft comfort.
– A lovely yarn to use, would like to try it with cables, would consider it for a hat or jumper, and would happily wear it next to my skin.
–  The combination of softness and sturdiness makes Ryeland very versatile.
– I enjoyed knitting with Ryeland. It was the softest of the wool so far and I think I would be able to wear it next to skin. I’d use for cardigans/jumpers of mittens/gloves.
– It would make a good Outer garment that would benefit from holding its form.
–  I would love to use this for colourwork, Fair Isle or marlisle!
– This seems like a workhorse yarn – very elastic and resilient, warm and sturdy.
–  This yarn is lovely, and the shawl I made with it is light and pretty.

Brands used: Blacker, Rosedean Ryeland. Auchenstroan, Wandering Goose, Threshing Barn, Fairfax Ryeland. All wool is (presumably) woollen spun, due to the length of the staple and that being the best way to get the best out of the yarn


CynSpins handspun a 4ply. “The fibers are fine and crimpy but very crisp. I hand carded the locks and spun them with a modified long draw. This produced a truly rustic yarn with a good bit of elasticity. Washing the yarn did not appear to soften it noticeably. Post-wash the swatch has softened a bit more, the yarn has fulled and the appearance, to me, seems improved. There is a slight fuzziness but no pilling. I would like to try spinning Ryeland again with fleece from a different sheep to see how much of a difference there might be between individuals within the breed.”

Images from our reviewers

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Thank you again to all of our reviewers and all of the people in the Ravelry group who also added their experiences. Do remember, if you can, to input your ravelry project reviews into our google form, which is where I use collated info for the podcast.

Time is also up on our Jacob exploration, which we will look at next month.

Next Time

I am back around the same time next month. Thank you for listening and for joining in with the KB ravelry group and for following on social media. This has been a mega-busy month and I’m hoping for slightly less pressure in the coming month. Whatever you have planned for April, I hope its full of plenty of knitting!  Take good care!


  1. Sandra says

    WOW Louise, that was a mammoth podcast session for you! A great Sunday afternoon listen for me, thank you so much.

    All the memories of my all too short visit to EYF this year came back. Next year I hope to go back to a longer visit as in years before.

    The wool exploration is so very interesting. I’m learning a lot and it’s driving me to do more research before I commit to a project.

    I won’t always be able to meet the deadline (I’m still washing Jacobs fleece) but I’m committed to trying every breed. The technology is challenging for me too, not sure if my Ryeland review actually made it to you.

    Easter has been a time of cast all the things on, not easy when I’m working most days! Fun though.

    Hope your voice has recovered. My son swears by Vocalzones lozenges when he’s performing.


  2. wow that was a great round up of EYF! I had a great time despite lots of personal crises happening in the midst… the power of wool… I was incredibly restrained in my spending but am making lists of people to buy via mail order. And it was marvellous to throw myself like a superfan at Mrs M. AND to see my little bunts in public!

  3. SaraMW says

    I have been saving up this podcast for my return from holiday. So lovely to relive memories of EYF and to hear about a fascinating wool exploration. Thanks and cheers, 🍻

  4. Annette says

    I loved your podcast Louise. Despite living only a few miles from the Corn Exchange I couldn’t go this year as I was out of the country, grrr. So your podcast on EYF made me sad I wasn’t there but so happy that it went so well. I could almost smell the yarn and hear the noise when I was listening. And, happy day, next year’s dates are now announced. No more bad planning by me! Thanks so much for all you do for us and your generosity.

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