Saturday, 3 October 2009

Knitwits Yarns

A day late for part 2 of the Hebridean odyssey but I've got very behind with inputting new yarns and patterns on the site so I've been trying to catch up and beavering late into the evenings to get everything updated. It never is fully up-to-date, of course, because new things keep arriving (possibly because I keep ordering new things ....... hmm).

So before I finish the Hebridean story I'll just precis the new "stuff" on the site. Glorious, glorious stuff it is too. I finally finished all the Katia patterns on Wednesday so we have patterns in:

Astrakan. Lovely ladies garments but also cute babies :


and even a stuffed toy!

Then we have "Surprise" which has a few fab patterns. For ladies:

and, again, for children:

And then a few baby patterns in Sugar:

We also had a delivery in from Sirdar so there's plenty of Snuggly DK and Supersoft Toddler Aran as well as new stocks of Snowflake Chunky (new colours on the site this week) and a bit of Baby Bamboo but most colours didn't come so I can only assume that Sirdar themselves are out of stock of this lovely yarn.

I also had a delivery from King Cole so Mirage and Inspire have been updated and there are 2 new yarns on the site for this week once FB's photographed them.

I've also finally inserted Debbie Bliss's new yarn - Fez. This is an aran weight 85% merino/15% camel yarn which is lovely and soft and, I presume, really warm as well. You can find it here. There's also a new pattern book called, strangely, Fez. Here's a sample:

I've also uploaded some patterns from Debbie's new Book "The Big Easy" which are done in her new Luxury Tweed Chunky. We don't actually stock the Luxury Tweed Chunky but it's exactly the same tension as her Donegal Chunky Tweed (which I actually prefer as it's pure wool) and it's exactly the same metres per ball so the 2 yarns are totally interchangeable. I've inserted these patterns under Donegal Chunky Tweed - see here - for The Big Easy book.

Phew - well that's brought you up to date with the site. The shop front is progressing slowly - builders had to finish another job first thing yesterday (sound familiar?) but they're building the new wall on Monday so that involves digging out footings which sounds noisy and dirty to me.

So - back to the Hebrides - and perhaps we should start with the all important potato dish competition. FB was particularly taken with this element of the weekend and the entries were (in no particular order):
- Corned Beef Hash
- Smoked Scallop and Potato Pie (my favourite - absolutely delicious)
- Stovies (traditional Scottish dish - remember, we had lamb stovie for supper)
- Spicy Blue Potatoes with Fennel (which were, quite literally, blue)
- Corned Beef & Potato Pie (which FB ate for Sunday breakfast)
- Crab and Potato Pie (also delicious, in my opinion)
- Fish Pie with Cheese Topping.

The Stovies won first prize but, if it had been me, the Smoked Scallop dish would have been the winner - if anyone in the Hebrides has the recipe for that, I'd love it!

The prize was a traditional Scottish "Quaich" (friendship cup) - which can be seen in the corner here:

The burning cockleshells was a really interesting site. Mark Thacker is a local historical builder and he had found a transcript taken from an interview with an old builder who had described the burning of cockleshells to make lime mortar for building. Burning lime is an age old problem and, apparently, is responsible for much of the deforestation in the UK going back to Viking days. In the Hebrides they burnt cockleshells as the source of their lime. It takes 24 hours to burn the shells and they need to get up to 900 degrees! Mark was using wood and peat but poor Pete got a bit fed up (sorry - bad joke - just show the photographs, Julia):

Here you can actually see the cockleshells in the middle under all the wood.

That's me, keeping warm and you can see the huge pile of wood (and the bags of peat behind me) needed to keep burning for 24 hours - a heck of a lot for a relatively small amount of lime mortar. Mark kept the fire going all night (despite the rain) and left the next morning with his shells which he would then need to pound into a paste and turn into mortar. So long as the shells were kept dry they could be kept for a long time until required. The moment they touch water they need to be turned into paste but the paste can then be kept for years - the longer the better, in fact.

I tell you - you don't just learn about knitting on this site!

So, finally, after dinner on Sunday night - Mary went off to the harbour (about 45 minutes away) to pick up her friends and we went back to the croft. Margaret bumped into some electricity workers who told her there'd be a power cut shortly (how civilised to be given due warning!) - we searched the house high and low for candles or a torch - but none was to be found so we sat and waited for the lights to go out - which they duly did. In the middle of this, Mary appeared with her friends who had just come in from a 5 1/2 hour boat ride and, frankly, weren't that thrilled to discover there was a "power outtage" (they were American too!). We managed to get them seated in the kitchen by the light from FB's cigarette lighter and then had a rather bizarre conversation in the pitch black. Mary had gone off to find gas lights and, obviously, the moment she returned with them the lights came back on! So who were they? Well, have you heard of the Green Mountain Spinnery in Vermont? They have been spinning wool in the USA for nearly 30 years and our visitors in the pitch black were Libby co-owner of the Spinnery and her fiance. I could have spent all night picking her brains but she was a tad exhausted and is 80 years old (I sincerely hope I'll be going on walking tours of the Lake District when I'm 80 - which is what they'd been doing the previous week) so after an hour we had to release her to her bed. The really interesting thing we found that was their main problem with spinning organic is trying to find organically certified wool in the USA. Here in the UK we have loads of farmers desperate to sell their organically certified wool and we simply can't take it all. Clearly, we're ahead on the organic sheep farming on this side of the pond.

Sadly we had to leave at the crack of dawn on Monday so didn't see Libby again but I now have her email address so am hoping I can pick her brains from here. Who knows, perhaps a trip to Vermont can be put in the future plan. If you go to their site you can see the huge range of yarns they produce and the constant call from their visitors is "and you spin all the yarn here?" - clearly the concept of low eco footprint still hasn't caught on over there where, presumably, most yarns are spun in China. If we can emulate their work in 30 years time, I'll be absolutely delighted.

I meant to scan in a load of new patterns today but, as ever, time has run away with me and I've just had a lovely American customer in for over an hour so I'm going to shut up my cave and go home for a G&T. I think I've earned it ...........

I'm going to leave you with a couple of random photos from Grimsay, Outer Hebrides:

1 comment:

  1. I've been vaguely dreaming of the Martha's Vineyard Fibre Farm model but based in the UK. I'm convinced it can work, if the right people get involved (i.e. people who know about wool, and business, instead of classical Chinese). I'd love to invest some money this way, without having to do all the hard farm work! And the dividends are paid in yarn, what more do you want? It would give a fair price to the farmers for their organic fleeces, and make for happy knitters who can polish their halo for being enviro-friendly.