Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Yarn of the Month June Part 2 - A chat with Sonja from Blacker

Following on from our Yarn of the Month, featuring Lyonesse DK, I was super lucky to be able to ask Sonja Bargielowska from Blacker Yarns a few questions about herself, Blacker, the new Lyonesse range.  Sonja also revealed some exciting news from Blacker! 

Hello Sonja 

Many thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for BritYarn.  If you are sitting comfortably with a beverage to hand lets begin!
Could you introduce Blacker Yarns to those who may not know the company. 
So Blacker Yarns is quite a special yarn company because it is one of the only British yarn companies to come with its very own mill attached - The Natural Yarn Company. Because of this we are able to experiment with blends and rare breed specific yarns. It also means we have the added bonus of being able to buy fibre from farmers and then see every aspect of yarn production, from washing the fibre to dyeing and finishing, through in one location. 

Describe your typical day at Blacker Yarns?
I’ve been working at Blacker for about a year and have already learned so much. Although my job title is officially centred around brand and marketing, in practice I do a little bit of everything from customer queries to attending shows and stock control. So there is never a dull moment! Every day tends to be completely different from the last, which is ideal as it allows me to be constantly working on something new. This is probably quite similar to a lot of people working in the fibre industry as it tends to be made up of small companies. 

By far my favourite task is planning and launching new products. It is so rewarding being able to follow a yarn range through from the initial inspiration to balls of yarn. By far the best bit is watching people using that yarn to create something special to them. Ravelry is truly amazing! 

Lyonesse is a new addition to Blacker Yarns range.  How did it come about?
I love working with linen yarns. To my mind linen provides a set of characteristics as unique as those of wool but perfectly suited to summer garments. But pure linen is not always the most forgiving yarn to work with, so for a long time I have been curious about how a blend of wool and linen might behave.  

Then Sue and I had a chat about introducing a summer yarn to our selection at Blacker, after all no one wants to spend hours knitting massive woolly jumpers on the beach! I started thinking more practically about what kind of blend might work and which thicknesses would be best. Initially I was imagining a lace and 4-ply, but Sue was so right to also suggest a DK. This weight is ideal for summer garments, plus DK has the advantage of being a speedier knit. 

I think we are at quite an interesting time in the knitting industry. There are so many crafters who have been knitting with superwash Merino yarns for a few years now and I think as a community, we are starting to want something a little different. Not that there is anything wrong with superwash Merino, but a little variety is always great! So to my mind Lyonesse is the ideal stepping stone for someone maybe thinking of trying a linen yarn, but not quite sure how a pure linen fibre might behave. 

If someone has never knitted with a yarn that contains linen before how would you best describe it?
Linen is wonderful - it is durable, softens after every wash and most importantly from a knitter’s perspective retains its block wonderfully, making it ideal for lace projects. Anything knitted using a linen yarn will bounce straight back into shape after being crumpled in your bag or on the back of a seat. This structure is probably the main reason I fell in love with linen. 
It is also wonderfully suited to a warmer climate. The plant fibre has wicking qualities which means it can easily absorb moisture and help keep your body cool on a sunny day. Believe it or not, but these are also two of the properties in wool. So our Lyonesse blend is ideal for a British climate where the summers don’t always turn out to be quite as warm as we’d like. 

Where did the colour inspiration come from?  How did you decide on the six colours?
Our colour choices came about in quite an organic way. After trialing a few shades, I was really drawn to the way the subtle fleck of the linen fibers showed through on each colour. I particularly love the way these fibres work with the darker colours. Then it was about selecting a capsule collection of shades which harmonise well and evoke a light summery feel. 
Are there any patterns available to support Lyonesse?
There will be two patterns, a shawl and a cowl, both designed by me. But, hopefully we will have some more yarn support on its way next summer. In the meantime, Lyonesse will work well with most light summer tops, shawls and more. I can’t wait to see what everyone creates!

Image used with permission from Blacker Yarns

What are your favourite woolly / fibre crafts?  
Knitting of course! Followed quite closely by listening to knitting related blogs - ha! In the last year I have started spinning intermittently on a drop spindle, which is great fun but I have yet to make any yarn with which I enjoy knitting. I made my dad a rather ‘eccentric’ hat for Christmas which he wears occasionally, bless him! I have also tried hand dyeing with Lara, one of my lovely co-workers at the mill. Dyeing was tremendously fun (and more successful than the spinning as yet) so I am keen to do more of it. 

If you were only allowed to knit / design with one British grown base what would it be and why? (a blend or 100% pure)  
This question is tremendously difficult. At the moment as seems to be the only thing I’m working with I’d like to say Lyonesse.  I am a huge fan of lustre breeds such as Teeswater, Cotswold and Wensleydale so I would probably choose one of these. They offer the perfect combination of drape and shine, with a wonderful textured halo. 

Are there any future Blacker adventures you can share with BritYarn?
We have a few exciting new ranges planned for next year, but unfortunately those are all still top secret! I can however reveal that we are going to be launching a one off limited edition yarn to celebrate our 10th birthday this September. It will be a gorgeous rustic blend of farm assured British fibre spun as a DK in 9 different colours and one natural. The yarn is just going through the mill now, so I’ll be able to get some on my needles and have a play soon – one of the many perks of the job. ☺ 

Thank you Sonja for taking time out of your busy day.

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