No - that's not a spelling mistake! November 1st sees the start of a month-long Celebration of Wool. This began in 2011 as a campaign to encourage everyone to wear, use and appreciate this most basic, fundamental and remarkable fibre.
The Wovember website is fairly buzzing right now with ideas on how you can make more of wool this month. There are links to current activities and photographs from shepherds raising sheep, shops selling wool yarn and crafters using 100% wool.
I am going to join in the celebrations this month by highlighting projects using my patterns that can be worked in 100% wool. I'll also be talking about different sheep breeds that have been used for those projects and throwing in some interesting woolly facts along the way.
Today, I am going to feature the Rare Earth Rug and Rare Earth Cushions knitting patterns. These were inspired by the trees outside my studio window in New England the first winter we were living there. I had never experienced a winter in these northerly climes before and was amazed at how early in the season the first snowflakes started to fall. Indeed the trees still had a wealth of colour in their branches when the first snows arrived, coating every limb with a dusting of white. It was truly magical.
I decided to see if I could capture those impressions in a handspun rug. Earlier that year I had purchased a wonderful "bicolour" fleece with shades of black and grey which seemed to echo the colours I was seeing outside. I separated out the colours and carded them separately, then blended them together with some bright white wool to give 5 different shades.
I then sat with my spinning wheel, cozily ensconced indoors while the snow continued to drift down outside. I wrapped a card with the patterning I had in my mind and compared it with the new vision from the window. Unfortunately, everything was now blanketed with snow! However, I still had the mental image of how it had been earlier.
I love the fact that you can get such a wonderful range of colours in wool without having to step near a dye-pot! Not only does this make the whole spinning process simpler, but the yarn is soft and cozy without the addition of any chemicals or harsh treatment.
It was still snowy when I completed the rug several weeks later. I had spun a generous amount of yarn to make sure I had enough and still had quite a bit left over. So I set to and made some cushions to match. I even managed to find some great sheepy buttons to finish them off!
Now, of course, you don't have to do what I did and start with a fleece and a spinning wheel to make these items, as there are great resources available right in your local yarn store. Cascade 220 or Knit Picks Wool of the Andes would both be excellent alternatives.
The fleeces I used came from Corriedale sheep raised in Wisconsin. This is a breed that came to the USA in the early 20th century derived from a Merino-Lincoln cross in New Zealand and Australia. The wool still shows the softness of its merino ancestry, but has the extra length from its Lincoln parent too.
And to finish, I promised some fun facts on sheep and wool:
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. Sheep were domesticated between 9,000 and 11,000 years ago in Mesopotamia, roughly where Iraq, Syria and Turkey are now.
. Wool can absorb nearly 30% of its weight in water, yet gives off heat when it dries - so hill walkers always prefer wearing woollen trousers to denim.
. Wool is also fire resistant, tending to smoulder or even go out in a fire - in comparison to some synthetic materials which can melt onto the skin. Oooch!
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If you would like more details of the Rare Earth Rug and/or the Rare Earth Cushions patterns, they are both available on my website.
Until next time - enjoy working with wool!
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Thanks to my husband Tim for the picture at the top of this blogpost, which shows sheep grazing in the Brecon Beacons in Wales. Please visit his Flickr page to see more of his pictures.