Blue and Skye run an organic farm. On this farm they not only grow produce, but they raise heritage breeds of farm animal who are also fed organically. Recently, Blue and Skye started raising sheep. This fall, for the first time, they have yarn available from their sheep. The yarn was spun by Blackberry Ridge Woolen Mill, a local small business that uses antique spinning machines to produce high-quality yarns. I volunteered to knit up some samples for Blue and Skye to help sell their yarns.
Needless to say, we're all really excited about this opportunity! I went to pick up the yarn last weekend as I happened to have a small break in my knitting schedule that worked perfectly for this test. This is what I picked up from Skye at Madison's Farmers' Market:
Country Soaps by Marlene's wool wash bar. (good grief, am I a walking commercial today? Seriously, though, I love these businesses.) I was hoping that the lanolin from the wool wash bar would soften up the yarn as well as scent it for me. I really like the feel of lanolized wool when I knit and the aromatherapy can't be beat. The washing, however, did not have much effect on the lanolin levels, as the yarn was pretty well coated with its own lanolin and for the first time ever, the scent didn't seem to stick around beyond the drying.
I hand-caked the Rambo/Romney yarns first as I have the most excitement for the project that I'm doing with that yarn. Blue and Skye have left the designs up to me, so it's going to be a fun ride. I love it when the client lets me just play with the yarn. The end results are always better when I have free-reign. After much pondering of various patterns, I decided to go with the Ivyanna pattern that I've showcased in other entries of my blog. It's a great little pattern in that it's easy to knit (which also means fast, which is important this week), uses little yarn (not much more than a skein for even the 18 mos size!), and allows for a lot of improvisation when it comes to colorwork and textured stitches.
I decided that I wanted to do a mushroom theme with the colorwork. At first, I was looking at things like pawprints, snowflakes, and celtic knotwork, but after seeing this sweater:
At first, I was worried that the yarns would knit up scratchy. They aren't nearly as cottony as merino, which is the most common wool I use these days, but after knitting up 6" or so I realized that while they aren't cotton soft, they are smooth and not scratchy at all. It's like comparing a rabbit to a turtle. Sure the rabbit is fluffy, but the turtle is warm and smooth. Both are really nice textures, but very different.
The other factor that I'm curious about with these yarns is whether or not they'll pill. The feel of the knitted yarn reminds me a lot of Gallway's Outback yarn, which I used for a pair of night-time longies for my older daughter. 4 years later, and they still don't pill. They wear like IRON and I love them. I'm hoping that this yarn will behave in much the same manner. Unfortunately, I won't be personally using the garments I knit for this project, so the final verdict on that feature will have to wait until I have a garment of my own from this yarn.
So far, this is what my Ivyanna looks like:
I've actually done a bit more work since I took this picture, but you get the basic idea. I had to futz just a little with the pattern to make the stripes work out on top, but it wasn't too hard and looks just how I pictured it. I took the time last night to draw up the chart for my mushrooms. They're much less complex than pictured above, but I intend for them to be much smaller, so that's fine. I also wound off about 0.5oz of the white Rambo/Romney yarn and set it to dye in Cherry and Black Cherry Koolaid. It came out a lovely red, but after drying, my husband I agree that it needs to be a deeper, more burgundy red. So, back into the pot it went. I'll see the end results after I get home today, as the yarn was still setting when I left before dawn.
As I continue to work on these test projects, I'll update this blog entry. Stay tuned for more!
SMALL CHANGE OF PLANS:
I'll be doing the colorwork in just the two colors, brown and white. I still think it will be beautiful and I'll have a great plan for my own project later! Now.... hearts, celtic swirls, paw prints.... hmmmm...... so many options!
I have finished the knitting on the Ivyanna. It still needs some serious blocking, since it's colorwork, but overall I'm very pleased with the contrast of the white and brown yarns. I had to relearn to knit English style to speed up my knitting in the colorwork section, but I think that was probably a good thing. It's also a very good thing that I didn't knit it in a size that will fit either of my children, or it might just stay with me forever!
I still need to weave in the ends of the sweater, but it is blocked and nearly dry. I also knit up a single fingerless mitt, which I really like. I"ll have to reuse the pattern. It's this one... I started the second mitt, but decided to wait until I finished the Jacob hat. It may seem like an odd decision, but I wanted to know if I needed a second skein of the Jacob to finish the hat. According to the pattern, I won't but it looks like it's really close. I can finish the hat by Friday for sure if I have enough yarn. If not, then I'll pick some up on Saturday. I already know I have enough R/R yarn to finish the mitts, so that's less critical.
9-22-2011 UPDATE at bedtime...
I had a frustrating start to my evening, what with having to frog the entire half of the Jacob hat that I had knit, but in the end, I"m feeling satisfied. What happened with the hat? Well, I was knitting along, using needles one size too small, and feeling like I had a pretty tight tension going. I figured I was doing a fine job with the size. Then I decided to take it off the needles and see just how big it was. It was huge. In fact, it looked like a beret. It was so funny-looking that my camera-shy 2 year old agreed to pose as Queen of the Funnies, with it perched on her head and a scrub brush in her hand.
So I frogged it and found a new pattern. I'll knit that one this weekend.
Feeling frustrated but motivated to do some profitable knitting, I finished up the second fingerless mitt. I liked the pattern enough that I'll make myself a pair of fingerless mitts, very soon, I think! I think that the white yarn will probably look dirty before too long, but the look of the white with the brown racing stripe is just so elegant. I like them and hope Blue and Skye will, too.
After knitting two different projects with the Rambo/Romney cross, I have decided that I really like it. It definitely has a different hand-feel than the merino wool I've been working with lately, but there is something very lovely about the Rambo Romney cross. It feels sturdy and yet not unpleasant to touch. I like it enough that I have an irrational desire to keep the scraps, despite the fact that I will need much more than an ounce or two to make myself something. It's great stuff!
The Jacob hat is done. It was quite the adventure. Even with the second pattern and knowing that I was getting gauge, I kept feeling like the hat was WAY too big. So, I kept taking it off the needles and putting it on my head. Each time, it fit just fine, and each time, I didn't believe myself. But I finished it off and what do you know, it fits! It's actually a really nice hat. It's a big plainer that I was hoping to knit with this yarn, but I was afraid to put cables on it, since most likely Skye would wear it at market. I didn't want anything too feminine for him and no 3 people can agree as to whether or not cables are masculine enough for a man to get away with. So, no cables, but I do think next time, I will knit that hat with cables.
I did, however, modify the pattern to use K2tog tbl for the decreases and for the edging, I used the Rambo/Romney yarn and had to tinker with the crochet pattern to accommodate the smaller yarn.
Also, I think that this pattern would be great done with this yarn. If I thought I could justify spending that much on yarn for one project, I'd knit up that sweater for sure.
I have finally finished the Tunis shawl. I knit up the Infinitude Scarf with 6oz of undyed Tunis yarn. At first I wasn't sure about it, because it reads as a bulky-weight scarf and the Tunis is worsted, but I think that the loose gauge actually helps the Tunis yarn feel less rough. It's more airy and fluffy. The scarf really grew when I washed it, though. It's definitely long, but since it's meant to wrap around the neck and head 2-3 times anyways, I think that's fine.
Of all three yarns, I can finally say that I think I liked the Rambo/Romney the best. It has the nicest feel once knitted up and I LOVE the brown color. It's so rich!