This is what I meant

Published on Thursday September 11th, 2008

When I got excited about Knit Local, the recommendations for resources to check out came pouring in. One that grabbed me right away: www.oregonwool.com – a collective of Oregon fiber growers offering everything from wool and fleeces to breeding stock and handwoven rugs. I browsed the yarn listings and immediately clicked through when I spied the title, “Wensleydale and Longwool Yarns.” I contacted Lois Olund of Blakesley Creek Farm to see if she could send me a shade card, and during an exchange of emails, Lois said she now had 100% Wensleydale in natural colors (which she’s willing to dye) that aren’t on her website. I slavered, and soon a promising plump envelope came through my mail slot. Inside was this:

(Look at that irresistible sheep face! I have the card on my desk where I can look at it all day long.) And this:

Lois sends her wool to several different mills for spinning; two in Michigan and one in Vermont. The 2-ply sportweights (“sportweight” appears to mean something different than I’m used to: heavier than DK rather than lighter) by Stonehedge Fiber Mill (second and third from top left) grabbed my attention first. They’ve opted for a loose, low-twist structure, so the long, shiny fibers of the Wensleydale wool are displayed at their softest and most glistening. The other Michigan company, Zeilinger Wool Co., has gone a very different route. Their yarns (at left and lower right – some are 100% Wensleydale, some are blends, and the brown at upper left is 100% Romney) are dense and heavily twisted. They’re rougher and stiffer to the touch, but Lois says they’ll bloom when washed. They’re mostly bulkies and seem to beg for a thoroughgoing cabled project. The yarn peeking out in the extreme lower right is processed by Green Mountain Spinnery. The singles are more tightly twisted than Stonehedge’s, but they aren’t plied as tightly as Zeilinger’s. These, too, look like they’d soften and bloom. Only one way to find out, right? I only have about a yard of each, but I’m going to try to knit up some mini-swatches. I’ll show the results here in a couple of days!

I’m already thinking of that darkest Stonehedge Wensleydale as an Amanda cardigan from Lisa Lloyd’s A Fine Fleece. What would you want to knit with wools like these?

10 Comments to “This is what I meant”

  1. meg Comment Says:

    I would love to knit something out of a Fine Fleece – Fylingdales really looks great. Or something else with a shawl collar and some cabling?

    Zeilingers is about 1.5 hours from me – unfortunately it is in a crazy little town called Frankenmuth that has Christmas shops and fudge shops galore. I don’t have any experience with their yarn, or yarn they have processed, so I am sorry I can’t give you more info!

  2. Veronique Comment Says:

    Oooh! You’ve got a lot of yarns to play with 🙂 The tightly spun yarn looks to me like it wants to be a cardigan or jacket… Something of your own design 😉

  3. Mick Comment Says:

    I just keep picturing a lovely, rustic blanket. Something you could snuggle up in, and maybe a sort of ombre pattern, going from the darkest to the lightest yarns, in garter stitch.

    I’m knitting my CPH out of a local Michigan wool, a nice mule-spun organic merino/rambouillet mix, and I love it. The cables match so well with a more rustic, natural yarn. I think I’ll join your knitlocal Ravelry group!

  4. Kim D. Comment Says:

    I’m thinking Staghorn from A Fine Fleece. When I first saw the samples, the book A Fine Fleece immediately came to mind. Beautiful yarns.

  5. Jenna Comment Says:

    Please continue to share any other yarn fiends and the results of your blocking efforts. These are a great start!

    For natural-colors yarns like these, I’d want to make something traditional with a bit of a modern twist. Probably something that could be worn as outerwear in our climate. The cabled riding jacket from loop-d-loop and the Veronik Avery sweater from the new Vogue knitting come to mind.

  6. whitney Comment Says:

    Oooh, beautiful yarns! I keep meaning to pick up A Fine Fleece, but still haven’t done so. I can definitely imagine these yarns working really nicely for one of that patterns in that book.

  7. Blue Garter » Blog Archive » Wensleydale Examined, Part I Pingback Says:

    […] did it: I swatched every last inch of yarn on Lois Olund’s sampler card. It was Saturday; I needed a break from ten hours of throwing down (and mostly taking it on the […]

  8. Nonnahs Comment Says:

    This is so cool!

  9. Lois Olund Comment Says:

    Way Cool! I had no idea you were going to knit these up and review them. I would have sent more of each for you to try out.

    Isn’t it interesting that each mill processes the SAME fleeces a different way? I am slowly trying different mills, but it’s a slow process since most of the mills require 50- 100 lbs. to make yarn. That’s a lot of my fleeces that could have been made into roving, what we REALLY specialize in. Luckily my sheep have to be sheared twice a year, so there’s always more coming on the hoof!

    If others of you have any experience with other mills making your wool into yarn and want to recommend another mill for me to try, please email me!

    Thanks so much, guys!
    Lois

  10. Good things in a Small Package « Anti-Quotidian Pingback Says:

    […] quest to Knit American. The seed of this idea was planted a few years ago with Blue Garter’s praise of the wools of the Pacific Northwest. Crafting is yet another arena where consumers can use their […]

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