Deep sea swamp thing

February 24, 2014 § Leave a comment

deep sea swamp thing scarf

My WIP pile is getting out of control (well, more than usual), so I finally got around to tackling it, by adding fringe to a woven scarf. (Never mind the four WIP quilts and six WIP cardigans and jumpers…)

I called this scarf the Deep Sea Swamp Thing because that’s the name of both the colorways used. The yarn is a New England-spun and -bred Tunis intended for sock knitting, but I liked it woven. Dan, the owner of Gnomespun Yarn, helped me pick out colors at Rhinebeck this past fall, where the yarn debuted.

deep sea swamp thing scarf edges

Since I am not a sock knitter, the next project for the leftovers will probably be for a hat. I’m not particularly sensitive to wools, especially when it’s cold, so I think it’s perfect for many fingering/4 ply applications, but if you’re really sensitive do note that Tunis will never be as soft as Merino.

Here’s Deep Sea:

deep sea tunis yarn by gnomespun yarn

and Swamp Thing:

swamp thing tunis yarn by gnomespun yarn

I also particularly liked the reds so eventually I hope to get a skein or two of those colors for a similar scarf.

This one was woven on my Cricket loom with a 12 dent reed, using the teal as the warp and the forest green as the weft as I was inspired by some Oakshott shot cottons that I’ve been hoarding in my quilting fabric stash for quite a while.

I once read that there are two types of weavers: those who play with texture and those who play with color. In knitting I’m definitely more fascinated by texture, so I guess it makes sense that in weaving, where I often work with variegateds that are fussy knit up, I work more with color. It’s possible that one day, when wool mountain (a.k.a. my stash) has been conquered, I could become a texture weaver.

woven tunis scarf


Guide to fiber events in the US, part four

November 3, 2013 § Leave a comment

zeilinger's fiber mill

While fiber festivals are a lot of fun, there’s other great things to do and see if you’re interested in wool and how it is transformed from fleece to fiber. Here in part four of the guide to fiber events I cover yarn crawls, dyer open studios, and visiting fiber mills.

Yarn crawls are the fiber events with which I suspect most knitters are familiar, if only because they seem to happen in almost any region where there are at least three yarn shops.

Dyer open houses (and their hybrid relatives the dyer open house yarn crawl) are a varied bunch, reflecting the personality of the dyer and her studio. Some are like tiny fiber festivals, with outside vendors selling food and bringing animals, and others are like knit nights with lots of shopping.

Finally, there are fiber mills that offer tours. Many fiber mills do not offer tours for various reasons, but I know of two that do: Zeilinger’s in Frankenmuth, MI and Harrisville Designs in Harrisville, NH. If you like machinery and fiber they’re a perfect way to spend an afternoon.

cy skinny bugga!

Event: Yarn studio open houses
Date: Variable, depends on the dyer
Location: Dyer’s studio
Indoors/outdoors: Indoors
Outside pathways: Variable – some are in cities with sidewalks, others are in rural or light industrial areas with none
Inside pathways: Variable – typically cement if it’s a warehouse-y kind of place
Entrance fee: Free
Classes: No
Parking time: Max 10 minutes to find a spot (frequently these involve street parking)
Food/drink: Maybe; may not be vegetarian/special diet-friendly
Bathroom status: Clean, may or may not have bathroom hooks (but that’s because they’re mostly workspaces and not necessarily set up for visitors)
Number of times I’ve attended: 3

Rather than write up each open house, here’s a brief rundown of what typically happens at a dyer’s open house. Generally they have a lot of yarn for sale, it’s a great chance to meet local knitters/crafters, and sometimes there’s food and/or drink, either brought by guests or provided by the studio. Beyond that there can sometimes be sit and knits, charity events, or just general yarn drooling.

Pros: If you like a dyer’s work, nothing is more fun than meeting them in their “native habitat” and seeing all their gorgeous yarns in one place, with an even larger selection than at a show or festival. Often local designers will show up too, which is a great chance to meet and greet with them as well.

Cons: You see all the yarn and want to buy all the yarn. Generally there are no ATMs at dyer studios but they all take credit cards, cash, and sometimes checks.

Don’t miss: the chance to buy a custom-dyed pot or two of yarn! (Assuming they’re offering it, anyway.) Make sure you get yourself on the list ASAP as there is a limit to how many pots can be done that day.

skinny bugga! dyed at an open house

Event: Yarn crawls
Date: Variable, depends on who’s running it
Location: Yarn shops and/or dye studios
Indoors/outdoors: Indoors
Outside pathways: Variable – depends on yarn shop/dyer location
Inside pathways: Cement or other hard surface, typically.
Entrance fee: Free or paid, depends on the organizers (if it is paid, there’s usually coupons and gift bags involved)
Classes: No
Parking time: Max 10 minutes to find a spot (frequently these involve street parking) per location
Food/drink: Maybe; may not be vegetarian/special diet-friendly
Bathroom status: Clean; typically the stores will have bathroom hooks but the dyer studios won’t.
Number of times I’ve attended: 3

Yarn shop crawls often have a passport or other stampable item available so that at the end of the crawl, you have enough stamps to earn a pattern. Some, instead of doing stamps, offer part of a pattern. Most LYS crawls cost some money, although often you get the pattern, sometimes coupons, and often a tote bag. Some shops also offer a discount for that day at the shop.

Dyer crawls (well, the one I’ve been on) don’t tend to have an admission fee but you also don’t get a gift bag. The Maryland Hand-dyers’ Guild Crawl last year offered stamps, but I forgot my stamp booklet at home and so never really figured out what the stamps were for. I think it was a contest? Anyway, I was there for the chance to not only see the dyers’ yarns but to also check out some smaller local vendors, who were vending at the studios.

Pros: LYS crawls, especially if you live in an area with a lot of yarn shops, offer the chance to check out the wares at each shop and get to know the staff there. Going with friends or by yourself is equally fun in my opinion, as even if you’re shopping solo knitters and fiber crafters love to help others pick out patterns and yarns.

Dyer studio crawls offer similar opportunities as their open houses: a chance to see the whole line and meet and chat with the dyer and other local crafters.

Cons: There seems to be something about an LYS crawl that brings out the impulsive purchaser in me, and in others too I’ve noticed. In many groups and with my knitting friends, we’ve all grumbled about yarn we’ve purchased with no real purpose in mind. I don’t tend to participate very much in LYS crawls any more for this reason.

Studio crawls fall under the same pitfalls as the open houses do, with the side effect of realizing that after the crawl is over, you’ve bought a lot of yarn…at each studio!

Don’t miss: The great deals that often pop up for LYS crawls, sometimes up to 25% off regular yarn (not just sale-bin yarn). At dyer open houses, enjoy being able to find sweater quantities of indie-dyed yarn in large enough quantities that you can select the best-matching skeins.

wool at Zeilinger's

Event: Fiber mill tours
Date: Variable – call ahead
Location: Various – call or check the website before heading out
Indoors/outdoors: Indoors
Outside pathways: Variable
Inside pathways: Typically cement or wood
Entrance fee: Free
Classes: No
Parking time: Variable – can sometimes involve street parking
Food/drink: No
Bathroom status: Clean; may or may not have bathroom hooks as these are workplaces.
Number of times I’ve attended: 2

I have mentioned this before, but sometimes I think I like crafting because it’s the chance to see and use awesome new tools and machinery. I love a good educational tour, and putting fiber and scary-looking machines in a room together and I’m happy.

Pros: The two mills I have visited offer free tours – at Zeilinger’s they are self-guided, and at Harrisville you must call ahead (I’d recommend at least a week in advance – my family was unable to go on the actual tour itself because of time constraints, but the mill store staff were happy to tell us about the history of the mill). Being able to buy the yarn or fiber right where it’s made is very cool, and since it’s made right there there’s usually enough yarn in any one type/dyelot for larger projects.

Cons: Since these are working mills, be aware that they may not be suitable for children (Harrisville does not allow minors on their mill tours). The tours make take guests through areas that are not handicap accessible due to narrow walkways and/or stairs (especially at Zeilinger’s, where the sock machines are located upstairs). Also, they are dusty and loud places.

Don’t miss: The chance to see all the different machines in action! I loved seeing the machine that turns the fiber into large strips of roving. At Zeilinger’s they also have a bunch of sock machines running, churning out socks. (Learn more about Zeilinger’s in this post from 2011.)


Part one, featuring larger shows,

Part two, featuring medium-sized shows, and

Part three, featuring smaller shows

Up next:

Part five, featuring tips for safety and comfort at fiber events.

Guide to fiber events in the US, part three

October 31, 2013 § Leave a comment


Smaller shows don’t often get the attention of their larger and medium-sized brethren on Ravelry and other fiber craft websites, but they are some of my favorite events of the year. Many of these smaller shows have free or very low cost admission with reasonable crowds and great opportunities to speak directly with producers, dyers, spinners, and breeders. Beyond that it is hard to generalize; each show seems to focus on the fiber types common to that area, and as such each will have different activities, animals, visitors, and vendors.

This year I’ve been fortunate enough to attend two, both for the second time each, and they did not disappoint. The first, Homespun Yarn Party, a show in the Washington, DC/Baltimore region, I look forward to because it is a chance to interact with local knitters and dyers that focuses on the community aspect of fiber crafts.

The second show, Lamafest in East Lansing, MI, I love because it focuses mostly on the animals and the fiber they produce. Many vendors at Lamafest bring a selection of goods that are entirely made in Michigan, with the wool (or fiber) having been grown, cleaned, carded, spun, and dyed within 75 miles of the show. Often you can see the animals from whom your fiber came standing just a few aisles away.


Event: Homespun Yarn Party (HYP)
Date: Typically the third weekend in March
Location: Savage Mill, MD
Indoors/outdoors: Indoors
Outside pathways: Sidewalks, with asphalt in the parking lots (some street parking may be quite hilly, but there is ample handicap parking in the actual parking lots for the mill complex)
Inside pathways: Wood and carpeted floors
Entrance fee: Free
Classes: No
Parking time: Max 20 minutes to find a spot
Food/drink: Yes, in other parts of the mill complex
Bathroom status: Clean indoor bathrooms with baby-changing tables. There are bathroom stall hooks and the lines aren’t too long.
Other amenities: Water fountains; small shops nearby sell everything from pastries to antiques to gourmet dog treats
Number of times I’ve attended: 2

Homespun Yarn Party is a small local show that features indie dyers, spinners, fiber producers, and fiber-related craft things (e.g., project bags, spindle bags). There’s also a charity knitting and crochet event, a spinning contest, and best of all it’s all indoors so no worrying about the weather (it always seems to be drizzly on HYP weekend).

Pros: HYP is a small show, so it’s easily doable in an afternoon. A lot of the big name dyers and vendors from the Maryland area are here, including Cephalopod Yarns, Dragonfly Fibers, Neighborhood Fiber Co., and the Verdant Gryphon. Other notable vendors include Space Cadet Creations, That Clever Clementine!, and Cavey Family Farm (they sell beautiful Montadale wool). If you’re a spinner you’ll be able to indulge in some indie-dyed fiber and many different types of handcrafted spindles. While no vendors sell weaving looms or spinning wheels, if you’re a weaver who enjoys working with handdyed yarns it’s worth a trip. There’s also a vendor who sells gigantic rug yarn (with accompanying huge needles) that can be woven or knitted.

Cons: HYP is a bit too close to MDSW (in terms of timing) for my liking; MDSW is about 6 weeks away and I feel sort of competes with that event for time and attention.

Also, the Great Room at Savage Mill can get really hot from everyone crowded in it, so dress in layers despite it being an indoor event. You may have to wait in line in a hallway outside the Great Room to enter if you show up right when the event starts; I prefer to arrive a bit later because of this.

Don’t miss: the half-hourly drawings for free gifts, typically yarns and patterns and project bags donated by vendors. (You have to be present to win.)

Do take advantage of the back deck (the exit is on the back right side of the room near Cephalopod Yarns’ booth) if you feel you need some fresh air. Also, sometimes spinners set up wheels out there and many break out their new spindles and fibers, so it’s fun to watch the demonstrations. You can also see Savage Creek that used to power the mill complex, although the wheel itself is not operational.


Event: Lamafest
Date: Labor Day weekend, Saturday and Sunday
Location: East Lansing, MI
Indoors/outdoors: Indoors
Outside pathways: Sidewalks, with asphalt in the parking lots
Inside pathways: Cement floors
Entrance fee: Free
Classes: No
Parking time: Max 3 minutes to find a spot
Food/drink: Yes; think sporting-event food
Bathroom status: Clean indoor bathrooms with baby-changing tables. There are bathroom stall hooks and no bathroom lines.
Other amenities: Water fountains
Number of times I’ve attended: 2

Lamafest was the second fiber festival I ever attended, and it is a very, very small show, filled with (surprise!) llamas and alpacas. There are only about twenty vendors but they all sell lovely merchandise, mostly featuring llama and alpaca yarn and fiber.

Pros: As the show is so small, it’s not very crowded and it’s easy to really get to look at everything the vendors have to offer. Many also sell wool products too, so even if you’re not wild about camelid fibers you’re sure to find something to tempt you. Most of the vendors are from very small farms so the merchandise is very special (in other words, if you see something you love, buy it), and the prices are really almost too reasonable. This year I was able to find some delightful Shetland fiber grown in Potterville, MI, and cleaned and carded at Zeilinger’s in Frankenmuth, MI, for only $2 an ounce. I also bought a dark gray llama batt – as I was purchasing it, the vendor’s friend walked by and said, “Oh, I recognize that, it’s from Thunder! He’s so soft.” Only at Lamafest!

Next to the vendors area you can walk around and admire all the llamas and alpacas (also this year there was a camel good-naturedly tolerating a swarm of toddlers), and don’t forget to check out the llama and alpaca show in the show ring. The Mid-Michigan Spinning Guild also does demonstrations in the vendor area too, and are more than happy to share some spinning knowledge with you. They also sell some of their gorgeous handspun too.

Cons: There aren’t any food options available for anyone who doesn’t want sporting event food. However, East Lansing isn’t that far away so if you’re hungry after the show, just drive a few miles north and there’s lots of restaurants on Grand River Avenue.

Don’t miss: the llama and alpaca fashion show! It is the hands-down highlight of the event and the creativity of the owners is unparalleled.

Also, if you drove from outside the East Lansing area, check out my favorite yarn shop in the entire universe, Woven Art. It’s just a few miles north of the MSU Pavilion where Lamafest is held and worth a visit for beautiful yarns and fibers for all sorts of fiber crafts. (Yes, even after Lamafest I drove up to Woven Art to go shopping and knit with my friends. It was the perfect end to a fiber-y day.)




Part one, featuring larger shows, and

Part two, featuring medium-sized shows

Up next:

Part four, featuring dyer open houses, yarn crawls, and mill tours, and

Part five, featuring tips for safety and comfort at fiber events.

Guide to fiber events in the US, part two

October 29, 2013 § Leave a comment

fall trees

Welcome to part two of the guide to fiber events in the US, featuring medium-sized shows! Featuring all of the charm of the larger shows without the crazy crowds, medium-sized shows like Allegan, SVFF, and Ann Arbor focus on lots of regional shops. They’re a great chance to get to know your local sheep farmers and indie dyers. Some, like Allegan and SVFF, have lots of animals on display and retain a lot of rural charm. Ann Arbor Fiber Expo is less focused on the animals and more on the educational and social aspects of fiber arts, and its marketplace attracts a wide variety of fiber crafters, with a lot of focus on handspinning and indie dyeing.

Event: Michigan Fiber Festival (Allegan)
Date: Third weekend in August
Location: Allegan, MI
Indoors/outdoors: Indoor/outdoor mix – some barns are quite open to the elements
Outside pathways: Mix of pavement, gravel, dirt, and grass – not too hilly. The parking lot is grass with some paved and gravel walkways/driveways.
Inside pathways: Mix of linoleum, cement, and some dirt floors in barns.
Entrance fee: $5/day or $8 weekend pass – children under 8 free
Classes: Yes
Parking time: Max 30 minutes to find a spot
Food/drink: Yes – mix of fair food and BBQ
Bathroom status: Clean indoor bathrooms with baby-changing tables, with some port-a-potties. There are bathroom stall hooks and the lines aren’t too long.
Other amenities: first aid station, water fountains
Number of times I’ve attended: 1

Allegan is a medium-sized festival, with many of the same events and vendors found at larger shows like MDSW and Rhinebeck, but a bit smaller and friendlier with fewer overwhelming crowds.

Pros: A medium-sized festival, Allegan attracts both Michigan and Midwestern vendors as well as larger, more nationally known vendors, including Blackberry Ridge, the Fold, Yarn Hollow, and Miss Babs. Allegan was my first fiber festival ever and it was perfect: worth the almost 1.5 hour drive, but not so overwhelming that I missed out on everything I wanted to see and do. The tractor show and historical village are a lot of fun, and there’s an entire barn dedicated to kids’ activities and crafts.

Many of the vendors are more than happy to take the time to give demonstrations or even a quick lesson – I first learned to spin at Allegan from Pat Tirrell (Tirrell Centennial Farm). The lines aren’t too long at any one booth and with only about four barns there’s plenty of time to visit every booth if you so choose.

Cons: The parking situation was kind of crazy when I attended the show. While the ticket taker was really friendly, he couldn’t really direct traffic from his booth and there were a lot of people and cars unsure of where to go. Hopefully they’ve worked on this in the intervening years. Also, the food lines are really long, as there weren’t that many food vendors relative to the size of the show.

Don’t miss: the chance to see Miss Babs and other bigger vendors without the craze of MDSW/Rhinebeck lines. Take the time to chat with other knitters – there’s lots of seating available and many impromptu knitting and spinning groups pop up.

katahdin sheep

Event: Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival (SVFF)
Date: Last full weekend in September
Location: Berryville, VA
Indoors/outdoors: Indoor/outdoor mix – some barns are quite open to the elements
Outside pathways: Mix of pavement, gravel, dirt, and grass – flat terrain. The parking lot is grass with some gravel driveways.
Inside pathways: Mix of linoleum, cement, and dirt floors in barns.
Entrance fee: $5/day – children under 12 free
Classes: Yes
Parking time: Max 15 minutes to find a spot
Food/drink: Yes – mostly fair foods
Bathroom status: Clean indoor bathrooms. Most stalls do not have bathroom hooks. Unsure if there were baby-changing stations. Short lines.
Other amenities: first aid station, water fountains
Number of times I’ve attended: 1

SVFF is a smaller show in the Washington, DC region, taking place in the gorgeous Shenandoah Valley right at the beginning of the leaf-peeping season. This show gets larger every year, and features many of the same vendors that attend MDSW, offering a great chance to see them without the crazy lines that MDSW generates. The weather around this time of year is typically cooler than MDSW time, meaning there’s a greater chance of seeing beautiful handmade woolens on show visitors and vendors.

Pros: A show on the smaller side, it still has that rural charm that many like about MDSW. It also takes place in the latter half of the show season, meaning the weather is generally on the cooler side and we can all begin stocking up for fall/winter knits – plus with fewer vendors, I feel like it is easier to really spend time lingering and making decisions in each booth. Vendor highlights include Dragonfly Fibers, Gourmet Stash, Neighborhood Fiber Co., Lovelyarns, the Verdant Gryphon, the Spanish Peacock, and Solitude Wool (who are VERY local to the show). The fleece show is small but worth a visit if you like to buy whole fleeces. The prices are reasonable and I was able to find a California Red fleece and a Dorset x Ile de France.

Cons: There are no hooks in many (possibly all?) of the bathroom stalls, so if you have merchandise with you I highly recommend dropping that off at your car before using the facilities, or have a friend hold things for you.

There are also no wool processors at this show so if you like to drop off your fleeces right after buying them it isn’t possible at SVFF.

Don’t miss: the animal barns. At larger shows sometimes the animals aren’t as social due to the overwhelming commotion, but at SVFF they’re more eager to interact, especially the mohair goats! They’re so soft to pet and very sweet. Also try the apple tea from the kettle corn vendor – it’s sort of like apple cider but not, and very good. Wish I’d bought a second bottle for the drive home after eating all that kettle corn. (FYI, kettle corn freezes really well in an airtight container. Just thaw it at room temperature and extend the kettle corn season.)

handspun yarns

Event: Ann Arbor Fiber Expo (AAFE)
Date: Last full weekend in October; Spring Expo: last full weekend in March
Location: Ann Arbor, MI
Indoors/outdoors: Indoors
Outside pathways: Parking lot asphalt and cement
Inside pathways: Cement floors
Entrance fee: $4/day, or $6 for both days – children under 12 free
Classes: Yes
Parking time: Max 10 minutes to find a spot
Food/drink: Maybe? I can’t remember, too much yarn.
Bathroom status: Clean indoor bathrooms with stall hooks.
Other amenities: first aid station, water fountains
Number of times I’ve attended: 1

The Ann Arbor Fiber Expo is a great local show that features wonderful vendors and classes. It is primarily a show for those wishing to take classes or shop, and does not have the same amount or variety of animals like at Allegan. However, I classified it as a medium-sized show as it is held twice a year due to its popularity (likely due to the incredible local talent it attracts).

Pros: The vendor list at AAFE features some of the most talented dyers ever, including Happy Yarns, Fiberstory, Frankielove Fibers, and Icemelon, and there are several spinning guilds and collectives selling lovely handspun too (seriously, this place is handspun heaven!). If you don’t want to buy handspun, there’s a lot of beautifully dyed fiber available too. It’s also an indoor show, which is convenient if the weather isn’t cooperating.

Cons: There’s no fleece sale and there aren’t very many animals for a show of its size.

Don’t miss: the indie dyers! They’re the highlight of the show.


Part one, featuring larger shows

Up Next:

Part three, featuring smaller shows,

Part four, featuring dyer open houses, yarn crawls, and mill tours, and

Part five, featuring tips for safety and comfort at all-day events.

Woven scarves

March 5, 2013 § 5 Comments

bfl scarf 1

So after a long time, I finally pulled my Cricket out from the basement and successfully wove a scarf on it. Our long standoff has come to an end, and a beautiful British wool scarf is complete. I have no idea why I thought making a plaid pattern was a good idea, but I’m pleased that my foolhardiness did work out in my favor, at least this one time.

I used almost two full skeins of DK weight BFL yarn, both dyed in Wales. The green wool was dyed by Squeaky Elliot on Etsy, and the orange Bonnie DK yarn was dyed by Posh Yarn. They’re quite possibly the same base; the Squeaky Elliot BFL felt a little thinner when weaving, but once I soaked the scarf and let everything sort of bloom fully, I can’t really see a difference. In any case it’s so soft, as one would expect from BFL. Plus it is perfect for the Knit Brit 2013 personal challenge thread on Ravelry, where you can also check out a lot of other wonderful projects using British wool. Currently I have a bulky cardi on the needles using Rowan Purelife British Breeds Chunky, which I’ll share there eventually when it’s finished.

bfl scarf 2

To make the plaid pattern, here’s how I warped the loom:

16 orange (8 slots), 6 green (3 slots), 16 orange, 6 green, 16 orange

90.5” of warp

Then when it was time to weave, I weighed out the remaining yarn for the weft and decided on a 7:3 ratio of green to orange.

Orange yarn remaining for weft: 43 grams (31.6%)
Green yarn remaining for weft: 93 grams (68.4%)

Striping pattern:

14 green 6 orange

Orange yarn remaining after scarf is complete: 21 grams
Green yarn remaining after scarf is complete: 40 grams

After finishing the scarf (soaking it for a half hour in Soak wool wash and then rinsing clear, and letting it air dry), the dimensions were 75” long, plus 4.5” of fringe at each end, and 6.5” wide. It turns out that our dining table, fully extended, is the perfect warping length for scarves for people of my height. Yay!

The total scarf weight is 136 grams.

bfl scarf 3 « Read the rest of this entry »

Campaign for Wool with the British Wool Marketing Board

October 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

About a month ago on Ravelry I discovered the British Wool Marketing Board was having a giveaway to celebrate the Campaign for Wool and Wool Week. To spread the word about the benefits of British wool and breeds, the BWMB is giving away 100 copies of their fantastic book British Sheep and Wool and 100 packs of felting wool.

The book, at least in the US, is only available from a few retailers, so receiving it for free is really an exceptionally generous offer. The book describes briefly over sixty breeds of sheep that can be found in Britain, with gorgeous full-color photographs.

Many UK Ravelers of course entered, but no one really knew if it were possible for someone outside the UK to receive a copy of the book. With nothing to lose except a few moments of time entering in my contact information, I went for the book option.

Sure enough I got an email saying that my book was on its way, and in 22 days (the estimated time for UK entrants was 21 days, so I was impressed) my book had arrived, along with some excellent sheep-y goodies with which to spread the word about British wool.

I received not only the book, but also a great promotional kit that also included an adorable sheep notebook, a pen, a postcard of Dorset sheep on the move, a bumper sticker, and of course more reasons to use British wool than you can shake a sheep at (or, uh, a knitting needle is probably more realistic).

Coincidentally at work on Monday I’d been reading studies using Dorset sheep, so the postcard was quite timely.

As of today, I think there are still a few more felt packs and British Sheep Breed books to give away, so do click this link to claim one for yourself, as it is the first hundred for each who receive the pack. I didn’t receive anything for this blog post, I just wanted to pass on the knowledge that those in the US (and I suspect elsewhere outside the UK) can in fact receive at least the book! Update, 4 November 2012: the books and felt kits have all been claimed! I hope you were able to receive one if you put your name in.

(If you would prefer the felt pack, check before ordering it if wool products can be imported to your country. In my experience, clearly-labeled customs forms should allow commercially processed wool into the US, Canada, the EU, Australia, and New Zealand, but I can’t make any promises.)

Woolsack: In support of British wool

August 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

Woolsack is the wonderful project set up by Jane Cooper and Sue Blacker to support British wool in conjunction with the London Olympics and Paralympics this year. I won’t go into too much detail about the drama of the project, but suffice it to say that it has apparently been an adventure for all involved to distribute cushions. So many people have contributed though, making this a truly significant part of the Paralympic and Olympic 2012 experience. In fact, it is part of the Cultural Olympiad and will be recorded for future generations in the British Library.

I personally am still rather disgruntled at the whole LOCOG and USOC debacles, but despite the bureaucratic bizarreness I have, in support of the talented athletes, knit a cushion for a Paralympian (or possibly an Olympian, depending on what time my cushion arrives at the finishing station in North London — shoutout to the fabulous Finchley Finishers, who are stuffing and sewing up cushions in time for them to go home with their new owners).

My cushion is knit with stash yarn (YAY!!!) spun in the UK by Rowan. It is made from wool from Bluefaced Leicester (BFL) and Jacob wool, though I suspect that some Suffolk might be in the mix too. I knit the whole thing in the round because I hate seaming, and cast off while simultaneously joining the top seam. The aforementioned Finchley Finishers will then take over, stuffing the cushion with wool donated by The Natural Fibre Co./Blacker Yarns/Blacker Designs, and then seaming them up. I admit to being quite pleased that someone else is happy to seam my cushion for me, though slightly disappointed to realize that this is really the only time that’s ever going to happen.

JaneKAL mentioned on Ravelry that a lot of athletes are selecting cushions not just for their good looks but also based on the notes attached to the cushions. In a fit of competitiveness, I endeavored to design a fantastic tag (pardon my immodesty) so as to give my cushion an edge at cushion selection time.

The front of the tag shows the obligatory Woolsack logo, and then I also included the requested information, my name and local town. As I live in the US I named that town, and also the town my family is from in the UK, which is Penzance, Cornwall. I even included its distance from London in kilometers. To add that personal touch, I mentioned my favorite athletic activities, football (soccer), canoeing, and swimming. Of course, knitting with British wool merits a mention too, plus some good luck wishes!

The back of the tag includes a picture of each breed, taken from (and credited to) Wikipedia as per the Creative Commons license. Then for durability I hand-laminated it with packing tape, and affixed it to the front (well, I say front, but it is reversible) of the cushion with some scrap wool my aunt found in her attic, in Union Jack colors.

So, here’s my cushion as it will appear in the home of my Paralympian or Olympian. It is very nearly 16 inches (40.6 cm) square per the instructions from Woolsack HQ (though I later found out that it’s really more of a guide than a demand, so never fear, if your cushion is a bit off it will still be given to an athlete). I used a little over 3 skeins of Rowan Purelife British Sheep Breeds DK in the colorway Mid-Brown Jacob, or 406 yards (371 m), including extra yarn for sewing it up.

If you are interested in whipping up your own very last minute Woolsack cushion, please click “read the rest of this entry” below.

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