If you’re Rhinebeck bound, we would love to see you at Jill Draper’s studio in Kingston on Saturday night. Details here.

Mason-Dixon Mailbag, Pre-holiday Edition

Dear Kay,
I have a couple of items for Show ‘n’ Tell, not a one which can vaguely compete with the news of Lis and baby Jamie. (Has Jamie discovered Pepperidge Farm Goldfish? Has she heard her first Baby Mozart tape? Weep!)
Doodad Number One: Elmira Strikes Again
Those of you following quilting news in the lower reaches of Alabama already know that Elmira Sanders has reached superstar status, thanks to the recent Greenville Advocate profile of her. Not only did she receive major ink about her quilting, her church had a special service in celebration of her talents. I love that. Kaffe Fassett could walk into the Greenville Waffle House and get nothing. Elmira has people sleeping in front of her house hoping for a glimpse of her.
Her latest creation arrived yesterday, just in time for me to (ssshhhh) send it to Hubbo’s sister Liz and family for the holidays.
This one is a combination of oxford cloth shirts, blues and yellows, pale to bright. Hubbo’s dad had a lot of blue shirts. And yellow ones.
The early line on Elmira III is that it involves . . . madras. There was no shortage of madras in Hubbo’s dad’s life.
Tidbit Number Two: Those Wacky Outer Hebrideans
It’s been a while since my yarn-jaded, yeah-yeah-so-it’s-handspun-roving-from-yer-own-flock-of-sheep self has seen something brand spankin’ new. Imagine the thrill of seeing the “Small Packets” package sitting on my front doorstep. It didn’t even bother me when Clif drop-kicked my long-awaited bag of yarn across the front hall. Even his “Not! More! Stinkin’! Yarn!” failed to yank my chain.
Lobster, Thistle, Apple, Sunset
These are the new Rowan Harris DK wools, made from the wool of the Harris Tweed textile mills, waaaay out there in the Atlantic northwest of Scotland. Chilly! Authentic! Possibly uncomfortable!
I have loved Harris Tweeds since my childhood, when my dad had a jacket that was a scratchy, sheepy thing. You can’t make a tweed too grim for me. Even the brights above have a little of that Scottish gloom about them — bright in spite of themselves. My heart really belongs to this sort of thing:
Yep, this is Shade 008, Herring, as muddled and murky as the coldwater fish for which it’s named. Everything but the kitchen sink thrown into this one, resulting in a possibly unknittable yarn. What color is this? Who cares?
Just looking at this ball of yarn leaves me wishing for some tasty North Atlantic chow. Here you go: everybody’s favorite holiday treat, Herring in Oatmeal! First person to fix a batch of this wins a ball of this yarn. Proof of herring required.
By the way, these yarns bear no resemblance to the shades shown on the Rowan web site. It’s like their photographer just went, “I don’t get this stuff” and shot a bunch of blurry-looking whatever.
Highly recommended for anybody who’s had their fill of Zing, Fizz, Salsa, or any other eyelashy nutcase novelty yarns. This is not about novelty; it’s about ancient, deathless oooooooldnessssssssssss.
PS And how could I forget Celtic Mix? Thanks, Melanie, for reminding me:
I see olive, brown, moss, peat, yellow, crimson, brass, bronze, copper–so much Celticness all mudged together!




  1. I just could not agree more vehemently with your fine appreciation for grim, dreary tweeds. Nothing makes me feel happier or more comfy than things that evoke that feeling. Which means I guess I know what I must do now.

  2. ANN! Colourway emailed me Monday to say my Harris 4ply wouldn’t be in before the New Year! I am thrilled to see your dk photos! I ordered Herring!!!!! I’m so excited – it looks wonderful!!!!!!!! God, why didn’t I order more?

  3. If it’s called ‘Herring’, I’m guessing the Rowan part of this partnership is doing the color-naming–you know, the folks who brought us ‘Sludge’ and ‘Blood’. I’m sure if it were up to Harris it would be called ‘Duke of York’ or something more…dignified.
    All you lovers of gloomy n’ scratchy–have a ball. I’m sticking to candy colors of mercerized cotton here. The Herring makes my nose run. xoxo Kay

  4. I started a sweater with ‘Celtic Mix’ (in dk) and the yarn is lovely. I thought it would be scratchier, but it’s almost soft.

  5. Herring in Oatmeal was the preferred breakfast at the Station Hotel in Glasgow when between the sleeper from London and the train to Gourock for the ferry to Argyll. Yum.
    The best memory, though, was the waiter in full tail suit, walking at measured pace, bearing the bottle of Heinz tomato ketchup for the toddler I was with.

  6. Harris Tweed not supposed to be available here until mid – Jan — How come the US gets it First?? Love Herring (yarn) can’t stand the fishy things myself…

  7. Herrings in oatmeal, mmmmm … but I think your ball of yarn is safe for a while yet, Ann – herring season is May to September. At least it used to be! And I love that yarn – also would love to know where you got it from, Rowan just told me its not available til February….at least, on this side of the Atlantic….

  8. Oh, wow! That looks fantastic. Sometimes, I am a sucker for a brand name. I wonder what the pattern support will be like?

  9. P.S. Speaking of excellent yarn names, I once knit a sweater in a dark purply tweed entitled “Live Lobster”, purchased from a local shop in Canada’s Maritimes.

  10. I’ve got “Live Lobster,” but it’s dark greeny tweed — no purple involved. I got it from Cottage Craft in new Brunswick. LURRRVE it! But Ann, can I marry you? Those father-in-law-shirts quilts are just the BEST DAMNED IDEA. And I’m with you on the ancient tweedy, slightly-scratchy-oldness-style yarn. Bring it on. I may just have to make a batch of herring in oatmeal. Although I’m not sure if I will go QUITE that far…..

  11. Aaah, the tweedy goodness. Those quilts are amazing, too. I have participated in exactly one quilt-making (my own wedding quilt) and it’s still not done – perhaps 2006? As for madras, I’m very excited to see what you come up with. That’s got to be one of my favorites. Only a very very special man has a lot of madras.

  12. In Steornabhaigh (pron Stornoway) on the Eilean of Leodhas (Lewis), there is the Lewis Loom Centre, where we once went for a completely unheated tour that featured a LOT of information about urine and “wauking” the cloth (felting the fabric slightly to stabilize it). And also how the mills drop bags of materials at the roadside in front of the weavers’ houses, and how they come back and pick up the practically priceless Harris Tweed that is likewise sitting in a bag on the side of the road waiting for its ride.
    I am always cold thinking about Steornabhaigh.

  13. … what a master quilter… dear elmira….i’m practically yearning to hang up the addi turbos, and whip out some ole fabric patches, bits, and pieces, and give it a whirl…….yummmmm….who can possibly survive w/o kippered herring…. or herring in sour cream and onions????….

  14. Such a fine combination in this post…the US quilting tradition and the UK tweed tradition. It’s all about the color blends, isn’t it? They just – breathe – in a way that makes you want to have long conversations with them.
    However, I think I may be safe from a sudden massive order at Colourway. The yarn that got stashed in the bathtub during the Thanksgiving clean-up is STILL there, and so I think I really need to knit my way through it (or some of it) before starting on a new binge. (You know, the one that goes: “but I simply must have this in multiple colors because it will be discontinued and I will always regret not stocking up.”)

  15. Any yarn range that has three or four versions of grey is fine by me! The photgraphy on the Rowan site is not a patch on yours I have to say – perhaps a new career?
    Elmira II looks lovely – she is SO FAST! I also love the fact that she has had a church service in her honour. Can’t wait to see Elmira III – return of the Madras. Fabby! One question; how many shirts did the first quilt take?

  16. Ah..but there is nothing muddled or murky about the herring. In Norway it is called ‘the Silver of the Ocean’. There was a time when this little fish kept us alive.

  17. I have to say your photos of the Harris DK are far superior to the ones on the Rowan site. I would never have giving a second look at this yummy yarn from there’s. Now all I have to do is find some!!


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