23 Jan 2014

16 Hand-spun yarns / 16 Sheep breeds

I was chatting with someone last week about spinning yarn and she was saying how much it had expanded her love of knitting and weaving to be able to spin her own yarn too. I agree - it's a really good feeling to be able to start with a fleece and end up with a sweater. I suppose if you were a farmer, you could even start by trimming Jemima's wool in one season and be warm and cozy with the product by the end of the next!

However, not everyone wants to spin their own wool. It does, after all, take quite a time to prepare enough yardage for something sizeable and you may have to set to with dyepots and so on as well if you want a particular colour for your project.

So I had a peruse through the wonderful pages of Etsy the other day and found some wonderful yarns, each one using the wool from a different breed of sheep. Etsy is so good for that sort of thing and offers such a wide range of items. The photo above shows 16 yarns from 16 different sheep breeds! While those particular items may no longer be available, it will serve to give you an idea of yarns that you might find in your own searches. 

The sheep breeds included in the photo are: Black Welsh Mountain, Blue-Faced Leicester, Bowmont, Corriedale, Falklands, Finn, Gotland, Icelandic, Jacob, Manx Loaghtan, Masham, Merino, Polwarth, Rambouillet, Romney and Wensleydale - whew! What a range of fibres.

Blue-Faced Leicester is a particular favourite of mine and I used this in a recent pattern, the Sawston Infinity Scarf. The yarn is soft, silky and has a lovely lustre to it. It just says "quality" when you see something made from this breed.

I also love Bowmont, although I haven't spun any of that for a while. However, I was very impressed with it when I last used this lesser-known breed. Some while ago I wove a blanket from another of the breeds on this list, too - Polwarth - and that was one of the softest and warmest blankets I have ever made.

And I have included my favourite "go to" fibre, Corriedale. This is great to spin and work with. It has a longer staple than merino but still having many characteristics of that breed. It takes dyes beautifully, too. You'll see that yarn featured in a number of my patterns including the Rare Earth Cushions, the Rare Earth Rug  and the Ocean Currents Rug.

And of course that isn't even an exhaustive list of sheep breeds available. I didn't include another of my favourites, Coopworth (pictured above), which is a great choice for hard-wearing designs. And I could have easily gone on to include many more varieties. Try typing the name of another breed and 'Handspun' into the Etsy search box and see what comes up!

I hope you have fun exploring the yarns on Etsy and following up on any other hand-spun items available. If you would like details on any of the above patterns, please visit my website www.wyndlestrawdesigns.com.

Happy Knitting!


. 17/5/17

15 Jan 2014

The Ocean Currents Rug Knitting Pattern

There's something wonderful about watching waves as they come in to the shoreline. Sometimes it can be a passing yacht disturbing the water of a lake at sunset, sending ripples across the surface and catching the light of the sun on every wave. And sometimes it can be that quiet, gently rhythm of the sea that you see on a fair day. Both are magical and inspiring. 

It was like that the other day when we were walking by the coast. The sun was low, the sky clear and every wave glistened briefly as it came towards the land. We sat for a while, and at that lower viewing angle the colours were heightened even further to deep blues and palest turquoises.

This rug attempts to capture that feeling of light and shade, rhythm and movement. The pattern uses symmetrical repeats but without predictability, giving the design a three-dimensional quality.

Another feature of the pattern is that if you choose to hand-dye and spin your yarn, you only have to dye three different colours. These are then carded and blended to produce the five yarn colours used in the design.

The wonderfully gentle gradations of colour in the final rug are achieved by working with two strands of these blended yarns held together in ever-changing combinations. 

In the sample, I have worked the rug with a tonal blue colourway. However, the design could equally well lend itself to interpretation using other colours and mixtures. For example, contrasting shades of blacks, greys and reds would give a stunning modern rug, or it could be worked in teenage shades of orange and pink!

And of course if you don't feel like starting with spinning and dyeing, there are many commercially available yarns in a worsted weight which you could use to knit your own Ocean Currents Rug.

The information in the pattern includes all the charts and line-by-line instructions for the design as worked, together with hand-dyeing formulae and information for spinning the yarns. I have also included instructions on how to back the rug with a non-slip pad if you choose to use it on a wooden floor. 

For more details about Ocean Currents Rug knitting pattern please click here.

There is also a co-ordinating pattern, the Ocean Currents Blanket available separately. Read all about that pattern here.

Happy Knitting!


. 17/5/17

6 Jan 2014

Ready to Roc!

It's great to have something to really look forward to in the middle of the winter season. And for spinners, we don't have to wait too long. The day after the Christmas season is our very own day - Roc Day. 

This is a celebration going back to the Middle Ages and is celebrated either the day after 12th night (Jan 5th) or the day after Epiphany in the Christian calendar (Jan 6th) depending on local custom. Spinners would gather together and celebrate before commencing their work for the year. And still today there are guilds and groups meeting for this occasion every year.

And if you think about it, what greater pleasure would there be in the cold, dark days of winter than to set up your wheel in front of a fire and spin to your heart's content.

There's also the pressure of knowing that the new fleeces will be shorn in only a few months' time - so it really is time to work on that stash from last year (or was that the year before that!) Definitely time to get out the dyepots for a new project or two.

If you'd like some ideas for planning your next spinning session, then I have a number of patterns that are designed for hand-spun yarn. These include the Rare Earth Cushions, Rare Earth Rug and the Sawston Infinity Scarf pictured above, and a new rug pattern, the Ocean Currents Rug, is featured in the next blogpost.

Happy winter spinning everyone!


. 17/5/17

4 Jan 2014

The Four-Way Wrap

Thank you for the e-mails re my last blogpost and the new Lamberhurst Scarf knitting pattern. I am glad this is proving so popular. I have had a couple of requests for information on how to tie the scarf in the way it is shown in the pattern and I am happy to do that today.

This Four-way Wrap is an intriguing-looking knot which is, fortunately, not as difficult to work as it looks! It can also be used by both men and women as you can see from the Elizabeth Scarf pictured above.

So to start you will need a fairly long scarf, especially if you want the ends to show after you have completed the wrap. The Lamberhurst Scarf is 173cm/68 ins long and the Elizabeth Scarf is a touch longer, 183cm/72 ins. 

The width is not so important, but a medium-width of about 15-20cm/6-8 ins would perhaps give the best results. Here, the Lamberhurst Scarf is 19cm/7.5 ins wide and the Elizabeth Scarf is 16.5cm/6.5 ins. 

The Four-way Wrap is actually a variation of the Parisian Wrap that most people know. For that one, you take the two ends of your scarf and find the mid-point of the scarf. Bring this around your neck and hold it in the position where you would like the fold to sit. This can be right in the middle or slightly off-centred for a relaxed look. Then draw both ends together through the loop. Super-simple and quick but yet very effective.

The Parisian Wrap is useful not only for long scarves but can also be used for shorter versions too as it gives a compact tie. This is good for cyclists or walkers who need a scarf that won't flap about in the breeze. 

So, for the Four-Way Wrap: start in the same way by folding the scarf into two, making a loop in the centre of the scarf. 

Position the fold point a little lower than you would for the Parisian Wrap. The loop will not be pulled as tightly so you need a little more space to allow for the volume of the knot. 

Now bring the 1st end through the loop and leave the 2nd end where it is. You can actually leave it at this stage if you like. This is a Three-way Wrap and gives a stylish, relaxed look. 

To continue on to a full Four-Way style, take the centre of the loop and give it a half-twist to the front. 

Hold this in position and bring the 2nd end over the top and then down through the loop. You will see that the two ends of the scarf essentially weave through the centre fold of the scarf in opposite directions.

To finish off, adjust the position of the loop until you get just the right volume effect that you wish. 

And there you have it! A super-cozy knot that stays just where you want it and makes every scarf look great.

I hope this gives you some inspiration for tying your scarves in a new way for the New Year! If you would like more information on any of my scarf patterns you will find them on my website

Many thanks to my daughter, Anna Ravenscroft, for demonstrating the Four-Way Wrap and trying to appear warmer than she was! You can see Anna's own wonderful range of knitting designs on her website, Kiku Knits.

Have a wonderful 2014! 


Last Blogpost: The Lamberhurst Scarf
Next Up: Ready to Roc!

. 17/5/17


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