by demand


The First Footing sock kits sold out much more quickly than expected yesterday – I spent several days packing up kits and felt confident I’d made plenty available… Anyway, because I’ve received numerous requests to publish the pattern individually, I’ve decided to do so, so that you can, if you wish, knit it up right away.

For the time being I won’t be releasing the Toatie Hottie pattern as a separate digital download – this is simply because the pattern is specifically designed to fit a certain size and shape of small hot-water bottle (having seen several from different suppliers, these differ more than you might imagine), so the pattern only makes sense if you have a particular kind of bottle in your possession . . . but there have also been requests for me to adapt the pattern for different sizes of bottle: I will explore this possibility in January, and if it works out, release a multi-sized separate pattern accordingly.

I’ve also had queries about the yarn I used to knit the First Footing socks – Jamieson and Smith Shetland Heritage. This lovely worsted-spun yarn is really very different from the woollen-spun Shetland yarns many of you will have encountered. While woollen-spun yarns are carded, airy, and snap easily when pulled, worsted-spun yarns are combed, making the fibres smoother and stronger. There’s less air in a worsted-spun yarn, and it does not snap when pulled. Jamieson and Smith Shetland Heritage is a top-quality worsted spun Shetland: soft, durable, and wonderfully smooth on the feet as well as in the hands. It has specifically been developed to be comparable to the strong, fine “wursit” yarns that were originally used to knit Fair Isle garments (see this post for discussion of one such garment). I think it makes an ideal yarn for a luxurious pair of socks: the only issue being that the yarn is not superwash, and your socks should be washed by hand.

So You’ll now find the First Footing / Ceilidh Oidhche Challain pattern on Ravelry (digital) or MagCloud (print plus digital).

The shop will be updated again with more stock next Sunday (15th) around 12 noon GMT. I’ll have more First Footing kits, and more Toatie Hotties, but this will be the last update before the festive season.

Right, I’m off to pack up your orders! See you soon x

41 thoughts on “by demand

  1. Good morning and thank you for releasing this pattern separately. It’s very helpful for those of us living across the pond. Wet and snowy here. The sun won’t rise for a while yet so your pattern release is cheerful news indeed. I’ll have to look and see if I can purchase J&S vintage yarn over here somewhere….

  2. Thank you for making this beautiful pattern available,now all I have to do is dye some fleece and spin it up and I am good to go!Looking to see if I have enough Madder for the red.So looking forward to knitting these,keep those wonderful designs coming.

  3. Brilliantly seasonal design – I love it! I am also in awe of your marketing skills, watching the pattern sell on Ravelry. I just had to have one. Thank you!

  4. So glad to hear it will be a download. Just wondering how many balls of Shetland heritage yarn I ‘ll need. Firstfooting is a real tradition in Newcastle. Thanks Heather

  5. We can make the yarns machine washable but we are not sure it is the way to go. If you are hand knitting a garment I suspect it is a labour of love. Is hand washing a precious garment a chore? Would appreciate your comments (yes, I have hand washed my own knitwear on occasion!).
    Jamieson and Smith do export all over the world and we are looking into the possibilities of setting up a distribution service in the USA.
    We are always willing to learn.

    1. I think that a handknit garment is worth washing by hand. I wash my own handknit socks and don’t mind doing it at all. I would be sorry to see J&S yarns become superwash. I find superwash wools to be unpredictable and avoid them.

      1. I do tend to agree with regard to treating the wool to make it machine washable. I am not a fan but sometimes we have to do what the customer wants. I am very grateful for your comments.

    2. Martin, please *don’t* look at making the yarns machine-washable! Admittedly, that’s just my opinion, but at this point I avoid additional chemical treatments on my fibers, for so many reasons.

      And yes, J&S is easy to order from internationally (I’ve done it frequently), although there are times when I’d love to be able to pop into a local store and look at the colors in person and take the yarn home directly. When I was in Shetland this fall, I made notes of colors. Color cards (even with real yarn on them) are useful but there’s nothing like lining up the balls of yarn next to each other and pondering.

      1. Sounds pretty unanimous…..I confess it makes my life much easier.
        We do make some things in machine washable Real Shetland wool though – like the new numnahs we are making for Shetland ponies and horses….watch this space….

    3. Well, I have a large family and therefore do a lot of washing. So having superwash yarns is a definite bonus for me. I even go so far as to avoid yarns that are only hand washable as the risk of the garment landing in the washing machine by mistake or when I am not around is great in my house.
      I realise this does not make me the typical high-end knitter, but I just wanted to add my perspective.

      1. Chris, I’m not a “high-end knitter.” I just like to use good materials.

        The thing is: there are many, many machine-washable options out there, and for you I’d suggest looking into the lovely BFL superwash alternatives that are showing up, if you haven’t discovered them already. There are also many machine-washable Merinos and other fine fibers, as well as a handful of Down wools (not many yet: I keep hoping) that are naturally machine-washable and -dryable.

        For J&S to move into this realm would be a departure from the unique nature of they wools they offer. The J&S lines are founded on the specific qualities of Shetland wool. To subject those wools to chemical treatments in order to make them machine-washable would put them in inappropriate competition with what are already abundant offerings–to the detriment of the fiber, just to appeal to a segment of the market that is already well served.

        Anyway, I understand the need for machine-washable and -dryable textiles that are invulnerable to family absentmindedness.

      2. Thanks for those tips. I will definitely look into the brands that you mention. How great that there is the choice around for all needs.

    4. With Kate and Deb ringing in you don’t really need another opinion…but anyway, I handwash all my handknits….whether they are ‘superwash’ or not! I prefer the less processed aspect of non washable yarn for sure!

      1. Much appreciate all comments from people who know about yarns and how they want them. Otherwise how can we make the right qualities? The more the merrier. The more we understand about what a knitter/designer is looking for the more chance we have of getting it right.
        Same goes for shades – we worked with the Shetland Museum and Archives to get the initial Heritage shades correct and then asked customers which additional ones they wanted.
        Well, it makes sense to me, we don`t want to make expensive mistakes.

    5. I have handknits in J&S yarn from the 80s that are still lovely! The handwash liquids are so effective that, in combination with a good spin cycle, I don’t think handwash wool is problem. In fact, I secretly enjoy washing things that I have made.

      1. Thank you for your feedback. It is great to think that our yarns will last for generations….that makes them so environmentally friendly it is brilliant! The LCA on these yarns would be fabulous.

    6. I handwash/soak all of my handknit woolens regardless of what the ballband says. Every spring my back yard is very colorful for several days with sweaters drying on stacked racks and socks, mittens and hats hanging on the line. It simply isn’t a big deal.

  6. Dear Kate, your postings always leave me feeling happy and I love knitting. And I love red and white together!🐏🐏🐏🐏🐏🐏🐏🐏🐏🐏

  7. Perhaps this was already addressed..but are you sending kits to the US? If so, I will wait until the next round. If not, I will buy the pattern and find the yarn elsewhere. Thanks.

    1. Yes, I am certainly sending orders to the US! I have shipped a large number this past week! The airmail shipping isn’t too prohibitive, I think – its Β£4.99 for the sock kit.

  8. Also I would much rather knit with sticky unwashable wool. I find it a much more tactile. superwash tends to make the wool smoother. just me? also I find I do not have to wash wool socks after every wearing. maybe just me again?

    1. Making wool machine washable does actually remove the follicles from the fibre and this tends to make it feel smoother. A good wool sweater needs washing less, in my opinion, than synthetics as I think they release any moisture much better – the garment breathes. It might just be me but I think wool garments that need hand washing tend to hold their shape better. Cotton “grows”, as do synthetic sweaters but I don`t think wool does to anything like the same extent.

  9. I don’t knit socks, and wasn’t going to buy the kit for that reason (although I *love* the design!!), but avid reader of this blog, and just happened to glance at the comments…learned SO much in one page!! Now I understand why I love the process of knitting with – (insert name of currently hugely popular American superwash designer yarn with amazing colour ways) – because it’s smooth in my hands (I’m a musician), but am always somehow dissatisfied with the results. I could never figure it out. Ironically, I was hand washing those garments anyway… Avoiding the superwash from now on! Glad to know I can order J&S myself, but have already got my London sister to send me some for Christmas…can’t wait!

    Thank you all.

    1. This thread about superwash or not is fascinating. Also I never really understood what worsted spun was, and had looked it up online just the other day. Huge confession is that I put most things in the wool wash short cycle on my machine…
      I don’t wash woollens too often as I remember a Rowan consultant telling me years ago that it isn’t necessary or good for the garments. Of course I would feel differently if I wasn’t wearing something underneath, and of course for socks!

  10. I am not at all surprised at the popularity of this pattern. The socks are so warm and festive-looking—sort of like a woolen candy cane! Also, the comments are so interesting and helpful! I love what you do. (I also had a good time refreshing my memory on the “First Foot” tradition.)

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About Kate Davies

writer, designer and creator of Buachaille (100% Scottish wool)