I spent yesterday watching the Inauguration, crying happy tears, and dyeing up some yarn. Why not? Inspiration was there and you have to grab it where you can! A couple days ago I posted some pictures of a newly dyed multi-colored Prineville base yarn and an Instagram friend asked what technique I had used. The blog seemed a great place to show the technique as I dyed up some of our freshly spun Shetland yarn yesterday. I learned this technique from watching a video with Sarah Eyre. It is so interesting watching, listening and learning from to other dyers.
I am using natural yarn (untreated with the superwash process) which adds an extra challenge to dyeing as it doesn't take up the dye as immediately or saturate as easily as treated wools do. I have noticed that with our well water, heat is a crucial factor in dyeing up my wools. The best saturation seems to take place at higher temperature points. So for this technique I placed the yarn in a citric acid/water mixture and brought the temperature up right away, then lowered it a bit for the dyeing process. A high level of citric acid in the water allows the yarn to take up the dye quickly which is necessary for this technique. Time for dye! I like to start with the color I really want to make sure stays in tact which for this yarn was the blue. I sporadically placed it about the 2 skeins of yarn and let it soak in for a minute.
I brought the heat back up and once it appeared most of the dye exhausted (meaning the yarn has pick up the dye so the water is clear) I individually pulled the skeins out of the water for a moment to examine and see if there were spots I'd like to fix. Once I'm happy I let the yarn heat for a few more minutes before turning off the heat.
Last step is to let the water cool completely before pulling the yarn out. Generally I leave it overnight.
So there you have it! These lovelies will be up in our shop on Friday! The multi-colored is called "Almost Eve" on our Shetland base yarn. The solid blue pictured up top is also on the Shetland base and is called "Moment of Silence."
Thank you as always for reading and supporting Ewethful!!! Please stay safe, wear a mask and take care of your fellow humans!
Back in the days when the shop and Mill space were open to shopping, classes and fiber group meet-ups, I had a list of "Rules." Don't panic, they were rules meant to help maintain a positive vibe and space for creativity.
The very first was "Please leave your politics outside our front door." The reason I made this rule was to maintain an open creative space that could serve as a break from what was going on outside. My goal was to welcome all people to the mill, regardless of political affiliations and beliefs, and to allow them to feel safe from being singled out or made to feel as if they didn't belong. For the most part this has worked although over the last 4 years I'll admit that if we all were on the same page politically, the conversations happened and they were fierce and sometimes tinged with a bit of fear.
If you've been following me on social media you likely have noticed by now that I have voiced my opinion on multiple issues over the last year. Why the shift? Why put my business at risk of losing clients? Especially in an industry that leans toward the conservative side? Well here's the thing, to me civil and human rights are not fundamentally political, they are the most basic of rights. It seems so simple but obviously not to all.
I believe that since I am using social media as a free platform to grow my business, I should also use it as a platform to voice equality and inclusivity for all. My business is a part of me and therefore my core values are a part of it. I have stopped supporting businesses that are touting what to me amounts to racism and/or support of a President who has given racism, hate, and now insurrection a loud voice in our country again. Ewethful has been and will continue to be about creativity, support, acceptance and respect. All of that said, racism and hate will never be tolerated within my business walls or on my social media pages. These core values will be added to the new "Rules" in the Mill.
Speak up. Step up. Vote and appreciate that our democracy is indeed fragile. Choose love not hate.
If you are still with my business, thank you!!! I appreciate you all so much!!!
Stay safe, for the love of all wear a mask because science is real and please take care of your fellow humans.
Can you believe next week is Christmas? And you know what I should be doing? Christmas knitting! But guess what, I'm not. Hahaha! Although after frogging (the nice way to say ripping) back two times on the same spot of my knitting, I was pretty ready to put it in time out. But reality, I was the one who needed a time out. It got me to thinking, why do we make these mistakes while we are knitting or making in general? I mean we are generally following a pattern right?
The easiest thing to do would be to blame the pattern? I mean there must be an update to the pattern about a mistake I didn't see right? In this case (and in most cases) that didn't work. There is lace work in this pattern for about 6 rows and then you go back to regular knit and purl with an increase here and there. You would think I would mess up on the lace? Nope. The pattern is well written and has charts that are quite accurate. So I chose to mess up on the regular old knitting parts that needed an increase 2-4 times per row. Really? The best part is after ripping back I just could not seem to get my count right to fix it.
So why do we do this? And I'm not talking about beginners, that is expected. I'm talking about those of use who have been knitting for years. When I'm cruising thru Instagram I see endless posts of us all sharing our frogging misery. It's not just me. And not just little mistakes, sometimes we are ripping back inches of work or even worse, all the way to the beginning.
I looked at the pattern yet again and said to myself, well why the hell didn't I just check my count when the designer put what the stitch count should be? I included a picture of this point in the pattern. The yellow highlight is where I should have stopped and counted my stitches but instead I plowed thru and was on the row AFTER the orange highlighted section and guess what, the lace pattern wasn't working out because my stitch count was off. Aarrgh. And I of course messed up way back at row 11.
My round about way of getting to the point is that for me I seem to make my mistakes mainly for two reasons, I'm not paying enough attention and I'm too busy plowing thru to stop and take the time to read and make sure I'm where I should be. I'm guessing that for most of you, it may be similar reasons? It seems so silly right? I'm knitting to relax and de-stress yet for some reason I don't seem to be able to relax enough to enjoy the whole process. To pay attention to the pattern and to appreciate all that the designer has done to try to help me avoid these mistakes.
So moving forward I am going to make a concerted effort to really slow down and pay attention to the whole practice of knitting (or making of any sort). Read the pattern before I start. Pay close attention to key spots where the designer is telling me to watch what I'm doing, and count more! It's ok to slow down, this is for fun afterall. A 2021 goal or new years resolution of sorts. Reality, I could probably take this approach on just about everything in life right!
I would love to hear if you are prone to making similar types of mistakes and why you think you are making them? Or maybe your mistakes are totally different? Either way please share!
Thank you for reading and sharing and don't forget to count when you are told! I hope you are having a wonderful and healthy holiday season!!!
Can you believe its December?! The main reason I can is because I just finished shipping the last of our inaugural subscription yarn club! I feel like I've been thinking about the yarn club for months. Well really for years is how long I've wanted to start one. 2020 seemed the year for something new and so be it! I'm so proud of how the first yarn club turned out. This is a dear yarn because it is the first time I have mill spun our sheep's dyed in the wool. What is "dyed in the wool" you ask, well let me explain!
This first yarn club is 100% Shetland straight off of our two white ewes, Sweet Pea and her daughter Cream Puff, and then blended with our two rams Bert & Ernie. After shearing I skirted the wool (removed all the vegetable matter, poop, and other unwanted stuff), took the wool to the mill for washing and then it was time to dye. So when I say "dyed in the wool" it is still in lock form and only has been washed. Then into the dye pots it goes! I started out just having fun with this and using up some of the older pre-mixed dyes I had in red and black. Then I kept going, dyeing up other colors that I thought would blend out well such as blues and purples. Again using dye I wanted to finish up so I could mix up fresh bottles in different colors. I slowly dyed up about 3 lbs of wool this way. Then I decided what if I just left the ram fleeces natural. One of them is mostly white and the other is a lovely blend of white and gray. So I took a little over 3 lbs of their washed fleeces and went for it.
So what happened? It's stunning! I'll admit though as it was first going into the carder I was a little concerned about how the colors were going to blend. Sitting on the carder infeed belt, they didn't look very pretty together. I was pleasantly surprised when it came off the carder and got even more excited every step of the way. The colors blended into a lovely shade of berry and the natural gray lended itself to give almost a frosty look to the yarn. And then there are little pops of the original blues, reds and purples throughout the yarn. I think it has so much depth and is truely one of a kind. Really each skein is! There are a couple skeins of this yarn available up in our online shop if you are interested in grabbing one or two for yourself. Shop here!
If you'd like to see videos on the making of this yarn, Episode 3 of the Being Ewethful podcast is up on YouTube now! Follow this link to watch the magic happen.
Thank you all for reading, for watching, and for buying from our small mill. We appreciate you all! Have a wonderful holiday season and stay healthly!!!
I hope this Thanksgiving week finds you all well and healthy! This holiday season is definitely a bit different from the past isn't it? I'm finding myself, well first surprised that it is already here. In addition feeling a bit less frenetic. I won't be out doing a lot of in person shopping but will instead be hunting down small businesses I can buy from online. Meanwhile Mitch has been busy hanging Christmas lights which will certainly add some holiday spirit to the air. Oh and I'm so glad to see that there are endless cheesy Hallmark-esque movies I can watch on Netflix. My favorite for knitting and spinning!
But back to last week. We headed on a quick day trip to Portland so that Mitch could work on some upkeep at our property up there. Meanwhile I made a trip just down the road (literally) to what was once the place that they used to do the wool washing for Pendleton. I love this place. This is my third or fourth visit and everytime I learn more about wool from Keith, Dan and Allen, the guys who run the facility. I have of course gone thru the building before with them, but this time I recorded and have shared some of the videos in Episode 2 of the Being Ewethful video podcast. If you'd like to see, please follow this link and check it out.
I thought I would expand on the trip here on the blog...
From the moment I drive in I get giddy with excitement. You drive around the back of this big building and there you see a sign painted on the outside "Columbia Wool" with an arrow leading you. The office is just up the stairs and I am always greeted with such a welcome from these guys. And of course, we talk wool! Getting a chance to talk with professionals with such long histories in this industry is an inspiration for me and I always try to take in everything they say. All three of them are able to class wool - classing is a way of sorting wool into different levels of fineness or microns - which is a skill all its own. They all worked here at Pendleton when the scouring mill was operational and have such stories.
As we go on our tour I can't help but put all the pieces of equipment back in there place and imagine what it would have been like. The conveyers overhead moving wool to and fro. Employees all around running the machines. And the level of noise as all the machines were doing their jobs. It is such a big impressive building that it brings me joy to think of it fully operational.
These days the facility is used for a couple purposes. One is that it is a place where local shepherds and shearers come to sell their raw wool. As Keith mentioned, most of the local wool that is dropped off is not enough quantity to fill one bale. So one of their jobs is to sort thru the wool, class it and re-bale it for cleaning. They are looking for white wool only so any other natural colored wool is immediately pulled. The reason for white wool is that it dyes up easily and uniformly.
After being skirted thru, the re-baled wool is shipped to Texas for scouring (washing). This used to be the main job of this facility. Years ago the scouring ceased happening here. The main reason being that water is expensive (I can attest to that given the business I used to own down the street!). Both the amount used and the output. And of course all that is put back out in the water is closely monitored and charged accordingly. The wool soaps, the lanolin, the debris are all taken into account. The long and short of it is that the cost to clean the wool at the facility became more than the cost to ship all the wool by trucks to a scouring facility in Texas. So that is how it is done now. Actually most of the wool scouring in our country is done in Texas. After it is clean the wool is shipped back to the facility in Portland and/or the two mills in Washougal, WA or Pendleton, OR.
In addition to overseeing the movement raw wool to and fro, this site in Portland is also where most of the wool from around the world is shipped to. The main countries that they receive their wool from are Australia, New Zealand and South America. The main reasons they are importing wool is that it is hard for them to get enough of the wool they are looking for in the US. They need very low vegetable matter as well as branding paint-free white wool (a paint is often sprayed on the backs of sheep to denote whom the sheep belong too). Apparently the wool out of Australia has only 0.1% vegetable matter. Now that is low! The reason it is so low is that they are mainly out on large pastures with shorter grass which keeps vegetable matter and mud to a minimum.
As you walk the building you are surrounded by massive bales of wool. Each bale is stamped with the grade of wool inside and it all will be used for different Pendleton products. The finer end (lower micron count and softer) is generally used for their mens shirts and other next to skin apparel. The courser wools go towards items such as blankets.
As for what I bought. I got one beautiful fine wool fleece that I hope to crack into this weekend for a bit more skirting. I'm not sure what I will do with this fleece? Play most likely! I also bought another secret batch of wool which I'll let you in on in a few weeks.
So there you have it. A little more about my trip. They do accept visitors but during the pandemic and out of respect I would advise that you call ahead first. Also you must WEAR A MASK!!!
As always thank you for reading. And now for watching too! Please be safe this holiday week. Do a lot of making and when you are out and about please wear a mask! Until next week, craft on!
Hey everyone! I didn't forget you over here on the blog. I took last week off so that I could get the first Being Ewethful video podcast up on YouTube. If you haven't had a chance to watch it yet, please pop over to the Ewethful Fiber Farm & Mill channel or follow the link whenever you have time. In the first episode I talk a bit about my journey to owning the Mill. As well as a bit about the Jacob sheep breed and wool as well as some knitting and spinning of course. And finally take you on a quick tour of the Mill. My reason for doing the podcast is two-fold. One reason is to allow people regular access to what it is like to own a mill, how the process happens and of course lots of videos showing how it all works. Another reason is to get a chance to reach out and show to you all some our yarns and fibers, introduce new products and show you how I use them in my crafts. And finally I get to talk about wool! How I source it, how it behaves for processing and how using locally sourced fibers is a sustainable and natural option. So I guess there are a lot of reasons! Oh yeah, and I miss you all and thought this was one way to reach out and connect. I plan to put out a podcast every two weeks (the next one will be released Tuesday November 24th) so if you like the first one, please don't forget to "like" it, subscribe to our channel so you know when new ones are released, and please comment with questions or things you'd like to see. And thank you for all the different ways you support me, the mill, and our farm family.
It has been a bit since I did a farm update so I thought I would let you know what has been going on lately. First and foremost harvest and planting are over the year. Wahoo!!! On the grass seed farm the guys are mainly working on winter projects - fixing things that broke during the summer, clean-up, hauling seed in for cleaning and fabricating new items they hope to have for next year. Mitch gets to be around our place more which doesn't mean that he is sitting around. I'm actually not sure that he knows what that is? Any moment there is daylight, wait no, he'll work outside in the dark. Ok any moment it is dry out, wait no, he'll work in the pouring down rain. Ok how about any moment until I call him in for dinner (which is late in our house) he is out working on the property. There is always more to do, or repairs to make. We have one last pasture space that has yet to be fenced so that is the big outside goal. Then we will have 5 total pastures and since we generally run the animals in 3 pastures at a time, this will allow for some field rotation which in turn allows the empty pastures time to rest and regenerate.
Last week I sent my last foster for the year back to the Humane Society. She was actually an adult cat that had an owner which is why I didn't post any pictures. She was a McKenzie fire cat so while she has parents, they no longer have a home. Many volunteers are helping to house these cats (and dogs) while people get their bearings. If you have an urge to donate Greenhill Humane Society is always taking donations of food, money, and animal items to help shelter and disaster recovery animals.
I was so sad to see her go, but somehow one thing settles around here and the next takes its place. Within a few days of dropping off the foster, June the pony started having foot issues. She is not the most spritely horse given her old age and previous neglect, but this week she stopped letting me pick (clean) her hooves which is abnormal for her. I finally realized that the foot she was letting me get to was the one actually hurting her. She was holding it up for me because she didn't want to bear weight on it. Ooof, not good when you are the size she is. So out came the vet who diagnosed her with a very bad infection inside her hoof caused by who knows what. A massive round of antibiotics later and she is on the mends. It was a very rough couple days as her response to the meds was slow. She still has a mild limp but is getting much better and moving about the pasture again. We'll be keeping a close eye on her and hoping we don't need more medications. Hoping for the obvious reasons but also because she was SOOO stubborn about taking those meds. I can tell you we went thru a lot of applesauce!
We've also recently had a visit from the "alpaca doctor." Time for bi-annual check-ups, deworming and toe nail trimmings. They all behaved so well until our last girl Khaleesi. If they all behaved, what fun would it be right? All are in great health and definitely not underfed!
Meanwhile we moved the ewes that we are breeding back into their old pasture with the other ewes and wethers (castrated males). I think they are relieved to get away from the boys! The rams meanwhile seem quite happy to be back together. They are brothers and have always been together except for the month here and there for breeding. They love their time with the girls but after awhile they start head butting the fence between themselves in hopes of knocking it down. Oh Brothers!
While moving sheep around we started back into trimming hooves and deworming them all. Mitch and I both have backs that do not love the postures necessary to do this so we tend to break it up doing 4 or so each week. Slow going but we get it done and don't break ourselves in the process. Plus it keeps us in check so I don't go too breeding crazy with the ewes!
The last big thing around the home farm is that we have started letting the big dogs, ElsieMae and Cash, into the house when we are home. They used to be limited to the den and of course endless outdoor space but in an effort to keep the inside space less muddy we are keeping them in more during the winter which means they need a bit more people time. Or so my guilt thinks anyway. They are loving it! Really they are mostly loving the cats and the opportunity to try to catch falling food while I cook. They are doing amazingly well and on nice days still enjoy being outside keeping an eye on out for predatory birds and chasing squirrels.
So that is the latest on the farm update. The winter rain is here which means its time to tuck in and knit right?!!!! Do any of you have winter projects to keep yourself busy during this very weird year?
Thank you for reading. And maybe even watching! Take care, stay healthy and craft on!!!
What a week so far. I think no matter what side of this you are on - and how sad is it that this truly feels like sides - the anxiety going into this election and now having worst case happen, where it is dragging on for days, is pulling us all down.
This got me to thinking about my history of anxiety knitting. Anxiety and depression when I couldn't knit much, and now knitting as a way to relieve my anxiety. So I wanted to share a bit about my knitting history! I learned to knit years ago from my Mom. She would pick up her knitting throughout the years, generally to knit scarves or the occasional baby blanket. She is also a quilter and her crafts seem to switch pretty hard when I was younger, not necessarily overlap. So I'm sure my bits of knitting followed her cycles.
I really picked up knitting again about 11 years ago while I lived in Portland when I took a class at a local yarn shop on knitting a hat. Since I knew only the very basics this class was great as it solidified some of the skills I had and taught me knew ones. It also taught me the fun of knitting with others. Once I had that first hat knit I was on a roll, or so I thought. I believe I have mentioned that I worked a lot when I owned my old business in Portland. Like a lot! It turns out that besides feeling like I needed to work that much, it was also a way for me to deal with some of my unhappiness which when I was home smacked me right in the face. I remember vividly getting home from a long day at work and furiously sweeping the house. During my anxiety clean that night I thought to myself "maybe I should sit down and knit?" And my response to myself was "well that is stupid, what am I going to do, knit a hat? What difference does it make if I knit a hat?" And I kept cleaning.
I was in therapy at the time and soon began to realize that those feelings of pointlessness were my unhappiness and depression showing themselves. It took a lot of big life changes to get me thru that period and lucky for me knitting came along for the ride. I soon began to realize that "the point" of knitting for me was not only to make an object, it was a form of self care. A way to literally make myself sit down, be creative and just let my mind wander a bit.
It very much still is a form of self-care for me and so much more. I love the finished garments I make, I love the community I am in and I absolutely love having a craft that allows me time to sit, make and breathe. I have often said if I had as much patience with knitting as I have with the rest of my life, how amazing would that be? A girl can dream! Over the years one of our running gauges of my anxiety is that Mitch will say, "where's your knitting?" (wink wink) for those moments he can tell I need to sit. Occasionally I still have times where I think "what is the point" and I am finding them seeping in a bit more as I have become officially peri-menopausal (you guys may as well know it all!!!). The thing is now I can hear myself having these thoughts and realize that in these moments I absolutely must sit and knit or spin.
I'll finally circle back to this week. My anxiety is thru the roof. And so I knit on. I knit thru election night, I knit thru last night and sadly it looks like another solid knit night ahead. Admittedly I have done a fair amount of ripping, but that's ok, it is all part of the process.
And what about you all? Are you finding yourself still able to find comfort in your craft this week? Have you leaned in harder on making or found yourself putting it down unable to concentrate?
I'd love to hear from you about you are feeling and how you are making helps you! Thank you for reading and commenting. Take care all and stay healthy!
Last week Marie Greene, Owner of Olive Knits and Knit Camp, came by the Mill on a planned visit. I showed her around and then we sat for awhile and talked (at a safe distance!). After she left I was filled with a new rush of energy. Talking with another business owner, a maker and creator was enough to give me new ideas and a renewed sense of creativity.
I have heard a lot of friends and customers talk about feeling in a bit of a slump creatively. Let's face it, back in March when Covid was just becoming a reality, a lot of us crafters thought "this is it, this is what I've been planning for." A necessary isolation and all the tools and extra time to focus on our craft. None of those silly distractions of meetings, commitments, and a lot less time spent driving. Am I right? And then it got real. We entered into a true pandemic.
Knitting and handspinning have always been a sort of therapy for the worry. Sit down, get into a rhythm and let my mind ponder it all. But I have found it increasingly hard over the past couple months to focus as injustice, illness and politics have cast a dark shadow on our country. I can say for certain I'm on my phone way too much checking the news and social media just trying to see what other people are doing and feeling. I suppose there is a depression and sadness that accompanies all that is going on and that can certainly zap the urge to create right out of you. So while I should have completed three sweaters given the free time over the last 8 months, it is just not happening.
I was talking to one of my friends and she mentioned that she felt like not having the festivals and group meet-ups was part of the reason she was feeling in a slump. And it makes sense! There is no singular place where I get more energy and inspiration than being surrounded by other makers. The knitting, crochet and spinning groups all have always given us the chance to sit with one another and not only be social, but also to inspire each other with the projects we are working on! And festivals, well don't even get me started. This is where it all comes together. The makers, the products, the wears and of course the energy.
So reality, it doesn't look like any of these events are coming back in the next couple months and even into next year is quite uncertain. In fact this winter is looking like it could be quite dismal as far as the virus goes and our need to be personally vigilant about masks, hand washing and traveling safely if at all. So knowing this is coming up, and trying to prepare ourselves I thought I would give you a list of where I find inspiration these days and a few places I should look to more but just haven't gotten there yet....
1. Get outside! Fresh air, walks, nature. All good things for the brain, body and creativity.
2. Podcasts/Vlogs. I have watched and listened to podcasts a bit but have definitely found more inspiration and connection in them than I have in the past. Some of my favorites are Fruity Knitting, Yarn, Fleece and Harmony and Grocery Girls. (Please share some of yours!)
3. Instagram. Instagram is the one platform I still seem to be able to connect and see what others are working on. I love seeing the pictures! And I definitely get a lot of dye pot ideas from others outdoor adventures. Don't get me wrong, it is also a huge distraction that I am constantly trying to balance out.
4. Zoom meet-ups. There are so many groups doing spinning, knitting and other maker meet-ups on Zoom. I hit this pretty hard early on but haven't been to a virtual meeting in quite awhile. Maybe its time...
5. Online classes. Being stuck at home more doesn't mean we can't keep learning! Between small yarn shops, YouTube, Bluprint, SewIt Academy and on, there are plenty of places to take virtual classes to help you learn a new skill or even a new craft!
6. Knit a longs. Ok seriously I'll admit I have never done a knit-a-long, but I think it is time!
7. Plain old good people. Don't let the bad overshadow some of the amazing good. Good people and actions are out there!
And then there will be the days when we are just zapped and staring at a show on Netflix becomes enough. Be kind to yourself on those days.
I would love to hear from you all about where you are finding inspiration during these more solitary and unsettling times. Please comment below and let us all know whats is keeping you going creatively.
Also a special note. I mentioned the Fruity Knitting podcast above. I find such inspiration in Andrea and Andrew's podcasts and they have recently let viewers know that Andrew has just been diagnosed with in inoperable brain tumor. They are researching and going to try all other available treatments. The podcast is their main source of income and for that reason they have reached out and asked for continued financial support. You can watch their podcast on YouTube, but more importantly is that you go to Patreon and join their group. There are different amounts you can contribute and it is well worth it for the amazing podcasts they put out. Here is a link if you are interested... Fruity Knitting Patreon
Thank you for reading and commenting. I always love to know someone has been here! Stay safe and get the votes in quick now!
This week I am working on the final stages of a new yarn, which means I am spinning it! I first spun this yarn about a year ago. A small batch, in two different weights - a worsted and a fingering. My original intent was to make a sock yarn out of natural fibers. No acrylic or other man made fiber. But then I got distracted while spinning up that first batch and wanted to see how the yarn would look and behave in a heavier weight. I sold most of the batch off and just picked up the last skein of fingering weight a month ago and decided to knit a sock with it. One sock. I had knit with the worsted weight and really like it but never quite got around to the fingering weight. General rule moving forward, I should probably knit with all the yarn I make because I really like this yarn!
Ok ok so what is this yarn exactly? It is a wool/mohair blend. More specifically Border Leicester wool and mohair. So why this sheep breed? To be honest, I bought it never having worked with it and liked it. It has a nice luster, low lanolin, generally scours (washes) easily, is strong and is fairly readily available in Oregon. The mohair originally was added as a substitute for acrylic as I was trying to make a natural sock yarn. I hadn't worked with a lot of mohair and certainly not a lot of good mohair so I asked around for the best and went from there.
So here I am circling back on this yarn with plenty of wool and mohair. After obtaining the wool, picking the percentages is the next step - this is an 80/20 blend (wool/mohair). In general, 20% is my happy place when I am adding to wool. I like the additional fiber to enhance the wool and yarn without taking away from the character of the wool. For a sock yarn in particular, 20% mohair is enough to add the strength, softness and shine that I am looking for. The strength is imperative in a sock given how much wear and rubbing this eventual fabric will endure. Most commercial sock yarns are wool blended with some amount of acrylic for this reason. Acrylic is a tough man made textile with a petroleum base. While mohair is not going to quite be as strong as a plastic, it is a strong fiber, it is better for the environment and allows more breathability and odor control.
So now we have the fiber and the blend percentages, the next pieces of the puzzle involve spinning and go as follows....
What weight will the yarn be? Since most sock patterns are knit using fingering weight yarn that is the weight I will aim for. Reality, I can spin a perfect yarn but if there are no patterns that will work for it, it is less likely to sell so I'm always trying to keep an eye on what designers are doing and what makers are responding to.
How much twist will each single of yarn have? I generally spin my yarn as lightly as possible because in general the lighter spun, the loftier the yarn will be. However I am making a sock yarn, so to get the extra strength I want in this yarn I will put a little extra twist. This will also make it a bit less likely to pill easily.
How many plies will this yarn have? After spinning comes plying, the act of putting the already spun singles into one yarn. You can have a single ply yarn, 2 ply, 3 ply and up. Most yarns are 2 to 3 ply. Generally speaking the more plies a yarn has (or single strands of yarn spun together), the stronger the yarn will be. So for the purposes of a sock yarn where that magical word "strength" keeps coming up I'm going to make a 3-ply yarn.
Finally I can spin now that I have the fibers, know the blend, the weight, the twist and the plies! So I spin and ply a sample bit and then I usually bring a bobbin home because I can't bear to be away from it overnight (truth!). For this particular yarn the first small batch came out a little heavier than I wanted and the yarn is a bit darker natural gray than I had hoped for. It is lovely but if I want to overdye it, I would ideally like it a little lighter. So tomorrow I will go in, adjust my natural color blend to lean a bit more on the white side and make adjustments to my spinning machine to draft the fibers just a bit more for a lighter weight yarn.
So there you have it! The main steps that go into designing a new yarn. This yarn in particular was a bit more complex. Lots of times I can let the fiber guide me where it wants to go. But for a sock yarn there are general characteristics I want it to have.
Thank you all for reading, commenting and taking the time! Hopefully you'll see this new yarn hit my social media and online shop next week! Stay healthy all.
I have missed you all and I am thrilled to finally have time to sit back down and write! So sorry for the delay. Fostering, the Mill and harvest got real over the last month. But alas the kittens have moved on to their forever homes, the Mill is humming along and harvest is at its tail end which means we can breathe a little around here again.
In this post I've decided to approach the age old question... does yarn have to be perfect? I have been mulling about this in my head for awhile now. As a wool mill owner the question is always hanging about and I strive to create the most consistent yarn. As a handspinner, I actually threw the question out the window years ago as ludicrous. Hahaha! Not to say there aren't perfect handspun yarns, it is just not a priority to me. I've listened to knitters talk amongst themselves about paying a premium for yarn only to find inconsistencies or a knot and some that have even made it very clear that imperfect yarn is unacceptable. I've also read conversations in our Mill owners group with differing opinions on how important it is for us to make a "perfect" yarn. And then there are those who think imperfections make yarn more interesting, fun and lively to work with.
Let me start with explaining to you one of the big processing differences between smaller fiber mills and the larger commercial mills that produce most of the yarn we purchase in stores. Besides the sheer volume processed, one of the biggest differences is a process called carbonization. For me, the small mill owner, I buy the wool, skirt it, scour it (washing it) and then pick and card the wool prior to spinning. For most commercial yarns, processing starts the same (be it on a much larger scale) but after scouring the wool gets carbonized. I didn't know a whole lot about carbonizing but was a bit shocked when I dove in on research. Carbonizing wool is done to remove excess vegetation and any remaining dirt left in the wool after washing but prior to carding and spinning into yarn.
Carbonizing involves introducing the wool to diluted sulphuric acid. The wool is then dryed and baked so that the excess matter becomes a dust of sorts. The dust is then mechanically removed from the wool. After removing the dust the wool must be balanced back to neutral as it is now more acidic from treatment. So the wool is then introduced to sodium carbonate and often times after that the wool is bleached to create a more consistent color and product. After all of these steps the wool is then moved along thru the carding and spinning process. So that's a lot of processing resulting in what you can imagine is a wool free of matter and more consistent in nature. I completely understand why this is done when processing enormous amounts of wool. They are receiving wool from all over the country or world from different times and often times different sheep breeds. For this reason they need the wool to be as consistent as possible to create a good end product. Heavier processing is going to create a wool that is easier for them to work with.
When you buy fibers and yarns from a smaller mill or farm they are much less processed. Of course this does lend itself to a few more inconsistencies. As a mill owner I am working my hardest to run a yarn that is consistent. But the reality is sometimes there are imperfections. Animals are animals and vegetable matter comes with them being happy and healthy. Other things that can lead to inconsistencies are fibers of different lengths, breaks in the fibers, uneven weights while carding and of course general mill equipment or operator issues.
So does yarn need to be perfect? The answer is really up to you!
I personally love that small mill run yarns aren't always perfect. I love the character that they have. I don't mind picking out a piece of hay here and there. To me it is in fact one of the qualities that makes it more appealing than your average predictable commercially spun yarns. And I can tell you that as a handspinner who does not always spin the most consistent yarn, it all tends to flush out once you start to knit, crochet or weave with it. I have knit sweaters with yarn that has varied in weight throughout and really you would never know when looking at the finished product. I like to think of it all as character. Yes there may be a piece of vegetable matter here and there, or a little wonky bit in the yarn, but in addition there is also life and the character of the wool is still in tact. In my crazy yarn world this all takes us closer to the wool, closer to the way our ancestors used wool and in reality closer to nature.
If you are interested in finding out how much processing your yarn is undergoing, a quick email to the company you purchased it from should give you an answer. And if you are looking for smaller less processed yarns with a whole lot of character, there are a handful of smaller mills in each state. A quick internet search should allow you to track some down in addition to seeking out small farms selling their own yarns. As you probably know by now, I will always encourage you to #knowyourwool
I love to hear from you all as it helps me know you've been here and I would love to hear your experiences about "perfect" and "imperfect" yarns. Thank you as always for reading and commenting.
Stay healthy, VOTE, and craft on!!!
I am Kim Biegler, the owner and operator of Ewethful Fiber Farm & Mill, along with my husband Mitch - my steadfast supporter, enabler, grass seed farmer, maintenance guy and all around love of my life! Visit the Mill's website for more about us and well, to shop for fiber of course! ewethfulfiberfarm.com