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episode 62 – The Border Mill

Welcome back to the podcast after a lovely wee break. I am jumping straight back into the action with a really wonderful tour of The Border Mill. 

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

John and Juliet Miller decided to make a career change 5 years ago. They already had a 2 acre walled garden where they kept their growing herd of alpaca and, after long waiting times to have the fleece spun (and often large minimum batch size requirements) they decided they would set up their own small scale fibre mill, specialising in alpaca. John and Juliet take minimum fibre batches of 1.5kg and as soon as they opened it was clear that there were a lot of clients who also wanted to spin small batch alpaca fibre, sheep wool and other fibres.

It wasn’t until 2013 that they started to produce their own alpaca yarn, for the first Edinburgh Yarn Festival and their own range has grown exponentially since then. The Border Mill range now includes a lopi-style yarn, blended with Falkland merino, alpaca and mohair, alpaca and BFL, alpaca tweed and the forthcoming alpaca and silk. The Border Mill also works closely with clients to ensure that the fibre they send to the mill becomes the best possible yarn for their needs. Their clients include Sariann Lehrer, who produces the single breed, single flock Chopped Ginger project and Hooligan Yarns, who sell single sheep yarns – if you have worked with, squished or seen these particular yarns you will be well aware of how special these yarns are. 

John gave us a tour of the mill and the entire process. Please listen in to the episode and join is on that tour – grab your WIP and drink! Read More

Episode 100!

Image copyright: r. nial bradshaw 

Episode 100! WOW! What a lovely milestone, and all thanks to the encouragement of you, lovely listeners, followers and pals.

Listen to episode 100


| A little of what you’ve enjoyed over the past 100 episodes

I open the show today with a wee snippet from episode 1, four years ago! Thanks to those of you on social media who told me some of your favourite parts of the podcast over the past 4 years. Read More

Cagney and Lacey Sock It To You!

For those of you who listen to my podcast and also Louise Hunt’s Caithness Craft podcast, you will know of the ‘Cagney and Lacey’ reference. I’m not sure when we started using the reference or if it was Louise who first started calling me the Cagney to her Lacey, or me vice versa (but I feel It must have been Louise. She is actually the cleverer and funnier Louise!). Anyway whether you listen to one of us or both, doubtless you will have heard the reference at some point on an episode.

It was lovely to finally get to record with my partner in crime, post EYF-2017 and we were already thinking ahead to what we might be able to do for EYF2018. Recently Louise whatsapped me (oh! if only you could be a fly on the wall of our whatsapps!) and said “Let’s do a KAL between us and make the same thing for EYF” – cos, really, what could be frickin-cuter-if-not-bordering-on-bizarre if we rocked up in the same design?! I loved that idea, but then we kind forgot about it..

Flashforward to the other week. I was auditing Twitter (as I am taking a twitter break) and Louise commented on my previous episode that had a socky feature.

What is that whirring sound? It was my brain! I replied…

Let’s do a Cagney & Lacey “sock it to you” for the PodKAL and I’ll knit you a pair and you knit me a pair!


What could be nicer? A pal knits you a pair of socks and you make and give them a pair!
How about we all do it? 

Louise and I have decided to have a Sock It To You Swap to kinda coincide with the Blacker PodKAL.

Its a socks swap, people! Give the gift of cosy toes and receive cosy toes in return!

  • There is a sign up thread in the Caithness Craft Ravelry Group. You need to sign up by noon (UK) on Friday 12th January.
  • In your comment state your foot size and any basic preferences (vanilla, stretchy cuff, regular or thick yarn, etc)
  • You will be paired up around the 14th January
  • Cast on is 22nd January.
  • Cast off is 11th March – to coincide with the Blacker PodKAL
  • Swap at EYF or send to your partner by the end of March 2018.

You have to be happy to send your socks anywhere in the world. If this is a *real* issue please let us know, but 100g pair of socks would be a small parcel at the most, and could even be sent as a “large letter”, if in appropriate packaging.

This is Louise and I’s joint effort for the Blacker PodKAL, though our cast on date is slightly later, to give you time to sign up and buy yarn.

You do not necessarily have to use Blacker Yarn (or British wool, in case anyone asks), but if you do wish to (And they do some great yarn!) you can also take part in the chat over in the Blacker Yarns group and you would be eligible for the finishing prize for that KAL – so its really worth double dipping!

If you are going to be at Edinburgh Yarn Festival – as we are – and your swap partner is also going, we could have a socky swap and feety foto at the Podcast Lounge. Wouldn’t that be fun?

We will keep the chat in the Caithness Craft group too. So if you are not already a member, go over and join and say hello!

What do you think – Are you in? Maybe add some sock patterns to your favourites to let folk see the kind of socks you like, or maybe you just want to be surprised?! Sign up now in the Caithness Craft Ravelry Group!


Remakery Magic

I cannot let 2017 slip away without shouting out about the Remakery. This is an ongoing casual-KAL where we remake items from our knitting past that we always wanted to try again. Perhaps we knit the original for a friend and wanted one for ourselves. Maybe it was a knit that got away and you want to recreate it. Maybe you wanted to remake it bigger, or with mods. Whatever the reason there is a chatter thread in the KnitBritish Ravelry group. Read More

Good Intentions: Goodbye Q1, Hello Q2

Almost 900 group thread posts, and almost 180 projects made – What an amazing first quarter our Good Intentions Club has had. Very productive indeed!

For anyone not sure what the Good Intentions Club is, you can read this post but in a nutshell it is a club that we already have the yarn and pattern for, we just needed the boost to get on with them.

We’ve had everything from kits purchased at yarn shows, to that pattern that cried out so loudly to be knit in that special yarn, to some knitters making intentions good and just knitting from stash on designs they had in their queues. As always I am blown away by the sheer enthusiasm for group activities like this, in the KB community.

Here is your Quarter 2 klaxon! On 1st of January it is time to go back to those project bags you bundled up back in October and pick your next quarter club project. Will it be a surprise? Do you know which one you want to knit next? Will you flip a coin?

Let’s look at some of the Good Intentions made real in the first quarter!

Maylin, one of our muckers, and her Carpino sweater, pattern by Carol Feller

Catherine’s Strokkur sweater, pattern by Ysolda, is stunning and it looks so warm. It is lovely to know that knitting this has been a bit of a journey of discovery.

I know I've already shared this finished project as part of Wovember but this was also my #goodintentionsclub project with #KnitBritish. Partly because I've had the pattern and yarn since earlier in the year but mostly because the intention of knitting myself a jumper has been a long while in the making. Overcoming my fears of wasting time, effort and money knitting something in a size that didn't "deserve" my efforts has taken a while, but I'm so pleased to have reached that place. I love the fit of my Strokkur jumper, I love its warmth, I love its colourful yoke- something I've always wanted to knit for myself- and I really love that it is sized for me and made by me. Here's to many more handmade jumpers in the future! Photo is pre-blocking as I was in such a hurry to wear it 😄

A post shared by Catherine Louise (@africandaffodil) on


More sweater-shaped Good Intentions – Julie’s Nordeney, by Isabell Kraemer, looks dreamy in Blacker Gotland.


I love Anthea’s Inglis Mitts, another by Ysolda – she used her Cornish Tin II from Blacker. Don’t they look cosy?

(c) Anthea Willis


It wasn’t just sweaters, or clothing and accessories – there were cephalopod too! Check out Claude the Octopus, made by Kirst McCullough! He is ace!

(c) Kirstmccullough

Slitknits chose a Mahy, by Karie Westermann. I love the colours and the texture of the yarn.

You can get a little glimpse at all of the amazing work produced by looking here – Don’t you just feel angelic having made those? I know some of us struggled with the devil in some of these projects, but persevered on – for example Whitehorse gave our HeckyThump a bit of a time, but she managed to finish it AND three other sweaters…the force is strong with that one!

Others of us had Good Intentions planned out – me and my Aiken – but then ended up sallying on with other intentions. I finished my Anora Cardi, pattern by Elizabeth Smith. I had bought the yarn from Uist Wool for this design and managed to finish it! Here’s a silly photo

Thank you for making Quarter one such fun. Here is to Quarter two! The thread is open in the Ravelry group. I won’t close the Q1 thread as I am sure people will want to get chatting. Thanks also to Jane Burns who provided a wee prize in Quarter 1 to five lucky winners.

If you didn’t take part in Quarter 1, but want to take part in our next cast on, on 1st January – do it! We’ll love to see you!

Wool Exploration: Gotland

Our exploration of North Ronaldsay has come to an end and I am busy compiling your amazing reviews for the next episode of the podcast, on 12th January. Thank you to everyone who explored the breed with us and huge thanks to those of you who re-visited your swatches from the Breed Swatch-along.

Our next breed, fearless Wool Explorers, is the glorious Gotland. Now, there may be some quick to jump in and tell me that Gotland is not a native British breed. While not native, the Wool Exploration is not strictly about native breeds! Gotland is a  Swedish breed developed in the 20th century, which is a development of some of the more primitive breeds, and it is a breed which has made itself very much at home in the UK.

A small group of Gotland rams. (c) JBKjeldsen shared via creative commons

This is what Deb Robson and Carol Ekarius say in The Fleece and Fiber Source Book

“Gotland wool is an unusual wool, resembling a fine mohair or an English lustre longwool more than the other Northern European Short-tailed breeds. Its also more often comfortable in next-to-skin garments than would ordinarily be expected from the characteristic fibre diameters. […] Different strains of Gotlands have different fleece characteristics, but they have in common length, lustre, and well developed wavy crimp.”
Page 162.

What larks and japes we will have in exploring this one! I know that there are a lot of you who struggle with wool next to the skin. Does that wee description make you want to take the challenge? Interested in discovering more of those unique textures and uncovering the treasures that this wool and its fabric may have to show us? I know lots of you are up for the challenge. Need a reminder of what we’re doing?

The information for the year of exploration is here. Essentially, once you have procured your Gotland wool or fibre – in any colour, dyed or natural – you can knit or crochet any design in a big old swatch. Once you’ve done that use the Wool Exploration guidelines to review your swatch. You can chat in our thread on Raverly, create a ravelry project for your review and share your swatching on social media using #woolexploration. You don’t have to take part in all of the explorations either, you can jump in and out as you like,

| Where can I get some Gotland?

I’m so glad you asked! There are lots of places you can find Gotland yarn or fibre. Firstly, Blacker Yarns have a great Gotland DK, which comes from Sue Blacker’s own flock. You can find the Blacker Gotland at BritYarn too.

The Little Grey Sheep sell different weights of their own Gotland flocks yarn. They also sell tops and fleece too.

© Little Grey Sheep Gotland

I’ve found a great looking DK Gotland from Trill Farm, in Devon.

(c) Trill Farm

If fibre is your bag, and you want to spin some Gotland (I will be trying this again) then you can find tops at Wingham Wool Works, Adelaide Walker and various different shades and preparations at World of Wool. A quick Google will yield even more results.

Some of you will remember trying out the Gotland swatches at EYF, in my Swatch sessions. This is what people thought then. How will you find Gotland to knit, block and wear?

from fleece to swatch – gorgeous gotland

Any questions? Just want to get going? Then hop on over to the Ravelry group and get exploring! The deadline for reviews this time is the 5th of February, so plenty of time to jump in!

Episode 99 – Our Great Muckers of 2017

This episode is all about Christine, Alison, Susan, Emma, Maylin, Barb, Mazzy, Carolyn Sue, Anthea and Lesley- Our KnitBritish Woolly Muckers!

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

This episode is sponsored by our final mucker for 2017  – Lesley Durrans.

TweedLD on Ravelry, Lesley lives in South Africa and while early knitting experiences put her off garter stitch (heavens forfend!) in the last few years her spirit for knitting has been renewed thanks to Ravelry and taking a class with Marie Wallin.

Hear Lesley’s answers to our questionnaire later in the show.

Thank you, Lesley, for supporting KnitBritish. 


The Year of the KnitBritish Woolly Mucker

Last year our show was supported mainly by our listener sponsors – The Woolly Muckers! This was the first time I had tried this and it was really wonderful. I was blown away when all ten spots were snapped up in a few minutes and it has been incredible to bring you an interview with a mucker each month. That made the whole process even more special for me – you wanted to support the show and I wanted you to pull up a chair and be a part of your own show. Each chat with a mucker (which means “pal”, btw – I was surprised when some UK folk told me they didn’t know what a mucker was. Its slang for ‘mate’, innit?!) Read More

Wool Exploration: North Ronaldsay swatching

With Christmas hot on our heels, I thought I would put out a wee shout-out for the deadline of the first round of Wool Exploration.

If you have been following the blog and podcast, you will know that we have kicked off a whole year of wool exploration. The first breed is North Ronaldsay – not quite the northernmost breed in the UK, but very nearly!

Wool Exploration is about really getting up close and profound with breed wool. You are requested to knit or crochet a big swatch in the chosen breed wool (any weight, any colour as long as it is 100% of the breed in the wool). You are then asked to wash, block and wear your swatch and do this at least twice.

| Why a swatch? Can’t I make something else?

Well, yes you can, if you want. However, swatches are easy to make. I bet you could knock one up whilst watching your favourite Festive movie?

In all seriousness, think of yourself as a fieldworker and you swatch is your research. There is a lot that you will be able to discern just from that swatch; feel, drape, warmth, density, halo, prickle factor (if any), to name just a few. You can also knit or crochet any design that you think would work well with this yarn, so your exploration is linked to your creativity too.

I’m happy if you want to make something bigger for wool exploration, but I would ask you to indulge me in a swatch. Swatching can actually be fun! No, really, it can!

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| Why do I need to wash it, block it and wear it?

There have been questions on this. Your exploration is not limited to just how the wool knits or hooks up. We need to think beyond the initial swatch.  I always say that we need to think beyond the squish of a ball of yarn and think about what that yarn is going to do, how it might look after being washed for the first time. How it might behave after being worn and what it might look like one year, five years, 10 years or 50 years down the line. This is your opportunity to give that a test, see into the future a little! How did it wash the first time? What did you use to wash it in? Did you try a longer soak the second time and what was the difference when you wore the dried swatch against your skin. Washing and blocking is just as important as wearing it, and noting any changes or observances about the fabric. It also matters *where* you wear it. Skin is different all over the body, try wearing it in your sleeve, or at your neck. Does this differ when you wear it pinned inside your sweater at your back, or tucked in the band of your jeans at your hip?

So many of you are deeply engaged with this exploration. It is wonderful to see. I know many of us don’t give too much thought to how we wash our wool (apart from water temperature and care of handling, I hope), or think about measuring items before and after blocking, but it is quite integral to this exploration.

| Why, Louise? Why is it integral?

Because I want our reviews to not only further illuminate our own understanding of breed wool, but I want it to help other people in their own wool exploration. Thorough testing of one swatch; of one breed, be it DK or aran, lace, 4ply or chunky, be it woolen or worsted spun, be it dyed or natural… it is going to make a wonderful reference of many dimensions of that one breed. Breed wool is not homogeneous and that is just one of the things we are all discovering with North Ronaldsay!

Please do ask questions, join the chat in the ravelry group and give it a go, if you can! There is just one more day to grab a 10% discount from BritYarn with the code KNITBRITISH96 – the discount is on anything in the BritYarn store, but you could start with North Ronaldsay! Also check out the great swatches and exploration already in progress on social media, under #woolexploration!

Thursday, 28th December is the last day to post your swatch review on Ravelry. All the details you need on Wool Exploration are in this post  and get ready for Gotland! Details on the next month of #WoolExploration are coming soon!


Episode 98 – Charles Dickens has a lot to answer for!

  1. Its the last episode before Christmas…there very well may be some ballet dancing sheep!

| Nah Humbug

Its quite documented on this podcast that I’m not overly fond of the festive season. This year we’ve cut way back on the commercial aspects of it, but there are many other reasons why I don’t find the festive much fun. I’ve had people say “oh, you’re all Bah Humbug” *sigh* Ebenezer Scrooge and Charles Dickens sure have a lot to answer for!

I know there are lots of us, for whatever reason, don’t enjoy Christmas. I just want to say, I get it. I support you. I hope it is peaceful and calm, and whatever you want it to be.

And if you hear of someone who says “oh, we’re not really doing Christmas this year!” and maybe they cast a downward eye – try to think before you call them a humbug! It may be more hurtful than you think!

| Small Gestures Read More