Take a moment just to look at the COLOUR of the above swatch.
It has such depth.
It almost glows as if it had silk in it.
But this swatch is actually knitted out of 100% British wool. This is Tamar, the new blend from Blacker Yarns. Now I've been a huge fan of this company for several years. I have always admired their dedication to promoting British breeds and supporting small farm producers and their yarns are gorgeous; I've always enjoyed knitting with them. So when the call came out on Ravelry for volunteers to review Tamar, I jumped and emailed them right away. Sonja sent me a small complimentary skein of the 4ply, (Tamar also comes in a DK weight), in the colourway Kensey. All opinions on this yarn are of course my own.
I have been using some Blacker breed specific yarns in my British breeds swatch-a-long and I've already swatched with two lustre breeds - Cotswold and Black Leicester Longwool. So part of the appeal of Tamar was not only that those two breeds were part of this blend, but it also included Wensleydale and Teeswater (both waiting to be swatched in my British breeds stash). I have at least hand squished all four of these breeds and they are soft and silky and luscious and putting them all together in one blend along with 30% Cornish Mule to give it strength and bounce, is simply ingenious.
I loved knitting with this yarn. It flows through the fingers but is very soft. There is a slight halo to the yarn which remains even after washing and blocking, but as you can see from the photo, this doesn't detract from the stitch definition. A comparable yarn in terms of the feel and halo, would be Titus from Baa Ram Ewe, which also contains mostly Wensleydale, but adds some alpaca to it. There is no getting away from the Tamar glow though, and that is what makes this an exceptionally beautiful yarn. I knit the above swatch in the recommended 4mm needles which I think is the perfect size for garter stitch giving the rows enough spring and stretch. If I were doing a garment in mostly stockinette, I'd go down to 3.75mm or even 3.5mm to create a firmer fabric, but that's just personal preference.
Close up, you can see that Tamar would work fine for lace ( I could have blocked it a little more aggressively) and for textured stitches, while they may not pop as strongly as with other yarns with shorter fibres, the cables are definitely pronounced enough.
I wore the swatch next to my bare skin for an hour and barely noticed it was there. This would be a really suitable yarn for almost any type of project, but especially one where that extra coziness is called for - hats, mittens, cowls, shawls and socks. I definitely want to knit a sweater in this yarn, possibly one with colourwork.
The Tamar palette is one of the things I most love about this yarn. There are 17 shades in all, available for both the 4ply and the DK weight, including two natural shades - Gwindra, which is a silvery grey, and Ottery which I'd still call a light grey, just a shade or two up in intensity from Gwindra.
I took the above photo of the shade card outdoors and it's pretty close in colour to the actual card I have in my hand. I'm absolutely crazy about this muted, heathery palette and how well each shade fits, not only against the natural colours, but against the shades within their own colour family. Look at the four blues, for example. And the three (count them!) gorgeous purples. I especially like Valency, which is pale mauve-lavender mix that in certain lights can look more purply, or more grey. It could serve either as a very versatile neutral colour, or part of a gradient of colours going from the purples right into the greys. Blacker then throws in a shade like Tiddy Brook - that bright pop of yellow on the right hand side. Put that next to the aqua blue of Tresillian or the dusty rose of Kensey and suddenly you have a really vibrant and fun combination of colours.
Blacker Yarns will be launching Tamar on March 3rd and it will then be available on their website here. They'll also be bringing it to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival which I think will be the hit of the show. I know I'll certainly be buying a few skeins. Brityarn will also be stocking it. It's amazing to think that as beautiful as this yarn is, the sheep breeds involved - Teeswater, Wensleydale, Cotswold and Black Leicester Longwool - are all listed as either "at risk" or "vulnerable" by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. So kudos to Blacker for supporting the farmers who are trying to keep these breeds alive and relevant, and showcasing the sheep's qualities by creating this beautiful yarn.
Blacker will be creating patterns for Tamar and I also volunteered to test knit the Gwindra Shawl, designed by Sonja Bargielowska. The Tamar swatch I knit above uses the cable and lace stitch pattern that is found on the edging of the shawl. For the test knit however, I decided instead to use some other Blacker yarns from my stash. The main body is knitted in Cornish Tin, their limited edition tenth anniversary yarn. I snapped up three skeins at Yarndale last year and it was perfect for this shawl. It's knitted on 5.5mm needles with lots of texture formed by the garter ridges. I added some Polwarth and Ryeland on the last three pattern repeats to inject some bold stripes and I love how the natural shades play off each other.
The deep lace and cable edging was a lot of fun to knit and really anchors this shawl nicely. It's big and cozy, whether wrapped around my whole body or just the neck and shoulders.
The pattern is free and can be found here.
Thanks to Sonja and Blacker Yarns for allowing me this sneak preview.