Two skeins of handspun Florida Cracker yarn next to a stamped SE2SE passport page.

Spinning Florida Cracker Wool

I recently finished my 5th Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em spinning project – 4 oz of Florida Cracker roving from Flock Ewe Florida Fibers. Florida Cracker is one of a group of ‘feral’ breeds, descendants of sheep left behind by the Spanish that adapted to the heat and humidity of the Southeastern United States. Until 1949 they were allowed to range freely and rounded up twice a year for shearing. There is no entry for Florida Cracker in The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, so my information on the breed comes from the fact sheet provided with my fiber and The Livestock Conservancy’s website. Florida Cracker is listed as a Critical breed by The Livestock Conservancy.

The wool is in the medium softness range. I didn’t measure the staple length, but on inspection it was in the range where I could have used either a worsted or woolen draft. Since I have been enjoying practicing my unsupported long draw, I decided to go with woolen and make a 2-ply yarn. I used my Ashford Traditional wheel with a ratio of 9:1. I found it didn’t want to spin terribly fine, and I ended up with a yarn in about the DK range at around 14 wpi. I also had quite a few thick spots – they were noticably fewer when I spun from one end of the roving versus the other, however, and I got a relatively even yarn after plying.

The finished yarn is softer than I was expecting based on how it felt to work with. It could easily be used for hats, mittens or a sweater. I also think it could be nice to dye for tapestry weaving.

Here’s a roundup of my first five projects. I’ve already purchased wool for two more projects – next up are Gulf Coast Native and Dorset Horn.

Images of handspun rare breed yarns with their SE2SE passport stamps.
5 hand

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Breed Specific Commercial Yarns

I recently taught a class on working with breed specific wools for Piedmont Fibershed, and since I’ve been talking a lot about my spinning projects with different breeds, I thought I’d do a roundup of commercial breed-specific yarns so that the knitters can get in on the action too. There are a number of breed-specific commercial yarns available these days. Many of these are pretty widely available, but I’ve also included a few smaller brands, and listed the websites for those not generally available in retail yarn shops.

  • Brooklyn Tweed – Merino (Peerie, Arbor), Targhee-Columbia (Loft, Shelter), Rambouillet (Vale)
  • Fibre Co. Lore – Romney
  • Hudson + West (Forge + Weld) – Merino/ Corriedale
  • Blacker Yarns (UK – https://www.blackeryarns.co.uk) – various breeds
  • Sincere Sheep -Cormo, Rambouillet
  • Jamieson’s – Shetland
  • Tukuwool Fingering – Finn/ Texel
  • Lana Plantae – Rambouillet, Targhee, Lincoln Longwool
  • Echoview Fiber Mill Ranger DK & Ranger Bulky (https://www.echoviewnc.com)- Merino
  • West Yorkshire Spinners – Bluefaced Leicester
  • Stone Wool – Merino, Cheviot, Cormo, Corriedale, Romney
  • Solitude Wool (https://solitudewool.com)- various breeds

What breed-specific yarns have you found? Please add to my list in the comments.


Picking Up Stitches for an Afterthought Thumb

The March Flowers Mittens pattern uses an afterthought thumb – similar to an afterthought heel on a sock – to avoid interrupting the colorwork on the mitt and provide an easy, neat finish. The downside of this, of course, is that it doesn’t fit as well as a mitt with a thumb gusset. However, I envisioned these mitts as a perfect quick knit to throw on during those chilly spring morning and then tuck in your pocket when it warms up. The afterthought thumb suits my purposes perfectly.

It can be a bit tricky to pick up the stitches neatly once you’ve removed the waste yarn, so I prefer to do it while the waste yarn is still in place. In the photo below I’ve placed the stitches on the two tips of my circular needle, and you can see the blue waste yarn there in between.

Photo shows the palm of a fingerless mitt with two rows of stitches picked up around with waste yarn in place.
Picking up the thumb stitches with waste yarn in place.

When you go to pick up the stitches, you need to pay attention to three rows of stitches: on the bottom you have a row of stitches where the top of the ‘v’ meets the waste yarn; in the middle the row made by the waste yarn, which will be removed in the next step; and on top a row of stitches where the bottom of the ‘v’ meets the waste yarn. To pick up the stitches, keep the mitt facing up, and insert a needle tip (or double’pointed needle) into the right leg of the ‘v’ in the row above and below the waste yarn. You can then safely unravel the waste yarn (if you are using a long circular needle shifting the stitches onto the cable will make this easier), and you will be left with live stitches on the needles.

The other tricky thing about the thumb is picking up the stitch in the gap on either side so that you get a neat finish. Since I’m working the thumb in the main color, I created my stitch by picking up a bar of the main color along the edge of the gap and knitting through the back loop. Here you can see the tip of the needle has been inserted into the green bar that will be picked up.

The palm side of a fingerless mitt with thumb stitches on the needles. The needle tip points to the stitch to be picked up in the gap.
Picking up a stitch in the gap.

I hope this tip helps, and please tag your projects #MarchFlowersMitts and #BullockOzkanDesigns. I love to see your creations!

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New Pattern Release – March Flowers Mitts

The March Flowers Mitts pattern is now live on both Ravelry and Payhip. It’s been awhile since a design popped into my head almost wholly formed – I knew I had to knit these up right away! These mitts are just the thing to brighten up those chilly spring mornings, and they’re a great stashbuster too.

The pattern includes two charted options for the tulips. Use either chart for a simpler knit; or if you’re feeling more adventurous, you can mix and match the charts – if you mix and match there will be one 3-color row. The mitts are completed with an afterthought thumb so you don’t have to interrupt your colorwork knitting. Instructions are given for two adult sizes.

The March Flowers Mitts are 20% off from now until March 21st on Ravelry and Payhip with code MARCHFLOWERS20. Please share your makes with the hashtag #MarchFlowersMitts – I always love to see your projects!

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Sampling CVM for Cables – Woolen vs. Semi-Woolen

I’ve been sampling some CVM fiber (from Heelside Farms) for my next Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em project. I’ve been thinking I might want to knit a cabled sweater with this fiber, and I was wondering if my drafting method would make a difference in the cable definition. I would expect that, since worsted-spun yarns are often touted for their cable definition, getting closer to that with a semi-woolen yarn would give me cables that ‘pop’ more while retaining the softer, rustic look of a woolen-spun yarn. But a woolen spun yarn would likely be faster to spin, so I wanted to make sure the extra time for a worsted draft was really worth it. So I did a little experiment.

I’m starting from roving, so my options are to create a semi-woolen yarn using a short forward draft, or go for a fully woolen-spun yarn using longdraw. I pulled off a small amount to sample each way, and attempted to spin yarns with approximately the same diameter and ply twist. Both yarns came out to around a DK weight, and with similar ply twist. The woolen-spun sample came out a bit more uneven, and has a bit of a thick and think quality to it. I also had some areas that were underspun in the singles, so breakage was a problem. I would want to spin a more careful sample before I decided to use this for a sweater, but for my comparison purposes I assumed it would suffice. Unsurprisingly the woolen-spun sample had slightly less twist overall in the singles.

Yarn butterflies of CVM - woolen-spun and semi-woolen.
Left: woolen-spun CVM (spun longdraw); Right: semi-woolen CVM (spun with short forward draft)

I cast on and knit two swatches on US #7 (4.5mm) needles, using a simple 3×3 cable as a test. The woolen-spun swatch came out slightly bigger for the same number of stitches as I would expect – it measured about 3 3/4″ over 20 stitches vs about 3 1/2″ for the semi-woolen swatch. And the cable does appear a bit flatter and less three-dimensional, which I suspected might happen. The semi-woolen swatch also has better stitch definition overall. What surprised me a bit, though, was in that the swatch spun with a short forward draft the stitches appear a bit puffier and seem to fill in the space better. That could be because of my inconsistency in spinning the woolen swatch, though. The other thing that surprised me was the difference in weight of the swatches. I know woolen-spun yarns tend to be lighter, but I was surprised that the two swatches spun from roving were so different. The semi-woolen swatch weighed 4.5 g versus 4.3 g for the woolen-spun – not a huge difference in a swatch of this size. But it made a noticeable difference to the feel of the swatch in my hand. It might be worth sacrificing a bit of cable definition to get a lighter, cozier feeling sweater. I like the look of both cables, and even though the draft did make a difference I’m not sure it was enough to prefer one draft over the other on that basis.

Two handknit cable swatches comparing woolen-spun vs. semi-woolen CVM.
My two cable swatches: woolen spun using longdraw (L) and semi-woolen (R) using short forward draft.

I haven’t decided yet if I will knit a sweater with this fiber – I would need to purchase more of it – or, if I do, which draft I will use. I also want to test how these swatches will stand up to wear – maybe a topic for another post. But I do have an idea of how my choices will affect the final yarn and what I might use it for.