Swatchbook – Swatch No.1

When I started knitting I hated swatching. I regarded it as a waste of time. It aslo meant using some of the precious yarn for nothing. My attitude has changed a lot. I like swatching and especially now that I have started to design, making swatches and trying out ideas is an essential part of how I approach coming up with knitting patterns.

For this reason, and because I believe you can learn a lot about a yarn when making a swatch, I want to start as swatchbook, sort of a journal of swatches, where I share the swatches I make or have made for a project. I want to take this as an opportunity to find out more about yarn companies and the fibre they work with. As well as share this knowledge to about all the amazing yarns that are available to us as knitters.

Tamar by Blacker Yarns

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The first yarn I chose is something I bought recently: Blacker Tamar by Blacker Yarns. I ordered the yarn specifically with the intention to swatch for a jumper. I got the idea from Karen Templer’s Top down improvised jumper KAL (which, if you haven’t already, you should totally check out) but knew I would not be able to participate. Nevertheless, I got the yarn and have made a swatch.

For this project, I chose the DK weight yarn because I wanted the jumper to be warm but not too thick and I find DK yarn usually very comfortable to work with in terms of the needle size. The colour is called Ottery. I knitted the swatch in the round in stockinette on 4 mm/ US 6 needles. After blocking I achieved a gauge of 21.5 sts and 29 rows = 10 cm/4” which I will use to do the calculations to make a top-down raglan jumper.

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The fabric has a bit of stretch to it but not too much and the stitches are defined. It feels like it is going to be a nice and warm jumper but that it will not be too heavy. It also has a nice woolly feel to it. It is not merino soft but also not scratchy and according to the label of the yarn the fabric will get softer with every wash. The fabric has beautiful and subtle variations of grey and a certain sheen to it which makes it look very ‘alive’.

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Tamar is a worsted spun yarn. It is a blend of various historic sheep breeds including Wensleydale, Teeswater, Cotswold and Black Leicester Longwool and fleece from the Cornish Mule. What these British rare sheep breeds have in common are their long wavy and smooth fibres that also have a lovely sheen. The fibre from the mule adds a ‘woolly bounce’. This combination makes it possible to have a yarn that has a nice sheen but retains wool like qualities which would be lost if it was only a blend of long stable fibre. The yarn is available in two natural and 15 dyed shades.

By using historic sheep breeds, that are part of British farming history but are now considered at risk, this yarn also contributes to maintaining flocks of rare breeds. Supporting the maintenance of rarer breeds is something that is important to Blacker Yarn as a brand.

I first heard of Blacker Yarns when I picked up the book ‘Pure Wool’ in the public library to learn more about rare breeds which is a topic I find really interesting. Sue Blacker provides a great overview of rare breeds and, for a knitter especially interesting, what to use the fibre of these various breeds for. Sue Blacker, who manages the mill that produces Blacker Yarn’s also has a flock of Gotland sheep. (If you want to hear more from Sue Blacker I recommend the podcast Ashley Yousling from Woolful did with Sue).

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Photo: Sue Blacker. Source: Blacker Yarns Facebook

Blacker Yarn’s is a brand belonging to the Natural Fibre company which has been spinning yarn since the 1990s and was launched in 2008.

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Photo: Dyeing and finishing processes. Source: Blacker Yarn Facebook

The Natural Fibre Company is located in Cornwall and produces a variety of yarn of various rare breeds. You can even shop by breed on their website! They procure the fibre in the UK only and work with a lot small producers. The company is also very much concerned about the environment and tries to keep the impact on the environment as small as possible.

Overall, I really liked knitting with the yarn and think that the idea to make rare breeds and essential part of the yarns Blacker Yarns spins a really worth cause.

Have you knitted anything with Blacker yarn’s? What was your experience?

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