Let's take another look at one of those small batch yarns that makes me feel giddy with excitement - Woolly Mammoth Fibre Co's latest limited edition yarn, Zwartbles x Blue Texel 4ply.
I've known Emma from Woolly Mammoth Fibre Co. for as long as I can remember being an active member of the knitting world. Her natural dyeing is unparalleled, and when she ventured out to create locally sourced, small batch yarns a few years ago, it became clear that she also excels at curating unique blends.
The sheep whose fleeces were spun into her latest limited edition yarn, Zwartbles x Blue Texel 4ply, live about 10 miles from her home in Northern Ireland. As Emma describes it, "the yarn encapsulates a real feeling of the hills, hedges and sheep of this area within it".
The yarn is a woollen-spun 2ply, which means it blooms beautifully during blocking. It comes as a fingering weight, and can be easily held double to create a DK-weight fabric, like Emma did for her Stalk & Pip Beret (shown below). The undyed heathered brown grey is a sheer delight - great for stockinette and garter stitch, and perfect for lace as well.
I had the pleasure of talking to Emma about the story behind her latest small batch yarn - so, over to her!
I love how close to your home the fleeces for this limited edition are sourced - about 10 miles, if I'm correct? How did you source the fleeces?
Yes, 10 miles or at some points less. The sheep move around fields a bit so sometimes they are closer and sometimes further away so it's hard to give a definite distance.
I source fleeces either through 'sheep spotting' (I see a flock of an interesting breed and start asking around) or through a shearer I'm friends with- he alerts me if there's anything of interest that he is going to shear.
Once you had the fleeces, how did you then go about developing the yarn?
I've worked with both Blue Texel and Zwartbles before, separately, so I had a good idea that they would work nicely together. They came from one flock so I wanted to keep them together ideally.
After taking advice from the mill I was assured that they would make a good yarn. Limited Editions are all about trying out new sheep breeds and blends. My limited edition yarns are always woollen spun. The process of developing regular (non-limited edition) yarns for my shop is very different.
Can you tell us a little more about the two sheep breeds that make up the blend, Zwartbles and Blue Texel?
Blue Texel produces a bouncy, very elastic mid grey yarn. Zwartbles has an understated lustre to the fibre.
Blue Texel is a commercial sheep breed so the first time I used it I wasn't sure how the yarn would turn out, but I've discovered that it is one of my favourite fibres. It's also really nice to know that a commercial sheep produces high quality fibre suitable for hand knitting as well. It just shows that you can use sheep for food and fibre, instead of one or the other.
Zwartbles sheep are good at mothering - you often see them in fields of other sheep with a lamb that they have been given. Both breeds originate from Holland but are commonly seen in Ireland.
What are some of your favorite things about this new limited edition?
This yarn has a nice amount of elasticity, and a beautiful natural colour, not as dark as Zwartbles and not as light as Blue Texel. It has undertones of brown from the Zwartbles and lighter grey hairs from the Blue Texel.
One of my favourite things about this yarn is that it feels so good with two strands held together - the fibres mesh together really nicely. It's just a really good yarn to knit with, simple as that!
What's one pattern you're really excited about for this yarn - one that you made, or one that you're planning to knit?
So far I've made the Stalk and Pip Beret by Ailbiona McLaughlin with this yarn - with two strands held double. It worked like a charm. It also feels really nice on your head - a definite warmth when you wear it and the great thing about this beret pattern is that the hat doesn't slip off your head!
I would also love to knit a cardigan / jacket with large pockets holding the yarn double as well. Something oversized and cosy like the Nomad Jacket by Elin Berlin would be really cool. The only thing I wouldn't knit with this yarn is socks as it's not tightly spun enough!
Looking for a pattern to go with the Zwartbles x Blue Texel?
I can't believe it's that time of the year again – time to take stock, and reflect a little on what 2023 has brought to Making Stories. Another year (almost) in the books which means we're entering our 8th year in business soon. Which feels absolutely wild, even more so in a year that has seen so many small businesses, especially in the fiber world and in indie publishing, close their doors. (I'm so sad to see Pompom Magazine go!)
I like sitting down with a good cup of coffee at some in December, and think through what the year has meant for us, and what has happened here at Making Stories. There's no particular order here, just how these thoughts came to mind!
I hope you are well, and making a dent in your gift knitting (if you are gift knitting this year, that is!)
I am back here today with something a little different: A question for you.
Over the course of the last year, I took over writing most of our blog posts again, and while I love it very much, I also noticed that I tend to gravitate towards posts that I like to read – pattern inspiration posts, FO roundups, that sort of thing.
As I was finishing up Aurin's Joy Cardigan over the weekend, I started thinking about what I could cast on now that one of my current WIPs is almost done. And then it hit me - the holidays are just under two months away, and I have this dream of knitting a few sweaters for my nephews. Will I manage it in time? Who knows. But it would be nice to gift them the promised sweaters in time for the end of the year so that they actually get a little wear out of them still this winter!
Are you already deep in gift knitting mode or, like me, just starting to plan? If the latter (or the former, if you still need a few ideas!) I might have just the thing for you: Three super quick gift knit ideas!
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