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new sweater in the works

URSA Sweater is available on Ravelry

I need a warm and really sturdy sweater for this winter. The yarn I’m using is Cacao that I made into a 3 ply so that it is more of a bulky weight. I tried, believe me I tried to get the half brioche stitch correct in the raglan areas. I finally gave up and did a PKP rib there. Because this is going to be a outside sweater and barn sweater, I’ll probably make it longer than the pattern suggests. We’ll see how it goes.

What are you knitting this winter? Reply here or on Facebook and Instagram to let me know.

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thought provoking book

I’ve known about the California Fibershed movement for quite some time. I long to have a movement like that here in the Mid Atlantic. Have you heard of it before? It started as a local indigo project and grew to a movement to source one’s clothes responsibly and preferably with 100 miles of your home. This can be really hard to do.

The first part of this book details how Fibershed got started and also the really alarming cost of our clothes to our health and the health of the environment. The fashion industry has brought us fast fashion. Clothes that are popular right now for a very short period of time. The 2 biggest manufacturers of fast fashion produce one billion items per year. Most of which are worn a few times and thrown away. Most of these clothes end up in our landfills, becoming more than 5% of all of the municipal waste each year. Over 80 billion garments were sold in 2017 which equals a $1.3 trillion industry employing 300 million people from nearly every country. The majority of those jobs pay a very low wage.

I didn’t realize just how damaging washing your clothes could be. Of course the detergents an be unhealthy for many people. And these synthetic clothes shed microfibers in each and every washing. These microfibers make their way into our water, where up to 40% end up in rivers, lakes and oceans. We know what these plastics are doing in our environment.

5 mini skein gradient

What can you do? Well, you buy clothes that will last for a long time, those made from natural fibers and not made from petroleum by-products. You can recycle your clothes by mending them or repurposing them into quilts or other textile items in your home. You can wash your clothes when they are soiled but probably not every time your wear them. And as knitters, crocheters, sewers and makers, you can be part of the fibershed movement. Consider making a wardrobe for yourself or others. Of course wool, alpaca, mohair and cashmere grown locally is sustainable and renewable. We fiber farmers are happy to help you build a wonderful, colorful wardrobe.

knitting in the wild

I encourage you to read this book and consider the impact of choices we all make in clothing ourselves and our families.

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last minute gifts

Are you feeling the holiday crunch? Or are you trying not to think about it? Well knitting up a quick hat or mitts could be done in the couple of weeks that is left until the holiday week. We have kits for fingerless mitts made with our own 2ply mohair yarn. Click here to see the choices.

Do you sometimes have to point your loved ones in the right direction to what you really, really want? We are offering gift cards for the first time this year. Click here to go to our secure gift card provider, Squareup. Your family and friends can pick any denomination. And you can use it in the next year for all kinds of beautiful skeins or even a class or two!

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quick and functional mitts to keep you warm

This is my cutest cup and it’s full of Mexican hot cocoa. Yes I’m inside today and it is still so nippy outside. I let the fire go out in the stove and until I restart that fire, I’ll be keeping these beauties on. This is from my Fingerless Mitt Kitts. You can grab one here.

The pattern is one of the featured free patterns that will be given away during our Fiber Art Studio Tour on December 7 and 8. You can find out all about this tour and how to get a set of free patterns from each of the studio stops here.

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what does that colorway look like?

I’m asked at every show what a particular colorway will look like when it is knit or crochet. There isn’t a simple answer. Even if I did a swatch for every base and every colorway I have made, when you use that yarn, it will look different than the sample.

It all depends on the number of stitches. A yarn that will stripe in a sock of 62 stitches will might have sections of pooling and striping in a shawl where the stitches are constantly changing row by row.

Here is a good example. Both mitts were knit from the same skein. The smaller mitt on the right has bigger areas where the deeper blues and greens will pool and stripe. The larger mitt is less dramatic as the areas of deeper blue and green are more spread out and therefore have a more subtle look. There is only a difference of 12 stitches between the two mitts.

These two mitts are the samples for my new mitt kitts. The yarn is my 2 ply mohair yarn from our animals. It is lofty and has a nice halo that you can actually brush to make it even more pronounced. The kitt includes the yarn and pattern for a mere $15. It is a fast gift for the holidays. These will be available during the Holiday Fiber Art Studio Tour on December 7th and 8th. Find out the details here. And I will be adding these to my online store in Monday’s update. Check back here to find them.

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another successful mohair shearing in the books

Waiting for their turn with Emily
It’s the best when the goats just lie back and relax. This is Ethel.
All done and released into the “wild”.
Here’s Ethel again! She is asking for more graham cracker treats! And curious about where her friend Lucy is…

Interested in Mohair or Wool roving? Well we have you covered. Find it in our online store.

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Stash Appreciation–Mohair Blends

white vs colored

Mohair is an incredible fiber: strong, brilliant, resilient, warm, breathable and renewable. It does do better when it is blended with another fiber. Mohair in yarn can add a nice halo or fuzziness to the yarn. It also gives off it’s brilliant shine and luster. But by itself it can be a bit heavy. In the wrong kind of garment or the wrong kind of stitch it can be too slinky to keep the structure you intended. Many other writers have said that mohair has elasticity. It may have some, but it does not have the memory that wool has. Once it has stretched out, it is nearly impossible to get it back. You see, mohair wants to stretch out to its original somewhat straight shape.
When I design a yarn for my mohair, I go two routes. I make a 100% mohair that is tightly spun and a little less tightly plied. That way the mohair is stabilized, the sheen is apparent and the hand (the way it feels) is soft. I only use kid or yearling fleeces for this kind of yarn. This yarn is great for garments or accessories that call for drape, like a shawl or a scarf.

mohair samples

For a great tapestry yarn, I have my adult mohair spun in a fingering weight that is pretty tightly spun. This fine yarn will do well for tapestry weavers who want to blend colors for shading. Because it is a singles yarn, there are no ply shadows and the luster shines through. It is a very strong and durable yarn as well.

naturally dyed mohair

My blended yarns are designed in two veins as well. One yarn I blend uses adult mohair as a substitute for nylon in sock yarn. Adult mohair is lends it’s strength and durability to the fingering weight yarn. This sock yarn is totally renewable and natural without using man-made materials.

psock

The second way I blend uses kid mohair with my crimpy, squishy Cormo or BFL fleeces to make lovely worsted weight yarn. The mohair gives a little halo and some shine to the wool. This yarn is fantastic to use for sweaters, hats, and mittens. It shows off beautiful lace patterns and your cables will pop out from the background stitches. We currently have many colorways of Fingal and Fernham in the shop.

purple rain swirl

If you are local, you can see our yarns in person at the Homespun Yarn Party Sunday 3/22 from 12-5pm in the Savage Mill Ballroom. Click here for more information.

What mohair blends do you have in your stash?

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A Year of Stash Appreciation–Mohair

relaxed goat

Mohair is such a favorite of mine. Of course, I would love it since I have a fiber flock of angora goats with lots of mohair on the hoof, so to speak.  According to Clara Parkes’ book, The Knitter’s Book of Yarn, “Goats with silken hair” were referenced in the 14th century BC, but the angora goats that we know of today were domesticated near Ankara, Turkey in the 13th century AD. She writes that the word “mohair” is a variation of the Arabic word mukhayar, which means “to choose”. Perhaps because the European buyers were always “choosing” it.

carmela

Mohair grows very quickly, approximately 1 inch per month. Therefore the goats need to be sheared every 6 months or so.  The staple length is long compared to many wool staples.  The fibers themselves are long and hairlike, with large flat scales. This means that the fibers become highly reflective and full of luster.

microscopic mohair

Because of these characteristics, mohair takes dye beautifully. As a dyer I can achieve clear, saturated color that is very shiny.  Like wool, mohair puts itself out if it is set on fire. It is very warm and insulating as well.  It is very strong so it is used for textiles that get a lot of wear, like upholstery.

Kid mohair is the softest mohair.  As the animal ages, the fibers grow thicker and stronger. Mohair can be classified as kid for 2-3 shearings usually.  In some very good breeding lines, kid mohair classification can go on many years.

 FGF mohair

I use my mohair in various ways.  I love to blend it with my wools. I have a sock yarn that uses adult mohair for strength and luster instead of nylon.psock

I have also used soft kid mohair with my squishy cormo or my lustrous BFL to make a worsted weight yarn to be used in warm sweaters, hats, mittens, etc.  fingal sweater front

I have also had 100% mohair made into yarns. A single ply that can be used for tapestry weaving although recently many knitters have been buying these mini skeins for doll clothes or to create gradient cowls or scarves.tapestry2blog

 A 2 ply that is sport weight that can be used for outerwear garments or nice strong warps for woolen blankets.  I also love using 100% mohair roving with my new spinning students, since it is very easy to draft and makes a nice yarn for a beginner spinner.

During this month, I’ll be sharing what I know about mohair, its blends, fancy yarns and patterns in which mohair can shine.  Have you used mohair in your knitting, crocheting, weaving or spinning? Please share in the comments.

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Stash Appreciation–Wool Blends Part 1- Animal

After reading all the previous wool posts, I hope I’ve convinced you that wool is a great all purpose fiber that can be used for all kinds of finished products from hearty rugs to lacy, delicate shawls. Wool blends are designed to combine all the fantastic characteristics of wool with those of other fibers. Designers combine fibers together to make a yarn that solves a problem or serves a niche.

Wool-Mohair Blends: Mohair adds luster to the more matte finish wool.  Wool provides the mohair with memory so that your garment will bounce back to it’s original shape. My Fernham yarn is 75% wool and 25% kid mohair. The mohair adds just a touch of light and softness. Mohair dyes vibrantly and gives the blend rich tones.

provenceskein
FGF Fernham yarn made in collaboraton with Grindstone Ridge Farm. There are only a limited number of skeins left in this custom mill spun yarn. So if you love it, click on the picture to go to our store and buy as much as you need.

 

Mohair can also add strength. I designed our Perendale (wool) and adult Mohair sock yarn blend.  The mohair takes the place of nylon in other sock yarns. The Perendale wool gives the sock structure and spring and memory.

psock
FGF sock yarn made with 95% wool from perendale sheep and 5% adult mohair for strength and durability

 

Wool-Cashmere Blends: Cashmere gives that incredible softness to the wool blend. It also provides a lot of warmth without adding a lot of weight to the yarn.  Cashmere is almost always a shorter staple length than the wool. So it will add a halo to the yarn. It may also migrate out the the yarn and provide a pill factor.

Wool-Silk Blends: Silk lends incredible luster and strength to the wool fibers. Silk is stronger than steel. And there is an undeniable luxury factor when silk is added to wool. Silk also dyes vibrantly with rich tones.

Wool-Alpaca Blends: There are many alpaca wool yarn blends on the market. Many of them are also “baby alpaca” or cria. Just like any baby animal, cria fleeces are very fine and soft, so yarns made with it are also incredibly soft. Alpaca is also very warm and can be heavy. Wool in the blend provides the structure and memory to the yarn, so the yarns will bounce back into shape and not keep “growing”.  Alpaca dyes in softer saturation than either silk or mohair.

Wool-Angora Blends: I am just not all that familiar with Angora rabbits and I don’t want to mislead you.  I do know that it is incredibly soft and warm. Every angora yarn I’ve seen has almost a brushed appearance. So I wonder if angora is a bit like cashmere, in that, it will migrate out of the yarn and shed.  In these blends, wool is definitely adding the structure and stability to the yarn.  If you, dear reader, have more info about this add it to a comment and share your knowledge.

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Purebreds, Crosses and Breed Specific Wool Yarn

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Our Cormo and Blue Faced Leicester ewes

 

What’s the fuss? Should you care about whether your roving or yarn comes from a specific breed or specific individual sheep? What about cross-bred sheep? Is knitting with a breed specific yarn any different than knitting with commercial yarn made from mixed wools?

I raise 2 breeds of sheep: Blue Faced Leicesters and Cormos. They and their fleeces are like night and day. BFL’s are a longwool breed. They grow fleeces that are fine, lustrous and long. The staple length of this wool is usually 5-6 inches. Their fleeces grows in lovely ringlet locks.  They are leggy and regal looking with a roman nose.  They are also the loudest sheep in the pasture. They are the ones who signal the others when they spot us coming to the barn.  Cormos, on the other hand, as shorter and more compact. They grow heavy, fine, crimpy wool that is kind of like a thick blanket all over their bodies.  Staple length of my sheep is 3 1/2 to 4 inches.

I chose these 2 breed because I wanted to make some yarn that was lustrous and other yarns that were more squishy and soft.  Both of these wools would also be great complements for my mohair for nice yarn blends.

purple rain group
BFL mohair yarn from our sheep and goats. This could be yours today!

sauternehills heritage3
100% BFL yarn from my Maryland flocks, including mine. This could be yours today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last year was my first sheep breeding year.  I borrowed Finegal from Grindstone Ridge Farm. I made the decision to breed my BFL ewes and 2 of my cormo ewes to see what a cross would be like.  About half way through breeding, the open ewes decided that they wanted to be with Finegal too….including a small Icelandic ewe. In fact, she was the instigator.  We were able to separate them out after about 2 hours. But 2 hours was enough to get more sheep bred than I wanted.

Last year’s lambs were Purebred 4 BFL’s, 4 BFL X Cormo, and 1 BFL X Icelandic.  The cross bred fleeces are fantastic. The BFLXCormo fleeces are longer than their cormo mom’s fleece, but it is denser and crimpier than their BFL dad’s fleece.  They don’t have the lock structure of the BFL breed standard. The Ice-Leicester lamb fleece grew as quickly has her mother’s fleece. It was not double coated, but rather a consistent fine fleece. It also didn’t have the BFL lock structure.  Her current fleece has grown in differently than the first. It has lock structure. It is extremely dense and soft. It is still a single coat.  It will be interesting to see how she continues to develop.  I am excited for shearing day in March. I am looking forward to have those cross bred fleeces made into beautiful lustrous, next to the skin yarn.

fleece
Cross breed fleece

 

So back to the original questions. What’s the fuss? Should you care?  It depends on your goals.  Breed specific yarns and roving can be fun to work with and very educational. You can see and feel the differences between the breeds and pick projects that complement the characteristics of the breeds. Will your knitting be different with these yarns? You may find yourself beginning to be more mindful of your yarn and project combinations as you begin to learn about the different breeds.  You will also feel great about supporting individual fiber farms and maybe even your local fiber farm.

 

Do you have a favorite breed fleece or yarn to work with? Leave us a comment to share your opinion.