Introducing the Beach Pebbles Hat and Cowl. This set, like the Backshore Pullover, was inspired by my family’s trip two summers ago to the Great Lakes, where I grew up. On the trip I became fascinated with the Petoskey stones that can be found along Lake Michigan, and even found a couple. According to Wikipedia, Petoskey stones are a form of fossilized rugosa coral, Hexagonaria percarinata. The hexagon shapes of the knits and purls resemble the shapes of these fossils.
This also gave me a perfect opportunity to use natural undyed wool for the design. Knit Picks Simply Wool Bulky comes in a range of natural grays and browns, and perfect for making a textural fabric. As much as I love yarns from my local farms, it’s nice to see an affordable eco-friendly undyed wool on the market.
The Beach Pebbles pattern is available now in my Ravelry store, on LoveCrafts, and on Patternvine. The hat is written in two adult sizes, the cowl in one size, and is a quick knit suitable for an advanced beginner knitting, with both charted and written instructions.
I‘m offering this pattern for a one-time introductory price of $2.50 until February 2nd, 2020.
It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about spinning different sheep breeds. I got distracted by my spinning wheel, the Tour de Fleece (which I participated in for the first time with Three Waters Farm), and learning to weave. Phew!
Last year I was given a 1970s-era Ashford Traditional wheel that needed some TLC, and I finally got it fixed up a couple of months ago (the main difficulty being a rusted out, stuck hub pin). Since then I’ve been creating yarn at a rather alarming rate, though as I’m rather new to wheel spinning I’m not as good as with my spindles yet. So I’ve also continued to do some sampling on my spindles, and I can now compare my spindle spun and wheel-spun samples with different breeds.
I’ve actually got a bit of a backlog I’d like to tell you about, but I’ll start with some Finn and Romney. First up is some Finn roving from Heelside Farms that I talked about spindle spinning in my first spinning post. Finns are a primitive breed, and I’ve been enamored of their wool since I discovered Tukuwool yarns, which are a blend of Finn with a bit of Texel. The yarns have a faint sheen and depth that makes the colors really beautiful.
I had around 4 oz of the Finn minus that bit for previous sampling, so it was the first fiber I tried out on my new-to-me wheel. I found it fairly easy to spin on both the spindle and the wheel. I plied the wheel-spun tighter, which will make for a sturdier yarn, but the more softly plied spindle-spun yarn is pleasantly squishy. I love the natural gray-brown color, and the wheel-spun yarn does have a slight sheen, even with the more woolen preparation (I did a short forward draft on the wheel).
The second is one I’ve just finished – some Romney lambswool that I bought at SAFF last year. I decided to try spinning this one on my dealgan, which I hadn’t had much success with before. This time I did manage to create yarn. The dealgan doesn’t spin for very long until you build up a bit of a cop, and some of my early singles didn’t have quite enough twist, so I had some breakage when I went to ply. But I spit-spliced the broken ends and soldiered on.
Romney isn’t the softest of wools – it’s intermediate between the fine wools and longwool breeds, though usually grouped with the longwools. Having said that, I have a garter-stitch shawl knitted in Romney from farms in the western part of my state (from the now-defunct Fern Fiber), and it’s one of my favorite knits of all time. The Romney is in a natural gray plus a gray overdyed with weld, and it has a beautiful sheen and depth of color. And the garter stitch makes it nicely squishy. So I was eager to try the lambswool.
I can’t say it was my favorite fiber to spin with, but as lambswool the Romney is reasonably soft, and the chocolate brown color is lovely. I’ve since knitted up a hat (the Ljós pattern by Ysolda Teague) using the Romney and Finn along with some white Targhee and Corriedale that I dyed with pomegranate rinds.
I’m starting to discover which sheep breads I like working with best, and I’ve also started working with blends and dyed rovings, which is a big subject in and of itself. Much more learning and experimenting to come!
When I designed the Rionnag Cowl, I didn’t intend to create a set. But after knitting the second sample in the smaller size, I decided I wasn’t quite done with that colorway. I may love the blue and yellow combination even more than the original colorway. So, I decided it needed a hat to go with it. A beanie with just a bit of slouch. And so, without further ado, I give you the Rionnag Hat. The pattern is now live in my Ravelry store, and you can purchase it separately or as a bundle with the Rionnag Cowl. (If you’ve previously purchased the cowl, you will automatically receive the discounted price for the hat.)
I thought I would talk a little bit more about why I post what I do on this blog. If you came to this site looking for knitting patterns or tech editing services, it may seem strange to find blog posts on hand spinning and natural dyeing (I’ll be posting more on both topics soon). The short answer is, of course, because I’m interested in those topics. But it’s also because they inform my design work.
I started out my professional career as an engineer working in environmental research. So I care about how my clothes are made, and where I source my materials. And I also care about using the best materials for the job.
As I said in my recent post about spinning different sheep breeds, I started learning to spin in large part to learn about different types of wool, and I wanted to share some of the things I’m learning. I love the feel of working with wool, and there are so many different bree specific yarns becoming available to knitters these days, which is great for us designers. I know some knitters don’t like wool at all. And there is a perception, I think, that the only advantage in trading off less softness in wool is durability. But sturdiness isn’t the only quality some ‘scratchier’ wools have – some of them have a beautiful sheen or come in gorgeous natural, undyed shades (something I’m particularly a sucker for). The shawl pictured her, for example, is probably my favorite item I’ve knitted. It’s made from Romney, which is more of a longwool breed, and definitely not the softest. But it’s plenty squishy, thanks to being knit in garter stitch, and the wool has a beautiful sheen to it. I used one shade of natural, undyed grey, and one that is overdyed with weld, a natural plant dye. The depth of color in the dyed yarn is just incredible – whenever I am out in the sun I can’t stop staring at it and noticing how the colors shift. The photo doesn’t do it justice. That sheen that lends a special depth to the colors isn’t something I would find in a superwash merino. Which is one reason I chose to use Tukuwool Fingering, a Finn sheep blend, for my Rionnag cowl. The depth of the colors is just incredible.
I highly recommend that you seek out some breed specific yarns if you can, and try them out. And I hope you’ll join me in my spinning and dyeing adventures as I try out as many breeds of fiber as I can find.