I was thrilled when my good friend and WOVEMBER comrade Louise Scollay announced her plans to host a Breed Swatch KAL over at Knit British this September.
The premise of the KAL is brilliantly simple: make a swatch from a single breed yarn; block and wear this swatch to give it a road test; share your findings with others.
But this simplicity belies the richness of this special KAL… With her characteristic enthusiasm and warmth, Louise builds on the idea that a good yarn-tasting should be like a good wine-tasting, beer-tasting or cheese-tasting… a process of savouring WOOL in its many glorious and varied forms and sharing that pleasure with others. If you have not been following the series, I strongly urge you to check it out!
- Let’s have a breed swatch KAL
- Assorted thoughts on swatching
- Episode 42 of the Knit British Podcast – Breed swatch-a-long
- Breed swatch-a-long FAQs
- Breed swatch-a-long PINspirations
- Here’s one I made earlier
- Breed swatch-a-long: a few more details
I love the collective spirit of Louise’s KALs and her gleeful love of wool is highly infectious. Though I am no stranger to swatching myself, reading her notes on this post made my fingers itch to cast on in some British wool not yet known to me. Fortuitously I was catching up with another brilliant podcast – A Playful Day – which provided me with just the right inspiration in the form of a beautiful interview with Louise Spong of South Downs Yarn. I ordered some South Downs Yarn in Chalky Path and have spent a few days really getting to know it.
However as I cast on, I couldn’t help thinking that my process would be assisted by some handy stationery! With Louise’s blessing I used her post to glean headings under which to enter information as I went. I thought the structure of filling out each section would help me to organise my perceptions as I knit, and I must admit that it has proved quite useful so far.
In case you think the stationery might also help YOU, please feel free to download it in either Microsoft Word or .PDF format. You can print out the stationery and fill it out by hand, or you can fill it in in Word as I have been doing.
I shall share my thoughts on the magnificent South Downs Yarn during the month of WOVEMBER and you are very warmly invited to do the same, and to tell us all about your experiences of knitting with 100% WOOL yarns! We are still accepting submissions on our key themes of Growing, Harvesting, Processing, Working With and Wearing, Wool. See this post for details.
This KAL is superb because as well as being fun it is amazingly practical and very timely. I still meet wool vendors who say that knitters won’t look beyond the initial hand-squish-grab of skeins at yarn festivals and softness still seems to be the main characteristic that sells yarn. There is nothing wrong with soft wool and it certainly has its place! But this narrow focus denies the pleasure of diverse textures and knitting experiences that can result from really exploring wool in its myriad forms. And though some wool definitely defies categorisation as “soft”, it can offer us a great deal in other qualities – warmth, durability, longevity, stitch-definition, insulating properties, drape, handle, bounce, life, a sense of place…the list goes on. The Breed Swatch KAL is all about finding the “muchness” of wool. The KAL has been thoughtfully assembled by Louise to enable knitters to engage with wool beyond the initial hand-squish-grab, and to explore its depth and beauty in a considered and collective spirit of wonder. Best of all, through various social media channels the information discovered as we knit will become more widely known and we can learn from each other.
Though I love a dreamy soft Bluefaced Leicester in my hands I am also thrilled by how a much coarser sweater I knitted for Mark has worn over several years, and the rough crunchy warmth of my Icelandic Lopi Keith Moon Sweater is my greatest comfort as the autumn rolls on into winter. Rachel Atkinson’s recent post about the prices that UK shepherds receive for their wool – Fleeced – points to a market in which British fleeces are still sadly being burnt. Meanwhile shop shelves continue to be flooded with wool that has been imported and designed to cater for an obsession with initial softness – sometimes at the expense of longevity, drape, stitch definition, durability or other amazing qualities possessed by wool. This is a real shame.
One of my favourite posts ever featured on WOVEMBER was a Q&A with Rachael Matthews on the pleasures of itchy wool;
I pray that this generation of makers can dodge the hypnotic, high street virus of softness, build up their cotton and lambswool under layers, pile on the armour of rough stuff, turn down the central heating, and feel rich and rewarded by the totality of what our country lovingly produces.
– Rachael Matthews, WOVEMBER 2013
“The totality of what our country lovingly produces” is exactly what the Breed Swatch KAL enables us to rediscover. Thanks to Louise and her wondrous Breed Swatch KAL I feel freshly inspired as we head WOVEMBERwards… see you there?