In all honesty I'll have to admit that I might have been a bit biased when Sonja from Blacker Yarns told me about this year's birthday blend and asked if I'd be interested in reviewing this new base. Blacker Yarns is one of my absolute favourite yarn companies – we share core values like the importance of ethical and sustainable processes, and I admire what they have done and continue doing for the European yarn industry and our knitting community. Plus I haven't met a single one of their bases I didn't like (love, to be exact!). That being said it feels only fair to say that I kind of anticipated a love affair with Brushwork, but still I found myself in awe when I had it on my needles for the first time. Before I continue gushing, let's get to a few yarny facts.
Fibre content: Brushwork is a blend of 70% Scottish Bowmont, 10% Castlemilk Moorit and 20% British Alpaca. Says Blacker: "Scottish Bowmont are very rare special sheep, their fibre renowned for its superb fine quality. They were originally developed by crossing Saxon Merino with Shetland, to make a Merino-style sheep which could comfortably live in the UK's climate. [...] We’ve chosen to blend our Bowmont with 10% Castlemilk Moorit, a breed listed as ‘at risk’ on the RBST Watchlist – there are only around 1,000 of these sheep left in the UK. [...] To give a little more drape and luxury to this lofty, woollen-spun yarn we added 20% British Alpaca, and we adore the resulting blend!"
Colourways: Brushwork comes in 8 beautiful colourways, developed by hand-carding, that have each been named after a painting technique or process. The one I swatched with is called "Impasto", and I used "Velatura" for the Creative Soul design.
Weight / yardage: With 152 metres / 165 yards per 50 g, Brushwork is classified as sport-weight.
Gauge / needles: Something that really stands out about this yarn is how versatile it is in terms of gauge. For the little swatch I did, I used 4 mm / US 6 needles and got 20 sts x 28 rows on 10 x 10 cm after blocking it lightly. My Creative Soul Shawl is worked on 4.5 mm / US 7 needles at a gauge of 17 sts x 25 rows on 10 x 10 cm after medium to heavy blocking, and I love both fabrics equally. The ball band suggests using 3.5 mm / US 4 needles, and I definitely want to try that next!
My heart beats for natural and if possible breed-specific yarns (with wool being my favourite, obviously!), and I love how much thought and care Blacker Yarns put into selecting the fibres for this blend. In my experience sport-weight yarns can be relatively hard to find, compared to say DK or fingering, so bonus point for the weight! Sonja told me that they had been able to get gauge for both fingering-weight and DK-weight patterns, and the yarn really is very versatile and knits up beautifully on different needle sizes.
Brushwork is this perfect marriage of rustic and soft, with the most subtle tweedy speckles and a luxurious feel, smooth enough to wear next to the skin. It blooms beautifully with blocking and is great for sweaters and shawls, but would also make for any excellent yarny partner for smaller projects like this hats, mittens or baby knits. The Blacker Yarns team designed a few beautiful pieces to celebrate the release, and I feel very honoured that I get to contribute a design of my own, Creative Soul, to the festivities. This triangular shawl uses 3 balls of Brushwork, and it'll be free for as long as Brushwork is available!
Blacker Brushwork will go on sale on September 28, 8 am London time – go treat yourself to a couple of skeins while they're hot! And most importantly: while they last, this is a onetime limited edition. Now excuse me while I try to decide on a colourway for the sweater quantity I plan to get for myself. Which one is your favourite?