Tag Archives: yarn

April/May 2011 Stash Peek

As usual, it’s the end of April, and I find myself a lying liar with three new yarns to share with you. Actually, I’d recommend not looking in my stash on Ravelry, because you will see a LOT more than three new yarns. I know! I’m so ashamed. ;) And, since I missed my April deadline and this is now May, I’m going to lump these two months together and share four different yarns with all of you.

The first yarn I want to talk about is Black Trillium Fibre Studio‘s gorgeous Trinity Sock in Herbs and Spices. This yarn is an absolutely divine blend of merino, nylon and cashmere, and when I saw this one-of-a-kind colorway in her shop in April during her blowout Twitter sale, I knew it had to come home with me. There’s a reason that Black Trillium has over 1,2,00 sales in her Etsy shop – she’s doing an amazing job. Her colors are rich and lush and have that particular semi-solid appeal with subtle hue variations that create pops of unexpected color without pooling. In essence, the perfect sock yarn.

Black Trillium Fibre Studio Trinity Sock

The second yarn I got this month came to me through an unexpected means – a competition over at the Fairmount Fibers blog. Fairmount Fibers is the distributor of Manos del Uruguay’s yarns and patterns, and they were having a colorway name contest. I said their pink colorway reminded me of Cherry Blossoms, and they picked me! Here are all of the new colorways and their names:

Manos del Uruguay Spring 2011 Colorway Contest, courtesy Fairmount Fibers, Ltd.

My prize for being one of the winning colorway namers was my choice of a skein of yarn, and boy did that thrill me. A you well know, my love affair with Manos yarns is unparalleled, so a free skein Wool Clasica made me feel yippy-skippy-dee-do. I decided to go with a color I haven’t had the chance to try yet, Mermaid, and OH MY LORD I did not choose wrong. Just look at this gorgeousness. I want to paper my walls with pictures of Manos.

Manos del Uruguary Wool Clasica in Mermaid

Next up is a yarn I found in a sweet little destash for a song. Castle Fibers Castle’s Royal Sock is nice and squishy, but what really shines here are the colors. I don’t know what it is, but once it started turning spring-like outside, I got this weird craving for greens with shots of pretty rosebud pink in them. Green and pink, green and pink, green and pink. I’m sure by June I’ll be f-ing tired of green and pink, but for now, I cannot get enough of it. I’m even wearing pink right now!

Er, anyways, I’ve found that the Castle Fibers dye job of this Central Park colorway is really lovely – the variety of tonal qualities in her greens range from chartreuse to emerald to hunter, with the pink shades adding that bright variety I’m in love with. The dyer currently doesn’t seem to be selling her yarns in her shop on Etsy, so I’d check out some destashes on Ravelry if you are interested in trying her yarns out.

Castle Fibers Castle's Royal Sock

My last yarn just arrived yesterday, and opening up my package from Maiden Yarn and Fiber was like unwrapping the best treat all spring. Considering how many yarns slip through my fingers, I was beyond impressed with her presentation. She shipped my stuff Priority and outer box was all cute and wrapped by this packaging supply place so it said “Packed for you by…” To top it off, inside, the yarn and fiber I had ordered from her was carefully wrapped in white tissue paper, with a single ribbon of navy blue artistically twining around it. In the center of the ribbon, a fine cream-colored tag that said “Maiden Yarn and Fiber” was mounted on a rich, crepe-like navy blue card. The effect made my jaw drop. And that was just the wrapping!

Her yarns, on the other hand, leaves you breathless. I purchased some Hand Dyed Meriboo from her with the enticing name of “Sea Glass.” And oh boy, this yarn is glorious. It’s a delicious blend of ocean blues and algae greens with shots of seaweed-colored browns for contrast. I eyed this yarn for weeks before succumbing to it’s siren call.

Maiden Yarn and Fiber Hand Dyed Meriboo in Sea Glass

Ok, I lied again. I want to share one more yarn with all of you. This may seem an odd choice, because it’s just one solid color and it’s not especially different or exciting, but it’s near and dear to my heart. I have finally gotten my hands on a skein of Ella Rae Bamboo Silk and I’m tickled green. This yarn belonged to my friend knittingale, and I coveted it like the green-eyed monster I am. A couple of years ago we’d both gotten prizes in a swap we were playing in, and while my prize was some random yarn of which I neither liked the color or base, while hers was this gorgeous, lush, grass green silk yarn that absolutely killed me.

Well, guess who got lucky! My friend swapped me the skein finally, and I know just how I’m going to use it. It’s going to be the most perfect Ruched Sleep Eye Mask ever. I am going to The National NeedleArts Association (TNNA) for work this summer, and my beloved original sleep mask is sort of grody and not appropriate for showing off in public. Yes, even in a hotel room. So I’m going to make myself a new mask. This yarn will be perfect for the mask – I can tell just by feeling it, because it has a nice weight and smoothness from the bamboo, and the silk keeps it from being too slinky. Yummy.

Ok, thanks for letting me share with you during this combined spring “stash peek” session! I’ll be back in June for more yarny goodness and fun, I’m certain.

March 2011 Stash Peek

So it’s the end of March, and we’re overdo for a peek into my stash. I told everyone last month that I’m going to try to work harder to let you virtually roll in my goodies, and by gum! I’m sticking to my word (By gum is such a fun, antiquey turn of phrase). Anyways, on to the show!

Ok, I actually seem to have acquired quite a few yarns that I like this month, so I’m a little divided about what to show you. But I think I’ve narrowed it down to my top three. The first one is Gaia’s Colours Fibre Arts Umaj Sock, a merino, bamboo and nylon blend in a lovely peacock-colored colorway called “Persephone.” The reason I want to talk about this yarn is because Gaia’s Colours is shutting down, as the dyer, Ursa Hawthorne, has announced that she doesn’t have the time for it anymore. So why am I telling you about a yarn that isn’t going to exist in a few months? Hello! This is your chance to get your hands on some of her lovely yarns and fibers before they are all gone! Seriously, go now. Buy some yarn at deeply discounted prices.

Ok, now that you’ve filled your cart up and emptied your PayPal account, let’s talk about this yarn here in particular. Now, I must start by saying that I’m not a big fan of bamboo blends for socks. Bamboo is just rayon by another name, and it doesn’t have that nice hand that I expect when I touch wool or even cotton. Often it doesn’t dye well, and it usually makes me just go “meh.” However, Gaia’s yarn is really lovely, and I find myself reluctant to let it out of my sight. The colors are just so rich and gorgeous, and the base has a great texture. I’m not sure if its the nylon in the blend or what, but this combination of fibers creates a silky, yet springy yarn. And I may have put it down my shirt I like it so much.

Gaia's Colours Fibre Arts Umaj Sock in Persephone

My next skein of newly stashed yarn is by one of my all-time favorite dyers, The Sanguine Gryphon. This yarn in particular I am showing off is called QED, and it’s a worsted weight, 100% Blue-faced Leicester wool that has this rich, almost creamy texture. And yes, I know that sounds ridiculous (how can a yarn feel like cream) but I swear it does. It’s a tightly spun 5-ply wool with a longer staple, and while the Sanguine Gryphon claims that it’s soft enough to put next to skin “but nothing luxurious”, I beg to disagree. It’s delicious and I would stick it down my shirt if the Umaj sock weren’t already there taking up space.

This is actually my second skein of QED. My first was a pale peach colorway that didn’t do it for me, but I knew I needed to locate another skein pronto that I could love and keep forever and name George. That yarn is this one, in a fabulous colorway called Multiplying Rabbits. I think I’ll tuck it in my stash and hope that the next time I open up my Rubbermaid container the yarn has multipled.

The Sanguine Gryphon QED in Multiplying Rabbits

My third skein of yarn for this month did not come through a swap or trade. Yes, I actually out-and-out bought it. I know. You can gasp in shock now. I participate in the Phat Fiber Sampler Box. Every month I send in a crapton of stitch marker samples (by which I mean, over $100 worth of samples), and receive a contributor box in return. It’s a great way of advertising, and it helps create a wonderful community of buyers and sellers working together to both improve their merchandise or marketing and appeal to what the customer want the most.

Well, last month I became a customer, when I caved over a skein of All For Love Of Yarn‘s new yarn called Sparkle Lublu in the colorway Black Labradorite. This yarn is a sumptuous blend of merino, nylon and stellina, which is a nylon-type synthetic that creates sparkles all over the yarn. Hey, I never said I was immune to sparkles in my socks.

However, I must confess it was not the sparkles that did me in here. It was her dye job. This skein is just sort of…it leaves me breathless. I absolutely love the way she’s created this fabulous depth of color, creating a world of blues and greens that you just want to sink into, like sliding into the warm, silky waters of the Caribbean ocean on a hot summer day. The photographs in her Etsy shop really don’t do her yarns justice, because they are very striking. By the way, if you are interested in checking her stuff out, she is having a 20 percent off sale right now that may interest you… ;)

All For Love Of Yarn Sparkle Lublu in Black Labradorite

Ok, that’s all the time I’ve got this month. I’m trying to resist acquiring more yarn (as I try every month), but I’m sure by the end of April I’ll find myself with three new yarns to share with all of you. Until then, enjoy!

Peeking into the stash

It occurred to me tonight that if I’m excited by the new yarns I acquire and stash, perhaps other people might be thrilled by them as well, non? My best friend have a game that we occasionally play where we call each other and invite the other to take a tour of our newly stashed yarns on Ravelry. Tonight I thought I’d let all of you take a peek with me as well. So here we go, diving into the stash!

First up is a yarn that I am absolutely in love with. I’m a big fan of cotton blends – give me wool and cotton or silk and cotton and I’m as joyful as a pig in mud. But even cotton can get a little boring sometimes. Enter Farmhouse Yarns Silk Spun Cotton, to mix things up a bit for me.

Farmhouse Yarns Silk Spun Cotton in Rose Heather

This yarn is divine. It’s a worsted weight blend composed of 60 percent cotton, 32 percent lambswool and 8 percent silk. So that’s cotton with all of my favorite blends! It’s silky and creamy and wooly all at the same time, making for a totally squishable yarn. Plus, the way the yarn blends up creates these awesome little tweedy flecks of color in the fiber. From a distance, the Rose Heather colorway I own almost looks like its reflecting the light from the sun, because little bits of yellow poke out from it and give the pale pink color a warmth and depth it wouldn’t otherwise have.

Farmhouse Yarns Spilk Spun Cotton in Rose Heather

I fell in love with this skein so hard that I immediately searched through the destashes on Ravelry and nabbed myself a second skein. I’m really pleased with the yardage on this yarn, too. With just two skeins I have 400 yards to work with, which is sort of exciting. I think that a spring short-sleeved top made out of this would be perfect.

The second yarn I’m sharing with you tonight is brand spanking new, as it just arrived this week in the mail. It hails all the way from New Zealand, and it’s a from a little company called Skeinz. Skeinz is actually the in-house brand for a woolen mill in New Zealand called Design Spun, which is one of the three major mills in the country, and spins up a whole bunch of popular yarns. Their mill store is Skeinz, and they have slowly been expanding their wares and their branding. These little beauties are the product of that expansion.

Skeinz Perendale Premium Blend DK in Smokey Teal

This yarn is 100 percent Perendale wool in a really fabulous colorway called Smokey Teal. The color is slightly brighter than a petrol blue, and the fiber is simply fantastic. I’d never heard of Perendale wool, which is what first intrigued me about the yarn, so I immediately looked it up. According to the American Sheep Industry Association

The Perendale originated in New Zealand from crossing the Border Cheviot with the Romney breed. They are an open-faced, medium-framed breed that produces bright, lofty, long-stapled, medium-wool fleeces. Developed as an easy-care sheep, they are both hardy and highly adapted to marginal forage-producing areas.

I’m excited about the idea of the long staple, which is similar to Blue-Faced Leicester wool. A long staple means that whatever I make out of this wool will pill less, thereby lasting longer. It’s both sturdy and soft with a great body, and the best part is that this yarn is really affordable. Not only is the US dollar stronger than the NZ dollar right now, but the shipping to the US for a sweater’s quantity of yarn is only like $8, which is sometimes what you pay for Priority shipping within the US.

Now you can imagine what happened with this yarn. As soon as my three skeins arrived I squished them and said out loud, “I must have more.” I contacted the woman I’d swapped with to get these, and begged her to give me everything she had. It was a little bit like a druggie saying, “Hit me up, man!” A sweater’s worth of yarn in Smokey Teal may just be in the mail to me next week.

Skeinz Perendale Premium Blend in Smokey Teal

My third skein is actually something of a surprise to me, at least with the “loving it” factor. Now, everyone knows I’m a huge fan of Manos del Uruguay yarns, and if you give me a minute I’ll talk your ear off about them for ten. I know plenty of people that are Malabrigo Junkies, but I’ve never fallen into that category. It may have something to do with the fact that my Malabrigo socks got holes in them immediately. But that’s another story. I think that Malabrigo’s new Twist base is worming its way into my heart – literally! Just look at this wormy, squishy skein:

Malabrigo Twist in Liquid Ambar

I got this yarn at Eat.Sleep.Knit. this week, a sort of extra thing I tossed in my buggy at the last minute to use up my gift certificate there. I fully expected that I would wax poetic to you about the Sanguine Gryphon Bugga that I had purchased in that order. But while my new Bugga is gorgeous and lovely and I’m thrilled that ESK is now selling it, somehow this new yarn just has me all twisted up.

Malabrigo Twist is a rich, warm and squishy aran weight baby merino wool yarn that has 8 plies for added strength. It comes in a bajillion gorgeous colorways, and I find 150 yards an acceptable yardage for this gorgeous handpainted effect. As is typical with things I fall in love with, I’ve just gone back to the Eat.Sleep.Knit. website and moaned a little over the 2 skeins that are left. I’ll resist, though. For now.

Ok, that ends our grand tour of my stash for this month. Thanks for taking that little stroll with me through my newest stash acquisitions!

Breaking out of the box.

Heyyy…what’s this? Why yes, it is a new layout! I was sick unto death of my old blog theme (Connections), what with it’s boxy conformity and the inability to see the right side of any of my horizontal photos. Blech. I like photos, man! I need big-ass photos.

Anyways, I decided that it was important to push the walls back further on this little ol’ blog of mine. I used the newer WordPress theme Under The Influence, and I am definitely feeling a little drunken love for it. However, after I had done that (and spent a couple of hours in the middle of the night putting back all of my menu bars that went “poof!” headdesk), I still thought my blog needed a bit of…something.

And then I realized what I needed. New. Yarn. P0rn. Isn’t it delicious?

Araucania Limari, 571

My yummy green closeup of Sanguine Gryphon‘s Little Traveller in Ougadougou was really lovely, don’t get me wrong, but after seeing it for about a year it can get exhausting. After some scouting through my stash on Ravelry, I fell upon this little gem, which is newer and much more exciting.

So here’s a little visual demonstration of the “old” versus the “new.” Yes, change can be a beautiful thing.

Blah…

Exchanging Fire Layout 2010

Bam!

Exchanging Fire Layout 2011

“What About The Sheep?!” A Guide To Ethical Yarns

As a whole, I like to think that the Western world is becoming more self-aware, of both themselves, their neighbors, and their environment. I’m not sure where it began. Did the seed get planted one sunny day in the 1970s when a public school teacher first taught a group of 5-year-olds about Earth Day? Maybe, like all fads, it’s simply a reflection of the “cool” reusable grocery bags we’ve started carting around. Whatever the cause, phrases like ‘fair trade” and “carbon footprint” are the latest, greatest buzzwords in a culture that is attempting to shed the pronoun disposable.

The yarn industry has jumped wholeheartedly into this natural movement; an understandable leap, since knitting and crocheting are all about making your own products, after all. There are those who specialize only in vegan- and vegetarian-friendly yarns, companies touting that they sell “peace” or “wildcrafted” silk (in other words, they don’t boil the silkworms alive), and fair trade companies promoting the hand dyed yarns of “disadvantaged artisans” from around the world.

At the helm of the fair trade movement there is Manos del Uruguay Yarns, whose 40-some years of fair trade practices to human, animal and environment alike have led to being admitted to the WFTO (World Fair Trade Organization) as a full member. Then there is the Mirasol Yarns, whose Mirasol Project has revolutionized the lives of the shepherds’ children in the Puno region of Peru. And of course there is Peace Fleece, who reaches out to impoverished farmers in wartorn countries like Russia and Palestine, brokering a sort of “peace” through the sharing of products.

Once we enter into the realm of any type of “friendly” yarns the issue gets a little shakier, though. What, after all, is a vegan-friendly yarn? Is it yarn that, like vegans’ food habits, doesn’t come from an animal? Or is it simply yarn that hasn’t required an animal being killed to get to the wool? What if the animal is killed for food after they use its fleece? And what if you want the yarn to be friendly to the environment, too? Should you only buy yarn that hasn’t been processed with toxic chemicals? And how do you know what chemicals it may or may not have touched? Then there are the “buy local” slogans on the rise. Should you buy only local yarns in an effort to keep from the expected harm that may come from shipping a box of yarn across the pond? I’m not even going to touch the dubious claims of the antibacterial and ultra-violet protective qualities of some yarns, even though they are manufactured synthetically.

So your head is spinning right now, I know. So let’s get back to to the point. What’s this all got to do with the sheep, anyways? Well, I thought that with all of the misinformation and random facts out there floating around it might be nice to have a good guide to ethical yarn companies, co-ops and farms that focus on animal welfare. Keep this list on hand when making your next yarn and fiber purchases.

First off, let me start by saying that a couple of great places where you can always find great yarns and fibers are local farmers’ markets and sheep and wool festivals. Small farms are more likely to provide great care for their animals, and they will sell locally, both at these venues and in their farm store. You can browse and talk to the farmer and judge for yourself. Don’t know where to look for these local places? Start with the website Local Harvest, which provides an awesome array of search options for organic living. I typed in the word yarn and my zip code and almost had a joyous heart attack from the local listings that popped up.

Want something a little more specific? Animal Welfare Approved says they have “the most rigorous standards for farm animal welfare currently in use by any United States organization.” Use this link to find farms near you that have been approved by them.

Seeking to branch out to areas outside your hometown? Knitter’s Review has a great yearly calendar that keeps track of all of the yarn events all over the world, from fiber festivals to yarn conventions. Look there for some sheep and wool festivals in your state, or in the next one over! You may be surprised by what you find.

Co-ops/Partnerships

Green Mountain Spinnery
Uses only fibers raised in the United States, purchased directly from individual growers, and their team oversees each step in the process from beginning to end to help sustain regional sheep farming and to develop environmentally sound ways to process natural fibers. Wool Works is one of their partners in this process.

Manos del Uruguay
With 40-plus years of fair trade experience under their belts, this group of co-ops promises that no animals, workers, or socio-economic disadvantages were exploited in the processes that led to the creation of their yarns. They were recently made full members of the World Fair Trade Organization.

The New Lanark Organic Wool Spinners
This mill is Soil Association accredited and their specialist wool spinning production unit was the first in Scotland to achieve the Association’s organic certification in 2006. The Soil Association symbol is a guarantee to the consumer that textiles are produced to the highest standards of animal welfare and environmental protection, and all funds go to support the upkeep of their historic village.

Nude Ewe
Specializes in undyed, unbleached wool spun from the fleeces of Bedfordshire’s conservation grazing flocks. Proceeds from Nude Ewe sales are returned to the flock owners and the conservation grasslands, which need to be maintained to keep the environment healthy.

Snow Leopard Trust
The Snow Leopard Trust works to further the coexistence of Mongolian herding people with the endangered snow leopard. To this end, they set up cottage industries (including yarn) which allow the people to sell their crafts in exchange for peaceful coexistence with the leopards. More info here.

Indie Dyers

eXtreme Spinning
This small indie dyer makes organic and Sustainable fibers her goal, from natural and hand dyed wools to exotic silks, hand-combed batts and handspuns.

KarlaA
This German indie dyer uses only natural and mainly organic yarns and natural dyes. She uses plant dyes that she’s collected herself and other dyes that are organically grown and traded under fair trade conditions.

Luna Portenia Designs
Sells handspun hand dyed yarns and handwoven clothing and accessories, all 100% organic and dyed with vegetables, leaves and roots.

Mosaic Moon
Hand dyed organic wool yarns and roving from humanely raised sheep. This one-time indie dyer also makes handknit baby clothes and is branching out into wholesale ordering.

Riihivillla Aarni
From Iceland comes is fabulous indie dyer that not only dyes her own yarns using natural products like mushrooms, but buys from neighbors who raise organic Finnsheep and sorts through the fiber herself before sending it to a local mill.

Organic and Natural Farms

The Critter Ranch
Specializes in locally produced, humanely raised, hand processed fibers & hand spun yarns, including exotic llamas raised right on their farm.

Camelot Dyeworks (previously Tomorrow Farm)
This farm sells both fiber and hand-dyed yarns made out of the fleece of their alpacas, which are raised using earth friendly, natural and sustainable methods. Yarns and roving are dyed with environmentally friendly dyes.

Dream Come True Farm
This organic farm raises Olde English “Babydoll” Southdown sheep, as well as a few alpaca and llama to create natural handspun yarns and goatsmilk soap.

Friggjasetr
This little farm sells all of its alpaca yarn and fiber undyed and strives to do everything in an environmentally safe and sustainable way, including having their fiber spun at a local mill that is part of the Northeast Organic Farming Association. This means using environmentally friendly, low impact, and organic detergents for scouring, organic processing oils, water soluble grease and oil to lubricate the machines, and using appropriate treatment of waste water.

The Sheep and I from Green Acre Farm
A cute organic farm that sells organic, hand dyed fiber and handspun. The dyer says it best, “My animals are family. They are not a commodity. They only know kindness and love and they will be with us for their entire lives.”

Joybilee Farm
Calling themselves a “joyful communion of ethical husbandry and fiber artistry” this Canadian farm uses eco-friendly natural dyes and calls the animals they get their fiber from happy and “contented.”

Juniper Moon Farm (previously Martha’s Vineyard Fiber Farm)
- Dedicated to giving their sheep and angora goats the best possible care, which includes a natural diet of pasture and hay, they also process their fleece locally at a small mill. Started the first Yarn and Fiber CSA, as featured in the Wall Street Journal.

Larkspur Funny Farm
Have been raising organically and humanely raising fiber animals since 1996, selling raw fibers, custom painted batts, hand painted handspun yarns and art yarns.

Knox Farm Fiber
Hand-spun and hand-dyed organic yarn, batts and roving from the well-fed, well-cared-for sheep in pesticide-free pastures. Their wools are cleaned with eco-detergent, dried in the fresh air, carded the old fashioned way, dyed by hand with low-impact environmentally friendly dyes, spun by hand, and labeled with a photo of the sheep who donated it.

Rosewood Farms
I found this little jewel buried deep in the search pages – they specialize in raising Kerry Hill sheep, a distinct and tiny breed from Wales that was just removed from the Rare Breeds Survival Trust watchlist in 2006. Rosewood Farms was the first to register this breed to have its fleece turned into wool. Their sheep live entirely pesticide free without synthetic pesticides or human intervention.

Shadyside Farm Studio
Small farm that sells high quality, naturally and hand dyed yarns and specializes in natural, organic farming practices.

Sunshine Daydream Farm
A small organic farm with hand dyed yarns and rovings, all by natural color or plant dyes. This dyer and farmer considers her sheep not only an integral part of their working farm, but pets as well.

Thistle Cove Farm
Thistle Cove Farm is a no kill, low stress farm whose fleeces have received the Virginia’s Finest seal of approval by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Thistle Cove Farm is only the third farm in the Commonwealth to receive this designation.

Toft Alpacas
Focuses on natural UK processing with minimal chemicals, local yarn production, fair trade Peruvian products, and doesn’t support alpacas being killed for their skins. All of their yarns and products are ecologically and ethically sound.

Wild Wool Farm
Wild Wool Farm sells handspun, handdyed yarns and fibers from the endangered sheep breeds they’ve been raising for 20 years. The spinner says she knows all of her sheep not just by name but by “Baa.”

Yarn Companies

Alchemy Yarns of Transformation
This company believes in social and global consciousness and as such does not support mills or practices that condone human or animal suffering. They focus on not harming the environment by using natural dyes and little chemicals.

Australian Organic Wool
A family-run yarn company from Australia specializing in yarn made from 100% certified organic Australian merino wool. Processed under the Global Organic Trade Standard, the yarn is spun at a mill certified to handle organic fibers and dyed using low-impact, metal-free dyes. They only use wool which has come from properties where mulesing is not practised.

Cornish Wools
This company started producing locally and naturally processed yarns in an effort to expand on Cornwall’s woolly heritage. Their local and natural process is all about not harming the environment and caring properly for their animals, some of which are at-risk breeds.

Ethical Twist
Specializes in organic yarns that place their importance on caring for the animals and minimizing the impact on the environment. Located in the Falkland Isles, even their packaging is biodegradable.

Mountain Meadow Wool
This company specializes in locally produced Wyoming fiber from ranches that practice sound animal husbandry and sustainable agricultural practices, and whose animals meet natural standards. Wool is processed using revolutionary mill processes that don’t harm the environment and everything is cleaned using 100% natural, using bio-degradable soaps and non-petroleum spinning oil. Also has an eco-friendly home line of cleaning products made from wool

O-Wool
The Vermont Organic Fiber Company is a leading wholesale supplier of yarns and fabrics made with certified organic wool. They have more information than you can shake a stick at about the organic care and treatment of animals.

Swans Island Yarns
This company sells certified organic merino yarns dyed with all natural dyes in a 1790′s farmhouse from sheep raised on an island off the coast of Maine. Sounds idyllic, right?

Treliske Yarns
They specialize in organic yarns where the animals have not been given chemical treatments (such as drenching or dipping for parasites, fly dressings, antibiotics, growth promotants, vaccines) nor do they graze on pastures that have been sprayed with herbicides. Genetically engineered or modified feed is prohibited, and mulesing is not practiced.

What Yarns To Avoid:

New Zealand Possum
The NZ possum, unlike the American kind, is a hairy pest that is routinely culled to keep its population numbers at a level that the government finds acceptable. Not only do they spread of bovine tuberculosis among dairy herds, they also are responsible for stripping new growth from the unique flora and fauna in New Zealand. However, if you have problems using fiber from an animal that has been killed, no matter how destructive it is, I’d stay away from this fiber.

Peace Silk
When it comes to silk, you may not be able to get away from the killing of silkworms to knit with it. Because the alternatives are sort of…fatal as well. And sometimes aren’t nice to small children, either. This website, Wormspit, boils down the myths of “peace silk.” Err…maybe that was a bad choice of words.

Animals Yarns From China
China currently lacks a comprehensive basic law on animal protection. In 2009 they first proposed one, and that law is slowly going through the approval system in their government. The law is supposed to make animal owners more responsible by preventing the pollution of livestock breeding and encouraging proper care for animals. At this point, however, sourcing yarn from China is largely hit or miss, especially if you are concerned about animal welfare.

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Remember, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Know the difference between a yarn that has been cared for in an ethical manner from the moment it grew on a sheep’s back to yarn that is just being dyed in an “environmentally friendly” way. It’s one thing to have a large yarn company that makes one tiny little yarn line that is organic, and quite another to have an entire business based on ethical, natural practices and beliefs. This is the distinction I’m trying to make with my list.

I am sure there are many more farms and co-ops and companies than what I have mentioned, but I wanted to give you a place to start and some more information on organic and ethical yarns. Please feel free to add to my list by commenting below. I’d love to know about other yarn companies out there that are treating animals in an ethical manner.

My Swappy, Scrappy, Oversized Scarf

So once upon a time I saw this fantabulous scarf that a friend had knit in the linen stitch pattern. It was thin and long and highly variegated and looked like it had been woven and she had knit it out of a ton of fingering weight scraps. I was enchanted. So enthralled, in fact, that when she offered the scarf up in a swap I claimed it in a snap. But though I loved it, I wanted more. The thin scarf wasn’t enough to whet my appetite, and as winter approached, I decided I needed to make one of my own.

So come January, after a few weeks of collecting yarn scraps, I started knitting my shawlscarf. Linen stitch and knitting lengthwise was a completely new territory for me, and I vastly underrated (or overrated, depending how you look at it) how much yarn and stitches I would need to complete this scarf. So in my enthusiasm, I cast on 600 stitches. I know. I am insane.

There was a definite learning curve, and I certainly had to frog early on, but I kept plugging away. Part of the reason this scarf just never stopped is because I am meticulous, and wanted my colors to blend properly. And so I found myself with A LOT of yarn. I worked off and on for 12 months to make this scarf. There reached a point where I knew I should stop but I wanted to fit in all of the awesome yarns I had accumulated, so I didn’t stop!

But finally, after almost a year, I came down to the end. I cut myself off, I chose an end yarn, and I finished it. It. Is. Finished. Stick a fork in it. My Swappy, Scrappy Oversized Scarf used over 2,000 yards of fingering weight yarns (not all are listed, as some were unknown) and is absolutely perfect. Wide enough to cover my ears, nose and throat but with a thin enough fabric to scrunch when I need it to. As I was knitting it, I wasn’t sure if I was crazy or inspired, so to have the finished product be exactly what I wanted makes me inordinately pleased. I started this Jan. 29, 2010 and my goal was to finish it up before it’s one year anniversary. I did it, finishing while visiting a friend on Jan. 15, 2011. Yey!

I must say that this is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever knit. I’m not one for wildly variegated colors and crazy, off-the-wall fabrics, or anything like that. But I just couldn’t stop knitting this. I love it. :) Oh! The crazy teacup pin was a Christmas gift and comes from this off-the-wall Etsy shop called TillyBloom.

Its name is Linty.

I have a new nostepinne. Its name is Linty.

Linty, my New Nostepinne

Hehehe. Ok, obviously this isn’t a nostepinne, but it makes a pretty good substitute in a pinch! I’m going to visit my relatives in Georgia for my cousin’s 40th birthday party. I decided to knit her a scarf at the last minute, however, I wanted to use a fingering weight yarn held doubled to create the pattern I am in love with. Therefore, I needed to make myself a real live cake so I can knit both ends of the skein together at the same time. Usually I just ball my yarn up and have done with it. Plus, I will be knitting this scarf while I’m traveling (plane, train and automobile) so I’d like it not to bounce around so much.

What’s a girl without a ballwinder, swift, or nostepinne to do? Create her own! This brand new lint roller was a fabulous substitute, and I made myself the darn prettiest cake you’ve ever seen in your life. Proving yet again that I am the MacGyver of knitting.

Pretty Cake! And Linty the Lint Roller Nostepinne

Update:
My cousin loved the finished scarf made out of this yarn, and the ball worked absolutely perfectly all the way through to the end. The pattern? I’m never knitting it again because it was such torture on my hands.

My hot cousin Laura oohing over her new scarf

Behind the Brand: Manos vs. Malabrigo

A friend recently contacted me and asked me to weigh in on the similarities and differences between Manos and Malabrigo yarns. As a connoisseur of Manos who has come to learn far too much about the two brands just so I can yak about them intelligently, I began a short reply, and found myself with a 1,000 word treatise deserving of a blog post. So I give you my take on the Manos and Malabrigo debate, complete with a history of the yarns and their creators.

Manos del Uruguay and Malabrigo Yarns, while often lumped together in one breath, are two utterly different yarns with only a tenuous connection based on region and ply. First, let me talk briefly about how they are alike. They are both single ply yarns. They are both kettle dyed by hand. And they are both imported from South America.

And that’s about where the similarities end. Seriously. That’s it.

Well, I should amend that. Because Manos and Malabrigo are often lumped together, even though they have striking differences, they’ve become each other’s competitors. It doesn’t help that they both were born in the same epicenter – Montevideo, Uruguay (to fiber enthusiasts it might just become the new mecca of yarn) and its surrounding countryside. It’s rather like they are cousins, of a sort. Consequently, the parallel paths these two companies follow means they often find themselves swaying toward each other to meet the needs of the consumer, like birch trees bending under force of the wind.

Manos del Uruguay Wool Clasica in Mulberry

Manos del Uruguay was formed by women for women. It began as a small, non-profit cooperative for poor, rural women in 1968, and was an early venture of what today is now called “fair trade” practices, like that other widely-known company, Ten Thousand Villages. They sold a wide variety of handcrafts and woven goods, including yarn, starting small at local art fairs and spreading out from there.

The one variety of yarn Manos originally sold, a single ply, handspun worsted “virgin wool,” was dipped by hand into small kettles over open flames to create the striated effect. At first available only in large cities like New York, it had a rough and unforgiving texture, and, like Noro, it proved it was the genuine article by the amount of straw and other vegetable matter you had to pull out of it as you were knitting. I cannot imagine it was that highly coveted in the 1970s, but it was! Perhaps I am spoiled by today’s uber-soft yarns.

Eventually, however, Manos grew more savvy to the needs of its knitting customers, who themselves were growing more picky as the luxurious ’80s rolled in. While they were determined to on one hand to eradicate poverty through sustainable economic development, on the other hand they found themselves shaping themselves to the tastes of their clientele. Though it is not well known about them in the knitting community, their cooperatives create fashions that are well-known on the runways and in famous designers’ closets, handcrafted pieces worthy of Fifth Ave art galleries and top-of-the-line yarns and fibers.

Their current classic sweater weight yarn, which all of their yarns spring forth from, has morphed into “Wool Clasica” and is spun out of Corriedale wool, a breed that was born over 100 years from a Merino-Lincoln cross. An aran weight single ply, Corriedale has the plushness you typically see in Merino breeds with the added strength of Lincoln wool, which gives it a bouncy appeal when knitting with it. It is a true aran weight – there is no doubt that it is thicker than worsted, and its handspun appeal makes it distinctive. Manos has the only mass-produced yarn on the market today that is spun by hand – others are spun by machine in a way that is designed to look handspun. This is a distinction that should be emphasized. Since handspun is so much more costly and time consuming to make, it makes Wool Clasica truly a unique product.

Manos is specifically designed to be thick and thin. While it knits up at an aran weight, probably the largest parts of a skein veer on the bulky side while the thinnest could almost be called a heavy fingering. It retains it’s kettle-dyed “stria” heritage with a wide range of colors that have no dyelots, though I doubt that native Uruguayan women still stoop over small black kettles and open fires to create its vivid colorways (in fact, they use lovely, bright stainless steel pots).

Most recently, Manos del Uruguay went through a long evaluation process and was admitted as a full member of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), which is the global Fair Trade representative body. This group of over 350 organizations is committed to 100 percent Fair Trade, and is the final stamp of approval backing up Manos’s mission to eradicate poverty through sustainable economic development, pioneering social and environmental policy and practice, and continual reinvestment in marginalized artisans, farmers and producer communities.

Malabrigo Merinoo Worsted in Forest

Malabrigo, by contrast, is a much, much younger yarn company. Family-owned, it is also located in Uruguay, and also uses local women to create its yarns for them. It started in 2004, when Antonio González-Arnao was dissatisfied with the hand-dyed yarns on the market and decided to dye his own in his kitchen. His wife, Carla, was bemused. By 2005, Antonio, along with his business partner Tobias Feder, began peddling their wares around the United States and Europe, finding it difficult to make headway in some places as they were told there wasn’t much of “a market” for hand-dyed yarns. Ha! As we all know, in just a few years they’ve successfully turned that idea on its head, as all anyone can do is when touching their showcase yarn, Malabrigo Worsted, is stutter and blather. The actual base that Malabrigo uses seems to have been around for a while in other forms, sold for lower prices with generic hand painted names on eBay and other websites. But what makes it stand out as Malabrigo is mostly likely due to Antonio’s eye for color and the company’s skillful marketing.

Malabrigo Merino Worsted is 100 percent Merino wool, and the short staple of the wool creates a softness so sweet that rabid, crazed fans have been known to faint at its touch. I exaggerate, of course, but Malabrigo does have a smooth, cushy feel to it that reminds me of falling into a feather down comforter. A single ply worsted weight, it has a mainly even texture, which creates stitches that are just slightly rustic in appearance.

It is a kettle-dyed yarn with a wide range of semi-solid and variegated colorways, and the company never stops adding new colors and texture to its line-up. There are downsides to that magical deliciousness, however, mainly in that Malabrigo, the single ply yarn is more prone to pilling. But overall, it’s brilliance cannot be denied.

The name Malabrigo, ironically, means “bad shelter” in Spanish. The company’s name came about because of a tiny town in San Jose known as “Mal Abrigo.” Apparently, this town was so named because it is extremely windy and long ago when travel didn’t involve warm, climate-controlled vehicles, those looking for shelter at night weren’t about to find it atop ol’ Mal Abrigo.  The founders of Malabrigo said they were inspired by the idea of a place so cold everyone cozied up inside their homes knitting warm, wooly sweaters together.

Recently, Malabrigo has been emphasizing its own distinctiveness by becoming environmentally friendly. They’ve been reducing their carbon footprint at places like their mill (where all that magical Malabrigo is spun), where they installed thermal heating systems for sustainable hot water.  Malabrigo only works with wool that comes from mulesing-free sheep, and the company employs environmentally safe practices for processing it as well. They believe in using as little water and as few chemicals as possible, and water, wool waste, and dye waste that cannot be re-used are transported to a detoxification plant to be cleaned and treated for re-use.

As for which is better, Manos or Malabrigo – well, that’s all in the eye of the beholder. For those who enjoy the rustic nature of an artisanal, handspun yarn with a cushy, sturdy texture, Manos’ Wool Clasica is the one to reach for. For those who want the luxury of babyfine wool slipping through their fingers in a cascade of colors, nab yourself some Malabrigo. Or have both! There are so many differences in the feel of the two yarns that there is plenty for everyone. Because they knit up at slightly different weights, and because each brand has colorways unique only to them, there isn’t much overlap. The biggest difference between them is one of price. Manos is priced at around $12-14 (semi-solid) and $16-18 (stria variegated or naturals) for their Wool Clasica and has 138 yards per skein, while Malabrigo’s Merino Worsted comes in at around $11-12 a skein. There is greater yardage in Malabrigo’s worsted yarn, meaning that at 210 yards a skein you can make yourself a sweater more economically. However, because Manos was founded primarily for the purpose of being a tool of social and economic change in people’s lives, their higher cost is finding its way back into the cooperatives’ pockets, and therefore the local women’s hardworking hands.

Ironically, while Malabrigo is driving the yarn market right now by constantly rolling out new, innovative bases – for example, creating a silk/merino DK weight that Manos has mimicked (though again, with minor texture differences) – without the Manos cooperatives, which currently employ roughly 800 women, Malabrigo would most likely not exist. It was because Manos spent 40-years building fine flocks of sheep and communities of women artisans that companies like Malabrigo were able to find themselves a niche market to grow and expand in. Today, Uruguay is an epicenter of amazing wool fiber and yarn production in vivid colors. Between the many yarn companies that have set up shop in Uruguay, the wool industry is blossoming there, making affordable, hand-dyed and handmade yarns available for everyone the world over. Viva la competencia!

Too hot to knit

It’s been too hot to knit. Even in air conditioning, with my limbs freezing, the wool slipping through my fingers makes me sweaty and uncomfortable. I’m trying to finish a boatload of projects – among them, my ill-fated Lost Scarf (it was supposed to be finished during the finale of LOST but a shortage of yarn led to its abrupt hibernation) and several tiny projects, that, if I just focused on one of them a day, I’d quickly whip into shape. But, like Alanis said, it’s just been too hot to hold any yarn, so instead I’ve found myself expressing my creativity in other venues – namely, making more stitch markers!

Enjoy another picture-heavy post (I swear, they all are these days) and remember, you can check out more of my work in my Etsy shop, Exchanging Fire, or click on the photo of the stitch marker set that attracts you to follow the link to that particular listing.

Take My Breath Away
“At the end of the day, faith is a funny thing. It turns up when you don't really expect it. See, once in a while, once in a blue moon, people will surprise you, and once in a while people may even take your breath away.” - Meredith Grey, Grey's Antaomy



Sunshine Flows
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” ~ John Muir



Dappled in Violet Twilight
“Inside, the cathedral is a Gothic forest dappled in violet twilight and vast with quiet.” - Wendy Insinger



Time Enough in the Desert Hills
”This is the sense of the desert hills, that there is room enough and time enough.” - Mary Austin



Mad Honey Disease
”There is a toxin, refined from the nectar of the rhododendron ponticus, infamous in the region of Turkey bordering the Black Sea for its ability to induce an apparently mortal paralysis. Enough to deceive even a medical mind as tenacious and well-trained as yours. It's known locally as...mad honey disease. What's wrong with Gladstone? Oh, he's just demonstrating the very effect I just described. He doesn't mind.” - Holmes in Sherlock Holmes, the movie

Betty & Veronica are rockin’ it

I’m sugar and spice and everything nice but if you wanna mess with me you better think twice.

I knit this scarf twice – once with the general idea of the pattern I wanted, and then a second time after I realized what I had done wrong the first time. UGH. I hate frogging. It was only sheer determination that kept me going. Basically, what I wanted to do was pair together two complementary yarns in my stash. Because one was handspun and the other a very expensive skein of yarn, they didn’t have much yardage, and therefore weren’t worth much by themselves. But together, they were more than the sum total of themselves alone.

I split the Rapture yarn evenly into two balls based on weight (which weighed about 22 grams each). Then I cast on with the Rapture yarn. Ik nit four rows of k2, p2 ribbing to create a loose ruffle. At this point I was torn – my original idea was to create short-rows a la Laura Chau’s Just Enough Ruffles, but I wasn’t sure I’d have enough. As I sat and envisioned how the final project would look, I got more and more mentally frustrated by things not knitting up properly, and decided that a short scarf with the added problem of having narrow ends probably wasn’t a good idea.

Instead, I retreated to my favorite knitting technique – ruching! Unlike most of the ruched patterns on Ravelry, I stuck to all stockinette stitch in order to show off the handspun look of my center yarn, as opposed to hiding it with garter stitch. Then I created a second ruffle at the other end, cast off, and viola! The Betty & Veronica Scarf. Now it’s time to write this pattern up and get it out there to share with the world! Ok ok, just with like-minded knitters on Ravelry. ;) I’m also going to knit it again with slightly different yardages and weights in an effort to gauge how differently it can come out. Yey!