A red-haired model poses next to a plant wearing a colorblock cardigan in shades of gray with contrasting gold stripe.

New Fall Knitting Patterns

I’m delighted to have three new fall patterns just released as part of the Valley Yarns Designer Series. I designed these around the theme of Fall on Campus, with an eye on creating easy wardrobe pieces you’ll turn to again and again.

The first pattern is the Campus Cardigan (pictured above) – a modern take on the classic v-neck cardigan featuring a relaxed fit with straight shaping, colorblocking, and set-in pockets. Knit in Valley Yarns Northampton, this cardigan is sure to become a wardrobe staple.

The cardigan is knit in one piece from hem to underarm, then back and fronts are worked separately and joined with a 3-needle bind off. Sleeves are knit flat and seamed. The pattern is available as an individual download or a kit, and the finished chest size ranges from 34 – 66 inches with a suggested ease of 4-6 inches; see this post for my suggestions on choosing a sweater size.

The second pattern in the collection is a pair of Fair Isle mittens, also in Valley Yarns Northampton. The Snowbound mittens feature a long ribbed cuff to keep the snow out, and integrated thumb gusset. The colorwork motif occurs after the thumb shaping and uses only two colors, making it a perfect first Fair Isle project. The mittens can also be purchased as a kit, and the pattern is written for 3 sizes, so you can make a pair for the whole family.

A red-haired model poses wearing a pair of blue and gold Fair Isle mittens.
Photo courtesy of WEBS

Last but not least, you’ll need a cozy hat and cowl to go with those mittens, and what better way to add a pop of color and texture to your winter clothes. The Golden Hour hat and cowl feature squishy cables in Valley Yarns Valley Superwash DK. The hat is written for two sizes, the cowl for one generous size, and a kit is also available for this pattern.

A red-haired model poses wearing a gold cabled hat with foldover brim and matching cabled cowl.
Photo courtesy of WEBS

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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.

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Eight skeins of solid-colored Polwarth/ silk yarn in various colors

Tour de Fleece Spinning

This year I joined the Three Waters Farm Tour de Fleece team for the second time. I decided to spin the braid of the Mountain’s Edge colorway on Polwarth/ Silk from my stash. Until now I’ve been somewhat intimidated by hand dyed braids (if you’ve been following me you’ll notice I spin a lot of undyed roving and top), but I decided to get a bit adventurous this time.

A braid of handyed fiber in shades of teal, purple, yellow and brown.
Mountain’s Edge on 85% Polwarth/ 15% silk from Three Waters Farm

Much as I love to look at beautiful hand-dyed fiber, I don’t really knit with variegated yarns all that much. I’m not one for gradient or self-striping yarns, except for sock knitting. I guess I’m too much of a control freak – I like to have control over the color changes. So I decided to break down the braid and spin mini skeins to use in colorwork knitting. When I broke down the braid, I ended up with sections where two colors were mixed, and so I was inspired to try a bit of color mixing with my handcards. I was inspired by an article in Spin Off last summer (?) [Spin Off article] about creating tweed yarns.

I grouped my leftover sections into three piles: teal/ purple , teal/ yellow, and purple/ gray/ white. I used my handcards to blend those sections as evenly as I could, then removed them from the cards (without forming rolags, so the fibers were still somewhat directional) and did a bit more blending by hand as I formed the fibers into a loose roving. I didn’t get a great picture, but you can see my roving in the photo below.

Nests of blended, dyed roving.
Blended Rovings

And here are the resulting yarns. At the top you can see the full set of mini skeins from this braid.

Three mini skeins of handspun yarn in blue, yellow and lavender.
The resulting blended yarns

I think the blends turned out beautifully, and I can envision combining the skeins in any number of ways for colorwork. I spun them into a fingering weight (the Polwarth did fluff up a bit after washing), and with the sheen from the silk these will combine wonderfully with one of my favorite colorwork yarns, Tukuwool fingering. In fact, I’m thinking my first project will be to use the blue blend, and maybe a bit of the yellow or green, in a cardigan I’ve been planning for my niece.

Photo of a childs cardigan pattern next to three skeins of yarn.

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Spinning from Raw Fleece

Last year while visiting my aunt in Saskatchewan I purchased a few ounces of raw fleece from a local yarn shop. This was my first time working with raw fleece, and I never got around to sharing my experience. The fleece is a Clun Forest/ Corriedale cross, and since I hadn’t worked with Clun Forest before, I decided to buy a few ounces as a souvenir. I’m not sure how much the characteristics of this fleece resemble pure Clun Forest, but I’ve recently purchased some Clun Forest Roving for one of my Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em projects, and both have a certain spongy quality that is different than other wool types I’ve encountered.

My first adventure was figuring out how to get my purchase across the border. I learned that it is legal to send fleece across the border, but decided to mail the fleece home in case the TSA agents weren’t aware of this fact. I figured the postal inspectors know what they’re doing, but I was still a little bit nervous about it being confiscated.

Raw Clun Forest x Corriedale fleece

The fleece did arrive in the mail, however, and I set about washing and drying it. There was a fair bit of dirt and VM in the fleece, so I went through several soakings in plain water after the initial scouring with mild soap (I used Dr. Bronner’s unscented formula).

Washing the fleece
Locks post-washing

Once dried I decided to process the locks with my flick-carder. About half the fleece was leftover from this process, so I hand carded it to spin separately. I was finding it difficult to manage a short-forward draft, so after a bit of experimentation I settled on long-draw, which I used for both the flicked locks and the carded fleece.

A single lock
The final skeins. (L) Flick-carded, undyed. (R) Hand carded, dyed with avocado pits.

I’m pretty pleased with the finished result. The carded fleece had a few neps in it and so is a bit more irregular. The flick-carded yarn is fairly even and pleasantly bouncy, and the yarn took the dye well. I’m looking forward to spinning the Clun Forest roving I’ve bought so I can compare the two.

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Spinning Teeswater

Recently I spun up a sample of Teeswater roving that I bought at SAFF a couple of years ago (from Gwyneth Glynn Longwools). Now that I have more experience with spinning, and especially on my wheel, I’m attempting to be a little bit more scientific about my breed sampling. Even though it’s not a combed prep, the small sample that I Andean plied had a bit of sheen to it, so I decided to spin it with a short forward draft to maximize the sheen. I aimed for a thickness that would match my other breed samples. The roving had a bit of grease left in it, and I found it a wee bit difficult to draft consistently.

The finished yarn does have a nice sheen, and a certain silkiness. I plan to use this sample to knit one of my hexagon blanket ‘squares’, but I could also see it being used as a weft yarn for weaving. The finished skein is 41 g/ about 65 yds at 14wpi and 2-3 twists per inch.


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